The 2013 edition of the Launch Festival continues this week, with day two of the three-day event just wrapping up. The day began with a rather informative talk by accelerator organizers from TechStars, AngelPad, Rock Health, Founder Institute, and Turner Broadcasting Media Camp. It continued with the presentations by 15 more stealth companies, along with the awarding of the prizes to the winners of the pre-show hackathon, with an interesting twist to it.
Yesterday, we highlighted eight companies that we felt stood out from the first set. Now, we present our thoughts on those startups that, in our opinion, made the cut:
“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.
Almost like an Uber for storage of their physical items, Boxbee helps find ways for people to take advantage of self-storage when they want it. The service allows any number of boxes to be picked up and stored on a flexible schedule.
Users can specify how big of a vehicle they need that will hold the amount of boxes that will be stored: car, van, or truck. Next, the type of box needed is chosen, with each size having a different cost. After scheduling pick-up, the truck and mover will appear within a couple of hours to cart the boxes off to a storage facility. The company says that it will charge by the box, starting at $3 per month.
A notification is sent to the user when a box has been delivered safely and the items are cataloged so that users can reference what they have in storage easily using their mobile device — no longer will there be a need to open up every box in order to find out what’s in them. The service allows users to take one of four actions once a box is in storage: share with friends or colleagues, donate the items to Goodwill, sell it on eBay, or have it retrieved and returned back to the user.
The company will be joining AngelPad this spring. It views itself as a technology platform that utilizes the existing infrastructure of warehouses, couriers, movers, and more.
Perhaps the startup that received the most praise from the Launch panel of judges, AdStage is a social advertising management service suitable for small- and medium- sized businesses. Integrating with Google AdWords, BingAds, Facebook, and LinkedIn, the service allows advertisers to easily customize their messages for different audiences with a single data source.
AdStage says that its platform collects historical data like keywords, ads, demographics, and competitor data (at a rate of 5,000 new companies per day). It also has includes features such as rich recommendations, insights based on similar and competitive companies, conversion tracking, and also the ability to offer suggestions on budget allocations.
So far, the company has raised $1.4 million in seed funding. It charges businesses 5 percent for its fees so that it may offer people a self-service platform to businesses that do not have a dedicated pay-per-click employee or the resources to hire an agency.
Similar to what one might see in their local bar, Qwiz.tv allows anyone to create their free multiplayer trivia game easily. Anyone can create their own game with an unlimited number of questions and play it on their computers or mobile devices. The company says that it offers subscription packages that vary depending on the number of players for each game.
Ubooly is not a new company, nor is this the first time it has participated in the Launch conference. Originally launched as the producers of a “magical” stuff animal that was powered using an iPhone or iPod device, the company took the stage today to unveil its new Ubooly Labs service. With its newest invention, Ubooly says that it will allow parents to fully customize their child’s playtime.
Parents can purchase credits to unlock special educational, interest, and helper packs. All content is suited for those between the age of three and nine and were created by elementary teachers and comedians. Parents can explore what is of interest to their child and have the material downloaded onto the device inserted into the Ubooly stuff animal.
At the end of the day, five hackathon finalists were also chosen and took the stage to present what they created within a 48 hour timeframe prior to the start of the Launch Festival. Originally, conference organizer Jason Calacanis had planned on giving out four prizes, one for $5,000 from the app platform Krooshal, and several $25,000 checks, each from Barracuda Ventures, Calacanis, and HubSpot’s Dharmesh Shah.
In our review of the finalists, it was rather impressive to see their work — some seemed to even rival the work of many of the other companies who had applied to the conference just to launch their business.
Here are the five finalists:
- WizzyWig: Setting out to make a Content Management System as a cloud-based service, this company wants to make it easy for anyone to update a site without needing to mark up a page, find a developer, make the change, and deploy the code. It says that with a couple lines of code inserted into the site, any editor can modify a page easily. The service also has a visual divider feature that allows users to look at a particular page before and after the changes are made.
- GemPad: This company is aiming to help streamline repetitive tasks for developers and designers. It takes advantage of the iPhone by making it another input device for the computer, alongside the keyboard and mouse. If, for example, a developer needs to set up their workspace, it can be easily done by tapping on a button on the iPhone app. Additionally, it can serve multiple purposes such as aligning images, playing games, and more.
- Sample Around: This service helps local merchant stores increase foot traffic by offering samples to the local community.
- Watchtower: This business intelligence-type company helps people monitor competitors websites and alerts them of any important changes to the website. It utilize a simple point and click methodology and is purely non-technical.
- DiscoSync: Calling itself the Turntable.fm for a live DJ performance, this hack allows DJs to broadcast their music through a local network that can be listened on an iPhone or iPad. It works using any DJ software connected to the system.
In the end, Krooshal’s $5,000 prize was awarded to Sample Around. But in one of several twists of the evening, Krooshal announced that it wanted to award another prize and gave $25,000 to WizzyWig. That company eventually took home the biggest prize of them all when Calacanis and Shah also named it their winner and gave it $50,000.
But there’s more: Jonathan Triest from Ludlow Ventures and Paul Judge from Barracuda Ventures both announced they would each provide an additional $25,000 to WizzyWig. In total, the company walked away with $125,000 in prizes.
The last prize of the evening went to DiscoSync who received $25,000 from Barracuda Ventures.
Day two has come and gone and as we approach the last day of the Launch Festival, the finalists will be announced by the conference’s grand jury. The path to the top prize appears to still be open for any company, although during open deliberations, judges expressed their favoritism over Zillabyte and AdStage. The next company to join RedBeacon and Yammer as winners of this festival will be named tomorrow.
The event is being livestreamed if you cannot make it in person starting at 9:00am PST on Wednesday, March 6, 2013.
Photo credit: JJ Casas