Austin, Texas’ answer to TechStars or YCombinator shows off its graduating class of startups today (plus 15 other companies) as the third year of the Capital Factory accelerator program comes to a close. While you can view the live stream starting at 7 a.m. PDT/10 a.m. EDT, I went out last week to interview the startups at the Capital Factory office in downtown Austin to give readers the scoop before the event.
I was struck by how product-oriented these startups were, and how all of them had paying customers. I also thought these companies didn’t really spend a lot of time on their “big vision” as some Bay Area startups tend to do. Maybe it’s Austin’s general orientation toward the enterprise market, where products talk, and big vision may get you financing but few customers, or perhaps it’s just the way these startups think. Josh Baer, managing director at Capital Factory and CEO of OtherInbox, told me that each year the startups invited to participate seem to have a theme and this year’s startups were all about traction. “They all had products and paying customers,” he said. As for traction, about half of the previous two Capital Factory graduating classes have gained some with follow-on investors. Five out of 10 received funding, and one is profitable and won’t seek funding.
Now, onto the startups:
SwimTopia. Mason Hale, the former CTO over at Frog Design, went from iconic products to delivering swim team software as a service over the web. SwimTopia is the first product of TeamTopia, which basically aims to become the Google Apps for swim teams, then later, other amateur sports leagues. Hale, who describes his search for a business co-founder in the video, is looking for about $300,000 in seed money.
StoryMixMedia. If I were Shutterfly or Kodak, I’d buy this company in a heartbeat. StoryMix Media was founded in 2011 and is seeking $500,000 for its service which sends out Flip cameras to weddings and then helps brides and grooms piece together the videos their guests take into a video of the event. As Marshall Stokes, CTO of the service, says in the video, it’s also planning an iPhone app so hardware won’t limit the amount of video guests can take.
GroupCharger. GroupCharger may sound like a social networking veneer laid over your alma mater’s request for cash, but co-founder Kirtus Dixon is after something bigger. GroupCharger, which was founded in 2010, helps universities connect to their alumni and find them on social networks. After that point it’s not just a request for donations, but also a way for alumni to create a social network based on their old school ties. Dixon says that churches, high schools and other big life milestones might be right for GroupCharger’s software. GroupCharger is hoping to raise about $200,000 in seed money.
SpeakerMix. This is a startup for your inner Tim Ferris or Steven Covey. SpeakerMix was created last year by two guys who caught the startup bug after high school and happened to have worked in an agency that helped line up event speakers. They decided the old way of trying to book speakers was too cumbersome, lacked a feedback mechanism and was out of date. So they created SpeakerMix where speakers can sign up, others can rate them and event planners can search for folks that range from Lance Armstrong to some-guy-you-never-heard-of-but-is-big-in-his-profession.
HelpJuice. This is the only company without a video, but it too has paying customers. It was formally created as part of Capital Factory after founder Emil Hajric was asked by a friend to build the app (the friend even got his company to pay for the service!). HelpJuice is a service that provides a better customer help page for companies. When a customer encounters a problem they typically try the search page but find a forum-like feature that’s confusing or outdated, so for a fee, Helpjuice turns customer queries into searchable articles that future customers can search more easily. Hajric says the search uses a Google Instant-like feature where articles will appear as the consumer types in his query, which helps the consumer find the right response (80 percent of the time) and hone their question as they search. Hajric is seeking $150,000 in seed funding.