Eight entrepreneurs competed at an Ultra Light Startups pitch night at at the Microsoft building in Times Square on November 13, 2014.
LiveBraille, a startup with technology that could eliminate the blind’s need for a cane, won the audience’s vote as the winner of the ULS pitch night, as well as other great startup essentials like office space, consulting and more.
The eights startups each gave a two-minute pitch followed by questions and advice from a panel of investors. Nikhil Kalghatgi of Vast Ventures, Owen Davis of NYC Seed, David Teten of ff Venture Capital and Marc Michel of Metamorphic Ventures were on the panel. Niikhil won the audience’s pick for favorite judge.
LiveBraille makes a low-cost 5-sensor glove that uses sonar technology to give a feeling of orientation to those without sight. The company has a patent on the product, which has been tested on 150 users. The glove is washable and water-resistant and is sensitive to the environment – even potholes in India.
The overall feedback was to consider other markets to expand the technology, like the military. Investors also suggested putting the sensor on shirts rather than just gloves, and thinking of more revenue streams.
Pijon: This package company gets brands into impressionable college students' dorm rooms and reminds them to call home. The company has sold over 23,000 monthly packages to college students that are packed with $30-65 of curated items, like snacks, beauty supplies, etc.
The investors said Pijon should aim to become the preferred vendors at colleges, and of course, consider other markets. They also advised to make their company compelling so people choose Pijon over competitors and subscribe each month.
Meals to Heal: Malnutrition is often an overlooked problem among cancer patients. Inspired by friend who died of brain tumor, Susan Bratton started a company that delivers individualized meals to cancer patients and their caregivers. Revenue comes from weekly meal sales, subscriptions and nutritional counseling. The company also has some b2b partnerships with big box stores like Walgreens.
The judges advised Bratton to clarify why her company is better than other food delivery companies like Fresh Direct and to think about other possible markets.
Ketchup: This is a mobile newsreader app for news junkies who are always on their phones. It not only has recent headlines, but a timeline with summaries of related stories. Currently in beta, Ketchup plans to have 100,000 daily users by the end of 2015 and make revenue with ads.
Investors were concerned that this is a crowded space, but some liked the interface and advised to integrate social features.
Jukebox: With this app, you have a say in what music you hear when you leave your house or take out your headphones. The app connects to the speaker system at venues like bars and restaurants. Patrons can build a “collaborative playlist” by requesting songs through their phones and even dedicate songs if they aren't actually there. It is launching in five venues in December and plans to be in 200 venues by end of 2015
One of the problems the app solves is that it takes care of the performance rights fee venues have to pay to play music. Yet, as one investor pointed out, many venues get by without paying that fee, so it is creating a new cost. They advised him to find venues where music is key to the culture.
Tent square: ï»¿This site dismantles the barriers to enter the movie industry by funding community-created projects. The crowd-powered entertainment and discovery site has about 12,000 members that can assemble movie casts, vote on plotlines and more for the in-platform projects. It also serves as a discovery platform. Tentsquare is partnering with companies, promotes competitions and plans to have a subscription model in the future.
The investors had ideas for pivots to cater to the existing talent industry. The suggested making it more of a Linkedin for talent, or a site to make the creative process more efficient and share content, like pond5.
Hackers Collective solves a catch-22 in the startup world - in order to get capital you need traction, but in order to get traction you need capital. The site builds a community of peers and users around your product. It also serves as a platform to crowd-fund and discover early stage startups and collaborate.
The consensus from the panel was to be more market-driven and think about how to make the community more economically sustainable.
Job Elevation aims to fundamentally change the job search for the sales profession. The visual online platform allows salespeople to pick what they’re interested in and filter it by sector, location and seniority. The can also see how they are connected to others using information from Indeed, Linkedin and Crunchbase. For now, the business model is for candidates, and the recruitment site will be built out with a fee structure.
Investors said to market what makes it different enough to be compelling.