Twelve startups are set to present themselves to the public today at Techstars Demo Day, after 3 months in what I’m calling, for now, Boston’s top accelerator program.
I’m not an accredited investor, so I’m not privy to whatever the Techstars teams presented to Boston-area angels and institutions yesterday.
But at BostInno we’ve been watching some of these companies since before they got onto Techstars Boston’s 2015 list. So, let’s get started. Here’s our breakdown of who to watch at this year’s Techstars demo day.
AdmitHub: This co. is one of a cluster of venture-backed companies in Boston working on edtech–sort of. Not tech for teaching, but tech for administrating. Textbook seller Valore Books is probably one of the biggest in the space right now in Boston, followed by Evertrue, whose CEO Brent Grinna led a BOSS syndicate in VisitDays, the other day. AdmitHub has its own niche among these–a kind of Quora for guidance counselors, admissions officers and college-bound high school students. Good to see this cluster growing, but a tough talent market for the underdog AdmitHub, amid better-funded competitors. Still AdmitHub won the 1776 Challenge Cup in Boston. Maybe they’ll come from behind.
Cuseum: Beacons in a mall are creepy. Beacons in a museum are not. That’s Cuseum (FKA Spotzer) founder Brendan Ciecko’s hypothesis, anyway. He believes he can turn museums into places where people interact with art and curators better understand crowd behavior. It’s a peculiar niche, but one that seems suited for Boston, a small city with a lot of museums. Investors here seem to get it, too: Cuseum’s raised $1.2 million led by Foundry Group with backing from a slew of Boston angels: Paul English, Deborah Ellinger, Wayne Chang, Colin Angle and Jit Saxena.
doDOC: Started by a trio of MIT Portugal alums, this startup is focused on regulatory compliance: Keeping documents ready for an audit at all times. A dry niche of the digital universe, but one Boston investors will readily understand. DoDOC has already pointed their strategy at pharma and the contract research organizations (CROs) that handle outsourced drug development.
GVMachines: Not another grocery delivery service? Yes, another grocery delivery service. But this one is white-label: They’re making a play for retailers, not consumers. In other words, if Instacart is Apple Pay, GVMachines is CurrentC. Tough road vs. unicorns that have already won the hearts & wallets of consumers with high expectations. A bet on GVMachines is a bet on the bubble bursting in the next 18 months.
Update: A kind source called to tell me GVMachines has changed its name to CartFresh. Hasn’t been announced yet, but they’ll be using the new name at Demo Day tonight.
Hot: I don’t know much about this company, except they have been around since 2011, raised a $1 million seed in 2013 and they do same-day hotel booking (update: they also do 7-day booking). Two more things are clear: One, they are focused on Europe, with a site in five European languages, including Greek and Portuguese. Two, the terrible SEO of the name “Hot” doesn’t matter: This company is all about mobile.
Kwambio: We haven’t paid much attention to Kwambio, but 3Dprint.com has. They’ve got a $650K seed, a slick-looking 3D printer and a kind of an Etsy for 3D printing: an online marketplace that promises security to designers. Worth keeping an eye on this co.
LovePop: Few people dislike shopping for greeting cards more than I do, so I admit I was waiting for this company to come along. I’m willing to spend $8 to $12 for a product that is delightful and lets me avoid thumbing through Hallmark platitudes in a CVS, as it turns out. Last month, I learned a little more about LovePop’s retail strategy, which involves scaling down their retail presence and making it more nimble. Watch this company.
Provender aims to set up a farm-to-table marketplace between farmers and chefs. Great idea, but tough to execute, especially if you raise a bunch of money and burn it really fast. Just ask the founders of Valley investor darling Good Eggs. Provender’s got a fresh approach, though, offering an inventory management system for farmers that lets them tell chefs what they’re harvesting. Still, that’s no silver bullet. Farm data is red hot right now, with big players and a handful of startups in the game.
Shearwater is another startup focused on ed administration–but at the high-school level, as well as college.* The startup is looking to help schools attract international students. Apparently it’s a growing business, with strapped schools–public and private–finding international students willing to pay cash for a U.S. education.
SmackHigh: When I first heard about a few entrepreneurs building a digital playground for high-school kids to talk smack at one another, I laughed. Then I found out how SmackHigh built a user base of 800,000 before building a product. Watch this company closely.