WDCEP curated 10 early-stage D.C. startups during the SXSW conference in Austin. We got updates from each of them.
Cities around the world try an array of economic development strategies at mega-conferences like SXSW, Austin's annual corporate-powered World's Fair.
Mostly those strategies come down to one of three goals: visit us, hire our residents or do business with our existing employers.
Of late, economic development groups make a great show of their earliest-stage companies, seeding the growth of their future employers. This year, the #WeDC house
, a takeover of Austin's Bangers Sausage House on Rainey Street, featured a pre-happy hour tech showcase for just that reason.
For several hours, conference attendees toured a dozen stations inside a beer hall, clutching coffees and trading business cards. At the conclusion, the dozen company founders were gathered for a group photo, where Kevin Morgan
, WDCEP's tech liaison and among the organizers, thanked them for "being among the best of the best of D.C."
All with fewer than 10 employees, and a couple at or before launch, the companies are among the next wave of D.C. startups. Techincal.ly DC caught up with the founders to hear the latest from what the District's economic development organization wanted to show off.
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Backed by a slate of local investors
(including Tim Chi
, the Wedding Wire and Blackboard cofounder), the chatbot company is expanding beyond its origins in driving nonprofit donations, said founder and CTO Hellmut Adolphs
. The team of eight works out of 21st and I and are going from "software for good" into an expansion of verticals with their AI-powered tool, including higher education and healthcare. Interestingly, Adolphs noted that they're adding managed services contracts with clients that want dedicated support on the product. (We last saw Intellei pitching at TechBUZZ
in the fall.)
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Goodworld CEO Dale Nirvani Pfeifer, at right.[/caption]
Fresh off a $750,000 injection from Mastercard
, the social good startup that facilitates donations from hashtags is using SXSW as an opportunity to get in front of as many people as possible. It's a true global audience, said CEO Dale Nirvani Pfeifer
, flashing her Kiwi accent
. She noted the "networking is off the charts," and praised the structured opportunities the #WeDC initiative offers her.
Find our past coverage of the company here
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A rare back
Technical.ly realLIST honoree, the foot-traffic analytics firm may have just found a powerful new use case. Focused first on retail clients, the company installed its devices and software to track movement of people inside the #WeDC house itself, said Paul-Julien Burg
, the startup's friendly and wild-haired business development manager. "We can now build a density map to understand what room was most popular, do we need a venue this large and, generally was it as successful as we had hoped," he said, adding that they've found interest from conference organizers for these "hardcore analytics."
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Brandon Andrews, at left, and Al Dunn.[/caption]
Eighteen months after launching, cofounder and Chief Product Officer Brandon Andrews
says they're riding high on their #NoMoreBadAds campaign
. The mobile market research program facilitates consumer feedback, by matching its clients with responses from users of its mobile app. Andrews was joined by Al Dunn
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Targeting a launch late summer, cofounder and COO Yemariam Mamo
was on-hand to show off her concept for "Shazam for hair care." Mamo, an American University alumnae, and her cofounder Kymberlee Hill,
a Howard University student in the CEO role, are using computer vision in a mobile app to solve a new problem: with the explosion of the natural hair movement
, there's a need for a platform to match consumers with products. Mamo said they're targeting an affiliate business model at launch.
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David Gibson Jr.[/caption]
Begun in 2015 and with a product launch in 2017, the platform for managing amateur sports leagues is nearing completion of a partnership with D.C.'s Department of Parks and Rec, said founder David Gibson Jr
. They primarily sell annual clients, though monthly payment is possible, he said. Their bread and butter comes with youth sports, camps and annualized tournaments, offering rankings, roster management, payment facilitation and the like.
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Since we last saw Cofounder and CEO Kimberly Moore pitch at the Vinetta Project showcase last summer
, she's rolled out a feature that allows families to organize trips on Atlanta mass transit system MARTA, a feature coming to the Metro North line between Connecticut and New York and planned for D.C., and expanded elsewhere. The "end to end planning platform for situations in which trust is the currency" has goals nobler than after-school trips, noted Moore. She piloted "Go Together To Vote," which will grow this fall en route to becoming a major program for the 2020 presidential election.
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Starting in the DMV, Maternie
is building a marketplace where parents and guardians can choose daycare and preschool options for their children. This month, they'll launch proprietary, government-informed ratings in Virginia and Maryland, a feature they already have for D.C. facilities, said CEO and cofounder Meghan McCarthy
, a veteran of Morning Consult
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Cofounders Kevin Hawkins (left) and Chase Maggiano.[/caption]
Launched Monday morning, BravoScore is a live music and arts discovery platform prioritizing social validation. Cofounders Chase Maggiano
and Kevin Hawkins
started with a focus on "the live music capital of Austin and D.C., the densest arts city in the country." They plan to continue to roll out listings, helping you find performances your friends like too.
formerly Startup Grind
's global COO, is at SXSW because, as he put it: "Everybody here has an opinion about blockchain and I want to hear them." Park, who is an angel investor in Intellei
, has renamed his cybersecurity-focused accelerator from its former Fishbowl Labs brand
. He says he's continuing on this thesis that D.C. is the natural home for something that will center on security, internet and social impact. He has investment news looming (More on that shortly).
WHO’S GETTING FUNDED?
VeryApt, the online apartment guide from a pair of Wharton MBAs, raised $270,000, according to an SEC filing.
Spor, the Drexel undergrad startup making solar-powered phone chargers, revealed more details on its recent $225,000 raise: its lead investor was a Drexel alum named Francis Wisniewski. Wisniewski, who invested $200,000 in the company, is a Chicago-based investor who used to trade futures and options on the Amsterdam Options Exchange, according to a Spor release. One of his other investments is an “oversize-only gym with a pre-requisite weight loss goal of at least 50 lbs.”
Jail Education Solutions, the Chicago-based company that participated in Philadelphia’s FastFWD accelerator (and won a city contract to pilot its program in the city’s prisons), raised an undisclosed amount of funding, CEO Brian Hill confirmed. Social good investment group Investors Circle participated, and Hill said that there is a Philadelphia investor on the company’s board.
WHO’S MAKING MOVES?
Wash Cycle Laundry is launching in Austin, Texas, according to a release. The sustainable laundry service opened up shop in Washington, D.C., this summer. Austin will be its third market.
“After researching and visiting a number of cities throughout the country, Austin was clearly the perfect fit for our third market,” CEO Gabriel Mandujano said in a statement. “This city has the right mix of small business support, bicycle infrastructure, and the growing population looking to use a service like Wash Cycle Laundry.”
Ken Tomlinson, former accounting analyst in First Round Capital’s University City office, is now NextFab’s Chief Financial Officer, according to LinkedIn.
“I decided to leave because it felt like I had my nose pressed on the glass to the startup world and wanted to get inside,” Tomlinson wrote to us. “I come from a blue collar background of mechanics and construction, so NextFab lets my interest and personal history mix with my skills and ambition, it was a perfect match of things.”
MilkCrate, which wants to be the eco-minded version of Yelp, got its Indiegogo campaign extended 30 more days. This is a common Indiegogo practice, an Indiegogo spokesman told us. MilkCrate has raised nearly $14,000 and is still working to meet its $20,000 goal.
Artisan Mobile has an announcement on some new features.
Rescufy, a mobile app that helps those with allergies or asthma alert 911, is now in private beta, according to its founders. The app was one of the winners of Penn’s AppItUP contest last year.
WHO’S GETTING BUZZ?
From the Department of Now That’s One Way to Rep Philly: Center City’s Curalate was named number 1 on a list of “Hottest Startups to Work for in NYC” on Hired.com. And if you haven’t yet, check out the Curalate creation myth.
Goods of Record, the ecommerce startup from a Wharton MBA founder we told you about this summer, was featured in the Daily News.
Also in the Daily News recently: The Hive, the forthcoming Old City coworking space for women that we told you about this summer.
Sayfty, one of the startups in the city’s second FastFWD accelerator, is working to promote safety for women in India. Read about them on our sister site Technical.ly Brooklyn.