After three months of intense work on their products, business models, and pitches, the Techstars Seattle 2017 class was finally ready to step into the spotlight.
Nine innovative startups — in a diverse array of fields ranging from serverless development to the seafood marketplace — presented at Techstars Seattle Demo Night at the Museum of History and Industry last night.
Now in its eighth year, Techstars Seattle is an incubator that provides early-stage startups with mentorship, guidance, and a $100,000 investment. It’s part of the international Techstars organization.
“We now have more than 100 companies that have gone through the Techstars Seattle program since we started in 2010 and it’s just one measure of those companies’ progress, post-program they have raised, collectively, almost $400 million in capital,” said Techstars Seattle Managing Director Chris DeVore during the event Wednesday.
Each startup made a compelling case but a handful of pitches stood out from the pack. Continue for our favorites pitches, photos from Demo Night, and read more about each team in recent installments of our Startup Spotlight series.
Hazel CEO Wisam Abdulla delivered his pitch with the confidence of an entrepreneur who believes in his product 100 percent.
His enthusiasm, combined with a clearly identified problem, explanation of how his startup is solving it, and demonstration of early traction made Hazel’s pitch one of the strongest in the bunch.
Hazel makes enterprise software that helps companies get a bird’s eye view on how well its managers are performing and provides ongoing feedback and training resources to help leaders improve.
“We’ve designed a new and truly effective way for companies to develop and enable their managers,” Abdulla said.
Hazel polls employees via Slack and other messaging tools to find out a manager’s strengths and weakness. The service then provides resources to help leaders improve over time and encourages strong managers to become mentors for others who need help.
The service costs $50 to $100 per manager, per month. Abdulla and his co-founders came up with the idea for Hazel when they were building Canadian payroll startup Rise. Their customers constantly complained about how hard it was to train great managers.
Abdulla experienced this struggle firsthand, in his first leadership role. When a top player on his team departed, he was left wondering what he could’ve done differently as a manager.
“We help companies develop and enable their managers in a personalized ongoing and engaging way so that no one ever has to manage like I did in my first year,” Abdulla said during his pitch.
It’s no easy feat pitching something as esoteric as “solutions to build production-grade serverless applications” to a crowd that’s not exclusively software engineers. But it was clear from Stackery CEO Nate Taggert’s conviction and a ringing endorsement from Voyager Capital’s Diane Fraiman, that the startup is building something powerful.
Stackery provides tools to help developers make apps that operate with the same level of efficiency and security as legacy applications, without relying on a server.
“We’re at the beginning of a major revolution in infrastructure technology,” Taggart said. “Serverless is transforming the way modern applications are built and delivered in the same ways that cloud disrupted the physical hardware market. We have an exceptional team and we know this space.”
Taggart and Stackery co-founder Chase Douglas started working together in 2013 when they joined forces to build the New Relic Browser. Before that, Taggart was a product manager at GitHub and Douglas was an engineer for IBM.
“We know how to get our product in front of developers,” Taggart said.
Swym CEO Arvind Krishnan impressed the crowd Wednesday with the amount of early traction his company is enjoying.
The startup, which helps small and medium e-commerce companies track shoppers across devices, is seeing 30 percent month-over-month growth, adding 100 stores every week, according to Krishnan. All of those sellers are coming to Swym through Shopify and the startup plans to integrate with additional e-commerce platforms soon. Krishnan says Swym is on track to hit 10 million users in the next year.
“This is just the beginning for us,” he said. “The real opportunity that we’re going after, the mid-to-large retailers, collectively did over $120 billion in sales last year. And these stores are running their e-commerce sites on a handful of platforms.”
Swym allows retailers to re-connect with customers who have started a shopping session on one device and picked back up on another — even if they haven’t logged in. The software detects patterns between devices and users, creating a user profile with information on their social media profiles and shopping preferences.
Krishnan brings with him experience working in product management for Microsoft and Yahoo.
“Swym is changing the way consumer shop on mobile,” he said.