Live Blogging 500 Startups Demo Day--Aug. 16, 2011


4:23pm: Closing statement from Dave: "Hope you write some checks."

4:20pm: Entrepreneurs in video list problems in Latin America: government bureaucracy, taxes, low broadband penetration (but huge market that's growing). But as one points out, those building startups are running a marathon with mud up to their knees and they are still running -- amazing. 

4:19pm: Dave closing it up with video from Latin America "geeks on a plane" event. Finding startups in Brazil for next batch. Just $25K for a t-shirt. Thanks sponsors. Beers in the back!

4:19pm: KKLD, Kleiner Perkins, Khosla Ventures, all sponsors.

4:17pm: Building community first with a feedback loop. Need more startup designer success stories to attract more designers. Complementary extension to existing accelerators/incubators. Set up as nonprofit. Application in July, more than 200 designers applied. Mentors and angels are picking people interested in working with, referring them to 500 Startups and others.

(Photo courtesy @JamesDLevine)

4:15pm: Last message from Enrique of the Designer Fund (part of 500 Startups), which includes 40+ angels. They believe differentiated brand and experience design is critical to achieving meaningful impact. Design leadership critical.

4:15pm: Raised $400K, now raising $1M, already closed $125K.

4:12pm: People using LaunchRock love amplification and higher conversion rate. They want to know more about the people coming and who their friends are. Today you have to understand the relationship someone has with their friends. Product helps you help a person get the message to the right people at the right time.

[Our LaunchRock profile here

4:11pm: Back-end tracking for how messages spreading and where people coming from. Helped launch Zaarly, TaskRabbit but also a private airline, hair product, independent film, musician. Now helping 50 Cent launch a product in food and bev industry.

(Photo courtesy @JamesDLevine)


4:10pm: Jameson of LaunchRock takes stage ["Jesus of startups" says Dave.] Started in February with viral launch pages. Over 50K people waiting to use product, still in private beta.

4:10pm: Dan invested $350K of his own money, now raising $1.5M series A. In closed beta, ask Dan for invite.

4:09pm: Analytics layer. Crawl web for info and geo-sort.

4:08pm: Shows SF in Loku -- can see events in the area, like crime and animal protest. Focus in on one neighborhood -- see that a bar closed and another place is having a deal. Want ice cream, just so happens the "best ice cream" place in the Mission.

(Photo courtesy @JamesDLevine)

4:06pm: Dan of Loku takes stage. He wanted to find how the locals lived when he was traveling, but many people don't know things about their own community.

[Our Loku profile here]

4:06pm: "we don't fund lawyers unless they code," says David [referring to Mike's previous career].

4:05pm: Raising $300K, over $200K committed.

4:04pm: Started as traditional commerce and failed. Started researching -- coffee drinkers wanted everyday coffee to be like wine with tasting notes. $4B market for regular coffee beans you buy and brew at home. 

4:03pm: Shipped yesterday to over 300 subscribers in 41 states. Seeing organic international demand: U.K., France, Iceland, Japan, Australia, Singapore. 3.5% unique visitors purchased subsription, average of $80. People take phtoos of shipments, share on Twitter and Facebook.

4:02pm: Mike of Craft Coffee takes stage. Sells coffee experiences. First product is monthly coffee tasting box with tasting notes and info about the beans.

[Our Craft Coffee profile here]

4:01pm: Plan to expand to other languages and mobile platforms. Nearly 1000 developers in the private beta. Raising $500K equity round.

4:00pm: In private beta, 50-60% click-through to sign up, 100% who sign up create and test projects; half created second project. Developers love it. Rave reviews from Google engineers.

3:59pm: Solution: move development into browser, into cloud, then build social, collaborative layer. Imagine writing about something you need built, having developers jump into project, pay for $50 or $100 at a time as they make things happen.

(Photo courtesy @JamesDLevine)
3:57pm: Adrian of CoderBuddy, Odesk meets Heroku. Have you tried outsourcing development and not been happy? If we need water, we turn on tap. Imagine doing that for software development.

[Our CoderBuddy profile here]

3:56pm: Planning to add tagging, expanding to other languages. Revenue from in-app purchases ($5B market), like stickers and cards. Scrapbooking market is $2.5B.

3:54pm: Anti-PhotoShop: simple, fun and free and where your photos are. Can pull in photos from Facebook. Share collage when done. Use cases: babies, weddings, kids' camps, messages.

(Photo courtesy @JamesDLevine)

3:53pm: John of Cardinal Blue takes stage. Collage is a way to tell a story. PicCollage lets people create collages on iPhone and iPad. Launched a month ago, 400K downloads so far. Top 10 app in many countries, number 1 in Mexico, number 7 in U.S.

[Our CardinalBlue profile here]

3:52pm: Signed up 12 retailers in NY, LA, SF and London, given them mobile storefronts on a separate section of the app. After two weeks in app store, great press coverage. Built out nationwide network of street team for marketing. 

3:51pm: Has data on users for retailers. Platform them to engage with shoppers while they shop. Right now focused on shoes and bags, which look great in photos.

3:49pm: Women already taking photos of products in stores, looking for inspiration from other women. No mobile app dominates this market.

(Photo courtesy @JamesDLevine)

3:48pm: Sarah of Snapette takes stage. Why was there no easy way to view products in store near her when she was looking for shoes in SoHo? You can now browse what's trending and what's in nearby store. If you like an item, snap a photo and upload it, and other users can see it. Tap on item for price and to get directions to store.

[Our Snapette profile here]

3:47pm: Raising 500K, 70% committed. 

3:47pm: 1,700 subs with $40 average order, churn of 15%. [His mom was the first hire and first fire when they outsources fulfillment]

3:45pm: Limited time offers -- bundle items for discounts and recover revenue over time with repeat purchases. Discovery of new products. 15% of customers are women who set up accounts for guys. Great brands that men haven't heard of. Add to shipment with a single click. 

(Photo courtesy @JamesDLevine)

3:44pm: Ken of Manpacks takes stage. Dave doesn't spend time thinking about his underwear because he has better things to do. Manpacks quarterly delivers men's products like underwear. In the business of cleaning guys up -- they now include condoms.

[Our Manpacks profile here
3:42pm: Esther Dyson and Rafe Needleman should show us how it's done. They need to try again, they are not very good, says Dave [and it's true].

3:40pm: Cobra dance -- Dave demonstrates. Says he Doesn't think audience can do it. Challenges audiene to find partner. Start with a high five, then go back to cobra. Asks for volunteers or will pick one (volunteer saved because Snapette team volunteers). Not sure it was good. 

(Photo courtesy @JamesDLevine)

3:40pm: Hacks they could have prevented: Skype, Sony and others listed. Paying customers include HearSay. 

3:38pm: Tinfoil Security crawls your site like Google does looking for vulnerabilities, tells you if they found something and how to fix it in a way that fits your programming language. Tiered pricing. 

(Photo courtesy @JamesDLevine)

3:36pm: Ainsley of Tinfoil Security takes stage. She and co-founder love to test security of websites, found that a lot of them don't have much security. They love Airbnb, found major vulnerability and told them. They walked Airbnb through fixing the problem, then did more research -- 90% of small-medium businesses have been hacked.

[Our Tinfoil profile here

3:35pm: Clear path to revenue by charging per minute per user. Raising  $500K.

(Photo courtesy @JamesDLevine)

3:33pm: Patrick of Volta takes stage [ LAUNCH 2011 company -- see the video]. Making and tracking calls for large companies sucks and is inefficient. Volta has API that triggers phone calls to be added to queue.

[Our Volta coverage here]

3:31pm: In private beta in SF. Handful of events for last weeks, sold 80% of allotment for shows they've done. Next up are New York and L.A. Doesn't say how much they are raising [but told LAUNCH $500K]

3:30pm: People make last-minute plans and industry hadn't kept up with that. If you want to see what's happening last minute, you get a firehose of information. Partner with promoters and venues for listings. Only see things happening tonight. You can buy directly in the app and go to the venue. 

3:28pm: People don't see live events because they didn't know they were happening. $30B in revenue for live events in North America in 2010 -- but 40% of seats empty. They are going after that with their app.

(Photo courtesy @JamesDLevine)

3:28pm: Donnie of WillCall takes stage [ we get a shout-out for calling it Hotel Tonight for live events! ]

[Our WillCall profile here]

3:27pm: Just opened seed round (didn't say amount raising).

3:25pm: Users can tag and get endorsements, communicate freely, get found on new search feature -- how they built discovery into professional network. Now 18K users, just launched paid custom domains. A lot of people are not on LinkedIn, so recruiters are turning to Facebook but people don't want to be found there -- great fit for Zerply.

(Photo courtesy @JamesDLevine) 

3:24pm: Christofer of Zerply takes stage. Conversation they have over and over again: LinkedIn sucks, doesn't work for our generation. Realize they face huge chicken-and-egg problem building new social network, so first step is making people look awesome online.

[Our Zerply profile here

3:23pm: Raising $500K, "easy button for awesome music."

3:23pm: 86% of Pandora's revenue comes form advertising. Ran experiment -- ad plays every five songs, people enjoying it. Working on Android app.

3:21pm: finds music on web, sources playlist for you and automatically updates. Easy-to-use interface, fresh all the time. 40K listeners, 10K users, 70% active with some listening 8 hours a day.

3:20pm: Rocking out during the day -- what sucks is that you have to train Pandora. cool for 20 minutes but you have to babysit. iTunes only works if you know what you're looking for.
(Photo courtesy @JamesDLevine)
3:19pm: Alex Baldwin of takes stage, first move is to give away t-shirts. Tweet something nice to get one.

[Our profile here]

3:19pm: Raising $600K

3:17pm: Example: Digital Rock Stars event. First problem was managing guests, because each of the 10 sponsors had invited guests. Also had networking site so people could connect before, during and after. Feedback they've had: saved 30% in time, 10% in costs using Welcu. Integrated with Eventbrite, hotel and airline booking integrations coming next.

3:16pm: More than 15K users on platform and more than $30K in revenue.
(Photo courtesy @JamesDLevine)

3:15pm Nico of Welcu takes stage. They've organized events for four years, including biggest web event in Latin America. Working with multiple event tools sucks.

[Our Welcu profile here]

3:15pm: is raising $250K.

3:13pm: Example: George wants to get Sammy a gift. Mutual friend knows Sammy wants a certain pair of roller skates. Friends can suggest gifts, recipient can say which of those they want. At 500 Startups, they knew Dave's assistant Melissa wanted a laptop. They gave suggestions and she selected the MacBook Air, which they bought for her.

(Photo courtesy @JamesDLevine)

3:12pm: Eric of takes stage -- crowdsource gifts that don't suck. Giving gifts is hard work, not guaranteed to give something they want. People give gift cards, which don't always get used and don't show much thought.

[Our profile here

3:11pm: Raising $500K to expand team, Facebook offering.

3:10pm: Online dating is $4B market -- 40% of U.S. singles have tried online dating. Second largest category on Facebook.

3:09pm: Turn the model on its head and start with the date. Each day ChirpMe has fun things to do in your city so people can see things you want to do and you can see what others want to do. Connect with the person who's interested in the same thing as you.

(Photo courtesy @JamesDLevine)

3:07pm: Jonathan of ChirpMe takes stage. He started a social gaming company and had little time for dating and tried online dating -- terrible experience. Every date was at the same coffee shop and was awkward/like a job interview.

[Our ChirpMe profile here] 

3:06pm: Dave naming and thanking the 500 Startups team.

3:04pm: Dave says 500 Startups has 165 mentors worldwide, many of them in the Valley but also NY, Seattle, London, Paris, Tokyo, Beijing, etc. Showing video about the mentors.

3:02pm: Dave says we're getting started. Sit down, shut up and listen to some startups! He sees Esther Dyson writing checks so she's excused. Dave is singing "Unforgettable" and telling folks (again) to sit down.
2:24pm: break until 2:45pm.

2:23pm: Sue of EduLender takes stage -- TurboTax for financial aid. She got the promo spot at Demo Day because edulender made video promoting other 500 Startup portfolio companies

2:20pm: Promo video of Dave McClure's story and 500 Startups

2:18pm: Ray demos Singboard -- 500 Startups person singing to Justin Bieber "Baby Baby." His image appears in top corner. Business model: monthly subscription, charge for mobile app. Grown to 70M pageviews, total of 114M pageviews in last 30 days.

(Photo courtesy @JamesDLevine)

2:15pm: Ray of Singboard takes stage. Already thousands of YouTube videos where people are siinging to songs. If you want to sing Justin Bieber songs, you have to go to a karaoke bar, look for karaoke version of his songs on YouTube (nearly 3.8M views). Need a better experience 

[Our Singboard profile here]

2:14pm: They take 18% off each transaction. Also working on upselling providers.

2:13pm: More than 300 bookings since April 2011 launch. Three-quarters of inventory are exclusive experiences. Market on activities and tours is $26B and fastest growing segment in leisure travel.

(Photo courtesy @JamesDLevine)

2:12pm: Jamie of Vayable takes stage. People find things to do with guidebooks, word of mouth and searches but do same old things. Supply side pain point: hard time reaching travelers, problems with scheduling and payments. 

[Our Vayable profile here]

2:10pm: Daily Gobble charges restaurants $100 a month. Raising but doesn't say how much.

2:09pm: Digitize the receipt and give it to the restaurants in format they can use. Restaurants don't have to train anyone to use the system. Focused on national chains. They close 20 accounts per month, 7 times faster than OpenTable.

(Photo courtesy @JamesDLevine)

2:07pm: Dhazi of Daily Gobble takes stage -- make restaurants more money. Signed up 500 restaurants in two months. Data stream they use is the receipt: users close loop by taking photo and sending it to Daily Gobble, and they get a reward. Every smartphone user has a camera phone.

[Our Daily Gobble profile here]

2:06pm: Like family photo albums, Storytree becomes valuable heirloom.

2:05pm: Family stories done right can be powerful. Starts with family archivist. Power users make up $3B market (the ones who pay $20 a month for Person who starts storytree asks others, product inherently viral.

(Photo courtesy @500startups)

2:02pm: Zach Storytree takes the stage. Built it so he wouldn't lose history of his own family's history from the Philippines to the U.S. Shows video clips of baby's birth, girl playing soccer, girl in prom dress, grandparent talking, graduation, wedding and a person in a hospital bed.

[Our Storytree profile here

2:01pm: Raising $500K to build out platform. Giving out samples of Thai coconut soup to audience (we want some!). 

2:00pm: People are asking when they are coming to their city. Paloma, their Mexican cooking teacher, says she feels more like herself by teaching these classes. 

1:59pm: 18M people interested in making of ethnic dishes. Culture Kitchen SF calls them experiences, more than recipes. Saying it's like they had a Thai grandmother, they have a personal history of chef and passion for food and culture. All classes selling out, average price is $40, bumping up prices to $60 and selling out too. Partnering with Whole Foods in Palo Alto. 

1:58pm: Culture Kitchen SF works with immigrant women who have incredible cooking skills. They can teach anyone to cook authentic meals and about culture. 

(Photo courtesy @JamesDLevine)

1:57: Jennifer of Culture Kitchen takes stage. People have a hard time making ethnic food at home that looks and tastes the way it should. She learned how to make pad thai from chef in $50 class -- didn't turn out well. 

[Our Culture Kitchen profile here]

1:56pm: They reached cash-flow positive in 9 months, $555K in recurring revenue and 2,700 active customers. Raising $300K.

1:55pm: They demo app to SBOs and how beautiful it is. They make five sales per day per rep at $20 a month. 

(Photo courtesy @JamesDLevine)

1:52pm: Small business owners hate self-service. They update Facebook because that's where they are. Appetizer can build out key app component from what they include on FB so businesses don't have to spend time on it.

[Our Appetizer profile here

1:51pm: stretch break!

1:50pm: During 4-week beta: 10% conversion rate and $75 CPM. 

1:49pm: Email newsletters can accept or reject ad proposals that they get. Shows Grasshopper ad that ran in The Greenhorn Connector. Ads include trackable action buttons. Pivoted to this four weeks ago, closed beta included advertisers and publishers. 

1:48pm: 32B emails, many are from email companies. Advertisers can't scale doing relationships with individual email newsletters. LaunchBit is focused on technology vertical to start.

(Photo courtesy @JamesDLevine)

1:48pm: Elizabeth of LaunchBit takes stage. Adviser Andrew Chen has built an ad network.

[Our LaunchBit profile here]

1:47pm: Dave McClure says write a check for one of the companies, get a 500 Startups t-shirt.

1:45pm: Case study: 61% of users come back to restaurants more often. There are 50K midsize chain locations -- their focus for now. Also 300K take out/delivery restaurants and 200K fast food stores.

1:42pm: Skipola allows restaurants to publish white-label apps, push specials and accept orders with no transaction fee. Register app digitizes orders and places on screen. Can direct orders from GrubHub into Skipola's system, along with their contact information, so you can have complete database of your customers.

(Photo courtesy @JamesDLevine)

1:41pm: Igor of Skipola takes stage. Restaurant owners want to maximize number of orders, but they pay too much in transaction fees to GrubHub and don't own the customer. How can you offer your customers deals? 

[Our Skipola profile here]

1:39pm: Developer clients love the product, they've even called it a lovefest. Adding feedback widget for site owners, integration with Zendesk, app support, and integration with billing software. 

1:38pm: Same scenario of sending client the build, but BugHerd is installed. The client clicks new issue, types in the name of problem rather than sending email. BugHerd knows their browser, time they created the issue. BugHerd plays nice with others, over 1,400 users. 

(Photo courtesy @JamesDLevine)

1:37pm: Matt of BugHerd takes the stage and says he had difficulty communicating with clients about bugs. Could spend hours trying to figure out what client is talking about -- not time that you can bill.

[Our BugHerd profile here]

1:36pm: Salesforce and Colgate execs recently joined them. Raising $500K, $150K committed.

1:34pm: Recruiting market: $1.7B on recruiting, $5.4B on travel, $48.7B on hiring agencies.

1:33pm: Hasbro reduced hiring from four to two weeks with Ovia. Recruiters watched, evaluated and shared responses they liked best. Reduced number invited for in-person interviews from seven to three. Already has $90K in revenues.

(Photo courtesy @JamesDLevine) 

1:32pm: Taking the stage: Rodrigo of Ovia -- screen people, not resumes. Recruiting process is a mess. Identify higher quality candidates faster. Replace first-stage interview with Ovia video interview, which doesn't happen in real time.

[Our Ovia profile here]

1:31pm: Raising 400K to build team, acquire students and proofreading API.

1:30pm: Kibin's app working well -- users growing 44% week over week and the number of papers proofread growing 40% week over week. Have paid users already. 80% of users are students -- 31M across the country writing 30 papers each year, so 930M papers need proofreading.

(Photo courtesy @JamesDLevine) 

1:27pm: Travis of Kibin takes the stage, explains how he needed editing of his paper but didn't like the options that were out there -- no transparency around cost, no idea who was editing his work. Found people trading personal statements on Yahoo Answers. Kibin users get a proofread paper back in under 24 hours, no guesswork.

[Our Kibin profile here]

1:26pm: Raising $800K, $510K committed.

1:24pm: How do people discover apps? Developers can't get paid per install since Apple banned that. You can increase organic downloads by displaying the icon, name and price clearly. AppGrooves provide feedback on names and descriptions, charge 50 cents per feedback then ask users for feedback. Users get 12.5 cents per answer from that.

1:22pm: Naoki of AppGrooves takes stage. AppGrooves is a/b testing platform for app developers and has "hot or not" app for consumers to discover apps. They had 80K downloads of that app in six days, 10 votes per session.

1:21pm: Daily Aisle is already available in San Francisco, moving to other markets like New York and to verticals like photography and entertainment. Raising $500K.

[Our Daily Aisle profile here]

1:20pm: Cost per 1K users for Daily Aisle is $2K, they take 10% reservation fee from the venue. 2% conversion rate can mean over $21K.

1:18pm: Problem: brides have to call locations and drive out to see them -- takes too much time. Brides can search by location, budget, etc to get info. Drill down further for calendar of when venues are available. No other website does this. And businesses don't get good leads by advertising on TheKnot and elsewhere. Bride's info is included in info vendors receive via Daily Aisle.

1:17pm: Daily Aisle's Kim takes stage. She asks how many people are married, how many enjoy talking to people planning weddings (one guy!).

1:16pm: Raising $500K, some of it already committed. 

1:15pm: Hackers and Founders TV uses Vidcast -- search brings you to their branded page. 

1:14pm: YouTube can't help you move sales on your product. Kieran Looks at how Virgin America is missing video SEO opportunities. Search and you find user-generated videos, not Virgin America's own content. 

1:13pm: Vidcaster Solution for Airbnb -- they created their own TV site on their domain. Viewership has tripled since started using Vidcaster.

1:13pm: Vidcaster CEO Kieran Farr takes the stage. Vidcaster allows companies to create branded video content directly onto their domains. He says they have top customers like Twilio and Airbnb.

[Our Vidcaster profile here]

1:12pm: Tout is Raising another 350K, $100K already committed.

1:10pm: Tout can now go into your gmail (yay!). Margot is demonstrating how you can choose templates from within your compose window. Those emails appear in your Tout dashboard.

1:09pm: Already raised money from investors like Esther Dyson and made a bunch of hires.

1:08pm: But people also want to track how successful their emails are. TK says they have over 6K users, and Tout has processed over 90K emails and over 1K a day.

(Photo courtesy Blake Robinson @blake)

1:07pm: TK shows how the Tout email templates work -- he can send his pitch deck

[Our Tout profile here]

1:06pm: That's better - we can hear him now

1:04pm Getting started with Dave McClure--weird dude playing music has ended.

We'll start our LIVE coverage of the 500 Startups Demo Day at 1pm PDT.

Check out the companies we've profiled so far:

BugHerd - 12:51pm PDT, Aug. 16


WillCall - 12:28pm PDT, Aug. 16

AngelList: - Aug. 14


Culture Kitchen - Aug. 15


Daily Aisle - Aug. 12


Daily Gobble - Aug. 16


Kibin - Aug. 12


LaunchBit - Aug. 12 


Skipola - Aug. 12 


Storytree - Aug. 15 


Tinfoil Security - Aug. 16 


Vayable- Aug. 16 


Welcu - Aug. 16 


Zerply - Aug. 16