by Matylda Czarnecka
There’s been a lot of conversation lately about diversity (or lack thereof) in tech, both among employees of large companies and in early startup teams. And while talking about it is an important step in inspiring change, Internet Week visited one accelerator demonstrating the kind of diversity many aspire to achieve.
The StartFast Venture Accelerator in Syracuse, NY is now in its third year. (This author serves as a mentor there.) Alumni include SwipeToSpin, which recently raised a seed round, and Calester, acquired by Toronto-based Dossiya.
This year’s cohort was comprised of six teams, half of which have female founders.
“Diversity and gender balance are important to StartFast,” said the accelerator’s Co-Founder and Managing Director, Chuck Stormon. “This year, we’re proud to have invested in an equal number of women and men CEOs. We’re committed to continuing leading in this regard.”
Meet this year’s companies:
Elevator pitch: Instamour allows you to create real relationships via video profiles, live video chat, virtual phone calls, and instant messaging without giving away your personal information.
Co-Founder and CEO: Jason Sherman. Has more than a decade of dating experience, and was frustrated by lack of in-person chemistry after extensive messaging on other sites and believes computer algorithms are really bad at matching humans.
— 1.25 billion singles worldwide, 15% of whom are using dating sites.
— User growth: 10k in June, 40k in July, 80k in August, currently over 100k.
— User acquisitions cost down to 9 cents per user.
Elevator pitch: Platypus TV is a social platform that time-stamps conversations to television episodes, allowing for a shared experience no matter the time.
Co-Founder and CEO: Nomi Foster. Favorite family memories involve enjoying watching TV shows together, but now the family is scattered across time zones. Now they use Platypus TV to bring the living room atmosphere to their phones, receiving family members’ comments in real time as they watch shows independently.
3 user groups:
“Old is New” — love content and analysis
“Premiere” — Make it a point to be first to see it. Platypus offers commentary from actors and writers for select shows
“Interactors” — Like to connect with each other, but time-shifted media makes it harder
Gives advertisers a new way to engage with viewers of shows like Game of Thrones and House of Cards, where they can’t place ads.
Elevator pitch: Wyzerr is a communication platform that helps businesses target, engage, and better understand their customers. We help customers communicate feedback directly to the business at point-of-sale.
Founder and CEO: Natasia Malaihollo. Learned only 4 our of 10k customers complete feedback surveys and wanted to create a way to ping a customer while they are still in the store and give them a way to offer real-time feedback in a fun way.
A visually-focused user experience allows the survey Subway uses, which usually takes 5 minutes, to be completed in only 30 seconds. Initially targeting millenial customers.
Elevator pitch: Zursh is a research engine connecting enterprise requests with researchers. For professionals, Zursh minimizes the time, cost and complexity of getting quality, hard-to-find data.
Founder and CEO: Simon Dusable. Having been on both sides of the table needing research and later working as a research analyst, Simon saw the need for a platform connecting the two.
— Business research is complex labor intensive and generic.
— “Priceline for Research” model allows researchers to bid on asks. The average request is $500.
— Research results can be shared publicly or restricted.
Elevator pitch: Mass Mosaic is a website of wants and haves. You can exchange anything with anyone.
Founder and CEO: Rob Jameson. Creating an on-demand sharing economy for everything to create a “world of plenty.” Exchange options include: Borrow, sell, rent, gift, open, reuse, make and share.
— Unlocks the “hidden value” of things we already have, whether those are items in the garage, skills or services.
— Surfaces abundance and allows groups to combine exchanges
— Already in use by community groups, universities and a building complex.
Elevator pitch: Interface Foundry lets you browse and build personalized data bubbles.
Founder and CEO: Rachel Law. Making technology ‘magic’ by creating geo-located data bubbles that give you the information you need where you need it.
— Launched in 10 cities worldwide with 21k users; 6 of 10 of them return.
— Data bubbles give you data without infringing on yours
— In the 1990s, search engines ate the world. In the 2000s, apps ate the world. The world is ready for a change again.
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