Our favorite companies from 500 Startups’ 16th Demo Day

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Our favorite companies from 500 Startups’ 16th Demo Day

It’s that time of year again: more than 40 500 Startups companies presented and launched in Mountain View this afternoon. From acne consultations by dermatologists through your smartphone, to selling sewing patterns, today’s Demo Day hit quite a few pretty interesting areas. Here are a couple of our favorite ones from the batch.



Getting in to see a dermatologist can be difficult and time-consuming, and the millions of acne sufferers in the U.S. don’t want to wait — or spend the money for an in-person consultation. YoDerm connects users with dermatologists online: you submit some photos, a dermatologist does an online consultation and returns a treatment plan within 24 hours. Pick up your meds as early as the next day. They see a $3.5 billion market in acne consultation, rising to $50 billion if you include the other conditions the dermatologists can treat. “Life’s already bumpy — keep your skin smooth.”



It’s no secret that independent contracting is on the rise — as more and more people sign up to drive for Uber or deliver food for Postmates, they step away from traditional retail and restaurant jobs. While independent contractors have the freedom to set their own schedule, it can be tough for contractors to ensure they’re making enough money. WorkGenius helps contractors manage their schedules across multiple platforms, so they can drive for Uber in the morning and then deliver meals in the afternoon. The scheduling system enables workers to quickly find opportunities without trawling Craigslist for hours. In private beta, WorkGenius has already matched contractors with more than 2,200 hours of work at Munchery, Bento, Clutter and others.



UpCraft Club

If you want to sew your own clothes, you have to make a trip to the fabric store first to pick up a pattern. The experience is often frustrating — you wade through binders of patterns looking for something you want to make, only to find the store isn’t stocking the pattern you’ve picked out. Once you get the pattern home, you have to painstakingly cut it down to size. UpCraft Club fixes these problems for the roughly 30 million at-home sewists in the U.S. by selling patterns from around the world in one online marketplace. Plenty of people are buying — you might even say reams! UpCraft Club earns $9,000 a month and is growing, with customers in 80 countries. UpCraft Club users print only the pattern pieces and sizes they need, so there’s no need to cut a pattern down and they can get straight to cutting and sewing fabric instead.





Women of color are often overlooked by the mainstream beauty industry, which typically only manufactures products for fairer skin tones. This isolates billions of women from the beauty industry, and it limits the revenue cosmetics companies could earn. Enter Podozi.com, an e-commerce site for women of color that wants to disrupt the $25.1 billion beauty market in Africa. Podozi.com gives women customized product reccomendations for their skin and ensures that the products they purchase are authentic, not knock-offs. Podozi.com is already earning $10,000 in monthly revenue and stocking major beauty brands like Revlon, Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics and Mehron.




Pilotly aims to streamline television creation by helping producers decide which shows to develop. Rather than testing pilot episodes in Nielsen focus groups, Pilotly allows producers to outsource pilot testing to viewers anywhere and returns detailed, real-time insights. Pilotly hopes to give traditional TV producers a taste of the success Netflix has had in creating original shows, using data collected from viewers to guage interest. Pilotly has earned $8,000 since April and expects to earn $400,000 in 2016.




Phenom aims to be the “digital identity for every young athlete in the world.” Kids who play sports love it and want to feel like they’re pros — and Phenom provides a platform for that. It’s a social network for athletes in high school and college, letting them compare gear, strategies and stories — info that sports brands also crave. So far the app has 80,000 users and they’re working with Wilson on a $30,000 pilot. Will the kids want to maintain yet another social media profile? They will if it means free pads from sponsors and the ability to scope out the competitors’ training routines.




Epilepsy affects millions worldwide, but the tools to manage and track it are “worse than Nielsen,” according to Neutun co-founder Eric Dolan. Neutun is an app for smartphones and wearables that helps people with chronic conditions like epilepsy track their medications and such, while also watching for life-threatening events like sudden severe seizures. The company uses a subscription model and affiliate sales with drug sellers, and is partnering with a big pile of medical and pharmaceutical companies to expand the product. Tech that helps save lives is always a good investment.



MarsReel hopes to take advantage of the fact that young folks don’t have time to watch the entire SportsCenter top 10 — and consequently, big brands like ESPN can’t reach the 13-24 demographic. MarsReel is seeing 18 million views a month on its 40-second videos, adding up to about a million hours (I’m not checking the math). They’ve got investors from Draft Kings and the NBA, and they’re hoping to take on Vice Sports, Sports Illustrated and ESPN with their mobile-first, millennial-focused network.



“The world’s biggest organic farm, funded by you.” iGrow connects farmers who need land to grow with land owners who want to make their land turn a profit and investors who want to finance the whole thing. With a sum as small as a $100, you can help establish a small organic farm on land that might otherwise go unused. Early peanut farms returned a 24 percent ROI, and the company says it’s seen returns on that level with more than a million in total product value sold over the last 19 months. So far the company is working with 2,200 farmers on 3,000 acres, and that could expand hugely as more landowners join up. If you’re looking for a healthy (and ethical) way to invest a bit of cash, this could be it.



NFC is starting to show up at retail locations like Starbucks, but imagine the Starbucks line is 100 people long — yeah, that’s how it is at music festivals, state fairs and other large-scale events. There are bars, food and merch stands and other temporary installations, and you can’t be sure you’ll have Wi-Fi. ArrowPass has made what amounts to a tiny gift card that you preload with money when you get it, and then use to pay wirelessly at little stations that can be deployed easily wherever they need to be. At one event last year, the company processed 45,000 transactions from 6,000 people, and all the concession stands had lower wait times and higher sales. The secret is in the pre-loading of card info: since the system doesn’t have to call home for any transactions, you can just tap the sensor and move on. The team, which has been together for 17 months, is led by Napster, LiveJournal and Verifone veterans, which may or may not be impressive.



RFID is an established and useful technology, but it can be hard to deploy. Tracking thousands of items can produce millions — or hundreds of millions — of unique records, and wrangling that data is no joke. TagMonkey aims to be a hardware-agnostic, turnkey software solution that can be slipped into place in factories, warehouses, and retail environments. The team has worked before to track athletes at events, and built wireless retail checkout concepts with Zappos and Square. Their first 60 days of marketing brought them $40K in revenue and multiple manufacturing partnerships, and the company is “setting a pace to track 100,000 items a month.”