I recently attended the Miami Startup World pitch competition at Venture Hive. It was well attended and we saw some excellent pitches. I’ll get into the pitches and companies shortly, but first a little pontificating.
I don’t want to downplay the importance of these types of events to the Miami startup community. I think it’s crucial for us to present, see, and support our startups and I want to see them succeed in getting funding, mentoring, and support. It’s also important for them to have every opportunity for funding no matter where the money comes from, but the grand prize in this competition bothers me a bit.
3 month incubation period worth $30,000 at I/O Ventures in San Francisco.
So I visited the Startup World web site to learn more about the mission.
“while most media is currently focusing on Silicon Valley, we want to shine a light on entrepreneurs in emerging markets.”
So, why am I annoyed? Well, the idea of a startup competition meant to spotlight the rest of the startup world outside of Silicon Valley is giving the winner a prize that takes them out of their community, which is the last thing any growing startup community like Miami needs. When you consider that the final winner will be chosen from 20 winners around the world, then the winner is likely to be a rockstar level startup that may never move back to their community once they spend 90 days in the Valley. I would rather see the prize be some level of funding and include remote mentoring from the fantastic advisers that the group has listed on their site (this is the Internet after all). I also think that getting some Silicon Valley Seed Funds to fund a startup in another location has to be a good thing for the remote city and in sync with the mission of Startup World.
All that said, it’s difficult to fault Startup World, when you see the enthusiasm and excitement that founder Hermione Way (she of connected digital vibrator fame) and her team brought to our town and when you understand the core of their mission. They are running around the world on a bootstrapped budget staying with sponsors in each city trying to draw attention to places other than the Valley. They aren’t attempting to move startups out of our community and they obviously are passionate about their mission to spread and reward startup cultures around the world, I’d just like them to see if they can use their connections to provide funding for a startup in one of our accelerators or incubators with SV money that will keep them in the Miami startup community.
The other positive, is that the exposure of 20 startups to VCs in Silicon Valley may peak interest in our booming town and bring much needed later round money to our community. It is a very common refrain from every startup I meet, that finding funding after seed rounds is incredibly difficult. I met with a local startup yesterday, that has completed every startup check list all the way through to significant paying customers and a pipeline worth big money, that can’t close on their next round despite having a kick ass product, a polished pitch, and huge potential for acquisition or amazing growth. More on that in another post, but the bottom line is that anything that draws bigger money our way is a good thing.
This was a well run event and I think it showed our community in an excellent light. Here are some of the pitching companies with a few comments on each in terms of pitch and business model.
Please note, that I left one company out of this list, because their pitch was all talk/no meat in a market I know inside and out. It was the one pitch that made me cringe and rather than cast a completely negative light upon them, I’ve chosen to leave them out.
The Startup World Pitches By Miami Startups
Wedwu is a name your own price wedding service. The concept here is that this is market ripe for innovation and they want to be the priceline of weddings and potentially other events. During their pitch, they claimed to have recently done a funeral. I love targeting this market, but not sure there is enough of a barrier to entry to competitors that already own the wedding space and as the judges brought up, whether they can make it scale. They need to lock down their providers at a more rapid pace, but the overall business concept it solid.
- Priceline for weddings.
- Unbooked time of photographers and other providers allows them to push pricing down.
- No company disrupting the industry ever.
- Clients book before they see the “vetted” vendors.
- Targeting 2nd weddings – Love this, because 2nd weddings are usually less stressful and less elaborate.
- 55% gross margin.
- Pitch – A bit wound up and it can be risky that you may come off a little too blustery and have an impact on your credibility.
- 3% conversion rate
Competitive marketing intelligence company Clearci seems to be building a solid business, but I’m not sure it has the potential for a big blowout market share. Primary target should likely be enterprise class companies, because many companies below that will never consider a concentrated competitive intelligence strategy nor the investment required. I’ve not taken a closer look at the product, but the techniques and tools looked seriously impressive. The ability to detect changes and receive alerts is a more complex offering than I’ve seen and it sounds like they take the time to help clients set this up. I suspect they could find a following greater than enterprise market if they tagged into the Salesforce and other CRM and marketing automation platforms and may want to consider a data integration play in those spaces if they hit a growth ceiling.
Joe Levy founder and CEO
- Monitors sites for competitive info
- Monitors textual changes
- Launched 22 months ago – My partner Richie Chimelis asked whether that counts as a startup.
- 1 million in business
- 70 clients $15,000 per year
- Nice clean pitch.
This is an intriguing model and CEO Amanda Anthony did an excellent job fielding the judges questions and deftly turned one into a business development opportunity with an American Airlines executive. It was obvious that she knew her pitch and her business and she seems to have built a team of market leaders to help her launch and grow her business. Beyond market experts, Anthony’s CTO Kevin Medina of 4 Eyes in Miami Beach is becoming a common face on slides for a number of local startups. That’s likely, because the team has done excellent work for a number of startups in the Miami community, including DoYouRemember.com.
The only real fault I found with this startup pitch, was that while her presentation was direct to the point and covered the critical points, her delivery was a bit monotone and without the energy that she exhibited in the Q & A. This is a common issue I’ve encountered coaching startup pitches, because founders have given their pitch so many times, that it’s become a bit rote and they worry about sounding too excited (as was evidenced by another pitch this night). It’s definitely possible to overcome it.
The model is to create an app for airport retailers and consumer brands to get passengers to spend funds while they are waiting on flights. It’s essentially a daily deals site for airports with the addition of happy hours, dining, etc. and the model looks pretty solid in terms of being able to drive customers to deals, but the real issue for the team is how they will get frequent flyers to install and utilize the app. The team is planning to address this issue, by partnering with retailers for point of purchase displays, providing free wifi to app users, and partnering with airlines and others for white label versions.
- Personal shopping
- Airport experience stinks
- Deals in that airport or next airport
- List of strong partners
I love this product and the market for it, but it’s rapidly becoming a crowded space and could be difficult to penetrate and maintain a leadership position. RawShorts provides templated videos to allow businesses to create explainer videos for their products and services. The fatal flaw in this pitch as pointed out by one of the judges, was not using one of his own videos to explain the service. His pitch otherwise was pretty good, but if you can’t see the product and how it works, then you aren’t likely to get excited about it. I am playing with the product and will provide a review, but here’s sample of what they create from their web site.
They also emphasized using video for advertising and it’s high click through rate and lower cost per click on ad networks and I’d like to see the product templates pointed in that direction as well.
The addition of a marketplace is a must have for this type of model and glad to see they are going in that direction.
- Antonio Otalvaro – Founder
- Cloud based video builder for business
- .12 per view on Adwords
- Ppt workflow
- eBay & Remax are using
- Subscription model
- Hire artists in network
This is an interesting model that has the potential to make life better for a lot of people, but their revenue model was not compelling and I felt like the pitch was not complete in terms of explaining how much the business can make and whether or not it can scale. WeRX provides pricing for prescription medications in a given area, so that if you need to fill a prescription, you can find the cheapest place to do it. They are essentially making money from an affiliate model and tracking via coupon usage. The founders are doctors and he told the story of a patient that died as a result of choosing food over the medications he needed as being the motivation for the product, but I wasn’t sure I was completely buying that. They said they are crowdsourcing drug prices and using existing databases, but with their slim revenue model and the sheer number of pharmacies around the country, I find the entire model less than compelling from a profit perspective. In addition for someone like me that has health insurance and only pays a co-pay, the model isn’t useful, since that co-pay is always the same.
Tabber’s startup pitch was compelling and provides a powerful solution to restaurants for ordering and payment. Their system doesn’t require a complicated setup for smaller restaurants and integrates with the larger POS systems on the market. Essentially it allows restaurant patrons to sit down and pull up the menu on their smartphone, order what they need and then pay their bill without ever having to wait for a waiter to take their order or bring their check. What was compelling was that the restaurants in their test experienced a 24% increase in sales when using the system. I really would have liked to see this product win the contest.
- Ricardo da Ros – CEO
- “Ultimate restaurant experience”
- Browse menu and place order at any time and pay and leave any time
- Translate menu into multiple languages
- 24.5 % higher ticket for 8 restaurants
- 2.5 % transaction fee on each bill
- No contract / no hardware,
- 2 versions
- Impulse purchases
We’ve already covered DoYouRemember.com in the past, but this is a compelling site getting a lot of traffic. What is very interesting though, are some new products coming from them soon, that I’ve seen, but I agreed to not to discuss until they launch. From what I’ve seen, they have a very compelling concept that could take them far beyond their current model.
Gerard Roy of GroupFlix.tv did a great job with their startup deck and they have a business model that I as a consumer would love to see take off. Their problem is that the model requires a level of signup for their service in order for them to be able to acquire the content that people are seeking. The concept makes it easier for people that have already cut the cord with their cable or satellite provider to watch the shows they are missing and love. It is a crowdfunding model for show subscriptions. Consumers find a show they like, commit to the subscription(which at $8 per month per show feels a bit high) and if enough others signup, then they can acquire and stream the show to subscribers. Their problem, as is true for many consumer startups is that they need to gain enough people that need to subscribe in order to have enough funds to acquire the shows from the providers. One of the judges questioned whether enough people have cut the cord in order to make the model viable, but there are folks like me, that have service, but are not subscribing to specific channels, that would like to subscribe. Their other problem is that well established and deep pocketed providers like Apple via iTunes will be seen as an alternative to their model of waiting for enough people to subscribe. I still like the model if they can overcome these issues, but they will have to make a really big splash to make critical mass.
Live Ninja’s pitch while exciting and well done, began by trying to claim that their motivation is to eliminate unemployment. It’s fine to dream big and try to solve the very big problems, but when everyone in the room knows that your startup no matter how successful will not be able to solve that problem, then you can take a bit of a credibility hit in perceptions if you make such a claim. They won the competition, so I guess it didn’t impact them too much, but I think I would try a different angle. The startup did a great job of telling their story, but what I wanted to hear was in all the time the site has been live, how much revenue have they had and how many signups. The concept is pretty simple. Live Ninja is a video platform that connects experts in a given category with those seeking advice or training. Providers sell their time and buyers signup and schedule their appointment. I don’t see a big barrier to entry for competitors and think that someone could build something as a layer on top of Google Hangouts and have the same product they have while having to maintain a large video infrastructure.
I tried the product out as a provider when they first got going and haven’t seen any results from it, but that may be because I didn’t put a lot of effort into promotion or filling out my profile. It seems like Live Ninja is going to need to train their providers on how to gain customers via other methods and not just from their web site.
Live Ninja did a great job with their pitch and the CEO is obviously skilled at presenting and I congratulate them on their win, but since they’ve already raised significant funds, this is primarily a way for them to present to VCs in the Valley. Let’s hope they come back to the Miami Startup world.
As a parent of a 4 year old and a 7 year old, I really love the idea behind this product and it was obvious that Founder Valerie Nahmad Schimel has really thought through this model. It is compelling, well thought out and is being executed in a gradual and meaningful way in order to scale appropriately, but I am (as were some of the judges) a little concerned about her ability to scale it nationally while having enough revenue to support the model.
The ideas is a searchable and screened database of classes and activities for children. Currently the system is South Florida only, but for our family that’s perfect. A quick search on my neighborhood didn’t reveal much that we wanted to take, but that is likely a component of timing and location. I would like to see them fill it out more with free and community activities, to make the product immediately useful to parents that can then later come back and sign up for classes. I’d also recommend a deals section patterned after Living Social for classes to help their clients promote what they offer. Almost all of these programs offer introductory rates anyway.
What was obvious throughout her pitch and the Q&A is that she knows her business and her clients on both sides of the equation very well and has setup the service to become a critical part of the businesses she supports.
- Single place screened classes
- Parents charged
- $6400 per biz per year
- Partner franchise businesses
- No online reg
- 2500 revenue in 6 wks
It really was a high energy event and allowed our community to showcase a great deal of talent. Lets hope winners Live Ninja use the opportunity to help evangelize Miami Startups and the South Florida technology community. We obviously have a lot to offer.