Tigerlabs Demo Day Boasts Student Companies with Promise, Part 2
On August 14, 2012, seven very early-stage companies pitched their new products at the Tigerlabs inaugural Demo Day in Princeton. The companies were part of the Tigerlabs summer program, a 12-week tech accelerator aimed at undergraduate student entrepreneurs. This is the second part of the story. We published the first part earlier this week.
Speaking to the Demo Day audience, Kenrick Rilee, cofounder and CTO of Mapsaurus, discussed his company’s innovative graphical service for discovery of Android apps, which has already been widely accepted in the Android App Store.
Explained Rilee, “The problem is that app stores are broken.… I can go on the app store. If I know what I’m looking for, I can search for it. However, if I want to find something new I have to wade through the ranked list of applications in each category. … Our application lets users explore applications in the direction they want.” Evaluations are also seamless, he said. “Users can compare apps side by side.” He added, “We are innovators in the space. Nobody does this the way we do it. And our algorithms are really fast.”
Along with Rilee, the Mapsaurus team includes Alice Zheng, CEO, who designed the product; Danny Guo, COO; and Evan Leichter, chief science officer in charge of back-end development and system administration. All the team members are seniors at Princeton this fall except Zheng and Rilee, who are taking time off to take advantage of the market timing for their opportunity, Zheng told NJTechWeekly.com in an email.
The next company up, FlavorTech (which appears to have changed its name to HelloLabs), is “dedicated to making communication and sharing experiences” more enjoyable through electronic gadgets. Tianlong Wang, who obtained a master’s in computer science from Princeton in 2012, showed JoinMe, a small, $80 agile robot that includes telepresence videoconferencing via a smartphone.
The smartphone becomes the “brain of the telepresence robot,” Wang explained. The advantage: a significantly reduced consumer-friendly price for this kind of item. The device could follow a parent and child as they played and chatted with extended family, or be employed for child monitoring, Wang said. It could also be used by the work-at-home set.
Xinyi Chen, a Princeton sophomore, is the other member of the Flavortech team. NJTechWeekly.com recently learned the company will be launching a Kickstarter campaign for JoinMe. It also plans to give away some of its demo models to test out the power of viral marketing.
Speaking for Tigervine, a team from Penn State, Arianna Simpson said the company allows business-to-consumer (B2C) web-based companies to create, implement and customize their own loyalty programs. “Acquiring and engaging customers are two of the biggest challenges that companies face,” she noted. “Referrals and rewards are crucial to growth. Referred customers are most valuable. … They have a lower churn rate and a higher lifetime value.”
When a company sets up a loyalty program and a customer uses it, that customer links to its social media profile. Tigervine can relay this information back to the businesses using the system so they can target their customers more effectively.
“We can provide them [the companies] with information about who their top 20 engaged customers are, or what the best networks on which to reach them are. We are helping companies change their behaviors to achieve results,” said Simpson.
Tigervine says its advantage in the marketplace is it focuses on smaller and medium-sized businesses and follows the customer acquisition cycle all the way through.
The last group presenting was founded by students who recently graduated from The Lawrenceville School (Lawrenceville), the N.J. boarding school. Eko is trying to find a better way to maintain communication among members of high school and college extracurricular groups.
“Our goal is to make sure group members never again get lost in conversation,” Korawad Chearavanont, presenting from Eko, said. The company does this by organizing group conversations in threads. Groups are thus able to go to a thread and participate, or check for important announcements. Like Chearavanont, cofounder Raman Rajakannan is taking a gap year. As for the other cofounders, Lyra Schweizer is now at Princeton and Shipley Foltz is at Lehigh.
“The messages that really matter don’t disappear and are not lost. We are also integrating calendars between all the groups that you have,” said Chearavanont, so conflicts can be eliminated, resulting in higher participation by group members. For marketing, the company is using the Facebook model — Mark Zuckerberg started out with a small group of colleges — to get teams and clubs at various universities and high schools to adopt Eko in the U.S., but it also has an international strategy.
After the accelerator student companies presented, Bert Navarrete, a Tigerlabs founder, gave several tech firms that make Tigerlabs their coworking space time to discuss their companies.
Pitching were Health Options Worldwide, which helps self-ensured companies reduce overall health spending; Tussle, a company still in beta that tries to connect clients with their competition; and Wattvision, whose device allows users to reduce spending on energy by providing them usage feedback via mobile phone or the Web. Wattvision recently mounted a Kickstarter campaign and secured more than its $50,000 desired goal. At this writing the firm had raised $60,285.