Accelerators / Media / Pitches / Startups

At LIFT Labs Demo Day, a glimpse of Philly as a global startup hub

Many startups struck deals with Comcast-affiliated companies. Here are the 10 companies' pitches on media, entertainment, and connectivity.

Danish Dhamani, hometown hero. (Photo by Roberto Torres)

After three months of mentorship, coaching and deal-making, the 10 companies from the Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs Accelerator, powered by Techstars finally had their day in the spotlight, at a Demo Day held Thursday at the Franklin Institute.

The event marked the end of a “a 13-week adventure of companies working side by side to drive forward the future of three fields: media connectivity and entertainment,” said Techstars Managing Director Maya Baratz. There was a global tinge to the evening, as companies hailed from eight cities in five countries.

Dave Watson, CEO of Comcast Cable, said the culmination of the first program stirred up excitement at the company in the vein of its social action day Comcast Cares Day.

“We’re getting back a lot more than whatever we gave,” Watson said.

And give Comcast did: The majority of companies presenting landed some form of deal with a Comcast-affiliated business: from outfitting Universal Resorts rooms with connected aromatherapy devices (Pium) to striking licensing deals in the shape of Dreamworks characters (Thinker-Tinker).

As a reminder, the accelerator follows Techstars’ standard model: startups get a $120,000 investment in exchange for 6 percent equity stake in the company. Comcast doesn’t invest directly into these companies but Chief Business Development Officer Sam Schwartz hinted at looking at the LIFT Labs companies as sports media company One Two See once was: rising startups that provide value to the mothership. Later, One Two See was acquired by Comcast and its technology became embedded on the X1 platform.

(Throwback: Dreamit’s 2009 Demo Day might be the first such event to take place in Philly. It was there that Philly heard from a super-early-stage company called SeatGeek, which would later go on to raise a $57 million Series D and employ over 100 people.)

Schwartz promised next year’s program would be based out of the Comcast Technology Center (this year, the cohort was based out of Three Logan Square). Without naming names, he said a couple of companies from the cohort decided to expand to Philly and continue working out of the LIFT Labs space.

“Just don’t overstay your welcome,” he quipped.

The pitches

  • Orai

A wise move on the organizing team, hometown hero Danish Dhamani (founder of Orai, the sole Philly-based company on the program) went first. Donning the company’s reworked branding and boasting of his recovery story from a stage-frighted Drexel University student to a TED Talk star, and how that process guided his company’s speech coaching app.

“At Orai, we see a world where anyone can stand up and share their ideas confidently,” said the cofounder, who alongside fellow Drexel Paritosh Gupta built the company up to 100,000 users and several B2B deals, including Comcast.

Notably, Thinker-Tinker cofounder Yuting Su was the only female founder to pitch at Demo Day. Her Los Angeles-based company makes Octobo, an interactive plush toy that guides the learning process of increasingly digital-first kiddos.

At the Demo Day stage, the company announced it struck a deal with Dreamworks Animation to produce Octobo-like toys modeled after its characters (think Shrek, or Kung Fu Panda).

  • eyecandylab

Early traction has been a good sign for German-based eyecandylab, whose augmented reality platform wants to give content providers additional revenue streams. Basically, you point your phone at a screen and get bonus — possibly branded — content. Users can also make purchases from the platform.

  • Trapica 

New York’s Trapica has an artificial intelligence dashboard that promises to help social marketing campaigns target customers more efficiently. Comcast Business became a client.

  • Portl Media

When cofounder Wyatt Shaw put up this slide showing futuristic-looking riders aboard a self-driving car, the audience at the Franklin erupted in laughter. They weren’t laughing at the end of the presentation though: the company has a long-game strategy that hopes to bank on the impending autonomous future of ridesharing. An on-board tablet will share personalized content, games and, of course, ads.

A promising deal with Sprint will have the company install tablets on 10,000 rideshare cars, which will roam around cities like New York, San Francisco and Philly (!) offering riders content.

  • Polycade

When you’re the son of Atari creator Nolan Bushnell, videogames are more than the family business. Founder Tyler Bushnell thinks gaming has become an isolated activity, and his retro-styled digital arcades want to bring more people together to compete.

  • Pium

By now, you must have spotted a trend: A good number of the companies from the accelerator struck some kind of deal with Comcast-owned companies. In Pium’s case, the connected home fragrance device, it’s through a pilot at Universal Resorts. Guests will be able to pick what they want their room to smell like.

  • Tally

The success of Twitch and HQ Trivia is what this company’s betting on. Their platform lets creators produce live digital content that can, obviously, be monetized.

  • WiARframe

Singapore-based WiARframe wants to be a landing pad for augmented reality creators. Hear the spiel from founder Jeremiah Alexander.

  • Alive5

Facebook Messenger, text messaging and email come under Alive5’s all-in-one messaging platform, which promises companies a smoother way to let companies communicate with customers while letting them pay for stuff wherever they are. Founder Glenn Gutierrez said the company is profitable, pulling in $1 million in revenue so far from 800 clients including Comcast Spectacor.

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