NYC SeedStart Media class pushes crowdsourcing, commerce

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NYC SeedStart, a New York incubator program founded by NYC Seed along with Contour Venture Partners, Comcast Ventures/Genacast Ventures, Polaris Venture Partners and RRE Ventures, just graduated its summer class focused on media. The seven start-ups cover a range of topics, but a few themes emerged like crowdsourcing, commerce and content management.

I thought they were all solid, though many still need some tuning before they really start competing in the market. Here’s a few that caught my attention:

Olapic is a photo crowd-sourcing tool that lets publishers and brands drop a simple widget on their sites that allows them to get photos and videos from their community. While some news sites have built their own tools for this, Olapic offers a white label product that helps companies engage with their users by soliciting photos. Olapic already has a number of high-profile customers like the New York Daily News, Chicago Tribune, Mashable and the Huffington Post and just signed Pepsi as a client. Olapic not only makes photo uploading and sharing easier with a drag-and-drop tool and connections to Facebook and other photo sites; it helps companies by analyzing which of their users are most influential. Olapic also offers white label mobile apps for uploading mobile photos.

I think Olapic is a good idea because all publishers and a lot of brands are looking for more engagement from users, and as Facebook has shown, photos are quite the time killer. The startup is already generating 2 million page views a month for its clients. Pictures appear to be a growing opportunity for brands to engage their customers. TechStars NY start-up Piictu is also looking to help brands solicit user-generated photos from their customers.

Bebarang rents special occasion clothes for children. The service provides a cheap option for parents who want to outfit their kids in something cute for weddings, parties, religious events or pictures. Beberang will rent out outfits for about $20 for children up to the age of 8. Shipping and insurance are included in the rental. Bebarang believes there are a handful of occasions a year that parents would like to dress up their kids, but it doesn’t make sense to buy nice outfits that a child might quickly outgrow.

This could be a tough business, but Beberang seems very focused on addressing a specific market and serving up clothes that can be worn for a number of occasions. The site used to offer monthly subscriptions of everyday children’s clothes, but found children would wear through the clothes too quickly. Now, it can rent out special occasion clothes more than a dozen times and can break even after three rentals of an outfit. A lot will depend on getting traction, but it’s a simple idea that makes sense for a lot of more budget-conscious parents.

UsherBuddy sells excess capacity at venues, helping bring theaters and clubs that have unsold seats together with consumers looking to go out at the last minute. The site personalizes suggestions for users based on their preferences and pushes out emails about events coming up in the next 48 hours that have discounted tickets. For venues, they have an easy way to move excess inventory and eat into the traditional 40 percent of seats that go unsold.

This is becoming a crowded market for sure. 500 Startups’ WillCall also showed off a similar tool, and Groupon is partnering with Live Nation to provide discounts on live events. And there are other services that move last-minute tickets. But UsherBuddy can work if it can build really simple self-serve tools for vendors who want to move tickets quickly and easily and get good data back on these sales. Right now, the startup says it takes about two minutes for a business to sell seats on UsherBuddy. I’m not sure if UsherBuddy, WillCall or anyone else will emerge as a clear winner, but this is a big opportunity to help companies make money that would otherwise be lost.

The others included:

Categorical, a content management technology that helps online publishers organize and access content they don’t create themselves.

GenJuice is a content discovery service for 20-somethings that relies on user-created playlists of content.

Guidesly is a mobile and web platform that helps people create step-by-step multimedia guides.

Adsurance provides tools to help ad companies monitor discrepancies in ads and debug them.

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