I had the pleasure of attending the much publicized Demo day for the Azure TechStars program. It was held at the Microsoft Executive Briefing Center. The atmosphere was certainly exciting and filled with energy as the Who’s Who of Seattle’s investing community rubbed shoulders with the entrepreneurs. Personally, it was nostalgic for me to be in McKinley after almost 2 years. Lots of press, investors and attendees.
TechStars runs this program and Microsoft sponsors it. Microsoft should be commended for such sponsorships. I had attended the previous program with Kinect and got to see very innovative products being built on top of Kinect then. I have seen a few companies emerge from the Kinect program and grow well in the last year. GestSure is one such company.
I was expecting to hear a little bit of how each of these startups were leveraging Windows Azure technology. I wanted some validation that Windows Azure was doing well in the marketplace and hear some cool Windows Azure features that the Techstars companies took advantage of. Let it be said that I hope the next Azure Accelerator program highlights Azure in meaningful ways.
I will not provide a run down of every company, but highlight companies that I found interesting during the show.
Off the bat, Realty Mogul’s Jilliene put on a great presentation. I have invested in a few REITs before and agree with Jilliene that REIT investing is not customized. The RealtyMogul platform enables accredited investors to invest in commercial real estate or residential loans in a crowd funding model. While I am not sure that real estate investing needs disruption, the availability of a marketplace definitely perks up interest in this area. Commercial real estate companies that need to reach beyond their investor networks can now tap into this platform and accelerate their deals. With the US real estate market turning a corner in H2 2012, this offering holds promise.
Socedo – another powerful presentation. Lead generation is always challenging and methods range from adhoc to sophisticated. Aseem hopes to leverage online presence and activity of professionals and end users to generate sales leads for you. Leads are generated based on search parameters that you enter (or from your CRM source) and delivered to you overnight in their dashboard. I like this general idea. However, I think Socedo has to reach many online sources to get effective leads. They do Twitter today. Professionals are present in many online communities and to find and rank them is an interesting challenge. At some point, I think we will use Socedo for some of our projects and see how effective the results are.
After a few presentations, I was amazed by the professionalism of the pitches.
The other company that caught my attention is Mobilligy. Getting bill payments mobile is super important and I had wondered why the existing systems from banks and brokerages had not extended bill payment to their mobile apps. Looks like Mobilligy has taken advantage of that gap. In addition to bill payment. Mobilligy is hoping that cash flow starved users would take advantage of loans for bill extensions.
Other companies that presented are keebitz, embarke, staq, bagsup, appetas, fanzo. None of them mentioned valuations, which I found unusual. I would find it useful if an update of the previous class was given.
Overall, three very interesting hours, courtesy of Microsoft and TechStars. Looking forward to the next one.