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Congratulations to the 5 Techweek LAUNCH Winners

For the second year in a row, Walker Sands was a sponsor of Techweek LAUNCH, an event featuring 70 startups pitching to win $100,000 in cash in prizes. We had the opportunity to meet with entrepreneurs demoing a range of products. We saw web sharing apps, glasses that turn your hands into a remote control and a Pap smear test that is twice as reliable as the current testing.

wedeliver
WeDeliver, an on-demand delivery system with real-time tracking, pitching their business model at Techweek LAUNCH.

These companies all pitched their hearts out, with five ultimately making it to the main stage.

The five startups selected, nextstep.io, Crowdfynd, Furywing, 24Fundraiser, and WeDeliver had the opportunity to present to a standing room only audience. Their four minute presentations were followed up by questions from the judges: Constance Freedman, Troy Henikoff, Noah Knauf, Andres Moreno, J.B. Pritzker and Chuck Templeton. Here are more details on each of these five companies:

The Champion: WeDeliver

wedeliver emanuel

WeDeliver offers businesses an easy way to expand their reach, delivering items to their customers when they want with same-day delivery. The company allows customers and businesses to track their packages in real-time, get quick delivery and quotes, and connect socially. WeDeliver offers retailers an unprecedented level of customer feedback, allowing special notes and delivery confirmation from customers right on their dashboard.

Walker Sands' take:

Founder Jimmy Odom faced some technical issues during the front end of his presentation, but ultimately delivered a solid pitch that detailed the importance of his service to local business. Same day delivery is something all the big boys are trying to figure out. Amazon, eBay and Walmart are all trying to deliver same day. WeDeliver is taking the Uber approach, tapping into unused messengers to deliver packages from local businesses.

WeDeliver is going to face the challenge of a public trained to expect free shipping, local businesses that lack technical sophistication, and scaling beyond highly concentrated urban communities. Despite those challenges, WeDeliver offers a massive amount of opportunity for local merchants to expand their businesses and gives consumers a way to consume local goods without waiting a day or more for them to arrive.

wedeliver interface

Lost & Found: Crowdfynd

Crowdfynd is the “first place to look,” acting as a modern-day lost and found and crime and safety monitor. Users can post whether they’ve lost something, found something or witnessed any crime-related activity, uploading pictures, locations, categories and rewards in their post.

Walker Sands' take:

Judge Troy Henikoff pointed out that Crowdfynd has the classic chicken and egg problem many startups have. No one will look for their lost stuff on Crowdfynd if there isn’t anything posted there and no one will post lost stuff there if they don’t think anyone will look for it.

They need a beachhead to build a database of lost stuff and they plan to do so by partnering with businesses. The lost and found for the United Center and Lollapalooza are potential targets to post the thousands of lost items found at these businesses. If this takes off as the place to look for lost items in Chicago it could prove to be very successful.

crowdfynd

Helping Nonprofits Stay Organized: 24Fundraiser

24Fundraiser is a complete online fundraising portal. From one website, you get 11 fundraising features with more being added every year. This site allows small and medium sized organizations the ability to raise money online with very low fees and allows them to keep 100 percent of the money raised.

Walker Sands' take:

Nonprofits face the massive problem of using a bunch of basic systems to fundraise, organize donors, and market to their database. Most small nonprofits are using a combination of excel spread sheets, Eventbrite, Paypal, and other online tools. It’s entirely unorganized and 24Fundraising could be a fantastic solution to the problems these nonprofits face.

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Make Sense of Your Activity Data: NextStep.io

NextStep.io integrates activity tracking devices and apps altogether in one place, making sense of the data in an organized, digestible way. NextStep is also beneficial for these product managers as it compiles all the data from users, allowing providers to better understand how their customers are using their device.

Walker Sands' take:

A big trend in the strartup world is encouraging people to make small changes in daily life to make a cumulative big impact. NextStep.io takes advantage of the Nike Fitbit to track your daily activity and make small changes. Are you getting coffee every day at a shop two minutes from the office? NextStep.io will suggest a shop five minutes away for an extra three minutes of exercise. In meetings for eight hours every day? Nextstep.io will suggest making half of those meetings walking meetings and integrate that with your Outlook calendar. Lots of small changes like this make a big difference and the app has the potential to change lives if it catches on.

The presenter stumbled a bit on the question of monetization, but the access to the Fitbit API could prove the competitive advantage needed to succeed.

nextstep.io
The Nextstep.io team.

Gambling Games: Furywing

Furywing saw an opening in the $30 billion gambling industry of 2012, and began developing high quality, social gambling mobile games. After attending the Game Developers Conference in March 2013, Furywing developers realized they had created something special in the industry, and have since continued to grow.

Walker Sands' take:

Holy cow, gambling on Angry Birds! Great presentation by President Jared Steffes. He opened with, “Do you want to play Angry Birds for fun or for money? Let’s play for money!” Right now the company appears to only offer a slot machine app available in the UK, but the long term vision is to embed that slot machine logic into more traditional mobile games similar to Angry Birds. The idea would be that as you play these games and succeed, you would be randomly rewarded with money based on the slot machine logic.

Furywing faces some big gorillas in this space and they won’t be able to touch the American market for quite a while, but the idea is incredibly intriguing and the market massive. Will they be successful? I wouldn’t bet against it.

Furywing

As always, we had a great time meeting all the companies and look forward to seeing many of these entrepreneurs succeed in the Chicago tech community. What did you think of LAUNCH? Do you think someone got snubbed from the other 65 companies? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Courtney Mike