Startups get honest feedback from VCs in this meetup

By Dennis Clemente

How long does it take for venture capitalists to assess your startup? At the Hatchery meetup, it can be the longest five minutes of your life, not counting the other five minutes of your pitch. But it’s all good, because it’s the most honest and helpful assessment you’ll ever get.

Accern’s Kuwesh Aroomoogan found out about this last January 23, coming as he was from another pitch a week earlier where there was only one venture capitalist assessing or critiquing his startup. At the Hatchery, there were four—the regulars Bill Reinisch of Paladin Ventures, Vincent Tang of Canrock Ventures, Sachin Jade of Klifer Capital and this around, Adam Quinton of Lucas Point Ventures. The honesty comes from the familiarity of these VCs’ roles to the Hatchery’s meetup, now on its fifth year.

To make things more interesting, Hatchery also has GK Training to critique the how-to part of the presentation by Accern, bMobilized, Decode Global, Hubster TV and tenSix at Chadbourne at Rockefeller Center.

Aroomoogan says Accern, a financial analysis engine, is looking to raise $500,000, so it can expedite data-gathering. It has a 3-step process to full market entry–hedge funds, online brokers and financial institutions.

Investors advised Aroomoogan to do more market research and interview at least 50 customers. In terms of customers, however, they suggested approaching a content provider like Yahoo and online brokerage firms

Where web design has been a thriving business now comes bMobilized. The company reportedly has a patented technology to create mobile websites (offered as a software-as-a-service basis) from desktop websites aside from having mobile-specific features like maps, click-to-call and m commerce. Customers include Amazon and Cisco.

bMobilized claims it has more than 500,000 mobile websites in the pipeline, as it looks forward to getting a share of the $6.9 billion market. “How many competitions convert to mobile design? There’s a window.”

Next presenter,, aims to help us find where to watch movies online. In his startup, founder Ethan Greenspan thinks he has solved three problems– searching, overpaying and forgetting—as he aims to help us find the movies and where they can be cheaper. He is seeking $750,000 in capital.

Greenspan is looking at developing relationships with advertisers. “We can develop relationships through sponsored lists of curated movies and shows, plus provide competitive analytics.”

The feedback cautioned him how hard it is to play Switzerland (or neutral) and take sides. The ideal scenario for him, as suggested by the panel, is to become a sort of Nielsen for movie-streaming sites.

The following presenter, Decode Global, opened up its presentation with a question: How many kids are killing zombies these days? Answer: 64 million.

The question was in line with how Decode Global positions itself in purposeful gaming or in educational mobile gaming for social change. Angelique Mannella, CEO, showed a game that teaches kids about how to solve water scarcity. So far, the company said its app, made within 8 months, has been downloaded on iTunes 100,000 times in the past six months. “We’re going to promote to kids’ content networks and do cause marketing.”

Mannella is seeking $500,000 in funding and is looking to improve monetization. Right now, our revenue model is based on a freemium model; 90 percent of revenues are from in-app purchases.

The feedback it received was about how the idea can easily be replicated and how the learning-game model is a tough one to crack. But to push forward with it, the suggestion was to look into content partners, if not to have the game feature both virtual and physical functions.

Last presenter was Amar Pradhan of ten6, the self-proclaimed airbnb for batteries. He hopes retailers can improve demand estimates and reduce supply costs with ten6.

After all the presentations, Michael Hoeppner, CEO and president of GK Training, talked about each person’s presentation could be improved, pointing how vital it is to spend as much time practicing as one would preparing for a presentation. “Practice your Q&A forward and backwards; practice with combative questions; practice with cork in a mouth, if you need to slow down.”

He also added how important it is to keep the 3 Vs in mind—visual, visceral, variety—and if you want to know more about that, visit GK Training’s offices.

The show-and-tell was hosted by Yao Hui Huang.

VC Ben Sun and new apps at ER Roundtable

Ben Sun, partner at High Peaks Venture Partners and LaunchTime LLC
Ben Sun, partner at High Peaks Venture Partners and LaunchTime LLC

By Dennis Clemente

Which of these names (in no particular order) match the latest crop of apps presented at the ERA Roundtable meetup last January 16 at the Microsoft Building in New York? Each of these apps is a sentiment analysis tool, a home for your child’s artwork, a “paperless” medical record system, a live video stream of your favorite bars, and a financial analysis engine.

1. PeepsOut by Nobles Crawford, CEO and Founder
2. Accern by Kuwesh Aroomoogan
3. Thinknum by Justin Zhen
4. Healthjump by Clifford Cavanaugh
5. Canvsly by Amit Murumkar

ERA Roundtable’s 66th show-and-tell also featured internet entrepreneur and angel investor Ben Sun who served as guest judge to these presenters. Sun is a partner at High Peaks Venture Partners, an early stage venture capital fund based in New York City. But he is also known for his early forays into the internet. He was on it as far back as 1999 and soon after when his company, Community Connect Inc. made household names of,, and

It’s seldom to hear an investor who is both an engaging storyteller and frank speaker. As he talked about how he got his start, Sun recounted how an investor before the dotcom crash almost tricked him into changing terms of agreements last minute, but fortunately, an an angel investor stepped in to save the day. He qualified that this may have been more in the past and the only thing you have to worry about nowadays is how investors will invest in your startup but may be hands-off all the way.

At the meetup, Sun certainly made sure he was fully invested in giving feedback and answering questions from the crowd and presenters who each gave a four-minute show-and-tell.

Accern offers sentiment analysis for investing in financial markets–the use of natural language processing to extract emotions out of data. But with other companies like Accern, what makes them different?

Aroomoogan said Accern has a customizable sentiment analysis platform where you can choose your own sources and filter those sources, including ratings for each source, topic, keyword or phrase based on importance and relevance. “We have 80 percent accuracy.”

The next presenter, Canvasly, is in the business of collecting children’s artworks and putting them on the app, for safekeeping. In giving his feedback to the app, Sun said it needs a “ton of scale,” as he also discouraged efforts to go school-to-school, because of the challenges this presents to the sole founder.

Healthjump’s presentation elicited issues of security and privacy. After sign up, Healthjum coordinates with people’s physicians, so the former can keep their medical records. The price of convenience is also about giving up certain information. What Healthjump removes is the chore of filling up medical forms every time you go to another clinic or hospital but the startup guarantees security with encryption.

“We don’t collect your (customers’) data,” Cavanaugh said.

Talking again about privacy, PeepsOut and its live stream network helps venues find new patrons and patrons find venues that they may like “to be found in.” Crawford guarantees that the streams are anonymous and not recorded at all.

A former ad man, Crawford announced a couple of recent accomplishments, including its partnership with 45 bars and other establishments, its new office in Austin Texas; its 1,500 uniques in New York as well as its return rate of 83 percent on its app and 63 percent on its website.

Thinknum’s Zhen presented his web platform for financial analysis and how it’s different. “We’re focusing on collaboration and solving transparency.”

Thinknum aggregates the abundance of financial data and insights on the web and presents it to our users in an intuitive format, indexing the world’s financial information in the process.

Thinknum’s Cashflow Model values companies based on fundamentals just like Wall Street research analysts do. Its Plotter tracks over 2,000 sources of data and enables users to analyze trends easily. Thinknum’s institutional clients include Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan.

Later, Sun answered questions from the audience, but one thing that stood out is how open he is to e-commerce startup idea. “It’s a $700-billion dollar industry with only a 6-percent penetration rate. In terms of potential, it’s more execution, than concept.”

Even Amazon, he added, is on Day 1 with e-commerce.

Late last year, comScore reported that Q3 2013 U.S. desktop-based retail e-commerce sales grew 13 percent year-over-year to $47.5 billion, marking the 16th consecutive quarter of positive year-over-year growth and the 12th consecutive quarter of double-digit growth.