Nine Early Stage Startups Pitch at DivInc’s Fourth Demo Day

In two years, DivInc, an Austin-based accelerator focused on mentoring and coaching ethnically diverse and women-led tech startups, has had four cohorts with 36 companies.

Those early-stage companies have raised $2.5 million and generated more than $1 million in revenue, said Preston James, DivInc co-founder.

“In the next three to five years, you are going to see a lot of these companies just burst onto the scene,” James said.

The 12-week accelerator program’s fourth cohort closed on Wednesday with nine companies pitching their ventures at DivInc Demo Day, a community event held at Atlassian. DivInc also announced a new board of directors with plans to expand into other cities, James said.

At the event, Monique Maley, a board member of DivInc and founder of Articulate Persuasion, talked about the need for diversity in the tech ecosystem. At 52, a native of Mexico and a female, Maley said she understands the challenges diverse founders face firsthand in a tech ecosystem like Austin.

“Groupthink doesn’t work,” Maley said. “This is not a diversity conversation. This is an economy conversation. This is a how do our companies do better conversation.”

Dana Callender and Preston James, co-founders of DivInc

At DivInc, James and co-founder Dana Callender have done a lot with few resources and a lot of grit, Maley said. And out of four DivInc cohorts, 92 percent of the companies are still in business, she said.

Next, the pitches began.

KINN – Tarica Phung Navarro, founder of Kettle and Brine, a boutique retail store with $780,000 in revenue and more than 3,000 customers, decided to shut down that business to launch a new one, KINN, modern essentials for daily living.

By 2020, Navarro said there will be a $24 billion market for sustainable tableware. Her company, KINN, plans to tackle that market. They are the new online retailer targeted at Millennials that competes with Crate and Barrel and Williams-Sonoma.

“The traditional way of buying a 16-piece collection no longer resonates with the next generation,” Navarro said.

KINN allows customers to design and build their own tabletop collection including plates, flatware, napkins, glassware and send a sample to themselves before buying more. All goods are designed in-house and produced by family-run factories that make non-toxic and earth-friendly goods, Navarro said. KINN plans to launch later this year.

“Everything you need to enjoy that better meal experience at home,” Navarro said.

OMAIVEN HEALTH – Jerold McDonald and Ani Bagepalli founded Omairven Health, a startup that helps healthcare providers deal with no-shows or missed appointments at their practices. It’s a $150 billion problem in the U.S. each year, McDonald said. It can result in about $100,000 worth of lost revenue for a family practice doctor each year, he said.

The company has created an app, AskMia, an automated bot that makes sure a doctor’s schedule stays full and fills no-shows with new appointments. Doctors subscribe to the app monthly.

The healthcare Artificial Intelligence or AI personal assistant market is estimated to be $1.5 billion by 2020. McDonald plans to launch a pilot program with 50 doctors by the end of the year using AskMia.

Kim Roxie, founder of LAMIK

LAMIK – Kim Roxie founded the cosmetics company LAMIK to create natural beauty care products for women of color.

An estimated 64 percent of women of color want to buy natural beauty care products but they can’t find them, Roxie said. Roxie’s company is focused on creating a vegan cosmetic line with natural ingredients. She initially sold the products at her own beauty store in Houston with $5 million in revenue and more than 7,000 customers. Now she is taking her product online and she’s building a community of women who want natural products.

By 2024, the U.S. market for natural beauty care products will be $7.4 billion, Roxie said.

Later this year, LAMIK will launch with its natural foundations with other products to follow, Roxie said.

“At the core of LAMIK, we are building community through cosmetics,” Roxie said.

PRO MAMA – Jessica Gaffney created Pro Mama with Ariele Rosch to provide moms with part-time and flexible work at companies.

After the birth of her daughter, Gaffney wanted to find a part-time role but found it extremely difficult. She met with friends, neighbors, and others and she found they also had a difficult time finding flexible work.

Pro Mama Co-Founder Ariele Rosch, showing off the company’s newsletter before the Demo Day.

Pro Mama is a newsletter that matches companies with qualified workers. The company generates money from companies when it hires a Pro Mama and from moms through a premium membership. It has more than 1,500 Austin-based moms receiving its newsletter. It has placed moms at companies like Bumble, Literati, Partners in Parenting and Working Not Working.

“Right now, we’re working on scaling in Austin and expanding to Dallas and Houston in the next few months and connecting with 50,000 mamas by the end of next year,” Gaffney said.

FIRE SPIKE – Anthony James, a U.S. Air Force veteran, created a patent-pending hardware system to prevent wildfires from spreading and founded Fire Spike.

“We bring 21st-century innovation to fighting wildfires – one of our most dangerous and damaging catastrophes of our time,” James said.

“The U.S. Forrest Service has said we’ve gone from having a fire season to a fire year. We are now over 350 days a year of forest fires burning,” James said.

Anthony James, founder of Fire Spike

In the last 30 years, the U.S. has had 167 million acres destroyed by wildfires, equivalent to 14 percent of the land mass of America, James said. Last year’s forest fires will cost an estimated $72 billion, he said.

The company has created a two-part unmanned system, one part is a foam barrier and the other is a water wall to contain and extinguish fires.

SEARCH PARTY – Sisters Meredith Sanger and Andrea Sanger founded a style company with a body positive social platform that lets people share their personal style.

The influencer app for everyday people lets its users share their outfits with others and earn rewards when users click on the image and buy similar items.

It’s providing an affiliate commission to users. It takes a four percent cut and provides the rest to its users.

“We are independent of other social media platforms,” Meredith Sanger said.

The company plans to launch its app in December.

“We are Search Party, style that actually fits,” Sanger said.

OROS – Amit Patel founded Oros, an algorithm-free platform that gives people the ability to have fully authentic conversations with others.

People trust peer to peer recommendations, Patel said.

“People crave authentic and real answers from real people,” he said.

Oros is an on-demand information concierge giving people the answers to their questions in real time, he said. The company launched in Austin about ten weeks ago and has attracted more than 4,000 users, Patel said.

The company plans to make money through advertising, surveys and affiliate partnerships with sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor and others.

“We’re Oros, crowdsourcing real answers from real people,” Patel said.

BIDCRANE – Brandon Matthews and Xavier Madison founded Bidcrane to grow diversity in the construction industry.

About one-fourth of all contracts awarded by government agencies are supposed to go to ethnically diverse and women-led companies, Matthews said. That’s where Bidcrane comes in. It’s a matchmaking service for small businesses and big companies to connect. It’s focused on veteran, minority and women-owned companies.

Bidcrane generates its revenue on a monthly subscription basis. It launched its pilot program in February and has two pilot customers, the City of Dallas and the City of Fort Worth.

JUICEBOX HERO – Laurie Felker Jones created JuiceBox Hero as a platform for parents to find childcare.

On Oct. 16, 2016, Felker Jones returned to work after having her second daughter. She had two children at home under the age of two and 34 progressive women on her roster at the largest political organization in the state of Texas.

“That year, a few months later, an election year, we elected 29 out of 34 of those women,” Felker Jones said. “It was hard. And it was amazing. And the only way it was possible for me to have the confidence of a modern working women with a big complex job that I loved, and a small growing family was because I had amazing childcare partners. But finding them was not easy. It was time consuming, frustrating and anxiety producing.”

Felker Jones founded JuiceBox Hero to simplify the process for all working parents.

“It turns out my story is not all that unique,” she said.

Every week, in the U.S. there are more than 11 million children in childcare and the number is growing, Felker Jones said. Eight out of ten babies are born to Millennials with mostly dual-income households, she said.

“The problem is everyone is searching for childcare with the same old tools,” Felker Jones said.

A Google search for childcare and her zip code served up 70,000 websites, she said. She created JuiceBox Hero to provide more accurate results with 24 filters to find exactly what parents are looking for.

JuiceBox Hero released its online platform last month, she said. It is focused on licensed care centers. It offers a subscription model for childcare centers and parents. It also plans to partner with major employers.

“This is not just a feel-good idea, this is a valuable one,” Felker Jones said.

Childcare is a multi-billion-dollar market. Next year, the company plans to expand to Houston and then Dallas, Felker Jones said. Since it launched five weeks ago, the platform has helped more than 1,000 parents and five percent of the local childcare market, she said.

“We’re JuiceBox Hero and we know that when we take care of working parents, they can take care of business,” Felker Jones said.

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