The second Plug and Play San Diego pitch competition lived up to the success of its predecessor, with seven of the 15 startups that pitched each earning $25,000 in funding as well as a valuable spot at Plug and Play’s StartupCamp in Sunnyvale.
The contest took place Tuesday in downtown San Diego’s Co-Merge, with no limit on the number of companies that could win the coveted prize. In addition to the upfront funding, Plug and Play provides the entrepreneurs warm introductions and access to over 200 venture capitalists, 250 corporations looking for innovation, angel investors and seasoned entrepreneurs. To date, the funding and incubator’s portfolio companies have raised about $1.8 billion, with $300 million raised and 12 exits in 2013 alone.
In addition to Plug and Play founder Saeed Amidi and Alireza Masrour, the incubator’s managing partner, the 13-judge panel reads like a who’s who of the San Diego startup scene:
Kelly Abbott, managing director of Livefyre; Mike Alfred, co-founder of Brightscope; Barbara Bry, founder of ProFlowers and COO of Blackbird Ventures; Ruprecht von Buttlar, vice president of business creation and development for Connect; Rory Moore, CEO of CommNexus; Eric Otterson, senior vice president of business development at Cooley, LLP; Lada Rasachova, managing director of the Rady Venture Fund; Alex Roudi, chairman of Interwest Capital and a Plug and Play San Diego founder; Bernie Schroeder, director of the Lavin Entrepreneurship Center at San Diego State University; Navrina Singh, director of product management at Qualcomm Labs; and Mitch Thrower, founder of BUMP Network.
Each of the startups had three minutes to show their wares, followed by a two-minute question-and-answer period with the judges. As opening speaker Councilman Mark Kersey said, the goal of this partnership and opportunity is for the San Diego startups to head north for advice, investment and connections, but return to run their companies here.
That was the case with the first round of companies selected through the collaboration. Of the six companies that won spots for the past StartupCamp that culminated in a Sept. 12 pitch day, all returned to San Diego to continue their work.
Tuesday’s winners will head to Sunnyvale in January.
Here is a brief recap of each selected company’s pitch:
Polyceed: This startup has created the next generation of high-tech Smart Material, which doesn’t require voltage to control changes to a glass or plastic base. Using a two-layer conductive polymer spray, Polyceed can change the properties of the material simply through touch, removing the voltage requirement. The first planned use is for architecture, though the company plans to expand to transportation, packaging and other sectors.
Posiba: A big data analytics platform for nonprofits and charitable foundations, Posiba allows this sector to see the results of their donations and investments, a task that is either not done at all or calculated through a costly and often ineffective homegrown solution. This “Social Sector Bloomberg” will charge on a sliding scale fee system that won’t be burdensome for smaller firms, and also allow nonprofits and those seeking funding to see which companies and foundations are funding projects similar to theirs.
REEL Qualified: This video analytics platform will help connect businesses to their best customers, allowing for improved acquisition rates and faster revenue generation through real-time conversations with prospective customers. Customers want to learn about products through videos on any platform, and this service allows businesses to do this in a targeted and efficient manner.
Stretchr: The Stretchr team created software for developers that takes the pain points away from big data application development. An API layer allows developers to not worry about knowing the intricacies of the backend or integrating with the database, and the product also allows the developer to customize and modify each app without re-creating the backend. Stretch also has an artificial intelligence engine that monitors data flow between the app and the database, and learns when to create indexes and caches, for example.
Zenhavior: This smartphone-based telematics solution to a lack of knowledge about driving will benefit both drivers and insurance companies. Myriad factors combine to let the application know when you are driving your car, and generates data on your driving habits. This data can be given to insurance companies for safe-driving discounts, but in the future could be used for parental monitoring and maintenance programs. The system doesn’t drain phone battery and requires no hardware installation in either the phone or the car.
Intentive Communications: This startup provides a uCentric interface that allows anyone to control their televisions with intuitive, natural hand gestures like pointing or waving the hand, as opposed to the current offerings of holding your hand up in a certain way for long periods of time. It uses visual psychographics to create a natural experience for users. The product will be licensed to television manufacturers, and the company plans to expand to other electronic devices.
Raynforest: A marketing tool that allows brands to find and hire influencers to promote their products and provides influencers a way to connect with brands for sponsorships, also gives users a dashboard that provides demographics and information about the people consuming their message. Initially targeted at second-tier athletes who aren’t coveted by sports agencies, Raynforest also plans to expand into other markets.