Newark Venture Partners Labs held its Demo Day for its second cohort June 27. Introducing the companies in that second cohort, Tom Wisniewski, a managing partner at NVP, said that he felt as though he was introducing “his children.”
We “have alumni of great institutions like MIT, Penn and Harvard and alumni of great organizations like Amazon, Google and the U.S. Army,” he said. “We have repeat entrepreneurs working on their next big success and we have first-time entrepreneurs.”
Wisniewski told the audience that a diverse group of entrepreneurs would be presenting, including founders of color and female founders. “We fundamentally believe in the power of diversity in what we are doing.”
The companies that presented all had customers or potential customers, and had plans to scale; and many were gaining traction and making some money. In fact, some had already attracted investors outside of NVP.
The companies are listed here in the order they presented:
WearAway: Pitched by founder and CEO Lee Greene, WearAway (New York) is a B2B wardrobe rental marketplace for film, TV and advertising productions. Greene said that she had created the startup after working in the fashion industry for more than 10 years alongside hundreds of stylists on fashion shoots and TV commercial productions. “Being a wardrobe stylist is a tough job,” she said. A stylist needs to rent at least 10 outfits for each actor in a production to try on. For a production with 10 actors, the stylist will need to source 100 pairs of pants, 100 shirts, and 100 pairs of shoes. Right now, stylist procurement is a manual and burdensome process, she said.
Greene noted that rental houses have massive inventories, but they all lack an online presence. “WearAway brings wardrobe rentals online on a single platform for the very first time,” she said. Items can be checked out from multiple vendors and delivered to a set location the next day. The rental houses like WearAway because it exposes them to more stylists, and WearAway does their marketing for them, she said. Greene noted that last year $4 billion was spent on wardrobe rentals in the U.S. Looking towards the future, she said that the platform could scale to include props and furniture.
Envested: Isa Watson, founder and CEO of Envested (New York), spoke about her Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solution, which “revolutionizes” workplace giving and helps companies build a “retention-based culture.” Envested crowdsources local volunteering and giving opportunities, and connects employees with those opportunities and with each other. “Additionally, it provides a great deal of analytics on community impact and employee engagement,” Watson said. Prior to starting Envested, Watson was VP of strategy and market giving at JPMorgan Chase. “I had a front-row seat to see how workplace giving drives employee engagement and business outcomes. Branches with the highest engagement had the least employee turnover and the best business performance,” she said.
“We have been super deliberate and intentional to make sure we build a solution that not only works for the companies, but also works for the employees. Specifically, we’ve created a very engaging employee-facing platform that leverages gamification, social engagement and social dynamics.” On the company side, Watson said that the software fits into company workflow. She also mentioned that Envested had recently closed a funding round and that Audible is already using the product.
DocDelta: Coming to NVP Labs from South Africa, John Dymond, cofounder and CEO of DocDelta (New York), presented for the platform, which is an online marketplace for companies to hire nurses, doctors and other skilled healthcare professionals. “We have a great story so far. We have over 30 clients. We have over $400,000 in recurring revenue, we are profitable and we are generating cash,” he told the crowd.
He said that companies have a hard time recruiting healthcare professionals for short-term consulting opportunities and other temporary work. Physicians and nurses work endless hours, are tough to reach and are bombarded by messages from pharmaceutical companies and others, said Dymond. While doctors and nurses are looking for great financial opportunities, these “opportunities are difficult to get with all the communication noise.”
DocDelta’s marketplace offers great short-term consulting opportunities for healthcare professionals who have the right skills and experience. “At the heart of our product is a database of 3.5 million professional and institutional profiles.” Employers and healthcare professionals can connect, engage and search for opportunities with just a few clicks, he said.
POMCO: The presenter was A.J. Leahy, cofounder and president of POMCO (New York), “the Peace of Mind Company.” The “POM” is a keychain-sized personal safety device that connects the user with friends, family or the nearest emergency responder. “If you just need help with an awkward situation or there is a real emergency,” the device can help. Every year, 700,000 students are assaulted by another student on college campuses alone, said Leahy. The blue light poles around campuses don’t work, and getting out a cellphone to dial 911 may take too much time.
The POM is different because when it’s activated during an emergency, the campus police receive not only the student’s location, but also details about the student, including a photo and contact information, he said. “At the same time, the POM initiates a two-way voice call through the device itself directly to the dispatcher.” Even if the student is unable to speak, the POM picks up background noise to provide the emergency responder with additional info about the situation.
The POM can also be used discreetly to contact friends when the student is in an uncomfortable situation, or to send a fake call to the student’s cell phone to help get him or her out of that situation. “You can even set the caller ID so it looks like you are getting a call from Mom.” The startup charges $65 per student per year for the devices and service, which is paid for either by the school or the parents, he said. Leahy noted that in the past 18 months the startup “picked up 25 college campuses. …We have a shot at reaching $1 million if some of our contracts come in over the summer.”
WellSheet: Pitching for WellSheet (New York) was Craig Limoli, cofounder and CEO, who’s from Warren. A Princeton alumnus, Limoli had worked with IBM Watson on a partnership involving the integration of electronic health records (EHRs) before bringing his expertise to WellSheet, he said. WellSheet applies artificial intelligence to the management of medical records.
“Doctors spend half of their time on EHRs,” he told the audience. “And although there is important patient medical information in these systems, they also create hours of clerical non-MD-level work for physicians on a daily basis.” WellSheet plugs into existing EHR systems, extracts the most relevant information and displays it in such a meaningful way that it helps physicians address patient issues, Limuli said.
“The problem we are solving is disorganized data at the point of care. A typical physician has to pull together information across multiple teams and dozens of systems” just to get a full view of a complex patient, Limuli said. WellSheet is launched from within existing EHR systems. It finds information across sources, prioritizes what the physician needs to know and “adds intelligence to every step of the clinical workflow.” Limuli claimed that workflow gets better as physicians interact with the product. WellSheet is currently being piloted at five health systems nationwide, including Hackensack Meridian Health, the largest hospital system in New Jersey. The startup has also partnered with three large EHR vendors.
Claim it!: Finishing up the first half of the NVP Demo Day program was Claim it! (New York), represented by cofounder and CEO Ali Abdullah, along with other members of his team. The app, which launches on July 28, allows “people and brands to share free stuff to create buzz, drive traffic and promote the things you love in just seconds,” he said. The Claim it! team has years of experience in brand and product marketing, Abdullah noted.
Digital channels like Facebook aren’t great for brand awareness and product discovery, he told the crowd. “What we see are companies desperate to get millennials’ attention,” but consumers are fed up with “strings-attached coupons,” he said. At the same time, product-sampling platforms like Groupon have grown very large, “but they are transactional and not fun and compelling for the end user.” Claim it! allows companies and individuals to post offers for free in just seconds. Redemption is an easy online process. The platform also lets people discover free stuff from businesses located near them.
Another team member explained that companies like Apple Music can use the platform to give away free music, The Honest Company to offer free product samples, Uber to provide rides and the New Jersey Devils to fill empty seats and give away products at the last minute. The Claim it! team also said that it was going to be featured on Apple’s new TV series “Planet of the Apps.”