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500 Startups Demo Day: The most promising pitches from today’s event

500 startups demo day dave mcclureToday, Silicon Valley accelerator 500 Startups showed off its latest class, a wide and varied group — some of which are pinpointing and exploiting market needs and some of which are aptly jumping all over industry trends. I was able to sit in on the event and witness the rapid fire rounds of pitches and narrow it down to a promising handful. Following are the startups that managed to stand out in a very, very impressive crowd today. 

Chalkable

chalkableThere are some very noticeable themes breaking through the crowded startup scene lately, and one of them is solving the education problem. Partially, that mean bringing what management and distribution systems we already have for the academic market up to speed. Sorry, but Blackboard looked ancient five years ago. It’s time.  

Chalkable is a curated app platform for educators that helps them find, buy, and distribute apps (examples include Khan Academy, BioDigital, and Class Dojo) using its application. Included are analytics to measure apps efficacy and use, gradebook tools, and individual student profiles.

The company has a revenue model in place: it costs $10 a year for each student (other payment options will be available in the future). The three schools (public and private) that beta tested Chalkable loved it and there are 50 signed up for Fall 2012. The Chalkable team bootstrapped $150k and raised an advisory round of $200k. The team is now looking to raise $1.1 million, of which 40 percent is committed. 

Wanderable

Surprise: people spend a lot of money on weddings and everything surrounding them. Wanderable wants to give couples the option of crowdfunding their wanderable honeymoon in lieu of china patterns and plate settings. There have been a few applications tip-toeing into this space, but the user interfaces were boring to bad and the overall experience left something to be desired. Wanderable offers a high level of customization and also connects the gift-givers to the honeymoon with interactive mobile apps that feature photo-sharing.

Of course part of Wanderable’s success would be in leveraging the consumer information it’s able to retain. Couples share their itineraries and budgets and from here the application can suggest other market opportunities for them to consider for the trip.

Don’t lose all interest if you aren’t engaged (and don’t feel bad if you almost did): Wanderable says there’s user interest in applying this concept further — think planning your post-grad vacation, or holidays. Or maybe you’re like me and would just rather get your friends and family to help you pay for a trip instead of birthday presents.

Wanderable is raising $500k and has 30 percent committed.

Bluefields

bluefields pitchFull disclosure: I like sports. A lot. So my interest was naturally piqued by Bluefields, a management and social network for team sports. If you’ve ever logged onto your local parks and recreation website to try and figure out public leagues, you’re aware of what a headache the whole thing can be. Enter BlueField, a better-looking, more interesting option. In addition to pure communication and organizational features, Bluefields offers photo sharing (available via Web and mobile app) and is partnering with companies like Puma and Gatorade to create exclusive apps for the platform.

Over its seven week beta, Bluefields has amassed some 3,000 teams (and some 36,000 players). The team is looking to raise a seed round now and so far as $350k committed.

TwitMusic

Usually demo days are for little-to-known companies, but TwitMusic is blowing up. In part, that’s thanks to leveraging such a viral site to power its platform, but it’s also just a really smart concept. With TwitMusic, artists can directly post their music to Twitter and Facebook, and the site’s focused sharing element (like auto-retweets by listeners) make it a viable starting point for new musicians.

twitmusic pitchThe company’s only been operating for seven months and the numbers are good — no commentary needed here, just take a look:

  • 8,000 with 30 million followers between them all have signed up for TwitMusic
  • Since launch, unique visit are up 800 percent
  • 256k tracks have been shared using the application reaching 30 percent of the active Twitter user base
  • As silly as this might sound, Bryan Adams used the application to exclusively launch his latest single
  • It’s challenging Soundcloud for shareable tracks

Facebook has been turned into a music-sharing machine, but thus far the love hasn’t really spread to Twitter. I’d like to see TwitMusic woven into the native Twitter experience in some fashion, but the operation is clearly doing alright on its own and is already working with major record labels like EMI, Warner, and Def Jam. TwitMusic has secured $165k and wants to raise $500k.

Ingresse

ingresse pitchIngresse is EventBrite for Brazil — stick with me, because I know that opener didn’t sell anyone and the “is like for like” comparisons are incredibly played out. But really, Ingresse’s potential comes at the intersection of a few things: One; growth of Internet adoption in Latin American countries, namely Brazil. Two; major events will hit the country in the near future — namely the Olympics and the World Cup. And three, there is no online management system for ticketing. International startups can get buried in the constant spotlight on Silicon Valley projects we can’t tear ourselves away from, but there’s some huge growth going on here that can’t be ignored.

If you’ve used StubHub or Eventbrite or similar applications, then you know the drill here: a nice interface and the option to connect social networks to see when events your friends are attending. Buyers pay a commission on purchased tickets and it’s free for organizers. Tickets can be redeemed via the currently available Android app (iOS is on its way, says the team).

In the last six months, Ingresse has hosted over 400 events on its platform and made over $200k in revenue — and it’s raised $1.2 million.

Network

network pitchI just got done telling you about Brewster and here comes Network (formerly known as Cardflick), another mobile app that wants to reinvent the wheel. Or rather, the smartphone version of the wheel: the address book. The concept is similar, and as Network co-founder Keton Anjaria puts it, “Like Instagram replaced your camera app, Network will replace your contacts app.”

Unlike the native address book, Network will learn as you use it and update itself over time instead of forcing you to manually change the thing. Users create virtual, visually-friendly business cards for quick and easy contact swaps. Network also leverages your social network to create thorough histories of how you know a person. There’s a location feature that sounds similar to what Highlight and Glancee talked about at launch, giving you a reference for how you know someone. The app has been enjoying early launch success and adding a new user every seven minutes.

There are pro options for paying customers, which the company says has driven a lot of use.

Network is raising its seed round — and now we’re going to have to see how it compares to Brewster.

Groupiter

groupiter pitchGroupiter is a simple solution for a simple problem: Streamlining the conversations that revolve around Dropbox. Sharing Dropbox folders has become as ubiquitous as working in an office, and there are often notes and comments and updates and maybe even criticisms that seem to follow the shared notification. And right now, you’re getting them via email — or at least I am.

Groupiter connects to your Dropbox account so that when you need to leave a comment (as in “I like these updates, keep it up”) with a shared file, a desktop notification will pop up. The recipient can reply from here without spending the seconds upon seconds (upon seconds upon seconds — those things add up) responding.

Groupiter also saves and displays this Dropbox-revolving conversation in a really visually appealing stream so you can view that history if need be.

Groupiter isn’t just targeting Dropbox, and Google Drive and Adobe Creative Cloud are future apps it intends to integrate with as well. 

The startup has closed 50 percent of the $750k it’s raising. 

Fontacto

fontacto pitchSometimes, startups aren’t sexy — but they’re really, really smart. Fontacto has pinpointed a hole and then some. The company pitches itself as Google Talk for Latin America, as previously noted, a hugely growing market of Internet users. Business telecom options here are limited and the market is incredibly tight and regulated, and most consumers are turning toward expensive, traditional phone lines.

Fontacto has a license to operate its cloud-based phone service from the Mexican F.C.C. (which is worth $1 million in the current market); the first business to do so. It will be able to offer a service 84 percent less expensive than what most small business are currently using.

Fontacto has received some incredibly high praise from Telmex, the Latin American telecom company run by the world’s richest man, Carlos Slim.