500 Startups held its seasonal demo day for its seventh batch (affectionately referred to as “batch 007”) today at Microsoft’s Mountain View campus. 30 companies made their two minute pitch to a room filled with investors in a bid to raise funds for their startup.
The seventh batch was announced in October and includes firms from around the world. What makes this notable is that it’s the first class with a biotech company.
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Here are a few of our favorite startups from 500 Startups’ Demo Day (in no particular order):
PlateJoy is a service that aims to make meal planning more enjoyable. Currently it’s said that we’re shopping for our next dining option by ingredients rather than our eating preferences. The company uses its product to help busy people find good eating decisions without resorting to take-out and fast food.
How it works is that users can input their preferences into the service and place their order in less than 60 seconds. The company says that its customers are enjoying the experience too — it has a 50 percent retention rate with the average customer spending over $800 per month. Platejoy has partnered with Whole Foods and Peapod and is looking to disrupt the $600 billion grocery market.
This isn’t a service akin to FedEx or a fast-food service. Instead, it’s designed to work as a middleman to facilitate distribution of quality and healthy food from existing grocery stores to families who spend all day at work and just want to sit down at home and have a meal with their family.
A crowdsourcing platform for ideas and product designs, Bounty Hunter has the standard mechanics of 99designs, but is more than just spec work. With more than 170,000 creative professionals already signed up, the service lets anyone ask for design help for their products. Companies can create design competitions within Bounty Hunter and so far, Google and Blizzard are among the major brands that are participating. Users can create competitions easily and within minutes.
The ability for brands to have the crowd help design products that they would buy is really interesting — almost like the Threadless model but with a variety of other accessories and products.
Sadly this isn’t a “beer on demand” service. It’s actually a useful means to help bartenders and establishment managers better understand their inventory. Partender believes that the old way of cataloging supply is antiquated and frustrating — currently, at the end of the day, employees review each bottle and jot down what it is and how much they think is left over. Then they take that data and enter it into an Excel spreadsheet before filling out purchase orders for new supplies. This can take up to 6 hours to do.
The company says that this method is costing the bar industry at least $28 billion in the US alone.
Partender offers a mobile application where bartenders can search for the bottle of alcohol, use a slider to indicate how much is left, and the app will calculate the volume and the monetary value. Then, all a bartender has to do is take that information, fill out a purchase order and that’s it — the company estimates that the entire process will take 15 minutes.
Currently, 550 bars in the US are using Partender, including those at TGI Fridays, Olive Garden, Lucky Strike, and even hotels like the Hilton and Marriott.
AdEspresso is a company looking to help small businesses optimize their Facebook advertising campaigns. It said that in the past eight months, it has reached 7,000 customers and had $1.1 million in advertising sales — a 62 percent monthly growth rate.
For small businesses, finding solutions that will help them reach more customers on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and others can be difficult. Some of the technology isn’t good enough while others are too sophisticated or expensive. AdEspresso bills itself as being “super simple, fully automated, and self-service.”
Users can insert into AdEspresso five titles, images, and ad copy copy — and within seconds, out comes several ads to review and implement. AdEspresso also includes analytics so small businesses can make any necessary corrections. In the future, the company will be supporting other services like Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Google+.
An Eventbrite competitor, LaunchTrack believes that event planners should take full advantage of customer data to build better relationships with them. It is looking at $2 million in revenue this year and has over 600 customers, including Nike, FOX Sports, ESPN, and Booz Allen Hamilton. LaunchTrack sells tickets and gives organizers insights, along with the necessary personal data to carry on the relationship throughout the event, whether it be through social networks, SMS or email marketing, or whatever method is convenient for the attendee.
The first biotech company to make it into 500 Startups’ accelerator, uBiome is akin to 23andMe, except that instead of examining your DNA from saliva, it’s analyzing microbiome bacteria in fecal matter. Yes, that’s right … poop. Users can order the microbiome kits online for $89 and when it arrives, take a sample and send it back. Results will be delivered confidentially.
uBiome is hoping that the data it provides to customers will help them better understand their own microbiome — basically what’s in their body. Results could show whether you’re gluten sensitive or or could even help to diagnose Crohn’s disease or other ailments.
The company wrapped up 2013 with $500,000 in revenue and says that it’s growing 45 percent month over month since August. It also has a pipeline of over $5 million in business-to-business deals lined up. To date, more than 7,000 samples have been shipped back to uBiome.
BTCJam is billed as being a peer-to-peer lending network, but instead of cash being exchanged, it’s using Bitcoin. In the first two months, it has helped fund more than 230 loans. It is specializing in helping those outside of the US receive the necessary funding — it turns out that the average interest rate is 175 percent in developing worlds, and BTCJam thinks it can help lower the rates to between 7 to 12 percent.
The company explains it this way: in countries like Brazil, people are frustrated trying to secure a loan from a financial institution because of the excessive paperwork and high interest rates. With BTCJam, they can fill out a form on the website, have a credit check done, and be provided a loan, should they qualify.
Shortcut is a mobile application that allows users to control devices just by using their voice. It has some similarities with Siri and Google Now, but Shortcut has integrated itself with multiple hardware devices like Sonos, Dropcam, Lockitron, Jawbone, and Nest. In addition, you can use it to control your check-ins on Foursquare, post status updates on Facebook and Twitter, and send Bitcoins through Coinbase.
OLSET is using big data to help personalize the travel booking process. The company believes that with enough data, hotels can provide the necessary information to make the guest feel comfortable and address their needs. However, it’s not just for hotels — the data can be used to help consumers find hotels that match their need.
Say you’re going on a trip and are looking for lodging. Right now you might glance at a Hilton, Marriott, Best Western, or Sheraton, but each trip has different circumstances, whether it be cost or convenience. OLSET can use data it has curated about you to show you relevant accommodations based on your past preferences.
The company has integrated its service with virtual assistance app Any.do, which resulted in a 51 percent week over week growth rate. OLSET makes $15 for each night that is booked as a result. It’s also planning on supporting other applications like Mynd.
Builk is another big data service but is targeting the construction industry in Southeast Asia. It is offering companies a business management software solution similar to Salesforce. The idea is that while companies can use it to manage their projects, the data derived from these initiatives can help the company’s customers better understand the industry and even provide reports in real-time for Builk users. To date, it has grown 40 percent in the past several months.