More than your average all-virtual 2020 event, Comcast NBCUniversal’s third annual LIFT Labs Accelerator Demo Day was a sign of the times.
Instead of a packed auditorium at the Comcast Technology Center, founders from the 11 participating startups presented virtually to a few hundred investors, Comcast employees, entrepreneurs and executives.
Danielle Cohn, head of LIFT Labs, told attendees that back in January, when her team decided to seek out companies specializing in the future of work, connectivity and digital experiences, they didn’t yet know how apt those topics would be. When the pandemic hit, it became clear these focuses were the future, she said — especially the rather timely “future of work.”
“Many of our founders are building the tools that will make work and life more efficient, interactive and collaborative for all of us,” she said.
(Bonus read: Cohn and 2019 accelerator graduate Molly Beck on what corporates and startups can learn from each other.)
As part of the accelerator, companies received seed funding of up to $120,000 per team in exchange for 6 to 10% equity. And after 13 weeks of virtual programing, eight of the 11 founders announced that they’d secured or completed pilots, proofs of concepts, or deals with Comcast NBCUniversal partners and brands. Applicants could be from anywhere, and participating companies didn’t move to the city to participate as in normal years. While some startups come from tech hubs like San Francisco and New York, three of the 11 startups call Philly their hometown.
With some forward-focused send-off words from “Shark Tank’s” Kevin O’Leary, aka Mr. Wonderful — “It’s time to execute, it’s time to disrupt markets” — the 11 companies spent an hour Thursday talking about their ventures. You can watch each pitch here. Here’s where each startup currently stands (with edited, Comcast-provided descriptions):
- Founders: Michael Maponga (CEO) and Brittin Maponga
- The streaming media platform for pan-African TV shows and movies grew their audience by an average of 170% week over week, and are in advanced discussions with XUMO, a streaming service acquired by Comcast in 2020, to bring curated African content to their more than 24 million users.
Beam Health Group (New York)
- Founders: Sas Ponnapalli (CEO) and Ranga Jayawardena
- Beam Health connects healthcare professionals and health systems with telehealth services to provide convenient care to patients. The startup is currently exploring a partnership with Comcast’s employee benefits team to enable virtual behavioral health clinics with its telemedicine platform to expand access to mental health services for Comcast employees. The team is also exploring a partnership with Comcast Business to bundle their telehealth product with Comcast’s internet service as an offering to new and existing medical practice customers.
Cast (San Francisco)
- Founders: Dickey Singh (CEO) and Daljeet Virdi
- Cast’s automated audio-visual reports with embedded call to action helps customers understand complex concepts and drive high-value actions. Since the program, Comcast has piloted Cast’s tech to explain benefits like compensation and disability insurance to employees, with plans to expand to the employee stock purchase program, family and medical leave, commissions, and several other areas. Cast also added four new customers and started several pilots including with Medallia, Gainsight, Egnyte and Yelp.
Covatic (London/Birmingham, UK)
- Founder: Nick Pinks (CEO)
- Covatic’s mobile software developments kits allow media companies to deliver in-app experiences by identifying when, where and how each individual can engage with content without needing to expose personal data. The team launched a proof of concept with FreeWheel, testing a solution that uses Covatic’s tech to provide audience data to enhance the ad decisioning process. It’s done in a way that ensures a user’s identity data stays on their personal devices, Comcast said.
Glow Up Games (Brooklyn)
- Founders: Mitu Khandaker (CEO) and Latoya Peterson
- Glow Up Games develops and publishes character-driven mobile games for underrepresented gamers and gathers key data on this overlooked demographic to encourage more diverse characters and storylines in the gaming industry. The team is currently building Insecure: The Come Up Game, a free mobile game based on HBO’s popular series “Insecure.”
Introvoke (San Francisco)
- Founders: Oana Manolache (CEO) and Andrei Ermilov
- Introvoke provides white label technology that powers virtual connections, hybrid live events and elevated networking in a branded experience, and was used by a few hundred people Thursday to stream LIFT Labs’ Demo Day. LIFT Labs will continue to use Introvoke for its virtual events, while the Comcast Town Hall team is helping to extend the technology to all internal teams looking to hold interactive, virtual events. Comcast is also piloting the Introvoke networking hub as an everyday platform for community and networking for employees. During the past two months, the team has started more than 50 projects with companies like TIME and Brand Minds.
- Founder: Ron Kerbs (CEO)
- Kidas is an AI service that protects children from cyberbullying and online predators by alerting parents about potentially dangerous activities in their child’s digital life. During the accelerator, the team has manufactured early versions of the device that’s trialing with parents of Xbox gamers to inform product improvements.
- Founders: Philippe Sawaya (CEO), Neil Gramopadhye and Jonathan Mak
- Percepta uses AI-driven computer vision technology to analyze existing security camera feeds and alert employees of shoplifting incidents in real-time The team is testing the product in retail stores in New York City and Philadelphia, is looking to partnerships with big-box stores and has received an investment of more than $1 million from a strategic investor.
- Percepta was also a nominee in the 2020 Technical.ly Awards’ Startup of the Year category.
- Founders: Kofi Frimpong (CEO) and William Lee
- Seshie is a marketplace of expert guides offering live and virtual team-building experiences for organizations to increase employee morale and build company culture. Teams across Comcast NBCUniversal, and companies like Penn Mutual and Hawthorne, have booked virtual experiences through the Seshie platform, which now features more than 100 virtual experiences.
Showcase (New York)
- Founders: Amay Sheth (CEO), Jacob Ley and Jimmy Zhang
- Showcase makes dense business videos skimmable with chapters, transcripts and shareable highlights, which enables enterprises to own their customer relationships by offering a suite of video tools in existing environments. The startup is working with Comcast Business to explore potential applications of their tech in the enterprise sales process, operational support for technicians in the field and customer vertical-specific videos.
WorkChew (Washington, D.C.)
- Founders: Maisha Burt (CEO) and Allyson McDougal
- WorkChew is a marketplace connecting a community of mobile and remote workers to workspaces in restaurants and hotels across the U.S. and beyond. The team is rolling out a pilot for Comcast employees in early 2021 and has grown revenue by 3,025% since the beginning of the program. They’ve also launched in Philadelphia and Atlanta and launched launched their hotel partner network offering open space, meeting rooms and hotel rooms.