The fact is—without a stellar pitch, it’s pretty tough for a startup to get funding. Being able to explain your company’s business model, what problem it’s solving, who it caters to and why it’s marketable is crucial to getting the attention of angel investors and VCs. At the first Demo Day at WeWork Labs Boston—located in Fort Point—six startups were put to the test in an epic pitch-off for a panel of three expert judges (two of which happen to be WeWork mentors). And they had to be succinct: participants were only given up to five minutes to explain their companies. Judges selected one grand prize winner to take home Celtics box seats, while the audience voted for their favorite to win a Blue Dragon gift card.
So, which startup had the judges—and guests—most intrigued?
The pitch for this company was unique in the way it was delivered: Emily Li, an enterprise sales associate “beamed” in from Palo Alto for the presentation. She explained that Beam began as a solution to the team’s own frustrations with remote work and the inefficiencies of existing technologies’ capabilities (like email, chat, and videoconferencing) to keep team members on the same page. Suitable Tech’s Smart Presence device, the BeamPro ($16,950 for the hardware), provides high-end video and audio that can actually move around a space and interact with people, making remote collaboration much easier. The company also launched BeamPlus, a consumer model of the same device. Li said the company is currently working with schools, museums, hospitals etc. on how Beam can help disabled people be places that they otherwise physically wouldn’t be able to.
The founder and CEO of this startup, Braden Golub, pitched Spot as the Airbnb of parking. The app, which launched mid-December, allows owners of private parking spots to essentially rent them out. Golub said that Spot basically optimizes the value of a parking spot, because an owner can make money off of it when they’re not using it. After the owner enters info about their spot to list it on Spot, the company verifies certain information about it (like whether they actually own it) before allowing other users to rent it. Owners can name their price for the spot, but Spot does offer suggestions. Owned garage spots, Golub added, are rented out on a longer weekly or monthly basis as opposed to daily due to the complications involved. In beta, Golub revealed that there were more than 5,000 users. And the data that’s coming out of Spot—like how much people are willing to pay for parking or when the demand for parking is at its highest—is valuable as well, though he says they don’t plan to sell that information just yet.
Noah Gordon, founder and CEO of this startup, started his pitch by asking the audience: “How many times has your check engine light go on, worried your car had a serious problem and then wondered if you paid a mechanic too much to fix it?” The idea behind Jaze is to eliminate those scenarios by making drivers smarter and more aware, their cars safer and their mechanics more informed. The startup equips drivers with a custom Bluetooth device that they can self install into the standard universal diagnostics port. After analysis is conducted of what’s going on in your vehicle, users can use the corresponding ProClass app to find out in plain English what the check engine light is referring to, as well as how much it will cost to fix. Then, users are directed to the most affordable, trustworthy mechanics in their area—or they can send this diagnostics reports to their preferred mechanic if they already have one. Eventually, Gordon says the app will even be able to predict repairs.
Paul English is currently the sole angel investor in the company ($25,000).
*Grand Prize winner
To give audience members an idea of what this retail tech startup does, co-founder CJ Acosta asked them to raise their hands if they’ve ever been to a store and seen an item out of stock on the shelves. Most, obviously, had experienced this. Shelfie, Acosta said, aims to minimize these instances by informing stores so they can fix the issue. How it works is this: Consumers who download the app can snap a photo of an empty shelf and in return, they’ll earn points they can redeem for gift cards. The aim is to empower frustrated shoppers without forcing them to find an employee to complain to, while also empowering stores to improve their stock. In the six and a half months that the app was first available, 110,000 “shelfies” were submitted to more than 3,000 stores.
*People’s Choice award winner
Ever since this startup took to Indiegogo last summer—which was 508 percent funded at $269,702—it’s gained substantial buzz for its shocking device, which aims to bust bad habits and change users’ behavior. Pavlok submits an electronic shock when you don’t accomplish the healthy goals you’ve set for yourself. Software engineer Justus Eapen, who led the pitch, told the audience that he tested out the device himself in an attempt to stop drinking beer in the later hours of working. Eapen says Pavlok worked like a charm, and he also claims he’s spoken with many other users who have been able to stop smoking cigarettes and biting their nails—among other things.
Three members of the Mettle team, including its founder and CEO Peter Wallace, were on hand to convey what their app is capable of. While Mettle started as simply a fun mobile game based on video challenges, Wallace explained that it quickly became clear how much potential the app—which plays on our inherent instinct for one-upmanship—had for fundraising and brand viral marketing. Users can challenge friends in a variety of categories, from sports and drinking to fashion. Videos they shoot compete for points from other users in a 24-hour period, and the video with the most points wins. To illustrate the power of Mettle, the team showed a short video.