At the ninth edition of 500 Startups’ demo day, 30 startups took to the stage vying for investment and a mention in the tech press. Underneath the rock star claims and hyperbole about changing the world, there were some gems that hit the stage in Mountain View.
Today, the companies ranged from child care to bitcoin. As Silicon Valley tries to expand beyond the build-an-app and hope Facebook/Google/Apple/etc buy’s it business plan, start ups have become more eclectic. But shiny rocks, onesies and solos don’t automatically equal solid business plans or something you might find interesting.
“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.
So after sitting through 30 presentations (one involved a developer getting kicked in the balls (not really) by bitcoin), we whittled down the field to nine favorite startups, and here they are:
Imagine Vine, where you can reply to a video by adding your own snippet. That’s Waffle’s video play. Instead of posting a single video, the posts are actually four tiny videos presented in a square grid. It’s like the opening credits of the Brady Bunch but you get to talk back.
When a friend posts a video, you can swipe on one of the grids and record your own video to add to the original. The app should launch in four weeks for iOS, and according to CTO Finbarr Taylor, they are deciding whether a new post will be created when a new video is added to an original post, or if it will look more like a messaging service Either way, it looks like a fun way to create group videos with your friends.
Having to iterate your app’s design after realizing a giant red “buy” button clashes esthetically is even harder. At least you don’t think it works. Vessel helps take the uncertainty of guessing at what works and what doesn’t, by making it as “simple as using WordPress” to update your app’s design.
The service’s “decision engine” helps developers determine how to target different segments of your app’s audience. It creates a highly targeted personalized experience for users and gives developers the data it needs to know what’s working an app’s design and what’s not. Plus it updates the app without having to worry about app store updates. Just make an adjustment and the change is pushed live.
Bitcoin is still the currency of early adopters. Most people still have no idea how to buy the electronic currency. GogoCoin aims to lower the barrier of crypto-currency entry by making buying bitcoin as easy as going to the checkout aisle of your lower store. With GogoCoin gift cards, users can enter the exciting world of bitcoin without the stress of confusing currency transfers.
To sweeten the deal, GogoCoin doesn’t charge a monthly fee or activation fee. Instead, there’s a seven percent fee when you cash out. With companies like NewEgg, Dell and Expedia now accepting bitcoin, you actually have a place to spend the currency. Plus, you can share the information from a gift card with an international friend to send them money via bitcoin without wire transfer fees.
Before the internet, parents would call each other to plan carpools and babysitting. It was a solution that worked most of the time, but even then, a misunderstanding could leave a kid stranded or home alone. Then email hit the scene, but it actually didn’t get much better. KangaDo wants to fix the situation once and for with an app that lets parents make a carpool or childcare request, which a trusted friend can accept, so your kids won’t get left on the soccer field until the sun goes down.
The app is currently live on iOS and Android and the company is teaming up with school districts so adoption should get a huge boost from that. Plus, there’ll be no sad kids left waiting for a ride that’ll never show up.
Everyone hates online surveys. Survmetrics understands this and instead of the ugly surveys found on most sites, the company creates surveys that are not just nice to look at. Co-Founder Ramon Escobar says they build “surveys that not just beautiful, but have a higher response rate.”
According to Escobar, Survmetrics surveys have a 35 percent higher response rate than Survey Monkey surveys. The surveys are mobile friendly and have a powerful backend of analytics that creates context about the user to the questionnaire. The company has also announced a partnership with event service Eventbrite.
Kids grow up fast, and unfortunately this means they go through clothes equally quickly. Totspot lets parents buy and sell used kids clothes. Parents can create online profiles for their children that includes their clothing size and brands the kids like. It reduces the onslaught of clothes found on eBay, Craigslist and consignment stores that either don’t fit your child or don’t fit their personal style.
When a parent wants to sell a piece of clothing, they list it and when someone buys it, a pre-paid shipping label appears in the seller’s inbox and they send the sold clothing to the buyer. Totspot just facilitates the sale and collects a 20 percent commission on each sale. According to co-founder Vijay Ramani, repeat buyers account for 65 percent of its business. Probably because the kids just keep on growing.
Thank to digital photography, we can take photos without worrying about running out of film. Also thanks to digital photography, we have end up with thousands of photographs we have to wade through to find the few hidden gems. Lumific accepts the challenge by analyzing your photographs and finding the best ones amongst the pile of pics. Plus, the app will automatically enhance the images it finds, including copping and straightening the photos.
The web version of the service is currently in closed beta but works with Flickr, Dropbox and Google Drive. You can sign up for the Android app beta that analyzes your camera roll and presents the the best photos. On the web, it creates a separate folder or album for the enhanced photos, while on your phone, the enhancements are non-destructive so you don’t lose the original photos. An iOS version is coming in February so go ahead and take all the pictures you want — Lumific is coming to figure out which ones you should share.
Buying clothes online is a tricky endeavor. If you’re a plus-sized woman, it can be frustrating to order off-the-rack clothing from the internet and realize it doesn’t fit your body type. Abbey Post hopes to solve the buy and return cycle of online clothes shopping by letting customers upload their measurements and order custom dresses that range from under $100 to $150.
The company takes each woman’s measurements and compares them with a database of 100 other women with the same measurements and algorithmically creates a CAD file of a dress pattern that will work for the user. Previously, the way Abbey Post worked was to have women scan themselves and send the images to them. But CEO Cynthia Schames said that it was “uncomfortable” for the customers. Now the company has the women use a measuring tape.
New dresses are delivered in less than two weeks.
The internet is more than just a bunch of words. But that’s really the only thing search engines index. Google does a pretty good job with reverse image search, but when it comes to audio, there’s nothing. Popup Archive is trying to fix that by transcribing audio to text so Google and other search engines can properly index them. The company is currently focusing on radio and archival content, but you can use the service to transcribe your own audio right now.
It’s perfect for students and reporters that need text versions of meetings and lectures. The transcribed audio files are searchable to the second. You get two free hours of storage and can choose from paid-for plans that go up to 150 hours of audio for $50 a month. If you’ve ever spent a weekend transcribing an hour’s worth of audio, you know that even the $15 a month plan is a great way to keep your sanity.