Philly-based bakery and maker of cookie sandwich NOMwich
NOMsense Bakery sells a type of cookie sandwich that it has dubbed the “NOMwich.” The bakery was founded by two University of Pennsylvania undergraduate students, who transformed their dessert-making hobby into a business. NOMwiches come in four varieties -- all with a filling, a topping, and a drizzle -- such as the Nut Job, made with coconut cookies, crunchy peanut butter filling, lime sugar drizzle, and a toasted coconut topping. The bakery has become an official vendor at Penn and secured wholesale contracts with Philadelphia coffee shops, including Hubbub Coffee and Pétrus Ky Café. The NOMsense founders aim to provide a new dessert experience through innovative design and a community-centered brand. They plan to eventually open their own brick-and-mortar store in Philly’s University City neighborhood.
NOMwiches retail from $2.50 to $2.75 per cookie and the startup made $3,500 in revenue for 2015. NOMsense Bakery was part of the Wharton Venture Initiation Program and won first place in the 2015 Wharton Women Shark Tank Competition. In January, NOMsense received $5,000 as the Northeastern Regional winner of the Global Student Entrepreneur Award, and last year raised $4,000 through a three-month Kickstarter campaign.
Online marketplace that partners with skilled Latin American artisans to make shoes
PATOS Shoes is an online marketplace that partners with Latin American artisans to create hand-crafted shoes. Founder Fernando Rojo, a University of Pennsylvania student, was inspired by a visit to an artisan fair in Buenos Aires to manufacture the first PATOS shoe line, the Rafael Collection. The startup aims to empower artisans across Latin America through its network, allowing them to work under fair conditions and maintain their centuries-old handcrafting techniques while creating a platform for their products to enter the international markets.
The startup has grown its number of artisan partnerships from one to 20 since its launch, working with shoemakers in Argentina, Peru and Bolivia. Its monthly production capability has also tripled to more than 12,000 pairs of shoes in the same period. PATOS has two retail partnerships with socially-conscious boutiques in Michigan but is focused on e-commerce growth for scalability. PATOS now makes 11 different shoes in 45 different textile designs, with each pair retailing from $50 to $75. The startup plans to launch a free mobile Android app this month for its artisans in Argentina and Peru.
Social voice platform that connects like-minded people
Pundit is a mobile application that connects you to like-minded people through one-minute voice conversations about your latest obsessions.The student founders want to create a social platform that encourages conversation and replaces the more impersonal interactions of social media. With a tap of the “talk” button, the app allows you to share your thoughts about Star War theories or fantasy lineups, bringing online communities to mobile using voice technology. The startup’s advertising model will allow companies to partner directly with content creators for on-air sponsored mentions, much like the model used for podcast and online radio ads. Pundit launched a private beta version of the app in early March for mentors, investors, and partners at Disney; the full launch is expected to take place in May.
Pundit was selected to be part of the Techstars Disney Accelerator, receiving $300,000 in seed funding in addition to mentorship from entertainment industry leaders, including Disney CEO Bob Iger. ABC, Radio Disney, and ABC Family have used Pundit to allow fans to interact with stars, most recently with artists at the 2016 Country Music Awards, through short conversations. By using a podcast-like advertising model, Pundit hopes to see revenue similar to the industry standard of up to $30 for every 1,000 listeners.
Mobile equity crowdfunding platform for non-accredited investors
Slice Capital is a mobile-based equity crowdfunding startup that allows individuals to invest in small businesses. It was founded by business and computer science students from the University of Pennsylvania and Rutgers University. The Philadelphia-based company aims to stand apart from the industry by allowing unaccredited investors (with a net worth of less than $1 million) to buy and sell shares of internally vetted private companies. Slice Capital also plans to significantly bring down its current investment minimum of $500, allowing individuals to invest smaller amounts in startups. The company, which has sought legal counsel to ensure it is in compliance with recent SEC crowdfunding rules, plans its public launch by mid-May.
Slice Capital has attracted funding from investors that include 123Invest, PennApps Accelerator, Weiss Tech House, and M&T Innovation Fund. The startup has also received signups, prelaunch, from about 15,000 interested investors. Recent legislation (effective May 16, 2016) allows small private companies to raise up to $1 million annually in online capital from the general public. Slice Capital provides the platform for companies to do so and will charge a fee of 1.5 percent on each funding round.
Mobile app that connects users with workout partners
Versafit is a mobile application that connects users with workout partners. The startup out of the University of California, Irvine, aims to be the central hub for everything fitness related. The student founders bootstrapped the company and set out to create a platform that would help people stay fit by solving two of the industry’s biggest problems: motivation and accountability. The Versafit app matches users based on interests and skill levels, so that gym rats, power walkers, or those just looking for a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood can find a partner for any activity at any time.
Since launching on January 1 with $60,000 from the founders, Versafit has attracted more than 300 users. The mobile app is currently free, although the startup hopes to add a regular user plan for $5 per month and a professional plan for $20 per month.