Welcome the Class of 2017 - Techstars Demo Day Recap
The House of Blues is usually the premier venue for all kinds of music, but on May 3rd it was the stage for 12 unique startups. Techstars welcomed their Boston Class of 2017 to showcase their companies and services as a part of the 11th Boston Demo Day. The event was welcome to anyone from the Boston tech scene, as well as those curious from other tech areas across the country.
The twelve companies attending Demo Day each had their own unique product or service, as well as a backstory to go along with it.
Fittingly introduced to the song “Walkin’ on Sunshine,” Solstice Co-Founder Steph Speirs presented her company’s service; solar power. “This isn’t just software as a service,” she says. “This is solar as a service.” Speirs previously campaigned under President Barack Obama to bring light to environmental issues.
Solstice creates solar gardens for small towns, thus creating solar power for a whole community. Currently, Solstice has customers in several towns and cities across Massachusetts, including Worcester and Northhampton. The company has developed software to keep track of how much power is being used, which part of the neighborhood needs it, etc.
The company’s customer base has grown every year, according to Speirs. She also makes the estimate of signing up 150 more customers by the end of this year.
Lorem’s presentation started out with Constant Contact founder, Randy Parker, speaking of his work with this new startup.
Lorem’s co-founder, Sam Wilcoxon presented a variety of DIY software to create websites, such as WordPress. However, he took note of the amount of non-tech oriented people using that type of software and how they need help. Lorem aims to change that with their solution. Lorem allows those frustrated with the DIY process and connects them to a team of freelancers offering advice and help. For their client base, the company kept in mind those with small businesses just trying to create a site.
“It’s a get help now, call-in-the-SWAT-team type of experience,” Wilcoxon says. “All at an affordable price.”
“You know where your kids are, you know where your pets are and you know where your car is,” Tive co-founder and CEO Krenar Komoni addressed the House of Blues. “If you’re a Fortune 500 manufacturer and you don’t know where your million dollar shipments are, does that make sense to you?”
Tive is fixing the way large supply chains are being tracked and shipped. Komoni is an electrical engineer by trade and has developed tracking devices seen in cell phones.
The company has developed a cellular tracker companies can place onto their shipments and a cloud-based software platform which also allows for tracking. Komoni announced his company currently has a laundry list of clients in several different fields, including healthcare and electronics.
CareAcademy is an online service looking to offer training for those who have taken up the task of being a caregiver for an elderly family member or patient. “For the families that increasingly rely on a caregiver,” CEO Helen Adeosun said. “Who do they know to trust? For our parents and our grandparents, we want to provide the best care for them. That’s why we started CareAcademy.”
CareAcademy was founded by two doctors, Adeosun and Madhuri Reddy. Adeosun took the reigns for the presentation and showcased CareAcademy’s training videos available on their website. The videos help the trainees prepare for emergency situations, including falls.
CareAcademy has also partnered up with several caregiver organizations across the United States, including AARP. Adeosun is also projecting nearly 600,000 caregivers all over the world will be using CareAcademy’s services.
The ocean is almost an unknown planet in and of itself and it can be a dangerous environment to work in. Shipping products overseas is a risk as well, as many boats still use outdated methods of control. Sea Machines is looking to lower the uncertainties.
Sea Machines is a tech startup with a focus on autonomous boats. The company’s Director of Operations, Mike Cammack, compared on-land industries use of autonomous vehicles to the maritime industry’s lack of the same types of vehicles.
Sea Machines is doing something completely different, and Cammack made the ambitions of the company clear at the end of his presentation. “If you didn’t know the Sea Machines name, it will be hard to miss in the future,” he declared. “As we make Boston the hub of this new, and necessary, marine autonomy.”
Nix’s presentation started out with company founder and CEO, Meredith Unger, telling a story about Olympian Shalene Flanagan’s dehydration during a marathon. “There are 64 million athletes in the US, that are compromising their performance as a result of involuntary dehydration,” Unger told the crowd. “This is happening because athletes have no better method to manage their hydration.”
Nix is a hydration sensor athletes will place on their hand. The patch, which contains proprietary technology created by the team, allows athletes to create a hydration strategy of when to drink, how much to drink and what to drink.
Unger and her team are all experienced runners and the company has taken several athletes, including Flanagan and Pro Football Hall of Famer Orlando Pace, as advisors. To close off their presentation, the company announced a partnership with Reebok and a retail distribution deal with Dick’s Sporting Goods.
Brizi started their presentation with a soundbite from Portland Trail Blazers’ CMO, Dewayne Hankins. The NBA team has been using Brizi, which is an automated camera system allowing sports fans to capture the perfect moments watching their favorite team. How it works is an arena or stadium will have the cameras hooked up all around the arena, and fans will be able to connect to them. Through this camera, fans can obtain the perfect sports-related memories.
For all the Patriots fans in the audience, CEO Anna Hu announced Brizi is working with the five-time Super Bowl champions, as well as the New England Revolution soccer team.
RateGravity’s Co-Founder Patrick Boyaggi used his experience as a banker to develop his company’s goal; helping those looking for a home or assist homeowners with refinancing their mortgage.
Boyaggi actually displayed several customers’ success stories and showed how they saved tens of thousands of dollars. He also showed how much easier RateGravity makes the whole process, by showing how their services actually work.
“We give consumers the ability to get a mortgage without having to rely on a salesperson,” Boyaggi says. “We also open them up to a network of opportunities with other lenders.”
The company launched last July and has paired customers with $40 million dollars worth of loans and it shows no signs of slowing down.
Alice Rossiter took the stage next to speak about her company, Alice’s Table. “There are millions of brilliant moms looking for opportunities,” Rossiter says with an enthusiastic tone. “They are looking for a flexible and creative way to make money and lead in their community.”
Alice’s Table is a platform for women seeking to enable their business through various events. For example, the company will hold flower arranging classes which in turn can be used as a networking opportunity. Rossiter’s ultimate goal is for women of all ages and backgrounds to find their niche and become the entrepreneur they would want to be.
Rossiter also displayed a stat from her company’s impact; over 40 women across the country have started their businesses through Alice’s Table.
Rossiter is also a contributor to VentureFizz. You can view her articles right here.
OffGridBox is doing something inspirational; they are bringing electricity and clean water to villages in Rwanda. The company has created a compact unit capable of developing these two utilities. Company co-founder and CEO, Emiliano Cecchini displayed pictures of the struggles of villagers in the African country.
The device the company has developed is a relatively small, cube that has solar panels on top and a complex water irrigation system inside. However, despite being an incredible piece of hardware, Cecchini is looking at the bigger picture.
“The real innovation is the business model,” the entrepreneur says. “We’re changing the way we distribute water and power across the globe.”
According to Checchini, OffGridBox has not only been a profitable business, but it has given water and power for over 400,000 families in need across Rwanda.
Alex Zimmerman, CEO of the health-tech company BrainSpec, talked about how sometimes an MRI won’t be able to detect a cancerous tumor in the brain. She then transitioned into speaking about medical procedures doctors sometimes perform on a lesion, in order to get a closer examination, that can sometimes result in paralysis. “With our breakthrough technology, doctors can get this information without using a needle,” Zimmerman says.
BrainSpec uses MRI and VR technology to dive into the chemical makeup of the human brain, which allows for better examination of the potential tumors. The technology can also pickup other neurological diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease.
The company has been working closely with neurosurgeons at Brigham & Women’s Hospital.
The final presentation of Demo Day 2017 came from Voatz. The company’s co-founder and CEO, Nimit Sawhney, voted for the first time in the United States. While he was proud to have taken part in Election Day, Sawhney noticed how difficult the process is for others. He found statistics involving voter turnout; including an astounding 27% of Americans who don’t know who they are voting for.
Voatz is a mobile platform to make the voting process easier and more accessible. Sawhney tested the product in a small district in western Massachusetts and found phenomenal results. “Users found the mobile application to be much easier and more effective,” Sawhney told the crowd.
At the end of the presentations, Dukach announced this Demo Day was his last in Boston and welcomed to the stage his replacement, Clement Cazalot. Cazalot, who has a deep entrepreneurial background, was thankful for becoming the new managing director for Techstars’ Boston branch and invited everyone who presented to come on stage.