East Coast, West Coast: The Startup Difference
Last week I watched several dozen launch demos at the DEMO 2012 conference in Santa Clara. Yesterday, I watched 10 startup pitches at the New York Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator’s Demo Day, and was struck by a dramatic difference in style and substance.
It’s risky to generalize from a sample this limited. some of the difference certainly resulted from the different rules and expectations of the sponsors. But I think reflected a real difference in thinking between New York and Silicon Valley.
The Valley loves technological cleverness and the coder is king. Many of the things shown at DEMO look less like products than features waiting to be incorporated into something else. The exit is often more important than the business plans.
By contrast, there was little about the New York offerings to excite the technologist. But they all looked like a lot of thought had gone into the business end of things. Most seemed to be using well known technologies to fill niches in existing markets. They won’t all make it–they’re early stage startups, after all–but they all look like they have a shot.
Consider Appy Couple. You’d think that weddings would not provide much room for on-line innovation. But it turns out that there is really no service that lets couples build sites that cover all aspects of their wedding plans. Its sites start at $49 and it also gets a revenue stream from leader generation and commissions from sales. “We’re disrupting an industry that hasn’t seen innovation since the advent of digital photography,” says founder Sharmeen Mitha-Sehgal. “We make money first from the couples then from the guests.”
Stray Boots seems like another idea someone should have had a long time ago–the gamification of travel. Instead of a mobilized version of the traditional guidebook, Stray Boots turns a city visit into a scavenger hunt, collecting points that can be turned into real goods. Again, there’s a dual revenue model, selling the tours and partnering with local businesses.
Stylyt is an online retailer with a difference. It lets users creates variations, such as new color schemes, on the offerings of designers. Site visitors vote on the the designs and the winners get produced as limited editions sold through the Generation Y-targeted site. The company also offers its on-line design tools as a software-as-a-service product for established retailers.
Triple Lift sees a big opportunity in Pinterest and it’s not in pinning cool web pages. Instead it plans to help businesses profit from Pinterest by selling them analytics, promoting user engagement and managing display advertising buys. Although it looks like a viable business on its own, Triple Lift was one of the few ERA demonstrators that looks more like a buyout candidate because of its obvious appeal to Pinterest itself.
Overall, I was very impressed by the quality of the companies coming out of the ER Accelerator and especially their very polished, complete, and informative presentations. The New York startup scene is alive and seemingly very well.