The TechCrunch Disrupt final event culminates in what's known as "The Battlefield," a series of company pitches that vie for top honors at the annual TechCrunch conference. At stake is $50,000 and the coveted "Disrupt Cup." But more importantly, a win at Disrupt earns a company instant credibility among the upper echelon of tech investors, entrepreneurs, and start-up influencers. Last year, GetAround took home the Disrupt Cup, the cash, and has since raised more than $5 million.
Hundreds of start-ups applied, but only six made it to the final cut on Wednesday evening. The compition was stiff, but the judges were stiffer. The six companies presented their pitches and answered questions to a panel of household names (well, in the tech world, at least). The judges included Michael Arrington (TechCrunch), Roelof Botha (Sequoia Capital), Chi-hua Chien (Kleiner Perkins), Chris Dixon (Hunch), Marissa Mayer (Google), Fred Wilson (Union Square Ventures), and Eric Eldon, editor of TechCrunch. As the judges took the stage, Ned Desmond, COO of TechCrunch, announced the competitors.
"It's the moment of truth," he said.
Here's a look at the six companies that competed for the Disrupt Cup. Scroll to the bottom for the winner.
As its name suggests, Babelverse deals in languages. The app is a real-time voice translation service, powered by a "global community of human interpreters." By crowdsourcing both professional and amateur interpreters for a per minute fee (that ranges between $0.20 to $1.00), users can log on, find a translator immediately, and begin a conversation with someone who speaks another language. Right now, the network includes about 3,000 translators, but its founder, Josef Dunne, believes it has the potential to scale. "This can be a revolution in personal communication," he said.
Thirty percent of search is people-related, which got the founders of Ark thinking: What if there was a social network that allowed users to search for people across all social networks. Essentially, Ark aggregates and scrapes user data from LinkedIn and Facebook and allows for more specific search queries, such as one for finding all your Facebook friends who work at Google in New York who have birthdays in June. The site already has 15,000 private beta users, and $4.5 million in funding.
Like so many great hardware start-ups before them, gTar was born out of a garage. Founder Idan Beck wanted to create an instrument that would make learning music easy and fun. He developed the gTar, a digital guitar that integrates with an iPhone. It instructs its players with LCD lights, which illuminate the correct strings to play. The company posted the product on Kickstar, retaling at $450, has already raised $190,000 in two days.
Design software is convoluted, expensive, and difficult to use. Born out of an MIT graduate dorm room, Sunglass is "design without boundaries," one of the first services that allows for real-time collaborative designing. The company has raised $1.7 million in funding and hopes to disrupt how industrial designers assemble and collaborate on projects.
Say you're in an airport with your family. You've just purchased Internet access at a steep price, and now your wife and two kids want to get online on their devices as well. With Open Garden, whose motto is "Internet Everywhere," your family members can download the company's app and essentially hi-jack your computer's internet for free. The app already has more than 1,000,000 installs with virtually no marketing effort. Open Garden runs on your computer's background, and finds the best connection automatically with little or no setup.
And the winner is...
Typical conference calls are, well, pretty annoying. You don't know who is talking, you can't mute loud participants, and you can't directly record the call. UberConference solves these problems. Led by Google Venture's entrepreneur-in-residence Craig Walker, UberConference has a host of features that makes conference calling not just easy, but fun. There's even an "ear muff" feature to mute certain people's phones when secrets are being told.