DreamIt, a start-up incubator founded in Philadelphia hosted a demo day in Midtown Manhattan Wednesday for about 250 attendees, many of them venture capitalists and angel investors looking for the next Dropbox or Scvngr. Fourteen teams presented the start-up companies they have been developing for the past three months. Some companies had already raised a small round of funding, others had not. All were looking for cash infusions.
The rookie companies tried to woo investors with collegial wit, technical wonkery, and PowerPoint mastery. Some founders mentioned their kids. More than a few claimed they'd be dropping out of school to focus on their start-up, causing DreamIt partner Steven Welch to remark: "I think we're going to start to be banned from college campuses."
There were recurring topics: the psychology of gift giving, Facebook, consumer data, convergence of trends, pain points, the deaths of familiar industries, meeting girls at bars, and the long hours it takes to develop a functioning product. A sampling of what strayed from the usual, and caught our eye:
- Paul Cohen, CEO of Cognection, a company that aims to simplify product comparison in e-commerce, was a Yale undergraduate until business came between him and the life of the mind. He listed "previous research on behavioral econ with Capuchin monkeys," as past experience relevant to his current work.
- Re-Vinyl CEO Morgan gave a rap performance over an instrumental version of Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind" that included Steve Jobs puns and mentions of ramen noodles, Shake Shack, being a hustler, the founders of DreamIt, the Flatiron, and Joplin, Texas. He was joined by a breakdancing Re-Vinyl co-founder.
- One of the most unusual, and perhaps promising, presentations of the day came from a company called AfterSteps, an online platform for death and estate planning. In a presentation that married market studies and the macabre (one PowerPoint slide was titled "Execution"), Jess Bloomgarden, AfterSteps founder and CEO, explained how her company would become the Ancesty.com of the expiring. "We're targeting the Baby Boomer market," Bloomgarden said to laughter. "Because they're aging."