Great New Start-Ups (and Founders)
I get inundated with roughly 80 email pitches a day and out of those maybe 3 are interesting enough to have a call on. Of those, usually one team gets to present to our team. In other words, the odds aren’t in the entrepreneurs favor – at least with our firm.
Recently, however, I have met several exciting young entrepreneurs that are doing some pretty interesting things. Without going into too much detail, I attended an Entrepreneurs Summit hosted by New York University this week and was thoroughly impressed by some of the young start-ups that presented as well as the innovative people I met there.
Innovation is bubbling here in NYC and institutions like NYU, Columbia, and Cornell are embracing this urban tech revolution. Of the people I met at the conference, here are a few highlights
Ben Kaufman, a young entrepreneur working on his second start-up which focuses on Crowdsourced product development . The start-up, quirky.com, turns two community-submitted ideas into sellable products each week. Hopefuls pay $10 each to post an idea online for the 85,000-member Quirky community to vote on. Ideas must be physical goods (not software) that can retail for less than $150. An in-house team of engineers and designers examines the two most popular submissions and builds a prototype. If enough units are presold to cover the cost of bringing a product to market, Quirky will contract to have it manufactured and distributed. Quirky retains all rights to the products and takes 70 percent of the revenue; the rest goes to the product creators, many of whom earn tens of thousands of dollars from their ideas. Pretty cool concept and it surely makes it easy from boot-strapped inventors to bring their ideas to life.
Ryan Garelick, also working on his second start-up aims to redefine the customer/retailer relationship on a localized level by creating an authoritative, user-driven database populated by true value of most consumer goods, regardless of geographic location. Through scan technology (Smartphone) and web-mapping the consumer is provided absolute knowledge on price and locational information of most consumer goods, essentially leveling the playing field and disrupting how retailers price out their products by making markets more efficient / competitive. To benefit the retailer, Ryan has developed a hyper-targeted marketing platform that leverages the customers buying pattern and interests to engage/target them specifically as soon as they enter the store with relevant content such as product deals and virtual coupons for the products they like. This product could transform the retail sector from the bottom up.
Darian Shirazi, a former employee of Facebook and eBay has developed a really unique platform that geo-organizes news online by the places to which its most relevant. The product, Fwix, essentially acts as a news aggregator that attaches locations to online content, a process more formally known as geotagging. Shirazi then sells the data to companies, including Groupon, the New York Times, and NBC, who use it to target online ads to local consumers.
Andrew Kortina, a veteran of Bit.ly, and his partner Iqram Magdon-Ismail, are developing a light mobile payment system called Venmo. The idea is instead of using cash or writing checks when transacting with friends, colleagues, dinner buddies, you use this free service with no transaction fees for any and all payments you make. By linking a credit card or a bank account to your phone and by setting up direct deposit, Venmo automatically transfers any money you receive through the service into your bank account every two weeks. You can also cash out manually at any time. No wallet, no problem.
These are just a handful of interesting, innovators I met at the NYU summit. If you haven’t heard about them yet, you will. As noted above, email pitching is one of the least likely ways to get noticed. Head out to expo’s and conferences if you are looking to meet people in the VC or Angel community.