After three intensive months of refining concepts, building out business models and testing new products, fifteen startup founders took the stage Wednesday to pitch their hearts out at startup accelerator DreamIt Ventures’ NYC 2012 demo day.
The companies, which were selected from a pool of 500 startups and make up the program’s second New York class, ran the gamut from an online marketplace for connecting artists and venues to a location-aware gaming studio to subscription services for beauty and romance. All presented to the crowd hoping to raise seed, if not Series A, rounds of funding.
DreamIt Ventures, which launched in Philadelphia and will be adding Austin, Tex. to its program in 2013, has graduated six classes in total. As of today, the accelerator has helped launch 80 startups, including social media ad buying startup Adaptly, online tickets marketplace SeatGeek and teaching app ShowMe (previously Easel).
The startups that debuted today originated from all over the world, including several from Israel and others from Stockholm and Costa Rica. Here are a few that I’ll be watching.
Recognizing that hotels, cafes and other venues inevitably need art to decorate their walls, and artists are always looking for space to show off their work, IndieWalls wants to be the marketplace that beings both parties together. It charges venues a monthly subscription fee between $200 and $1,000, which allows them to choose from a selection of curated work from local artists.
The service allows local businesses to change up their decor and stay current without spending a premium to outright buy new art. For the artists, it provides a mechanism for showcasing their artwork in rotating exhibits and, potentially, making new sales. All of the art is displayed with QR codes and links so that passersby can purchase the items on the spot (IndieWalls takes a 25 percent commission). So far, the marketplace includes more than 2,000 pieces of artwork from 100 artists and is hosting 28 current exhibitions.
One of the more buzzed about startups in the current class, Tripl launched last month with a website showcasing friends’ travel stories based on their Facebook and Foursquare activity. Several startups, including Wander (which graduated from TechStars NYC in June) want to give people a dedicated, travel-centric social platform. But Tripl’s focus on storytelling won me over.
As my colleague Ryan Kim noted in a piece about the startup, Tripl aggregates pictures, comments and check-ins into a story that is supplemented with Wikipedia information, stock photos and pricing data on flights. It not only gives users an interesting day to day window into their friends’ journeys, it can also serve as a good resource for people when they’re planning trips. The startup has already raised a $700,000 seed round and launched an iOS app yesterday.
To be honest, I was a little skeptical about this one when I heard that it involved a speech-enabled personal assistant. I was intrigued when Apple launched its own voice-activated assistant and then quickly tired of playing the ‘Let’s ask Siri’ game. But my interest piqued all over again when I saw the Winston demo (and I don’t think it’s just because I’m a sucker for British accents).
The app, which is set to launch this fall, connects to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networks, as well as social news apps, and gives users an audio update on the latest activities across those platforms. For people who live in a text-centric world, the app could be a nice alternative for keeping up with friends’ updates, top headlines, the weather and shopping deals in more of a “lean back” way. As people get ready for work in the morning or as they’re preparing dinner, they could listen to the updates as they might listen to the radio, for example. The team has just been working on the app for four months, so I expect it to have a few kinks to iron out. But I appreciate the innovation around the new interface and am curious to see where it goes.
KidNimble estimates that, every year, parents spend upwards of $25 billion on summer camp and about $8 billion on after school activities. And, said CEO and founder Darius Goore, they expect their kids to come home from camp “fluent in Mandarin and with a curve ball.” But despite the significant amount of money and time they’re willing to invest in their kids’ extracurriculars, parents don’t have the most sophisticated tools for researching activities or communicating with other parents about those activities.
Initially launched as CampGurus, KidNimble gives parents a platform for searching for activities and reviews, as well as way to communicate and collaborate with parents who might not be their friends, but are the parents of their kids’ friends. Through the site, parents can find out more about local camps, get opinions on after school programs or figure out the best day for their kids’ soccer practice to take place.
Sabor Studio’s first game Pota-Toss was built by two guys in four months with just $14,000, which they raised from Kickstarter. But it helped the Costa Rica-based company get attention from press all over the world. The game, which is like Angry Birds but features flying potatoes, reflects the developers’ focus on making location-aware games. As users play the games, the scenery is dictated by the user’s location. A player in New York, for example, would see the Empire State building in their game; a Parisian would see the Eiffel Tower. The company said it currently has 65 locations in its game and plans to drill down to venues (like Starbucks locations and other stores) in the future. Mobile gaming is certainly a crowded field but given the interest Sabor Studio was able to generate with its first game, I’m interested to see what the developers do next, as well as how they use the location context for advertising opportunities.