Upon arriving at the NYIT Auditorium this morning for Entrepreneur Roundtable Accelerator’s second-ever Demo Day, Betabeat found what could only be described as a crush. The lobby was packed with sharply-dressed investors enthusiastically meeting and greeting. An (admittedly unscientific) survey of name tags revealed several managing directors and partners. Meanwhile, T-shirt sporting founders milled about, charm turned up to the max.
Attendees filtered only gradually into the theater, but eventually ERA cofounder Charlie Kemper called the meeting to order. After a few words about ERA itself, he warmed up the crowd by pointing out that all 10 presenting companies already have users and product in market, while 60 percent already have revenue. Not too shabby.
We outlined this class of ERA attendees back when they were first announced. Here’s how they turned out.
“We here today because of the two biggest motivators in the world,” CEO Sharmeen Mitha-Sehgal announced: “Love, and money.” Her startup, Appy Couple, enables the creation of a new kind of digital wedding keepsake, in the form of a custom app. The affianced include information like the time, location, and dress code; then guests can sign on using a unique code and do things like upload photos. Guests can also do things like purchase plane tickets through Appy Couple partners and affiliates. For the record, wedding guests spend around $50 billion annually.
Appy Couple’s numbers are looking pretty good: On March 15, they had 150 weddings signed up. As of April 20, they had 3,000–and there are 6,000 couples on their waiting list. They’re so popular in Australia they’ve already appeared on the nation’s edition of the Today Show. Those customers are shelling out, too: The basic app costs $50, while limited edition designer versions are available for up to $200. So if “Tiffany Blue” is your color, fear not! (Well, fear for your credit rating, maybe.)
The startup is raising $1.5 million, and they’ve already got $500,000 committed.
How much do you value your favorite blogger’s opinions? Would you be willing to express that value in cold, hard cash? Wizpert is betting so. The company proposes to turn the blogosphere into one giant expert network. CEO Michael Weinberg explained that their platform “connects people who need advice to a live, one-on-one conversation with a blogger who is a subject matter expert–a wizpert.” Bloggers charge for their advice; Wizpert gets a cut. Weinberg introduced a few early community members, including specialists in photography, healthy living, homeschooling, and travel. Of course, we can’t help but point out that part of the appeal of the average blog is that it’s free.
Wizpert is seeking $800,000, and they’ve already raised $220,000. Weinberg and his team hope to use the money to grow the platform.
Product sampling is often associated with a) little old ladies at Sam’s Club and b) strange dudes at music festivals. But the conversion rates are quite good, explained CEO Hannah Brooks, and businesses want to do more–provided it’s targeted, trackable, and scalable. That’s where Let’s Wombat comes in. The company uses its technology platform to match a brand with events attended by the audience that brand wants to reach. The event organizer receives samples to distribute. Then–to get the all-important metrics–attendees go to an app, sign in with Facebook Check-In, and answer three questions about the product.
To demonstrate, Ms. Brooks brought high-end Scotch.
At the moment, Let’s Wombat is working on a pilot program that involves Vita Coco, Pop Chips, and 8 other brands. They were seeking a $500,000 seed round.
The basic concept behind Stray Boots: Guidebooks, tour guides, self-guided audio tours–they’re all outdated. Forget all that, and let’s turn urban exploration into a game. “An easier way to think about that is like your own private Amazing Race on your own cell phone,” said CEO Avi Millman.
Mr. Millman and his cofounders have been bootstrapping for a couple of years now, and they’ve got a proof-of-concept in the form of a surprisingly successful SMS product. Right now the company has 40,000 customers paying $6 to $12 per game, amounting to more than $200,000 over the last 12 months. The presentation also included a seemingly endless parade of photos submitted by users who looked to be having an awfully good time. The app version is currently in private beta, with a projected App Store debut later this spring.
Stray Boots is raising $1.2 million, with $250,000 already committed. For especially eager investor, Mr. Millman included all the necessary information for an immediate wire transfer.
Initially, Satjot Sawhney and his cofounder Ankit Ranka started building an iPhone game, the plan being that it would become wildly popular and they’d make roughly a bajillion dollars. Then they realized they had zero distribution strategy and that it’s almost impossible to get users hooked on a game, which means app developers make, on average, a whopping $682. Ouch. TapFame is their attempt to solve that problem. They’ve built a platform that allows developers to run contests and sweepstakes within their games, thereby driving engagement (i.e., more time for advertising and in-app purchases) and increase user retention. Current clients include Map Lips and Lock and Roll.
Over the next few months, they want to create a self-service platform where developers can sign themselves up and grow the customer base to 1,000. To do that, they’re seeking $500,000.
This pitch immediately stood out, simply by virtue of presenter Jenny Wu’s ultra-bright ensemble of orange-sherbet skinny jeans and fuschia top. Eye-catching! Her set-up, on the other hand, was old news: brands are still spending huge amounts of money on magazine ads, while spend-happy Gen Y consumers are elsewhere, pinning their hearts out.
Their plan for catering to this demanding cohort is interesting, though: Allow them to customize designer products, crowdsource the best ideas, then charge full market value. (Wu emphasized that markdowns are in no way an element of their business model. Sorry, bargain-hunters!) A brief video demonstrated how this might work, showing a young woman creating a limited-edition, Mondrian-inspired Rebecca Minkoff bag. To limit the fashion disasters (and presumably to preserve some element of brands’ control), users are required to work within certain constraints, like the silhouettes and color palette the designer had already chosen for the season. Besides Minkoff, they’re launching with Nicole Miller and a number of other brands.
The company is seeking $800,000.
Remember green stamps? Yeah, neither do we. But they’re apparently the retro cousin to LocalBonus, which aims to enable local business loyalty programs without turning your wallet into an overstuffed disaster area. Rather than relying on annoying plastic cards, the program is linked to customer credit cards. So if you’re a member of Corner Cup of Joe’s rewards program, it’ll register when you swipe to pay. (After the demo Betabeat cornered CEO Derek Webster on the subject of security, but he said the company adheres to all the relevant standards and besides, people don’t seem that worried.)
Of course, there’s nothing stopping Google Wallet from launching a competitive feature, but why borrow trouble?
They’re raising $1.2 million, and they’ve already got $350,000 committed.
In the real world, people shop with their friends. Online, the closest thing is a roundabout process involving Facebook likes or Pinboards. That’s the basic argument sharp-dressed Dibsie CEO Garren Givens made for his company, “a shopping site curated by your friends.” They take products you’ve shared or liked and push them out to your friends. The pitch was pretty simple, focusing largely on three numbers: 4 percent of consumers buy when browsing alone. 16 percent buy after friends recommend something. That means Dibsie produces a 400 percent life in purchases. They’re still hashing out their monetization strategy: Right now they’re taking a 4 to 6wai percent commission on each sale, but they’re also experimenting with partnerships.
Dibsie is seeking $500,000.
Pictorious CEO Alberg Chung is unpersuaded as to the awesomeness of current mobile social photo offerings. He proposes to go beyond filters and party pics, creating a social game played through photos. So, for example, someone might post a challenge soliciting the most creative planking photos; Mr. Chung would respond with a picture of his (seriously adorable) baby lying on her back in seeming imitation of the meme. The monetization strategy? The idea is that brands would be willing to shell out to engage directly with users. If Oreo can get 500 users to submit pictures of themselves eating Oreos, that’s at least a little more exciting than Facebook links. The problem, though, is how to get users into a network that’s not Instagram.
Pictorious is raising $500,000.
Pinterest offers brands perhaps the most direct route from social media presence to cash money in the bank. The advent of the first enterprise marketing platform specifically tailored to the social network was therefore inevitable, and here it is. Built by ad tech veterans, Triple Lift offers brands the Pinterest-specific analytics dashboard–including ROI analysis–marketers so badly need. They also turn brands’ existing display advertising into something more pin-friendly, allowing users to pin looks or products from an ad, rather than the ad itself. All that data allows smarter media-buying, so a brand can target users with ads across the web.
Triple Lift is seeking $1.5 million.