Startup Roundup: Text Engine, Bizignite, GovPilot, EverythingBenefits

Photo: Michael Bonner of GovPilot [file photo] Photo Credit: Esther Surden
Michael Bonner of GovPilot [file photo] | Esther Surden

Text Engine: Text Engine (Bedminster), a social enterprise startup launched in 2014, said that it had received a substantial financial investment from Backstage Capital, a new venture fund in New York that backs startups led by underrepresented founders. Backstage focuses on startups with black, Latino, female or LGBT founders, and is led by Arlan Hamilton.

Text Engine is a messaging application that creates smartphone capability for millions of low-tech phone users around the world.  These non-smartphones typically don’t support Web browsers, full data plans, or the downloading of apps. Text Engine enables these so-called “dumbphones” to search the Web using only text messages.

According to cofounder Eric Bryant, Text Engine has also proven to be quite useful for smartphone users in regions where Internet or data signals are unreliable or nonexistent. Many Text Engine users live in Appalachia and in the rural areas of Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Montana, New York, California and other states.

The startup was also accepted into the reSET accelerator (Hartford, Conn.), whose mission is to advance the social enterprise sector. ReSET kicked off its 2016 accelerator cohort on January 20. Text Engine’s team will have a chance to compete for a share of a $25,000 grant there.

KENOVA: James Naylor, president and CEO of KENOVA Technologies (Sparta), says that company’s new product Bizignite, whose website is Bizignite.co, has been adopted fairly rapidly since its official launch in 2015. Aimed at startups and businesses looking at new markets, Bizignite is a single-sheet business and strategic marketing planning tool that resides on the cloud. Naylor said the idea for Bizignite came from KENOVA’s experience with entrepreneurs who found writing a business plan to be a painful experience. He also wanted to help startups avoid painful and expensive failures.

This is currently a free tool, he told us. The company charges for its consulting services to help the startups complete a plan if they don’t have a mentor, need more hand-holding or are in a hurry. According to Naylor, entrepreneurs can build business plans with Bizignite more quickly than with traditional models, and anyone with an idea can use the tool to create business models and validate ideas. It is also brief, so founders can get precisely to the point

Naylor said that a high school in New Hampshire had made Bizignite mandatory in their entrepreneur program, a New Jersey college plans to create a semester around it, and that a number of colleges, universities, and U.S. Small Business Administration Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) were either using or planning to use Bizignite in entrepreneurial classes or as a tool for clients.

“We have noticed that people who first think Bizignite is simply the Business Model Canvas become staunch advocates of Bizignite when given a demo. They see that it’s more appropriate for entrepreneurs who are looking to bring their idea to a new market,” said Naylor. The company has also brought on a new chief marketing officer, Patrick Smyth, to accelerate the adoption of the product.

PropertyPilot:PropertyPilot (Hoboken), a startup founded by Michael N. Bonner in 2012, began offering an offshoot product called “GovPilot” last year. The goal of GovPilot is to offer cities, counties and municipalities a way to manage their departments in the cloud. With high demand from local governments for PropertyPilot’s cloud-hosted solutions, the company decided to create a platform that narrowly focuses on the needs of municipalities, counties and state agencies. “No need to use single-purpose software,” the company says on the GovPilot website. “GovPilot integrates your departments into one platform.”

“Constraining budgets and falling tax revenues make it challenging for most governments to invest in a scalable, long-term technology infrastructure,” the company said in a statement. “As a result, the public sector lags behind the private sector in innovation. GovPilot narrows the innovation gap by providing local governments with the tools that help them drive ‘paperless’ efficiency while enabling them to meet the public’s expectations for on-demand mobile services.”

The Borough of Middlesex and GovPilot announced a partnership in January to digitize the borough’s paper processes and unify their departments under the platform. Middlesex will be using GovPilot’s software for six of their departments, starting with Clerks and Code Enforcement.

In late January, the City of Paterson began selling 90 liens for vacant and abandoned properties under a new tax lien sale law that allows for properties to be rehabilitated and put back on the tax rolls.

Mayor Jose ‘Joey’ Torres asked GovPilot to create a GIS map to illustrate 33 bundles of properties that will be auctioned in every ward of the city. The municipal government provided GovPilot with the vacant-property data for the map, which will be accessible to the public on the City of Paterson’s official website.

To assist with the sale, GovPilot created a new Property Market Analysis feature for the public-facing geographic information system. By accessing the map layer called “Special Tax Sale,” the public can now view the properties for sale and run an Automated Valuation Model, or market analysis, for each property. To determine the market value, users can also adjust the distance from the subject property, the date range of sales of comparable properties, the price per square foot and the assessment ratio.

EverythingBenefits: New Providence–based EverythingBenefits announced that iSolved Network had added the company to its iSolvedMarketplace. The Marketplace is a one-stop shop for innovative products and services that are integrated into the iSolved human capital management system, a cloud-based payroll and HR solution for small to midsized employers.

“We are very proud to be partnering with EverythingBenefits,” Todd LaFever, president and chief product officer of the iSolved Network, said in a statement. “Their solution helps efficiently manage the connection between employers’ payroll and HR and insurance carriers. Our iSolved Network Partners will appreciate having access to this effective method of saving their clients time and eliminating errors by simplifying benefit enrollment.”

“As the payroll and benefits industries continue to collide, payroll companies will have to continue to expand their offerings with solutions that can cover the full spectrum of client needs,” noted Rachel Lyubovitzky, cofounder and CEO of Everything Benefits. “This partnership allows us to enable the iSolved Network to extend their benefits technology offering for clients.”

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