Cities around the world try an array of economic development strategies at mega-conferences like SXSW, Austin’s annual corporate-powered World’s Fair.
Mostly those strategies come down to one of three goals: visit us, hire our residents or do business with our existing employers.
Of late, economic development groups make a great show of their earliest-stage companies, seeding the growth of their future employers. This year, the #WeDC house, a takeover of Austin’s Bangers Sausage House on Rainey Street, featured a pre-happy hour tech showcase for just that reason.
For several hours, conference attendees toured a dozen stations inside a beer hall, clutching coffees and trading business cards. At the conclusion, the dozen company founders were gathered for a group photo, where Kevin Morgan, WDCEP’s tech liaison and among the organizers, thanked them for “being among the best of the best of D.C.”
All with fewer than 10 employees, and a couple at or before launch, the companies are among the next wave of D.C. startups. Techincal.ly DC caught up with the founders to hear the latest from what the District’s economic development organization wanted to show off.
Backed by a slate of local investors (including Tim Chi, the Wedding Wire and Blackboard cofounder), the chatbot company is expanding beyond its origins in driving nonprofit donations, said founder and CTO Hellmut Adolphs. The team of eight works out of 21st and I and are going from “software for good” into an expansion of verticals with their AI-powered tool, including higher education and healthcare. Interestingly, Adolphs noted that they’re adding managed services contracts with clients that want dedicated support on the product. (We last saw Intellei pitching at TechBUZZ in the fall.)
Fresh off a $750,000 injection from Mastercard, the social good startup that facilitates donations from hashtags is using SXSW as an opportunity to get in front of as many people as possible. It’s a true global audience, said CEO Dale Nirvani Pfeifer, flashing her Kiwi accent. She noted the “networking is off the charts,” and praised the structured opportunities the #WeDC initiative offers her.
Find our past coverage of the company here.
A rare back-to-back Technical.ly realLIST honoree, the foot-traffic analytics firm may have just found a powerful new use case. Focused first on retail clients, the company installed its devices and software to track movement of people inside the #WeDC house itself, said Paul-Julien Burg, the startup’s friendly and wild-haired business development manager. “We can now build a density map to understand what room was most popular, do we need a venue this large and, generally was it as successful as we had hoped,” he said, adding that they’ve found interest from conference organizers for these “hardcore analytics.”
Eighteen months after launching, cofounder and Chief Product Officer Brandon Andrews says they’re riding high on their #NoMoreBadAds campaign. The mobile market research program facilitates consumer feedback, by matching its clients with responses from users of its mobile app. Andrews was joined by Al Dunn.
Targeting a launch late summer, cofounder and COO Yemariam Mamo was on-hand to show off her concept for “Shazam for hair care.” Mamo, an American University alumnae, and her cofounder Kymberlee Hill, a Howard University student in the CEO role, are using computer vision in a mobile app to solve a new problem: with the explosion of the natural hair movement, there’s a need for a platform to match consumers with products. Mamo said they’re targeting an affiliate business model at launch.
Begun in 2015 and with a product launch in 2017, the platform for managing amateur sports leagues is nearing completion of a partnership with D.C.’s Department of Parks and Rec, said founder David Gibson Jr. They primarily sell annual clients, though monthly payment is possible, he said. Their bread and butter comes with youth sports, camps and annualized tournaments, offering rankings, roster management, payment facilitation and the like.
Since we last saw Cofounder and CEO Kimberly Moore pitch at the Vinetta Project showcase last summer, she’s rolled out a feature that allows families to organize trips on Atlanta mass transit system MARTA, a feature coming to the Metro North line between Connecticut and New York and planned for D.C., and expanded elsewhere. The “end to end planning platform for situations in which trust is the currency” has goals nobler than after-school trips, noted Moore. She piloted “Go Together To Vote,” which will grow this fall en route to becoming a major program for the 2020 presidential election.
Starting in the DMV, Maternie is building a marketplace where parents and guardians can choose daycare and preschool options for their children. This month, they’ll launch proprietary, government-informed ratings in Virginia and Maryland, a feature they already have for D.C. facilities, said CEO and cofounder Meghan McCarthy, a veteran of Morning Consult.
Launched Monday morning, BravoScore is a live music and arts discovery platform prioritizing social validation. Cofounders Chase Maggiano and Kevin Hawkins started with a focus on “the live music capital of Austin and D.C., the densest arts city in the country.” They plan to continue to roll out listings, helping you find performances your friends like too.
Brian Park, formerly Startup Grind‘s global COO, is at SXSW because, as he put it: “Everybody here has an opinion about blockchain and I want to hear them.” Park, who is an angel investor in Intellei, has renamed his cybersecurity-focused accelerator from its former Fishbowl Labs brand. He says he’s continuing on this thesis that D.C. is the natural home for something that will center on security, internet and social impact. He has investment news looming (More on that shortly).