Do they play smooth jazz in feeding tanks? This past Monday at the NYIT auditorium they sure did.
Ten series A/B and seed-stage startups from Israel, Europe, and the U.S. gathered March 10th at NYIT for the Global i Ventures Pitch Night, hosted by Norbert Mehl. A bustling jazz flute and snappy rhythm filled the hall as the entrepreneurs, founders and CEOs networked and prepared to showcase their latest innovations. Alongside Lauren Keyson, AlleyWatch’s own Reza Chowdhury moderated the event, and at the front of the stage, a panel of angel investors and venture capitalists filed in to fill the six wooden directors chairs, ready to hear each startup’s pitch.
Let us just say—the sharks were out that night.
First to dive in was Jason Liang, CEO of BringMeThat, an online food delivery platform geared toward providing web-based restaurant listings and ordering aggregate to smaller scale cities. According to Liang, online food ordering is already a $14 billion dollar industry, with the major players operating in only 20% of cities in the U.S. BringMeThat aims to satiate the remainding 80%, banking on “first-mover” status and SEO practices to draw users to their brand. How does it work? Users simply navigate to the BringMeThat website, enter their location, and thanks to a proprietary algorithm which gathers nearly every menu from every restaurant, choose their meal, place their order and kick back while they await their delivery. A bit phone shy? No problem. BringMeThat places the order for you—charging it through their account for a 15% premium. While the panel was not without its questions and concerns, BringMeThat is growing rapidly, already showing over 10,000 listings over 12 states—and all that with only about $10k invested.
Next to test the waters was the CEO of Leaderz, Sharon Savariego. Leaderz is a human resources tool designed to give organizations a holistic solution for coordinating the different groups that might form their community. With over 50 million community driven operations world-wide, Leaderz has identified the need for an end–to–end platform to update, drive, and engage external collaborators. Savariego boasts Leaderz as the, “1st cloud based collaboration platform,” decked from top to bottom with event scheduling tools, fire sharing, broadcast messaging, as well as synchronization with Facebook, Google Apps, Outlook, Yahoo and more. With the growing trend of employees working from home, it’s about time all of these features found their way into one easy to use platform—and that’s what Leaderz is. The service is subscription based, and just out of closed beta the company has already had 200 organizations apply to pilot program—one being the Vatican which among nine others have been selected. Just a month ago, the company has expanded to the states, setting up in Silicon Valley to, as Savariego says, “conquer the U.S. market.”
Stepping up third to the stage was product evangelist Aaron C. Cohen presenting Cellolo and their rather “nifty” hardware device for smart phones designed to take audience interaction at large scale events into the next generation. Granted there was hardly a previous “generation” for such a thing . . . but just imagining there was for a moment, this would still be way cooler. The current device, named “Honeycomb”, is an audio-jack accessory built with state of the art LED and geo-location technology. The idea behind the product is to add a layer dynamism into the audiences experience at major events, coordinating with other devices to create dazzling light-shows. Cohen comments that the LED tech (RGBUV) is so incredible; enough of them can actually be used to turn an audience into a television screen. As if that isn’t enough, the Honeycomb has the capability of pin-pointing a single user down to the foot—opening up a brand new world of picking out a face in the crowd (think concession order, or contest giveaways). Backing the company is none other than Beyonce, and Cellolo are in additional talks with Sony and SFX. This means the next time you shake it to a live version of “All the Single Ladies,” it just might be with accompanying light extravaganza. And to think, your parents only had a lighter . . .
Sometimes the best design is the original design. Cobi Gurievsk, CEO of Sleepow, took the stage to tell us that when it comes to health-tech, perhaps the only thing you really need is a good night’s sleep, and the only thing you really need to for a good night’s sleep, is a pillow. Sure, that pillow might be stuffed with thousands of dollars of technology but there’s no reason to go splitting hairs. Minor details . . . sweat the small stuff. So what is Sleepow? It is in fact a pillow—a pillow that is way trendier than your pillow. Made from visco elastic memory foam, the Sleepow comes additionally wired with high-quality speakers to ensure you a perfect lullaby on your journey to the land of nod. On the side of the Sleepow resides a control panel for volume, as well as a mini-USB port, and audio jack. The would be sleeper can upload mp3’s, audio-books, as well as choose from relaxing binaural beats to assist them in their slumber. If you’ve been dreaming of the day when your pillow could read you a bed-time story, turns out, there’s a nap for that.
“The web is the platform,” says CEO of Brow.si, Gal Brill, invoking Mozilla. “Mobile web has won,” he says introducing Brow.si, a small, unobtrusive, and versatile tool overlay for mobile web navigation. The overlay is available on the publishing side of a website, offering web-hosts an “ease of use” engagement tool for the end-user. Functions include font resizing, page saving (online and offline), a share “toggle” allowing simultaneous sharing across multiple social media websites, and a search option (on page, in site, or worldwide), as well as the ability to “float” content on top of the website. The idea behind Brow.si is to enhance the end-user’s experience on a website, engaging them while they are on the site, thus retaining them for potential greater monetization. Brill comments that the sharing function is responsible for an 18% increase in sharing on sites where Brow.si has been enabled. Speaking of which, they have over 30 million users with 10 thousand publishers as of today. The company is just entering it’s A round and is seeking $4 million in investments in order to expand business development as well as further R&D in Israel.
To some—I can name a few—beer is just about all the technology they care to deal with. It’s a tried and true technology, 7 thousand years old and responsible for some of the greatest social networking mankind has ever known. For that reason, beer deserves a special place in our hearts (and bellies) just as it deserved a special place at the GiV Pitch Night. Special—because as CEO Shazz Lewis was right to point out—her beer (ChickBeer) is the only beer not purposely neglecting 25% of the U.S. market (425 billion in yearly revenues). Designed for women, ChickBeer is much more than smart marketing. With 2 years of testing and research, Shazz Lewis and company crafted the beer to women’s tastes—offering a maltier, less carbonated, only 97 calorie beverage with just 3.5 carbs. Currently the brew is being tested in 13 states, much to the delight and approval of the women who have tried it. The 4.2 alcoholic content drink has been featured on the today show, CBS morning news, and has tested with major retailers. ChickBeeer is now looking to hire a CEO and CMO to propel the company to that next stage. More beer? I’ll raise a glass to that.
Igor Gonta, CEO of Market Prophit stepped up next with his eye-opening analytical software which measures and consolidates all the stock data being discussed on twitter, in order to provide end-users with real-time meaningful stock analysis like never before. Trying to make sense of the endless noise of the twitterverse, Market Prophit uses Big Data analytics, natural language processing, and quantitative algorithms to gauge, track, and rank financial tweeters, determining who are the most successful and who you should pay attention to. Gonta calls it, “Baseball stats for social media,” explaining that each contributor is given a stat sheet on the website, allowing users to explore a tweeters record and see their “predictiveness” for themselves. Hailed as the 1st service to ever rank twitter contributors, the program is quite unique. Market Prophit is a custom built vector analysis and support vector machine, meaning it is hand trained to understand trader talk. With the SEC “blessing” the act of companies using social media to release market moving information, in April of 2013, it’s only a matter of time before the next big think breaks on twitter. Now with Market Prophit, you can be ahead of that curve.
The closest I’ve ever come to meeting an autobot was when Yaroslav Tenzer, spokesman for City Transformer took to the stage to pitch the companies new 2 passenger, light weight automobile, with patented expandable base. In other words, it transforms—and you don’t even have to put up with Shia LaBeouf to see it happen. Taking its inspiration from motorbikes and the ever increasing need to find parking in crowded cities, the City Transformer boasts a much smaller footprint then a traditional two-seater. “Drive safely, park anywhere,” Tenzer explains, referring to the car’s unique ability to expand its wheel chassis to provide better stabilization when on the road, and collapse it back in again to park in a 1 meter space. The vehicle is mostly a single transport option for urban or densely populated areas, but features an additional seat located directly behind the driver doubling as a storage space. 1.6 meters when fully expanded, City Transformer claims to be the safer space saving option for motorists, giving them the stability and handleability of an automobile, with the almost priceless perk of being able to park nearly anywhere. At the moment the company is raising seed funding and plans to have the first prototype available in 2015, with full production to come in 2018.
The first of 2 innovations in health-tech presented during that evening, mirOculus spokesman Ariel Berger took to the stage to demonstrate the most aptly named company of the evening. Truly miraculous, mirOculus is a single non-invasive procedure which screens microRNAs in patient’s cells to classify and detect potential cancer threats. MicroRNAs are like biological “fingerprints” which when applied in their method, will react to produce a fluorescent color, the pattern of which reveals a specific type of cancer. The sample is then read and recorded by the mirOculus machine to identify a specific cancer in the patient during a real-time check up. Functioning from a single blood test, the procedure offers a cheap, fast and comprehensive way toward early detection—something Berger notes is “the closest thing we have to a silver bullet.” With 1 out of 3 people diagnosed with some type of cancer during their lifetime, it’s creative and innovative solutions like mirOculus which will be the life savers of the future. “Cancer is the most non-racist thing you will ever meet,” says Berger. It’s about time the medical industry had an easy solution to help tip the scales back in their favor.
The last presentation of the evening came from Dr. Amit Mor, co-founder of AposTherapy, a non-surgical treatment for knee and back pain. A simple and smart solution to an often expensive problem, AposTherapy is a biomechanical device customized to each patient to help them retrain the way muscles control joints surrounding their problem areas. The device repositions, resets, and “recalibrates” the body with just 1 hour of walking a day. Started in an apartment because, “we didn’t have money for a garage,” AposTherapy has today treated over 50 thousand patients, helping to heal and correct knee osteoarthritis, torn meniscuses, lower back pain, chronic knee pain, knee ligament damage, patello-femoral pain and rehabilitation following knee surgery. The most compelling segment of Dr. Amit Mor’s presentation were the video testimonials, some of which you can watch here. With so much of technology being innovated to simplify and enhance our day–to–day lives, it’s always humbling to remember to most rudimentary factor of happiness is health.
That’s something everyone could do with a little more of.