If you've never been to Atlanta Startup Village, you're missing out.
On the third Monday of every month (generally), hundreds of startup aficionados, entrepreneurs and generally motivated Atlantans come together over free beer to watch five companies pitch for five minutes each.
Inspired by Brad Feld's Startup Community Revolution (and, by extension, the TechStars program), the Atlanta Startup Community's self-described goal in 2012 was to follow that path "to make Atlanta’s startup community thrive."
Well, today it's doing that and more. In max-capacity crowds of 600-700 attendees in the Atlanta Tech Village event space, people jostle for standing room only for up to an hour before presentations, drawn in by the promise of discovering the next big investment, finding the next perfect company role, or locating the next awesome job candidate.
It's totally worth it. The energy in that room is palpable, especially with Rivalry CEO Jon Birdsong hosting. When the pitches start, the entire room comes to a halt and stands in mesmerized silence. And then there's five minutes of questions. Really hard questions. I'd venture to say that if you make it through this room, you probably have a viable product.
Last night, I watched five kick-ass companies do their level best to capture the room's attention. Here's the rundown:
• PartPic | Visual Search for Replacement Parts: You take a picture of a part, and it matches it up in the database. No more, "I need this little bendy thing that's shaped like an 'E' without the middle bar, with two prongs at this end, and a hole here..." I thought it sounded great but was unsure if it would work, but then they did a live demo on a strange little screw. And when it actually worked, found the part and popped up the specs and manufacturer, the whole room broke into spontaneous applause and whistles. I was sold! (Find them on Twitter)
• ParkENT Cycles | Secure Bicycle Parking Space (Faster than walking, cheaper than parking): How can you not love a company whose slogan is, "We just want to 'hug' your bicycle and keep it safe"? Aw, guys, my bike wants a hug too! Okay but seriously, this clever company lets you lock and unlock your bike from their patented rack system, just by using your smartphone. No more stolen bikes or awkward bike locks. With ATL traffic what it is, and Marta stations spaced as far apart as they are, this idea captured a good portion of the room, and I heard at least one person say he'd finally buy a bike if this system went in across the city. (Find them on Twitter)
• FogOptics | Fog Problems Solved -- Reliable Free Space Optics: So ... it took me a few minutes to get this, I'm not going to lie. I can't even adequately recount it to you, so I'm going to borrow a line from a Hypepotamus article by Carey Tucker instead: "Their flagship product, Fog Laser™, is the world’s only communication laser platform to deliver fiber-like reliability in adverse weather like fog, smog, clouds, smoke, snow, & scintillation." If this still does not make sense to you, you are not alone -- attendee @tonamok tweeted, "Hate to say that I couldn’t figure out what his product was supposed to do 4 minutes into a 5 minute presentation." Toward the end, though, it got a little clearer -- basically, the laser works even in bad weather, which equals better bandwidth without wires. (They had no social media that I could find, so ... not sure what to say about that. Maybe brilliant laser optic things don't need Twitter?)
• Carematics | Cloud-Based Healthcare Transition Management System (Better coordination, better outcomes): This system automates the hospital discharge process, improves tracking and provides insight into post-care, thereby also reducing readmission. While the demo made it look seamless, some in the audience were dubious of the reality being quite that smooth, but I have to say Carematics made a pretty good case. It seemed like an interesting solution to a growing problem, so I hope it's as good as it looks. (Find them on Twitter)
• Guild Quality | Customer Satisfaction Surveys for Contractors: Based on Guild Quality's reported metrics last night (nearly 2,000 clients monthly!), this was a big need in the market. Kind of a Yelp for home improvement, they provide the visibility, feedback, analytics and more to the building industry. If I have to hire a contractor, the fact that they use Guild Quality would definitely drive me to select them because it would mean that they listen and integrate feedback (and you know how that makes me happy). (Find them on Twitter)