Women startup founders were representing during last week’s Launch Festival 2013, held in San Francisco.
Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the Launch Festival 2013. Startups from around the world apply to give five minute pitches before a panel of prominent technology and venture capital names. Companies that don’t make the cut can join the Demo Pit, showing their wares to the 5,000+ attendees and hoping to catch the eye of one of the Grand Jury members for a chance at a two-minute pitch at the end of each of the three days. Breaking up the pitch sessions are fireside chats with startup notables (Evan Williams of Twitter was the chat on day two) and, this year, a fantastic Diversity in Tech panel on day one (that’ll be a topic for another post, though).
Jason Calacanis, the founder of Launch Festival, made a big effort this year to entreat more women to participate and that was definitely evident. While the first day was disappointingly void of female founders (other than the women on the Diversity in Tech panel), the second and third day saw more women on stage, both pitching and judging. In the audience, the representation was also stepped up a notch from a typical tech conference. I was supremely inspired, not only by the women on stage and in the Demo Pit, but also by the fellow attendees that I shared great conversations with during my three days there. Here are my picks for the best Launch 2013 startups from female founders.
(Notes: many of the companies mentioned may still be in a limited beta or in limited location availability. Check the individual websites for availability or to sign up for notification on their release. All companies are listed in alphabetical order.)
[fancy_header variation="purple"]Launched On Stage: [/fancy_header]
Addicaid - You could literally hear a pin drop in the room as the audience sat at attention when founder Sam Frons began her presentation with, “Hi, my name is Sam and I’m an alcoholic.” A mobile app designed to help recovering addicts find the right support meeting for them and connect with other recovering addicts got unanimous support from the judging panel and considerable buzz in the audience. The promise of Addicaid was rewarded with the Diamond in the Rough Award
Trendalytics - Co-founder Karen Moon presented the pitch for Trendalytics, a service focused on the fashion industry. They provide analysis of past and future trends in the apparel industry, as well as buzz around individual designers, to assist merchandise buyers in purchasing decisions. While the look of the site needs work, the idea and the data they are gathering show promise.
TripTease – While co-founder Sarah Miller wasn’t present, the pitch for TripTease was still impressive. Promising a more attractive way to write and view reviews for travel, TripTease certainly delivered on the beautiful promise, securing the award for Best Design 1.0. As soon as I catch up on all the writing I’m backlogged on, I’ll be digging out my vacation pictures and reviewing everything I can.
uBooly - A stuffed animal cover and software for your old iPhone or iPad that turns the old device into a learning buddy for your kids, uBooly was originally launched last year. This year, co-founder Carly Gloge presented uBooly Labs, a way of keeping tabs on your child’s progress and suggesting additional packs that your child might enjoy based on their interactions. Seriously, if I didn’t think that my in-laws wouldn’t appreciate it teaching their English daughter in an American accent, I would have snapped one up for my niece right then and there.
[fancy_header variation="purple"]Demo Pit:[/fancy_header]
Better Donate Button from Social Good Network – I got to speak with Chief Innovator & co-founder Antonia Chappell and see her demonstrate the Social Good Network’s Better Donate Button. Designed for non-profits, the button lives in a bar at the top of the organization’s website. On hovering over it, your visitor sees an appeal video and has the option to enter into a very simple, quick donation process, sealing the emotional commitment with a video thank you post-donation. The button is already helping organizations see increased donation rates.
Froomz - Do you have a group that meets every so often and trouble finding a place to do it in? Froomz, from cofounder and CEO Yan Heim, seeks to solve that problem. An AirBnB for meeting spaces, Froomz is great for meeting organizers, but also for building managers with event spaces. It’s a great way to fill up those rooms on dark nights if you don’t have an established rental procedure already. I’m thinking theatres can really use this to generate extra money on dark nights.
Good Night Lamp - Founder Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino brings us the Good Night Lamp, interconnected lamps that look like tiny houses. A kickstarted project, when one person comes home and turns the big lamp on, the little lamp turns on wherever in the world it is, letting the loved one know that the other is home, safe, and thinking of them. It’s an adorable (if somewhat niche) idea and the product looks excellent.
Nomiku - Co-founder & CEO Lisa Q. Fetterman was on hand in the Demo Pit giving demonstrations of the Nomiku, a Kickstarted product that makes sous vide cooking easy and accessible.
Pigeon.ly - Founded by Sabaina Bukhari, Pigeon.ly was on hand to promote two of their products focused on the institutional market: Telepigeon, lowering the often high long distance cost of institutional phone calls, and Infopigeon, providing inmates with real time answers to questions through email correspondence. A niche market, for sure, but it provides an interesting service.
Playtell - CEO and cofounder Semira Rahemtulla brings us one of the products I was most excited about at Launch2013. Playtell is an iPad app which allows you to read along and play games with your young relatives through video chat. Boxes at the top show both sides of the video, pages move on both devices at the same time, and games are interactive. Knowing how much my niece loves the recordable books we make for her, this seems the next logical step for that technology and I can’t wait to use it.
Rock Your Block - Want a safe and easy way to get your teenager out of the house and making some money around the neighborhood? Rock Your Block, from founder Sarah Young, is the answer. Imagine if every teen had the organizational abilities and tenacity of Kristy from The Babysitter’s Club series and you’ve got Rock Your Block.
Spill - Founders Heidi Allstop and Michelle Lee developed Spill, bringing advice into the 21st Century by creating an anonymous, peer-to-peer advice network. The look of the site is great and so far the content is top notch.
Timbuktu - Creating iPad magazines for children and interactive ebooks (currently available in iTunes), founder and CEO Elena Favilli and co-founder and Creative Director Francesca Cavallo have made a clever, beautifully designed, engaging set of apps for kids from around ages 5 and up (or younger with grown-up assistance).
uGrokIt - uGrokIt was back for a second year at Launch with a pivot. Last year, they introduced personal, portable RFID technology. This year, their focus was on selling to distributors, who they found were wanting this technology and willing to buy it now. Cofounder and CEO Carrie Requist made it to the stage from the Demo Pit both years, giving a polished 2-minute quick pitch, and receiving great feedback from the judges. Launch Founder Jason Calacanis personally expressed his admiration for her tenacity and his feeling that she will keep coming back, year after year, until she’s got a smash hit product.
[fancy_header variation="purple"]Not yet launched/Awesome women I happened to meet[/fancy_header]
As a startup conference, Launch attracts many founders and potential founders other than the ones participating onstage or in the Demo Pit. While I’m sure there are another article’s worth of people I didn’t get around to meeting during the three days, here are some picks for not-quite-yet launched companies to keep an eye on. Also, all of these women are just great people and I can’t wait to see them succeed.
Kiinzel – Founder & CEO Marlina Kinnersley wants to solve the problem of finding reputable, local people to buy and sell with. Craigslist is so impersonal and spammy. With Kiinzel, you snap a photo, add a description and selling details, and wait for the responses to come in. Kiinzel is starting in Toronto and will branch out from there, but you can sign up on their website to request early access.
StyleShack – Rachel Prinstein is working on StyleShack, which brings fashion recommendations to the next level. I don’t want to give too much away, but from what Rachel tells me, this is going to be something that every stylish woman and local boutique shop wants to get in on. StyleShack looks at launching in Detroit first, but is interested to hear from potential local fashion correspondents for when it expands.
BeMoRe – One thing that’s inspired me above all at Launch is the amount of women who see a need, have and idea, and just go for it. It’s incredibly brave and amazing and Renee Berry of BeMoRe is the consumate example of that. Rather than just creating another social media agency, Renee and the BeMoRe team focus on helping companies build social competencies from within. Full Disclosure: I had a meeting with them to discuss possibly joining the team, but I’d be telling you about their amazingness even if I hadn’t.
Dear Martini – Chefs Mia Chambers and Terri Dien are developing something amazing to turn home cooks into super chefs. Until then, you can follow their advice and adventures on their blog. And come on, their latest post (as I write this) is for Drunken Grapefruit. You know you want to check that out.
Full Disclosure: I received a free conference pass thanks to a sponsorship from The Founders Club.