TechStars Seattle Demos: One Room, 10 Startups, Tons of Potential

11/3/11Follow @curtwoodward

David Cohen has seen this movie before. As the founder and CEO of TechStars, he knows that the first year in any city is about building community, making impressions, and proving the model. Then things get turned up a notch.

“Year one is a lot of excitement, the town really supports it,” Cohen said. “People come out to the first Demo Day and they see it for the first time as a finished product, and people talk about it. Year two, you get a much bigger audience. I’ve seen that pattern everywhere.”

Seattle is no exception. The second-ever TechStars Seattle Demo Day, held Thursday afternoon, saw attendance way up, with 350 or more investors, entrepreneurs, and insiders flocking to the SoDo neighborhood to see some of the hottest startups in town. The competition was fiercer, with 700 applicants for just 10 spots, compared with 400 a year ago.

And the money was flowing faster—as of Thursday’s demos, nine of the 10 proto-companies already started raising financing rounds, TechStars Seattle director Andy Sack said.

“Last year, the companies coming out of TechStars 90 days after Demo Day had successfully raised over $2.5 million,” Sack said. “This year, coming into Demo Day, the companies have already raised over $3.5 million.”

Here’s a rundown of the 10 companies that showed themselves off Thursday evening, with some key notes from the presentations. We’ll have more from Cohen later, as he looks at the trends in companies and incubators overall, and some more thoughts from Sack on year two of the Seattle TechStars experience.

Beamit Mobile
Tagline: Enables convenient international money transfers from the U.S. to a mobile phone abroad
Beamit is targeting the huge market of international remissions—the money that immigrants send back to friends and relatives in their home countries once they get to America and start earning cash. That amounts to $325 billion globally each year, CEO Matt Oppenheimer said, with 80 percent handled outside the traditional banking system.

Beamit seeks to make those transfers easier and cheaper by using mobile devices and the Internet as a platofrm. People in the U.S. will be able to send money to a virtual wallet in another country online or through a mobile app, which the recipient could either spend from their device or cash out at a traditional transfer office.

The first test market is the Philippines. Beamit can make transfers free for its most loyal customers, Oppenheimer said, which implies that Beamit makes money on fees of some kind. The startup already has closed a $750,000 convertible note, and is raising a Series A round.

Bluebox Now
Tagline: Turning brand advertising into daily viral campaigns.
The former employees of Pelago, which was acquired by Groupon, have a platform that allows retailers and other brands that offer loyalty or rewards programs to increase consumer spending by offering casual games as a hook, rather than dry, boring email campaigns.

The loyalty market has more than 2 billion memberships, but two-thirds of them (66 percent) are inactive, co-founder Chad Reed said. Early tests show the concept has shown a ten-fold increase in the use of loyalty programs, Reed said.

Customers include Murphy USA, which operates gas stations like those seen at Wal-Mart locations, and Caesar’s Entertainment, the casino company. Bluebox Now is raising a $500,000 round, with $100,000 already committed as of the presentation.

EveryMove
Tagline: Rewarding and inspiring people to a healthier lifestyle.
One of the health-minded startups on stage Thursday, EveryMove seeks to connect consumers with rewards from their employers, health insurers, and other brands by collecting, tracking, and visualizing health-related data. So, if a user checks into their gym via Foursquare and completes a series of runs via Runkeeper, they could qualify for a discount from their insurance company.

In one of the most energetic presentations of the day, co-founder Russell Benaroya pitched this as a social movement, a huge business opportunity, and a no-lose proposition for everyone involved. Advertisers get targeted access to health-conscious people, employers and insurers and … Next Page »

Curt Woodward is a senior editor for Xconomy based in Boston. Email: cwoodward@xconomy.com Follow @curtwoodward

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