Meet the Newest Crop of Chicago Start-ups
Another incubator, another high-stakes Demo Day.
This time it's Chicago-based Excelerate Labs, the incubator run by entrepreneurs Sam Yagan (of OKCupid and Sparknotes) and Troy Henikoff (of SurePayroll). On Wednesday, the program's 10 start-ups will pitch their ideas in front of an audience of investors at the city's iconic House of Blues nightclub.
The intensive, three-month program, gives start-ups $25,000 in exchange for 6% common stock plus $50,000 in the form of convertible debt from Chicago VC firm New World Ventures. The real perk for the start-ups, however, is access to nearly 150 mentors, including Opentable’s Chuck Templeton, Groupon’s Brad Keywell, and TechStars’ David Cohen--all to help the young companies refine their business plans and pitches before Demo Day.
“The success of the graduates of Excelerate’s first two classes proves that our model works,” Excelerate CEO Troy Henikoff said in a press release. According to the incubator, eight of its 10 graduates from the 2010 program raised outside funding after the program ended. “The 2012 class brings more diversity in geography, technology, and business model than we have had before. Given that we received 50% more applications than last year, I am thrilled to see what this class accomplishes.”
Here are the 10 companies from Excelerate's 2012 summer class:
71lbs: The company focuses on analyzing shipping proceses for small- to medium-sized businesses and suggesting ways those firms can save money. 71lbs claims to save clients on average 4-6%, and makes money by taking a cut of the savings.
Cureeo: This Chicago-based group calls itself the match.com of collectable artwork. Cureeo acts as a personal matchmaker between the buyer and the artwork--which is all one-of-a-kind or limited addition.
Fibroblast: Founders Dr. Andrew Albert and Scott Vold aim to combat headaches in healthcare scheduling. The company helps patients self-schedule appointments through a cloud-based calendar and offers medical offices scheduling and referral tools.
frintint: Frintint is a targeted advertising service for snail mail. The company uses aeb and mobile data to help companies send direct mail to customers based on their interests.
Lasso: This social application is still under wraps, but the company offers a quirky poem to hint at its aim: “Lasso hails from an uncharted land/where friends freely gather with the whip of a hand,/where plans manifest in a couple of clicks,/so friends can greet faces, not profile pics./And the more these friends wrangle the easier it gets/to do things together without breaking a sweat./So think now of those who you like to see most,/for the day you can wrangle them is ever so close.”
MoxieJean: The mom behind this online consignment shop aims to help parents to spend less time and money buying clothes for their children.
Orbeus: Before Excelerate, founder Xing Meng and his team were in Boston at MIT and Boston University developing the complicated algorithm that would become Orbeus. The result is an advanced computer visual recognition platform that is cloud-based and acts as an “all-in-one image, facial, and brand recognition engine.”
SpotHero: This start-up raised money from another incubator, 500 StartUps, before Demo Day. SpotHero has dubbed itself the "Orbitz of parking spots" and works with large parking operators around the country to provide discounted parking.
WhimseyBox: For a $15 monthly fee, the company will send you a box with DIY materials and instructions every month. Watch out Etsy!
Pictarine: Pictarine collects all of your digital photos (and your friends’ photos, too) in one place. The free application pulls from Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Flickr, and Instagram.
Some former graduates from Excelerate include software system FanGo and food-sharing application Food Genius.