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TechStars Boston Demo Day, Spring 2013: Your scorecard for the 14 startups presenting

Posted by Scott Kirsner  May 23, 2013 12:00 PM

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The spring "demo day" for the TechStars Boston accelerator program took place this morning at House of Blues on Landsdowne Street. Founders of 14 startups from the U.S. and Europe delivered short pitches for an invited audience of investors, TechStars mentors, and community members. The founders spoke about the opportunities they're addressing; early customers; and the amount they're hoping to raise (including any funding commitments they've received prior to demo day). There's also an after-party Thursday evening at Storyville, but looks like that is sold out. (Update: Try using the code TS to get a seat.)

One of the startups, Worcester-bred Freight Farms, will be the first local company to try out a new funding platform called WeFunder as part of its fundraising process. WeFunder was started in Cambridge by Nick Tommarello and Mike Norman, but is now based in Silicon Valley. (Tommarello participated in TechStars Boston several years back with an earlier venture, Sparkcloud, and more recently went through the Y Combinator program in Mountain View.) Another, Fancred, got David Ortiz of the Red Sox to show up to help plug its mobile app for sports fans. In the photo above are CEO Hossein Kash Razzaghi, a Brightcove alum, with Big Papi, who asked Razzaghi how he could get the Yankees off his phone.

If you'd like to see tweets about the event, the hash tag was #tsdemoday.

Descriptions in quotes below come from TechStars managing director Katie Rae's original post announcing the current class of companies. My comments follow that. When the companies hail from somewhere other than Massachusetts, I've listed that.

> CheckiO

"An interactive and educational game and competition platform for developers." CEO Liza Avramenko says "coding is the new literacy." But learning how to code can be boring and lonely. The startup has created a visually rich gameworld of different futuristic islands. To move up in the game, you have to solve coding puzzles. Players can also see (and learn from) the code others are writing to solve the puzzles. More than 20,000 users have tried it, spending on average more than three hours a week on the site, according to Avramenko.
CEO: Liza Avramenko
From: Ukraine (planning to put down roots in Boston)
Raising: $750,000

> Codeship

"A hosted continuous integration and deployment platform." Continuous deployment of new software features is seen today as a way to stay ahead of competitors; Codeship runs tests on new software in the cloud, before it is rolled out, helping to avoid introducing bugs. Has attracted more than 100 paying customers so far.
CEO: Moritz Plassnig
From: Austria
Raising: $1 million

> CONSTRVCT

"A crowd-sourced fashion label, where anyone can create and sell their unique designs with our 3D design tools, custom fit, and on demand production." Creating web-based apparel design software, focused on replacing old-school CAD programs. Over 5,000 people have already used the system, often uploading their own images to be printed onto dresses. Wants to be the iMovie of fashion design. "Fashion is the last industry where the digital revolution hasn't yet happened," says CEO Mary Huang.
CEO: Mary Huang
From: New York
Raising: $1 million

> coUrbanize

"Helps communities and developers build better real estate projects." Co-founder Karin Brandt says she wants to make it easier for developers and residents to communicate about projects through the planning and construction stages. The web-based software can help developers understand the issues that a broader swath of residents are most concerned about — not just the residents who show up at public meetings. Working with Hubway, Boston Properties, Leggat McCall, Twining Properties, and National Development as early customers. (I covered the company last week.)
CEO: Karin Brandt
Raising: $500,000

> Fancred

"A new social app for sports fans." Fancred wants to create a better way for serious fans to figure out who to listen to in the noisy world of social media. Log into the iPhone app, and you get access to curated feeds about the teams you care about. Users get a Fancred score based on their activity, and as it rises, they get access to a bigger audience. Hopes to become the ESPN of social media. Integrating soon with NESN's web site, so you can share content from it directly into the Fancred system. How did CEO Kash Razzaghi get David Ortiz to make a cameo as part of his presentation? He tells me that the company has been in discussions with Ortiz's management — perhaps about becoming an investor or spokesperson.
CEO: Hossein Kash Razzaghi
Raising: $1.5 million ($1 million already raised; Linda Pizzuti Henry and Atlas Venture are among the investors)

> Freight Farms

"A scalable farming platform can be installed anywhere and operated by almost anyone, transforming shipping containers into a source for high yield crop production." Packs a shipping container full of LED lights and hydroponic irrigation systems to cultivate lots of produce in a small space. Reduces the distance food has to be shipped. Has booked $450,000 in sales so far. Tasty Burger is building a restaurant in Boston with two Freight Farms containers on the roof. The company is planning to set up its offices in (what else?) some old shipping containers, near Andrew Square in South Boston. (I included the company in this piece about urban farming last July.)
CEO: Jon Friedman
Raising: $1.2 million

> Jebbit

"Jebbit’s pay per performance model benefits both brands and consumers, guaranteeing a brand that their message is comprehended while rewarding consumers with cash for actively answering questions that educate them on the brand." Jebbit aims to help marketers get their message out by rewarding consumers for their time — with real cash — as they learn about new products and services. Has already worked with Adobe, Spotify, and Coca-Cola as customers. Now focusing on integrating Jebbit's system with highly-trafficked sites with a new ad unit that includes their questions. (Jebbit was part of a "Shark Tank" event, and attracted some seed funding, last fall. In January they announced that they'd raised $229,000.)
CEO: Tom Coburn
Raising: $1.25 million (round is being led by Data Point Capital, with Boston Seed involved)

> LinkCycle

"LinkCycle helps manufacturers manage resource consumption across product lines to reduce costs without any extra hardware or data collection." Co-founders met in MIT's manufacturing lab; they're focused on helping companies use already-available data to reduce energy usage. In CEO Sahil Sahni's words, "we use math, not meters, to help them save money, without ever having to set foot in their plants." Also can help manage water and materials costs. Working with Rubbermaid as an early paying customer.
CEO: Sahil Sahni
Raising: $750,000 (over half is already committed, according to the company)

> Neurala

"We build brains for bots." Developing software to help robots learn about and navigate in complex environments. The software enables bots to learn about places and spaces autonomously. Has already received $1 million in grant funding from NASA and the Air Force Research Lab.
CEO: Massimiliano Versace
Raising: $2 million

> Outline (previously Politify)

"Using advanced economic modeling and data visualization to improve government transparency, efficiency, and performance." Citizens can see how shifting spending in certain areas, like education or senior services, would affect them. Could help elected officials communicate the impact of proposed legislation, or help voters understand which candidates best represent their priorities. Massachusetts is already a paying customer, and two other states are planning to use the system, according to CEO Nikita Bier.
CEO: Nikita Bier
From: San Francisco
Raising: $1.5 million (with half already committed, according to Bier)

> PillPack

"Pharmacy simplified." Fifty percent of people who take prescription medications don't take them as prescribed, says CEO TJ Parker, a registered pharmacist who graduated from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy. PillPack creates customized, individual packets of the medications you take, with an easy-to-read label: "Monday, 9 AM," for instance. It mails them out in a countertop dispenser every two weeks. Also offers video consultations with pharmacists via its website. Conducting a pilot now in New Hampshire; planning a broader test this summer.
CEO: TJ Parker
Raising: $3 million (Cambridge-based Founder Collective is already signed on)

> qunb

"A “YouTube for numbers,” a platform that makes data broadcasting and data visualization accessible to anyone." Making it simple to tell stories with data, share it, and let others interact — even for "Excel dummies." CEO Cyrille Vincey describes the company as the first "small data" company, accessible to just about anyone. Data can come from places like Dropbox, Google Drive, or Salesforce.com.
CEO: Cyrille Vincey
From: Paris
Raising: $1.2 million

> Rallyware (previously Rallyt)

"Helps organizations achieve their goals by connecting and engaging communities around meaningful actions." Organizing groups around actions, and enabling members to take responsibility for specific tasks — and get recognized. Basically, Salesforce.com for community organizing. Seven customers already signed up, including the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Launching a pilot with Burger King this summer, to help the fast-food company communicate with its independent franchisees, and spotlight those doing things that work.
CEO: George Elfond
Raising: $1 million

> Synack

"Redefining vulnerability discovery." Companies offer bounties to the top security talent all around the world — the good guys — in exchange for discovering system vulnerabilities. Once they do, they get paid. Co-founders worked at the National Security Agency. Starting off by focusing on ensuring the security of web applications, and eventually moving to mobile and desktop apps.
CEO: Jay Kaplan
From: Washington, D.C.
Raising: $1.5 million (investors include Acquia founder Jay Batson)

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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