Ten Startups Share Their Wares at TechStars Demo Night
You can’t throw darts at a calendar this month without hitting at least a couple of technology events in Boston. Tuesday night it was Angel Boot Camp, and last night it was the MITX Technology Awards and the TechStars Demo Night. Maybe that’s why they’re calling June Innovation Month in New England.
There was definitely plenty of innovation on display at the annual TechStars gathering, held for the second time at Microsoft’s plush New England Research and Development (NERD) Center in Cambridge. The sold-out event brought together venture and angel investors from across New England to scrutinize the 10 teams of young entrepreneurs who have just completed TechStars’ 13-week startup incubator program, which is now in its second year in Boston.
Presentations by the startups’ CEOs formed the meat of the event, although there were also speeches by TechStars Boston executive director Shawn Broderick, Massachusetts Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Greg Bialecki, TechStars co-founder Brad Feld, and leading Boston-area angel investor Bill Warner. Each speaker remarked on how the Boston area seems to be gaining momentum when it comes to high-tech entrepreneurship, with TechStars’ program as both a symptom and a contributing factor.
I’ll dive right into my descriptions of the 10 TechStars startups, which formed an even stronger group this year, in my opinion, than the TechStars Boston class of 2009. It wasn’t hard to imagine several of these teams leaving the event with checks from angel investors in hand. In fact, I sat next to one Vermont-based angel investor who said he was going to try to get in on Cambridge, MA-based Marginize, which gave one of the strongest presentations.
CEO: Daniel Sullivan
Appswell is a little unusual for a TechStars company, in that the startup got underway well before the incubator program began. In fact, I profiled founder Daniel Sullivan and his idea for tapping iPhone users for ideas for new iPhone applications back in October 2009. The company has evolved quite a bit since then. With help from CTO/software developer Rudi Seitz (who also runs a cool word-game site called Quadrivial Quandary), Sullivan has turned his crowdsourcing app into the foundation for a customizable platform that almost any company can use to launch interactive marketing campaigns. Imagine that Ben & Jerry’s wanted to hold a competition to let customers pick the next new ice cream flavor. For about a quarter of what it costs to develop a mobile application from scratch, Sullivan says, Boston-based Appswell could build them an app that customers could use to suggest flavors, vote on other customers’ suggestions, and share their favorite ideas via social media.
CEO: Brandon Casci
Back in 2007-2008, serial entrepreneur Brandon Casci spent a lot of time in Washington, DC, lobbying against the hikes in music royalty rates then under consideration by government regulators. A compromise was eventually reached, allowing Pandora and other nascent Internet music services to stay in business. And Casci went on to found Loudcaster, an online service based in Wilmington, DE, that makes it easy for people who are passionate about music to set up 24/7 Internet radio stations. For $25 per month, budding DJs simply fill out a form describing their station, upload a bunch of audio content, and start broadcasting. They can switch at will between an automated music feed or live, real-time shows that allow audience interaction. So how is Loudcaster different from Pandora? “Pandora is a … Next Page »