It’s been a long, hard voyage for each of the companies, starting with a vigorous application process in which just two percent of applicants were accepted. Many of the ideas have morphed, changed and — in the common parlance of startups today — pivoted in new and interesting ways.
All of the presentations were crisp, polished and interesting. But here are five that stood out to me, measured by the business opportunity, the pitch and the product. I am sure you had your own favorites, so feel free to add who you liked in the comments below.
EveryMove: To some degree, EveryMove was at an unfair advantage given that the company’s two founders, Russell Benaroya and Marcelo Calbucci, are already well established entrepreneurs in the Seattle tech community.
But there was probably a reason why Benaroya batted clean-up. He delivered an uplifting and energetic pitch, and even snuck in some news by announcing onstage that insurance giant Premera had signed on as the first customer.
“What you are going to hear today is how we are not just building a business, but we are sparking a movement that will reward millions of people for living a healthier lifestyle,” said Benaroya in his opening remarks.
Taking words from Zillow co-founder Rich Barton, Benaroya noted that EveryMove is not “playing small ball.” Instead, they are swinging for the fences. The company has already raised $1 million of a $1.5 million round.
My biggest concern with EveryMove is the competitive landscape. I’ve come across dozens of companies in the past year which have made the claim that they are looking to improve the health of Americans by employing new technology solutions. Is EveryMove the company to do it? Only time will tell.
Smore: I loved the product. I loved the pitch. And I think — though not sure — that there’s a compelling business model here. Halfway through the presentation, I was craving the opportunity to give Smore a try to create an online flyer for our upcoming GeekWire Gala.
Founders Shlomi Atar and Gilad Avidan traveled all the way from Israel to participate in TechStars Seattle. And the entrepreneurs have already turned down one acquisition offer. In a nutshell, Smore allows anyone to create online flyers and publish them for free.
Avidian called Smore “a Tumblr for products, services and events,” adding that the hosted service can “make all of the complexity just go away” when it comes to marketing events. I could see this morphing into an online event management service, a la Evite or Eventbrite and it will be interesting to see how those services integrate.
The company, which has raised $250,000 of a $500,000 angel round, didn’t get into that during the six-minute presentation. But I think there’s some good fishing in this pond.
LikeBright: I am not looking for love. But, if I were, I’d hope that the women in my life would rank me favorably on LikeBright. This was one of the most engaging pitches of the day, with co-founder Nick Soman delivering a heartfelt message about the company.
“I was single for most of my life until a friend introduced me to my girlfriend, and she is way out of my league. (Hi, Sweetie). So, I know, that when a woman vouches for a man it is one of the most powerful social signals in the world. She’s not just saying, ‘he’s pretty good.’ She’s putting herself a little bit on the line,” he said.
LikeBright — a name I love — has developed an online dating service that integrates deeply with Facebook, allowing women to easily vouch for their male friends. It is a cool idea, and online dating is a big market. Of course, I get concerned when any company ties its future so closely to Facebook (or any other third party platform). But this is one company where the pitch just won me over.
I had some previous insights into LikeBright, since we featured them as a Startup Spotlight last month in a story titled: “LikeBright: Helping nice gals find good dudes since 2011.”
Beamit Mobile: These guys still have a lot of work to do, but if founders Matt Oppenheimer, Shivas Gulati and Josh Hug can deliver on the promise, they could have the biggest hit on their hands of the bunch.
Beamit, which raised $750,000 in financing last week, is looking to transform how people send money overseas. They are taking on big established players like Western Union and Xoom (Thanks to Oppenheimer for noting the competitors in the slide deck). I am concerned about the regulatory hurdles and roadblocks, and they still need to navigate those. But kudos for these guys for thinking big, and swinging for the fences.
Very impressive presentation by Oppenheimer who had the difficult task of leading off the event, but he pulled it off with aplomb. One request: Name change. Beamit sounds like a laser company, not a money transfer firm.
Vizify: Todd Silverstein’s presentation got some big laughs, and they’ve already had some nice traction with the Tweetsheet product. But Vizify is really about helping people manage how they are perceived online, with Silverstein saying that they are creating an “awesome new way to create a great first impression.”
“Most sites make us look the same as everyone else,” explained Silverstein, noting that Vizify allows users to create beautiful pages which showcase one’s best attributes.
Essentially, Vizify combines social networking profiles and chatter — including from LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter — into one beautiful page that the user can control. It is free to create a Vizify profile, and the company looks to make money through exclusive designs and products that allow you to monitor and build your presence online.
There are no shortage of companies that are tackling that challenge, but there was something simple and elegant about the Vizify design. Looking forward to checking this one out in greater detail.
Here’s a quick look at the other five presenters:
Bluebox Now: Casual gaming network sponsored by brands. My take: Big idea, but a little complex and I would be concerned that big brands aren’t quite ready for the concept. However, they’ve got some good customers already lined, including Murphy USA and Caeser’s Entertainment. One to watch.
GoChime: A new kind of direct marketing company that’s looking to match social media commercial intent with merchants. My take: Already raised $350,000 of a $600,000 round, including cash from Big Door’s Keith Smith. Facebook and Twitter could capture this market first.
GroupTalent: A marketplace where companies can find high-end development and design work. My take: Like the idea, and some of the entrenched players look ripe for a disruption. Pitch needs a bit of polish, but there seems to be promise here.
FlexMinder: Helps people save money on flexible spending accounts for health care. My take: Completely out of my wheelhouse.
Romotive: Who doesn’t love mini robots? My take: Great traction as one of the best performing campaigns on Kickstarter. I am not quite sure about the app marketplace for robots, and that idea needs baked out. However, at the price point they are talking about, maybe every kid (big and small) will be asking for a Romo robot in the future. Fun presentation, cool idea.
Previously on GeekWire: “TechStars: An inside look at 87 days of madness”
Editor’s Note: GeekWire’s Rebecca Lovell and Jonathan Sposato are serving as mentors in the TechStars’ program. Sposato is leading an investment in Vizify.