The typical accelerator is fairly predictable. Startups apply for something like Y Combinator or TechStars, and a relatively small percentage of those applicants go on to participate in X-month long “courses” and then get their collective cherries popped at a demo day. Some accelerators, such as DreamIt New York, work with relatively small batches. Others, like Y Combinator, can pump out 82 startups in a single batch.
NReduce doesn’t do any of that. The virtual accelerator, created after its founders were rejected by Y Combinator, held its first demo day earlier this afternoon with only eight of its 200 startups presenting.
By virtue of its digital nature, nReduce isn’t able to pull off a normal demo day complete with startup swag, food, coffee, and hours of desperate founders pleading for capital. Instead, nReduce embraced its digital roots and crowdsourced its demo day. The company asked investors to choose eight “nStars” – the companies that they felt might be most ready to announce their existence and raise capital – and relied on Twitter users to guide the demo day along its way.
Rather than having each company’s founders take turns presenting a pitch deck and asking for whatever amount of money they’ve decided to raise, nReduce had the founders monitoring questions from the audience and answering them live. Instead of relegating the meet and greet of most demo days to before and after the main event (see: pitch decks), nReduce decided to make the entire thing a social event.
Submitted questions were automatically sent to Twitter to prevent some of the more inappropriate things that an anonymous audience might ask – nReduce CEO Joe Mellin says that this might change in the future, as some people may not appreciate the inability to ask a question without spamming their Twitter followers, but the system seemed to work today.
And, honestly, today could have ended in disaster. An unproven accelerator relying on social media to guide its demo day, which is being run on software that was built just three days ago, should, by every right, crash and burn. I gave Vantageous props for using its video-editing software during DreamIt New York’s demo day – nReduce just did something similar, except it was working with eight livestreams and an untested system that allowed the masses to ask founders any question their pretty little hearts desired. Anyone that’s ever delved into YouTube’s comments knows how that particular gamble could have ended.
There are definitely some kinks to be worked out, such as having each company present concurrently (which forces users interested in each company to either jump around the site or wait until the recorded videos are uploaded), and the way questions are ranked, but Mellin says that the company is already working on improving the platform. nReduce gets a little bit of leeway because today’s demo day was its first, but the company will be under increased scrutiny as it continues to attract startups to its virtual class.
My favorite part of this demo day format is the behind the scenes access each startup provides by way of its weekly videos. Being able to pull back the curtain and watch each product get developed is a rare opportunity. Many companies make their public debut on or right before their accelerator’s demo day and seem to have been built out of thin air. The truth – as anyone at PandoDaily can attest, given our startup status as well – is that building a company is pretty fucking hard. These weekly videos help to dispel the myth of the overnight success, and can help other startups realize that everybody has these problems.
If a startup wants some guaranteed capital and the ability to add “Built in Y Combinator” to their shirt tags, nReduce isn’t going to stop them. But for the companies that want to experience a little camaraderie – especially those that exist outside of the Valley or other startup hubs – nReduce can offer guidance and the assurance that there are literally hundreds of other companies going through the same thing. I’ve only heard good things every time nReduce is brought up, and many participating companies say that the program is a huge help.
For the sake of brevity, I’m going to briefly run through each company, list-style.
Dwellee: In keeping with nReduce’s crowdsourced theme, Dwellee is a tool that will allow tenants to place a “bounty” on a particular type of neighborhood. People familiar with that neighborhood will then vie for that bounty – whoever “wins” gets paid.
Recollect: Self-described as a “Dropbox for your digital life” (which sounds a bit redundant) Recollect archives users’ “digital lives” and makes them easily searchable. The service could be a good backup option for people, like myself, that want to preserve the information that they share and create.
Meldium: A service that helps companies manage their employees’ SaaS accounts, Meldium seems like a small tool that definitely requires a certain scale before it becomes useful. For large companies that don’t want to manually add or remove users from Salesforce, Box, and Google Apps, however, Meldium could end up being a simple utility that saves a lot of time.
Cloudable.me: In all honesty, this looks like another “we’re doing recommendations, but right!” company. Because I haven’t had the chance to give Cloudable.me a shot I can’t comment on its utility, but I will say that at some point we’re going to need a recommendation engine that helps us pick a recommendation engine.
Suave.ly: Suave.ly takes Facebook’s social graph and lets users turn it into a “dating graph.” The service looks like a bi-orientational Grindr that takes the “I’m hooking up with a stranger” worry out of the equation.
Rentini: Billed as the ”first completely free A-Z business solution for vacation rental owners and property managers,” Rentini looks like an Airbnb for people that want to rent an entire house while they travel.
Edocr.com: I’m going to be honest: I have no idea how you’re supposed to say “Edocr“. The company allows marketers to “put their documents to work” and share them across over 300 Web services.
Apptiv Games: Fitness games. Social ones. That use a pedometer. Apptiv Games slams exercise, mobile social games, and fitness trackers, but seems to think that mashing those things together is the winning solution. I’m sure I’ll end up talking about the company in another roundup of fitness-related apps.
That’s it for the first demo day. NReduce will be holding these events on the first Wednesday of each month. Startups are free to join the accelerator at any time, and can participate in the program for as long as they like before deciding to leave the program or vying to become an “nStar”.