Here are some companies (ERA Demo Day)
New York's ecosystem of accelerators and incubators isn't quite as robust as that of San Francisco -- for better or for worse. We're big on industry-specific programs focusing on healthcare (Blueprint Health), education (Kaplan) or media (TimeSpace), or fintech (FinTech Innovation Lab), but our general-focused programs are dominated by TechStars and ERA, also known as the Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator.
Both are known for small classes (10-13) whose members remain close-knit when they graduate. Both have fairly solid success rates for follow-on funding for their graduates: nine out of ten from ERA's first class raised follow on funding; the subsequent classes are somewhere near or slightly below that range; TechStars NYC has gone from 11 out of 11 to 8-9 out of 12-13. ERA's portfolio of 40 companies is worth $150 million today, the program announced.
Today, 700 New York techies gathered in the posh office building of IAC to meet ERA's fourth and latest class of ten companies, which offered a half-and-half mix of B2B and consumer-focused startups. One of them -- dating app Aquaintable -- has set out to disrupt one of IAC's crown jewels, the OkCupid-Tindr-Match.com-Chemistry.com empire.
I'll be liveblogging their demos for the next hour...
Suitey: Bills itself as "software-powered real estate brokerage." The company claims it's marketplace brings "transparency to online listing search" and automates the apartment hunt. How? Through a map-based search site for real estate. And also the website is a marketing funnel, so that real estate brokers can spend less time with customer acquisition and more time closing sales.
Early Traction: The company has doubled the number of new users each month since it joined ERA. The company has raised $400,000 thus far. No one has built technology to take advantage of people hunting for apartments online. (Except Padmapper, or Nestio, or Trulia or Zillow...?)
First reaction: This is a great New York or San Francisco site, but its unclear about the demand outside of those two cities.
Monaeo: Analytics for tax data. Stay with me here. Businesses and high net worth individuals struggle to comply with tax laws as their employees travel around the world. Monaeo solves this issue by tracking employee locations and fitting them into tax compliance laws.
Early Traction: The company has 600 high net worth users with around $15 billion in net worth to help prove out that its system works. It's raised $500,000 in seed funds.
First Impression: This is one of those boring, nuts-and-bolts companies that will probably grow into a quiet giant. Beyond that, if anyone knows how to optimize for taxes, its former private equity pros. Monaeo's founders are ex-Silverlake pros.
Easy Pairings: Staffing marketplace for the food service industry. The restaurant industry has an annual turnover of greater than 50 percent -- former dim sum restaurant owner Darren Wan decided to start the company to solve issues he regularly struggled with. The company claims to lower the time to hire from 18 days to three days.
Early Traction: Have 8000 job seekers in the database with 16 participating restaurants (including the restaurant groups of Mario Batali and Daniel Boulud), having scheduled 200 interviews with 50 candidate hires. The company has raised $150,000.
First Impression: Seems like a real pain point -- the challenge will be getting busy restaurant owners to sign on, and then corralling flakey servers to respond to messaging within the site.
Trendalytics: "Decision support software for merchandize trends." That's a mouthful. In plain English, the SaaS tool provides data and analytics from apparel-related online search and purchasing data to help apparel buyers make buys based on demand instead of instict.
Early Traction: The company has raised $320,000.
First Reaction: As the company pointed out, the apparel industry spends $17 billion on software and services each year. But I would be shocked to learn that literally zero of the tools serving this industry aren't providing data and analytics.
VocalizeLocal: A site portal to help local businesses manage, monitor and generate online reviews.
Early Traction: Profitable and on a current annual run rate of $400,000. The company has raised $300,000 in seed funds.
First Reaction: Yes, local is the worst market to sell to, ever. The good news is that the company readily admits that and has a plan to sell better with simplified, cheap and easy to use tools.
Consignd: Affiliate links on steriods. Influencers to have their own storefronts, which they can earn 25 percent on sales they drive, versus the zero to 5 percent they might get from affiliate link programs.
Early Traction: Have 50 brands and hundreds waiting in the wings, with 500 influencer-built stores live. The company is growing 30 percent a month.
First Reaction: I like this idea. Last year 48% of goods purchased were discovered socially -- social networks are driving commerce and this is one of the more interesting ways I've seen to reward the people driving these sales.
Cognical: Loan underwriting engine, using predictive signals with small data sets to help lenders make better decisions on their loans. The company is starting payday loans, the area of lending which has the highest default rate.
Early Traction: The company is bringing in revenue from several early customers, which pay $20,000 a month for the services. It's raised $200,000 in seed funds.
First Reaction: This is not my area of expertise. At all.
Startist: Connecting creative people for collaboration projects. it's an online portfolio that showcases one's creative or performing talents.
Early Traction: The site launched in private beta today.
First Reaction: This is not the first platform to try this. CollabFinder does it, so do artist-focused communities like Artists Wanted. I didn't see a compelling selling point to use this site over any other, beyond the ability to upload videos. This demo actually descended into an expletive-laden Abbott and Costello-style back and forth between the founders, where at one point I wasn't sure if we were all being Punk'd. Artists, amirite?
Aquaintable: Online dating app for meeting friends-of-friends, rather than strangers.
Early Traction: The app launched an alpha with 1000s of users; 50 percent of users returned daily and 35 percent of users invited an average of four friends, which is rare for the opaque online dating market. The percentage of women was 20 percent higher than on top online dating apps. Beta launches today. The company has raised $200,000.
First Reaction: I have been telling my single friends about this app since I first heard of it. There is nothing to stop other online dating sites from integrating this functionality, but they are tied to legacy, anonymous, almost shameful stigma of online dating 1.0. Acquaintable is better positioned to bring necessary social elements to online dating by starting fresh.
TheSquareFoot: Commercial real estate leasing marketplace bringing transparency in online listings.
Early Traction: The company launched last September and has 75 percent of the available supply in Houston now searchable on its site. It's also live in Dallas, Austin and New York. The company has raised $400,000.
First Reaction: This sounds exactly like the goal of 42Floors, which recently raised $12.3 million. I imagine they'll be in a land grab race. Or perhaps there's room for two in this space, as there is with Zillow and Trulia for home buying.