TechStars New York, now a TV brand thanks to a new Bloomberg series, graduated its second class of would-be breakout stars, plucked from a pool of 1,200 applicants. The class shows that the program is still churning out a lot of quality, with a pretty polished group of graduates debuting Tuesday. Many of the start-ups offered services marketed to businesses and looked to help smooth commerce or increase consumer engagement. Six of the start-ups had already raised money and many demonstrated some impressive traction with customers.
The demo day even attracted New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who seems lately to be on a barn storming tour touting the New York tech scene. He exhorted the start-ups to thrive and help turn the city into a tech capital, hiring many people along the way and ultimately paying taxes to the city.
Ordr.in looks to create a Sabre for restaurants, enabling any website, app or service to offer food ordering from restaurants. The idea is to unite all the different ordering services around the country like Seamless Web and others through one API into a larger platform that can serve companies and destinations looking to offer food services. Wyndham Hotels, for example, is building a virtual room service widget for guests who use its Wi-Fi network. The service is finding its way on to Facebook, Boxee, Microsoft Windows Phone 7 and also a new food decider app through a partnership with Hunch.
Just like Sabre has helped power Kayak and Hipmunk while Multiple Listing Service (MLS) helped enable Zillow, Ordr.in is looking to have a similar effect on the restaurant industry, helping the sector make a leap similar to when franchising appeared in the 1950s. The start-up is already working with more than 70 local food ordering services, which allow Ordr.in offer service in all 50 states. I like Ordr.in because it seems like a smart way to expand the market for restaurants, who are often seem stuck in the past and are slow to embrace technology improvements. This gives them much broader reach and it helps brings food ordering to a lot services that we might not have thought of in the past. The company has already raised money from Google Ventures, which led its seed round, and is now looking for a Series A round.
Contently bills itself as a structured market bringing together freelance journalists and brands looking to add content. The service has generated more than $1 million in sales and is doubling in sales every six weeks. It already has 2,000 journalists from the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe and other publications who are making an average of $60,000 annually, 40 percent more than average journalists. Companies such as LinkedIn have already turned to Contently to create content and American Express Open Forum has just signed on for a pilot.
Contently is taking advantage of a couple of trends including the often forced migration of 90,000 journalists into freelance jobs in recent years. Brands are also becoming publishers as they look to engage consumers with original content. I like Contently because it looks like a good solution for the times we’re in. I know a lot of journalists who have moved into freelance work and though it sometimes seems like a more uncertain place to be in, I think a service like Contently can solve a lot of problems for journalists and companies who are increasingly looking to put these writers to work. Contently has already closed a $335,000 seed round with Founder Collective and is raising $3 million with $500,000 already committed.
ChatID is a universal chat platform that lets any business or company connect with consumers through existing chat channels. Right now, users who want to connect to a brand need to head off to their company site to get questions answered. But ChatID allows users to connect through their existing chat services and through popular retail destinations to talk to a company, which should help foster more communication and engagement, increase conversions and cut down on consumer support costs.
This is helpful for companies who sell their wares and services over a lot of different websites. A user who visits Amazon.com, for example, could connect directly to a manufacturer though a chat button on their product page that connects them directly into the brand’s instant messaging system. This makes sense because people increasingly favor text messaging over phone calls. And companies want to be able to reach out to users in real-time just as they’re looking to buy. ChatID has already raised $1 million. I think it’s headed for a lot more if it can become the go-to resource for companies looking to reach out to consumers in real-time.
Here’s a complete list of all the companies in the TechStars NYC class:
Ambassador: Social Customer Acquisition Platform for eCommerce
ChatID: Universal Chat Platform Enabling Businesses to Communicate with Customers on Any Site or Device
Contently: Professional Writing Marketplace for Brands
Coursekit: The Social Network for Education
Dispatch: Service for Cloud File Sharing, Movement, and Management
MobIntent: Ad Optimization and Analytics for Mobile App Marketing
Ordr.in: Restaurant eCommerce Platform Connecting Restaurants Anywhere to Clients Everywhere
Piictu: Visual Network for Mobile Photo Interactions
SideTour: Peer-to-Peer Marketplace for Authentic Experiences
Spontaneously: Mobile Service for Sharing Social Plans and Availability
Urtak: Addictive Q+A Tool Creating Structured Engagement with Web Content
Wantworthy: Shopping Utility that Bridges the Gap Between Browsing and Buying