Techstars Impact 2018 Class

By Laura Lorek
Publisher of Silicon Hills News

While studying drug cartels in Mexico City, Cory Siskind noticed the city lacked transparency on reporting high crime areas.

That’s when she came up with the idea for Base Operations, which has been called “the Waze for Crime.” Waze is a traffic app that advises drivers on the least congested routes based on real time information.

“Base Operations helps people navigate high crime, low transparency cities,” Siskind said last week during the first Techstars Impact Demo Day. Base Operations was one of nine startups that participated in the inaugural Techstars Impact cohort in Austin. They presented their ventures last Thursday at 800 Congress during a pitch event to family, friends, investors, mentors, media and others in the tech community.

“We’re keeping people safe which helps businesses expand internationally,” Siskind said.

While CyberSecurity continues to innovate, physical security is 15 years behind, Siskind said. Base Operations targets global cities in Latin America, right now, that have high crime but lack good reporting and data.

“An increase in crime precipitates a decrease in information,” Siskind said. “This is a problem with cities across the world.”

Base Operation’s patent-pending platform provides a visualization of a city’s security problems in real time and routes people around problem areas. Its platform aggregates data from government statistics, news reports, crowdsourced data and partner organizations. It also offers a premium version for businesses.

Base Operations, based in Boston, is working with Bain & Co., Techstars and the International Center for Journalists as its customers. It has rolled out its service in Mexico City, Mexico, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, Montevideo, Uruguay, Santiago, Chile and Buenos Aires, Argentina.

“At Base Operations we believe everyone needs to feel safe wherever they are,” Siskind said. “So get out there and explore the world, Base will have your back.”

Zoe Schlag, Techstars Impact managing director and Cory Siskind, CEO and founder of Base Operations at Techstars Demo Day.

Base Operations participated in the first Techstars Impact program focused on for-profit mission-driven entrepreneurs building technologies that solve social and environmental problems.

“Tonight is the culmination of 12 weeks of hard work,” said Zoe Schlag, managing director of Techstars Impact in Austin.

Techstars Impact had a diverse array of founders from Boston, Denver, D.C. Austin, San Francisco, Seattle, Nigeria and Singapore, Schlag said. It had six companies led by serial entrepreneurs and eight with female or minority CEOs.

The startups are tackling huge problems ranging from providing access to quality childcare and creating gender equity in the workplace to providing healthcare in Africa and providing quality working conditions in plants in Asia.

Jamee Herbert, CEO of BridgeCare Finance, based in Seattle, spent the past three months in Austin working on her startup that breaks down the cost barriers of high-quality childcare for working families.

Today, 43 percent of mothers leave the workforce and childcare costs are the primary reason they leave their jobs, Herbert said. At a downtown Austin center, childcare costs for one child costs $1,100 a month, Herbert said.

“For a lot of families that feels out of reach,” she said.

But families pay another price too when moms stay home. Women with just two years out of the workforce will lose one-third of their total lifetime earnings, Herbert said.

“And it’s not just women and their families that are struggling with these problems, it’s employers too,” Herbert said.

For every employee that companies lose, it’s costly, Herbert said. It’s costing them up to 30 percent of each person’s salary just to replace them, she said.

“This is not just a problem, this is a crisis,” she said.

BridgeCare Finance has the solution. It provides simple and affordable employee benefit plans. It provides interest-free financing for childcare.

MDaas Global, based in Nigeria, provides diagnostic and primary care centers with the latest technology throughout Africa, especially targeted at under-served communities.

The demand for healthcare in Africa is shifting from infectious diseases to lifestyle diseases like diabetes, cancer, heart disease and stroke, said Oluwasoga Oni, co-founder and CEO.

“Existing hospitals are not equipped to deal with these diseases,” Oni said.

The team behind MDass at Techstars Impact Demo Day

MDass launched its first center in Nigeria last November and it has already served 3,500 patients, Oni said. It grew revenue by more than 500 percent since January of 2018, he said.

“Our patients and doctors love us,” he said. “With 95 percent of patients recommending MDass to a family member or friend.”

MDass is launching a new center in December of 2018. It costs $90,000 to set up a center which will serve 9,000 patients a year, Oni said. It takes just three months to break even at a center, he said.

Over the next five years, MDass plans to launch 100 centers with revenue of $30 million a year, Oni said.

“And this is just a small fraction of the market,” Oni said.

Pipeline Equity, based in Denver, works to drive gender equity throughout companies.

The team behind Pipeline Equity.

For every 10 percent increase in gender equity, there is a two to three percent increase in revenue, said Katica Roy, CEO and Founder of Pipeline Equity.

While CEOs recognize this economic opportunity, they are struggling to make it a reality for their companies, she said.

Enter Pipeline, a Software as a Service platform built for big companies that increases their financial performance by closing the gender gap, Roy said. It helps companies with hiring, pay, performance, potential and promotion, she said.

Pipeline provides companies with a human resources platform that compiles internal candidates for open positions with real-time recommendations. It’s an HR dashboard that is billed per employee, per year.

To date, 3,800 companies have signed a public pledge committed to gender equity, Roy said.

During the Techstars Impact cohort, Pipeline Equity increased the number of large companies it’s working with from seven to 21, Roy said.

Michael Maniscalco, the founder and CEO of Austin-based Better Living Technologies.

The only Austin-based startup in the program, Better Living Technologies, is focused on helping patients and families manage Diabetes. Michael Maniscalco, the founder and CEO, said his whole life changed when his son, Zach, got diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes at 18 months old.

“We were sent home and our lives were changed forever,” Maniscalco said.

Maniscalco, whose former startup iHiji sold to Control4 Corp. earlier this year, decided to tackle the problem of keeping track of his son’s blood sugar levels through wearable devices, Alexa, his home automation system and other technologies.

Diabetes is a constant struggle of managing blood sugar levels, Maniscalco said.

Better Living Technologies provides peace of mind to caregivers, Maniscalco said. With the startup’s technology solutions, Maniscalco has his son’s data wherever he is. If his son’s blood sugar levels go dangerously low, it turns on the lights in his home automation system, he said.

Better Living Technologies launched its product beta eight weeks ago.

For families with children diagnosed with diabetes, it has meant less stress, more sleep and fewer trips to the hospital, Maniscalco said.

The team behind Clair

Clair designs devices that tell you what’s in the air from the stuff in the atmosphere that causes big global problems, said Anna Scott, climate scientist and CEO.

It’s $89 WiFi-enabled home device detects pollutants such as smoke, pollen, mold or chemicals and changes color to alert the homeowner when air quality changes. The company has already generated more than $150,000 in revenue, Scott said.

Today, the company is in four countries and that’s just the beginning, Scott said.

“The air that we breath is our most important asset,” she said.

Kutumbita, based in Singapore, has created a communication and engagement platform and mobile app for factory workers that allows managers to communicate with workers in real time using a mobile app and text messages.

It’s a software as a service platform sold to the factory managers based on the number of workers and it’s device agnostic and that allows it to scale quickly, said Rameez Hoque, co-founder and CEO of Kutumbita.

So far, Kutumbita has performed worker sentiment analysis at five factories in Bangladesh with more than 5,500 workers on its mobile app, Hoque said.

“We’re making the fashion industry more sustainable through worker engagement and analysis,” he said.

Josh Sutherland, VP of Sales and James Geter with TommyRun.

TommyRun, based in Atlanta, Georgia, is an on-demand delivery service for construction supplies from Lowe’s and Home Depot and other stores. It’s not just for homeowners, it scales up to general contractors, said Bernard Parks Jr., founder and CEO.

In 2016, Parks remodeled a house. As a result, he was always running to the store to get more supplies and in that process, the idea for his startup took flight.

General contractors report going to the store nine times a week for additional materials, Parks said.

“This is a real problem,” he said. “It costs contractors $18 billion in lost productivity annually.”

TommyRun solves that problem. It makes deliveries that start at $29 for up to $250 pounds and $79 for up to $2000 pounds plus $79 for an additional 2000 pounds.

Launched in August of 2017, the startup has had 1,500 orders and $100,000 in revenue, Parks said. It’s on pace to do 15,000 deliveries and $1 million in revenue, Parks said.

TommyRun plans to expand to Austin in January and then Charlotte, North Carolina, followed by Nashville, Dallas and Houston.

Caroline Caselli, founder and CEO of Haven Connect, changed California law to launch her company, Haven Connect, which makes property management software to streamline the affordable housing application process.

Caselli, a former social worker, created an affordable housing online portal for people looking for housing and property managers.
It can take two to ten years for applicants to get into housing, Caselli said.

And there’s no way for an applicant to update information on excel spreadsheets, she said.

The Haven Connect platform allows property managers to efficiently communicate with people looking for housing. It allows them to fill their affordable housing units faster.

With the Haven Connect platform, applicants can update their information online for the first time, which reduces phone calls for property managers, Caselli said. Haven Connect charges per unit, per month.

Over the last three months, Haven Connect has seen 70 percent growth of the number of units on its platform, Caselli said.

“Changing the law is just the beginning,” she said. “We’re bringing property management into the future.”