The FounderFuel DemoDay Fall 2012 (November 8, 2012 in Montreal) was a great show – frankly, the pitches had me enthralled.
The level of preparation was outstanding. And the PowerPoints were in another league compared to anything I’ve seen before at a startup demo day in their TED-like imagery.
But once I left Montreal on the way back home in Quebec City, the distance helped me to view the startups more objectively. Here are my impressions (in the order listed in the programme)
Tagline: “Food Pickup Perfected”
Positioning: “The Fastgrab app and POS are powering the next evolution in food pickup.”
Office drones of a certain age (like me) remember when it was hip to fax a lunch order to the corner deli and have it waiting at the counter to pickup. More recently, you could do it by phone. But today, who uses a phone to make a call any more?
Plus: What impressed me most is the business model. Their focus is food courts in malls and office complexes, which are managed by a handful of large property management firms.
Minus: Again, just call your favorite deli at about 10am and they’ll have lunch ready for you. Much tastier than food court grub.
Would I invest? No. If FastGrab can get a critical mass of property managers to get a critical mass of their food court tenants to use the app (see the conditional chain?), it could make an interesting revenue stream. But there are too many other conditionals. Plus I don’t like cutesy domain names – “.it” should mean the business is based in Italy!
Tagline: “Give Life To Data”
Positioning: “InfoActive makes it easy to turn dynamic data into interactive graphics”.
Plus: App connects to websites to display data in a dynamic, graphic fashion. The output is slick and professional, and I believe their claim that it increases viewer stickiness many-fold.
Minus: Unclear about their business model.
Would I invest? Maybe. The product is impressive, but can it be easily replicated by a large company with internal resources? I think the exit strategy is to have a large media company buy their application.
International Gaming League (http://playigl.com)
Tagline: “Elevate Your Game”
Positioning: “International Gaming League is the amateur destination for competitive gaming.”
Plus: They want to transform online gaming into a spectator sport. A lot of people around me seemed impressed…
Minus: …but I wasn’t. Will gamers spend money to watch others play? Or are they targeting the Red Bull and Doritos kinds of sponsors? Plus their pitch started with a way-too-loud video – how did Ian let that happen?
Would I invest? No.
Tagline: “Socially Driven Music”
Positioning: “#LISTN is an iPhone app that lets people share and connect through music.”
Plus: See what’s on other people’s iPhone playlist
Minus: Other people can see what’s on my iPhone playlist.
Would I invest? No. Trivial and banal. An app like this is NOT a business.
Tagline: “Empowering The Customization Revolution”
Positioning: “MyCustomizer empowers brands and their retailers to offer unique customization experiences with a ready-to-use SaaS platform”.
Plus: Appears to be a ready-made toolkit for online retailers who offer customer options for their goods, such as colors, graphics, etc. The startup has some buzz where I live because they’re from here in Quebec City.
Minus: Is this a problem really worth spending time and money to solve? What’s next in terms of a development roadmap?
Would I invest? No. A one-trick pony.
Tagline: “Automated Filing For Everyone”
Positioning: “Openera automatically organizes email and cloud files to meet corporate compliance requirements and allow the right people to find files fast.”
Plus: I love their succinct problem statement: “People Hate Filing”. They have also identified a burning corporate need – too many valuable documents are misfiled or not filed because they are sent as attachments to e-mails. It’s like putting every document into an overflowing in-box.
Minus: There are already free Chrome extensions that do exactly this, automatically sending e-mail attachments to Dropbox or other cloud services.
Would I invest? Between “no” and “maybe” – only because they are connected to OpenText, a document management company with lots of experience in corporate services. I signed up for the app, apparently it has scanned my e-mail box, but I have no idea where it put the attachments! And I say “maybe” because they did sign a term sheet during the after-party. Does their investor see something I don’t, or are they going on hype? (OpenEra got lots of accolades in the Twitter stream #FFDemoDay )
Tagline: “Log In To Life”
Positioning: “ReelyActive connects THINGS to the cloud.”
Plus: A hardware startup. I want to see more of them! I believe in the potential of an “internet of things”. Great presentation with a conversational feel and humorous, cartoon-like graphics. They have a killer team with a cloud development engineer and a gifted hardware hacker.
Minus: I don’t quite understand – do they track things? Locate things? Is it a protocol to attach RFID chips to things? They didn’t mention or show the product, just hinted to the possibilities.
Would I invest? I am definitely intrigued, but I need to know more about what it really is.
Tagline: “I love this place!”
Positioning: “Urbita allows people to share the love and passion they feel for their cities while inspiring others.”
Plus: The passion of the founders (one from Buenos Aires and the other from Los Angeles) shows. They were the first presentation (to my memory), and the most visually stunning.
Minus: A cross between Pinterest, TripAdvisor, Facebook? What is the business model?
Would I invest? Use it, maybe. Invest, no.
As I said, it was a great show. But I come away with the feeling that I have seen eight cool apps, but no businesses. Any app that can be written or re-written in 90 days can’t have that much of a competitive or replication barrier to it.
What is good is that the “asks” (the amounts these startups are raising) are higher now, from $500K to $1M. This means the values of Canadian startups are on the rise.
And FounderFuel is definitely raising the bar again about startups, Demo Days and performance standards of Canadian startups in general. Well done, FounderFuel. I am very happy my FastTrac TechVenture Québec startups were there to see how it is done.
BUT… is an “app” a business? I go hot and cold on this question. A more in-depth blog post about the “app economy” is fermenting in my brain, so hopefully I will be able to go deeper into this topic.
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