• Posts,  Startups

    500 Startups Demo Day – We Are #500Strong

    I’m here at 500 Startups to hear Dave McClure, “founding partner and overlord” of the seed fund and incubator here.  As a mentor in residence advising a handful of these companies, I’m excited to see them on stage and showing off what they’ve been working on.  We’ve got  a packed house!  I’ve put these companies in here in alphabetical order, this wasn’t the order in which they were presented (not sure why that would matter).

    955 Dreams

    The team wasn’t here, but we enjoyed a video from them of their History of Jazz iPad app


    “A lot of you are checking your email on your phones, so I imagine its gonna be big someday”

    Push notifications to my phone allow me to quickly reply to messages that need my immediate attention.  Keeping the high signal to noise ratio in his inbox.  Jared and the team have lots of enterprise experience, and their solution is different — it isn’t in just gmail, but also in Exchange, because that’s where business customers are living in their email.

    The goal is to have 2 or 3 messages remain in your inbox each day.  You can’t expect people to change their behavoir, you have to make it easier.  There are a lot of add-ons like Xobni that give you more data about the people sending you messages, but they don’t help with the issue of processing your messages.  We’ve added intelligence that wasn’t available even 6 months ago… semantics, sentiment analysis, machine learning, user history, calendar integration.

    Lot’s of users are using it at $100/month, they are making $1000s/month.  Google “outlook vs. gmail” – the article they wrote is the first result.  They’ve raised $400K and would like to raise another $350K.


    “For the record, that was not water” says the cofounder, as he throws back a drink and starts his pitch.

    Let’s call this “The Tale of Two VCs” – comparing the email styles of Brad Feld and Fred Wilson.  Baydin built The Email Game and the service is live, it gamifies working through your messages to make it fun to focus on cranking through your email.  If you’ve received an email from me this week it is highly likely you noticed their little “Excuse the brevity, I’m trying to win the Email Game” in the footer.

    While everyone is telling you email is dead, 180 Million hours will be spent in email inboxes in America this year.

    The company recently closed their seed round in an Uber car, as seen on TechCrunch


    Disclaimer from the presenter: The info on their website is out of date, they’re now doing something different.  They had a network of 10,000 Facebook pages and a user footprint of around 40 Million.  Things were looking good, and then they got a cease and desist from Facebook Newsfeed team… about 6 weeks ago. “If Facebook can’t monetize the newsfeed yet, neither can we”.

    They have a new service where you can automatically follow your friends, get a ranked feed of videos your friends have watched, and you can queue or hide videos to watch.  You can also pair with your TV from your computer!  So you can search for the next thing you want to watch on your laptop, before pushing it to your TV.  You can also take control of other screens.  Its much better to use your laptop as smart remote, rather than turning your TV into a computer with a wireless mouse and keyboard.

    This completely describes the pain point I have with my current setup at home by the way, and I WANT THIS.

    They’d like to raise $1 Million to build out their consumer product.


    Data driven parenting services.  They believe that connected devices and tailored online content can help parents.  Modern Moms want to be connected to their families, but technology can sometimes make people feel disconnected when it comes to using that technology with babies.

    There is a ton of content out there, but it is really generic.  Is my baby crying more than normal?  We but a device in the babies room running Evoz software, it could be an iPhone.  This is an infinite range baby monitor… so you can listen in from wherever.  You can also set to get notifications.  Mom’s also can get a dashboard, and see how your baby compares to babies of the same age or the same region.  Quantify the problem, and then offer really targeted services like sleep consultants to parents and caregivers, or tailor other markets.

    They launched their closed beta yesterday – they had 1300 signups but only took 20 people.  They already have purchase orders from companies in US and Canada.  Check out the Evoz write up on TechCrunch

    Raising $600K seed round, about 50% committed from 500 Startups, David Shen Ventures and Charles Forman

    InternMatch – Andrew Macguire, Founder & CEO

    They’re passionate about helping college students find their first internship, and helping companies showcase why they’re a great place to work, with a simple digital marketplace.

    Employers spend over $7 Billion on interns each year, they’re not just free/cheap labor, which is a common misconception.  Since 1992, the % of college students entering the workforce with internship experience has increased 800%.  Finding an internship is a painful process for students, it is slow.

    They showed some classic “hockey stick” graphs, and in March application submissions doubled over the previous month (from 800 to 1600).  The company just launched an enterprise product called the “Community Page” which allows companies to publish what its like to really work for them, to break down.

    They’re currently raising $400k and have about half committed.  You can find them on Angel List.

    Motion Math

    Not yet presented…



    myGengo – presented by a 1-take video (based in Japan)

    Global online translation market with an API that allows you to plug in human translation into any platform.  They’ve built open source plugins for popular CMS services like WordPress, and are partnered with high volume ecommerce and content production sites.

    10,000,000 units translated, and revenue generating from the start.  Their team is SUPER international.

    They’ve raised $1.5 Million so far, from 12 angels representing 9 nationalities.

    Ninua – Waleed Abdulla, Founder

    On the publisher side, their product Networked Blogs has 1.7 Million users and 700,000 blogs – and they are helping bloggers get their content onto Twitter and Facebook.  But what about the user?  What are the important factors for a good reading experience?  Three pillars: mainstream, blogs, friends.

    “Ninua Newsreader is a beautiful, social newsreader, in your pants.”  They are competing with Flipboard and Pulse, but those services don’t let me filter content via my friends.  Ninua shows you your friends, and you can follow the ones who share your interests for news.  You can also see which publications friends are following, and follow those publications directly.

    They are a team of 4 engineers and one designer.  They are raising $500K.  While he was talking 25 new users signed up.


    “So in the spirit of full disclosure, I’m imagining you all naked right now.  And I’m dedicating this to Alexia (from TechCrunch), who has deemed us the least interesting startup she’s ever seen.”

    iPhone and Android app to make loyalty punch cards digital.  They started out by going to the marketing manager at Cal Poly, and they tested the product out at Peet’s Coffee and Jamba Juice in their local stores.  It turns out college students are a perfect demographic, everyone has a smartphone, they spend their parent’s money to eat out, and no one can cook.

    They then had 7 universities approach them – representing 200,000 who can get free stuff through the app.  This was all done with word of mouth, they have 35 stores and 3 colleges are using the service. 7,000 punches have been pushed through the system in the past 4 months – “this is our obligatory  up and to the right graph”


    Punchd App Promo from Punchd on Vimeo.


    Not yet presented…


    Rewardli – George Favvas, Cofounder & CEO

    Smaller businesses don’t have the same buying power to get discounts that larger companies get.  However, SMB owners are networked and could band together to buy things and collectively join forces to drive down prices.  When you sign up, you get connected with other people in your network to create a buying group and your buying power is determined by your personal and group buying power.

    Rewardlii can save the average SMB $10,000 a year, and they have more than 50 participating vendors including major brands like Staples, Dell, and Expedia.

    “We’ve already made $100 in revenue using the product ourselves… and we’re looking to make… more.” {{chuckles}}

    “Buying power in your pants”

    They’re currently funded by 500 Startups and Real Ventures, and they are looking to raise $500k – half of which is already committed.


    The worlds smartest voice response and analysis platform.  “The use cases are vast, but our price model is simple.  Our gross margin is about 85%”.  Last year they supported $250,000 in sales.

    Simple one hour (actually, 2 minutes) setup – you tell the system who you want to talk to, and the people you want to talk to, as well as the criteria you want to have analyzed.

    They already have Comcast as a paying trial customer, and they want to raise money to help them service pilot customers… roughly $250-$750K.  Currently has Jeff Lawson (CEO of Twilio), Sid Wiswanathan (founder of Cardmunch), and Andrew Tang (VP Operations at Comcast) are advisors.

    Social Stork – Joel Auge, Founder & CEO

    Ummm… he just sang his pitch – apparently this guy was a finalist on Canadian Idol.

    “100% of Facebook users ARE or HAVE a Mom, so that’s huge”

    Before he was a Dad, he was making social games at HitGrab and basically invented consumable social goods on Facebook.  They distribute content into the Chinese market, and the Facebook Fund gave them a $250K grant.  That business is monetized in 186 countries (“Stop Slacking!” says a heckler).

    And then… his daughter was born.  Mom’s are super proud of their babies, but there is literally no tool to capture what moms are doing — they’re producing tons of capacity.  I don’t have boobs (“small ones” says another heckler, “they’re bigger than mine” – go Hermione!).

    Scrapbooking takes too long and a lot of moms aren’t crafty.  Social Stork lets you share the events that happen in the babies life, and sharing is gamified.  They are going to take the moms they already have on their other game platform, and they will

    They are raising $250K (even though the founder is millionaire) and he wants smart money who can provide resources and mentorship.

    SpeakerGram – Sam Rosen @Sir

    Sam is from New York – East Coast!

    Think of the service a bit like OpenTable for event speakers.  Speakers have WAY too much email, but they hardly can get to all of it so they miss opportunities.  The U.S. conference industry is $150 Million – and 8% of that is spent on speakers.

    Sam went to Foursquare, who primarily use a PR agency to manage Dennis Crowley’s speaking gigs, and convinced them to use the service.  They cut down their email engagement for speaking gigs by 50%, and have closed 99 engagements in the past 90 days.  What they’ve realized in the past few months building this product, is that there are still so many inefficiencies in the marketplace.  Just as speakers have challenges with speaker opps, organizers are also getting bombarded with requests from PR agents and speakers.  A lovely two sided market, ripe for a marketplace (see a trend here?)

    The team is a great combination of hackers and hustlers.  They are raising $500K and have 50% of that money committed from investors like Dave Tisch, Alexis O’Hanian, Jason Finger (Seamless Web), and Jay Weintraub (organizer of Leadscon and an awesome guy!).  You can SpeakerGram on Angel List.

    Spoondate – Raissa B. Nebie, Cofounder & CEO

    “Next up is actually not a bro, it’s a wo!” – Dave McClure

    Meet and eat with people you should know – food dates!  They realized this goes far beyond dating.  The founder was an investment banker until 2008, when she left to follow her passion for food, she even went to culinary school.  People love to gather around food, and 78% of adults consider restaurant dining a valuable use of their social time.

    Spoondate was built with women in mind, think if it as a pre-emptive checkin, people can say what they want to do and invite you to join them.  Group dinner bookings have a 25% margin!

    They are currently fundraising to round out their team, so if you are a food loving investor please talk to us.



    “Nothing converts better than live phone calls”

    A/B testing framework for live outbound phone calls.  Shows the business owner what is and isn’t working, so they can improve their call scripts and move on.  There are hundreds of plugins that can be created to combine with existing workflow.  Revenue model is very simple, per minute per agent pricing.

    Won “Best Business Model” Award at the Launch conference

    They are are looking to raise $300 – $500K to round out the team and reach profitability with their first 100 customers.

    Wednesdays – Cofounders Andy Chen & Hugh Olliphant (PayPal mafia)

    They are a platform for connecting people over lunch, and helping them coordinate membership.  Anyone can build their own lunch club, and they can coordinate connecting people.  Imagine a case where a manager wants 300 employees in a large company to connect for a meal – but she wants to break the meals into various small groups to make sure people are meeting new people and that there are employees at various levels.  AND she wants to make sure these lunches take place on a regular basis.

    There is also a way for groups to make money using the platform… not totally clear how that worked, will have to find it later.

    They are looking for pilot groups and are raising a small amount of funding now, and you can find Wednesdays on Angel List.  Follow them on Twitter @wednesdayslunch


    YongoPal – Darien Brown, CEO & Cofounder

    Probably the bravest guy in the room, he got up and told us about he cried in the presentation earlier today at the end of his pitch and that we might have that to look forward to.  Or, he might pee.  Okay… so onwards to the company!

    The service is designed to help people learn language from one another by sharing their day-to-day lives.  People in Asia want to be able to use their English language skills with native English speakers.  When they first arrived, they built a product that they thought worked using live video.  They made the assumption that video was the next best thing to talking in person, but as it turned out it was high friction.  However, American users were signing up because they were curious and genuinely wanted to connect with their foreign peers.

    They decided to pivot the product and reduce the friction while increasing engagement – via mobile.  They set up a test to take these existing behavoirs, and use them in a new and interesting way.  They set up daily guided prompts between people they paired up to learn from each other, creating a private window into another person’s life through daily photo missions.  The opportunity to use mobile photo sharing for English language learning is huge – and they’re going after the entire continent.

    They are raising a small seed round right now, and looking to raise a larger round in 4-6 months.




    Most of the companies here are listed on Angel List, so if you’re and investor and interested check them out there.  I’ll try to link to every resource I can find about them for you, and many of their presentations will be online.