When I first joined Techstars as a Managing Director in NYC, back in 2014, I really wanted to invest in technology and innovation. Wired wrote a short story about my focus on backing engineers, and innovation.
It has been more than 3 years, and I consider myself VERY LUCKY to be able to work with amazing founders. This Winter 2017 group is no exception. In fact, this is the most technical, and innovative group we’ve had to date.
Techstars NYC Winter 2017 cohort is packed with innovators, engineers, dreamers, and technologists who are visionary and fearless. I am thrilled, and humbled to be able to participate in the early journey of these founders.
MEET THE COMPANIES & WATCH THE PITCHES
Conductor crowdsources real-time mapping data for public transit systems.
Conductor’s Technology: Conductor pulls in data from various public transit sources and combines it with real-time crowdsourced data, which is coming from the phones of over 2K daily active users in NYC. All the data is processed by Conductor’s real-time prediction engine, and sent back to user’s phones. The result are predictions about train arrival times that are 2x more accurate than MTA’s (NYC Transportation Authority). To learn more and download the app visit getconductor.com. Watch Conductor’s pitch below.
De-Ice is developing an electric deicing technology for airplanes that is 30 minutes faster and 50% cheaper than the incumbent solution.
De-Ice’s Technology: The current-state de-icing solution for airplanes involves spraying hot chemicals onto airplanes like a fire truck hoses down a flaming building. This costs an average of $10,000 and takes about 45 minutes every single time you do it. De-Ice is building a new, electric solution that completely eliminates chemicals from the de-icing process. The company’s solution is 30 minutes faster and 50% cheaper than anything out there today.
Dossier is building the next generation of document collaboration tools for teams.
Dossier’s Technology: Dossier takes document collaboration to a new level by re-imagining the role of documents in how teams collaborate. Dossier comes with an intuitive, and beautiful editor, awesome personalized search, tight Slack integration and a smart way to highlight document changes. More importantly, unlike other text-editors, Dossier documents intelligently and contextually integrate with the key tools that team use. You can embed anything, from Trello cards, to Invision prototypes, to videos, audio, and links to files. All these integrations make Dossier documents into hubs for team collaboration. Learn more and request beta invite visit trydossier.com. Watch Dossier’s pitch below.
EEVO is a cloud-based toolset that makes it possible for anyone to create, publish and scale streamable interactive VR experiences across all platforms.
Ephemeral is creating tattoo inks, applied by tattoo artists, that disappear on their own.
Ephemeral’s Technology: Ephemeral is developing a brand new kind of tattoo ink – one that disappears over time without any laser surgery. This is a massive chemical engineering challenge – creating a new kind of ink that looks and feels like regular ink, but behaves fundamentally differently. Ephemeral is tackling the challenge by creating novel ink particles that can be removed by the body’s natural processes. To learn more about Ephemeral tattoos and to get in line to get this awesomeness visit ephemeraltattoos.com. Watch Ephemeral’s pitch below.
Halion Displays is building a new display technology to increase the battery life and daylight visibility of mobile devices.
Halion Displays’ Technology: Halion Displays set out to build the next generation display that consumes significantly less power, and has high visibility under any lighting conditions. The team re-imagined pixel from ground up by inventing new color switching mechanism based on their scientific breakthrough. The display itself has a four layer structure consisting of cyan, magenta, yellow and a highly reflective layer. The result is a display that gets great colors at video speeds and mere milliwatts of power consumption. If used in the iPhone, Halion Display would immediately double the battery life from 10 to 20 hours. To learn more visit haliondisplays.com. Watch Halion Displays’ pitch below.
Lean Systems is an automated fleet routing/scheduling optimization platform for the transportation industry.
Lean Systems’ Technology: Lean Systems has built world class cloud platform for optimizing complex routes and schedules. Customers submit raw data into Lean System’s cloud via API. Lean Systems’s backend then applies a set of rules and algorithms that include column generation, novel shortest path problem implementation, and auto-tuned branch and bound to optimize massive amounts of routes and schedules in just a few minutes. To learn more visit leansystems.co. Watch Lean Systems’ pitch below.
Litimetrics is an analytics platform that gives attorneys an unfair advantage in litigation with competitive data-driven intelligence on attorneys, judges and opposing parties.
Litimetrics’s Technology: Litimetrics’ vision is to help attorneys achieve better litigation outcomes through data and their own networks. Using ML and NLP, Litimetrics extracts interactions between attorneys, judges and parties from millions of unstructured court records. Attorneys are able to better understand their opponents’ litigation behavior (eg, timing of motions and settlements). And because Litimetrics is a graph of entities’ interactions in litigation, attorneys are able to quickly identify who in their network has appeared before a judge or litigated against a specific party. All of this information helps lawyers achieve better outcomes. To learn more visit litimetrics.com. Watch Litimetrics’ pitch below.
Narmi is a financial technology provider for regional and community financial institutions focusing on mobile and online banking.
Narmi’s Technology: After running a credit union while in college, Narmi’s co-founders started the company to help community banks and credit unions modernize their digital experiences. Narmi has reimagined how digital banking should work – powered by a modern technology stack that takes into account the legacy infrastructure in the industry. Everything is built from the ground up to be mobile friendly, highly available, and secure. The Narmi platform has leveraged infrastructure automation tools, machine learning, and the cloud to bring financial institutions up to speed while maintaining FDIC/NCUA/FFIEC compliance. To learn more visit narmitech.com. Watch Narmi’s pitch below.
Stan Group enables companies to make decisions under uncertainty.
Stan Group’s Technology: Stan Group has built a unique, cloud-based platform for helping companies make decisions under uncertainty. The platform is based on statistical modeling language Stan, which uses Bayesian approach to making decisions. Stan Group offers each customer a dashboard and an API that helps them make decisions by choosing from a set of tradeoffs. Behind the dashboard is a Stan model that is built to solve specific type of problem and is tuned to the customer’s dataset. Stan Group’s cloud also ensures that the models are kept up to date over time, and this, in turn, ensures that the customers are making the best possible decisions. To learn more about Stan Group visit stan.fit. Watch Stan Group’s pitch below.
ThinkLoot is building the first smart video platform, providing insights and analysis that turn customer communication into a competitive advantage.
ThinkLoot’s Technology: ThinkLoot’s vision is to bring analytics and insights to video calls to help businesses acquire and retain more customers. Sales people, customer success managers, UX researchers and product managers use ThinkLoot to make customer calls over video. During the call ThinkLoot’s engine transcribes calls and captures real-time emotional response from the customer. After the call, Think Loot presents users with in-depth analysis including overall and word-by-word emotional reaction based on 200,000 pieces of information they collect every hour. Head over to thinkloot.com to request better access. Watch ThinkLoot’s pitch below.
Thread Genius aggregates data about how people interact with visual content on the web and uses deep learning to construct rich summarizations of people’s visual tastes.
Thread Genius’s technology: Thread Genius team has a vision is to unlock a different kind of taste graph – the one that is locked inside massive amounts of pictures found on the web. To do that they’ve built state of the art image search that allows searching for tangible products within images. Their technology relies on nuances like patterns, textures, and product details – things that are not possible to capture using tags and words. Using a single image of a product, Thread Genius can instantly search through millions of photos on Instagram and Pinterest, and find related products, key influencers and relevant audience segments. Watch Thread Genius’s pitch below.
Vidrovr analyzes the information inside videos to make them searchable and discoverable.
Vidrovr’s technology: Vidrovr is an enterprise video platform that works a little bit like magic. Vidrovr processes thousands of hours of long-form video content and automatically identifies people, things, companies, topics, and scenes. It then creates a search index and automatically splits videos into chunks. This is incredibly useful, because once the content inside the videos is unlocked it becomes searchable, and can be more effectively monetized. To learn more visit vidrovr.com. Watch Vidrovr’s pitch below.
Vitae is building 3D printing technology that helps pharmacies make personalized medications on-demand.
Vitae’s technology: Vitae founders have a massive vision to deliver personalized medications to everyone. To accomplish this the company is developing a 3D printer that prints pills of different dosages. Unlike traditional mass manufacturing that’s one size fits all, vitae pills can be exact dosage prescribed by the doctor. To make this possible vitae is building its own unique printing technology, and innovative chemical engineering solution. Visit vitaeindustries.com to lean more.
THANK YOU MENTORS, ALUMNI, SPEAKERS and ASSOCIATES!
We are incredibly lucky here at Techstars NYC to have support from the amazing tech community in NYC, our 100+ alumni companies, amazing speakers and dedicated group of associates.
Here is the thank you video that founders made for mentors:
Here are the mentors selected by each company as Most Helpful:
- Conductor: Adam Feldman
- De-ice: John Owen
- Dossier: Dane Atkinson
- EEVO: Maya Baratz Jordan
- Ephemeral:Moisey Uretsky (Digital Ocean, Techstars ’12)
- Halion Displays: Dylan Reid (Matter, Techstars ’14)
- Lean Systems: Kevin O’Brien (GreatHorn, Techstars ’15)
- Litimetrics: Lee Milstein
- Narmi: Kevin O’Brien (GreatHorn, Techstars ’15)
- Stan Group: Dylan Reid (Matter, Techstars ’14)
- ThinkLoot: Kevin King
- ThreadGenius: Soraya Darabi
- Vidrovr: Jason Toff
- Vitae: Kegan Schouwenburg
We were joined for this session by an awesome group of associates. Kendall, Julia, Mike, Jay, Mike and Oleg — thank you for all the help and hard work you’ve put in during the program!
WHAT FOUNDERS LEARNED IN THE PROGRAM
Bharat Ayyar , Co-founder of Conductor:
- Growth should inform the product, even early on – We were building “better” features. TS taught us to see those features through the lens of creating more and/or deeper engagement.
- Story matters – It’s been surprisingly difficult to articulate our company in a way that’s simple, exciting, and authentic to our vision. But it’s a requirement for getting others on board – be they users, investors, future employees.
- Return to the reason why you started the company – We got ~5 million pieces of advice during the program. What helped us sift through it was reminding ourselves why we started the company, and rediscovering our own conviction.
Daniel Schwartz, Co-founder of Dossier:
- Knowing your product is sticky is just as important as knowing why it’s sticky. Figure out what your magic moment is and productize it.
- Stop being afraid to say “I don’t know”. There’s so many smart people involved in the program. Use their expertise as much as possible. They’ve been around the block and can help you move faster.
- Advice whiplash is real. Take in as much information as possible but always know what your true north is.
Chris Hlavaty, Co-founder of Dossier:
- The preparation that goes into fundraising will help you build a stronger business.
- Make time to invest in your cofounders’ relationship.
- As soon as possible, develop and test a hypothesis around who your beachhead customers will be.
- Cultivate a relationship with mentors who have built a business similar to your own.
Alejandro Dinsmore, Co-founder of EEVO:
- How to get better at sales as well as how to tap into powerful networks of people to get more done, faster.
- We developed the tools and structure to grow our revenue 89% MoM throughout the program.
- As a group of young founders without a huge network of our own, we didn’t really know how to use the vast techstars network at first, but now it helps us solve problems quicker, get more introductions, and build out our team.
Ryan Marchewka, Co-founder of Hailon Displays:
- KPIs are incredibly important, even if they’re hard to define. Come up with a system and iterate it as needed, especially for things that are hard to measure like R&D progress.
- Setting Big Rocks – Always have at least 1 important and measurable/quantified goal each week. This makes sure you’re always making macro progress, and not don’t getting bogged down by too many micro problems.
- Gaining outside perspective on your business and your strengths/weaknesses as a founder is super valuable. The Techstars focus on mentorship is huge, and helps you identify weak spots and blind spots quickly and effectively. It’s easy to lose outside perspective when you’re in the weeds every day, and it helps build confidence and keeps you on track so you always make meaningful progress.
- One of the most important learnings for myself was to become my own biggest fan. Internally I was being overly critical of my own progress. In reality I made massive leaps and bounds of progress solving a really hard problem. It’s easy to feel like you’re always behind where you want to be, forgetting all the progress you’ve made in a short period of time. Now I’m much more confident in my business and what I know, and also very confident in what I don’t know, but that I have a plan for how to manage the unknown.
Kelvin Tran, Co-founder of Litimetrics:
- Importance of validating assumptions by talking to customers. By talking to our users, we found out that attorneys care way more about judge and litigant party information than about firms.
- Importance of tailoring pitch to different audience. Pitching to potential customers (ie, sales) is different to pitching to investors, and to pitching to press.
Sebastien Roy, Co-founder of Lean Systems:
- Make your advisors/mentors/network work for you
- The NYC network is of incredibly high quality which helps doing greater things. In other words surround yourself with awesome people both in terms of employees and mentors (and investors)
- If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.
Nikhil Lakhanpal, Co-founder of Narmi:
- Focusing on stuff that matters
- Insane value in networking. People are generally nice.
- Don’t make excuses
Chris Griffin, Co-founder of Narmi:
- The NYC startup ecosystem is alive and well. Especially for a fintech company, NYC is the place to be. There are incredibly strong networks to leverage, angels to meet, and VCs interested in the space.
- There are tremendous benefits having 13 other non-competitive companies at similar stages in the same office space. It is much easier to organically share ideas, best-practices, and advice when you are working alongside the other companies in your cohort.
Romanos Fessas, Co-founder of ThinkLoot:
- Tell a Story – the same facts, articulated differently, tell a vastly different story to investors and stakeholders. The result is that we can greatly affect what kind of investors and customers we are able to attract based on how we explain what we’re building.
- Be Flexible – it’s critical to be nimble with the way we build and iterate our product. We have so many conversations that influence our tactical approach to the business, and it’s critical to be able to adapt quickly and intelligently to new information.
- Be Rigid – at the same time, a adhere rigidly to the things that matter to us (why the hell did we start this company in the first place?). It’s easy to take the bait and sell out or own vision in favor of a quick win, but the long term prospects of the company suffer. We need to be flexible in our implementation while staying true to our view of the future.