(WMC) - Hundreds of people gathered at the Orpheum Theater Thursday in Downtown Memphis for Start Co. Demo Day.
It's the culmination of 90 days of relentless work and unparalleled dedication. Sixteen new startups in Memphis showcased their products and services to investors, industry executives, and the community at large.
The day also marks the startups' graduation from one of the four Start Co. accelerator programs. The accelerators provide $15,000 in seed funding, over 200 hours of technical and business assistance, connections to dedicated mentors, and access to invaluable resources.
"I'm here today [Thursday] to present my company, Cabsolutely, which is a dispatch system as a service for cab companies and a mobile app for users," said Virag Reti, founder of Cabsolutely.
Reti is a long way from her home in Hungary, but on Thursday Memphis felt like home as she pitched her idea to investors.
"This day is huge. The Orpheum is full of investors, friends, people from the community, and the founders too," Reti said.
Cabsolutely replaces antiquated dispatch software with modern mobile applications that connects travelers with professional cab drivers from multiple companies, and it provides an easy payment solution. Over the summer, Reti got a commitment from Premier Transportation Services (Yellow Cab and Checker Cab) to provide the application to Memphis-based cab drivers upon successful product build out.
Thursday was the first public Demo Day for Start Co. More than 500 people showed up to hear from companies, as well as the keynote speaker, Honorable Edward B. Montgomery. He is the dean of the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University, a professor of economics, and the former chief economist to the White House. He talked about the importance of entrepreneurial activities as key for the future economic success of the country.
He had inspiring words for Maggie Owsley, founder of Play-tag. She took her idea and turned it into a reality, with a smart wearable ID tag for dogs. In three weeks she sold more than 1,000 and got a commitment from Hollywood Feed in Memphis to sell Play-tag in all 50 of its stores.
"I feel like I'm a part of the community. Everyone has been so helpful for my business and also personally just welcoming me in," said Owsley, who moved to Memphis from New York to start her company.
According to CNN Money, Memphis ranks as one of the top 10 cities in the country. Start Co. is a company located in Downtown Memphis, that makes it their job to help get new businesses off the ground.
"We have noticed. I noticed. I'm from San Francisco," said Mara Lewis, program coordinator. "I've been there for about eight years. Memphis was on my radar as the next up and coming city."
So much so that Lewis moved to the Bluff City four months ago to help with programming. She says Memphis offers resources like mentors and large companies willing to help founders build businesses.
Andrew Goei, founder of Troopto, also moved here from San Francisco.
"The start up community, it's like family. Everybody wants to get to know you, everybody wants to get to know you. You just don't get that feeling anywhere else in the world it's fantastic.," said Goei.
Troopto is a group gifting platform for co-workers. It has partnered with HRO Partners, a human resources outsourcing firm, and on-boarded many HR professionals at large corporate offices to beta test. It has 200 early adopters currently signed up on the platform's waiting list.
"To watch everything turn into a reality in a summer. To gain traction, we have users, we have revenue, it's unbelievable. I'm so excited to see where it goes," Goei said.
Start Co. Demo Day, was sponsored by Launch Tennessee, the Downtown Memphis Commission, Softlayer and PayPal, and brought together by more than 500 people involved in the local startup eco-system.
Seed Hatchery cohort (high-growth technology businesses):
• Troopto, a group gifting platform for co-workers, has partnered with HRO Partners, a human resources outsourcing firm , on-boarded many HR professionals at large corporate offices to beta test and has 200 early adopters currently signed up on the platform's waiting list. To learn more, visit www.troopto.com.
• Phase, a mobile app that helps gamers set up gaming events by simplifying the process of picking a game, finding a time and notifying their friends, has released a Minimum Viable Product App (MVP) in the Google Play Store. To learn more, visit www.phase-app.com.
• Pickle, a mobile app that challenges users to guess what the crowd is thinking and gather group opinions for everyday decisions, has tested and launched a campus rep marketing program, on-boarded a six person development team and built a prototype that conducted a month-long beta. To learn more, visit www.trypickle.com.
• Well Done, a point-of-sale (POS) software developer for the restaurant industry, currently has two customers in the Memphis area and has on-boarded two value-added resellers that have signed up their first customers. To learn more, visit www.welldonepos.co.
• ORB, a producer of impact and bullet proof luggage, has on-boarded a prototype partner, filed for a provisional patent and formed a materials partnership. Pre-sales are underway. To learn more, visit www.orbpack.com.
Upstart cohort (women-led technology businesses):
• Play-tag, a smart wearable ID tag and companion app designed to improve the safety and well being of dogs and the people who love them, has over 1,000 active community members and has commitment from Hollywood Feed to offer Play-tag in all 50 of its stores upon roll out. To learn more, visit www.play-tag.com.
• eDivv, an online marketplace for trading unused beauty products, currently has over 4,000 subscribers and has facilitated over 16,000 beauty product trades among an array of 46,000 registered products. They had 1.3 million page views in the past month. To learn more, visit www.edivv.com.
• Barter Sugar, an online bartering community for services and items without spending money, has launched a private beta and has partnered with more than 10 universities and art organizations. To learn more, visit www.bartersugar.com.
• Cabsolutely, replaces antiquated dispatch software with modern mobile applications that connects travelers with professional cab drivers from multiple companies and provides an easy payment solution. They have a commitment from Premier Transportation Services (Yellow Cab and Checker Cab) to provide the application to Memphis-based cab drivers upon successful product build out. To learn more, visit www.cabsolutely.co.
Sparkgap cohort (logistics technology businesses):
• As announced earlier this month, Graph Story, a service that offers fast, secure access to graph databasing using a software-as-a-service model, recently closed its first angel round of $250,000. The company also joined Neo Technology's Neo4j Partner program and launched a private beta with 250 users. To learn more, visit www.graphstory.com.
• Extra Rail, a priceline website for the rail industry, helps rail car owners easily find unused railroad tracks for storage. They have commitments from five railroads to list properties with enough miles of track to store over 1,000 rail cars. To learn more, visit www.extrarail.com.
Sky High cohort (social innovation enterprises):
• CoreFire, an extracurricular program built on the foundation of experiential entertainment, in which students train to become members of a superhero team, has had 20,000 students participate in its programs in the last year. To learn more, visit www.corefire.net.
• The College Initiative, a nonprofit providing college-capable, low-income students with the tools and mentorship they need to successfully apply to and succeed in college, is expanding its program from 150 students to 500 students in the Mid-South this year, with eight high schools participating in Memphis alone. To learn more, visit www.thecollegeinitiative.org.
• FuelFilm, a nonprofit organization providing filmmakers with the resources and mentorship they need to tell their stories in innovative and profitable ways, has raised more than $40,000 in outside funding. Additionally, Fuel Film has supported the creation of 26 short films and five features, run more than 35 workshops, panels and events and is the first filmmaker resource center in the Southeast. They are rolling out the second film accelerator in the United States next year. To learn more, visit www.fuelfilm.org.
• Care2Manage, a care coordination platform for families with an aging loved one. The service connects families to social workers, local elder care resources and organizes total healthcare needs, has raised $30,000 in cash to build out its platform and has paying customers. To learn more, visit www.care2manage.org.
Start Co.'s accelerator programs have been internationally recognized by the Global Accelerator Network, and are unique because they run all four simultaneously allowing for interactions with teams outside of their specific discipline.
Demo Day is only the start of the journey for graduating startups in the accelerators.
Start Co. will also be holding special office hours at the Memphis Public Library on Sept. 26 regarding customer discovery and Oct. 29 on social innovation.
If you would like more information about Start Co., click here: http://neverstop.co/.