ERA Summer 2015 Class Graduates With Ideas in Fintech, Croissants
With its ninth class, which graduated at a demo day held Tuesday, the Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator in New York saw the expected eclectic mix of ideas, which ranged from an online home design marketplace to a way for food distributors to automate ordering and other services.
This time around the program also saw a pair of startups, out of the class of 10, firmly planted in the growing fintech scene.
ModernLend, one of the two, is an online lender that serves what co-founder Shou Zhang (pictured above) called credit-worthy international citizens who do not have FICO scores and get rejected by other U.S.-based lenders and credit providers. Zhang said this “eight billion dollars in annual revenue potential has been completely overlooked by traditional lenders.”
The startup, in partnership with Wells Fargo, offers a debit card, which Zhang said helps people build their FICO scores. The card is accepted at, and offers discounts with, some 350,000 hotels, restaurants, and retailers, he said. ModernLend also gathers data about the users, such as education, employment, and some metrics not used by traditional lenders for determining credit worthiness. The plan is for ModernLend to start offering credit cards in 2016.
Zhang said ModernLend has been marketing its debit card to international students at college campuses. The card may also help international workers living in the U.S. who do not have credit scores. “Google will be offering our product to their employees,” he said.
ERA brings in entrepreneurs from across the country; some stay in New York, while others may return home after each four-month session ends. Here is a quick look at the other nine startups from the summer 2015 class:
After the demos, Dezignable co-founders Marty Collins and Alison Andrews Reyes chatted with James Barrood, CEO of the New Jersey Technology Council. Dezignable is an online market where consumers can find design professionals and contractors to create custom interior designs for their homes, including new floor plans, which fit their budgets.
Buying an engagement ring can be stressful, according to Four Mine co-founder Anubh Sha, but he believes there is a way to make the process a bit easier. Four Mine is an online jeweler that aims to put the experience of shopping for engagement rings in stores, where they can be tried on, in the digital space. The potential buyers can request to preview three replica rings at home for three days before deciding on an actual diamond engagement ring.
It can be tough in the real estate game, said Matt Rodak, CEO of Fund That Flip. Residential real estate developers may face challenges, he said, getting short-term loans they need to refurbish and reposition houses they intend to “flip” through a quick resale. Fund That Flip is an online place for such borrowers to find lower rates while giving investors a way to get in on the action by funding these projects.
In some cases, Rodak said, house flippers end up turning to hard money lenders, who may charge high rates, to get the assets needed for remodeling a house for fast resale. Fund That Flip connects borrowers and lenders, who can create portfolios of real estate loans they back based on their risk and returns preferences.
Grsp got a bit of practice last month when its team demoed at the New York Tech Meetup. CEO Ed Olebe talked once again about how his startup’s app can be used by consumers to find information about a product before making an impulse purchase in-store. Grsp compares prices at other nearby retailers, as well as online, and brings up reviews of products being eyed for purchase.
For videographers and photographers who need extra equipment, but only for short-term projects, KitSplit, is a digital marketplace for renting gear. CEO Lisbeth Kaufman said this is a way for folks to find and rent lights, lenses, virtual reality equipment, and other items from private owners. On the flip side, people with gear they are not using can put it up on the market for rent by others.
Lately is a software-as-a-service platform that CEO Kate Bradley said brings together budgeting, analytics, tasks, and other marketing tools. She called Lately an improvement over the antiquated, disjointed methods marketers currently use. Her platform also combines social and traditional media content, communications, and calendars to help marketers be better organized.
Brands still struggle at times to figure what to do with certain unstructured data, said CEO Vasu Nadella of Macromeasures. In some cases, the data brands have on consumers is wholly inaccurate. His platform collects public information and processes it into actionable intelligence about customers. That helps brands improve the effectiveness of their marketing and advertising campaigns, he said, by creating a more accurate picture of who their customers are.
More and more, the public, particularly consumers, listens to advice and commentary of social media “influencers” they have decided to trust. MuseFind aims to connect brands with these potential sources of marketing, who reach people through YouTube videos, photos on Instagram, and other social platforms.
CEO Jennifer Yemu Li said MuseFind helps brands identify which of these influencers can effectively reach potential customers, at scale, in the demographics they seek—and create campaigns aimed at their target audiences.
Now about those croissants. Getting the right goods and ingredients in hand at the right time can make or break businesses such as restaurants and specialty craft shops in the food industry. Sweet, said founder Ed Chang, is a platform for making wholesale food distribution more efficient by automating some manual processes for ordering, invoicing, and managing inventory in real-time.