There's nothing I love more than a pitch event (as y'all well know), and it crushed me last year when I had to miss the inaugural Techstars Atlanta Demo Day. So when Mia Jones-Walker with TAG reached out to me about attending this year, I leapt at the chance to come support some pretty awesome startups, several of them local! (Also, she said the words "open bar." Startups and drinks? Yes, please!)
If you haven't heard of Techstars, they're "a global ecosystem that helps entrepreneurs build great businesses." Last year, in partnership with Cox Enterprises (who has been rocking it supporting the startup community!), they kicked off an Atlanta program, led by Tyler Scriven and Michael Cohn and program managed by Rachel Ford. It's a 13-week accelerator program that includes a ton of perks, most especially an incredible mentor network. Those mentors work pro-bono and are, as Michael said, what make Techstars unique. (Actually, he also said, "Our mentors are magic," but since there was a slight technical difficulty with the supporting slide on that, I thought we'd let it go. Or I'd put it in parenthesis...)
Demo Day is the culmination of the 13 weeks (this year coinciding with, and adding on to, the awesome Venture Atlanta's 10th anniversary), and the companies get to show off their newly polished presentations to a theater full of investors, supporters and other entrepreneurs.
The 10 companies were all really different, but they each wowed the crowd in their respective areas. They were funny, passionate, emotional and scientific, and you could see the weeks of work shine through as they pitched on a huge stage at the Tabernacle on Oct. 10.
FarmCrowdy brings something new to the philanthropic space with a way to do good and make money at the same time. They're a digital agricultural platform that leverages farm sponsors to solve the problems of small-scale farmers in underdeveloped nations, and at the same time change the lives of those same farmers.
The problems: Lack of capital, a knowledge gap in smart farming, and inadequate market access. FarmCrowdy bridges that gap by providing quality farm resources, smart-farming techniques and mentoring, and market access to buyers. Farm followers and farm sponsors sign up for specific programs like rice or chicken, and the platform uses farm specialists to supply the farmer. At the end, the products are harvested and sold to wholesale buyers, and the sponsors get back not only their initial backing, but a percentage of the profit.
It is, as Onyeka said, a "win-win-win scenario for everyone!"
Customized good are going mainstream, in areas you'd never have thought of -- like customized footwear, now a $2B market. But there are virtually no tools for custom shoes: A midsole mold costs $10K and takes four weeks to make. And getting to market faster, matters. So what's a producer to do? Head over to Collider, where a mold for an identical midsole would cost just $20 and take less than a workday to make.
Collider creates rubber, plastic and metal parts 10 times faster and 50 times cheaper than traditional manufacturing processes. And while regular 3D printing is amazing all by itself, it's not intended for late-stage product development (lots of iterations!) or mass customization. Surfaces come out rough, there are weak points in the products, and they use inferior materials because they're created to work with only one type of custom material. But Collider can work with any materials, with an automatic injection process and no additional setup needed, and even includes a mold that dissolves in water so you can iterate on your product and try it with a different tweak.
Collider's about to launch to beta, and has shipped more than 80 parts to 12 companies across multiple verticals, focusing currently on relationship development. It's a great move: 3D printing is a $5B market today, but by 2020 is expected to reach $20B. At this rate, manufacturing will never be the same, but Collider will be there as it changes.
Alan posed a question to the audience: If landing pages take $3k and two weeks per page to build, then what are all the missed opportunity costs out there? It's something business owners and marketers face every day: How to get to market faster, how do people find you, how do you track what's working?
Sure, there are some Web site builders out there, but they all have one fundamental flaw: They separate the content from the template. But Alan says that's wrong -- content, layout and design work together. So with Landing Lion, you manage content inline with layout design. It's fast and easy, with a focus on user experience that allows pixel-perfect designers full control but still lets beginners do a lot. It then automatically optimizes for mobile, search rank, quality score, deploy with SSL and conversion tracking, visitor tracking, A/B testing ... the list goes on. There are so many things the average marketer needs, but usually has to spend hours doing, Landing Lion does with the click of a button.
With more than 300 active users (20 percent of them international!), a 98 percent retention rate and 400 percent MRR growth since starting the Techstars program, Landing Lion is poised to take the landing page sector by storm!
Fraudmarc is working to make the Internet safer by securing everyone’s email. They're working alongside brands like Microsoft and Google to secure your brand against phishing damage.
Turns out, it's not just your brand -- 97 percent of Fortune 500 companies fail to secure their brands online. They may say their policies block spoof emails, but Fraudmarc's tests indicate 485 of those companies are unprotected and baffled by the issue. (They even tested the companies of the registered Techstars attendees, and said most of them failed as well!)
Phishing happens all the time, to the tune of $5.3 billion collected by phishing last year alone (per the FBI, anyway). That kind of brand damage is irreparable, and you can avoid it with Fraudmarc. They manage all of the reports and monitoring for you, with just the click of a button.
They are currently in live pilots with Cox and The Weather Channel, and hope to one day soon simplify and streamline implementation to the point that email authentication is as ubiquitous as that little Internet secure lock you see in your browser. With some pretty big email mandates about to come down the line, a lot of businesses will need Fraudmarc. Is yours one of them?
2ULaundry says they have created more than 100 hours of free time for customers to enjoy with friends and family. With just a simple text, your laundry is picked up outside your door, then returned the next day, cleaned and folded. (Y'all. I. AM. IN.)
Alex has a great past in this: He worked for another laundry startup where, despite the company not doing well initially, he believed in the business model so much that he bought the business his sophomore year of college, and sold it for a 10X return two years later. But he still saw a huge opportunity in the $35B industry. So he convinced his best friend to join the team, brought on a serial entrepreneur for the scaling, and kicked off 2ULaundry.
Instead of the Uber for laundry, they're the UPS of laundry, with static, scheduled routes. Customers select their water temp, dryer temp, detergents, etc., so you can customize everything. They don't outsource and jeopardize quality, but have their own supply chain. Ninety-eight percent of their customers have in-home washers and dryers and still use them on a weekly basis, and they make a 30 percent gross margin on every order.
Since January 2016, the company has grown to over $100k in monthly revenue in the Charlotte market alone, and they're on pace to triple by the end of the year. Over the next 18 months, they're launching three additional markets (including Atlanta!) and estimate hitting a $6.5M run rate in 2018. I'd say their customers agree that their time is delicate for sure!
If you ask anyone who plays video games on the phone what the one thing is that annoys them the most, they'll all say, "The ads!" Okay, sure, ads suck, but game developers have to make money somehow, and the easiest way right now is ads. But that degrades the user experience, and Martins and his team have set out to find a better way.
With TheMonetizr, developers can eliminate ads, grow their revenue 14 times higher, and increase engagement! It's a unobtrusive solution game studios can plug right in: high-quality merchandise inside the games. Gamers unlock collectibles as they play, and behind the scenes TheMonetizr handles the order, manufacturing and delivery. Gamers love getting the merch (they share it all over social media), and developers get a much higher return per gamer this way as well.
TheMonetizr is now partnered with three Apple Design Awards winners, and have more than two million gamers in their audience. With their blockchain-based game rewards system, they connect gamers, game studios and brands across multiple experiences, and bring all the stakeholders together on one platform that works on all games.
Convenience stores may be good for a quick stop for consumers, but they are anything but "convenient" for their owners and operators. Independently owned, they are underserved with technology: Complex fuel software, antiquated hardware that's hard to train employees on, they can't scan data (most still use legal pads to do inventory and orders!), and the fuel system has no inventory or insight, so must have two separate systems to do anything.
Now, Rapid RMS streamlines and modernizes these C-stores, helping operators to replace clunky registers with streamlined inventory management, purchase orders, reports and fuel in real time. Rapid RMS marries the old fuel equipment to modern point-of-sale systems to the cloud. It saves more than 40 hours a week and nearly $1k per month by automating tasks and reducing training time.
Rapid RMS has been installed in 50 locations and has served more than 2.4 million consumers annually, with $35M in transactions processed. The C-stores so far are strong supporters, with a 63 percent referral rate, which is huge.
The market is also quite large, with 154,000 store locations nationally, and an upcoming chip-card pay-at-the-pump EMV deadline in 2020 that will force more stores to move to new technology already, so Rapid RMS is positioned perfectly to make their lives easier at the same time.
If you've ever gotten a little popup that says, "This app quit unexpectedly!" and not been able to figure out exactly what's happened, you are not alone. Apps are still buggy, because we test our apps manually, and MoQuality wants to change this.
MoQuality tests apps just like humans do, but does it 80 percent faster and 60 percent more effectively. That's only going to get more important -- for example, with the release of the latest iPhone, now every app in the app store has to be upgraded to iOS11 and tested for compatibility with Apple and Android. That's around 500k test cases per release, so of course errors from manual testing (even with scripts) are incredibly common because testers have to balance quality testing versus taking too long to get to market.
In a nutshell, what we call "automated tests" aren't actually automated, but MoQuality's AI can prioritize and do the testing for you. It checks all screen interactions, points out problems, and documents things in minutes, not hours, on multiple devices. It even runs regression tests to ensure new features and old ones still work.
If you're still manually testing, take the plunge and move from self service to full service with MoQuality.
When you think of online dating, you probably think of the apps that help people meet: eHarmony, Match.com, OKCupid, etc. But what happens after they meet?
That's where Bloveit comes in, keeping dates fun, fresh and exciting for the couples market (which is, by the way, 10 times larger than the singles market, and five times more lucrative). Bloveit helps busy couples put the spark back into their relationships, using tastes and preferences planned just for them, at the click of a button.
Bloveit uses profiles the couples build to provide three personalized recommendations per month, which include a curated menu at the restaurant, a prepay element so you're never waiting for the check, and a personalized experience from the moment you walk in the door. They've created a completely new category and dining experience with their VIP service.
With 2k paying couples in Atlanta, Bloveit is already at $1M ARR, and they've grown subscribers by 100 percent each month, with 97 percent retention. Over the next six to 12 months, they plan to execute a scaling strategy and expand into new cities to bring the date night magic back for even more couples. (Interested? You get two months free with the promo code "techstars"!)
Do you use gifs in your text messages? Do you drop favorite quotes on your friends? They'rea great visual way to get your point across ... but they don't have that audio you associate with those quotes! Have no fear, Vlipsy is here!
Vlipsy believes gifs are like watching TV on mute. With their platform, you can easily integrate gifs with sound (they call them "vlips") into your texts, translating what you're trying to say into an expressive quote or scene with just a click. There's a full app as well as one that fits in iMessage, Facebook, Messenger, Twitter or even downloadable for Snapchat or an Instagram story.
Their revenue model is clever, allowing top placement for brands for certain keywords, which means searching for "smelly" might get you back a Febreze clip about how, sometimes, you stink. (Don't tell me you don't know the one I'm talking about, you know you're laughing right now!) This way, consumers get expressive content they've opted into, and advertisers get to insert brands at the exact right moment in the conversation.
The average consumer spends five hours per day on mobile, and half of that time is messaging and media apps. There are six billion emojis and one billion gifs sent each day -- wouldn't they be that much better with sound?
Full disclosure: As a member of the TAG Blogger Network, I am invited to attend some TAG events at reduced or no cost in return for live social media and blogging. However: (1) I've been a TAG member for a long time, including years where I paid my own membership fee versus a corporate membership, and I truly believe in the value of the group; (2) I am not paid to endorse or renounce anything, and wouldn't do that anyway; and (3) all opinions here are absolutely mine and completely honest. TAG, and everybody else I write about or share, gets what they get with me.