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Six startups will pitch Boston's 'Shark Tank' investors this Thursday

Posted by Scott Kirsner  October 22, 2012 07:46 AM

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Borrowing the format from the ABC reality show "Shark Tank," a group of Boston investors plan to cut deals with startups this Thursday to invest as much as $100,000, as part of an on-stage session at this week's FutureM conference.

"We wanted to celebrate Boston's amazing evolution into one of the strongest startup scenes in the world," says organizer Dave Balter, founder of the Boston word-of-mouth marketing firm bzzagent. The "sharks," who'll be committing their own money, are Nicole Stata of Boston Seed Capital; Dharmesh Shah of HubSpot; Katie Rae of TechStars Boston; Joe Caruso of Bantam Group; Fred Destin of Atlas Venture; and Balter. Lucy McQuilken of Intel Capital will be on-stage representing a school of smaller investors that Balter has dubbed "the piranha pool."

balterbzzagent.jpegAs with the TV show, "each company has the right to ask for the terms they want, to properly mimic the standard investment process," says Balter, right. "Part of the process will be for the Sharks to determine if they'll accept the terms offered, or will try to negotiate for their own terms." As for what due diligence may take place after Thursday afternoon's presentations, Balter explains via e-mail, "The goal is to make this as real a process as possible. The agreement to invest at an angel level often doesn't include significant due diligence, so it's not expected [for] that to occur. ...An investor's reputation is based on trust, among other things, and the goal is that once they say they're doing the deal, they're doing it. Of course, there are always things in the final contract process that need to be agreed upon, so both parties will need to align on that."

Seventy startups applied; last Friday afternoon, the investors selected the six that'll have a chance to present later this week. They are:

- Arcbazar

Crowdsourcing platform for architectural design services. Any person can launch a design competition for any scale of project. The client describes the project, uploads images, and provides basic information that form the basis for designers to develop their architectural concepts. The client sets the award and timeline, and in the end picks the best design solution. The award is distributed among the first three ranking design schemes.

- Jebbit

Pays college students to check out new products and answer questions.

- CoachUp

Marketplace for private sports coaching services. According to CoachUp's application, "Coachup was offered a spot on [the ABC television show] Shark Tank, and I turned it down. Turns out the other Shark Tank takes 5 percent of your company just to appear on the show, or 2 percent royalties! But i want to go in front of my favorite Boston sharks." (Previous coverage of CoachUp.)

- Sidewalk

Sidewalk profiles [small & medium businesses] by analyzing their digital footprint. We use this data to help local sales reps sell smarter. In the future, we'll help SMBs digitize. We have 100+ paying customers & 50+ marquee brands (Yelp, ATT, AMZN, etc) queued up for our beta. Scoble called us the biggest idea at 500 Startups.

- Timbre (from Intrepid Pursuits)

Mobile app that highlights live music shows nearby, plays samples, and enables users to buy tickets. From the company's application: "We would like to spin this product out and raise a seed round so a dedicated team can focus on it." (Previous coverage of Timbre.)

- NBD Nanotechnologies

NBD uses unique surface engineering chemistry exclusively licensed out of MIT to enhance condensation. We create water from the air for human consumption.

(Descriptions above provided by the companies.)

It'll be interesting to see how many of the startups land investments — and whether all $100,000 gets put to work.

And once Thursday's event is over, winners, losers, sharks, and audience will all head over to Firebrand Saints for the free "Shark Filet Show" after-party.

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Innovation and technology news that matters, on a new website from the Boston Globe, featuring Scott Kirsner and other original reporting.

About Scott Kirsner

Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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