We had yet another full house and successful April Technori Pitch at the Chase Auditorium yesterday evening!
We kicked the evening off with keynote speaker Harry Gottlieb, the Founder of Jellyvision Lab and Jellyvision Games. He presented a demo of the upcoming Facebook video game “You Don’t Know Jack,” which initially started as a CD-ROM game years ago.
Gottlieb went on to talk about the importance of work culture and why entrepreneurs should spend time creating great ones. In reference to his own company, Gottlieb said, “The mission at Jellyvision is to make learning and decision making delightful.” Regarding the culture at Jellyvision Lab, he noted that his team “works really hard to make it a great place to work. Everybody at Jellyvision is the right person for the job.”
Gottlieb ended by emphasizing the following point: “ As you’re growing, you may feel like, ‘We need to hire people right now.’ Don’t choose the wrong person just because you need more people to come on board fast. You need to create a team of the right people. Bringing on the wrong people just creates more work. So hire slowly. Wait to get the right people. Trust your gut.”
After Gottlieb’s inspiring keynote, we heard from the first start-up in the evening’s Pitch lineup: Mineful. The purpose of Mineful is to increase customer retention and sales for online stores and web apps. It seamlessly integrates with other major e-commerce shopping platforms. Users can use Mineful to access purchase and engagement metrics, which are updated in real time.
One of many cool Mineful functions is the ability to trigger sending emails based on user behavior. The company’s email tracking and analytics help businesses understand customer response and optimize marketing efforts.
Mineful CEO Jaime Brugueras says, “The beauty of stats is that a single number can pinpoint a bigger problem.” He also noted that on average, it costs seven times more to keep a customer than to attain a new one. And to put market size and scalability into context, there are about 200k online retailers and a lot more mobile apps, so the audience for Mineful is enormous. Thus, Mineful has the potential to become a critical component in future e-commerce business plans.
Next up was RecSpon. CEO of RecSpon Peter Brown asked the audience, “Are you sick of calling dozens of bars and venues to sponsor your recreational sports team? If so, the solution is ResSpon.”
RecSpon matches recreational teams with bars that offer sponsorships. Why? Because teams need funding and bars want to attract more people into their venues year-round- particularly in off-seasons, like the winter months.
Brown notes, “We aren’t creating a new market. We’re making things easier for a large pre-existing market.” Over 150,000 people play recreational sports in Chicago alone, and over 5 million people play recreational sports nationally.
How does the business scale? Two ways: user acquisition and customer acquisition strategies. The “customers” are the bars – and bars are notoriously hard to work with. Nonetheless, on average, bars in Chicago sponsor 30-50 teams per year. Currently, RecSpon is directly marketing to recreational teams and facilities. If the company can spur mass user acquisition to create momentum, getting buy-in from bars will be a much faster and easier process.
When a student gets an essay back, it’s often covered with the teacher’s comments. Even if they are great comments, the information is passive. The student isn’t expected to do anything with the information. So, that’s where NoRedInk comes in.
The site is a web-based learning platform that helps students improve their grammar and writing skills. As you might recall from your own grade school days, learning grammar isn’t always the most fun exercise. NoRedInk addresses that problem and makes learning grammar fun by generating all practice grammar sentences using references about each student’s favorite celebrities, TV shows, hobbies, and even personal friends – making the lessons far more interesting and engaging.
CEO Jeff Scheur says, “Grammar is often the biggest problem area for students– so that’s what we’re focusing on now.” However, the company plans on expanding the platform to cover other areas of writing education, such as thesis statement development.
Scheur says, “If you can pass the boring test– giving a kid software for 5 minutes and he still doesn’t throw anything at you – then you know you may be onto something.” And it seems that Scheur is. Students are readily using the platform – in the mere eight weeks since launch, students have downloaded over 300,000 questions. Currently, NoRedInk is partnering with over 2,600 schools and has 11,500 users. Based on the success of the tool so far, those numbers are sure to continue growing rapidly.
Next up on stage was Mobcart, a collaborative tool that allows online shoppers to team up with other shoppers who want to buy the same items. Why? So that they can band together to leverage wholesale prices that they would otherwise never get if they purchased those desired products individually. Chief Hacker Jesse Pinho notes, “If you can save a lot of money by buying in bulk with something as small as toilet paper, can you imagine how much you’ll save with more expensive items, like cameras and computers?”
Still in Beta, Mobcart will ultimately work in a fascinating way: when you go to the website, you drag an icon into your bookmarks toolbar. Whenever you are looking at a product page for something you want to purchase online, you simply click on your Mobcart bookmark. It then tells you how many other Mobcart users want that product and what percentage you will save if you purchase it in bulk with your “mob.”
Chief “A-Z Officer” Daniel Salcedo says, “We don’t want to change the way you use the web in order to use Mobcart – we just want you to be able to click a button.” Ultimately, Mobcart exists to empower the shopper, and it’s doing just that- the design is streamlined and unique, which makes using Mobcart remarkably fast and seamless. It will be fascinating to see how this service disrupts the online shopping experience in the future.
We ended the evening with a great pitch from the StyleSeek team. CEO Tyler Spalding said, “Most online shopping sites fail to address two big questions: who are you and what do you want?” StyleSeek is a revolution in the e-commerce space, addressing both of those questions.
Currently, the company is focused specifically on men’s apparel, footwear, and accessories. Using a series of complex algorithms, StyleSeek is taking the $105 billion men’s fashion market by storm. In just a few minutes, the site accumulates an understanding of a user’s personal style based on some of their favorite items. Based on those style preferences, StyleSeek recommends products, reviews, blogs, and brands that would be a good fit for the user.
By combining relevance, context, and trust, this tool is helping guys identify their style preferences. Each user’s data comprises a “style DNA,” and any other StyleSeeker can import another person’s style DNA and view the site the way he would. In essence, it becomes something of a Pinterest board and tailored online shopping tool for men.
Once a rocket scientist (seriously), Spalding decided to build out StyleSeek because he noticed that he was buying virtually everything else online- except clothing. He wanted to create a platform where men could feel confident about choosing and purchasing clothes online. Good thing the StyleSeek team did- all the men in the world are about to be better dressed because of it.