Today, 12 startups will present to a room filled with investors, industry analysts and media at TechStars Demo Day in Boston. In case you haven’t heard of TechStars, it is an elite mentorship-driven start-up accelerator that is funded by more than 50 venture capital firms, and more than 25 angel investors. TechStars operates in 4 cities nationwide including Boulder, Boston, Seattle New York, and has more than 300 mentors, 1,000 investors and 78 alumni TechStars companies in its network. This year, in 2011, TechStars received over 3,000 applications for approximately 50 positions, making the accelerator program harder to get into than Harvard or Yale with an acceptance rate of approximately 1.50%.
The 2011 Boston program brought together founders from Israel, Estonia, the UK, as well as Nashville, Austin and Boston in the U.S., including recent college graduates as well as professionals with 20 years of industry experience. The TechStars companies presenting today vary from game-changing mobile app technologies, artificially intelligent software, online learning platforms and a portable medical device for stroke patients.
“The broad range of industries in Boston creates a rich mentor community with a wide variety of backgrounds,” said David Cohen, Founder and CEO of TechStars. “The breadth of this talent pool allows TechStars in Boston to accept a diverse group of high-quality companies, and to encourage and support their creativity in a very meaningful way.”
“We're hunting for awesome startups”
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I first reached out to EverTrue Founder and CEO Brent Grinna last December when he declined to be a part of our Best of Boston startups list. “We need to do more to earn that kind of distinction, but hopefully we’ll give you lots to work with in 2011,” he said with a smile. At the time, EverTrue was building branded mobile apps for schools and organizations to better engage with alumni. It seems, then, that they may have done something of a pivot while in the TechStars program. According to TechStars, EverTrue “is an intelligence platform that connects donor CRMs to the social graph, providing the first meaningful fundraising data service.” Pivots are normal in accelerator programs and I’m excited to see the progress Grinna and his team have made.
Ginger.io is a behavioral analytics company using mobile devices to collect big data for personal and enterprise healthcare applications. Founder Anmol Madan is a recent Ph.D. from the MIT Media Lab where he modeled large-scale human behavior data using statistical and pattern recognition methods. In fact, most of the team is comprised of MIT grads who have banded together under the slogan, “Big Data, Better Health.” To sign up, visit DailyData.
Hailing from Estonia, GrabCAD is like a social network for CAD engineers with manufacturing and product development companies. The platform aims to reduce time and cost spent on designing models, finding a partner for drafting jobs or designing and building a new prototype product. Prior to GrabCad, CEO Hardi Meybaum was an engineer in manufacturing. GrabCAD features finished client projects, top engineers of the week and provides a free CAD model library to its users.
4. Help Scout
We all know email is a service that could use a little disruption. Enter: Help Scout that provides “emails that scale with your business.” The service is the only email-based customer solution tailored for small and medium-sized businesses, combining the personal touch of email with the scalability of a help desk. Help Scout is free for up to 3 users and 150 emails a month with pricing plans that scale thereafter.
We recently interviewed Kinvey, pronounced like convey. The “Backend as a Service” platform makes it incredibly easy for mobile app developers to focus on making beautiful, user-friendly apps. Kinvey is betting that the next generation of wireless devices and apps will empower billions of people across the world in ways that will change the face of learning, communication and commerce and that Kinvey will be the hub of that change.
Memrise is ‘the fastest and most enjoyable way to learn words in any language’. The an online learning platform takes the very best science of learning and combines it with engaging, playful design to make word-learning fun, fast and exceedingly effective. Memrise is completely free and features video, audio, example sentences, mnemonics and etymologies. Memrise is social, letting you connect with Facebook and earn points, win awards, and compete on the leaderboards. [If you’re interested for more on this sector, be sure to read up on How the Internet is Revolutionizing Education.]
The Cambridge based Placester, “your place on the web” is making real estate advertising simple and effective, connecting online publishers and real estate professionals, on a pay-for-performance basis. Founded by Frederick Townes and Matt Barba with a combined real estate experience of over 15 years, Placester focuses on providing massive distribution, premium listing services, and deep analytics to help real estate companies advertise and generate business.
90% of products sold by consumer manufacturing brands, such as Coke, Nike and John Deere, are sold through 1.1 million local retailers. But, when these manufacturing brands market online, they go direct to consumer, ignoring retailers who actually sell their product and leaving them to market on their own. Promoboxx helps these two entities work together. Promoboxx is the first online promotion platform that allows brands to launch, promote and track online social marketing campaigns with their retailers. The company, founded by online marketing VIP Ben Carcio, combines the promotional expertise of consumer manufacturing brands with the local marketing channels of their retailers.
We recently interviewed the Israeli-born Senexx that wants to read your email to help you solve office problems. The idea is that, by integrating with every social system that your company uses, Senexx can sniff out huge amounts of data that will help it to build a Q&A platform specifically tailored to your business. CEO Zeevi Michel says that Senexx “uses artificial intelligence to help companies identify and manage expertise that sits inside emails and other sources of knowledge management.” In short, it crawls around inside your Exchange, Yammer, Sharepoint or other system, finding out information that you didn’t know but should.
Spill is an online anonymous peer support system that connects communities of individuals who are experiencing similar life problems. Prior to joining TechStars, there were already 10 schools using the platform. The founders, who are from Madison, Wisconsin, say that students will more readily talk about difficult issues — whether drug use or loneliness — if they don’t have to go to a counseling center in person.
11. Strohl Medical
Strohl Medical is like an “EKG for stroke”. The startup is building a business to provide accurate and timely neurophysiologic data to assist E.R. docs and Neurologists in better triaging potential stroke patients. Their first product is an easy-to-use, portable stroke detection device used in the E.R. to enable faster triage of potential stroke patients.
12. The Tap Lab
We recently interviewed The Tap Lab, the creators of TapCity, the first of many titles on their real-world gaming platform. The app pulls in data on 15 million venues from Fourquare and as CEO Dave Bisceglia puts it, TapCity is the first massively multiplayer building game that’s built on the real world. You’re building and defending a city that is based on the places that you go in real life.” TapCity works a lot like what we’ve seen in casual games such as Mafia Wars, but without the guns and killing. By checking into a location, you can start to overtake it. Once you own a location, you then earn a cut of the money that it has from income each day, adding to your stash. But if you don’t have enough friends checking in, you’ll have a hard time when other people decide to challenge you for ownership. TapCity is available right now, for free, from the App Store on iOS.
“I’ve been blown away by the ever-growing depth and commitment of mentorship that this community has given to the TechStars teams,” said Katie Rae, Managing Director of the TechStars program in Boston. “Each year the Boston community has rallied to support TechStars, establishing it as a growing anchor within the local startup ecosystem.”
The love is mutual in Boston today. Kinvey Founder and CEO Sravish Sridhar says, “Myself and my cofounders knew we wanted to take this company to the next level from day one so we decided that an accelerator program would be the best way. We got so excited when we found TechStars. The best thing about TechStars is [Director] Katie Rae. She is absolutely amazing. World-class entrepreneurs and investors in Boston spent a lot of time working with us to help accelerate our business, in large part, due to the respect they have for Katie and the reputation she has in the Boston startup community.”
Out of the 12 startups, GrabCad has already closed $1.1 million in funding from Matrix Partners, Atlas Venture and NextView Ventures. The other companies will be actively seeking investment and aiming to impress today. While I unfortunately won’t be on the ground in Boston, our very own Brad McCarty will be reporting and providing full coverage of Boston’s latest startup rockstars. Stay tuned.
For more on TechStars, don’t miss:
An interview with: TechStars’ David Cohen on startup rockstars.
TechStars Boulder: Inside the magic and mentorship of the top startup accelerator.
For more information on applying to TechStars, click here.
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