500 Startups just graduated its fourteenth batch of companies from its accelerator in Mountain View, California. Co-founded in 2010 by investor Dave McClure, 500 Startups counts 3-D printing startup MakerBot, acquired by Stratasys, and social media marketing startup Wildfire, acquired by Google, as some of its most notable graduates.
Over the summer term, members of Batch 14 trained their focus on a diverse set of industries including health care, neighborhood organizing, and cannabis. In total, 34 pre-seed and nine post-seed startups presented. Here are four of the most compelling startups that made their pitches in front of an audience of hundreds at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View.
Founders: Sharath Mekala, Nathan Black
Funding raised to date: $350,000
City: San Francisco (Started in Atlanta)
What it does: Neighborhood watch platform
Why it's notable: Neighborhood crime monitoring and prevention apps like Nextdoor and the now-defunct SketchFactor have garnered a reputation for serving as platforms for racial profiling. Village Defense differs in that it focuses on crimes happening in the moment rather than providing free-flowing forums, and the app, takes into account issues facing inner city neighborhoods . The app sends out immediate text and call alerts so neighbors can notify each other of a crime in progress. "It's less about any type of gossip," says CEO Sharath Mekala, who worked as a community organizer in Atlanta. Alerts remain anonymous to prevent reporters of crimes from facing retribution. The immediacy of alerts is in part intended to allow users to communicate in real time while they wait for police to respond. In some neighborhoods in Detroit, a city where Village Defense is active, law enforcement can take up to an hour to respond to a reported crime, says Mekala. The app is active in more than 300 cities.
Founders: Jonathan Shih, Nathanael Rosidi
Funding raised to date: $580,000
City: San Francisco
What it does: Provides patients with medical bills immediately after an office visit
Why it's notable: Patients often don't receive medical bills until months after they have received services. Often when the bills finally arrive in the mail, they are inscrutable. Patients don't understand the charges. "This is just as bad for the doctors because people aren't paying these bills," says Decisive Health cofounder Jonathan Shih. He says the startup solves this problem by making bills available to patients in clearer language, immediately after an office visit. The company launched in September and is generating bills for 2,000 patients a month.
Founders: Vish Banthia, Roumen Antonov
Funding raised to date: $1 million
City: Los Angeles
What it does: ZendyHealth lets patients negotiate costs for procedures
Why it's notable: Having a high deductible health plan can make you feel sometimes like you're paying to not have health insurance at all. ZendyHealth presented the case of a patient who found out it would cost $1,500 for her to get a lump on her neck removed. Through ZendyHealth, she was able to propose a lower price she could pay in cash: $450. A doctor in the startup's provider network accepted. The patient got her lump removed. Like Decisive Health, this is a startup that tackles both the patient and doctor end of health care payment issues. Lower payments in cash mean doctors don't have to worry about a bill going unpaid. Patients using ZendyHealth can also fill in canceled appointments, meaning doctors get paid for time that might otherwise have gone wasted. Launched in April, the startup has more than 10,000 users.
Founders: Joel Milton, Roger Obando, David Champion
Funding raised to date: $350,000
What it does: Customer rewards program for marijuana dispensaries
Why it's notable: Even in places where pot is legal, some people still feel uncomfortable making purchases at dispensaries. Customers get antsy waiting in line and may ditch if they feel things are taking too long. They pay in cash, so dispensaries may not have a record of who is coming through. Baker is based on the premise that cultivating customer loyalty shouldn't be so difficult for businesses in the cannabis sphere. The idea is to make the process of buying a drug still considered taboo in some circles discreet and comfortable. Through the app, customers can make appointments with dispensaries ahead of time so they can get in and out quick, take advantage of special sales, and earn loyalty rewards. The startup counts 40 dispensaries in three states among its users.