February #DCTech Meetup Demo Day

Hi All, 

I wanted to try something a little bit different than usual. Last week I went to an event hosted by DC Tech Meetup where 6 startups gave 4-minute demos/pitches. I thought it would be fun to go through the startups I saw and provide some quick commentary on each one as opposed to my usual deep dives on a single startup. I tried to Tweet throughout the event and will use these as guide posts.

Hatch provides a platform for users and small business to develop and launch their own apps without needing to write a single line of code. I love this idea and it was my favorite of the night. I am a big fan of anything that "democratizes" technology. Tech has become a cornerstone of each and every one of our lives, and yet the vast majority of us have no idea how it all works. I love services like Hatch that allow people to create and leverage technology, without needing technical backgrounds. However, one thing that makes me nervous is how beholden they are to the Apple and Google app stores. If either one of those companies says that you cannot publish Hatch-generated apps any longer, that could be curtains. 

The second demo was a company called Ridevert. The basic premise here is to put advertisements on bikes and pay people to drive them around. My first reaction to seeing this was a bit of surprise that bike ads are not more of a thing. I would have imagined in cities where bike delivery and bike share programs are so popular, bike advertisements would already exist. Ridevert is a novel concept, but I am not sure the unit economics are there to really drive behavior for the riders. Maybe if you can make the experience seamless enough that people feel like they can get paid for doing the activities they are already doing like commuting or doing deliveries it could work, but I definitely don't see this becoming the next Uber. 

GeoSpark Analytics leverages AI and machine learning to develop global risk and threat assessments. GeoSpark uses inputs from social media, news, weather, IoT (Internet of Things) devices and more to develop a baseline activity level for an area. Once this baseline is established they can extract insights from deviations to that baseline. They claim to use more varied sources than other competitors to provide a more dynamic view of the threat levels in a certain area. This seems like a very interesting premise, and GeoSpark is well positioned geographically with the bevy of defense/intelligence outfits in DC, but I can't help thinking that somebody has already won this race... 

Soundwise is a podcast platform that has developed tools and infrastructure to assist would-be podcasters get their shows up and running. Audio is growing at a pretty amazing rate and it is only going to get bigger in the near future. It is hard to be the next big thing. I love companies that are instead focused on developing the infrastructure necessary to support the next big thing. That being said, Soundwise is not without its challenges. It will be hard to convince users and creators alike to embrace an intermediary platform instead of going straight to incumbents like iTunes. You may be able to get one half of the equation right, but you really need both listeners and podcasters to build an ecosystem. 

Awkward. This was not the final demo. Anyways. Mark Labs aims to quantify the social impact of projects. They claim to be able to measure this impact using machine learning to analyze the key performance indicators of a certain project or investment. I think the real challenge is developing the KPIs worth measuring, so I am not sure how effective this will be. The thing that really intrigues me here is the potential to tie funding to outcomes. If Mark Labs really is able to measure the performance on projects, it could lead to many more impactful projects, as the good projects could be reinvested in and the bad projects could be cut loose. 

Shift is a marketplace for buying and selling used cars. This is one of those ideas where you just immediately wish it existed. Buying and selling cars is such a pain and it is still the same poor user experience it has had for 50 years. There should be no reason to go to a car dealership in this day and age. Unfortunately, there are some serious headwinds that Shift will need to overcome to be successful. Car dealerships are an extremely entrenched incumbent and they have shown that they will not go down without a fight. On top of that I have got to imagine that there are some serious difficulties with inventory/storage of vehicles. I hope Shift succeeds because the process of buying a car really needs to improve. 

Well that's it! I hope you enjoyed something a little bit different. Be sure to leave a comment about whether or not you liked this format and would want to see more summary posts like this in the future!