As my regular readers know, I frequently serve as a panelist in pitch events. Recently, I decided to start writing about the startups from each event that caught my attention. As someone who has been on both sides of the stage- previously as a founder seeking capital, and now as an investor listening to the visions of the next wave of entrepreneurs- I want to share my learnings. My feedback will primarily focus on potential challenges for the startups. This is not to discourage the founders or imply that the company cannot succeed. Rather, I aim to acknowledge their hard work by providing useful feedback and advice. Ultimately, this all ties into the mission of my company, where we support founders on their entrepreneurial journey by offering technology strategy, product development, and software manufacturing. Click here to view a sample portfolio of our work.
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The founder of Auggies was one of many parents lamenting the sedentary lifestyles of kids today. In response, he created Auggies, an AR-enhanced app to engage kids in outdoor challenges and to teach them important life skills. The plan is to partner with content developers to enrich their message delivery. Current projects include disaster preparedness, injury prevention, and a new campaign for Smokey the Bear. There are three revenue streams: currently the app is offered as a freemium app — free to download plus fees for specific content. As the company develops new partnerships, they will implement a 30% revenue sharing. Finally, the founder aims to work with academic institutions on a subscription basis to bring AR to classrooms.
One of the biggest challenges to new technology is user adoption, as we observed with the underwhelming performance of the Google Glass. At this time, most users aren’t exposed to AR enough to see its application in day-to-day life. Auggies overcomes this very well by targeting the next generation of tech consumers through educational content, and requires no additional hardware. Based on the pitch, this company will be simple to scale since the technology has already been created, and will require minimal customization for the content of each partner. Currently, the company’s goal is to acquire 1 million users, but as one of my fellow investors advised, that is a low aspiration and probably won’t be enough to attract content developers. “Think big,” he said, “You’re in the Silicon Valley now, so think like they do here.”
This next startup grew from the frustration that one of the co-founders experienced while searching for a Beyonce Lemonade-themed t-shirt. Market places, he explained, are not yet optimized to understand social context. There are thousands of events and incidents that transform into social trends, and HypeHash intends to turn those trends into revenue. Their IOS app enables designers to upload designs and sell merchandise through the website. Buyers search for products by hashtags. Hypehash holds no inventory, instead using a drop shipping method. The startup has received funding from the Malaysian government to launch there next year, after which they plan to expand into the U.S., Australia, and Indonesia.
I have a few concerns. FIrst off, what is the unique offering here? Designers can already find trending hashtags through Facebook and Twitter and choose one of the well-established platforms, flash sales sites, or online boutiques to sell their clothing. Additionally, this isn’t solving an urgent need. HypeHash products are novelty items with limited use. Finally, as observed with the public backlash over the Pepsi ad earlier this year, the commercialization of certain social issues can cause bad publicity. Considering that social media platforms are held responsible for the content they circulate, it’s reasonable to presume that if people found a design posted on the platform offensive, the anger would be directed at HypeHash.
This company is the result of the founder’s experience with the coaches of his kids’ sports teams. He was frustrated that despite all the money he was spending, neither he nor his kids were receiving player feedback from the coach. iSport360 is a communication and player engagement app. Through the app, coaches can give frequent and consistent feedback to each player, kids understand how to improve, and parents aren’t left wondering why their kid is not improving. It also offers a goal-setting tool for kids that is based on sport-, age-, and gender-specific metrics.
The app is offered at $2.50 per month, which is a low amount relative to how much parents spend on uniforms, gear, league membership, tournaments, and socials. There is clearly a need for the app and people who are willing to pay; as of this year kids’ sports leagues are a $15 billion industry. My only concern is scalability: in order for this app to be effective, the coach of a team and all of the parents need to subscribe to and actively use the app. There are currently 2500 users that were acquired organically—which is good, but investors need more metrics on the users—how often are they logging-in, how long are they spending in the app, etc. I’m looking forward to seeing how the company does.
That’s all for today – of the several pitches, these were the noteworthy companies. If one of the pitching founders is reading this, please take it in spirit. Like I stated earlier, I write so as to offer guidance, not to dissuade entrepreneurs from pursuing their visions. If you would like to partner with Brown Deck, feel free to contact me at email@example.com. As always, my aim is to help startups actualize their ambitions through the resources of Brown Deck Innovations.
Click here to read my blog from the previous event.