Meet the latest graduates of 500 Startups - Part 2

Krystal Peak · January 26, 2012 · Short URL:

Here's a look at 11 tech of the companies looking for funding in 2012

It can be dizzying trying to keep up with all the new startups coming out of Silicon Valley.

Founders of 500 Startups, Dave McClure and Christine Tsai, introduced dozens of companies from its incubation project to various venture capitalists in the Bay Area and it was quite a diverse group Wednesday and Thursday this week. 

The latest batch of 500 Startups will continue to pitch to venture capitalists here in the Bay Area and New York this week and in coming days. 

I got a chance to listen to the pitches for 31 companies on the road for VC money and see just what sparked 500 Startups interest. 

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 another 11 companies on the road for funding at the moment:

(I posted Part 1 here and Part 3 is here)

GoVoluntr is a young company looking to help corporations incentivize its staff to volunteer in the community. Smart, compassionate and happy people are just better employees and GoVoluntr thinks that social engagement is a big key in this equation.

Starbucks has created a global brand with a big focus on encouraging social awareness and engagement in its employees and have seen its revenue, customer loyalty and employee productivity improve because of it. GoVoluntr even found that corporations spent $9 billion last year to create social responsibility programs and they want to make that process easier. 

For $25 per month (for up to 50 employees) companies can help its employees find groups to volunteer with and even redeem company perks for more social engagement. The company has built an easy-to-use platform that also helps nonprofits reach corporations for partnerships and other collaboration. So far, 70 schools and nonprofits have signed up with the service.  

Hapyrus, which was founded by Koichi Fujikawa and Kentaro Suzuki, is trying to make the world of big data processing faster and cheaper. Since even small companies are collecting a lot of data each day, companies are often falling behind on analyzing and capturing the data that they care about.

Some products such as Hadoop have come in to help this processes but, because of the newness and complexity of the tool, many engineers are pulled away from their work to help analysts with the functionality. Hayprus creates a simple tool that links the engineers and the analysts so and funnels the information to the analysts that is already organized and translated for their job. Hayrus has already raised $700,000 for this big data product.

HighScore House, founded by Kyle Seaman, ants to help your kids have fun doing their chores. With kids in love with computer games and ramification models, why not make the process of helping around the house a game with tangible gifts and digital badges.

How it works is, parents set up a list of tasks or chores that the kids can do to earn points and set up a list of rewards -- then, kids can log is and click their completion as they go and watch their progress to get the items they want.

Parents can get really creative with the rewards -- it can be anything from getting a new game application, game time, TV time, winning a sleep over with friends, money, or even ice cream for breakfast. 

Currently the platform is in closed beta with 6,000 kids and 155,00 activities completed. The average user logs-in 2-3 times a day and spends 10-20 minutes per session. The site is also a forum where people can share great task and reward ideas and well as share stories about how this system has changed the family as a whole -- some families found out that kids were willing to bank all points that parents thought would go toward TV time in order to get quality family time gifts like trips to the zoo or baking lessons. 

In the future, HighScore House wants to build partnerships with some of the companies that can directly send kids their rewards, such as iTunes, toy stores and retailers -- so that Timmy can get his reward shipped to his house with his name on it.

Intercom, founded by Eoghan McCabe, wants to bring great customer service to all Web companies. McCabe and his team think that the Web has placed a large gap between company and its customers -- and any idea of customer service is lost in the expanse vastness of online transactions. 

Zappos has spent some serious money to assure that its operation maintains great customer service, and such an element shouldn't be limited to those with the big bucks. Intercom has created a system for all web businesses to deliver great customer service and reap the rewards by collecting customer information and all relevant company information to the customer representatives so that they can communicate effectively with its customers.

This CRM-meets-messaging system also helps let customers know how much you appreciate them by recognize them when they return to your site again and again. While in an invite-only beta, Intercom gained 1,500 users, 500 companies and has gained advisors such as serial entrepreneur Biz Stone. The company has already pulled in $1 million in its seed round and is unapologetic that it wants to be "the next Salesforce."

LookAcross, founded by Meetul Shah, wants workers to get better sales leads and use them at the best moment to receive a response.  Many companies spend so much time collecting information and leads that it was hard to tell and prioritize the information. LookAcross searches the people you've received in your leads and analyzes there online activity to determine when, where and why you should reach out to them.

Using tools such as Gmail, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Outlook to see what their activity habits are, LookAcross helps sales teams know why action will gain the best results. SOme people are more likely to respond to a LinkedIn request, while others might be more likely to email you back if you send it first thing Wednesday -- LookAcross wants your sales representatives to have that insight. Current customers include GE Healthcare, RSA Security, Cisco and Aflac, LookAcross already has amassed 1,000+ users in less than six weeks and has processed more than 10,000 emails. 

Love with Food, founded by Aihui Ong, would like you to get a box of delicious treats on your door once a month. This sample box delivery service, aiming to bring gourmet bites to everyone's home, has taken a unique step by creating a box full of samples so that subscribers can discover new favorites and order the things they like at a reduced rate from what they would see at their specialty grocery store. And to top off the luxury, every box ordered also orders a meal for a child in need from the group No Kid Hungry. 

For $14 month, a different box filled with themed samples will arrive at your home and include a card that tells recipients about each product and the price it would be to order each item in larger quantities. Ong created this concept when she became bored of the grocery store offerings but felt that she didn't want to commit to the pricey items at Whole Foods until she was sure she would like them. Each monthly box follows a theme and January is about staying healthy -- with fruit leather, ginger chews, chocolate truffle tea and gourmet granola. In its third month, Love with Food has seen 15% or users return the from the first month. This system has a built-in virtual supply chain since many of the companies are happy to offer great deals (sometimes free) for sample sizes of its products when there is a mechanism for customers to order more of the products that they like. Love with Food is currently raising $750,000.

MemeTales, founded by Maya Bisnineer, wants moms to be able to hand their kids an iPad app without concern about the content. This company has built story-powered learning for mobile devices. MemeTales has created a catalog full of rich learning stories and is gamified with achievements kids can unlock to get positive feedback and open up vibrant worlds for kids to explore though. MemeTales brings together educational gaming, reading, and animated exploration. So far, the company has added 20,200 users. The company has also for that kids spend 29 minutes per session reading on the app.

There are options to make greeting cards, to change the story with different options and to learn spelling and reading. Users can then print or socially share any content they have created or goals they reach.

The company makes money by charging $1-$5 for books and $10-$10 for game packs. MemeTales has several publisher partnerships are in the works, has raised $100,000 and is looking to raise another $700,000.

MoPix, founded by Ryan Stoner, wants a more independent way to brand, sell and distribute video content online. This company has built a whole new app store for films and videos. Since physical media is a thing of the past, getting the content to consumers should be easier (with the whole buy in one click concept) but it is getting to the big distribution stores that seems to throw wrenches and big fees into the mix. Creators that want more than 5%- 15% of the money paid for their content want an independent source to host their content and MoPix wants to be that option -- especially since online video consumption is a $20 billion industry. 

With MoPixYou can pull your video from the cloud into its platform and even edit on the site if you like. The service also brings more of the DVD experience back into online video since you can include behind the scenes footage, director commentary, and pictures, which most online videos don't include or have to downloaded separately.   In 2011, MoPix created partnerships with big groups such as Fox, Lions Gate and Starz. The bulk of revenue will be coming from sales but more could come from advertising, hosting fees, data analytics and more.  MoPix is currently raising $300,00. 

PayByGroup, wants your next group trip to be a breeze. If you have ever tried to rent a vacation home or book hotel accommodations for a group and been extremely frustrated then you may want your book agency to get a PayByGroup option. Think of it as a Paypal for groups where, with a few clicks on an Expedia or AirBnB page, you can choose what people will be sharing the accommodations and just pay your share. No getting stiffed by friends or having to quibble over tax math anymore. PayByGroup wants to be as easy and secure of an option as clicking PayPal but for multiple friends going to Las Vegas, Coachella or renting a car.

This option would also help merchants gain information on all the people traveling that they would had otherwise lost with just one person booking all the accommodations. This is also a big and promising market since the vacation rental industry alone is an $85 billion industry.

Post Rocket, founded by Tim Chae, wants to help brands get into Facebook news feeds more effectively. At the moment, many companies on Facebook are not reaching their users efficiently since so much content gets spilled onto their news feed and some campaigns are lost. Post Rocket looked at a recent Jamba Juice campaign that only 120 people engaged in. For a company with 1.2 million fans, a 0.01% engagement is not what a company wants to see.

Using Facebook analytics and optimization, Post Rocket worked with the popular rapper Pitbull on a small campaign and received an engagement rate 35X the amount hat Jamba Juice got on its national campaign over a similar time period. Post Rocket is currently reaching 21.2 million users in three weeks and each brand in the beta has paid $2,000-$5,000 per month. When out of beta, Post Rocket  will offer $100 per monthly fee for most brands. The company is currently raising $500,000.

One School: Students are on their mobile phones most of the day, but very few of them have an application personalized to their college needs. One School has created a mobile application that helps pull together all the course schedule, homework lists, class notes, college campus maps and nearby events on one application. Rolling out with partnerships of major college cap uses, One School has seen tremendous adoption rates.

Only on campus for two weeks, 20% of Stanford's student body has downloaded the application. The purchasing power of students is $500 million per year and helping them stay connected to their campus and the things they need could be an invaluable resource across the country. One School has already partnered with a handful of big college campuses and has raised $750,000 so far. 



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MoPix provides the framework content creators need to brand, distribute and sell their work via the web, Apple iOS and Android devices and other mobile platforms and digital media products. The company closes the gap between traditional distribution channels and the demand for direct distribution by giving amateur and professional content creators a turnkey way to monetize video and feature content in a digital marketplace. MoPix has offices in Los Angeles, CA and Portland, OR. 


Ryan Stoner

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Founder/CEO of MoPix. Board member at 100UE. Former brand strategy professional worked w/ Academy Awards, EA, Fox, Microsoft, NBC, and T-Mobile, among others.

Dave McClure

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