By SUSAN LAHEY
Reporter with Silicon Hills News
Three Day Startup began in 2008 as a project of some University of Texas graduate students who thought entrepreneurship, like many other areas of study, really ought to have a lab where students could make experiments and—if necessary—blow things up as part of the learning process.
Since then it has evolved to 73 programs at 30 universities in the U.S., Israel, Chile, Thailand, Spain, the Netherlands, Columbia and more.
Seven teams, plus one dummy team, presented Sunday night at the Austin Technology Incubator after working on their projects since Friday night, often staying up until 4 a.m. and being sent out to get at least six hours of market validation. They presented before an audience and a panel comprised of Jason Seats of Techstars, Josh Kerr of Written, Jeff McMahon of Open Labs and Fred Schmidt of Capital Factory and Portalarium.
Biquity is investment banking using bitcoin, an unregulated online currency. The practice is illegal in the U.S., but is being used in several Latin American companies where there’s restricted access to equity financing. Biquity would work as a kind of transaction validation escrow service between a company auctioning shares and a company or individual buying shares. Because there are no foreign capital controls on bitcoin, the transaction would not be subject to limits or federal or bank-driven fees
The problem, as Seats pointed out, is that while the lack of oversight means lower transaction costs it also means there’s no oversight to protect parties. The remedy for that is that bitcoin now has futures contracts connected to local currency to ensure that the price agreed upon stays consistent relative to other types of currency. Once the transaction is made it may be easy to convert the bitcoin into local currency that is protected.
Snip Book is an app for hair stylists to capture information about their customers, cataloguing images of haircuts or dye jobs they’ve given, with the specific angle of the cut or the color of dye so that if customers come back asking for the same cut or color they had before, the stylist can easily call up the information. The team’s presenter said 90 percent of the 1.6 million stylists in the U.S. rely on repeat customers for their business’s survival, so being able to recall a cut one gave a client several months ago is important. The original model would be subscription based for about $20 a month with add-on services such as client scheduling. The app could be scaled horizontally to be used at nail salons, tattoo parlors, etc.
The problem, the panel pointed out, was that a lot of this could be done on Evernote. But, Snip Book would also push the hairstyles to social media, such as Facebook, and enhance marketing.
Alza is an app designed to help users avoid losing time in distractions like getting lost for hours on Facebook or oversleeping. Alza collects data from users’ calendars, social media, and other apps, and sends you notification if it sees users playing candy crush instead of studying for the test or presentation they have to give tomorrow.
With other apps and computer tools, people have to manually track their time, pressing a start and stop button. But with Alza, it’s all done automatically. The team planned to do a monthly subscription and also work with organizations like Groupon. If someone has a productive week, they get extra discounts on restaurants and entertainment.
Fred Schmidt asked if this would help him if he was wasting time at the golf course and one team member said it would use his phone’s GPS system to see whether he was where he should be during that time.
Another problem was that iOS sandboxes apps, preventing the app from seeing whether or not a customer is wasting time on another app. But the worst liability was that audience members said they would turn the app off after one session of nagging. A lot of people don’t want to waste time but they don’t want their phones telling them what to do, either.
Parents might buy it though.
EventApps.com is an app for small to medium sized conference and event planners. The simple, module-based app lets users plan and promote events without investing a lot of time in creating a short-lived app or a lot of money—though the price point was $100 for an event with fewer than 200 attendees and $1,000 for events with more than 200.
The panelists also questioned the jump from $100 to $1,000.
Match Setter is an app for tennis players to find pickup games in their geographic area with other players who have roughly the same skill level. Presenter Sally Stone said many players can’t find games when they have the time to play them or if they do their opponents aren’t as good a player as they claim. Match Setter not only lets people rate their own playing but allows others who have played them to rate them as well. It creates a community of tennis players and also allows players to plan games around what skill sets they want to improve on.
The team planned to monetize Match Setter with a subscription, but the panel recommended having sponsors, such as tennis ball manufacturers, instead. Having the app free to users would create critical mass necessary to find other funding models.
Looksy TV uses small cameras to collect analytics on crowds in restaurants, bars and other establishments that enable venues to gather useful data on their traffic and also let prospective users check in on whether a particular restaurant is too crowded, empty or otherwise lacking ambiance the customer is looking for.
Similar to Scene Tap in its function, the application differs in that, instead of identifying approximate ages and genders of patrons it uses a cartoon filter to obscure the faces and identities. It only allows a user to see a 30-second window into a particular establishment, locking the person out for 15-20 minutes after that glimpse to prevent stalking.
Chiron HealthChiron Health is a secure, web-based application that allows doctors and psychiatrists to visit with patients online. The ultimate goal would be to provide better medical care in rural areas where doctors are in short supply. Though presenter Andrew O’Hara, who is completing his masters in medical infomatics, acknowledged that early adopters were more likely to be urban dwellers such as executives who prefer to take a 15-minute visit via internet rather than expend the time to actually go to the doctor’s office.
The company would charge a fee for the service, taking its cut after the doctor gets paid. More than 20 states require insurance to pay for medical telechats the same way they would pay for in-person visits, O’Hara said, and more states are coming on board.
The panel asked whether the platform was defensible when huge medical conglomerates could take over the market at a moment’s notice. O’Hara said Chiron sees the opportunity to partner with other healthcare technology companies in the next several years to help launch the product.
The final presentation brought three men to the stage…one a typically scruffy startup guy and the other two ridiculously pretty, ripped men in recently ironed clothing proposing a Craigslist-style site for musicians to purchase supplies. Music Matrix was a piece of Moth to Flame Productions’ movie about the startup world Funemployment.