TechStars NYC 2012: 7 startups to watch

Thirteen would-be darlings of New York’s tech scene are hitting the stage today. In downtown Manhattan, startup incubator TechStars NYC is hosting its third Demo Day to present its latest class of graduates.  The 13 companies, which were culled from more than 1,600 applicants, have been working with TechStars for the past three months and are expected to present to more than 700 members of the tech community.
They certainly have a high bar to meet. Of the 23 startups backed by TechStars last year (in two classes), 21 raised a collective $55 million.  A few notable alumni include Lore (formerly Coursekit), Crowdtist, Onswipe, and Sidetour. But TechStars said this year’s crop is its “strongest group of founders and visions yet.” And it has an encouraging gender ratio: it’s isn’t 50 percent, but five of the 13 companies have a female co-founder, four of which are CEOs.
Ahead of the big day, TechStars granted us brief interviews with the graduating startups, and several struck us as particularly compelling. Watching the presentations will give us a fuller picture of each company (and we’ll update this as we learn more) but, for now, here are a few we’ll be keeping an eye on.
Founders: Payal Kadakia, Sanjiv Sanghav
If you’ve ever searched for yoga, dance or other activity classes online, you know that it’s hard to really get a sense of what’s out there. In fact, Kadakia said, about 250,000 fitness and recreation classes are offered globally, but half of the spots go unfilled. To address the problem, Classtivity is creating a consolidated platform to help people search for and book everything from classes in yoga and dance to cooking and languages. By bringing the as-yet undisrupted market online, Classtivity believes they can help it grow larger. The site recently came out of beta, but to receive an invite, you can visit this link: For now, Classtivity is focused on New York, but plans to expand to San Francisco and Los Angeles later this year.
Condition One
Founders: Danfung Dennis, Takaaki Okada, Peter Sung, Karol Martesko-Fenster
Condition One is pioneering a new video format that gives viewers a much more interactive and in-the-moment way of experiencing the moving image. For people with advanced enough cameras, Condition One’s technology allows them to film video that captures 180 degrees of view. Once captured and edited, the video, which can be viewed through iPad and iPhone apps (you can see their showcase app here), gives people an interactive window on to a specific space. As viewers manipulate and move the mobile device, they can see a full field of vision. As my colleague Ryan Kim said, it’s almost like a live version of Google Street View. Just this week, they announced that they raised $500,000 from Mark Cuban.
Founder: Kelsey Falter
Inspired by Falter’s passion for feedback, Poptip gives marketers, the media and other organizations a way to instantly take the pulse of the twitterati (and eventually those on Facebook, Pinterest and other social media). The service offers a way to create and deliver polls that exist entirely within Twitter. A few scenarios Falter suggested include helping a news show crowdsource guest suggestions for an upcoming segment or a political candidate solicit feedback to inform future speeches and campaign messaging. The company already has firm plans to work with MLB Fan Cave, ESPN and CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight. Prior to joining TechStars, Falter (who is just 22, by the way) raised a $640,000 seed round from Lerer Ventures and Softbank. (We wrote a bit more about it here.)
Founders: Sonia Sahney, Abhijit Rao, Ryan Weber
With all the social commerce sites springing up, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for consumers to filter out the junk to find the gems online. But Pickie, which is set to launch later this summer, believes it can help consumers navigate social shopping with a Flipboard-like app for catalog shopping. It uses social data from a variety of networks to generate a personalized magazine for commerce. In addition to displaying content curated with social data, Pickie gives users a selection of items that are trending across the different sites it tracks, as well as a collection of recommended items.
Founder: Craig Danuloff
Rewind.Me believes that all the data we create through Foursquare, Tripit, Instagram, Twitter and more is an asset we should be able to put to work. For now, the startup has an iOS app that gives users a rich view of their past and allows them to visualize their personal data. But eventually it plans to help users get special rewards and deals based on their aggregate data. This week, it announced that it had raised $800,000 in seed funding from investors including First Round Capital, KBS+P Ventures, Silicon Alley Venture Partners and other angels.
Founders: Jay Lee, Ben Rossen, Jason Punzalan
Smallknot brings crowdfunding to the neighborhood level with a platform that lets people invest in the businesses closest to their homes. The average loan size is between $2,000 and $15,000, Lee told us, but they fund specific projects, such as a new oven for a local restaurant or repairs for an outdoor patio. It also gives borrowers the ability to repay funds in-kind, with special goods, perks or private parties (even an oil painting, in one instance). The startup grew out of Greenville, S.C. but has launched a couple of pilots in Brooklyn, so far.
Founders: Jeremy Fisher, Keenan Cummings
The NY-based location-meets-curation startup has been in stealth mode since its inception, but has already raised more than $1 million from a group of angel investors, including SV Angel, Google Ventures and others. On stage at TechStars Thursday, Fisher pulled back the curtain on Wander, which is somewhat like a dedicated Tumblr or Pinterest for travel and location-based exploring.  On their pages (which are called “Wanderlogs”), users can share places they’ve been, plan to go or aspire to go. The hope is that the site will become a beautiful, expressive social network that revolves around place. “What Pinterest is doing for products, we’re doing for places,” Fisher said.