We feel a little guilty. We’ve been fickle and easily distracted. Last year, the first two TechStars NYC classes were all we could talk about. But when their programs ended, we kind of forgot about them and directed our attention to the newest TechStars NYC class. Shame on us!
But back in the day, those first 23 companies were all the rage. Like shiny new toys, they were exciting and fascinating. There was even a reality television show about them. So even though their three-month, highly-competitive startup accelerator program has ended, these companies are still around. They didn’t just vanish into thin air. (Well, some of them did).
But all of this begs the question, where are these companies now? How have they fared in the big, bad world? Did they flop? Or surpass expectations?
We didn’t know, so we decided to find out. And it turns out that we weren’t the only ones who were curious about what these companies have been up to.
“When we launched, everything was a concern,” managing director David Tisch told Betabeat in an email. “We were new, a startup.” New York City, he said, brought a unique set of challenges and advantages to these first two classes, but you never how things might turn out. So, Mr. Tisch, what’s the verdict? Have the first 23 New York City companies done TechStars proud?
“The progress shown so far is very promising,” Mr. Tisch said, “and I expect a few very big companies to emerge. There are some early standouts who have shown progress on the product side, revenue side, and team side.”
In the last year, about half of the companies raised over a million dollars in funding from investors (in addition to TechStars’s initial $18,000 in each company) and only two companies failed. A third company, FriendsList, also failed, but its two cofounders shifted gears and transformed into another company, Timehop, a popular app that has since raised $1.1 million.
“I think the quality of the people we funded stands out to me,” Mr. Tisch added. “[And] as I look back at the companies from our first two classes at TechStars NYC, I am confident we have funded some amazing teams who are building big businesses.” -Jess Schiewe
CrowdTwist (Winter 2011)
Irving Fain, Josh Bowen, Michael Montero
Total funding raised: $6.93 million
Founded in 2009, CrowdTwist serves as a social loyalty and rewards platform for major companies such as Sony, Live Nation, JCPenny and Pepsi, to name a few. The company, which has expanded to 25 employees, has partnered with the Miami Dolphins among other retail, sports, entertainment and lifestyle brands. It prides itself on driving a stronger relationship and deeper loyalties between businesses and their customers, founder Irving Fain said, and has helped companies increase their sales by 35 percent in some cases.
CrowdTwist raised $6 million in September from Fairhaven Capital, SoftBank Capital, BDMI, kbs + Ventures, Berteismann Digital Media. -Sarah Sassoon
OnSwipe (Winter 2011)
Jason Baptiste, Andres Barreto
Total funding raised: $6 million
Launched on June 21, 2011, the company has already grown 800 percent in its first 11 months, says cofounder and CEO, Jason Baptiste. Named one of Time Inc.'s “10 NYC Startup Companies to Watch” in 2011, the company launched its product for the iPhone just two weeks ago and hopes to double or triple its team, Mr. Baptiste told Betabeat. In April, Mr. Baptiste published his “how to” guide for hopeful entrepreneurs, titled The Ultralight Startup: Launching a Business Without Clout or Capital.
The company currently employs 33 people, a number that, with the recently doubled office space, is sure to grow in the near future. Some of its major brand partnerships include Chanel, Verizon and American Express, among many. “We’re winning the Internet again,” Mr. Baptiste said.
OnSwipe raised $1 million last January from betaworks, Spark Capital, ENIAC Ventures, Apricot Capital, Jennifer Lum, Roy Rodenstein, Dharmesh Shah, Wayne Chang, SV Angel, Morado Venture Partners, Walkit Lau; and $5 million last June from Spark Capital, Lightbank, Yuri Milner, Lerer Ventures, SV Angel, Morado Venture Partners, ENIAC Ventures, Thrive Capital, betaworks. -SS
Lore (Summer 2011)
Jim Grandpre, Joseph Cohen, Dan Getelman
Total funding raised: $6 million
Lore, formerly Coursekit, is a social networking site for learners and educators, similar to Blackboard. Since its launch on November 29, 2011, the site has been used by professors at over 600 schools, according to Lore. The original four-person team has also taken on 11 new members and moved from Philadelphia to Manhattan.
In April, the company announced that it would be changing its name from Coursekit to Lore which means “knowledge shared between people.” Mr. Cohen told Betabeat that the original moniker confined the software to classroom-based learning, when in reality it could be used for any form of education. Lore has “made classes into communities,” said Hunter Horsley, head of operations and marketing. “If you bring social media into the education system, amazing things happen.”
One course at the University of Pennsylvania, the founders’ alma mater, had over 1,000 posts on Lore. Aswarth Damodaran, a professor of NYU’s Stern School of Business, used Lore to open his Corporate Finance and Valuation classes to students around the world for free this past spring. While participants did not receive NYU credit, nearly 5,000 people signed onto the courses from across the globe. In the future, Mr. Horsley said the company will continue to build a “network for learning” using the Lore platform.
Lore raised $1 million last June from Founder Collective, IA Ventures, Shasta Ventures, Ralph Mach, Zach Weinberg, Nat Turner and David Tisch and $5 million in January from Social + Capital, Joel Spolsky, IA Ventures, Michael Kearns and Peter Thiel. -Margaret Nickens
Contently (Summer 2011)
David Goldberg, Shane Snow, Joe Coleman
Total funding raised: $2.335 million
Founded in December 2010, Contently is a platform that matches freelance journalists with media outlets looking for content. Since graduating from TechStars NY, the company has more than doubled in size—growing from five full-time employees to 12 full-time and seven part- time employees.
The company’s aim has evolved slightly to focus on pitching its journalists to brands looking to strengthen their content marketing programs. “We are letting in new writers all the time,” founder Shane Snow told Betabeat, “but it ebbs and flows based on categories of publishers coming on board.” He added that there is typically more demand for quality freelance content from brands (turned publishers) than traditional media outlets—and these opportunities are often more lucrative. “When we raised our seed round at the start of TechStars, hardly any VCs believed in content marketing as a venture-worthy industry,” Mr. Snow said. “Now it’s probably the hottest buzzword on the Internet.” Mr. Snow said that Contently’s writer network “has grown by leaps and bounds,” and the company has recently linked deals with a slew of clients including The Atlantic, Michael Kors, Unicef and Weber Shandwick. In May 2012, Soraya Darabi, co-founder of foodspotting.com, invested in Contently.
Contently raised $335,000 last July from Founder Collective and $2 million in January from Lightbank (run by Groupon investor and board member Eric Lefkofsky), ff Venture Capital, Consigliere Brand Capital, Behance founder Scott Belsky, and Hubspot founder Dharmesh Shah.-Erica Schweigershausen
Shelby.tv (Winter 2011)
Reece Pacheco, Dan Spinosa
Total funding raised: $1.73 million
Shelby.tv is a video sharing and discovery platform that has expanded beyond the web to include iPhone and iPad apps. The company “has built an awesome (engineering-focused) team,” Reece Pacheco told Betabeat, adding that the company has grown from four to 11 employees. Shelby.tv was also recently named one of this year’s South by Southwest conference’s “Top Buzziest Brands” and won The Next Web’s 2012 conference in Amsterdam.
Shelby.tv raised $225,000 last January from Mike Yavonditte, Bobby Yazdani, George Kliavkoff, Charles Smith and Allen Morgan,and $1.5 million last July from Avalon Ventures, Tim Draper, Mike Lazerow, Dave Morgan, Jerry Colonna, Mike Yavonditte, Charles Smith, Bobby Yazdani, George Kliavkoff, and Allen Morgan. -Alexandra Dean Hitzler
ThinkNear (Winter 2011)
Total funding raised: $1.648 million
Originally called Relusions, ThinkNear, which is based in Los Angeles, turns mobile ads into hyper-targeted daily deal offers for local merchants. Before TechStars, ThinkNear had only worked with small businesses, founder Eli Portnoy said, but it has since expanded its clientele to include a number of Fortune 100 companies. (Due to privacy concerns, Mr. Portnoy would not release his clients’ names). The company has also increased in size from two to eight employees. So far it is only available in New York and San Francisco—its clients include restaurants, spas and hair salons—but plans to launch in Los Angeles, too. The company was also named one of the Top 25 Hottest New York City Startups You Need to Watch by Business Insider in June 2011.
ThinkNear raised $1.63 million last August from IA Ventures, Google Ventures, Qualcomm Ventures, Metamorphic Ventures, Real Ventures, Zelkova Ventures, ff Venture Capital, BOLDstart Ventures, David Tisch, Matt Turck, Bill Boebel, Ben Sun, and David G. Cohen.-Jess Schiewe
SideTour (Summer 2011)
Vipin Goyal, Minesh Mistry, Mark Webster
Total funding raised: $1.5 million
SideTour, originally called Arootz, is a social-networking site that allows users to interact offline. “We’ve made a lot of progress since TechStars,” co-founder Mark Webster said in an email, adding that the company has worked with a few partners but “haven’t formally announced any of them yet.” In the last year, the company has grown from four to 10 employees, and has added Lee Edwards, a former senior software engineer at Pivotal Labs, Alex Green, formerly of American Express, Christy Pineda, formerly of Tesla Motors, and Joanna Ehrenreich to their team. The company was also named one of the Top 10 NYC Startups to Watch by Time Inc. and it recently launched a new version of the program that includes new features and hosts.
SideTour raised $1.5 million from RRE Ventures, Foundry Group, and Matt Turck. -ADH
Veri (Winter 2011)
Angela Kim, Lee Hoffman, Brian Tobal
Total funding raised: $1.218 million
Veri, formerly SocratEd, is an interactive learning program that seeks to teach “deep topics” in fun ways using multiple-choice quizzes, videos and other reference material. The company is focused on “knowledge acquisition,” co-founder Angela Kim told Betabeat, and not “skills acquisition.” For example, one is more likely to learn about the history of New York City on Veri than they are how to poach an egg. However, Ms. Kim added, “any subject that anybody wants to learn or teach within that is fair game.”
Since TechStars, the company has grown from three to five employees and will be releasing a second version of the product, Veri Bot, this summer. Unlike Veri, which asks users a series of questions, Veri Bot will simulate “the experience of speaking to a teacher one on one by introducing conversational aspects through interactive learning,” Ms. Kim said. “This is the first step towards simulating that experience so that more and more people can learn from individuals.”
Veri raised $1.2 million last July from undisclosed investors.-JS
Timehop (Winter 2011)
Jonathan Wegener, Benny Wong
Total funding raised: $1.1 million
When Timehop first started with TechStars, they weren’t called Timehop. Instead, they were a totally different company called FriendsList, which was essentially a listing service similar to Craigslist that would connect buyers to sellers and job hunters to job huntees.
After FriendsList flopped, founders Jonathan Wegener and Benny Wong came up with a new site idea—one that was not based off of an already existing site (but was based off of their Foursquare hack, 4sq and 7 Years Ago). Timehop operates on the simple question, “What were you doing a year ago today?” and from there aggregates Foursquare user check-ins from a year ago, and, more recently, Facebook status updates and photos, Twitter updates, and Instragram posts.
Timehop raised $1.1 million in January from Rick Webb, Dennis Crowley (from Foursquare), Spark Capital, O’Reilly Alpha Tech Ventures, Naveen Selvadurai (Foursquare), Alex Rainert (Foursquare), Kevin Slavin, Jared Hecht (from GroupMe), and Steve Martocci (from GroupMe).-JS
Immersive Labs (Winter 2011)
Jason Sosa, Alessio Signorini, Christopher Piekarski
Total funding raised: $1.018 million
Immersive Labs, which was listed by Business Insider as one of “The 25 Hottest New York City Startups You Need to Watch” last June, is an advertising program for digital signsbakin those used in the movie Minority Report. The program allows retailers and advertisers to deliver tailored messages to customers in real-time using a combination of facial detection (e.g., gender, age, distance, attention time and gazes), “machine learning based optimizations,” and other strategies.
Due to a number of non-disclosure agreements, Immersive Labs would not disclose its client list. However, founder Jason Sosa said that those agreements will expire this summer.
In March of 2012 the company worked with PepsiCo’s digital and social media business unit at the South By South West (SXSW) conference in Austin, Texas, and used conference attendees as their subjects. To date, Immersive Labs has over 70 accounts in more than five countries, and its team has collected over 160,000 anonymous face impressions.
Immersive Labs raised $20,000 last February from the Deming Center for Entrepreneurship; $30,000 last August from Rick DeVos, Robert Semmens, and Teddy Schiff; $810,000 last September from Dave McClure, Robert Semmens, Windquest Group, Teddy Schiff, Quotidian Ventures, Andy Keller, Simon Gelfand, Jay Weintraub, Peter Krupp, and Mac Harman; and $140,000 last November from Sam Yagan, Don Hutchison, and ENIAC Ventures.-JS
Dispatch (Summer 2011)
Alex Godin, Jesse Lamb, Nicholas Stamas, Gary Los Huertos
Total funding raised: $983,000
Dispatch, which was formerly called AirDropper, is a file-sharing platform that was originally created at the TechCrunch’s Disrupt NY hackathon in 2011 where it was a runner-up for “best hack.” At the time of its founding, cofounder Alex Godin was only 17. Although the company has received $983,000 in funding and has a section on its website where people can request an invite to Dispatch, the program is still only available in private beta form. Cofounder Alex Godin told Betabeat that since TechStars, the company has hired three new employees and has hundreds of users in their private beta. “We’re really excited about the product we’re building,” he said, “and we have big plans for the future.”
Dispatch raised $965,000 last November from Thrive Capital, SV Angel, Lerer Ventures, Jared Hecht and Steve Martocci (founders of GroupMe), Matt Turck, Bob Pasker, Zelkova Ventures, David Tisch, and Kal Vepuri.-ES
Wantworthy (Summer 2011)
Lauren McDevitt, Josh Wais
Total funding raised: $859,998
Wantworthy is an online shopping tool that allows users to save, organize, compare, and share products they are interested in purchasing from online sites. Self-described as “your ultimate fashion wish list,” Wantworthy not only helps shoppers create lists of the products they want to buy, but also features communal lists for recent trends, new stores, and new brands. Although the company declined to comment on their clients and investors, co-founder Josh Wais assured the Betabeat team in an email that the company is doing “great!” Wantworthy has also been featured in Glamour, Refinery29, Style.com, and the New York Post.
Wantworthy raised $859,998 from undisclosed investors.-Luke Hammerman
Caren Maio, Mike O’Toole, Matt Raoul
Total funding raised: $823,000
The three founders of Nestio launched the open beta in April 2011, only a few months after TechStars NYC accepted the company into its program. The company, which was formerly called “Urban Apartment,” is a real-estate search engine, akin to “Yelp for real estate,” founder Caren Maio told Betabeat. In October 2011, the company was able to broaden its scope to include nationwide real estate because of the high demand. Nestio is also available as an iPhone app and Ms. Maio said that she believes the future of the company lies in its mobile programming. Nestio has brand partnerships with companies such as Curbed, eBay Classifieds, Naked Apartments and City Habitats. The company currently has five employees.
Nestio raised $55,000 in February 2010 from Rick Webb and $750,000 last July from Quotidian Ventures, Rick Webb, and David Tisch.-SS
Ordr.in (Summer 2011)
David Bloom, Felix Sheng
Total funding raised: $760,000
Ordr.in is a restaurant e-commerce site that aggregates online food ordering. Cofounder David Bloom said, “Ordr.in is involved in partnerships, but nothing public.” Since TechStars NY, the company has grown to five employees, including senior developer and head of API Ricky Robinett, who formerly worked at TargetSpot, and director of marketing Deepthi Welaratna from Blue State Digital. “TechStars helped us lay a great foundation for our business,” Mr. Bloom said in an email to Betabeat. Ordr.in has also been included in Entrepreneur Magazine’s “Brillaint 100 List” and Quick Serve Leader called them one of “Ten Technologies to Watch,” Mr. Bloom said.
Ordr.in would not disclose how much funding it has raised, however information filed with the SEC says that the founders have raised $760,000. Ordr.in’s investors include TechStars, Google Ventures, Ludlow Ventures and 500 Startups. -ADH
Jonathan Slimak, Noah Slimak
Total funding raised: $730,000
Piictu is a photo-sharing service that most recently worked with the United Nation on a three- month campaign for World Environmental Day. “Since TechStars, we've been developing product, growing our community and team, and working with select big brands to help them engage the Piictu community and grow their fan base,” co-founder Jonathan Slimak told Betabeat. Piictu currently works in an office in Union Square with a team of eight; up from their team of four during TechStars, Mr. Slimak said. “We're a pretty strong team with a relevant track record.” The Piictu team includes Petr Reichl (lead iOS) and Robin Raszka (lead designer) who own their own iOS development firm, Tapmates, in the Czech Republic. Co-founder Noah Slimak said the company is currently involved in a partnership with Project Runway for the launch of their Season 10 show. “Working officially with Piictu, Instagram, Pinterest and Viddy, Project Runway will be not only sharing official content, but also engaging fans by asking them to share their related content,” Mr. Slimak said.
Piictu raised $730,000 last September from SoftBank Capital, betaworks, RRE Ventures, Jon Steinberg, David Tisch, and Josh Guttman. -ADH
Urtak (Summer 2011)
Total funding raised: $512,000
Urtak is a Q&A widget that collects audience feedback through simple ‘Yes,’ ‘No,’ or ‘Don’t Care’ response options. “It is absurdly easy to embed,” founder Marc Lizoain said in an email, “and will get you way more engagement than you do from comments.” In fact, Mr. Lizoain is so confident about his widget that he asked the Betabeat team, “Have you considered using our technology in your piece?” Perhaps tactics like that work because Mr. Lizoain also said that Urtake is “doing great! Better than ever!” The company has since hired the German developer, Sascha Mombartz, who Mr. Lizoain said will be in charge of overhauling the company’s UX design this summer. Because of the ease of answering the questions, the company claims that users answer over 20 questions per session on average and that Urtak-generated questions elicit 100 responses for every one comment they’d typically receive on other websites.
Urtak raised $500,000 in January from Vaizra Seed Fund, Quotidian Ventures, and Esther Dyson. -LH
Matthew Chun, Bryan Adams
Total funding raised: $500,000
Formerly Fred Rover, and before that, One Plus Four, MobIntent, a startup providing mobile app discovery and ad optimization, was one of the few TechStars companies from 2011 to fail. In March, it officially closed after failing to attract a substantial investor base. “Ultimately, we just decided we didn’t want to be ad-tech guys,” the founders told Business Insider earlier this spring.
MobIntent failed in March -ES
ShuttleCloud (Winter 2011)
Eduardo Fernandez, Carlos Cabanero
Total funding raised: $298,000
ShuttleCloud is a data transferring program that assists in data migration with email accounts and Google Apps. Some of the company’s biggest clients include Stanford and Harvard Universities and Pivotal Labs and it has even been used by a few TechStars startups that underwent name changes or needed data transferred. ShuttleCloud was recently added to the Google Security Hall of Fame for employee Felix Lopez’s work uncovering a security bug. Although small—it currently has five employees—the company has big plans for the future, such as adding more functionality and platforms between cloud services.
ShuttleCloud raised $280,000 last August from High Line Venture Partners, SV Angel, and Intelectium.-SS
ToVieFor (Winter 2011)
Melanie Moore, Eric Jennings, and Susanne Greenfield
Total funding raised: $93,000
Although ToVieFor, a members-only auction site for women’s luxury goods, was able to raise fund initially, the company eventually closed down after about a year. It tried to be more like a typical, full-price retailer during TechStars, co-founder Melanie Moore told Betabeat, to satisfy the brands and help establish partnerships with designers, “but, as a result of this change, we lost our competitive edge in the marketplace.We were then going head-to-head with retailers like Net-a-Porter and Shopbop, with no real competitive advantage over these businesses.” Nonetheless, Ms. Moore told Betabeat she had no regrets. “Everything that happened, for better or worse, is a lesson I can now take with me to my next company,” she said.
ToVieFor failed, however they received $75,000 in April of 2010 from the 2010 NYU Stern Business Plan Competition. -ADH
Nick Schwab, Jeff Epstein
Total funding raised: Undisclosed
Ambassador allows companies to manage referrals and reward customers who refer the company’s services. Originally known as Zferral, the company unofficially took on the new name because it was “more friendly for brands,” founder Jeff Epstein told Betabeat. “People automatically understood the notion of an ambassador and the value of having ambassadors.” (The company is still technically Zferral Inc., though it brands itself as Ambassador.) Ambassador, initially a three-person venture, currently has five full-time employees. Mr. Epstein also said that the company’s sales have multiplied by six and that it has over 400 clients. In early 2011, Ambassador acquired Cloudomatic, an online business app store and integrated with the billing service Chargify. While Mr. Epstein said that the company has acquired funding, they declined to disclose the specific amount raised to date, though he revealed the company will be making a big announcement about funding and other related topics in the upcoming weeks. “We've signed up our biggest customer three months in a row, and we're talking to some really big companies,” he said, adding that Zelkova VC was one of their investors.
Ambassador would not disclose how much funding it has raised, but in October 2011 The Next Web reported that the company had raised $800,000. In an email to Betabeat, Mr. Epstein also said that Zelkova VC is an investor.-MN
ChatID (Summer 2011)
Matthew Wild, Dan Herman and Syed Waqas Khurshid
Total funding raised: Undisclosed
ChatID, which allows brands to chat with their customers outside of the company’s own website, has grown since 2011 and now employs 10 full-time employees. In early May, ChatID won the Technology Services Industry Association’s 2012 Vision Award in the Services Enabler category. The TSIA also named ChatID the best start-up, a title that earned the company a $10,000 grant. ChatID has not disclosed the amount of funding it has received since its founding, but The Next Web reported that one of their investors is Buddy Media CEO Mike Lazerow. In September 2011, ChatID partnered with the cloud-based advertising firm Flite Inc, allowing companies to build their chat system into an advertisement. Mr. Herman told Betabeat that the company hopes to continue to expand the size and reach of their product. “Ultimately we see a world where we are working with a number of large companies,” he said, adding that ChatID plans to launch into private beta later this summer.
ChatID would not disclose how much funding they have raised but in October 2011 The Next Web reported that the company had raised $1 million. -MN
Red Rover (Winter 2011)
Total funding raised: Undisclosed
Red Rover is an employee-colleague social network that was created to improve communication between employees and employers. As of 2011, the company reported that over 30,000 people used its software to connect and share information and has been able to triple their paid user base since TechStars NYC, founder Kevin Prentiss said in an email. He added that the company now has a former Weshop employee as CTO and that two developers have been added to the Red Rover team. Red Rover has also had three major upgrades to its platform, and plans on upgrading a fourth this summer. “We are excited to be working with our new crop of clients who are helping us shape the best way to capture the know-how,” Mr. Prentiss said, adding that his company’s growth highlights “the fact that enterprise software can be just as sexy as consumer software.” Indeed.
Red Rover would not disclose information on funding. -LH
Spontaneously (Summer 2011)
David Keay, Spencer Lazar, Joshua Keay
Total funding raised: Undisclosed
Spontaneously, formerly Timestream, is still in beta form and is not actively promoting the site because they are still in their testing stage, co-founder Spencer Lazar told Betabeat. Once completed, Spontaneously will work as a social networking site allowing users to send invites, share event information, and sync their calendars to the site. The site, however, is available to users who contact Spontaneously, Mr. Lazar said. Since TechStars, the company has grown from three to "about six" employees and is hiring.
Spontaneously's founders declined to comment on how much funding they have raised.-LH
We catch up with the first two classes of startups to graduate from TechStars NYC.