Demo day showcases first class of BetaBlox startups
The team from In the Air Advertising gives its 90-second pitch to the crowd at BetaBlox on May 24.
StartKC and BetaBlox teamed up on May 24 to host startFEST+DEMO, a demo day that showcased 10 Kansas City startups that participated in the BetaBlox incubator and accelerator hybrid and within StartKC's startup program. It was the first big opportunity for some of the teams, which were selected last year, to present to an audience of investors and business leaders from the region’s entrepreneurial community. More than 200 people attended the invite-only event, which was held at the BetaBlox space in the Downtown Underground Complex in Kansas City, Mo.
The 10 teams were chosen last year from a crop of 40 hopefuls vying to enter the Betablox program. In exchange for a five-percent equity stake, BetaBlox gave each startup office space and access to investors, mentors, consultation and more for six months.
At 5 p.m., the teams pitched to 25 of BetaBlox’s highest priority investors in a private classroom. After the first round of presentations concluded, the companies were able to mingle with attendees at an informal happy hour before the second round of pitches began.
At 7 p.m., Wes Bergmann, BetaBlox executive team member and lead investor, kicked off the next series of presentations by providing an overview of the program. He explained that, in addition to funding, many of the startups were seeking other kinds of help, like mentors, marketing and design work and strategic partners. In addition, Bergmann said that 40 percent of the teams were looking for co-founders in exchange for equity.
The startups then began a series of 90-second pitches, which included a brief overview of the company and product, the team, the opportunity and what type of help they needed. A wide array of companies participated, ranging from an online sports video debating site to a text message calorie-management service. (Above left: The Rippnnfish team ends its pitch with a bang.)
The participating companies were:
- TapTab - A high-tech promotion tool for bars and nightclubs
- Upper 90 Fieldhouse - A business devoted to encouraging futsal in Kansas City
- City Flavor - A web platform designed to help make restaurant chefs celebrities
- In The Air Advertising - A product that offers banner advertising delivered by kites instead of planes
- Eleven Reasons - A social network built around daily, location-based questions
- Fan Knockout - An online sports debating platform
- Text Calories - A text message-based calorie-management service
- ZippiDo - A website for social project management and goal setting
- Rippnfish - A search engine for locating fishing trips
- Invenitas - A “startup for startups” that helps other companies with creative and technical services
Following the presentations, each team had a station in the room where people could see a product demo, ask questions or potentially discuss a future partnership. It was evident that they were coached in how to present their idea, showing how far they’d come since they began the program.
“Our first idea was an entirely different concept at the time Bergmann invited us into the BetaBlox program. We immediately dropped the initial idea and with the help from the BetaBlox team, pivoted to create what Eleven Reasons is today,” said Nick Anderson, co-founder of Eleven Reasons. “Undoubtedly, preparing for this demo day put us a lot closer to launching a successful, profitable business.”
Many of the companies were looking to partner with larger brands to get feedback on product development and to accelerate user adoption, engagement and potential revenue opportunities. Meanwhile, the guest list included several brand marketers and agencies, like VML, interested in connecting with startups that could add value to the brands they represent. Zippidoo, Eleven Reasons, In the Air Advertising and Fan Knockout were among those companies.
Bergmann said he had raised enough money to fund the program for the next five years, which will allow his team to provide ongoing support participating startups and for the continued growth of the program. BetaBlox is currently accepting applications for its second class, which will be announced in July.
“We already have five times the amount of applications for the next round,” Bergmann said. “So if the quality of our program is proportionate to applications to choose from, we will have one hell of a future.”
Credits: Photos by Ryan Bennett.