Meet the latest graduates of 500 Startups - Part 1

Krystal Peak · January 25, 2012 · Short URL:

Here's a look at 13 tech of the companies looking for funding in 2012

It was a very active and vibrant Demo Day in Mountain View Wednesday, where 34 companies in the third batch of 500 Startups' made their pitches to gain funding to bring their services to the masses.

Founders of 500 Startups, Dave McClure and Christine Tsai, introduced their dozens of companies to various venture capitalists in the Bay Area and it was quite a diverse group. 

500 Startups is an early-stage seed fund and incubator program founded in 2010, which seeds between $25,000 and $250,000 in each of its startups that meet its “Three-Ds” criteria: design, data, and distribution.

The fall batch, which joined the incubator in October, are mostly in beta and have already received hundreds of thousands of dollars each from various angel investors.

I got a chance to speak with Dave McClure during the Demo Day on Wednesday and find out what attracted his incubator to this varied bunch of tech companies.

"We were in search of capital efficient and revenue driven companies from around the world," said McClure. "This helped us discover companies that other Silicon Valley seed funds would have ruled out and helped us build a bridge to the Valley from countries like Estonia, Brazil and Portugal."

In fact, nearly half of the startups have founders from outside the U.S., including the U.K., Croatia, Australia, Bulgaria and Japan -- and eight of the startup have at least one female founder.

Several of the major trends seen in the companies exiting the 500 Startups incubator include work solutions and productivity tools, payment services, education and gamification for children and young adults, and e-commerce reinvention.

Here is a look at 13 of the companies on the road for funding at the moment:

(Parts 2 and 3 are also online now), founded by Mark Kofman, is a cloud organization tool to improve work productivity. In order to do any one work event you may use five or more services (from Gmail to iCal to Salesforce to Dropbox).

What aims to do is bring all the work information from various cloud services into one screen, making the work graph easier to navigate through and all on one platform. So far, 16% of users have referred the tool to others and they have maintained 20,000 collaborators and have handled 3.5 million docs and tasks so far.

In order to make money, charges $10 per month for its users. The company is currently raising a $500,000 round. 

72Lux, founded by Heather Marie, is a new way to partner name-brand designers and retailers to let consumers shop across all of the brands in a single place with an universal checkout. The new company lets you search by category, designer, size, color, or any combination search terms.  

This New York City-based startup has quickly garnered attention from not just one incubator but two. In addition to the grooming that 500 Startups has been offering to 72Lux, it was simultaneously a part of the NYC accelerator, First Growth Venture Networks.

Unlike 500 Startups, FGVN does not promise investment in exchange for a stake in the company, but it does reach out to promising young startups with less than $1 million in funding, looking to make that big break into the market. 72Lux already has $9 million in active sales already in its pipeline. 

This new system brings a revenue service to online publishers like Lucky or GQ, where the editorial content could easily translate to sales -- but up until now, it has either trafficked people away or readers would get frustrated that they couldn't find the items shown. The company already has 200,000 products and 5,000 brands partnered up with it. In order to make money, 72Lux charges a $50,000 set-up free for each brand, $100,000 annual fee, and 2% fee for sales.  The company has already closed a $300,000 round and is looking into a $1.5 million round to continue development. 

BrandBoards, founded by Kenny Hawk, is a new advertising platform for live sporting events. Sport venues are hot beds for advertising opportunities but some have found it frustrating and disjointed to try and work with individual venues in order to reach their desired audience. BrandBoards aims to connect advertisers, teams, and venues together on a single platform.

Advertising in a stadium is one of the most effective methods because it is integrated right into the thing you are watching -- you can't TiVo past that an ad behind your athletes --  Yankee Stadium alone has more than 4,000 high definition ad displays.

BrandBoards is applying a little technology and organization to help build stronger advertising relationship for brands. Sport advertising is a $9 billion industry that is growing at 30% a year. The 40 Superbowl spots sold out at $1.5 million spots in record time but most of smaller games and events approach game time without selling out all of the advertising opportunities.

Brandboards has built a platform where advertisers, game venues and other partners can organize what spots are available and allow certain brands to jump in the game for shorter durations. The company has already signed $1 million in ads and has put together contracts with 10 pro teams. They are currently raising $750,000. 

BrightNest, founded by Allen Shulman, is looking to help homeowners keep their biggest investment as premium as possible -- because everyone needs a nudge in the right direction. Many homeowners have no clue how to take care of their homes and BrightNest has build a forum and community where reminders can be personalized and sent to you on how to take care of the house.

Users are able to connect with contractors and products to maintain their home and can pose questions about house repairs and maintenance. So far, the company has found that a staggering 50% of users are opening the weekly emails and more than 25% of users are following the to-do list offered.

Since home maintenance is a $127 billion industry, BrightNest wants to the be the owners manual that helps bring vetted advice, products and contractors to help your home. The company has already raised a seed round of $665,000.

Cadee is a new platform to help golfers track their games while building relationships with golf enthusiasts they can play against or share information with. Cadee can help users track stats, share tips and get advised about new courses and items that are in their area.

Cadee also allows users  to snap a photo of their scorecard and receive analytics helps track their games. The company has see that more than 52% of users return time and again to update their game details and share information. 

Since there are 57 million golfers worldwide, and more than 50% make more than $100,000 a year, Cadee has discovered that they are a segment that marketers want to reach. From golf-related businesses to high-end products that want to reach high-income individuals, Cadee is hoping to gain even more partnership that want to reach specific golfers.

The company added 1,000 members in first month. The company is currently looking to raise $500,000., founded by Chris Bennett, wants to make it easier for companies with Facebook fan pages to sell there product right on the page. While many companies are flocking to Facebook to engage customers, too many are hacking ways to sell products on the Facebook wall and using the comments as a way communicate.

But allows retailers to add products into a Fan page, just like adding a photo, and sell it much easier. This function will also bring the transactions into the news feed -- which is where people are more likely to engage with a company's activity. With 400,000 retailers maintaining a Facebook fan page, has high hopes to attract companies looking to sell products wherever their customers are.

The company has only been in private alpha for three weeks but has attracted a fair share of companies with its attainable $5 signup and 5% transaction fee. The company has already raised $100,000 and looking for $300,000 for seed round. 

ContaAzul, founded by Vinicius Goncalves Roveda, is looking to become the Quickbooks for Brazil.  In Brazil, 58% of small business fail in first two years due to lack of experience and tools.

Because Brazil has been known for its complicated beurocracy and paperwork, there is a big demand for easier bookkeeping solutions that fold in the needed steps for the government regulations.

ContaAzul has built a bookkeeping method that streamlines the records taken and kept so that business owners don't need to fumble through the process on complicated spreadsheets or paper and pencil. Brazil expects to have nine million small businesses 2015 -- and 86% are still using pen and paper even while 71% have Internet access. The service is $50 per month. 

The company has already received $350,000 startup funding and is now looking to raise its Series A.

Contactually, founded by Zvi Band, wants you to put your email and contact list to better use. Every sales person knows that their personal Rolex is crucial to survival. And since we all spend most of our time interacting with email, it would be valuable to have a service that scans through your emails, contacts and activities and prioritizes what you should do each morning so you get to the important tasks before getting bogged down with mundane correspondence.

Others companies like xobni, Gist, nimble are good at organizing the content you have but don't prompt action to help prioritize work so connections don't fall through your full inboxes. The company already has gained more than 2,500 users and has raised $225,000 -- the company is now working on a $500,000 round.

eSpark, founded by David Vinca, is application that curates and organizes educational applications for kids. You can consider it a Pandora for education apps on an iPad where you have your child fill out a profile for education needs and they are given a group of apps that fit their needs and offer up achievements to encourage growth.

There are now more than 1000 students using eSpark in various schools across the country. At the moment there are are so many educational apps but sometimes are hard to find the best fits for your kids and there learning needs -- and eSpark has pick around 1,000 that have been vetted for the educational value. Already, eSparks has booked more than $125,000 in revenue from school and learning groups. They are partnering with more school that are bringing iPads into the school for learning. In eight weeks, it showed tremendous learning growth in 4th graders -- up to a full grade level learning increase. 

Farmeron, founded by Matija Kopic, its bringing tech to agricultural farming. Kopic, born and raised on a large farm, learned about the production system and the trouble with managing the so much data. Farmers need to know their production and metrics to have a successful business, but many don't have the time, energy or tools to properly track their business. 

Farmeron captures all the farm data and streamlines the process so that it is easy to manage and share the production the farm is making on a daily, monthly or annual basis. With 14 million corporate-size farms in the U.S. (that are connected to the internet), there is a substantial market to support a better and personalized system for farming. On average, a large farm already spends $900 per year each for software to manage their business -- and efficiency and ease is always a top complaint. There are also 150 million small farms with similar problems. Farmeron has created a simple web-based tool that can also connect to heavy machinery to get more accurate daily data on efficiency. The company has already raised $200,000 and is looking to raise another $750,000 to build and scale business in next 18 months. 

Fileboard, founded by Khuram Hussain, is trying to make bringing a tablet into the office an easier tradition. Since tablets are so mobile and ubiquitous now, it seems silly that there aren't more services that help people run every business tool on the device.

Tablet growth in business has been phenomenal, now one in four Americans have a tablet. Fileboard is a platform that houses all the services that you use and allows people to see them, annotate them and share them without any of those "unable to load" messages popping up. The universal platform that runs all the different systems will charge users $50 per year rate. The company is currently raising $500,000 to expand its services and increase growth.

Fitocracy, founded by Brian Wang and Richard Talens, is bringing gamification to fitness goals. Users can enter in the goals they want to reach and track there fitness progress along the way to unlock achievements when they meet certain standards.

They area bringing RPG to real-life fitness in order to encourage health in users. From this platform, a whole community of gamers are encouraging one another to do more and sharing fitness tips. In less than a year, 230,000 registered users have signed up in private beta. Fitocracy has found that 79% of users are repeatedly returning. In three months, the company has received $100,000 and gained a partnerships with Redbull. Currently the service is just on desktop and iPhone app coming next month. The Fitocracy team is now looking at making partnerships with WeightWatchers, Zumba, GNC and P90X.  The company has already raised $380,000 seed round and working on raising its Series A. 

Gizmo, founded by William Kasel, is trying to innovate the way organizations connect with consumers. For decades, brands have had to adapt to go where the eyeballs are: from newspaper to radio to TV to mobile device and now tablets. Gizmo wants to be the expert that companies go to in order to adapt to the changing advertising and user interaction environment. 

Current and past Gizmo customers include Best Buy, Geico, RedBull and Disney. Since there are so many markets to organize, manage and measure, Gizmo takes out all of the guess work on where people are and how they are interacting with brands.  Currently, the company is raising $1.3 million.


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