The advent of 500 Startups first-ever Demo Day in New York drew a standing room only crowd to General Assembly yesterday for a long night of seed stage pitches and free beer that went an hour past its 9pm bedtime. Betabeat knew we were in the right place when we overheard, “We want to create a better music experience, better than Pandora,” pass for small talk over by the cheese and crackers table. The sight of TechStar’s David Tisch in a backwards baseball cap and khaki shorts (“business shabby” strikes again!) high-fiving Dave McClure was another promising sign.
All of the startups pitching were graduates of Mr. McClure’s 500 Startups, a Mountain View-based accelerator program, and many flew in from the Valley in search of local froth and perhaps a glimpse of the tall buildings. Each co-founder walked out to their own theme music, with soon-to-be baby daddy Jay-Z making a surprisingly popular choice.
When Mr. McClure started his antic night at the mic by telling the crowd, “I’ll write a check for whoever brings me and Paul [Singh, a principal at 500 Startups] a beer. Look at ’em come out, look at ’em come out,” followed by “I didn’t mean for you guys to give me your beer” after a gentleman towards the front handed him a half-empty bottle, we knew it was gonna be a good night.
Here’s what you missed:
Tout: Software that takes the inefficiencies out of repetitive emailing and lets you track the results. The app sends out more than 1,000 emails a day and already boasts 450 paid accounts Highlight: Tawheed “TK” Kader walked out to a mash-up of Biggie and XX. No surprise there, the man drinks his martinis with 16 olives. Clearly he likes to customize.
Vidcaster: An online video platform that lets clients like Airbnb control their environment under their own domain name rather than rely on YouTube. Highlight: CEO Kieran Farr worked as a taxi driver around San Francisco while bootstrapping his startup.
Tinfoil Security: A security service to prevent small businesses from being hacked that crawls your website like Google, but looking for vulnerabilities instead of content. Highlight: Co-founder Ainsely Braun showed a PowerPoint slide with the logos of dozens of organizations like the FBI and WordPress while she said, “Every single company here got hacked in a way we could have prevented.”
Ovia: A recruiting service that helps speed up the time to hire with a video interview process that narrows down the number of candidates companies have to meet with in person. Highlight: After CEO Rodrigo Martinez’s high-octane presentation (“Who’s gonna make it happen?! We’re gonna make it happen!!”), Mr. McClure quipped that Mr. Martinez had gotten lessons from Tom Cruise.
Kibin: A proofreading and editing service for things like school papers that offers quality-checked turn-around in less than 24 hours. Highlight: Co-founder Travis Biziorek came up with the idea when he was trying to find someone to help him with his personal statement for law school. He never ended up going.
Snapette: A mobile app focused on shoes and bags that relies on crowd-sourced photos to show users what’s new and in stock in the stores around them. Highlight: The crowd at GA cheered wildly when co-founder Sarah Paiji announced that she had just dropped out of Harvard’s MBA program yesterday. That was matched by the booing when Ms. Paiji mentioned that she had worked at McKinsey and Goldman before catching startup fever.
Daily Aisle: A Kayak-like service for your wedding day that helps brides find venues and vendors. Highlight: One person offered a pity hand-raise when the presenter asked, “Who here loves spending time with women who are planning their wedding?!”
Culture Kitchen: Classes, recipes, and ingredient subscription boxes that help you cook ethnic food “like the grandmother you wish you had.” Highlight: Mr. McClure’s intro: “How many of you are white people? How many of you like ethnic food? That’s the problem! You’re all fucking white and you don’t know how to cook that shit!”
App Grooves: A/B testing for app developers that lets you get feedback on things like which logo and keywords potential users might find more appealing. Highlight: Describing the service as a “Hot or Not for apps.”
Skipola: A service that automates the process of ordering from restaurants that only use the phone. Highlight: The pitch to get restaurants to download Skipola’s platform? “Are you tired of getting calls from Skipola . . .”
Storytree: An app that helps families (or even groups of friends) collect and share memories with question prompts, videos, and photographs. Highlight: FINE, we’ll admit it. Betabeat almost cried during the video presentation, which got the loudest applause all night. We dare you to watch and not get verklempt.
Console.fm: “An easy button for awesome music” that culls browser-based playlists from the web (at the rate of 20 to 40 new songs per playlist per day) to solve the problem that “rocking out is hard.” Highlight: “We want you to have Console.fm parties in your pants all the time.” Oh yeah, and their adorable plans to dominate Facebook.
CraftCoffee: A service that delivers boxes of artisanal coffee to your door, sorta like a well-designed wine of the month club, but the only side effect is a caffeine buzz. Highlight: Founder Michael Horn’s refreshing honesty: “I started with a more traditional e-commerce site and it was a total disaster.” He just closed the seed-stage round yesterday, but conceded to the crowd, “If you really wanna invest, I might talk to you about it.”
Will Call: An app that lets you find tickets to a curated list of cool shows at the last minute. Highlight: Co-founder Donnie Dinch gave by far the funniest pitch of the night. Regarding a scenario wherein you might be playing Angry Birds on your couch when you see a Facebook update that your friends are at a concert: “I’m slinging birds, thinking they’re getting laid.” Regarding the market for unused tickets. “We don’t think we can get all that $20 billion right away. Whaaat?” Regarding his co-founders: “Both gingers, both brothers, of themselves.”
From.Us: A gift-giving service that lets multiple users contribute suggestions and the recipient decide what they want. Launched 45 minutes before the presentation. Highlight: “We all get shitty gifts and it sucks.”
Cardinal Blue’s PicCollage app: A sweet looking, seemingly easy-to-use app that lets you make collages of your photos in a jiffy and share it with friends. The video was another crowd favorite. “Hipsters love it, grandmas love it, everybody loves it.” Highlight: During the slide about the founders, the presenter quipped, “You can see we have a lot of degrees, but don’t worry, we get things done.”
DailyGobble’s Relevantmobile.com: A loyalty rewards system for chain restaurants that doesn’t require software, but instead relies on users taking photos of their receipts. That way, restaurants have purchase history attached to a cellphone number and location. Highlight: Decision to rely on users with cameraphones, “Putting an iPad everywhere is not the solution to every single problem.”
Zerply: A prettier, more relaxed, more social professional networking service where messaging is free and you can incorporate other online identities like Quora, Tumblr, and Twitter. Highlight: The pitch before the pitch, “For those of you that think LinkedIn is a great professional networking solution, you don’t have to listen to this.”
Volta: Lightweight CRM for phone-based companies that works with inbound and outbound calls. Highlight: Compatible with Skype, Twilio, Google Voice, iPhones, Androids, and landlines.
Welcu: A tool for managing high-end unique events like conferences. Highlight: Already has funding from Eric Schmidt and clients like Coca-Cola and BBDO.
LaunchRock: A service that lets startups (or even clients like Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen’s upcoming t-shirt line) set up and track a “Launching soon” page. Betabeat was a frequent user even before the presentation. Highlight: Co-founder Jameson Detweiler, sporting some serious rockstar hair, talking about the barriers to getting users to broadcast the fact that they signed up to their friends, “You’re not going to share this thing unless it’s going to make you look cool to your friends.”
So there you have it folks. You can see why it was a long night. Thankfully, Mr. McClure, our cruise director for the evening, kept the energy-level high with occasional bursts of song or a request that we act out with Cobra-Kai Five with the person to our right. Here, let him demonstrate. Karate Kid reference, for the nostaglia win!