Capital Factory Start-up Demo Day 2011

This past Wednesday I spent the day at Capital Factory’s Demo Day. Held at UT’s AT&T executive center, it was basically a day of start-ups pitching their companies/products with a couple of great speakers thrown in.

The morning was kicked off with a keynote by the inventor of Ethernet, Bob Metcalfe, oh, yes, he was also a founder of 3Com. Austin is lucky enough to have him now call Austin and UT home. He told several stories of his work on various projects and on various teams throughout his extensive career / professional life. His presentation was peppered with jokes and comments that kept the crowd engaged and laughing without sounding scripted at all. I’m actually fairly sure that most of his comments were not scripted. He did have notes on little 4×6 index cards. As he put it, he was “speaking to a small group today, so 5×7 cards would have been too big.”

Next came presentations from the five companies who were part of Capital Factory’s 2011 class – here’s a quick rundown in order of their presentations:

StoryMix Media – TechCrunch calls them “Animoto for video.” This husband and wife team have built a system for taking all those videos you shot with your smart phone, flip camera etc and make a professional looking video. Their currently in the wedding video space, but their offering could go into other event markets with ease.

Helpjuice – founded by 18 year old Emil Hajiric, who moved to Austin from Bosnia, Helpjuice is tool/platform which auto-updates help pages. Emil, “the man in white”, refers to his team of folks who may handle your data as “Juicers”. Maybe it’s a generational thing or maybe Emil and Helpjuice will actually make people think of great FAQ pages and not steroid use when/if they make a big impact in the help page space.

SpeakerMix – founded by two veterans of the speaker-sourcing industry, the site helps event planners and others find speakers for their events. Not much to critique here. I think event planners should use the site to find speakers, but might need to use other means to cross check the actual speakers.

SwimTopia – “the world’s friendliest web-based swim team management solution.” Founded by Mason Hale, the former Chief Technologist of Frog Design, and Nathan Jones, the former Founder and President of Academic Superstore / Journey Ed (and my old boss / good friend), Swimtopia “makes running a swim team less work and more fun!” While swim teams are the current focus, the software solution can and will be sculpted for use by other team / event types.

GroupCharger – “a simple, yet powerful, way of increasing member engagement and contributions to organizations.” Their first vertical is the college and university space. While I agree with their presented fact that this vertical is in great need of help in the fund raising space, I have to agree with TechCrunch’s critique that the vertical is extremely slow moving and not known for being quick to adopt new processes or technology.

At mid-day, Brian Sharples, founder and CEO of HomeAway, walked us through a series of slides to teach lessons on starting and running a great company. I really dislike PowerPoint presentations as most really are just horrible. Brain’s presentation, while made with PowerPoint, was simple, well branded (a big HomeAway logo on each page), and then just a single word on each page. Having built HomeAway from nothing to multi-million dollar IPO in ~6 years, Brian had some great stories and advice.

The afternoon was jammed packed with a presentation by Auren Hoffman, founder and CEO of Rapleaf, and “fast pitches” by 17, or 18, or 19 start-ups. Josh Baer, one of the founders of Capital Factory and the events M.C. didn’t even know how many start-ups were going to pitch so how could I be expected to remember the number. Nothing earth shattering in the bunch, but lots of cool ideas. One start-up caught my eye for several reasons. Forecast is a start-up who is taking the location-based check in space and being a bit more proactive. The app allows you to “forecast” where you will be instead of where you currently are. The idea here is that by forecasting where you will be, there is more chance that others will come meet you there. This one caught my eye as I has already used the service (no shocker here – it’s been no better for me re: actually helping me make real world connections, but it’s probably just me.) and also due to their logo. The F in Forecast is the same font as the old Ford Motor Company logo. I wonder what the Juicers would think about that.

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