By Angie Chang (Co-Founder & Editor-in-Chief, Women 2.0)
The Women 2.0 Conference features the final round of the PITCH SF 2013 Startup Competition, with 10 finalists pitching for feedback and prizes onstage at the conference. The first session was held on the morning of the Women 2.0 Conference. The judges onstage were XG Ventures’ Andrea Zurek, SoftTech VC’s Charles Hudson, BBC Worldwide’s Jenny Fielding, DFJ Gotham Ventures’ Joy Marcus and SoftBank Capital’s Nikhil Kalghatgi.
Kara Swisher lingers onstage as she introduces the finalists. “Be very supportive – yet judge them,” she tells the audience at the Women 2.0 Conference.
First pitch of the day, event services marketplace Fiestah was founded by Nurul Yahya. Flying in from New York, the early-stage startup pitched onstage and finished by stating they are looking to raise $750k to complete product development and grow.
After the pitch, the onstage judge from SoftBank Nikhil Kalghatgi talks about using the product before, and asks about how to ensure that the hired help actually shows up. She talks about holding money in escrow. Jenny Fielding asks for the entrepreneur to talk to how to “fill the empty room” – how is Fiestah getting their vendors? Nurul replies that they are successful at direct sales. XG Ventures founder Andrea Zurek remarks that her background is in sales, and asks for the team to talk about the revenue model. Taking 10% from the vendor side is only the first step in monetization, answers Nurul.
The second woman-led startup onstage, Angaza Design, was pitched by founder and CEO Lesley Silverthorn from Palo Alto. “Africa is not a sob story of American media – it is a place where you can get better cell phone reception than you can get in downtown San Francisco,” she states to the wild applause in the Westin St. Francis in downtown San Francisco. The company has closed $500k and is seeking an additional $500k, looking to license the hardware to other solar supplies to embed at their products.
“Super clear articulation of the market opportunity and business model,” Softtech VC’s Charles Hudson commended. Nikhil asked about how local governments played a role in Africa with the business. BBC Worldwide’s Jenny Fielding remarks on the $10 cost of the product, about how $10 is still a lot of money in Africa. Lesley asserts that Angaza Design has worked with distribution partners to lower the $35 production cost of the item to the more affordable $10 that they are charging for the item in Africa. Lesley confirms that she is not only looking for impact investors: “We’re trying not to pigeonhole ourselves as a social enterprise, we are a profitable venture.”
The third startup to pitch is another hardware startup (this time from Los Angeles), Bia Sport, which has raised $460,000 in crowdfunding and presales. “Think of us as Lululemon for quantified self” said CEO Cheryl Kellond. She wins laughs from the audience by cracking jokes about men’s fitness.
XG Ventures founder Andrea Zurek asks about the lead Bia Sport has over the current incumbents. DFJ Gotham Ventures partner Joy Marcus asks about marketing strategy – how to get out to the customers. CEO Cheryl Kellond talks about word of mouth and the online platform. Kara Swisher broaches Nike and Up, to which Cheryl claims Up is not a competitor. Judge Jenny Fielding asks if Bia is going after existing athletes, and wants to know how to expand the market given the current state of America’s obesity. Kara remarks on the attractive look of Bia, stating that “most are butt ugly.”
The fourth startup, Enplug CEO Nanxi Liu pitches “a network of interactive billboards… in realtime.” Her Los Angeles-based team has 8 engineers and 5 business. XG Ventures Andrea Zurek talks about a crowded market, stating “I’ve seen a lot of people do what you’re trying to do – except the analytics piece…” Nanxi explains that she gets clients through ad exchanges, and answers the follow up question about how to service the billboards. Nanxi brings up the proprietary software and Internet-connectiveness allows for easy updates.
DFJ Gotham Ventures partner Joy Marcus has a background in media and ad sales. She asks about the actual addressable market and asks about what is currently being bought in the digital ad market. Nanxi fields ad questions about dimensions for the ads.
The fifth startup to pitch comes from Brooklyn, New York – Maker’s Row co-founder Tanya Menendez talks about humanizing the manufacturing and sourcing process for burgeoning SMBs. On the Maker’s Row website, you can take an idea and turn it into a product easily. She shows examples of growing SMBs using Maker’s Row, drawing applause from the crowd. “Without Maker’s Row, it’s easier to find a manufacturer overseas than it is to find in your own backyard,” she pitches.
Judge Jenny Fielding asks about the market and how Maker’s Row will make money. Right now, Maker’s Row is a subscription fee and are currently raising funds to build more monetization models. Softtech VC Charles Hudson asks for the startup to clarify exactly what they are doing. “By providing a safe platform for both sides, it’s creating a lot of value,” she says. DFJ Gotham Ventures Joy Marcus asks how to deliver on the promise of security. Tanya talks about reviews of manufacturers and more, while her co-founder Matt Burnett jumps in to help answer investor questions.
“This is like a US Alibaba-type of company. What we learned is… ultimately it’s all about supplier side… so at the same time, the big question is, once you sign up the suppliers, how do you ensure they do what they want to do?” asks SoftBank Capital’s Nikhil Kalghatgi.
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Angie Chang is Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Women 2.0, a media company offering content, community and conferences for aspiring and current women innovators in technology. Our mission is to increase the number of female founders of technology startups with inspiration, information and education through our platform. Previously, Angie held roles in product management and web UI design. Angie holds a B.A. in English and Social Welfare from UC Berkeley. Follow her on Twitter at @thisgirlangie.