500 Startups shows off accelerator program’s fifth batch of companies

In the accelerator’s typically light-hearted and casual style, 500 Startups launched another crop of companies on Wednesday, welcoming its fifth batch of startups down in Mountain View along with press and investors.
Dave McClure’s startup program has been rocking along for three years now, and is targeted to hit its namesake investment number some time this year. The group’s investment philosophy is well-documented, and involves making a larger number of bets on a variety of companies, particularly international ones, in hopes of finding some winners. Wednesday’s demo day didn’t rival the zany scope of Y Combinator demo days, but 500 Startups is building a different brand than its older rival. The newest 500 Startups companies have an international bent and clearly focus on practical things like traction and revenue — they all included slides on growth and profits in addition to Top 40 music intros.
30 startups presented at Wednesday’s accelerator demo, with a good number of companies focusing on 500 Startups’ core investment interests (parenting, marketing and analytics, and e-commerce, to name a few). Here were my five favorites from the day:


Waygo translator screenshotWaygo is a pretty cool-looking app built for international travelers. It allows a user to hover their phone over foreign text and get instant translations, almost like scanning a barcode or QR code. The app works in real time, preventing any kind of delay in translation, and most importantly has offline capabilities so users don’t rack up roaming charges. The company said the average active user in China uses the app to perform translations up to 140 times per week. The company has a tiered pricing model, allowing people who want more translations per week to up their subscriptions.


Babylist logo screenshotWhen software developer Natalie Gordon was pregnant, she was dismayed to discover that baby registries, like wedding registries, only allowed a consumer to pick wish lists on individual company sites and didn’t allow new parents to list items that were outside of traditional e-commerce (dog-walking, lasagna-baking, etc.) So while pregnant, she coded the beginnings of Babylist, a company that now allows new parents to create their own baby registries. The site, which works like Pinterest and allows parents to create wish boards (taking 4 percent of transactions on average), has more than 11,000 sign-ups so far, and saw $2.4 million in gifts purchased through the site this past year.

Curious Hat

iPad color vacuum app screenshotCurious Hat is one of several companies targeting the market of high-tech parents and kids to build educational content for tablets and iPhones that the two can enjoy. Co-founders CEO Luca Prasso and CTO Erwan Maigret both worked at Dreamworks on films including Shrek and Madagascar. “His generation plays, learns, and creates content in new ways,” Prasso said of his young son’s generation. “We want to further engage curious minds.” The company builds iPhone and iPad apps that allow users to send photos and games to their children, post to Facebook, and choose when and where to engage kids in the app. They have a cool feature called “eye paint” that allows children to take photos of real life things and then “paint” using those captured colors or textures. The Curious Hat founders join other tech people who went from large entertainment companies to kids-oriented startups, like Fingerprint’s Nancy MacIntyre or Toy Talk’s Oren Jacob (see disclosure).


CompStakCompStak is on online marketplace for commercial real estate, aggregating difficult to find information about real estate prices and availabilities in major cities including New York and San Francisco. “Our data is used by institutional owners to compare properties, hedge funds to make investments, and provides meaningful data for brokers, investors, appraisers, asset managers, economists and more,” as the company explains on its website. The company reports that it has all comps, or records of completed lease transactions, from New York over the past year and 50 percent of comps from the past 10 years. The company has free and premium subscription levels.


Screen Shot 2013-02-06 at 4.51.41 PMTargeting an unusual market for Silicon Valley startups but one that’s actually quite large, SupplyHog works with contractors to let them purchase building supplies online, price out different options, and have them shipped. “It’s tough to find a technology team that’s passionate about building supplies,” said CEO and co-founder Nathan Derrick (a veteran of the construction industry from Chattanooga), but his company has built an interface that allows contractors to find and purchase supplies, working to create a more reliable supply system.
Disclosure: Toy Talk is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Om Malik, founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True.