On Thursday, January 10, 2013, I attended Ultra Light Startups hosted by Graham Lawlor and David Carlos. The forum featured nine pitches and four panelists. The pitches were from Glyph, Curioos, Vestorly, Vidaao, NimbusBase, Freshneck, Sumpto, Content Galaxy and Mana Health. The panelists were Bradley Harrison, Eric Hippeau, Geoff Judge, and William Reinisch.
Glyph, a simple, secure and rewarding platform for optimizing credit card use was pitched by Tyler Felous. “There’s a problem with credit cards,” he said. “How do we know we’re using the right card? There are credit scores, miles and points to think about.” He asked, which is the right card to use at the right time. Glyph is the answer to this question. “This is your peace of wallet,” Felous said. Its web app, Glyph can analyze data from up to 90 days ago and tells the user which credit card is best for them. The iPhone app lets the user check in and tells the user what card is best for that location. It gives the user a financial peace of mind. Glyph’s business model is through lead gen, where they receive $30 to $300 from banks for every referred customer. There is an option to give an account number or just the type of the credit card. Geoff Judge suggested that Glyph’s revenue stream was weak and said that Felous may be able to build a strong research product. The rest of the panelists agreed that the financial ecosystem didn’t build investor confidence.
Curioos is a curated marketplace for digital artists. It is leading “a brand new generation of artists,” according to Matt Valoatto, founder of Curioos. It aims to bring art in every conceivable aspect in life. Curioos has no high margins—it is print-on-demand. “Curation is key,” Valoatto said. The marketplace has to be trendy and attractive. “We want to attract millions of customers with thousands of artists,” he said. In regards to user acquisition, Curioos sent out invitations to artists and developed and nurtured it to over 2,000 artists on the platform. “Most of the artists come to us,” Valoatto said. “They ask for an invitation. We invited 500 artists and then sent out one invite per month.” Judge suggested that Valoatto do “everything in [his] power to get in touch with as many people as possible—as if [he] were the artists’ agent.” William Reinisch said to “really look at the quality of printing. Content also has to be deeper than just one piece.”
Vestorly, co-founded by Justin Wisz and Ralph Pahlmeyer, is a community to connect with an investment advisor through people you know and trust. It is the only platform that connects investment advisors with the user. It is the investment advisor that nurtures the platform and through the social graph, information is disseminated into the social sphere. Vestorly uses a subscription model as its business model. They are going after independent investment advisors due to fiduciaries. Eric Hippeau, however, asked that Wisz explain more about the value of the social graph. The rest of the panel agreed with Hippeau.
Vidaao is a custom video production for your business founded by Justin Park. “In three weeks, 200 production companies signed up, put 500 videos in the marketplace and we have three paying customers,” Park said. Vidaao was designed with a marketing plan in mind. It serves both business and customers, targeting affiliate marketing and advertising. The marketplace is structured so that buyers can find a video through categories, “which aren’t available anywhere else. Buyers can shop apples to apples and can search by location, price and categories.” Vidaao profits by marking up videos 30 percent in the marketplace and shaving it off in the transaction between the buyer and producer. “It’s like a production management platform,” Park said. The panelists asked Park that he nail down the data presented and talk about the demand side, instead of focusing on the supply.
NimbusBase is an iCloud alternative “on your own user’s own cloud storage.” Ray Wang described NimbusBase as having “no marginal cost.” By providing a sync engine, “people who are writing apps can access it anywhere from all sorts of devices,” Wang said. NimbusBase seeks to support public, private shared and private data—currently, it only supports private data. It is, however, not a server. Bradley Harrison asked Wang to look at the competitive landscape. “Is it a feature or a product,” he asked. “You need to differentiate between the two. Be clearer on what the benefit is to the end user.”
Freshneck is an online store for men’s accessories. It was created to “solve a simple problem: the traditional way of owning and wearing neckwear is stale and inefficient,” David Goldberg, CEO of Freshneck, said. “Think of Freshneck like the Netflix for men’s accessories.” There are three monthly subscription fee options ranging from the introductory ($15), Gold ($35) or Platinum ($55). Users can choose three accessories—neckties, bowties, lapels, cuff links or pocket squares—and Freshneck manages to keep its inventory “fresh through reselling it on the marketplace.” Their target markets are “men who want to look good, so client-facing industries like bankers, lawyers and investment advisors.” Freshneck’s main competition is traditional retail. The panelists asked the Goldberg look at the “Netflix model plus X” approach. They also suggested that he look into a referral engine that helps men pick ties (40 percent of the time, women shop for men’s accessories) and to convince investors using hard data.
Ben Kosinski presented Sumpto, a social influence measuring platform for college students that rewards the highest influencer. “Sumpto gives free stuff to college influencers,” Kosinski said. “We have over 8,000 college students signed up and over 81 percent of them return every week to claim their rewards. We are partnered with over 30 brands that have generated over $25,000 in revenue so far.” Sumpto gained users through word-of-mouth and virality over social media from it. “A higher Sumpto score means more free stuff,” Kosinski said. “It’s like Klout, but we’re different from it. To sign up, you need a .edu address. Our algorithm is focused on college students and so is the language.” The panelists suggested that Kosinski look for a partner. “Look to market where you can do things differently,” Reinisch said. “Make sure the algorithm is sustainable and fast.”
Steven Asherman presented Content Galaxy, “a better way to buy and sell digital content.” It is a new way of online publishing that aims to work for both consumers and producers of digital content. It helps producers distribute content and get paid through subscriptions from consumers. Content Galaxy provides a structure to sell content online and aggregate content to create sales. It pools publishers into channels, which are then subscribed to by subscribers who pay a single fee for a channel. Content Galaxy makes large-scale micro commerce look appealing. “It is the only monetization platform that secures real-time payment,” Asherman said.
Mana Health is a health IT startup company that is “digitizing the medical brain.” Eighty percent of providers currently do not have analytics, which is a $3.7 billion market. Mana Health provides doctors a patent-pending helps doctors diagnose patients using their previous medial records. “Mana Health allows healthcare providers to fit their care to individual patients,” Chris Bradley said. “With Mana Health linking to existing electronic health records, diagnosis becomes more efficient, and accurate.” Mana Health is AI for diagnostics. It is incorporating medical science with computer science. It is cloud-based and HIPA-compliant and the company is targeting hospitals first.