It’s a unique time to graduate from a startup accelerator.
The 12 teams that just completed a three-month stint with Techstars Seattle will navigate a slowing tech market and more cautious investors compared to recent years.
“I think we can all agree that some of the most successful companies out there were born in the times of turmoil,” said Techstars Seattle Managing Director Marius Ciocirlan, speaking on stage at the Museum of Pop Culture Thursday night for the accelerator’s latest Demo Night.
Techstars expanded to Seattle in 2010, and since then 132 companies have gone through the program. They have collectively raised more than $2.5 billion in private capital since graduating. The 2011 class alone produced three unicorns.
Ciocirlan took over as managing director of Techstars Seattle after Isaac Kato stepped down last year.
The demo format was different this year: Founders pre-recorded their pitch, Ciocirlan asked them a series of questions, then they demoed their product in a showroom.
We were there covering the action. Read on to learn about our favorite pitches.
Founders: Julie Saltman, Joell Stocchero, Stephen Solka
The best pitch of the night belonged to Standd, a startup building a knowledge discovery and navigation platform for legal teams using natural language processing. Founder and CEO Julie Saltman understands the market as a former lawyer and adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law Center.
Here’s the pitch: “We use AI-enabled search that leverages the power of ChatGPT so that lawyers can go to our web-based platform, enter a natural language query, and get a summarized response written like a lawyer with proper case citations.”
Saltman highlights two trends that could set the startup apart in a crowded legal tech market:
- Lawyers view AI-generated legal documents with skepticism as it cuts into their billable hours.
- Some are skeptical to trust generative AI, as one customer compared it to an “untrustworthy first-year associate.”
“We instead are laser-focused on the search problem, which is a big driver of unbilled time,” Saltman said.
The startup is targeting small-mid sized firms as its initial focus. The U.S. is comprised of 500,000 firms in this segment, presenting a market opportunity of $8 billion through its subscription-plus-meter pricing model, according to the company.
Founders: Caroline Cadwell, Tim Smits, Jorn Rigter
At your next house party, the host might be taking your car keys and your Unpluq.
The startup sells a small piece of hardware that locks and unlocks mobile apps to wean users off digital distractions. Cadwell, CEO and a startup veteran, said the company’s biggest differentiator is its ability to keep users engaged and committed.
“Our retention is an outlier,” she said, adding that its subscriber retention is 63% in 30 days and 60% at 90, respectively. “Because our unique solution is solving our customers problem in a way that no one else has been able to do.”
The startup is hitting the market at a time when the broader conversation around mental health and social media use is a national agenda item.
Silico Data Services
Founders: Hiep Luong, Jason Cheong, Rohit Kuma
Silico Data Services CEO Hiep Luong, who spent more than a decade at pharmaceutical giant Gilead Sciences, said he was “shocked” when the FDA put a hold on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine because of quality issues.
“They ultimately told J&J to throw away 75 million dosages of their vaccine,” he said.
The startup aims to streamline medical quality assurance procedures by digitizing and automating the process through natural language processing. The goal is to reduce the assessment time from two weeks to just an hour, minimizing human error in the process.
Luong shared that the company has already generated revenue through successful proofs of concept with some pharmaceutical manufacturers.
Here’s a look at the rest of the Techstars Seattle cohort
Founders: Amandeep Singh, Ramakant Yadav
The pitch: A no-code app developer that integrates AI and ML.
Quote from Demo Night: “The fundamental difference is that a Streamlit user has to write lines and lines of code, even if they have to make a simple app,” Singh said about competition. “On the other hand, we are completely no-code, and users can build very sophisticated ML apps without writing a single line of code.”
Founders: Adam Baker, Kim di Centa
The pitch: A software sales platform that enables two-way collaboration between buyers and sellers.
Quote from Demo Night: “There’s an inflection point where they’re not hitting revenue goals,” Baker said about enterprise customers. “And so it’s forced them to evaluate the sales tools that they’ve currently got. Dealpad will enable these companies to replace two or three of their existing sales tools and consolidate them onto one central platform.”
Founder: Hannah Brannan
The pitch: A marketplace that connects flower shoppers with local farmers.
Quote from Demo Night: “We monetize with our 26% marketplace margin, which we’ve been able to double from year one,” Brannan said.
Founders: Adrienne Humblet, Catherine Humblet
The pitch: A mobile app that connects to a user’s rowing machine for immersive training and racing.
Quote from Demo Night: “There are 40 million people who get on an indoor rowing mission each year,” Catherine said. “Almost all of them have never been in a rowing boat.”
Founders: Ariella Chorn, Kobi Schonberger
The pitch: Provides real-time pet care recommendations through an AI chatbot.
Quote from Demo Night: “Koala is a pet insurance company revolutionizing the market by lowering the number and cost of veterinary bills so that pet parents don’t need to choose between treating their pets’ broken leg and breaking the bank,” Chorn said. “Our differentiator lies in our AI-based symptom checker. We provide pet parents personalized pet health recommendations based on similar cases.”
Founder: Laura Crain
The pitch: A digital community for women going through menopause and curated products.
Quote from Demo Night: “Most of these brands have already been in the Perry app to get access to our consumers,” Crain said. “So the community part is really our moat.”
Founders: Caleb John, Jamari Morrison
The pitch: A text messaging service for creators to engage with fans.
Quote from Demo Night: “We really see the creative economy as the future of digital advertising,” John said. “We see ad dollars flowing out of traditional media networks and into creators, so we really help creators leverage data from their audience to make the most of this trend.”
Founders: Irshaad Ahmed, Sajid Khan
The pitch: An Uber-like marketplace for tow truck operators and drivers to connect to towing and other auto repair services.
Quote from Demo Night: “Over the past year, we’ve had about 35,000 tows booked on TowGrace across 35 cities,” Ahmed said. “Our net monthly revenue is $65,000 a month. The average tow company pays us $400 a month.”
Founders: Gal Dalali, Almog Avitan
The pitch: An XR software provider that works with off-the-shelf VR headsets.
Quote from Demo Night: “Emergency response teams worldwide use primitive classroom exercises and tools such as PowerPoint to prepare and train for routine and critical missions,” Dalali said. “A recent study showed that only 5% of the information heard in classroom exercises is actually remembered, compared to 75% retention in interactive learning methods.”