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Highlights from today's Betaspring investor showcase: Companies to watch, new services to check out

Posted by Scott Kirsner  April 29, 2013 01:28 PM

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Can a bus trip to Boston help startups from the Providence-based Betaspring accelerator program raise money?

That was the hope this morning, when fifteen startup teams headed north to pitch a roomful of Boston-area angels at the Cambridge Innovation Center; previously, interested investors had to hop on 95 South and head to Providence to get a look at the latest cohort of Betaspring graduates. Today's presenters were looking to raise anywhere from $175,000 to $2 million. It'll be a few weeks, at least, before we see whether the Greyhound strategy has an impact on the amount the entrepreneurs are able to raise. (At right is ZoomTilt founder Anna Callahan.)

Here are a few new services worth checking out, and startups worth putting on your radar screen. Companies in that second category, I'm betting, have pretty decent odds of collecting some cash — even if they're not working on consumer-facing ideas.

Check out...

• RaftOut, a site that makes it easy to coordinate concert ticket purchases among friends. Want to see a show, but don't know who else in your social circle will pony up to join you? Just click the "Bring People" button before you make a purchase. You can try it out with some upcoming shows in Boston here. The company is in the process of integrating with ticket sellers like Brown Paper Tickets and TicketFly.

• ShutterCal, which prompts you to pick the best picture you've taken each day. The company places these images onto an online calendar, which you can share with family or friends. You can try the service for free; purchase an ad-free, $3-a-month digital subscription; or buy a $14.99-a-month membership that sends you a packet of printed photos each month. You also get a nicely-designed shoebox (below) that holds a full year's worth of photos.


• Spogo, an iPhone app that invites you to guess what will happen next while you're watching a sporting event. (Will a Sox player land on third based during this inning, for instance.) As you make more correct guesses, you earn rewards that you can cash in at local sports bars. Co-founder Andrew Vassallo says that while the company did a test during the most recent NFL season, a new version of the app is due out in June that will cover other sports. (I wrote about the company last November.)

• SurpriseRide, a box-of-the-month club that delivers hands-on activities for kids between the ages of 7 and 12. The service costs $30-a-month, and focuses on science and creativity. Co-founders Donna and Rosy Khalife are sisters; Donna earned an MBA at Harvard in 2011, and Rosy is just now wrapping up at Providence College. The company will be based in Washington, D.C.


Put it on the radar screen...

• Designer Material, which helps clothing and product designers research materials, see pricing, get samples, and make purchases. Founder Matt Grigsby was a sourcing consultant with experience working with clients like Schick and Hasbro to identify eco-friendly materials. The company plans to take a 20 percent fee on every sale, about 20 percent less than wholesalers typically charge the manufacturers of materials.

• LocusPlay, helping operators of lotteries in emerging markets sell tickets using tablet computers and mobile phones, and collect data about sales. The team initially got together in Bangalore, India, before relocating to Providence — which happens to be home to GTECH, a major tech purveyor to the lottery industry. LocusPlay already has customers in the Bahamas, and recently signed up a national lottery in Africa. Founder Rahuldev Rajguru says the startup has already generated $600,000 in revenues, all from "helping paper-based lotteries go digital."

pablofernandez.jpg• Skillhound, developing a service that will help recruiters communicate more intelligently with software developers. Founder Pablo Fernandez, right, says that unemployment among software developers is less than one percent, and that Skillhound analyzes their code to understand their areas of expertise and their interests. The goal: enabling recruiters to better target programmers who might be interested in a new job, and who might be a good fit with their company and its needs.

• Bare Tree Media, working with entertainment brands like Garfield, Hello Kitty, and Kiss to develop mobile apps and sell virtual goods to fans. CEO Robert Ferrari previously worked at the Massachusetts videogame developer Turbine (now part of Warner Bros.) and Sanrio Digital, which owns Hello Kitty.

Here's the complete list of startups that were part Betaspring's spring program. They'll present again in Providence this Thursday.

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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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