On Tuesday, March 28, 2017, investors and interested members of the Chicago tech industry descended upon the Chase Auditorium in downtown Chicago for this month’s Technori Startup Showcase.
In celebration of Women’s History Month, innovation hub and stage Technori partnered up with Women Tech Founders, a non-profit movement to support and highlight the efforts of women in the tech world. Scott Kitun, CEO of Technori, kicked off the showcase by introducing the keynote speaker, Kristi Ross of tastytrade.
Following Ross were five-minute pitches from five female-founded emerging startups wanting to share their stories and potentially garner funding from investors.
Who exactly were the females leading the charge at this startup showcase? They're names you should know, as you'll likely be reading about their future successes in the news, or nervously trying to say hello at an upcoming networking event.
Are you interested yet? Keep reading.
Filling a Need
The five emerging startups showcased were Hobby DB, a collectibles marketplace and database; MUSES App, an influencer marketing mobile application working to connect brands with influencers; PartySlate, a marketing platform for consumers to connect with event professionals; K9 Fit Club, a fitness community that motivates humans to workout alongside their dogs; and LUV Talk, a communication platform that pairs relationship management experts with both single and attached women to better their personal lives.
For Alex Lindsay, co-founder and head of marketing at Hobby DB, passion is what drives the company and its workforce. She was surprised and disappointed in how underestimated and under-innovated the collectibles market is, considering how popular collectibles like Funko! Pop dolls are right now.
She slipped in a few surprising statistics: “A little known fact is that there are actually 75 million collectors in the world. In the U.S. alone, one in seven people collect something. So if we’re going by the six degrees of separation rule, either you have a collection or you know someone that has one. Another little-known fact about collectors is that there lifetime value is huge. Usually when they get hooked, they start collecting for life, and they usually buy something to add to their collection at least once a week.”
Hobby DB at its foundation is a database that help collectors as they research what item to next add to their collection. Hobby DB is also a marketplace which enables users to both buy and sell collectibles in the automotive and pop culture markets.
This means that Hobby DB is interested in generating traffic and gathering data to level the previously overlooked collectibles industry to the same playing field as any other competitive selling market.
Shirley Yang, founder of MUSES App, introduced her startup with some staggering factoids, “Forbes named 2017 the year of the influencer,” she said. “$60 billion was spent on digital marketing alone last year. And 73 percent of those marketers are spending even more on influencers particularly. Why? Because influencer marketing and influencer marketing software are actually yielding 11 times more returns than traditional forms of digital advertising.”
MUSES is specifically interested in elevating the presence and success of small to medium-sized businesses that don’t have a huge marketing budget, the ability to create an influencer campaign or the time to create effective social content.
Awareness and engagement are the key performance indicators (KPIs) that MUSES measures. Those KPIs extend to all members of a campaign: the influencer, the brand, the company and the social media platform, in addition to the consumer. After all, MUSES believes in the power of the community, in cohorts.
For more on the prevalence of this industry, read my piece detailing everything you need to know about influencer marketing.
To the surprise of Julie Roth Novack’s surprise, the digital presence for event professionals wasn’t nearly as polished or beautiful as their in-house iPad portfolios. So she sat down and co-founded PartySlate to better display and market the professionals to consumers who are used to the visual-heavy layout of community boards like Pinterest.
PartySlate knows that only a small percentage of event professionals’ work and portfolio is weddings, but their digital presence fails in drumming up excitement for their other work.
Novack and her team desperately wants to change that. The company’s ultimate goal is twofold: to support and add to the growth and success of small and local businesses, and ease the process of planning events, parties, galas and fundraisers.
To learn more about the industry as a whole, read our guide on event marketing strategy and execution.
K9 Fit Club
Tricia Montgomery, CEO and founder of K9 Fit Club, was emotionally motivated to create her dog and human fitness community. At the time of inception, both she and her dog were overweight and in bad health.
Upon research, Tricia discovered that those who are out of shape would be more likely to work out with their pet than without. Why? Because working out with your dog lessens the embarrassment and increases security and confidence in your own livelihood. As Tricia put it, “I wouldn’t have done it for myself, but I did it for my dog. I needed to do it for my dog.”
Thus, the existence of K9 Fit Club. K9 Fit Club’s next step is to go virtual: live streaming classes (using video hosting software) and instructors on-demand, as well as partnering up with wearables to collect and add data into customer profiles.
Gwen Washington, founder of LUV Talk, likes to keep this particular quote of Henry Thoreau in mind as company inspiration, “There’s no remedy for love but to love more.”
LUV Talk is taking note of the enormous and continually growing online dating market and wants to help women lead happier lives through expert advice. They’re doing so by capitalizing on the relationship coaching space, which is a giant market.
To put it in perspective, there are 10,000 relationship coaches in Chicago alone, according to Washington. LUV Talk has combined the ever-existing need for relationship and lifestyle advice with the convenience of on-demand technology.
Emerging Trends in the Startup Space
The startups from that evening utilize technology to make it a breeze planning parties, finding love, bettering one’s health, increasing social media engagement and leveraging niche marketplaces.
At their cores, all five startups fulfilled some sort of need that was missing in consumer or professional lives. Everything else in our professional lives is becoming automated and made more efficient, why shouldn’t that extend to making our personal lives just as convenient?