As dozens ofTeslas bakedin the sprawling Palo Alto parking lot of a local law firm yesterday, 100 top investors packed into a high-ceilinged meeting room. There, they listened as13 startups deliverfour-minute presentations about why theyre worth watching.
The companies all of them roughly six months old or younger, and allled by current college students or recent graduates were part of the Launchpadprogram of three-year-oldPear,an early-stage venture firm thatannually invitescomputer science students from top schoolsto build companies in their office with a $50,000 uncapped note and no strings attached. (Until recently, the firm was known as Pejman Mar Ventures.)
So far, Pearseems to be choosing these student teams wisely.Out of the eight groupsthat presented a year ago, one startup sold to Google and four others have raised seed funding. Pearsinaugural class, in 2014, also saw one startup, FancyThat,sell to Palantir.
Certainly, theventure capitalists gathered yesterday seemed enthusiastic. Ross Fubini, a partner at Canaan Partners, tweeted partway through the presentations that it was looking likethebest demo event of the year. Another investor, Lux Capital partnerShahin Farshchi, told us afterward that he also thought itwas fantastic, with something for everybody, including consumer companies, analytics and AI companies, and deep tech for investors like me.
For those who werent there and may be curious, heres what you missed:
Allocate.ai:This company makes AI-powered time sheets to enable companies to better understand how and where their teams are spending time. According to the founders (who come from Stanford and UC Santa Barbara),45 million people fill out time sheets in the U.S., and theyestimate that this adds up to $11 billion in lost time. (Think of lawyers whose time is valuable and may spend upwards of 15 minutes a day tracking their billable hours.) They arguethat made more efficient, the market could be a whole lot bigger, too. If you agreeand want to reach out to them,you can do that firstname.lastname@example.org.
BlackSMS: Its tech allows users to send encrypted, password-protected, self-destructing iMessages that can even be disguised and masked inside of fake replacement texts.This struck us as useful for a variety of cases,and we hope were right about that. Its 20-year-old founder, Tyler Weitzmanwho says he hasbuilt 30 apps since his middle school days is now dropping out of Stanford to go all in on BlackSMS.
To learn more, you can check out a longer piece that TCwrotehere earlier this year. To contact Weitzman, you can email him at email@example.com.
Capella Space: This data company says it can provide persistent and reliable information from space through aconstellation of shoebox-sizesatellites thatitsbuilding. How do they differ from the satellites of other startups? Its tech relies on synthetic aperture radar, meaning it sends radio waves down to the earths surface thatbased on the reflection of the radio waves that go through the clouds and dont require illumination from the suncan capture images at night and despite heavy cloud cover. (Many other new constellations rely on optical technologies instead.)
Capelladoes have competitors, including Ursa Space Systems.Ursacurrently sells information to customers based on traditional (read big, bulky) satellites that employ synthetic aperture radar, and its planning to develop its own constellation of satellites. But its pretty much an open race at this point. You can reach the founders at firstname.lastname@example.org.
DeepLIFT Technologies: This company has developed a set of algorithms that it says can understand and explain any deep learning process by looking at inputs, identifying recurring patterns and other stuff.
Why bother drilling into why machine learning processes work like they do? For one thing, regulators are starting to push backagainst black box technologies. Most notably,the EU recentlyintroduced a provision to pass legislation that guarantees EU citizens a right to explanation when machine learning models are used to make decisions that impact them.
The founders say the company is not raising money. (Were not sure we believe this.) They also saytheir tech, currently in use across eight genomic labs in the U.S., has already attracted substantial interest fromAlphabet, including from Googlesmobile development team and Alphabetslife sciences subsidiaryVerily.You can reach email@example.com.
Hotline: This startup is a messaging-based platform that lets fans connect with celebrities directly. Right now, it uses Facebook Messenger, SMS and Kik to enable communication via a single thread, and theidea is tobring Twitter-like interactions to messaging. For example, afan ofrunnerUsain Bolt could presumably interact with Bolt one minute and swimmer Michael Phelps the next, all without changing platforms or opening another dialog box.
The founders haveimpressive backgrounds Harvard, Amazon, McKinsey but well admit to being underwhelmed by this one. For what its worth, we didnt think much of Snapchat early on, either. You can email the founders at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kofa: This startups tech vows to supercharge analysts everywhere. The pitch:analysts become consumedwith trying to understand predictive modeling, geospatial analytics and a bunch of other stuff that may not be central to their role with a company. Kofa says that itsgiving them reusable point-and-click tools to solve part of this problem. Its technology also allows analysts to build atop each others work.
We dont know how unique this is, but Kofas founders previously founded FancyThat. They stayed on with Palantir(which, as mentioned above, acquired the company), but they left a little earlier this year to strike out on their own again. So farso good, seemingly. They say theyvealready raised some pre-seed funding and areclosing a six-figure deal with a customer as you read this.
Its not clear how big the team is. We do know that founderAllan Jiang is currently studying computer science at Stanford and is set to graduate in 2018. You can track him down email@example.com.
Nova: This company istrying to help immigrants access loans from U.S. companies, which can be hard to do, if not impossible, as theres no easy way for U.S. lenders to get immigrantscredit history data. Novas solution? To connect lenders to global credit bureaus all over the world. An immigrant applies for a loan from an institution that Nova has partnered with, and via an API integration, the lender which pays Nova $30 for every file it pulls uses that information to make a decision. Voila.
The company launched two months ago and has already partnered with three lending institutions. You can find the founders, all from Stanford, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Pluto: This startup is aSaaS platform that aims to help retailersleverage messaging apps as a new channelto acquire customers. Now brands like Tori Burch no longer have to rely on email promotions and ad targeting alone; with Plutos tech, they can remind customers while theyre in Facebook Messenger about that color-blocked pea coat that they might have put in their online shopping cart and not purchased. Not that weve ever done that.
You can find the founders at email@example.com.
Script: Take a photo, turn it into an online sticker and send it without leaving your messaging app. Or access yourfriends and other communities creations, and send their stickers without leaving the conversation.
Like Hotline, this company sounds to us like less of a company and more of a feature, but featuresget acquired, and plenty of people seem to get this one.According to Scripts team of founders (all from Stanford), the thousands of users whove been introduced to theservice over the past four months have already created 3.2 million stickers. For what its worth, CEO Katia Ameri also spent two years as a venture associate with Pear before starting the company.
Ameri and her co-founders can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Synocate: This startup is building a marketplace for college admissions and career advice, starting with anessay editing tool that invites high school students tosubmit their admissions essays and, for $49 per essay, get feedback from students at the colleges theyare going to attend.
We didnt hear anything terribly new here; there are lots of startupscatering to ambitious high school students and their parents.Then again, its a huge marketandno one hasa lock on it. You can find the founders at email@example.com.
xSeer: This company, founded by a team of PhDs from Carnegie Mellon and elsewhere, makes sophisticatedvisual analytics software that they say can ingest billions of data points and intuitively create visualizations at massive scale, making it a lot easier for customers like insurance companies, for example, to see which pockets of people they arent targeting and should be.
If you want to track down thefounders to learn more (they also have a pretty neat demo they can show you), you can find them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Viz: We thought this company was among the mostinteresting of the bunch. (Farshchi thought so, too.) In a nutshell, its applying deep learning to ultrasounds, which typically require either a radiologist or other technicians expertise, which can translate into a long wait for anxious patients. More specifically, its software compares ultrasoundswith millions of other images and videos (more results than a radiologistcould see in his or her lifetime), thereby empowering primary care physicians to interpret the images and quickly take action.
This is a hot space. EntrepreneurJonathan RothbergtoldTechnology Review a couple of years ago that he has raised$100 million to create a new kind of ultrasound imaging systemthats nearly as cheap as a stethoscope and will make doctors 100 times as effective.Viz, which is focusing on the hip initially, hopesits software canenable existing machines to do the work instead.
To reach the founders, write to email@example.com.