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Erick Eidus, CEO of PupPod gives his pitch at the TechCrunch Meetup + Pitch-Off. He's joined on stage by CTO Kandarp Jani, left.
Erick Eidus, right, and Kandarp Jani or PupPod give their pitch at the TechCrunch Meetup + Pitch-Off in Seattle.

A long-term car leasing service that allows participants to swap out the vehicles they drive each week, from SUVs to Teslas.

And an interactive dog toy that rewards canines for good behavior.

Those were top choices Thursday night as TechCrunch rolled into town for their annual Meetup + Pitch Off in Seattle, bringing hundreds together at the Showbox Sodo.

Ian Maddox of Joule makes his pitch after an initial stumble.
Ian Maddox of Joule makes his pitch after an initial stumble.

Joule — described by founder Ian Maddox as “vehicles-as-a-service” — took home the top honors from a judging panel that included Madrona Venture Group’s Julie Sandler, TechCrunch writer Frederic Lardinois, Microsoft Ventures’ Mukund Mohan and others. The early-stage startup, which is currently testing the concept in Seattle, won a table in the Startup Alley at the upcoming TechCrunch Disrupt event in San Francisco. Seattle startup Tousled, which allows customers to book haircuts at their homes with top-notch stylists, won second place.

Meanwhile, PupPod — described by CEO Erick Eidus as an “Internet-connected learning system for dogs — won the audience choice award. An automated dog-treat dispensing system that includes video, PupPod reminded us of the iCPooch, created by 14-year-old Spokane entrepreneur Brooke Martin. (You may recall that Martin didn’t score any cash on a recent episode of Shark Tank, though she did win the Inventions We Love segment at last year’s GeekWire Summit).

joule-carThe initial pitch from Joule’s Maddox didn’t go quite as planned with the entrepreneur stumbling out of the gate. The former Web developer at Big Fish Games and All Star Directories struggled to find his words over the chatter of the crowd, stopping himself just seconds into the initial 60-second pitch.

Host Jordan Crook of TechCrunch stepped in, told the crowd to be quiet and noted how Seattle needs to learn how to be more polite.

TechCrunch Meetup + Pitch-Off
A pitch at the TechCrunch Meetup in Seattle.

Maddox regrouped and made his pitch before fielding a number of questions from the judging panel about gas fill-ups (responsibility of the driver) to the high startup costs of buying the initial fleet to which Maddox said that “used cars are our friend.”

Maddox, who founded Joule earlier this year after working at SweetLabs, said that the service “plays nice” with ride-sharing and car-sharing services like Uber, Lyft and Car2Go.

“We are a long-term car share, so you don’t get us for a day, you get us for a lifetime,” said Maddox, adding that the service is similar to well-developed models for boats and airplanes. “You come to Joule, and you can drive a compact car during the week, and when your family expands you can upgrade to a larger vehicle and keep that for whatever amount of time that you need it.”

Joule plans to charge about $14 per day for a Kia or similar vehicle, and upwards of $50 for high-end rides like a Tesla.

Here are the opening 60-second pitches from the top two companies.

Joule’s Ian Maddox:

“Joule replaces your car with vehicles as a service, so you can always have the rides you need when you need it. So, you can check out a Prius from us on Monday, swap it out for a SUV on Wednesday and have a Tesla in time for a weekend.

Best of all, we can deliver a wide variety of vehicles right to your curb with maintenance and insurance included for the same cost as traditional ownership. When things go pear-shaped, we send out a replacement vehicle, but the good news is your replacement vehicle will probably be there before the tow truck, so you can be on your way safe and secure.

We have a wide variety of vehicles you can choose from, all of them delivered by valets right to your home or office. If you have a road trip you want to take, you have unlimited mileage. If you have a boat to tow, no worries. We have pick-up trucks. Use your smartphone to summon the right vehicle for whatever you need to do.”

PupPod’s Erick Eidus:

“We are building an Internet-connected learning system for dogs. The system has a toy that is packed with sensors and wireless technologies and when the dogs play with the toy and they take the right action, it sends messages to a wirelessly connected treat dispenser and treats come out.

The toy is really a multi-level game, so as the dog starts to figure out the level, it changes and they have to keep thinking if they want to keep getting treats.

In addition to these two items, there is also a hub that has a video camera and wi-fi connected to the Internet so that pet parents can get notifications on their smartphone and see whether their dog is playing the game, watch videos and even take actions that influence the game and feel more connected to their dog when the are at work all day and their dog is home alone.

So, if you like what we are doing, PupPod will be available this fall on Kickstarter. And you can go to our website and sign up for our email and stay connected.”

Editor’s note: GeekWire was a media sponsor of the TechCrunch Meetup.

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