TechStars Boston Demo Day

I had the distinct pleasure of attending my second TechStars Demo Day this Wednesday in Boston and once again, it was an awesome event and a great celebration of startups. Scott Kirsner has written a great recap of each company, so I won’t regurgitate the same information he has already provided, but I will throw down some thoughts on which companies I thought were most interesting to me.

You shall not pass.

Evertrue - Social Donor Intelligence Platform

Interesting and intuitive product - as someone who has sat on alumni boards and been involved in alumni development, I agree that there is definitely a huge problem of keeping donor databases up to date (CEO/Co-Founder Brent Grinna indicated that typical donor databases are 80% inaccurate).  In fact, I can’t think of a single school I’ve attended that has a completely correct profile of what I’m up to and where I am.

These guys are already a preferred API partner with LinkedIn, have generated over $125k in revenue (not sure whether this is recurring or not) and have signed up 26 clients (including Cornell) since starting TechStars.  Impressive stuff.   Not sure whether the market is big enough for a home run type exit, but they look like they are building a really strong business and have good traction.

Kinvey - Ridiculously easy cloud backend for mobile apps (aka Backend as a Service or BaaS)

Pick any app SDK of your choice, write your app, model your backend needs, and Kinvey auto generates your backend for you. I was initially skeptical of Kinvey, but when CEO Sravish Sridhar filled his presentation with quotable lines like, “Get ready, we’re going to talk about back ends" and “We put the BaaS in BadaSs," I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed.  Word on the street was that he re-did the entire pitch and presentation only hours before Demo Day. Whether that’s true or not, I thought he did a phenomenal job and that Kinvey turned out to be the “OnSwipe" of the Boston’s Demo Day (though Sravish lacked Jason Baptiste’s killer fashion sense).  

With the millions of apps out there that are already built and need to add backend/cloud functionality, these guys have a large addressable market and a very real opportunity.  Kinvey has some big name investors on board (Atlas Ventures leading the round with $1MM, Bill Burnam (former SoftBank VC)) so it looks like I’m not the only one that was impressed.

GrabCAD - Global engineering services marketplace, community & cross-platform CAD library

GrabCAD came across like a GitHub for mechanical engineers. In just a few short months since arriving in the US, they’ve already added 8,500 engineers to their community (7,000 in the last month!). No surprise since these former Skype employees have been around the block before.  Looks like they’ve raised some serious green from some very big name investors (Atlas Ventures, Matrix Partners, NextView Ventures).  I really love GrabCAD’s focus on physical engineering (not always the sexiest of industries) and think that they’ve picked a really interesting problem to solve and are moving very quickly in an underserved market. 

Ginger.io - Personal Health. Real Data. All from your mobile phone

This team from MIT’s thesis hinges on the complete lack of data in healthcare.  I tend to agree with them.  There’s a boatload of money spent each year trying to gather all kinds of data and a ton of other healthcare products out there focused on gathering it, but no one has come up with a foolproof way to get data from patients in a reliable way.  Just ask the people at Google Health.

Though Ginger.io had no word on the commitments for their 800k round yet, I think the problem they’re trying to solve is a huge one and if they can capture just a fraction of the market, they’ll be successful.  I’m a big believer in big data being one of the most important advances that will change the future of healthcare, and as such, I think their success will hinge on whether or not the data they are gathering is an accurate and useful predictor for the companies they sell the data to.  Similarly, even though the phone apps they are developing don’t need to be used to actively gather data, I’ll be interested to see how they keep users engaged and willing to continue providing this type of data, especially if it’s being sold in aggregate to big healthcare companies.

Memrise - Blends the art & science of memory to power a social learning platform

Ed Cooke, Memrise’s CEO, is one of 36 "Grand Masters of Memory" in the world. Yes, that is actually an official title. During the break in pitches, Ed recited a few minutes of Paradise Lost completely from memory and then got up on stage and taught the entire audience two chinese characters in a matter of minutes.  This was a fantastic and engaging presentation (along with Kinvey’s, probably the most entertaining of the day).  I have a few doubts about the ability of this business to scale, but if Memrise can keep users engaged and broaden the variety of topics available on the site while still keeping the quality high, I think they’ll kick some serious booty.

Overall, the day was a great celebration for the Boston community (though I’m still partial to NYC). Looking forward to seeing what Boulder Demo Day has in store!