Startup Demo Day Month In Tennessee The Good, The Bad, The NSFW


August is just about over and “Demo Day Month” in the great state of Tennessee concluded last Thursday at JumpStart Foundry’s Demo Day in Nashville. It was a month that Vice President Gore should be proud of afterall nothing says innovation like inventing the internet.

Overall it was an impressive month for innovators in Tennessee. Tennessee has nine regional accelerators and groups like Launch Tennessee are paramount in keeping the statewide ecosystem flourishing and the accelerator leaders connected with each other.

“Demo Day Month” kicked off in Chattanooga Tennessee with the graduation of the GigTank. The GigTank was in its first year and actually included two simultaneous classes; entrepreneurs and students. The entrepreneurs group accelerated at Colab in downtown Chattanooga while the students accelerated at the Lamp Post Group’s offices. The classes came together on Thursday August 9th to show off their startups.

Out of all three demo days Chattanooga had the most pizzazz. They really did a great job of setting up a bunch of entrepreneurial networking events on Wednesday evening all over town. Thursday’s Demo Day event was one to be reckoned with, professional lighting, big signage, and a simulcast on the local PBS channel all helped set the stage for some great demos.

To top that off, unlike the other two demo days, Chattanooga’s GigTank featured a $100,000 cash prize for the top voted startup in the entrepreneur class (Banyan) and a $50,000 prize for the top student startup (Babel Sushi).

Chattanooga merged traditional southern hospitality with blazing fast internet. The blazing fast internet was the reason it was called “GigTank”. Chattanooga was the first city in the United States to offer 1 GB ethernet to the home and office within a 600 square mile area.

The bad: We found out late Wednesday night that the startups would actually pitch in front of the judges first thing Thursday morning and again on Thursday afternoon in front of the people. We went around in circles about it and I even spent some time with Colab Director Shelddon Grizzle, who had come up with the idea for the double pitching. Regardless of the reasoning I didn’t like it and once I knew it was happening it detracted from my view of the actual presentations.

The other downside to GigTank is that we saw a lot of slides, a lot of presentations and a lot of business plans. Unfortunately we didn’t see nearly enough working demo products. Also most of the startups said they would build scale organically and virally over the next year and make money in year two. This isn’t a practical path to scale in a market outside Silicon Valley or New York. I felt that go to market strategies needed improvement.

The NSFW: Check out this story about the first startup that presented at GigTank.

The following week we moved on to Memphis Tennessee and the Zeroto510 accelerator Demo Day. Zeroto510 is a cohort based accelerator based on medical devices. It’s a joint venture between Memphis Bioworks and Seed Hatchery.

The ZeroTo510 Demo Day was very academic in nature and top-notch professional. You could tell that all of the startups had worked extremely hard on their presentations. One of the biggest challenges that ZeroTo510 startups overcame was actually “dumbing” their presentations down so that the public and investors without medical backgrounds could understand. Luckily all of the startups were able to do that.

The startups that we really liked at ZeroTo510 Demo Day were Bionanovations and Restore Medical.

Restore Medical offers a new system for cleaning and sterilizing surgical instruments. Their system is vital as we head into Obama Care in 2014 because it helps reduce cost, but more importantly it’s more effective in the sterilization process which will drive down hospital born infection numbers. This couldn’t come at a better time. In 2014 hospitals will need to publicize and keep down their hospital born infection numbers in order to get reimbursement on the millions of extra patients that will be seeking hospital care.

One of the biggest moments at ZeroTo510’s Demo Day was when onstage Restore Medical co-founder Shawn Flynn revealed on stage that they already had a $3.75 million dollar purchase order pending their 510k approval from the FDA.

BioNanovations is the first pre-culture bacterial infection diagnosis platform. There were some shocking facts about hospitals in co-founder and CEO Charleson Bell’s presentation that echo why we like this startup so much and why it will also be crucial going into 2014.

There was no NSFW in the Zeroto510 Demo Day however the bad was definitely Urova Medical. This wet behind the ears team of entrepreneurs had great technology and did a fair job of presenting they just didn’t have the same vigor that the rest of the startups had. They immediately left Memphis to go back home and it appeared that the young student founders of Urova simply participated in the program to get $50,000 for “summer camp”. Just calling it like I see it.

Nashville’s Jumpstart Foundry has had some practice at this. They’re definitely the veteran accelerator out of the bunch and it shows. Co-Founder and Managing Director Marcus Whitney is a serial entrepreneur himself. In addition to overseeing the day-to-day at JumpStart Foundry he is also a co-founder and the CTO of startup MoonToast a social media/network management platform with a top shelf list of clients.

The theme about Whitney was echoed over and over again throughout Jumpstart’s Demo Day, and that is he’s a pull no punches take no crap kind of guy. In fact, together with Solidus Partner and Jumpstart Foundry co-founder Vic Gatto, they ran such a tight program that three startups called it quits before demo day.

The venue for the Jumpstart Foundry demo day was great, it was open, and they did a great job with lighting and ambience. The presentations showed that the startups had been working hard on refining their message for the public and potential investors. All of the presenters did a great job of talking more and relying on slides less. When slides went up on the screen they were very graphic and very easy to understand.

The entire class had great presentations. Whitney and Baker Donelson Emerging Technologies Lead Chris Sloan (also a mentor at JSF) both agreed that the most improved startup was PhotoRankr. Sloan and Whitney both commented that if any startup in this years JSF class showed what an accelerator does it was PhotoRankr.

PhotoRankr definitely topped our list of favorites at the JumpStart Foundry Demo Day. We also really liked The Skillery and their off-line workshops platform that empowers small business owners to teach classes on subjects they actually know and love.

We can’t report on JSF Demo Day without mentioning EverMind either. EverMind is a consumer monitoring system for the elderly. It works as easily as installing a “Clapper” you simply take the plug-in modules to your elderly loved ones home and hook them up to the coffee maker, television, lamp, toaster or other small electronics and it monitors their daily routine. When your loved one deviates from the routine you’re notified and you can check on them. The system gives them independence and piece of mind. It helps that it was also founded by a group of folks from Griffin Technologies, a Nashville company that makes some of the most widely known iPhone, iPad and Android accessories.

As for the NSFW, it wasn’t really NSFW it was more just ugly. The startup we liked the least at JSF was by a landslide KiWi, first off there are hundreds of other short form video services out there, can anyone say SocialCam. But the thing that drove us to even point this out was that at the end of the micromachine-man-esque presentation the founder of Kiwi actually said he would look for term sheets in Nashville for 30 days and then go somewhere else. Seemed like an F-U to the hard work that Whitney, Gatto and the entire crew at Jumpstart Foundry Demo Day put on.

It was also great that folks from Memphis like Biowork’s Allan Daisley and a>m ventures Patrick Woods were right there with us at all three demo days to support Chattanooga, Memphis and Nashville as parts of a whole “Tennessee”, the Nashville guys.. not so much.


More Demo Day Coverage Here

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Ann Arbor Startup: Seelio Is Connects College Students To Jobs In New Ways


Seelio, (connecting see and portfolio) is a new startup based in Ann Arbor Michigan connecting college students with employers and job recruiters. Sure there are plenty of employment connection platforms out there but Seelio is serving a few under-served segments.

First off, Seelio is serving the college student to work category which is filled with competition. One of the other big hindrances for college students competing for work is the fact that they’ve been in school the past four years and don’t have real work, resume items. Seelio solves this problem for students by opening up profile space on the service to post academic papers, computer aided designs, art projects, lesson plans, photos, videos, even pitch decks.  Employers can now see a more rounded profile of the applicant and can consider them for positions outside of “entry-level”.

“Instead of sending a stale, black-and-white resume, Seelio lets you bring yourself to life and present yourself in a more holistic way,” said co-founder Moses Lee, assistant director for student ventures at the U-M College of Engineering’s Center for Entrepreneurship to the University of Michigan News Service. “It can help college students get discovered. This is really important, especially in this tough economy, because they don’t have a lot of job experience. But many have done amazing work as a student.”

Seelio is taking an early stage Facebook approach to building scale. They rolled out the platform’s truAPP to students at the University of Michigan, exclusively in January of this year. They quickly saw 1500 students sign up and some big employers as well. Quicken Loans, Teach For America, Compuware, Under Armour and Airtime were all early adopter companies for the platform.  They have since opened up the platform to all students with a .edu email address.

One of the early student adopters that used the service, Lydia Muwanga, recently finished her master’s degree. She was able to use Seelio’s truApp to land a job as an information architect at SapientNitro.  Muwanga reported that after getting her profile posted she applied for five jobs in ten minutes. Less than 24 hours later she had heard back from three companies.

“It helps us more accurately target candidates, allowing us to differentiate between, say, human-computer interface students who love research, versus those who love wireframing,” Kati Llewellyn, creative recruiter at SapientNitro said.

For college students Seelio is a platform that merges a professional social network like LinkedIn with an actual jobs site like, it’s quickly becoming a welcomed tool in the college students job application arsenal.


Check out Seelio here

Source: Univesity of Michigan News Service

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Xoogler Spotlight NYC Startup: Flatiron Health

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In 2010 Nat Turner and Zach Weinberg sold their startup Invite Media to Google for $81 million dollars. At that time they were absorbed into Google where they spent the last two years. Now the co-founding team is back at it again, and navigating through unchartered territory.

Their new startup is New York City based Flatiron Health. FlatIron Health hopes to streamline cancer screening for clinical trials. Currently biomarkers among other diagnostics, are used to identify cancer patients for clinical trials however the team told Business Insider they feel that the process could be improved upon and streamlined.

“It’s actually very complicated to find out if you’re eligible,” Turner told SAI. “It’s like 120 variables and there’s no way to know quickly. We hope to speed that up for physicians because clinical trials are huge for cancer. In general, treatments fail and trials are the way to go.”

After both 26-year-old founders had loved ones suffer through cancer they knew their next mission would somehow be related to cancer. They admittedly don’t have their exact product yet however they’ve been holding weekly brainstorming sessions and have a pilot going with some of the major hospitals.

FlatIron Health is a far cry from the ad technology and bid manager platform Turner and Weinberg created with Invite Media. That platform allowed advertisers to manage online campaigns across multiple platforms.

Weinberg and Turner are in a better financial position than most new medical startups. They’re attacking this startup with the vigor of anxious entrepreneurs and aren’t intimidated by the fact that neither founder has any kind of background in medicine, biology or cancer.

“Flatiron Health is either going to be a great success or a horrible failure,” says Turner. “Hopefully we’ll do well by doing good.”


Here are some other Xoogler spotlights at

Source: Business Insider via Fierce

Zappos Alum’s Las Vegas Startup: Fandeavor Brings Fans Up Close & Personal


Tony Hsieh’s company Zappos, the online shoe and clothing shop, is fueling a startup movement in Las Vegas that’s hard to rival anywhere else. Hsieh himself is dumping millions into the Las Vegas tech scene. He’s also very supportive of Zappos employees who have left his company to start their own startups in Las Vegas. One of those startups is Fandeavor.

Fandeavor is a new startup in Las Vegas that’s looking to match sports fans with over the top fan experiences that can’t be experienced any other way.

8newsnow reports that last November Fandeavor’s co-founders Tom Ellingson and Dean Curtis, who both used to work at Zappos, did a fan experiment. They were able to procure two sets of tickets to the Las Vegas Invitational basketball tournament at the Orleans Arena. Two fans paid $250 for the experience to see the Rebels beat the University of Southern California in the semi-finals. The other two fans paid $275 to see the rebels defeat UNC in the finals. Their seats were in an arena suite. They also received a pregame talk with an assistant UNLV coach, floor access to pre-game warm ups and a presentation at halftime on the floor with autographed basketballs.

At an August 5th soccer match between Real Madrid and Santos Laguna Fandeavor auctioned off a prize packaged for $575 which included on field, hospitality tent seats, free food and drink and an off-chance meeting with one of the players. They’ve also been able to put together packages for fans of professional bullriders and other UNLV games.

Currently the Fandeavor roster includes: UNLV, University of Southern California, Arizona State University, and Texas Christian University. Both Ellingson and Curtis have plans to continue to expand through the world of college sports, who are known for their passionate fans.

“We want to give the colleges a revenue stream that didn’t exist before,” Ellingson told 8newsnow. “They have assets that they may not be using up, like sideline passes. We want to help them monetize their hospitality assets.

Ellingson Continued: “One thing we want to do is give out stadium tours, which is something that doesn’t cost the university anything other than to have someone give the tour. We’d like to have the ability to get a fan into a press box when the announcers are going through their pre-game routines. We’d like them to have access to the locker room and weight room. These stadiums are shrines.”

The duo is also courting the NFL, NBA and Nascar. Like most of the other Zappos alumni, Fandeavor has raised $525,000 in financing including an investment from Hsieh himself. They plan on using the cash to help with expansion and marketing.


Check out Fandeavor here

Source: 8newsnow

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Madison Wisconsin Startup: SnowShoe Validates Actual Check Ins INTERVIEW

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The headline for this story about Madison Wisconsin startup SnowShoe was actually rather difficult. In some ways we wanted to say that SnowShoe brings Foursquare to real life. In essence Foursquare is already in real life and takes people to different spots for check-ins. The next idea was to say that SnowShoe brigns Foursquare off-line, again Foursquare kind of does that, but SnowShoe does it with actual offline objects.

We first met Claus Moberg founder of  SnowShoe when the sneaker-strapped nationwide startup roadtrip cruised through Madison Wisconsin. The team explained that with SnowShoe your phone actually interacts with an aluminum object at the check in establishment, to check-in and receive loyalty points and rewards.

There is definitely value in this “extra step”. When you’re actually forced to check in using, what SnowShoe calls the “SnowShoe Stamp” or if you have to scan a QR code, you get engaged with the establishment and you can’t do the infamous drive-by checkin.  I actually live near a place that has a free breakfast special with 3 check-ins. I live close enough that I can check-in there everyday without actually going, and then on the third day, voila breakfast is free. Some people call it ripping off, others call it gaming the system.

With SnowShoe though, that drive by check-in or checking in while walking by just for the glory or the special is cut out of the equation.

The SnowShoe stamp is literally a block of aluminum with no circuitry, batteries or power of any kind. It does however, have five uniquely arranged capacitive touch points which authenticate the transaction on your smartphone. It’s actually more reliable and better than a traditional QR code on a piece of paper.

Innovative huh?

We got a chance to talk with Moberg more in depth in the interview below:

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