Analytics Woven Into Fashion Among the Ideas at ERA Demo Day

4/29/13Follow @jpruth

Showing off the results of a longer, more robust program, the Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator held a demo day last Friday at IAC’s headquarters in the Chelsea neighborhood.

This fourth batch of startups to graduate from the accelerator put data and software to work in such sectors as retail apparel, online dating, residential real estate, and restaurant management. There may be a bit more scrutiny on this class, because with these startups ERA also increased the seed funding offered and extended the length of its program.

Some of the startups have developed platforms that could plug into the city’s prominent markets, including fashion. Trendalytics, for example, makes software that apparel and accessories retailers can use to track what is popular with consumers. CEO and co-founder Karen Moon said her team created a platform that analyzes what resonates with consumers based on their Web searches and interactions with social media. Though there is a bounty of trend data available, sifting through it all can be overwhelming, Moon said.

The platform is designed to help companies, which pay monthly subscription fees, make better informed decisions on inventory. Fashion retailers, Moon said, risk selling merchandise at a loss if they stock up on goods that do not appeal to consumers. “In the $350 billion apparel and accessories market, over 50 percent of merchandise is sold at a discount, and margins are razor-thin,” she said.

That equates to $128 billion in annually lost value in the sector, Moon said. Companies that pay attention to what customers are saying online could see higher profit margins, she said. However, predicting what consumers want is hard, she said, especially when picking inventory months in advance.

“Multimillion-dollar decisions come down to gut reactions,” Moon said. In order to improve those choices, Trendalytics uses machine learning algorithms to break down information from industry reports, blogs, fashion shows, and magazines to give retailers more than their instincts to act on. The platform also draws upon social chatter and interaction with images on Pinterest to gauge product popularity with consumers.

Another startup in this class sought to solve a very New York problem that could also have broader applications. Suitey is a software-driven residential real estate brokerage that is already helping apartment hunters find places to live in the city. “We have closed deals in every single neighborhood in Manhattan,” said David Walker, CEO and co-founder.

Suitey, which seems comparable to Redfin but focused (for now) on apartments, is a map-based search platform that lets clients browse brokerage databases of residential listings. Walker said his company is taking advantage of the trend among consumers to search the Web for information about potential apartments. Users can also book appointments online to work with Suitey’s agents, who are not paid on commission. Walker said this helps bring transparency as well as lower costs to the real estate world. “We’re leveraging tech to automate much of the home-buying process and passing on savings to our clients,” he said.

In a way, Friday was a bit of a graduation for ERA as well. The program still hosts 10 startups at a time, but the companies in the latest group each received $40,000 in seed funding, up from $25,000 for prior classes. The startups also operated for four months in the accelerator, up from three months, at a co-working space in New York.

Here is a look at the rest of the class:

Acquaintable— An online dating service that introduces potential connections through friends-of-friends to lower user acquisition costs compared with competing sites.

Cognical— Builds custom underwriting engines that help financial institutions and other lenders better identify which loan applicants are more likely to pay them back.

Consignd— Helps bloggers and others create online stores and connect with brands that provide drop-ship service, allowing them to run e-commerce businesses without having to deal with inventory.

Easy Pairings— A platform that restaurateurs can use to find staff more quickly and at lower cost than other sources.

Monaeo— This data analytics platform, geared for enterprises and high-income individuals, provides such services as automating, for tax purposes, the tracking of people in case of multi-location audits.

Startist— Lets musicians, filmmakers, artists, and others showcase their work through multimedia in order to find others to collaborate with on projects.

TheSquareFoot— Platform to simplify commercial real estate leasing by connecting prospective tenants with landlords, brokers, and other service providers. Tenants can search for new space, and landlords can market properties.

Vocalizelocal— Marketing tools and services that local businesses can use to improve the management of their mobile presence, customer reviews, and listings in local directories.

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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