NYC TechStars Holds Demo Day for Startups from Its Summer Program
On a drizzly Tuesday morning in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood, the twelve graduates from the New York TechStars summer program took the stage to pitch their companies to investors and mentors. Though many of the startups hail from the city, some came from as far as Venezuela to participate in the New York branch of the business accelerator program.
Graduates of TechStars receive up to $18,000 in seed funding and the chance to pitch their companies to angel investors and venture capitalists on demo day. Some 1,200 startups applied for this summer’s program in New York. (TechStars held its first New York demo day back in April.) The program puts the startups together with mentors for three months to develop and improve on their business ideas, and to prepare the companies to attract investors. The program runs in Boston, Boulder, Seattle, and New York.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg dropped by between presentations to talk about the ways New York is nurturing its technology community. He also called the TechStars TV show, which features the first class of the program’s New York startups on Bloomberg TV, “our answer to ‘Jersey Shore’.”
Some of Bloomberg’s speech was a redux of his appearance at NY Tech Meetup one week ago, again talking about personally soldering circuit boards together for the first Bloomberg terminals. He reiterated the city’s business strengths, particularly as a hub for fashion and media. He also encouraged the latest class of TechStars graduates to grow in New York. “I hope you make a lot of money and I hope you pay a lot of taxes,” he said, jokingly.
Demo day is the chance for the startups to impress angel investors and venture capitalists in the audience. David Cohen, the CEO and founder of TechStars, said ten of the eleven companies from the first New York TechStars program have collectively raised $25 million. David Tisch, managing director of TechStars NYC, said the local program has 120 mentors from New York and was funded by more than 25 investor firms.
The first demo came from Contently, presented by co-founder Shane Snow. Contently is a platform that connects content publishers with freelance writers. Publishers can manage story assignments through the platform, and writers can show off examples of their prior work. Contently is generating $1 million in annual revenue, raised a seed round of $335,000 with Founder Collective in July, and is now looking for $3 million with $500,000 currently committed.
Snow said media outlets such as The New York Times, Slate, and the Boston Globe use Contently as well as consumer products companies such as Pepsi. “Every brand today is becoming a publisher,” he said.
Snow explained that such brands are moving more of their marketing budgets to content publishing on the Web. However, these publishers need quality writing to populate their websites. “Most brands say they can’t do this in-house,” Snow said.
Another company demoing today was Spontaneously, which has $700,000 committed from Lerer Ventures and Accel Partners in a $1million equity round. Spontaneously is a mobile app that lets its users let their friends know if they are available to meet up. Co-founder Joshua Keay said while social networks help people connect, Spontaneously puts them in touch with the people they meet with in the real world the most often.
Users share their availability with a predefined list of people, or the app can automatically find people they may want to spend time with and send messages to their smartphones. The app also lets users share their personal calendars with their friends. Spontaneously has partnered with companies such as Groupon, AMC Theatres, and OpenTable to market activity options that are nearby to users who make plans to meet friends using the app.
Here is the complete list of the startups that demoed today.
Ambassador: A social customer acquisition platform for e-commerce. Jeff Epstein – CEO
ChatID : Universal chat platform that lets businesses communicate with customers on any website or device. Dan Herman – CEO
Contently: Professional writing marketplace for working with content publishers. Joe Coleman – CEO
Coursekit : A social network for education, expected to launch in spring 2012. Joe Cohen – CEO
Dispatch: A service for cloud file sharing and management. Jesse Lamb – CEO
MobIntent: Streamlined ad optimization and analytics for mobile app marketing. Matt Chun – CEO
Ordr.in: An e-commerce platform for ordering food at restaurants anywhere, which could consolidate the fragmented local online orders into a nationwide service. David Bloom – CEO
Piictu: A network for sharing mobile photos to drive interaction among users. Jonathan Slimak – CEO
SideTour: Peer-to-peer marketplace that lets users live vicariously through others by sharing their real world experiences. Vipin Goyal – CEO
Spontaneously: Mobile service for sharing social plans and availability. Joshua Keay – CEO
Urtak : A Q&A tool that content publishers can use to encourage more interest among their readers. Mark Lizoain – CEO
Wantworthy: A shopping utility that bridges the gap between browsing and buying online. Lauren McDevitt – CEO