Entrepreneur

Meet 500 Startups’ new batch of startups

Startup accelerator 500 Startups announced its fourth batch of companies on Wednesday, a fun group that includes a necktie subscription service, a Dropbox-based collaboration tool for creatives, a consumer-action site currently trying to take down Big Cable, and a property-inspection iPad app.

For those who aren’t familiar with it, 500 Startups is an early-stage seed fund and incubator program that’s become a brand name over the last few years, mostly through the sheer volume of companies it’s invested in. The Mountain View, Calif.-based group invests between $25,000 to $250,000 in startups, primarily those aimed at consumers and small-to-medium-size businesses, as well as related web infrastructure services.

Its latest selection of companies is eclectic, but there are a few trends: Fashion, and help for people who are fashion-deficient, is hot — inspired no doubt by a little company called Pinterest. Education disguised as fun, specifically on iPads, is huge as well. Only seven of the 26 companies have a female co-founder. There are twelve international entries from variety of countries including Mexico, Brazil, Slovenia, India, and the Philippines, and over half are from outside the San Francisco area.

“The previous batches have always had some international presence, but that’s something that really stands out in this group,” said 500 Startups partner Christine Tsai, who told VentureBeat that they didn’t necessarily seek out companies in foreign markets. Founding partner Dave McClure also previously noted that the startup accelerator doesn’t mind looking outside its comfort zone, and has added a number of international partners to help boost its awareness.

Companies accepted into 500 startups get a chunk of funding in exchange for equity, access to a network of mentors and resources, the ability to participate in various events, and  a spot presenting in front of potential investors at the accelerator’s Demo Days conference.

500 Startups put together a short video for the new batch’s debut, inspired by the new Hunger Games movie, but we’ve created this more scannable roundup of the latest startup hopefuls. You can also see screenshots of their products in the slideshow at the bottom.

ActivityHero

This website is a directory of activities that keep kids busy while freeing up a few hours (or days or weeks) of down time for their parents. Calling itself a “Yelp for kids’ activities” the company grew out of a listing of listing summer-camps that started last year called Sign Up For Camp.com. Now it’s expanding the business to include shorter activities such as dance classes, art programs, and other after-school time-killers in its two pilot locations, the San Francisco Bay Area and Philadelphia. On the site, parents can read program descriptions, locate a program on a map, or check out user reviews.

A lot of the company’s copy is angled specifically at moms, but the assumption that fathers wouldn’t be equally interested in finding extra-curricular programs for their brood seems old-fashioned, not to mention bad business. Dads want some alone time too, you know? The company was founded by Silicon Valley vets Shilpa Dalmia, Chandini Ammineni, and Peggy Chang.

Bluefields

At first we thought this was another fantasy league startup, but were pleasantly surprised to see that it a tool for organizing real live sports teams. Using a combination of the startup’s desktop, web, and mobile apps, you can organize a your amateur soccer team, sloshball league, or quiddich playoffs. Send invites over email or text, track who’s in the lineup as people respond, create a landing page for game details with a map, and quickly let everyone know about last-minute changes or cancellations. The London-based company was founded by Andrew Crump and Piers Rollinson.

Bombfell

Getting dressed can be hard, especially for fashion-challenged dudes. Bombfell just wants to help. This is actually a startup that Silicon Valley’s hoodie-wearing hoards desperately need (perhaps for when they’re presenting their company to potential investors ahead of a major IPO). The subscription-based service asks you what you need in your closet — perhaps you want help with finding non-jeans pants, decent collared shirts, maybe even a sweater vest that brings out your eyes. A stylist will handpick the requested item from a selection of hip brands (Ben Sherman, French Connection) and talented new designers (Descendant of Thieves) and ship it to you. If you don’t like what they’ve sent, mail it back with free shipping and don’t pay anything for the clothing item. If you decide, hey, this button down makes me look pretty fly, you can keep it and Bombfell charges you a $69 flat fee.

Bombfell was started by a couple of Harvard alums, Jason Kim and Bernie Yoo. Kim has worked at Nickelodeon Games, MTV Networks, and Morgan Stanley. Yoo put in time at LOLapps, Goldman Sachs, and Microsoft, as well as Y Combinator alum Foodoro, an online marketplace for gourmet food.

CardFlick

Sometimes we’re at tech conferences or events and think, dang, how crazy is it that we still exchange paper business cards? Following in the footsteps of Bump, CardFlick is taking a stab at the virtual business-card space with a design-centric iOS app that came out last year. You can design a slick-looking virtual card using photos from your Camera Roll or Instagram and then physically flick the screen to send your card to someone else who has the app. If they don’t have it installed, you can just email, text, or tweet it. The info is automatically added to the iPhone’s Contacts app, and if someone updates their CardFlick information, the same data is automatically updated for all the people who have their card. An Android version of the app is currently in beta. Unsurprisingly given its beautiful interface, CardFlick was founded by a designer, Ketan Anjaria.

Chalkable

This tool for school is a web-based platform that helps teachers and institutions manage day-to-day tasks. There is an app store filled with compatible web-apps on a variety of middle school and high school topics. Those apps can use the Chalkable API to work with any of the service’s core features, including a shared calendar, grading tools, attendance tracking, and a custom emailing interface. For Chalkable to work best, a school needs to set it up so all teachers can take advantage of it. The cost is $10 per student a year, with half of that going into a budget for apps. The New York City based startup was founded by Michael Levy, who previously founded Entertainment Teller Machine and worked at TriSpecs Inc, and  Zoli Honig, who started the IT firm ZZ Tech and fro-yo chain Berrylicious.

Fontacto

One of this group’s international entries, Fontacto is a Google Voice-esque tool for people in Mexico and other parts of Latin America. An entrepreneur or freelancer working out of a home office or coffee shop can use a virtual Fontaco number to sound more professional, like they’re in a proper office and wearing pants. A Fontaco number can be rerouted to any landline, mobile phone, or even a Skype account. You’re not limited to a number for your location, you can get digits for other cities and give the impression of being everywhere at once. The startup was founded by a team of four: Daniel Martinez, Joaquin Martinez, Jose Antonio del Rio, and Ricardo Cacique.

Groupiter

This new collaborative offering piggybacks on wildly popular cloud sharing-tool Dropbox. Groupiter adds real-time conversations to file sharing. Upload that power-point deck and sit back while your co-workers discuss the pros and cons of using Comic Sans on the title page. Share a few photos of wedding dresses and get immediate opinions from a sibling overseas. The company is still keeping details under wraps and is not currently offering the tool to the general public (you can sign up on the homepage to be on the invite list), so its hard to tell how much it has in common with similar offerings in the space such as 37Signals’ Campfire. It will most likely be aimed at more creative types and workflows, and founder Chris Dyball (formerly of Getty Images and Surfing Magazine) said recently on Twitter “we’ve been working with leading creatives at Warner, Sony, Lego, Hulu.”

Happy Inspector

When you think “property inspections,” the word “happy” might not immediately pop into your mind. If you are a property manager who has to do these types of tedious inspections for a living, being able to do them on a slick iPad app is probably very happy-making indeed. You can fill out the default fields (the kitchen sing is good/fair/dirty/broken) on the checklist or make your own custom entries, and attach an image to each one. When you’re done with a report you can automatically generate a PDF for the house, apartment, TV studio, ice cream parlor, or hospital and email it to any relevant parties. The app is free, but each inspection will cost $1.79, or you can inspect your little heart out with the unlimted $45 a month plan. The company has two offices in Australia and was founded by Jindou Lee, Jindou Lee, and Andrew Mackenzie-Ross.

Ingresse

This ticketing and events-discovery site lets organizers or performers add their own events, sells tickets, and shows attendees which of their friends will be at the same concert, art show, conference, or football match. It will even share where their buddies are seated. After collecting a bit of information from a user, the site will even be able to recommend similar events they might enjoy. Afterwards, attendees can leave reviews or comments about an event. The company is based in Brazil, where the founders saw an opportunity to provide much-needed electronic-ticketing technology to ticket vendors. The co-founders are Gabriel Benarrós, who studied behavioral economics at Stanford, Sébastien Robaszkiewicz, who studied Computer Science at Stanford and Marcelo Henrique.

Monogram

One of a number of fashion-related startups in this group, Monogram is a shopping app for the iPad that turns an algorithm into a personal stylist. Similar to popular news-reading apps Flipboard and Zite, the app learns what brands and fashions you like over time and edits down the content it delivers to fit your tastes. However, the Monogram founders were smart enough to add some humans to the mix because “machines alone have no sense of style/trends and do a poor job of fashion recommendations.” The app groups things into categories such as price (purses under $500? We’ll take four!) and new, or by store or flash sale site, such as Gilt Group. Leo Chen and Josh Chen aren’t just co-founders of the Mountain View-based company, they’re also roommates! The two met on a Geeks on a Plane trip and have another startup together, Packagetrackr, which covers their rent with AdSense money.

PocketOffice

This iPhone app wants to make it easier for small businesses to communicate with their clients or other business contacts, improving customer retention. Using the app, you can connect with people using text messages, email, Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. You can have one-on-one conversations or send out mass promotions. The app will automatically address each email to the individual person, saving you the pain and misery of a mail merge. It can also be used to encourage referrals and book appointment slots. The service costs $25 a month after a free one-month trial period. PocketOffice is a San Francisco based startup, co-founded by Alan Wells (formerly of Zynga, Affinity Labs, and Nextive) and Glenn Allen (a co-founder of OpenTable).

PublikDemand

Firing off an angry rant to a customer service email address can be satisfying, but does it really make a difference? PublikDemand helps organize your outrage against companies, union-style. Customers can band together to make demands such as taking on Comcast for violating net neutrality. To up the stakes, if a company doesn’t comply PublikDemand will work with its competitors on exclusive offers. Naturally, the idea was inspired by customer service black hole Time Warner Cable, which charged Courtney Powell hundreds of dollars for a router they claimed she didn’t return. Powell is now CEO of PublikDemand, which she started in Austin, Texas with co-founders Jim England, A.T. Fouty, and Richard McClellan.

Sqoot

After last year’s deluge of daily deals sites, many of us were suffering daily deals fatigue. (Group-yawn, amirite?) Sqoot has a different approach that may bring a little life, and money, back to the genre. Using the Sqoot API, apps can integrate daily deals offers into their existing apps, giving them a way to make some money. For $99 a month, apps can keep 50 percent of the revenue on any deals sold through their app. It’s a nice alternative for any publisher or developer with a location-based app. The Chicago-based co-founders Mo Yehia and Avand Amiri are still distancing the company from a gross bit of sexism while promoting a hackathon earlier this year.

Storypanda

Storypanda makes interactive kid’s stories for the iPad. The app acts as a bookshelf and marketplace for Storypanda books — the selection will be updated monthly. A modern day choose-your-own-adventure book, kids can re-mix their favorite stories and share the results with their friends. The Vancouver-based startup’s co-founders, James Chutter and Pavel Bains, bring an impressive amount of experience in interactive entertainment, including time in the game, film, and TV industries.

Teamly

Work productivity-booster Teamly starts by having employees enter their top five priorities for the day and month, and then sends them helpful daily email reminders. Managers can track what their minions are working on and see the latest status of any tasks, as well as charts showing their productivity over time. The micromanagement app claims it will help ease micromanagement, perhaps by making it an unspoken, passive sort of activity. If unspoken isn’t your management style, you can leave comments on different tasks (“Stop reading MSNnow and finish that feature. -Dylan Tweney”). Teamly will only let you set a handful of goals, which can help you focus on what’s important. The UK-based startup was founded by Scott Allison, Matthew Berman, and Edward Robertshaw, who met in Omaha, Nebraska.

TeliportMe

TeleportMe is a panorama photography app for Android smartphones. The app lets you take large panoramic images with your phone’s camera and stitches them together. The final product can be shared on Twitter or Facebook, or though TeliportMe where you can set up a profile for yourself. The fun part is browsing other users’ panoramas from around the world. The app will compete against similar products, Photosynth and TourWrist. TeliportMe was founded in Bangalore, India by Vineet Devaiah and Abhinav Asthana.

TenderTree

This startup connects people who need help with older or infirm family members with qualified caregivers in their area. Trusting a stranger to take care of a loved one can be stressful, but TenderTree helps by carefully screening the candidates for you. Caregivers are subjected to a federal background check and interviews with previous clients before they can even be listed. Once you hire someone, the service helps with the little details like managing payment, contracts, and tracking hours. The service is in beta in San Francisco, but will be rolling out to other cities in the near future. The Bay Area company was founded by Andy Agrawal and Dana Wu.

Tie Society

When you hear the name “Netflix” you immediately think of ties, right? Us too, which is why Tie Society is offering online rentals for men’s neck ties. As the company’s founders explain it, not every upstanding man has the opportunity to buy a new tie for every event. Tie Society allows them to choose between ties of all colors, materials, and widths to keep up with the trends no matter how small their closet is. With only 300 ties for all those necks, we hope they will grow their inventory as they grow their customer base. (The Tie Society customer makes us think of that Tea Party YouTube video created by Smirnoff Iced Tea. It features Martha’s-Vineyard-20-somethings, swaddled in seersucker and cable knit, “chillin'” on golf courses.)

Timbuktu Labs

This iPad app is an interactive magazine packed with a variety of content to keep your kids entertained while they’re learning. The issues are filled with great design, things to read, quizzes, photos, simple games, and videos. For example, in the Night issue there’s an article shows you how to make shadow puppets, tips on sleeping tight, and fun stats and facts. The Italy-based company was started by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo.

TokyoOtakuMode

Representing Japan, this year-old news site (called TOM for short) has the latest on Manga and Anime culture. Currently, all of the action is taking place on the startup’s Facebook page, which has 3.7 million likes. Our favorite detail about TOM is that once a month everyone comes to work in full cosplay getups. We hope they’ve carried that tradition over to 500 Startups.

Toshl

You hate tracking your finances, you love playing games. What if your bank accounts were a little more game-like? Toshl wants to make finance and budgeting fun, and it uses actual adorable monster characters to do it. Impressively, the app is available on most every phone platform, including BlackBerry and Nokia. The Slovenia-based company was founded by Matic Bitenc and Miha Hribar.

TwitMusic

This startup out of the Philippines gives musicians a way to promote their music on Twitter by auto-tweeting songs and directing followers to a special landing page for each tune. The page is optimized for maximum sharing, hashtags and all, to help your ditty go full Rebecca Black (only good, hopefully). The company already has some pretty impressive musicians using it, including Duran Duran, Bow Wow, Jason Mraz, and Brian Adams, who released a single exclusively on the platform. The company goes up against similar audio-hosting service SoundCloud. It was founded by Stefano Fazzini and Christian Fazzini.

UmbaBox

Another monthly delivery service, UmbaBox is packing up handmade products for the ladies who love Etsy. Each shipment contains one to three products such as jewelery, bath products, or home decor. You never know what you’re going to get, but the crew at UmbaBox is handpicking the goods to prevent any Regretsy-worthy shipments. Memberships costs $23 a month, with a minimum three-month commitment. The Washington D.C.-based company was founded by Lauren Thorp.

Uscoop

College kids might spend most of their time in sweatpants, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have style, right? Uscoop is another fashion-deals site, this time just for kids in college, who have their own micro-trends to stay up on. Instead of using an algorithm or stylist, Uscoop looks at what college kids are wearing to give other college kids an idea of what college kids are wearing. The D.C.-based company peddles “all-American” brands and was founded by Jocelyn Gailliot, Madeline Moore, and September Rinnier.

Wanderable

Registering for kitchen wares is so old school. Hip young couples getting married want to pool their guests money for exotic honeymoons instead. Traveler’s Joy has been the go-to site for honeymoon registries for years. Wanderable hopes to make a dent in its market share by giving users a bit more control over the design of their landing pages, and by adding a community layer so newlyweds can share (the g-rated) details about what they did on their honeymoon. The co-founders, Marcela Miyazawa and Jenny Chen, met when they were assigned as roommates their freshman year at Stanford.

Yogome

Finally, Yogome disguises learning about topics such as math, languages, recycling, and health, in a cool game that pits a squad of super-smart heroes against the evil Queen Ignorantia. Each game is a stand-alone iPad app with bright comic-book-like illustrations. The Mexico-based startup was founded by Manolo Diaz and Alberto Colin.

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Additional reporting by Tom Cheredar and Meghan Kelly.


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