This story covers LightAge, KidGooRoo, RankSense and SAM.AI
Twice a year, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) tech and life sciences team puts together its Founders & Funders event, which matches New Jersey startups with angels and VCs. In a single day, during 10-minute meetings, startups have the opportunity to pitch to many investors, and they receive valuable feedback from their meetings that can help them as they continue in their quest for funding. We interviewed some startups that attended the event in May.
LightAge: Greg Murphy, president of LightAge (Neptune), told us that his startup had developed a product that is used for lighting that matches the natural illumination of the spectrum of the sun. “So it’s like bringing natural sunlight indoors.” Customers are often night-shift workers and second-shift workers, but the company is marketing mainly to senior living facilities and nursing homes, “because many of these folks have gone months, maybe years, without seeing natural sunlight.”
When NJTechWeekly.com interviewed Murphy, he had already had four meetings with investors. “They all had great advice and good questions. I’m evolving and tweaking my presentation based on those questions and their suggestions and comments.” The best thing that happened was that one investor asked, “Besides money, what else can I do for you?” Murphy actually took him up on that. “We are looking for a new member for our board of advisers with a strong understanding of going through these investment stages.”
KidGooRoo: “You can think of us as the Yelp for kids’ out-of-school activities,” KidGooRoo (Fair Haven) cofounder Alexandra Skove told us. “We cover anything a kid wants to do out of school, from ages 0 to 18. We feature everything from mommy-and-me swim classes to piano teachers to academic tutors, to SAT prep and driving school for the oldest kids. We are the only comprehensive listing of after-school activities, and we layer on to that ratings and reviews from parents who have been there and done that, so that other parents finally have the information that they need to make better choices for their kids.”
Asked what she would do with additional funding, Skove said, “We would spend it on advertising to get the word out to the community, so that the parents know to come to KidGooRoo to research their after-school activities and to write reviews about things that they like and dislike.” The startup is also working on some enhanced tools that will help parents more easily find and register for after-school activities, she said.
At the time of the interview, Skove had attended four investor meetings. “We have talked to some people who invest in this space, and for them it was a more relevant story. People who don’t traditionally invest in consumer technologies or marketplaces were a harder sell. It’s been a good experience for me to tell the story over and over again and get some feedback.” Asked for an example of some feedback she could use, Skove told us that someone had advised her that she needed to know right off the top of her head what the total addressable market for all of the different revenue sources would be. “I had it,” but hadn’t said it right away, she told us.
RankSense: Hamlet Batista (CEO) and Marc Dreyfus (Sales) of RankSense (Iselin) came to the EDA event. Batista explained that his company makes finding out if SEO is working quicker for internet retailers. “SEO optimization takes about six months to see results, which is a lot of time. Few customers have the time to spare. If SEO doesn’t work it can cost people jobs. Our mission is to compress that time to six weeks, so you can see results faster. If it doesn’t work we can change it.”
RankSense’s technology not only gives recommendations for SEO optimization, but it also makes automatic changes for internet retailers so they don’t have to do anything on their end, Dreyfus said. Batista explained that in SEO you have to rank high, in order to perform well. Before a page is ranked it has to be indexed. So, before a page is indexed RankSense’s product looks at the tagging on the page.
“We fix the SEO tagging of the pages with automation so the pages get indexed. For retailers, we are talking about the products. Nobody has the time to tag tens of thousands of products. So with automation we scale that, get those pages tagged, and on average we see an increase of 30 percent on the number of pages that get indexed and that translates into more traffic.”
Asked about his investor meetings, Batista said that they were very good. While the first investor wasn’t a great match, he was helpful and said he would introduce the startup to another investor who would be a better match. The second investor was an associate at a VC firm and wanted to introduce them to the more senior person at the VC firm, which “we think is a positive conclusion.” The duo also talked to a representative from an angel investor group who was excited about their solution and wanted to continue the conversation. “All in all it was a good use of our time,” Batista said.
SAM AI. Raz Choudhury of SAM.AI, a NVP Labs company, told us about his startup’s progress so far. The company offers SAM, which Choudhury says is the first fully integrated sales and marketing platform powered by AI. [Find out more about SAM.AI here.]
“We now have 286 users, we grew 40 percent last quarter and we have clients recommending us on a daily basis,” Choudhury said. “We are in a very happy space. We were in the second class at NVP Labs that graduated in July 2017. I stayed in Newark but I do go back and forth to New York and I have a lot of meeting with clients there.”
Choudhury said the meetings went well. “We are finally starting to show traction and investors liked that. Most VCs here are interested in seeing momentum and seeing traction, so that was positive feedback. With investment, the more exposure you get the better. I think the NJ EDA has done a great job of making the most of my time and the investor’s time in scheduling all these appointments. I’m having follow-up meetings with two out of the five people I met, and that will hopefully lead to something positive.”