If you missed the bus on yesterday’s sold-out Technori Pitch, it was one of the biggest nights to date, packed with six pitches and a Keynote from one of the most innovative tech-trepreneurs of all time.
As the evening commenced, anticipation and excitement filled the room. By the end of the event, the buzz that filled the room was trumped only by a sugar buzz, as Kula provided free cupcakes as a part of their live pitch demo.
Kicking off the evening was Keynote Speaker and Siri Co-Founder, Dag Kittlaus. As a Chicago native, he announced his permanent return to join the Windy City’s thriving tech scene. “Seven years ago, this (Chicago tech community) didn’t exist,” said Kittlaus. “We now have some of the most world-class institutions for tech. I’m glad to be back, and to be a part of it.”
Kittlaus humorously shared his experiences of working alongside Steve Jobs and the Apple team. “Let’s just say that Jobs was everything people said he was. The stories are all true. All of them.” Kittlaus also noted that originally, Jobs was not crazy about the name Siri- which means “beautiful woman who leads you to victory” in Norwegian. But, Jobs could not think of a better name, so the original eventually won.
Transitioning to the future, Kittlaus provided insight into what he sees as the future of Artificial Intelligence (AI). “We’re experiencing the Law of Accelerated Returns. Technology is becoming twice as powerful every year,” said Kittlaus. “I predict that in the next several decades, we will see 20,000 years’ worth of technological advancement. Siri is only scratching the surface.”
Closing out his speech, he gave a final word of advice for fellow tech-trepreneurs: “Most tech companies don’t fail because of a lack of delivering on their promise. They fail because society isn’t where it thought it would be. As Wayne Gretzky said, ‘You have to skate to where the puck is going to be.’”
The first company to pitch was Zealous Good, a donation matchmaking platform designed to help “your goods to do great.” As a former staffer at United Way, Zealous Good Founder Brittany Graunke saw inefficiencies in the ways non-profits handled “in-kind gifts.” She noticed a growing number of people who wanted to donate their unused items to charities in need.
Enter: Zealous Good.
An “eHarmony for charities”, Zealous Good has connected over 400 donated items valued in excess of $150,000 to 50 local charities – a number that is rapidly growing. “The average household has over $7,000 worth of unused items, and we think there is a lot of room to help people’s goods do great.”
The platform allows donors to submit their household items – from paint and computers, to clothes and office furniture –for which local charities submit their goods requests. The donor chooses the charity they would like their items to go to, and charities have a platform to request in-kind gifts that would benefit them the most.
A web-based love calendar designed for committed couples, Lovendar helps couples organize their love lives through online reminders, romantic ideas and galleries to store their relationship memories.
“Romance slips away once we have kids. And most relationships fail because of a lack of consistent effort,” says the Founder of Lovendar, Ellona Ferson.
Originally started as an Outlook Calendar plug-in, Lovendar grew to become much more than a romantic calendar reminder. “I wanted to create a place where committed couples could share their romantic ideas and store all of their special relationship memories,” says Ferson.
Entering the e-dating space with big players like eHarmony, Match.com and Zoosk, Lovendar differentiates itself by focusing on couples that are already in committed long-term relationships. “Our competitors lose customers as soon as they enter into committed relationships. And that is where we step in.”
Lovendar also partners with other service companies like Chicago-based Sittercity to provide seamless resources to help committed couples keep the spark in their romance. One lucky attendee even took home a Lovendar Box, compliments of Lovendar.
Zipfit.me helps you find the clothes that will fit you best. The company is currently using predictive algorithms to “match your butt with jeans,” starting with men’s denim. New zipfit.me users take a short “fit finder” survey and, like magic, the best jeans for your body display on a search results page.
Liz Kammel, Founder and CEO of Zipfit.me, wants the company to eventually become the Pandora of all clothing. Currently, the business is a unique combination of math and art. The technical team mathematically optimizes your fit and jean recommendations, while Zipfit.me “fashionistas” are on call to share their opinions and help customers sync fit with style.
Cool company alert: they also give away a six-pack of beer to one of their customers each week!
Kula is the world’s first social market – an app that allows you to buy, sell, and share with trust. Kula Co-Founder Karthik Chandramouli says, “Commerce has always been personal and tribal. You’ve heard about B2B and B2C, but what comes after that? Peer-to-peer commerce.”
The Kula app is exactly that – a platform for peer-to-peer commerce. Powered by Foursquare and Dwolla, this app allows you to do just about anything – from buying a spot from someone else at the front of a long line or selling your reservation at a popular new restaurant, to sharing advice or finding last-minute concert tickets. And, unlike Zaarly, the Kula app is tied to specific places rather than approximate distance.
In celebration of its official iPhone app release in March, Kula is donating $5,000 to a Chicago-based charity. Check them out on Facebook to vote for your favorite local non-profit organization.
Kula’s founding team consists of Karthik Chandramouli and Rama Jager.
OurLabel Co-founder Asaf Elani notes, “The recording industry is in disarray. Due to declining sales in physical media, people feel that record labels really aren’t necessary anymore.” OurLabel.com, a fan-driven record label, seeks to prove that notion wrong.
The site puts the future of music into the hands of fans that want to discover, support, and promote emerging artists. “We want to empower music fans by giving them a say in what kind of music is created in the future,” says Elani.
Beyond having fun with music discovery and promotion, fans are further incentivized; OurLabel gives a 25% cut of the sales and licensing of the recordings to top promoters of the project in the form of points, which can be redeemed for free music downloads, merchandise, and concert tickets.
The Founders of OurLabel are Asaf Elani and Brandon Robins.
StageBloc is a new platform built to “create and share the digital you.” The company provides users with a focused and flexible way to create, share, and manage your brand online from a central location.
StageBloc founder Tom Giles says, “StageBloc is built for anyone who creates content online and wants to take control of his or her digital brand.”
Users can integrate everything from their social media profiles to personal blogs and websites into their StageBloc profiles.
When asked what prompted the company’s recent move from Milwaukee to Chicago, Giles noted, “The tech community in Chicago has so much energy. The Midwest is a great place to start a tech company. Why move out to the coasts? There are so many reasons to stay a build a company right here.”
We couldn’t agree more.