Well, that sure was fun. TechStars Demo Day just concluded, with ten startups showing off their wares to more than 600 people at the Showbox Sodo. The room was packed, and the energy was flowing as the crop of startups wooed investors with slide decks and sly one liners. Heck, Andy Sack’s son, Jude, even wowed the crowd with some impressive magic tricks.
Nearly everyone I’ve spoken to in the aftermath of the event — including Swype’s Mike McSherry, Madrona’s Greg Gottesman and Haiku Deck’s Adam Tratt (a TechStars grad) — largely agreed that this year’s class was the best yet in the three-year history of the program.
Even more impressive, several of the companies — including Bizible and Glider — have already raised significant financing rounds.
Now, for the fun part. As in year’s past, here are my picks of the top three presentations. I also cornered tech luminary Robert Scoble after the event to get his picks, but more on that later.
Tred led off the presentations, and it didn’t disappoint with a unique way to purchase a new car by bringing the process to your home. Perhaps the most consumery company of the bunch, Tred’s Grant Feek, who we profiled last month, had the tagline of the day.
“Test drive from your driveway, and buy from your iPad.”
What I liked: The pitch was straightforward and easy to understand. Very clear delivery, and Feek tossed out some impressive numbers, noting that 11 of the 13 people who’ve used the service have purchased a car. Now, of course, that’s a small sample size. But, nonetheless, we all know that buying a car is a pain in the ass. Why head to a showroom floor when you can research online, and have the process delivered to you? The company is looking for $1.5 million in funding to fuel its Seattle operations, so it’s unclear whether the business model will scale as it goes into other markets. But Tred certainly is one to watch.
Full pitch here:
Co-founder Robi Ganguly appears to be a crowd favorite, and from everyone I’ve talked following the pitches, this is the hottest startup in the bunch. There’s good reason why. Apptentive brings customer service to mobile apps in an entirely new way.
What I liked: Solves a real problem, helping app developers interact with their customers in new ways. It’s also impressive that the service is already operating within apps such as Urbanspoon and Decide.com. I wanted Ganguly to share a bit more about the monetization of the service, but he (as well as angel investor Chris DeVore) followed up via Twitter and answered that question. Basically, it’s a monthly subscription service, selling seats with various tiers for features and audience size.
I never thought I’d be interested in the problem of A/B testing mobile apps. But after hearing today’s pitch, one can certainly identify with the problem. Overall, a very strong pitch from a technically-savvy group of entrepreneurs.
What I liked: Wicked smart team whose done this before — at Google of all places. Also, similar to Apptentive in that you can clearly see the problem they are trying to solve, with customers who’d been willing to fork over some dough for the service.
Full pitch here:
Meanwhile, following the presentations, I was able to corner tech luminary Robert Scoble to find out about his favorite pitches from the day. They included Apptentive, Maptia and Linksy, as well as Sandglaz and Tred.
Nonetheless, Scoble wanted more mobile, noting that seven of the 10 companies should have been in the mobile arena.
On Maptia: “I liked Maptia, but I wanted them to be mobile. She was the best presentation. If I was just investing in an entrepreneur, I think I’d invest in her.”
On Apptentive: “I’m a big believer that mobile is the way to build big companies, and if you bet on mobile, there are going to be billions of people joining the Internet on their phones, and a lot of them are not going to know what a desktop computer is.”
On Linksy: “I liked Linksy because I am an influencer and so that was interesting to me. I’m on the marketing team at RackSpace, so I am always looking for good ways to market.”
(Editor’s note: GeekWire’s Taylor Soper contributed to this report)