Earlier this year, we told the epic tale of how TechStars washed up on New York‘s shore and how the then 29-year old David Tisch, a born and bred Manhattanite had wooed TechStars’ founder David Cohen into letting him lead 11 startups in TechStars’ inaugural New York program. A handful of brilliant companies emerged from the accelerator including Immersive Labs, the future of display advertising, Onswipe the future of tablet publishing, Shelby.tv, a wicked awesome way to watch videos on Twitter and Nestio, which makes apartment hunting a breeze. The first class was so impressive that Bloomberg turned the 3-month program into a reality TV show. Since its graduation, TechStars’ first New York City class has raised $25 million in funding.
Today, at Cedar Lake in Manhattan, 12 young startups, have taken the stage to present their companies in front of a crowd of 500+ investors, press and tech industry enthusiasts. The 12 teams were hand-selected from a pool of 1,200 to be a part of the TechStars’ accelerator program, which boasts an 88% success rate for startups. TechStars also operates in Boulder, Colorado, Seattle, Washington and Boston, Massachusetts.
“This group of 12 companies came in day 1 with a plan, they have been incredibly focused and have taken advantage of every opportunity TechStars has afforded them. Its been incredible to see the amount of business and product progress the companies have made over the past 90 days. It seems like each company came in with a customized plan as to how best to use the TechStars program, and I believe each company executed that plan pretty flawlessly,” said Managing Director David Tisch.
“The most awesome stage”
Last year, Facebook's VP of Design thought the TNW Conference main stage was the best she'd ever been on.
The 12 teams are a part of TechStars New York’s summer class, its second local program. When asked how operations ran this time around, Tisch said, “For me, it was very interesting to work with a new batch of founders, just an entirely new set of personalities. The obvious thing is the immediate pattern recognition from one group to the next, and the confidence of saying, I know what the end looks like, so I can help you get from here to the end…”
Out of the following 12 companies, 6 announced funding, 1 announced over $1 million in revenue, and others announced over 100K users. Let’s meet the teams here:
Who’s announcing funding?
Ambassador, formerly zferral, has caught the attention of a one Mr. Robert Scoble who said, “If you’re looking for a company that helps you create, manage and track custom referral programs then Ambassador is for you.”
CEO Jeff Epstein leads the 4-person team behind the social customer acquisition platform for eCommerce that is similar to strategies such as LaunchSquad. Ambassador takes it a step further. Having vocal brand ambassadors is key since 60% of social media users take action. But most companies don’t have the tools to reward their customers for these actions, until now.
Today, Ambassador is raising $800K with already $600K committed.
If you sign up for ChatID, you’ll notice the option to share your beta signup is powered by the aforementioned Ambassador. ChatID is “Chat Anywhere”. It’s a “universal chat platform enabling businesses to communicate with customers on any site or device.” In other words, ChatID enables an accessible, direct line with customer relations reps, enabling the same ubiquity of phone numbers for chat.
It’s a win for customers, and a win for businesses and brands looking to boost their customer service. The SaaS platform charges business a monthly fee that scales with volume. Retailers using ChatID can engage shoppers across the web and any mobile device. ChatID pulls all communications into a centralized platform for businesses. Today, ChatID has partnered with companies like IBM, Microsoft and Loreal.
The team behind ChatID is trained in Jabber, the technology Google and Facebook use to power text, voice and video chat for a billion people.
ChatID already has $1 million committed to its seed round, including financing from Buddy Media CEO Mike Lazerow.
Dispatch is a service for cloud file sharing, movement, and management. Former lawyer CEO Jesse Lamb, along with co-founders Nick Stamas and Alex Godin (the high school aged son of marketing guru Seth Godin) launched Dispatch.io at the TechCrunch Disrupt hackathon in New York in May 2011.
Dropbox gives you killer sync across your devices. Google Docs gives you great editing. Your photos are stored on Flickr, Facebook and Instagram. Dispatch pulls it all together in one place and lets you move content between services. “We’ve made the cloud drag and drop,” says Lamb. “With Dispatch, we’ve made working within the cloud, seamless.”
Today, Dispatch is raising its Series A round.
Ordr.in is a restaurant e-commerce platform whose API can turn any website into an online food ordering system. So let’s say the New York Mag restaurant section or Eater wants to start making money in the restaurant e-commerce business. Ordr.in would operate as the technical layer enabling them to do so.
While it took Seamless 11 years to break 7,000 restaurants, Ordr.in did it in a year and a half with just 4 full-time employees. Since its launch, Ordr.in has attracted numerous chains including Super 8, Wyndham and Travelodge to its web and mobile platforms. Ordr.in has built a food ordering app for Boxee and it’s even building a Facebook food ordering app to turn any page into a food ordering service. Facebook called it one of the most impressive apps it’s seen yet. CEO David Bloom, who previously led American Express’s restaurant industry team, says “This isn’t disruption, this is revolution.”
Ordr.in’s seed round was led by Google Ventures. Today, Ordr.in is raising an undisclosed Series A round.
Spontaneously, formerly known as TimeStream, is a mobile service for sharing social plans. While you might not think you need another app to help you plan your social life, its iPhone app, which is still in private beta fuses status messages with text messaging– a feature I’d pay for alone.
Spontaneously shows you a future facing list of everything that’s happening on your friend’s social calendars. So when David Tisch posts he’s hosting a Big Brother marathon at his Greenwich Village apartment, you can let him know you’re interested in joining. The app lets you set up events and invite your friends, whether or not they have the Spontaneously app.
CEO Joshua Kaey says Spontaneously will be the platform that owns time. “It’s the evolution of the calendar,” he says. Spontaneously has two business models. The first taps revenue streams from affiliate and lead generation for event planning while the second taps advertising and promotion models for events.
Spontaneously has already raised $700,000 from Lerer Ventures and Accel Partners of its $1 million equity round.
SideTour opens a window into someone’s world, it’s a global peer-to-peer marketplace of marketable serendipity. SideTour offers users a chance to buy unique experiences like “Enjoy a Fireworks Display on a Private Sailboat”, “Learn Traditional Pasta Making in La Cucina di Caterina”, “Experience the Last Chance to Test Drive the Tesla Roadster in New York City”, and “Ethical Fashion Shopping Journey on the Lower East Side.” Last week, I used SideTour to book lunch with a banker-turned monk at his monastery in the Lower East Side. On the other side of the marketplace, artists can create storefronts on SideTour to earn extra income, which is why it’s often called the “Etsy of Experiences”. In the past weeks, SideTour has sold almost 90% of its inventory.
SideTour is raising $1.5 million of seed capital from Foundry and RRE with $300K still open.
Read our full story here.
Who’s got major traction?
Each part of our lives has a digital counterpart. Coursekit is the social network for education. It’s not Blackboard, which is a miserable experience. It gives students the tools they need to better manage their lives. “Students are coming to Coursekit to share, learn and discover,” says CEO Joe Cohen (no relation to David Cohen). Coursekit is currently running its pilot program for 77 courses in 29 different schools. The result? “They’re loving it,” he says.
How does Cohen plan to further distribute Coursekit? By putting it right into the instructor’s hands, for free. “We’re distributing Coursekit this way because we don’t think of ourselves as a learning management company. We’re building a social network for education,” explains Cohen.
“We’re going to be the way any startup or service gets directly to students,” says Cohen. Imagine distributing ebooks, links and lectures to students on the Coursekit platform. It will monetize through that platform as well as selling advertising to 18-26 year olds. Coursekit is launching publicly for spring 2012. The company has already raised $1 million in funding from IA Ventures, Founder Collective and Shasta Ventures.
Today, Coursekit is raising a Series A to grow its team and create a new education experience .
Contently wants to change the current content farm landscape by planting a beautifully designed platform to connect quality writers with brands. Co-founder Shane Snow believes that because of the way search engines are incorporating social data and surfacing content that people want to share, SEO manipulation isn’t a sustainable business model. If he’s right, sneaker sweatshop content farms that pay writers $.02 a word and rely on these formulas to push content won’t be in business much longer.
To deliver quality content, and avoid SEO spamming writers, Contently only works with journalists and bloggers who have credentials that include “major publications and well known blogs”. Snow says that its network of freelancers already includes writers from Boston Globe, Gawker, LA Times, New York Times, and Wired. New reporting jobs on Contently start at $.25 cents a word, and some go as high as $2 a word, which is nearly unheard of by today’s blogging standards. To monetize, Contently takes a lean management fee, depending on what the transaction costs are. All content is checked by a layer of copywriters and editors before going to the publisher. Contently has been doubling in transactions since January with customers like BestBuy and Comcas already paying Contently over $1 million a year. Today, Contently announced its pilot program with American Express OpenForum.
Read our full story on Contently here.
Another photo sharing app?! Yes! But this time it’s all about interaction. Piictu bills itself as a new kind of ‘visual network’ where every interaction happens though the exchange of a ‘piic’. Piictu is trying to provide a simple way to engage and connect with people, friends and places all around the world through ‘picture conversations’. Founders Jonathan Slimak and Noah Slimak hail from Venezuela and lead a 7-person team that serves over 100,000 users with over 300,000 photos uploaded, which are pretty impressive numbers to have at launch.
After just 8 weeks of being live, Piictu has received 130,000 downloads to date. Users spend over 2.5 minutes each time they open the app, which is 1.5X industry standards. In total, Piictu has seen over 1.9 million sessions to date. Brands working with Piictu to engage with their fans include JetBlue and Schick Razors. “It’s the world’s first platform for collaborative self-expression,” said founder Jonathan Slimak.
Piictu has raised a $750,000 seed round from investors including betaworks, RRE, Softbank and Steinberg.
There are a lot of people online with a lot of opinions so it’s unsurprising that polling technology has taken off. Urtak is a publisher polling tool that has been a few years in the making by two Harvard gents named Aaron Gibralter and Mark Lizoain. Urtak sits at the intersection of polling and commenting by letting a publisher create a poll and offering readers and users the option to add questions to that poll. Urtak’s tools are free to use.
Over a few hundred active Urtaks have been created since the company’s launch in June including use by The Daily Beast, Mashable and Glenn Beck’s The Blaze. The two founders believe they may monetize through options like inserting sponsored questions into the flow a la Twitter.
Today, the company is raising a $1 million Series A round.
Read our full story on Urtak here.
Simply put, Wantworthy is your shopping bag for the entire Internet. Products are content for women. It’s a Read it Later for red lipstick or a Delicious for denim. It’s Time-Shifted buying. Wantworthy even lets users compare and get feed back from friends in their social networks on coveted items. It’s Pinterest meets Svpply, but clearly targeted towards shop-happy females.
According to Lauren McDevitt, CEO and co-founder of Wantworthy, women spend 25 minutes everyday shopping online-just for fun. But unfortunately, we’re constantly finding items we like but have no way to keep track of them for later when we’re looking to buy. We’re using makeshift solutions or not even bothering to keep track of them at all, which accounts for billions of dollars of lost revenue. By letting women save the products they like and giving them a neutral place to make decisions on Wantworthy, women are not only happier with the purchases they make, they’re buying more. Also nifty? Wantworthy alerts you when an item you want has gone on sale.
Wantworthy makes money by being the decision making point in purchasing paths. Wantworthy is also developing its own platform to sell women targeted products.
Wantworthy is raising a $750K seed round.
MobIntent, was formerly FredRover, a company that provided mobile app discovery and may be TechStars’ sharpest pivot. MobIntent now operates an ad optimization and analytics platform for mobile app marketing. “It’s what OMD Omnicom did for TV buying,” said Prehype’s Henrik Werderlin.
MobIntent’s rest API isn’t just optimizing for clicks, but delivering the results advertisers need on mobile platforms. Matt Chun, CEO spent his career at the intersection of telecom, high tech and media working for IAC and Diseny. He has his MS from MIT while his co-founder Bryan Adams received his BS, MA and PhD from MIT in Computer Science. Mobile is the future but mobile advertising has been stifled by inefficiencies. MobIntent is breaking down those barriers.
Today, MobIntent is raising a seed round of $500K.
“New York City is the place to be,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who took the stage halfway through today’s event. “We are the financial capital of the world…But what people don’t quite understand is that we’ve become the capital of the world in other industries too. We have double the number of fashion houses that Paris does…We are the media capital of the world….We are the cultural capital of the world…If you want to make a movie here, you’ll have to wait a year before getting a soundstage. The film industry has come back. We have Broadway, Carnegie Hall and The Met…But I don’t think there’s any stage with as much talent as we have, right here, right now….”
In the end companies will go to the place where they can hire talent. Today, 12 new companies filled with budding entrepreneurs have been let out onto the streets of New York City.