5 promising startups from DreamIt Ventures’ Austin demo day

via Tom Cheredar of VentureBeat

The second batch of companies to come out of DreamIt Ventures’ Austin incubator program pitched to a full room of investors today.

Nine companies presented as part of the demo day, which allotted founders seven minutes to make a convincing case for why their company will be successful. VentureBeat has rounded up the five most promising startups, which you can check out below.

SecondMic is a service that lets you listen to an audio feed for unofficial sports commentary during a live game or create a channel where you can offer your own commentary that others can tune in to. This seems like a relatively simple function, but since sports games are most exciting when watched live, experiencing a delay on an audio feed for outside commentary can be annoying. That’s why SecondMic built a patent-pending technology for syncing audio with live games that offers a delay of 40 milliseconds or less.

Right now the service is only available for college and NBA basketball games, but the startup has plans to expand to other sports in the near future. SecondMic founder Francisco Prat told me the startup will generate revenue through promotional partnerships with big brands. SecondMic claims that users have logged 300 hours listening to custom sports commentary since launching a beta version of the service six weeks ago.

If there’s a gem among this year’s DreamIt Austin bunch, it’s most definitely Swan. The startup’s service lets you book appointments with beauty professionals (hair stylists, nail techs, massage therapists, etc.) at a location of your choosing. Users can pay for these services directly though Swan’s iOS app, and beauty professionals get paid via their own PayPal account at the time of the transaction.

Founder Julia Andalman told VentureBeat that Swan is appealing on two levels: Customers love having professionals come to them, and professionals in turn get a chance to book appointments during times that are usually spent doing nothing at a salon. Andalman said the startup only needs 1,200 customers to reach $1 million in revenue annually. Swan is only available in Austin and Dallas, but Andalman said she wants to launch in New York City, San Francisco, and Chicago in the near future.

Livewire‘s business is based on the premise that taxes are difficult to file for most of us – even for the so-called professionals at companies like H&R Block that usually have no formal training in accounting. Its solution? Build a service that lets you video conference with a trained accountant to file your taxes and ensure everything is in order. Livewire said its service is superior to the Liberty Tax Services of the world because their people are better qualified and are often less costly. It also offers an advantage over tax software because it allows Livewire (or the professional working on your taxes) to be accountable for errors should the IRS audit you. The startup has 10 full-time employees and is raising a seed round of funding.

EyeQ wants to bring physical retail stores better information about customer activity while in the store. It does this in three main ways: collecting usage data from touchscreen displays within the store, using the on-board camera on those displays to anonymously determine demographic data on that customer (age, gender, etc.), and tracking movements within the store from a customer’s smartphone (provided that customer has Wi-Fi enabled). EyeQ’s service is currently in beta testing and has four retail stores signed up.

The startup generates revenue by charging a fee for each device it sets up within a store. EyeQ CEO Michael Garel said he’d also like the service to eventually help bridge the gap for businesses that operate both physical and online retail stores, but such a move would require customers to opt in to sharing their shopping data first.

Octane Lending
Obtaining loans for any type of powersport vehicle (motorcycles, ATVs, UTVs, PWCs, etc.) is different than for regular automobiles, and it hurts your credit each time a loan application is sent. On top of that, the process dealerships have to go through to apply for loans on these vehicles is also unique in that they have to fill out an application for each bank they solicit loans from for each customer. As you can imagine, this process isn’t exactly great for dealership businesses.

Austin-based Octane Lending built a SaaS platform that simplifies this process, allowing powersport dealers to fill out information once and then seek out banks for a loan. The startup has also set up a pre-approval loan process that prevents a dealer’s customers from taking a hit on their credit score. Cofounder Jason Guss told me after the demo that the company will generate revenue by charging a flat fee for each approved loan. This allows powersports dealers to use the service for free. The startup already has 41 dealers using the service and loan agreements with four banks.

Austin startups leverage mobile technology for sports fans

via Christopher Calnan of Austin Business Journal

Two Austin-area startups are using mobile technology to target the enormous demographic market of people who watch sports and other events.

Although SecondMic Inc. and Cheggin Inc. are taking different approaches to tap into that market, both companies are part of the DreamIt Ventures accelerator operating in downtown Austin, after relocating from the East Coast.

SecondMic, which launched in New York last year, is designed to enable users to listen real-time to non-network sports commentators and experts during other events such as the Academy Awards. Cheggin was founded in Boston but launched this month the beta version of mobile application than enables users to traded group text messages and access statistics during games.

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Yevvo nabs $3.7M so you can stream live videos of your life to friends

via Harrison Webber of VentureBeat

Think selfies are narcissistic? Yevvo wants you to live-stream your life.

Tel Aviv-based Yevvo raised a new round of funding today — $3.7 million, to be exact — with hopes of convincing you to casually broadcast your life in real-time to your friends.

Yevvo is not alone in this space; it faces major competitors, including Livestream and Google’s Hangouts on Air service. That said, Yevvo’s emphasis on spontaneous video streaming takes the “event” out of Livestream’s “live events.”

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DreamIt Alum Reactor Labs: Meet the Jaguar/Land Rover smartphone

via Jay Ramey of Autoweek.com

Jaguar Land Rover has announced a whole new host of apps that’ll be available in vehicles by both brands later this year via the InControl smartphone integration system. With the help of Bosch and a number of third-party app developers, Jaguar and Land Rover will debut integrated in-vehicle app connectivity for phones with the Android operating system, as well as for Apple’s iOS.

Jaguar Land Rover is the latest company to bring apps to cars’ infotainment systems, an innovation that will either greatly reduce distracted driving and make crucial information much more easily accessible or cause drivers to completely ignore the act of driving altogether.

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DreamIt Alum Seratis Wins a Verizon Powerful Answer Award

The three $1 million winners of the first Verizon Powerful Answers Award were revealed today by Verizon Chairman and CEO Lowell McAdam at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The prize amounts for the other 12 winners, who each took home between $850,000 and $285,000, were also announced.

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DreamIt Alum Adaptly Founders Named on Forbes 30 under 30

Nikhil Sethi and Garrett Ullom are the co-founders of Adpatly, a DreamIt Philly 2010 company, and were recently named to the Forbe 30 Under 30 list for the second year in a row.

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ElectNext rebrands as Versa

via Julianna Reyes of Technically Philly

ElectNext pivoted this past October, launching sponsored comments on news sites. Now, the transformation is complete:

ElectNext pivoted this past October, launching sponsored comments on news sites.

Now, the transformation is complete: ElectNext has become Versa.

Founded in 2011 by Wharton grad Keya Dannenbaum, the startup began as a way to connect voters and politicians, using a quiz to show voters which politicians’ views most aligned with their own. But their most recent business model wasn’t making money, Dannenbaum said this fall, and that’s why it pivoted to sponsored comments.

Versa now counts publishers like Philly.com, Hearst and the McClatchy Company as customers, according to its site. It’s a media software move others have waded into: think about how Brooklyn-based RapGenius is selling its annotating software to publishers like the New York Times.

Before the rebranding, its team was split between San Francisco, New York City and Philadelphia and this has not changed, said founder Keya Dannenbaum.

With $2.2M In New Funding, SeatGeek Acquires And Shuts Down Ticketing Competitor FanSnap

by Anthony Ha of TechCrunch

Ticketing startup SeatGeek is announcing that it has acquired FanSnap from Wize Commerce, which purchased the ticketing site two years ago.

Co-founder Russell d’Souza told me that the deal closed in late November, around the same time that SeatGeek (which launched at the TechCrunch50 conference in 2009) closed $2.2 million in new funding from existing investors. The timing, he said, was “not a coincidence” — the round was intended to fund the acquisition.

The two sites are competitors — both of them allow users to search for tickets across resale sites like StubHub and eBay. d’Souza said he made the acquisition (SeatGeek’s first) for two reasons. First, he wanted to expose SeatGeek to new users. Second, he wanted to acquire FanSnap’s technology, partly to use at SeatGeek, and partly to keep it out of the hands of potential competitors.

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Backed by Google Ventures, LevelUp Battles Patent Trolls

by Peter Cohan via Forbes.com

In pursuit of profit, people turn ideas into products and services. If the idea people work for start-ups, they are in immediate danger as soon as they file for a patent — in so doing, they make public the details of their invention.

And by making their idea public, they become vulnerable to two types of economic predators. There are big, deep-pocketed companies that might look at the details of the startup’s idea and decide to come up with their own product using that technology. If the big company gets its product to market fast, it could doom the startup – which generally does not have deep enough pockets to pay lawyers to protect its invention.

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Chances are you’re not reading this on a mobile device

by Derrick Harris via Gigaom

Analytics startup Parse.ly has released its third bi-monthly “Authority Report” on Wednesday, and the big finding is that the majority of traffic for some top online publishers still comes via laptop and desktop computers.

The company analyzed the screen sizes of devices that its customers’ readers use to access their content, and found that about 60 percent of all traffic came from devices with screen ratios of 16:9 or 16:10, indicating it came mostly from laptops or desktops. Overall, traffic from mobile devices accounts for between 10 and 20 percent of traffic, peaking at nearly 20 percent in the evenings and with most of it — at least 13.8 percent — coming from Apple iPads or iPhones.

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