App That Helps Find Lost Children Highlights Techstars Demo Day

Techstars startups have been making their pitches to investors in Boulder for eight years now. It’s unlikely one has ever been introduced by a police officer.

Then again, there hasn’t been a graduate like the Lassy Project, a startup inspired by a real-life child abduction and murder case that shocked Colorado almost exactly two years ago.

The Lassy Project is developing a mobile application that helps police and communities find children who have gone missing or have been abducted. It was one of the 13 Techstars startups that pitched a packed house of potential investors and well-wishers Thursday afternoon.

Along with the Lassy Project, this year’s class was heavy with startups building software-as-a-service products businesses can use to solve problems like tracking expense reports, monitoring progress on key corporate goals, and managing the deluge of paperwork that comes with hiring new employees.

Others want to revolutionize how consumers use credit cards or make smart homes affordable.

Here’s the quick version of what each startup is up to:

The gist: ExpenseBot will “make expense reports do themselves.”
The details: ExpenseBot’s software automates the process of filling out expense reports by pulling in information from calendar apps, e-mail, credit card purchase reports, and even a phone’s GPS software. It’s powered by artificial intelligence software that can remind users to expense actions like meals or a commute. The goal is to create a product that will be able to track other aspects of business finance, like invoices, collections, and bills.

The gist: A way to democratize how investors back solar energy projects.
The details: Wunder creates investment funds that institutional and accredited investors can buy into, which will be used to finance commercial solar energy projects. Wunder works with more than 50 solar system installers that are developing projects and evaluates each of them. If one qualifies, it’s added to a fund that covers building costs. The startup says it can deliver 7 percent returns, with the money coming from the sale of solar energy to customers or through loan repayments.

The gist: Improving job searches and recruiting using online dating techniques.
The details: Finding the right job and finding the right employee sucks for everyone. Wellhire wants to change that by replacing traditional tools like resumes, lengthy job postings, and keyword matching with new technology pioneered by online dating. Job seekers and businesses create profiles, and Wellhire creates match scores based on interests, strengths, and qualifications. Wellhire’s mobile app looks a lot like Tinder, allowing users to swipe left or right to select or reject job listings.

The gist: Eliminate cold calls by using social networks to find the right people to make warm introductions—and pay them for it.
The details: QuotaDeck is for businesses or salespeople looking to find prospects and generate leads without the pain of cold calling. Users sign up and share their networks and contacts with other QuotaDeck users. QuotaDeck’s software finds promising connections and recommends people to contact for an introduction. The company pays the person who makes the introduction.

The gist: Helps college students find cool new experiences
The details: Native users start by linking their social media accounts to the site and answering a few questions about their interests. Native then recommends activities like concerts, hikes, yoga classes or clubs they could join based on the app’s knowledge of options available around the students’ campus and college town. Native also can help users round up friends and connect with like-minded people. The startup originally was known as Varsity and was founded by University of Colorado-Boulder students. The startup won the school’s New Venture Challenge.

The gist: A mobile training and education platform for athletes.
The details: Sportsy works with athletes and coaches to develop instructional videos with Hollywood-quality production values. It distributes the videos through a mobile app, and target customers are individual athletes, teams, or leagues. Users also can record themselves and upload footage for coaching advice, or participate in challenges to build skills. Think of it as Craftsy or for sports. Right now the company is focused on soccer, but it plans to expand to other sports.

The gist: A safer, more secure credit card
The details: Every credit and debit card has its own unique number and, as millions of Target and Home Depot shoppers have learned, that number can be stolen. Final makes users safer by allowing them to create multiple credit card numbers they can change periodically or after a single use. Users can protect their accounts by limiting the amount that can be charged or restricting what retailers the number can be used for. Final provides users with a physical “chip and PIN” card, and its numbers can be used for online and mobile wallet purchases.

The gist: A home intelligence systems that’s powerful and affordable.
The details: Notion has developed inexpensive but versatile sensors that know when doors have opened, pipes have burst, a room’s temperature has changed, or the smoke detector has gone off. The sensors are easy to set up, and they relay information to users through a hub that connects to WiFi or cellular networks. Users get updates through Notion’s mobile app. Notion raised more than $225,000 through Kickstarter.

The gist: Create “flight plans” for businesses to help them meet strategic objectives.
The details: While the managers of specific projects or campaigns have tools to track progress, corporate leaders mostly lack good tools to monitor whether their companies are reaching their goals. Companies like Google and Salesforce have developed expensive goal management methods, and Kapta’s software brings those capabilities to growing companies that need it in an affordable way. Key information is gathered in real time and displayed on a user-friendly dashboard.

The gist: Streamlines all the HR paperwork that needs to be filled out when someone starts a new job.
The details: “Onboarding” new employees is a time-consuming and costly process, possibly costing companies in the U.S. billions each year. All4Staff is a mobile app that simplifies and speeds up the process, or at least the paperwork part. Employees can use the app at home to fill out forms and upload documentation before their first day of work. The pitch for businesses is it cuts administration costs. The product is initially geared toward companies that have large seasonal and temporary workforces, like resorts hiring for the ski season or retailers preparing for the holidays. All4Staff had completed a pilot project with Baskin-Robbins and has a strategic partnership in the works with Active Networks.

Shareable Social
The gist: Lets small businesses put creating social media content on autopilot.
The details: As more small businesspeople like real estate agents, dentists, doctors, and stylists turn to social media in an attempt to stand out and reach and retain clients, they need interesting content to share with followers. Shareable Social creates content for them, starting with tweets. The startup’s content can be reused by customers in different cities, the way newspapers around the country run the same stories from The Associated Press.

The Lassy Project
The gist: An app that helps parents and police alert a community when a child is missing.
The details: Amber Alerts have become the standard way of letting people know when a child is lost or abducted, but it takes valuable hours to send the alerts out, and they often don’t convey useful information. The Lassy Project lets parents send notifications to friends, family, and neighbors when a kid is missing, and then “escalate” the search by informing police and other users in the community if the kid isn’t found. Up-to-date pictures and physical descriptions can be included in the alerts.

The app already has been used in a missing child case in suburban Denver, and the company formed following the kidnapping and murder of a local girl. Her mother is on Lassy Project’s staff.

According to CEO John Guydon, the basic app that sends and receives alerts will be free, but parents will be able to buy premium features that can notify them when kids leave safe areas, like the proper route to school.

The gist: Replaces old-fashioned product registration cards to connect customers and manufacturers.
The details: Every product registration card a customer throws away is a lost opportunity for a manufacturer. Bawte lets customers register products online and gathers the user manuals and warranty info for their appliances and electronics. For businesses, they can collect demographic data about users they’d otherwise miss and also keep them informed about product recalls and updates. Bawte is working with GE.

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