November 7th, 2013 NYU Founders Forum

On Thursday, November 7, 2013, OLC attended NYU Founder’s Forum featuring six NYU startups and four panelists. The startups were: Corvus Technologies, Cognitive Toy Box, EdenWorks, Social Effort, Clean Water For Everyone and TapMedia. The panelists present were: Sutian Dong, Venture Investor at FirstMark Capital; David Reitz, Investor at WestBridge Investments; Brian Malkerson, Director of NYC SeedStart; and Brendon Dickinson, Associate at Canaan Partners.

Heather Rosenbaum presented Corvus Technologies. “On average, 100 firefighters lose their lives every year—that’s a big problem. Had there been a way to monitor and track them, that number would be less,” Rosenbaum said. Corvus Technology, or Cortek, designed a device to track firefighters inside buildings. The tracker system uses narrow radio beams to locate nodes [receivers] on the firefighter’s uniform. The nodes are tracked in real time on a software. “The signal is 1.5 billion times stronger than GPS,” she said. The software is able to track up to 100 nodes at once.

Brian Malkerson: What is the cost for a system like this?

Heather Rosenbaum: Depending on the size of the fire department, the pricing varies. The basic starts at $65,000.

Sutian Dong: Does the device go into buildings?

HR: The firefighter wears the node.

Tammy Kwan presented Cognitive Toy Box. CTB creates baby toys backed by science. They look to bridge the gap to enhance vocabulary growth with educational toys. “Babies don’t develop shape bias until they’re about two years old,” Kwan said. “Cognitive Toy Box looks to change that.” She plans to teach children from the ages of 1 to 2 shapes by teaching them shape bias early on. Children will have an inclination towards shape and she envisions a whole line of toys.

David Reitz: How big is your market?

Tammy Kwan: Our market is 6 million children. We’re thinking of taking our toy design and contracting an established toy manufacturer who have infrastructure already in place.

Brian Dickerson: How do you get yourself found?

TK: We’re going to reach out to mom blogs, leveraging research facilities, and the original researcher is key to getting our brand out.

SD: What’s your revenue model?

TK: We do plan on using contracting—maybe a bit of both online and not.

BM: What do you guys do differently?

TK: Our main competitors: Leap Frog and Baby Einstein—Baby Einstein was recently sued and they had to take out the word “Educational” from their marketing. We can say ours is educational.

Jason Green presented EdenWorks. “Eat wholesome, local food without leaving your city,” Green said. “Industrial agriculture is failing. So, we’re trying to bring agriculture back into cities. Aquaphonics is a fusion of aquaculture and hydroponics. The system doesn’t take any prior experience to build. They’re like LEGO pieces, all ready to be easily assembled. And our market is people already invested in food, like schools.

BM: What is the paying point you are solving for?

Jason Green: More than half of the energy cost is going to manufacturing food. With this, you can cut the price of food by half.

SD: What prevents me from building something similar to yours?

JG: We haven’t been able to patent our product due to cost.

BD: What does it take for you to get $50 million now?

JG: I can suggest a strategy: we hope to scale using partners and carriers.

Danielle Young presented Social Effort, a tool to help make volunteering become a lifestyle. They optimized volunteer retention rate by creating a mobile app that enables charities and NPOs to integrate volunteer lifestyles. It uses a subscription-based model and uses geo-location and geo-fencing to provide “Time-Fencing.” It lets volunteers walk in and walk out from the designated spot and their hours are automatically logged.

BD: Why is this important?

Danielle Young: It’s important for volunteers to know how long they gave their time to a cause. This give them metrics to play with.

Abbey Wemimo presented Clean Water For Everyone, an organization that aims to provide access to clean and affordable water supply in developing nations by working with local people and organizations to achieve positive and measured social, economic, and environmental impacts. According to Wemimo, 2 billion people lack access to clean water. Every 20 seconds, a child dies due to poor sanitation. Clean Water For Everyone focuses on community-based approaches, impact evaluation and its partnership with Sun Giant Energy to provide access to clean water. In 2012, they were able to help 1277 people. This year, CWFE was able to help 19,060 people get clean water.

DR: What’s your point of differentiation?

Abbey Wemimo: A lot of non-profits focus on infrastructure of the community. We focus on schools.

BD: What do you need to take this to the next step?

AW: One thing we need is grants and donations. What we need right now is a $20,000 fund to complete a project that will be underway.

John Meyer presented TapMedia, a company he started in high school in 2011. “So far, we’ve developed 40+ apps with no contract work. Our apps have made it to the Top 25 list on Apple five times. We’ve generated $350,000 in 2 years. We have a simple four-step process: idea, execution, adoption, revenue. The way we generate revenue is through content and great UI,” Meyer said.

DR: You have a very solid process and a profitable company. That’s very good.