Gener8tor Continues Momentum With Fifth Class of Startups

Alumni of Gener8tor’s startup accelerator have been on a roll lately, and last night the program officially released its newest class into the wild with a closing event featuring pitches from the five graduating companies.

Now it’s up to the latest batch of Gener8tor startups to make good on their plans, which were shared with the Milwaukee audience of more than 400 investors, entrepreneurs, and community members.

Gener8tor, the Wisconsin accelerator founded in 2012, has now held five programs. The 23 companies in its previous four classes have gone on to raise about $30 million in funding and create more than 250 jobs, Gener8tor co-founder Joe Kirgues tells Xconomy. Recent milestones by its portfolio companies include an expanded $10 million Series B round for Madison, WI-based EatStreet and San Francisco-based LivBlends’ participation in the Y Combinator accelerator.

But last night, the spotlight shone on the newest Gener8tor grads. Here’s what the five companies are working on:

—Beekeeper Data: These days, most companies are accumulating so much data about their businesses that it can be overwhelming, especially for managers and employees who don’t have an information technology background. That’s why Madison-based Beekeeper created collaborative, easy-to-use software that ties into various data storage systems and lets “non-technical employees quickly ask many different questions of their company’s complex data,” the company says.

“Existing solutions are too complex, or they’re focused on broad and shallow measurements,” says Beekeeper co-founder and CEO Matthew Rathbone, a former analytics engineer with Foursquare.

Beekeeper intends to sell the software for $500 per user per year, Rathbone says. The startup acquired its first seven customers over the past 14 weeks, including Madison startups Abodo and Fetch Rewards.

—Hitlist: Nobody likes annoying pop-up or banner ads, and most people don’t want to take time out of their day for an online survey. It’s no wonder, then, that many types of online ads are losing value—and hurting the bottom line of publishers that rely on advertising revenue. Hitlist thinks it can help with its software that uses gamification techniques to engage website visitors.

It’s basically the digital version of radio contests that award prizes to “caller number nine,” CEO Andrew Stewart says. Website visitors pick a prize they want to win, while businesses set a target number of clicks for their ad. Every time someone clicks on an ad, the page refreshes and shows the latest tally. Once someone hits the target—lucky clicker number 230,124, let’s say—he or she wins the prize.

“They keep going back day after day,” Stewart says. Once the number starts approaching the target, “people go crazy and start clicking faster and faster. It creates a very engaged user.”

The company has also created survey programs that can ask one specific question on behalf of the advertiser, Stewart says, like if someone needs to have their wisdom teeth removed in the next six months. If they click yes, that data is relayed to the dentist’s office that placed the ad. At that point, the business has a concrete sales lead.

Hitlist, which takes a 35 percent cut of the revenue that its customers make off of the ads, has 30 clients—including beta testers Sony, Vivint, and J. Walter Thompson—and has generated about $300,000 in revenue so far. The company, founded in Provo, UT, is also relocating to Milwaukee, Stewart told the Milwaukee Business Journal.

—Modern Movement: This Madison company has already shipped more than 2,400 units of its first generation of balance training products, and its customers include the U.S. ski and snowboarding teams, founder and president Glenn Polinsky says. Now, the company is planning to release its M-Board 2s, the next version of its surfboard-like device that will incorporate smartphone software that can track instability and movement.

The multi-purpose device is intended for use in gaming, fitness, and physical therapy. It could improve quality of life for the elderly, and provide a competitive advantage for athletes, Polinsky says. Consumers will be able to log balance and fitness data with the machine, competing with friends and family, a la Fitbit, he adds.

“Modern Movement wasn’t focused on a product, but a product category,” Polinsky says. “Balance matters.”

—Project Foundry: The traditional educational model of standardized lessons taught from textbooks to large groups of students was better suited to the 20th century American industrial economy. But as jobs shift toward more small-group projects and one-on-one interactions, teaching methods are also moving in that direction, says Project Foundry co-founder and product development director Shane Krukowski. The problem is, this new form of project-based learning and individual instruction “is a nightmare for teachers to manage,” he says.

Enter Project Foundry, which created software to help K-12 teachers and students manage project planning, reporting, and assessment. The software provides teachers a snapshot of what students are working on and lets them drill down into the details. On the other side, students can track completion of tasks, attach results of a project, and take a self-assessment at the end of an assignment.

The software costs between $19 and $25 per student per year. Project Foundry is generating $250,000 in annual sales by serving more than 100 schools in 25 states. Now, the company intends to boost its sales and marketing and hire more staff, including a director of sales, Krukowski says.

—Stock Manufacturing Co.: Stock’s business is a 21st century rarity: an American-made clothing brand. Yep, Stock is designing and manufacturing high-end menswear in a 50-year-old Chicago factory owned by one of the startup’s co-founders. But Stock’s strategy is to sell its products directly to consumers online, which allows it to “hack the retail supply chain” and charge considerably less than comparable brands, co-founder and CEO Jim Snediker says. And the company is paying its workers a living wage, he adds.

Prior to going through Gener8tor’s program, Stock was bootstrapped, Snediker says. The company has achieved more than $400,000 in revenue since February 2013, with minimal spending on marketing, he says.

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