The five finalists for OakTown Tech Startup Competition

Faith Merino · May 8, 2014 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/36d6

The competition was presented by Oakland Forward and was limited to East Bay startups

Our first ever Vator Splash Oakland has come and gone, but there were some amazing finalists who took the stage on Tuesday and Wednesday to compete in the OakTown Tech Startup Competition, sponsored by Oakland Forward and 2014 mayoral candidate Bryan Parker. The finalists were:

Yozio: A “mobile growth platform” that is essentially an analytics company that helps companies optimize their mobile apps. Yozio’s algorithms help companies determine who their strongest customers are and how to retain them. For example, Yozio’s algorithm might find that for a commerce company, women are 2.7 times more likely than men to make a purchase, but they only make up 20% of the user base. Or it might find that users who make a taste profile are 3.8 times more likely to use the app for six months or more than those who don’t.

Gigawatt: A crowdfunding platform that specializes in “blitz fundraising.” Calling itself the “snapchat of fundraising,” Gigawatt has developed a signature “24 hour formula” that allows organizations to meet their funding goal quickly using automated crowdfunding and team collaboration tools. Each "Blitz" follows a pre-launch plan. According to the company: “While other crowdfunding platforms only offer ideas about running a crowdfunding campaign, we've built tools around and automated the process that makes a 24-hour campaign successful.” Notably, Gigawatt’s technology helped Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania raise $150,000 in 24 hours.

MileMe: A productivity app for those who do lots of driving for work and need to log their miles. The always-on app senses velocity and automatically logs your miles for you when you’re in motion, allowing the average driver to add $2,000 in after-tax income by accurately and automatically keeping track of mileage. Interestingly, there’s never a point where you have to turn the app on or off. It syncs with your calendar and transmits data back to the cloud, which users can edit and use to automatically prepare an expense report or a report for taxes.

Back to the Roots: Founded by Berkeley students Alejandro Velez and Nikhil Arora, Back to the Roots got started when the two heard you could grow gourmet mushrooms in pots of coffee grounds. So they tried it in their dorm room—and it worked. That gave them the idea to create a kit that would allow anyone to grow their own mushrooms at home. The startup was recognized at the White House during last year's Empact Awards, and the co-founders have been awarded Inc’s 30 Under 30, Forbes 30 Under 30, and Businessweek’s Top 25 Social Entrepreneurs. The company’s follow-up product is the AquaFarm, a self-cleaning fish tank that also grows food.

Rockbot: an app that lets users select the music at a bar, restaurant, or other establishment. Users get to pick the songs playing at businesses that have Rockbot, vote on upcoming music to impact the order of what's played, share their plays on Facebook and Twitter with photos and tag friends, discover and download songs that are playing at the venue, sync favorite music from their device, Facebook, and Last.fm, and unlock rewards, enter giveaways, and view food and drink specials at the venue. Rockbot is currently working with brands and enterprise chains such as Miller Lite, Buffalo Wild Wings, Burger King, JetBlue, Caesar's Entertainment, LuckyStrike, The Melt, and more.

 

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Back to the Roots

Startup/Business

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Back to the Roots is an Oakland-based startup developing products that connect families with their food. Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Velez founded it straight out of college in 2009 after they learned in a business ethics class at UC Berkeley that gourmet mushrooms could be grown from recycled coffee grounds. Inspired, they turned down their finance and consulting job offers to become full-time urban mushroom farmers. BTTR has since grown to distribute two award-winning products, the Mushroom Kit and AquaFarm, in over 2500 retailers nationwide. The Mushroom Kit is a small brown box that grows up to 1.5 lbs of oyster mushrooms in 10 days, and the AquaFarm is a self-cleaning fish tank that also grows food! BTTR was recognized at the White House during last year's Empact Awards, and the co-founders have been awarded Inc’s 30 Under 30, Forbes 30 Under 30, and Businessweek’s Top 25 Social Entrepreneurs.

 

More about Back to the Roots:

Kickstarter Video; Martha Stewart; ABC's "The Chew"; Cool Hunting

 

More about Alejandro Velez:

Alejandro Velez co-founded Back to the Roots in 2009 as a senior at UC Berkeley, giving up a potential career in investment banking to become an urban mushroom farmer. Alejandro oversees the sales and finance half of the business, and with his co-founder, Nikhil Arora, has led the company to triple digit annual growth.

Alejandro also founded the Sage Mentorship Project, a 1000+ member non-profit that is the largest student-run organization at UC Berkeley. He has been named one of BusinessWeek's Top 25 Entrepreneurs under 25, BusinessWeek's Top 25 Social Entrepreneurs in America, 2010 Social Venture Network Social Innovation winners, 2010 20 Influential Hispanics Under 40, and 2010 Hitachi Young Entrepreneur Winners.

Alex graduated summa cum laude from UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business with a degree in business administration and a minor in education. He is originally from Medellin, Colombia and is also a proud Hodgkin's Lymphoma cancer survivor.

 

More about Nikhil Arora:

Nikhil Arora co-founded Back to the Roots in 2009 as a senior at UC Berkeley and gave up a potential career in consulting to become an urban mushroom farmer. Nikhil oversees the marketing, product development, and operations half of the business, and with his co-founder, Alejandro Velez, has led the company to triple digit annual growth over four years.

Since co-founding BTTR, Nikhil has been named one of BusinessWeek’s Top 25 Entrepreneurs under 25, Top 25 Social Entrepreneurs in America, UCLA’s Opportunity Green Top 25 Green Company Leaders, 2010 Social Venture Network Social Innovation winners, and 2010 Hitachi Young Entrepreneur Winners. Nikhil is currently on the Board of Directors of the Sage Mentorship Project and Social Venture Network.

Nikhil graduated summa cum laude from the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business during which he spent 6 months in Africa creating a profitable recycling program for the University of Ghana.

 

mileME

Startup/Business

Joined Vator on

  • Do you drive your car for business?
  • Do you deduct or expense your miles?
  • Do you keep a written log of your trips that would satisfy an IRS audit?

mileME is a productivity app for hands-free mileage logging. An average driver could add over $2,000 in after-tax income by automatically logging miles.

mileME checks velocity. When you’re moving mileME takes a location fix. When you stop mileME takes a destination fix to automatically create a trip log. 

You never touch your phone, turn it off, turn it off, plug it into the charger or connect it to your call. Yet mileME automatically logs your miles. 

mileME also automatically matches your trip log to your calendar, again you do nothing else.

mileME utilizes financial level encryption to keep your data private. We don't sell or trade member data. mileME automatically backs up member data to the cloud should your phone be lost or stolen. You can edit your log on the website and have mileME automatically prepare a report for your taxes or expense report.

 

 

 

Suiteness

Startup/Business

Joined Vator on

Get exclusive access to luxury suites normally only available to celebrities and high-rollers

These suites are only booked 20-30% of the time, normal rooms have 60-80% occupancy.

This is because hotels expect customers to work with their sales team over the phone, or to use a travel agent. Pricing or availability isn't listed anywhere online. Most people don't know these suites exist.

We make it easy for you to find amazing suites and to get the best price. Using our iPhone app you let us know about your trip and we find the best 3 options. We can even save you money while up-leveling your experience. Most of the time sharing a luxury suite is less than getting separate rooms.

Rockbot

Startup/Business

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Rockbot disrupts traditional out-of-home music services ($2bn industry) such as Muzak and the jukebox at restaurants, bars and businesses by combining custom streaming music and a jukebox app that lets customers engage from their smartphones.

Consumers get to:

  • Pick the songs playing at businesses that have Rockbot
  • Vote on upcoming music to impact the order of what's played 
  • Share your plays on Facebook & Twitter with photos and tag friends
  • Discover and download songs that are playing at the venue
  • Sync favorite music from your device, Facebook, and Last.fm
  • Unlock rewards, enter giveaways, and view food & drink specials at the venue

Businesses get to:

  • Easily customize and control the vibe of their locations 
  • Access 4 times more variety than existing solutions with over 13 million songs and over 500 playlists
  • Engage their customers with an exciting mobile app experience
  • Increase dwell time (avg. Rockbot user stays 27 mins longer) and check-ins (Rockbot drives 4x more check-ins per location than Foursquare)
  • Set playlists to automatically change by time of day or day of week, and assign admin access to managers and staff
  • Increase their brand social media buzz as users share their plays and check-ins
  • Activate Rockbot's free Automated Social Marketing suite -- the first of its kind in the industry -- with advanced features for enterprise and SMB
  • Run the Rockbot TV channel at their venues, displaying the music playing, user engagement, promotions and social media content
  • On-screen platform is built in HTML5 to run in the browser, on digital media players like Roku, or on popular digital signage platforms

Our patent-pending platform is the only out-of-home streaming solution that works across platforms to serve any size or type of business. 

Rockbot is currently working with brands and enterprise chains such as Miller Lite, Buffalo Wild Wings, Burger King, JetBlue, Caesar's Entertainment, LuckyStrike, The Melt, and many more, as well as SMBs across the U.S. Rockbot is the #1 rated consumer jukebox app with ratings of 4.5 stars on both the iPhone App Store and Google Play.

Yozio

Startup/Business

Joined Vator on

Yozio is the perfect solution to amplify your mobile growth. Our Mobile Growth Platform brings you the same powerful mobile growth technologies that Twitter and Netflix built for themselves, so you can 

  • Understand what your best users looks like.
  • Find the best channel, messaging and context to acquire them.
  • Activate them before they churn away.

 

1) Who's the problem with current solutions?

 Acquiring mobile app user is very hard and expensive, turning the hard earned app installs into loyal users is even more harder. We are productizing even better technologies than what Twitter & Netflix have developed internally to grow their user base, and making it available to all of the mobile app creators.

 

2) Who's your target customer? SMBs? Mobile apps? Any particular vertical?

Anyone who has a mobile app, and trying to get more loyal users. 


3) Are you an analytics company? 

 Sort of, but much more than that. We work with apps and their current analytics vendors to provide much deeper user insights, and essential technologies to improve their chance of turning ordinary users into high value users. 

 

4) How do you help your customers acquire more mobile users? Can you provide a case study?

 We use the same scientific methods that Twitter/LinkedIn/Netflix are using to optimize their products.

Key Steps 
1) Understand what the best users look like. (ie. "7 friends in 10 days")
2) Find the best channel, messaging & context to get them.
3) Activate them before they churn away.

 

However, it's a very slow process and super expansive to do for most companies, so we made it much more automated, and much easier to use, and accessible to most of the companies who are trying to get more high value users for their mobile app.

 

Case studies:
Airbnb has mentioned us on their dev blog about how they hacked their word of mouth on mobile.
Screenshot


5) How much do your customers pay?


We have a tiered monthly subscription model that depends on which module and how much our customers uses our product. Ranging from $1,500 a month to $5,000 a month.


6) What kind of "actionable" data do you deliver? 

 

What your best (the most engaging users, high retaining, or high LTV users, etc) users / user profile look like?

 

+ Using twitter as an example, their best users (meaning come back to use their service after 30 days) follow 30+ friends, and have 1/3 of their friends follow them back.

 

How are they different from the ordinary users?

 

+ For example, our algorithm might find 
  + female customers are 2.7X more likely to make the purchase, but they are only 20% of overall user base - ouch, better figure out how to 
  + if your users have completed their netflix like 'taste profile', they are 3.8X more likely to retain for more than 6 months, but currently, only 3% of the total users have completed these. - ouch, better help them complete the taste profile

 

Which channels, messaging, context are the best to find my best users?

 

+ twitter? facebook? email? sms? viral? content? when? where? what kind of condition? what message made them convert?

 

Disclaimer: These are just examples. The numbers mentioned are not real reflections of the actual companies or customers data.