500 Startups is hosting its latest session of Demo Day this week, and TNW was there to watch the proceedings in Mountain View on Wednesday. That’s the first port of call before the startups and their pitches make their way onto San Francisco and later New York City.
This is the company’s fifth batch of startups, and today saw 30 companies present to a room of investors and media, all seeking variable amounts of funding to continue their development. This group has been called the most international and multicultural class that the accelerator has ever had, so we took the liberty of picking out our selection of the most interesting.
A new era of tech events has begun
We’re back in New York this November for the 4th edition of our growth-focused technology event.
Keeping with the international theme, this season of Demo Days kicked off yesterday with a session featuring Mexican and Latin American startups that 500 Startups has incubated. As you may recall, the firm acquired Mexican.VC accelerator last August.
As the program began, 500 Startups partner Dave McClure took to the stage to say his firm has invested in 450 companies over the past 3 years of its existence and it is looking to invest in many more…that’s indeed where it gets its name. Also speaking at the event was Dave Goldberg, CEO of SurveyMonkey, who shared his insights about one of his startups — LAUNCH — and AngelList’s Naval Ravikant was there too.
Companies from this class come from all around the world, including the US, Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Croatia, Denmark, India, Japan, Italy, Latvia, Estonia, Spain, and Taiwan. At the beginning, there were 33 companies, but only 30 presented — we’ve been told one company dropped out of the program while two others were unable to attend due to personal reasons.
Combing through all 30 startups can be an ordeal so we’ve filtered through them all and now present the ones that stood out:
WayGo is billed as an “instant virtual translator” and it allows users that are in a foreign land to simply hover your phone over text that you’re not familiar with and it will display it in English. Usage of the app has grown 50% month-to-month in growth and charges $14.99 per month for unlimited translations (there are other plans available).
The service works offline too, which is a real boon for those trying to dodge expensive international roaming fees.
To date, the app has averaged around 140 translations per week in China alone. WayGo says that gives it the potential to help 10 million English-speaking people in the country annually. It has established relationships with American Airlines, TripIt, and Lonely Planet.
WayGo is aiming to raise $500,000 and it has $315,000 committed already. The team says it has plans to develop a version for Android.
The business-to-business service for group meals, Chewse was born when one of the founders realized that office managers and administrative assistants were the ones dealing with the task of ordering meals for staff and meetings. Realizing that there could to be an easier way to do this, the company built a system that makes it straight-forward to order food for corporates.
Chewse currently has partnerships with Wells Fargo, University of Southern California, and PriceWaterhouse Cooper, and it says it has a further 700 companies on its waiting list. Each customer is spending around $30,000 per year on the service. To date, 20,000 meals have been served within its two test territories.
The company is looking to raise $500,000, and it already has 85 percent of those funds committed.
Gaze Metrix is a service that is focused on helping brands figure out when they are being photographed. If there is a photo of someone holding up a Coca-Cola bottle or perhaps wearing a Nike hat, companies are interested in knowing how their brand is being perceived. Social media is increasingly about photos — with the introduction of the iPhone and other smartphones, it’s a lot easier for photos to be taken but harder for the content to be tracked.
The service acts like Google Analytics in that it comes with a dashboard to show mentions, but at the same time allows businesses to interact with photos by providing a link back to each of them in their original place, for example Instagram, Flickr or Facebook.
Gaze Metrix says that it analyzes millions of photos every day and that it’s possible to tell businesses when a photo is about to go viral.
The startup is seeking to raise $750,000.
Aiming to rival Amazon on book reviews. iDreamBooks believes that there should be a universal score for books across the Web.
It says that Amazon’s rating have been diluted in quality with some authors and third-party sites faking reviews. To combat that, iDreamBooks aggregates professional reviews from sites like the New York Times and the Washington Post and scrapes them for relevant content, in addition to determining whether each review is positive or negative. It uses a custom search engine, summarization, crowdsourcing, and natural language processing (NLP) technologies to do what it does.
It says that the founder of Rotten Tomatoes is already an investor and is approaching 1 million users each month. It is looking to raise $500,000.
This mobile application sets out to help personalize the travel experience through its travel wishlist feature. Similar to Peek, it already has 500,000 downloads with 40,000 monthly average users. TouristEye has become quite popular that Virgin America is offering it to its passengers. As it tells us, users search for a wishlist of things to do and where to go using the app, plan their trip around it and they can also access it both online and offline.
It is looking at raising $1 million in seed funding and already has $300,000 committed from investors.
In technology, finding a designer for a startup can be a very difficult thing. Hunie aims to help create better designers so that everyone benefits. A user can sign up and submit their designs to Hunie. Expert designers will review the submission and provide feedback on the design through annotations. In doing so, users are able to gain a better understanding of the critique and can grow professionally.
Having launched nine weeks ago, the service has curated 1,000 designers and provided 9,000 critiques. It says there are 10,000 designers still on the waiting list.
In addition, Hunie is playing a role in helping place designers in the right job. Companies that hire someone through the site will be charged 12 percent of the designer’s salary, which goes to pay Hunie’s fees.
It is looking to raise $300,000 in funding.
Started by two former Dreamworks employees, Curious Hat is a children’s platform that helps parents and kids interact using their smartphone or tablet device. Interactive things that can be done include taking a photo of yourself and converting it into something that the child can unscramble or engage with in another way.
The company says that parents can decide when, where, and how much they engage with their kids using the device. Another game that it has developed is Eye Paint, which lets kids use a device’s camera to focus on things to learn about color.
So far, the company has racked up 140,000 downloads with 74% retention rate and 71,000 monthly average users. Curious Hat is seeking $500,000.
Taking on Apple’s Passbook, WalletKit believes that it wants to power the future of mobile wallets. It believes that companies face problems when integrating with Passbook.
Why? Development and preparation.
It says that first you need to determine the marketing requirements, then the designers need to make it look good, code it, and then have it deployed. Once there, it needs to be analyzed. WalletKit offers an API and SDK which it says lets companies can create their passes quickly. The service also offers monitoring so its customers can keep track of their customers.
WalletKit believes it can reduce the cost and time involved with each implementation and it makes its money by charging based on the number of passes produced.
The startup is aiming to raise $500,000.
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Today isn’t the only time when investors will have a chance to take a look at these companies. Tomorrow, 500 Startups takes the show on the road with presentations in San Francisco before moving on to New York City later this month.