Fashion, Photos, and Marketing Loom Large Among Startups at ERA Demo Day

4/25/12Follow @jpruth

Graduates from the Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator’s winter class took the stage today at the New York Institute of Technology to impress investors and other attendees at its demo day event. Ten startups offered up their ideas on how to disrupt fashion, retail, marketing, and other industries that are rooted in the city yet extend far beyond its borders.

Jonathan Axelrod, co-founder and managing director of the Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator (ERA) in New York, said more than 500 startups applied for the winter edition of the program. ERA is an offshoot of Entrepreneurs Roundtable, which hosts events in New York, Istanbul, and Tokyo for investors and entrepreneurs. Sponsors for the accelerator program include Founder Labs, SecondMarket, Microsoft Bizspark, and SNR Denton.

ERA takes an eight percent equity stake in the companies accepted into the program. In exchange, each startup receives $25,000 in funding, free office space in New York, legal and accounting services, software, and airline tickets for business travel. The program also provides mentors to help the companies advance their ideas.

Axelrod said ERA focuses on early stage technology startups that leverage the city’s more robust industries, such as media, advertising, publishing, fashion, finance, restaurants, and sports. “We look for companies that are disrupting or serving an industry that is based in New York,” he said. “As a tech company if you are serving those [businesses], you should be here as opposed to somewhere else,” he said.

ERA also helps introduce the startups from its program to potential backers. “Most of our companies are raising $500,000 to $1.5 million,” Axelrod said. “Today’s demo day had a couple of hundred investors here to see them.”

The companies who demoed Wednesday were:

Appy Couple—A platform that lets users create personalized apps for their own weddings to share with guests.

Dibsie—An e-tailing site that features products curated by friends from the users’ social sphere.

Let’sWombat—A Web-based platform that aggregates events to help brands target their marketing for a particular audience.

LocalBonus—A platform enabling consumers to earn points by using their existing debit and credit cards for loyalty programs with retailers.

Pictorius—An app that uses photos in social competitions, which can also be leveraged by brands for viral marketing.

Stray Boots—An app that turns the users’ surroundings into a virtual field for scavenger hunt¬–style games.

Stylyt—A fashion-themed platform that lets members pick fabrics from upcoming apparel collections to design with their own tweaks, the most popular of which will be sold through the website.

Tapfame—A platform that lets developers create contests and sweepstakes in their own apps.

Triple Lift—Leverages consumers’ likes on Pinterest to provide brands analytics and audience data related to product advertising.

Wizpert—For bloggers who offer advice, this platform lets them take calls from readers who want their immediate input.

Axelrod said ERA will put on, a West Coast edition of the winter class’ demo day in two weeks. The 500 Startups accelerator in Mountain View, CA, will host that event.

Axelrod sees common trends emerging among the graduating startups, such as increased use of mobile technology across different types of businesses and big data being leveraged by more industries. “You see people using data for ad tech and fashion tech,” he said.

Wednesday’s demo day was just the second such event held by ERA. The accelerator program graduated its first class last summer. This Sunday, April 29, is the deadline to apply for the upcoming summer program, which will commence in June and have its demo day in September, Axelrod said.

But novel ideas are not enough to get an entrepreneur into this accelerator, Axelrod says. He wants to see companies with the knowhow to back up their plans. When selecting applicants, ERA looks for startups with co-founders who have technical backgrounds to participate in the accelerator. “In a short program, being able to build stuff while you are there is critical,” he said. “That’s an absolute requirement for us.”

João-Pierre S. Ruth is the editor of Xconomy New York. He can be reached at jpruth@xconomy.com and followed on Twitter @jpruth. Follow @jpruth

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