Despite Shakeup, the Show Goes On at TechStars NYC Demo Day
Eleven bright-eyed startups pitched ideas for 3-D imaging, enterprise software, and ad technology at a demo day last Thursday in New York to a crowded house of potential investors, entrepreneurs, and other looky-loos (myself included). Though the show ran much like others TechStars puts on, it would be remiss to ignore the recent reshuffling at the accelerator’s local branch.
About two weeks prior, Eugene Chung—whom TechStars hired in January to serve as managing director for New York—was out.
With scarce official details on what led to Chung’s brisk departure, interim managing director Nicole Glaros remains at the helm in New York. (Business Insider and Gawker’s Valleywag reported that TechStars management said Chung was “not a good fit.”) Chung, a former senior associate at venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates, had been picked in the search to fill the role David Tisch vacated last August.
Whatever happened behind the scenes, TechStars NYC let loose its spring class at Webster Hall with no drama. Some of the ideas keyed directly into highly active industries, while others tried to break into relatively untouched territory.
Sketchfab has developed technology to publish and embed 3-D models in-browser on the Web without the need for plug-ins. CEO and co-founder Alban Denoyel was not shy about his expectations for this market. “Designers have already been designing in 3-D the things we use every day,” he said. “Your car, your house, your phone: they all started in various forms as 3-D designs.”
New York’s Quirky, an online hub for inventions, plans to use Sketchfab’s technology in its platform for users to design new products and see the creations of others. Sketchfab was founded in Paris but Denoyel said the business is going to stay in New York—and is looking for funding to expand the team here. It also does not hurt that New York is home to such players in 3-D imaging and printing as Floored, MakerBot Industries, and Shapeways.
As automakers try to put more apps into vehicles, Dash rolled out a platform that connects cars to smartphones. “We can take 150 million vehicles on the road and turn them into smart cars,” said Dash CEO Jamyn Edis. He pointed to the 1980s show “Knight Rider”, which featured a tricked-out black Trans Am with a sarcastic, chatty AI, as some of the inspiration behind Dash. “We were promised that this would be the car of the future,” Edis said. “Three decades later, science fiction hasn’t become science fact.” The computing power that, as depicted in the TV show, was expected to go into cars wound up in smartphones, he said.
Dash makes a hardware and software platform that links cars with smartphones. The technology offers feedback to improve driving behavior, Edis said. If the car is involved in an accident, Dash puts the word out on behalf of the driver. “Your friends and family will be notified,” he said. “We can get 911 services to you.”
The platform can also suggest places to take vehicles for repairs if breakdowns occur or the engine warning alerts go off. Foursquare’s Dennis Crowley, who introduced Edis to the demo day audience, called the technology a “Fitbit for cars.” Unlike such concierge and communication services as OnStar offered by General Motors to select brands, Dash is carmaker agnostic.
Dash also tracks large demographic datasets on how vehicles are driven by using engine sensors, phones, and the users’ social networks, Edis said. What’s more, the platform taps into third-party APIs (application program interfaces) to provide traffic and weather information. “We see all cars as the ultimate data machines,” he said.
Edis also offered a bit of chest thumping about New York as a place for startups, reflected by at least half of the latest TechStars NYC class planning to remain in the city.
Here is a quick look at the other demoing startups:
AdYapper — Developed technology that shows marketers whether or not their digital ads have been seen.
FaithStreet — An online platform for connecting community and donations with church congregations.
Javelin — Software that helps teams within enterprises develop ideas into new products and improve existing ones.
Jukely — An app that helps users discover live music performances and purchase concert tickets to enjoy with friends.
Klooff — A network that features user-generated videos and photos featuring pets across the Web and mobile devices.
Placemeter — Turns public video feeds available online into structured data that tells users what is trending and happening in their neighborhoods.
Plated — Offers users weekly curated recipes and delivers within 30 minutes the needed ingredients to their homes so they can cook for themselves.
TriggerMail — Platform that automatically sends e-commerce marketing e-mails triggered by customer behavior.
WeeSpring (stylized as weeSpring) — Social advice on what products parents should buy for their infants and toddlers. Also offers insights on consumer trends for brands.