Our favorite #StartupRadar pitches, part 2

Here’s the rest of our rundown on some of the coolest startup pitches we heard at our SXSW #StartupRadar event.

Startup: Waze
The details: Based inPalo Alto,Calif.; launched 2009

Their story: Wave is part GPS, part Siri, and part traffic reporter. When users enable app, available on iPhone and Android, it detects their speed and location. Waze crunches that information to generate warnings for other drivers if there’s a slowdown or traffic jam. If you want to report an accident, simply wave your hand over the phone and speak to it.

Launched in 2009, Waze has drawn $67 million from investors, including VC powerhouse Kleiner Perkins.

Their goal: “If you can actually can use social media to do something that changes how people drive, then you’re seeing a really important change,” says Waze communications director Michal Habdank-Kolaczkowski.  Ultimately, the crew hopes people will use the app to help each other save time and gas on the road. 


Startup: Rockify
The details: Based in Austin, founded in August 2011

Their story: Entrepreneur Joel Korpi wants to bring back old-school MTV, the channel that featured actual music videos instead of reality television shows. Korpi’s Rockify.tv, still in private beta, aims to be a video Pandora, helping smartphone and tablet users discover content.  

The secret sauce: Rockify plans to tap your social graph to figure out what type of music you’re likely to like.

Startup: GroupWink
The details: Based inAustin, founded May 2011

Their story: Founder Dustin Maxey wants to turn group messaging into group dating. GroupWink lets users tag friends they’re hanging out with, create groups, and check out what other groups in the area are doing. You can search groups by topics like “dance,” “chill,” “have drinks,” and can the choose age ranges and gender of other groups you’d like to meet up with.  

The goal: Maxey says he wants to “mimic the natural process” of meeting people.

“Group are everywhere around the town,” he says. The app, currently in beta aims to bring those groups together in a techie but organic fashion.

Startup: ApartmentList.com
The details: Based in San Francisco, launched September 2011

Their story: CEO John Kobs and co-founder Chris Herndon left their jobs in finance to create an apartment-recommendation engine lets users to hone in on a neighborhood, price, and type of apartment they’re looking to rent. The site has partnered with services like Rent.com and Move.com to aggregate listings.

It’s pretty basic so far: type in your location and you can start filtering the picks based on the price range, bedrooms and bathrooms, and features like on-site parking and pet-friendliness.  It’ll also show you top-rated restaurants around the area and popular neighborhoods that your friends frequently “check in” on through location services like Foursquare. The startup currently has 25 employees, 15 of whom focus on the technology behind the service.

A unique twist: ApartmentList has a social arm. If you’re interested in a listing or neighborhood, you can connect through Facebook and share your list of prospects with friends who can give you their two cents.  The crew calls it “digitizing what people do in the real world.” -Laurie

Our favorite #StartupRadar pitches

CNNMoney Tech set up shop in the CNN Grill beer garden at SXSW and held an open pitch session. Dozens of very cool startups stopped by. Here’s Part 1 of the rundown on our favorites.

Startup: Tabbed Out
The details: Based in Austin, 25 people, launched 2010

Their story: Running a tab at a bar is easy; closing it out at the end of the night is the tricky part — especially if you’re at a mobbed event where everyone wants the check at once, or if you’re in the “forgetful” stage of your evening recreations. Tabbed Out’s iPhone and Android apps link directly to merchants’ point-of-sale systems. You can open your tab on your phone and — here’s the best part — close it out when you’re ready. Including remotely. At the end of the gig, hop in a cab and pay your bar bill on the way home.

There’s lots of competing mobile payments systems; Tabbed Out’s secret sauce is that they’ve struck integration deals with POS system makers and now cover 80% of the market. For merchants, it’s a turnkey deployment.

The next goal: “We have to get to thousands of merchants. The key thing we get from consumers is ‘I like it, but it’s not in many places,’” says CEO and co-founder Rick Orr. Tabbed Out is now in 450 venues across 34 states. Its goal for 2012 is to scale and become ubiquitous.

Startup: StarMaker Interactive
The details: Based in San Francisco, 15 people

Their story: StarMaker’s iPhone karaoke app has more than 2 million active users. The app is free; songs go for 25 cents to 95 cents each. The platform really took off when the company added a game layer with scoring and prizes, product manager Reed Kavner says.

Their biggest surprise: “Users are much more comfortable sharing recordings with strangers than they are with friends,” Kavner says. StarMaker’s “share your recording on Facebook” feature gets middling use. When the company launched its own community boards, sharing took off.   

Startup: PublikDemand.com
The details: Based in San Francisco, 3 people

Their story: Founder Courtney Powell is a serial entrepreneur who had a rotten experience with Time Warner Cable. “They charged me for a modem that I never had and auto-drafted $900 out of my account,” she says. “It took me three months to get it back.” From that came PublikDemand, a complaints platform that aims to unite irked customers to collectively demand resolution to shared problems.  

The fledgling site has one proof-of-concept demand featured at the moment, a request that AT&T stop throttling its “unlimited” data plans. Powell plans to expand significantly over the coming months, focusing exclusively on large, “Fortune 1000”-sized companies. 

"Long term, we’ll be looking at things like integrations with Salesforce.com," she says. "We view it as a retention tool. If a company chooses not to change a policy, we’ll help users move that set of business to their competitors."

What’s next: Seed fund/incubator 500 Startups just took on PublikDemand.com, which is in the process of moving from Austin to San Francisco.  

Startup: Nicely Noted
The details: A just-launched solo venture based in Austin

Their story: It’s Netflix for stationary. For $18 a month, Nicely Noted will send subscribers 3 letterpress cards, stamped and ready to mail. Founder Perry Nelson, who scouts designers at stationary shows, says she likes the concept of a Web venture that helps reconnect people to the art of handwritten letters. 

Sneak peek: Nicely Noted is currently in a limited trial stage, but CNNMoney readers can sign up with the invitation code “envelope.”


Startup: LiveOn.com
The details: Based inKansas City, 10 people, went beta in October, full launch later this month 

Their story: LiveOn.com aims to be a virtual locker for photos, stories, videos and other digital memorabilia.

"My grandmother passed away and I went to the estate auction. I realized at the end that the things I most treasured were all these old photos and letters her husband had written during the war. I thought, if I passed away, what is there for my son to access?" says founder and CEO Jonathan Whistman.

Fun fact: Google’s ultra-high-broadband project, which launches in Kansas City later this year, is sparking an entrepreneurial renaissance in the area, Whistman says. “It’s started the community thinking about what can you do when there’s no limits on bandwidth.”

Startup: Baydin
The details: Based in Mountain View, Calif.; 4 people

Their story: Baydin’s Boomerang e-mail management app helps you cut through your inbox deluge by scheduling messages. If you want to save an important note to deal with later, you can “boomerang” it: pick a time and it will vanish from your inbox until you’ve scheduled it to reappear. You can also set follow-up reminders to alert you at the times you choose. The software works with Gmail and Microsoft Outlook. 

Their pivot: Baydin has been around since 2009, on a journey CEO Alex Moore describes this way: “Lost the founder, got new founders, changed the product …”

The latest iteration seems to be sticking. Boomerang just crossed the 1 million downloads mark and helped Baydin draw a round of seed funding. “I drove Dave McClure to his auto mechanic and pitched him on the way,” Moore says. “He was our first investor.”  -Stacy

SXSW world records: Grilled cheese and footed PJs

What happens when geeks party? World records — the sillier the better.  

GroupMe got much buzz at SXSW for its grilled cheese stunt, which brought Takeru Kobayashi —Japan’s famed eating champ and long-time holder of the coveted hot-dog eating record — to Austin to competitively chow down. The goal: Set a new world record for “most grilled cheeses eaten in 1 minute.”

Turns out that’s pretty easy to do, since there was no official record. TechStarsNYmanaging director Dave Tisch scarfed down four, giving him a brief grasp on the title. His glory run was fleeting: Kobayashi was next up and took down 13 sandwiches.

The competition was chronicled on RecordSetter.com, a site that lets people document records for anything they can imagine. It’s now got a whole stack of SXSW records, including “Tallest Tower Of Beer Caps" (14), "Most Business Cards Handed Out In 30 Seconds" (15 — that seems very beatable) and "Highest Score Earned On Level 1 Of ‘Angry Birds’ While Blindfolded" (29,590 points).

But my favorite weird record-setting stunt is the giant footed PJ party that the Austin Caravan crew threw in their RV part. I heard about it from LaunchRock cofounder Zachary Melamed, who helpfully shared this photo of LaunchRock team members Sean McCullough and Brandon Dohman rockin’ their footie fashions. 


The goal was to set a new record for “World’s Largest Footed Pajama Party.” I have no idea if they succeeded, but I admire the impulse. -Stacy

Sean Parker/Al Gore SXSW drinking game

Sean Parker’s sitdown with Al Gore was so packed that most attendees ended up in the simulcast tent a half-mile away. Where the buffering was … not awesome. So not awesome, in fact, that people were catching every third sentence.

My colleagues at CNN Tech report that a drinking game broke out. Among the myriad rules: If you can finish the interrupted sentence, you’re off the hook. Otherwise, bottoms up! -Stacy

Photo: Taylor Davidson of Narratively
CNNMoney took over the CNN Grill last night for a “Tech on Tap” bash, where we got to escape the press room bunker and hang out with some of our favorite entrepreneurs. We had Facebook, GroupMe, Contently, Automattic, Storyful and scores of others in the house, with DJ Protégé running the soundtrack.
Here’s the night’s best photo: Startup Weekend founder Andrew Hyde and  GoodPenny chief strategy officer Andy Ellwood celebrating … we’re not sure, actually. Maybe the fact that the sun finally came out after the weekend’s much-tweeted-about torrential deluge. -Stacy

Photo: Taylor Davidson of Narratively

CNNMoney took over the CNN Grill last night for a “Tech on Tap” bash, where we got to escape the press room bunker and hang out with some of our favorite entrepreneurs. We had Facebook, GroupMe, Contently, Automattic, Storyful and scores of others in the house, with DJ Protégé running the soundtrack.

Here’s the night’s best photo: Startup Weekend founder Andrew Hyde and  GoodPenny chief strategy officer Andy Ellwood celebrating … we’re not sure, actually. Maybe the fact that the sun finally came out after the weekend’s much-tweeted-about torrential deluge. -Stacy

#StartupRadar pitch session


Photo: CNN’s John Nowak

Our open pitch session netted dozens of very cool startups in a huge variety of fields: payment systems, fun apps and social services, among others. We’ll have writeups on our faves up on the Tumblr by tomorrow. Huge thanks to everyone who came out!

Today’s #StartupRadar: What do top VCs want right now? Come hear from 500 Startups, TechStars & SV Angel. 4pm at the CNN Grill beer garden. -Stacy & Laurie

Live code (+ beer) at SXSW


NYC has many awesome startups, but 10gen — ie MongoDB — gets a special place in my heart for being the geekiest.

It’s an open-source NoSQL database that powers many of the biggest Web 2.0 services, including Foursquare, which has its 1 billion+ check-ins logged in MongoDB software. 4sq has one of the splashiest deployments, but it’s not the biggest. That title might go to Shutterfly, which has some 10 billion records stored. 

At SecondMarket’s #SMAustin series, 10gen’s Nosh Petigara, the company’s chief strategy director, broke out the live code to demo location app building on the fly. Afterward, I chatted with him about the company’s growth: When he joined two years ago, 10gen had six people. Now it’s up to 100 — half in NYC, 40 in the Bay Area, and the rest scattered. And they’re hiring across the board.

Want to learn more about MongoDB? Stop by the company’s weekly open office hours/hack sessions. -Stacy