Twelve pitches in 24 minutes. And a healthy smattering of red.
That was the scene at 1776NY’s Women’s Demo Day, which observed International Women’s Day with a pitch event featuring female founders of local startups. Among them: a marketplace for theatrical production packages, an app for managing bar tabs and an apartment rental site that reduces the scourge of broker fees.
Allison Kopf of Agrilyst, who won took home the top entrepreneur honor at our Brooklyn Innovation Awards in January, was named the winner of the event. To recap, her company runs an analytics platform for farmers that helps them to increase their yields. Sara Nadel, the founder and CEO of StellarEmploy, a recruitment app for hourly jobs that matches applicants to companies based upon their interests and motivations, took the runner-up slot. StellarEmploy was recently named as one of 1776NY’s fellow companies.
Nadel intrigued the audience with the notion that her company’s system could suss out the difference between what makes an employee more suitable for, say, Burger King versus Dunkin’ Donuts. Sure enough, during the question-and-answer period, one of the judges followed up on that point. So, what is the distinction? According to Nadel, ideal Burger King staffers are skilled multitaskers whereas ideal Dunkin’ Donuts employees have a keen eye for detail. The difference is, in part, tied to their menus: Burger King’s is more expansive than Dunkin’ Donuts, she said.
The event didn’t feature prizes — aside from bragging rights — but it did offer access to an impressive slate of female investors, who judged the pitches. The judges were Mindy Aviles Kelly, senior vice-president at the Partnership for New York City; Hayley Barna, venture partner at First Round Capital and cofounder of Birchbox; Jalak Jobanputra, founding partner of Future/Perfect Ventures; Tracy Killoren Chadwell, partner at 1843 Capital; and Jessica Peltz-Zatulove, partner at KBS Ventures.
— Kat Lau (@kat_lau) March 8, 2017
Not a bad lineup for an event put together in just three weeks, as 1776NY managing director Rachel Haot told the audience. The recently-opened Williamsburg Hotel served as the event’s sponsor; the reception featured bread from the Brooklyn Bread Lab, the experimental pop-up bakery (now closed) that served as a testing ground for the hotel’s restaurant, Harvey, which will open this spring.
Aside from Kopf, we came across a couple of other entrepreneurs we’ve previously covered here at Technical.ly.
Chelsea Brownridge of Dog Parker, the maker of temporary doghouses stationed outside businesses such as Dumbo Kitchen, kicked off the series of pitches. Maddy Maxey of Loomia, the developer of tech-enabled fabrics, also presented. Both Dog Parker and Loomia happen to be based in New Lab, which is just next door to 1776NY’s beta campus. Another New Lab resident, Kath Hamilton of walkWELL, a mobile app platform for guided at-home therapy for patients with spinal cord injuries, also pitched her company. Dunia Dupont, New Lab’s chief operating officer, was there to cheer all three founders on.
The demo day also spotlighted several of 1776’s new members, in addition to Nadel of StellarEmploy. We’ve previously written about a couple of them, in fact. Melanie Lavelle presented her company, Benefit Kitchen, which makes an app that allows users to determine their eligibility for a range of public assistance programs. Benefit Kitchen, as we previously reported, is also a past winner of the city’s BigApps competition. Tinia Pina, the founder and CEO of Re-Nuble, pitched her company’s organic fertilizer, which according to her generates a 20 percent higher crop yield than the leading organic fertilizer on the market.
Other 1776 members included Alexandra Iosso, who presented her company Dagmy Motors, which is developing a battery pack for electric vehicles. It uses an energy-efficient passive cooling system, which according to Iosso, performs at a lower cost and higher range than any electric vehicle battery on the market. Julia Ramsey, the cofounder and CEO of Joinery, pitched her company’s plan to lower costs for both renters and property owners by, essentially, paying outgoing tenants to find their replacements (thus recouping their previously paid broker fees). And Vanessa Siverls, founder of BUPeriod, closed the pitch portion of the event by presenting her company’s smart menstrual pad system and online community for women dealing with uterine fibroids, endometriosis and other reproductive system disorders.
— 1776 NYC (@1776NY) March 8, 2017
Outside the Navy Yard contingent (which perhaps, at this point, qualifies as part of the Brooklyn tech illuminati), the event featured Kyra Durko of TABu, the aforementioned bar tab app, and Jackie Kroeger-Donovan of Theatre Galleria, the theater production marketplace. Both displayed canny business strategies. TABu plans to gain market share by integrating directly with leading point-of-sale systems, and according to Durko, the company already works with 60 percent of those companies. Kroeger-Donovan noted that educational and amateur productions make up the bulk of spending in the theater market, so that’s the segment Theatre Galleria seeks to capture, by working with the companies that issue performance licenses for plays.
Each presenter had just two minutes to make her pitch, but the consensus among the judges and audience member was that they all were remarkably polished. The judges ended up adding a runner-up designation last-minute because they found them so compelling, Haot said. A bonus for the investor judges: most of the founders are fundraising. The founders of Dog Parker, Dagmy Motors, Benefit Kitchen, Loomia, Re-Nuble and Joinery all mentioned their current rounds.
In addition to the pitch showcase, the event doubled as a celebration of women entrepreneurs in New York, both the city and state. (Haot herself blogged on Medium about this aspect of the event.) The demo day opened with remarks from Kristen Titus, the state’s chief technology and innovation officer; Penny Abeywardena, the city’s commissioner for international affairs; Miguel Gamiño Jr., the city’s chief technology officer — whom we recently encountered at Urban-X’s launch event — and Hasaun Muhammad, the director of strategic social partnerships at the office of hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons.
— NYC Intl Affairs (@globalnyc) March 8, 2017
Titus and Abeywardena each highlighted a piece of good news for New York’s female founders: the state boasts the greatest gender parity in tech startup funding within the U.S., and the city is ranked by Dell as No. 1 in the world for women entrepreneurs. And Muhammad, making parallels between the obstacles women and people of color often face in businesses, ended his remarks with a rallying cry.
“We don’t simply want to push for diversity in tech,” he said. “We want to make diversity the norm.”