Pulsating with high-energy startup fever, the 10th 500 Startups Day in Mountain View yesterday afternoon offered the best of what 33 young companies in Batch 12 had on offer to enhance the way we live and work.
While Demo Day is a private viewing for investors of 500 Startups’ newest accelerator startups, TNW got a peek at what the innovators of Silicon Valley and beyond have on their minds.
“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.
Most companies were software-based with a service concentration, many had a large growth potential, while several catered to the emerging arts community.
Here are nine of our favorites.
You can buy a home, small business or human monitoring system complete with special surveillance cameras — and pay a nice chunk of change for the privilege — or you can fire up the still-working camera on one of your older smartphones and install Alfred. This app lets you put both cameras on your old iPhone to work (and keep it out of the waste stream) while providing the service of tracking what’s going on at home, with the babysitter, your pets or parents.
All you have to do is download the app and have two phones log into the same account and use one or both cameras to get a view of the scene in real time.
Targeted to schools, Cheddar Up is designed to help both schools and parents collect and track group payments. This sounds sort of dry, but there are few more confusing things than trying to track collections for school trips, sports uniforms or consent forms that are now transported by nine-year-olds with backpacks. The app lets you create your own custom payment page and custom forms for free.
While American schools aim toward a high tech education, often the school districts are handling back end tasks as if it were the Mad Men era. Cheddar Up targets schools where parent volunteers get overwhelmed by the administration of money and form-based information collection.
“We created a tool that can collect all the proper information and sort out the transaction using either credit card or e-check,” said Nicole Montoya, the founder and CEO. “Not only does this simplify the process, it has boosted the participation and pay rates too.”
HelloBit is a small company that seeks to reform the huge remittance industry by cutting the price of, and generating income from, delivering money.
This cash connector — which operates on the principle of “send global and receive local” — lets you send money to loved ones in a safe, secure manner without the overpriced overhead of a Western Union or similar large company. “Think of the cash connector as an Uber driver,” said Hayden Simmons, who heads up community relations for HelloBit.
The HelloBit app connects senders and local couriers who actually deliver the funds. Connectors are fully screened and recipients are guaranteed 100 percent of cash sent. Local folks in need of spare cash act as the couriers so the actual transaction is community based. “This is a way for underemployed people in emerging markets to get money into the hands of those who need it and to make some money themselves,” Simmons said.
HelloBit is a beta project in Mexico right now, and the company is looking to expand to other Latin American countries, the Philippines and India.
Imagine having a gourmet meal delivered to your home at night from top chefs in your region. That’s the concept behind Lish. The company pulls together local chefs who run high-powered kitchens to take individual delivery orders during their down time.
Lish is designed to simplify life for busy working people while generating more income and a higher local profile among chefs. “I love food and I love going to restaurants, but sometimes it’s just too late after a busy day,” said Aakhil Fardeen, Lish CEO. “We wanted to offer a high-quality healthy option for people who were too busy to cook.”
For those not in the situation, it’s hard to imagine encountering anti-gay prejudice within the freewheeling world of Airbnb, but that was the catalyst behind Mrbnb, a network of gay hosts targeted to the gay male community. Already operational in France, the company seeks the growth and traction to support similar operations in New York and Los Angeles.
So what about the sisters? How come this is just for gay men? Matthieu Jost says his research focused him on the gay male market first. “Many lesbians have different travel habits, they travel less.” However, the company has already reserved the Missbnb domain for future expansion into the space.
Ironically, Jost says that 5 percent of Mrbnb customers are actually straight women. “They just feel safer dealing with gay men,” he said.
There’s podcasting and then there’s social podcasting. Raur seeks to redefine talk radio for live streaming broadcasts — like a Periscope or Meerkat for audio.
With Raur you can create impromptu broadcasts for immediate streaming, said Kevin Kliman, Raur’s founder. But you can also pre-record material for future broadcast. You can interact with broadcasters, comment, tag and share what you are listening to, and more. “This is just a better experience for listeners,” Kliman said.
Startup day coincided with Raur’s debut on the App store.
When you want to send large files from one place to the other, the first word that comes to mind is cloud and the time-consuming upload-download dance that goes with it. While Sunshine knows it will not eliminate that word Cloud from your tech vocabulary, it offers an alternative way to share files: peer-to-peer streaming or downloading.
Sunshine has developed proprietary algorithms to create optimal connections via Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G and LTE, said Sunshine CEO Nicole Hosun Kim. Sunshine does not upload the files to an external server and users do not have to contend with data caps. “What’s unique about it is that you don’t have to be on the same network,” she said.
There’s something sad about being the last of 33 entrants to present your pitch, but dancers always seem to find a way to make it work. Trance, a social video community for dancers, managed to end the 500 Startups presentations in a way that got a tired audience pumped.
“Trance is a place where dancers go to be with their own community and to connect with an audience of dance lovers,” said Julien Altieri, Trance co-founder. “We are not absorbed by the music industry. We are a place where dancers go to get recognized.”
Trance wants to be a universal dance floor and offers a space for anyone to watch, record and share user-generated dance videos. Now available for iPhone, it’s also coming soon for Android.
Let’s face it: Art apps are hot, hot, hot. Vango (think of the Dutch painter) seeks to connect art buyers and sellers by eliminating that snooty “gallery” feel and the pricetag that often accompanies it.
“We focus on the artist-buyer relationship,” said Monique Ritter, Vango’s jill of all trades. “There’s no scary feel and we break down the price walls.”
Vango links artists with buyers to view for purchase original art at under $2,000. Artists start at Tier One with prices up to $250 and can advance to $1500. Not only do buyers see the art beforehand, they have a feel for what it would look like in the home. Interestingly, Vango does not deal with photography: Everything is either paintings or drawings.
Vango originally launched iPad and iPhone apps, followed by a Web app. An Android app is now on the way.