A Week of Tech and Startup Pitches

On Tuesday I had the opportunity to take my lovely wife on our first date since the birth of our son. We went to the Tech Cocktail pitch contest by Tech.co. This was the first of two pitch events as part of the Umbrella Week/Tech Fiesta ABQ. There were 11 local startups who were setup around Stereo Bar talking about their company. They then each had 1 minute to pitch their business.

The pitches came from SunPortSociabile, Punctuality, Peptineo, sheSpire, innoBright, Pi-Fi, Wyrdos, ExploreMedia, SWSD Global, and Time Trader’s Club.

You can watch all the pitches at Newscastic. It was a great event and a lot of fun to be able to actually talk with the people pitching before hand and meet them personally. The winner for the best pitch was SunPort and the reader’s choice winner (which I believe was an online poll before the event) went to Punctuality. They both get to go to Las Vegas and compete for big prizes in a startup competition at the Tech.co Celebrate 2015 conference. The competition is October 5th so keep an eye out for the winner then.

On Thursday there was the sold out Pitch Fiesta 4.0 at the Standard Diner. I was unable to attend (it sold out quick), but many of the same companies presented. EquiSeq placed 1st, Punctuality got 2nd, Buckle Down Systems got 3rd and U-Trade won both the Judge’s Choice and People’s Choice award. Other presenters were: Tour De Rue by Games of Heart, Quizus by Hermes Development, Wyrdos, Time Trader’s Club, sheSpire, Custom Cult Snowboards, and Aquaponic Solutions.

PC ProPad 4 Arduino Code and Connections

This is a followup to my previous post about the PC ProPad 4. I finally got a chance to figure out the full functionality. I wired it up only using the active connections and created a simple sketch to get more specific output from the connections.  I tried to design it so it would work for any GamePort connection.

PC ProPad4 wiring
PC ProPad4 Wiring.
Blue is wired from the X & Y to the analog pins
Green is wired from the buttons to the digital pins
Red is 5v
White is ground

Next a wrote a much more complex sketch specifically for the PC ProPad 4. It allows me to configure interrupts, buttons, speeds, etc. I also wrote it with the intention of controlling a mouse. The Uno only has two interrupts and can’t connect as a mouse, so that part is untested. This sketch and the PC ProPad 4 should ideally be hooked up to a Leonardo or Due. This will allow you to use interrupts for all the buttons and connect it as a keyboard/mouse to the computer.

I will try it on the Netduino, which I believe supports interrupts on all the pins. It seems sending 3v should be fine, I just have to make sure I actually change it to the 3v line so keep the Netduino safe.

The first question I had what was the semi-auto, auto and speed buttons do? When a button is set to semi-auto then holding down the button will continue to fire the bottom (change from high to low). When the button is set to auto, it will fire the button constantly without it being pressed. Once I figured that out I remembered all the Doom 2 games I played with direct modem connections and setting my fire button to auto and having lots of fun.

The second question was what do the speed buttons do? I thought the speed button was some how associated with the analog direction pad, but this is not the case. The two speed settings set how fast the button is pressed when using auto and semi-auto settings. On Speed 1 the button is pressed about every ~30ms. On speed 2 it is pressed as fast as it can. The buttons need to be debounced and you can’t tell the difference between a bounce and the button firing automatically on speed 2, so it really just runs as fast as you are willing to debounce the button.

The next step is to see how this runs on the Netduino, then I’m going to try and create my own PCB board for a GamePort shield.

ABQid Demo Day

Last Friday was the ABQid Demo Day and it was a packed house at the Epicenter. I rarely get to see these type of activities, but my wife let me use some of my paternity leave to check it out.

The energy and excitement of these events blows me away every time. The presenters, sponsors and audience create an atmosphere that makes it real easy to believe a lot of great things are happening and going to be happening in Albuquerque.

This event allowed the 10 companies from the second ABQid accelerator class to pitch their company in 6 minutes. They all did a great job on their pitches and I feel lucky to have gotten to watch this.

The Pitches

Equiseq (Paul Szauter) – I can’t remember where I first heard about Paul Szauter, but I have been interested in his technology since he first introduced it as ElectroSeq with the goal of $100 full DNA sequencing. I love biotech and DNA research, so I was particularly interested in his company. As much as I want to see $100 DNA sequencing, I think he made a great pivot into Equiseq to put his technology into a completely new field with horse breeding.

He did a great pitch to start off the demo day and if I had remembered to vote, I would have voted his the best. It may be my bias towards biotech, but I think he has the most potential of making a big impact with his company.

Equiseq, @Equisec1

Bounce Chat (Gordon Schaeffer) – Like biotech I am also a big fan of location based apps and augmented reality apps. Bounce Chat is a location based app where you can send out a message only to people who are within a set physical distance from you. I love the potential for this and one can easily picture it being a staple marketing item for events, conferences, parties, etc. My only problem with it is I can’t play with it. Like the similar startup Glif, it is IOS only so I can’t review it or promote it until it is on Android, but if you have an iPhone you can check out the app. They won the community vote.

BounceChat, @BounceChat

Close Threads, Trisha Terhar – Close Threads brings the boutique clothing market online. The goal is to allow small shop, custom atmosphere and allow them to compete online. You can sign up for early access at their website.

Close Threads, @CloseThreads

As Girls Grow, Akamee Baca – As Girls Grow is creating a subscription product that combines STEM lessons, with physical toys that demonstrate the lesson, and online stories and community to support it. It seems like a great model to get girls interested in engineering or for home schooling parents to teach STEM concepts. This is getting to be a crowded field with more and more subscription based STEM ideas, I recently subscribed to Hacker Boxes for myself and kids. Maybe the focus on girls will be their niche.

It seems a bit over the top though. The stories and characters and digital component to it seems like a lot of work without a lot of value added unless it truly works as a hook to get girls interested and staying with the product.

As Girls Grow, @AsGirlsGrow

Explore Media, Elan Coehlo – Their pitch was primarily about ARVRUS a 3D video player website that can be branded by companies. It seems that this was and idea they made or refined at the accelerator and what they are looking for as the massive growth part. From the pitch (and their website) they are doing a lot of virtual reality stuff without a specific focus (until now?). I was left with more questions about the company than excitement for the company based on the pitch and unfortunately I wasn’t able to stick around to talk to them or see their VR headsets. There is a VR Cafe event as part of Tech Fiesta this year. It is September 14, at Stereo Bar and looks like a fun event.

Explore Media, @ExploreMedia360, ARVRUS

iTherapyDocs, Lisa Brow – They are looking to provide software to for companies billing to Medicaid that ensure the proper documentation and paperwork are submitted so companies get properly paid and not accused for fraud. Seems like a hard problem navigating the laws and requirements. It was a great pitch, even if it isn’t exactly an exciting problem to solve.

iTherapyDocs, @iTherapyDocs

OAC Gallery, Sarah Biondi – A simple concept: buy art online. There is a lot of potential with deals with interior decorators and designers. I wonder if production companies and home stagers would find it useful also. If they can get a reputation with the type of companies that need high quality, matching artwork quickly, then they could build strong reputation. It is already up and running, check it out.

OAC Gallery, @OACGallery

Pressure Analysis Company, Michelle Urban – This is an exciting company, basically they have a cap worn on the head to detect impact, record it, and produce analytics on athletes. I haven’t heard of them before, but they have quickly become one of my favorite startups and one I hope to watch. It is easy to picture a world in 5 or 10 years where football, from the NFL to high school, require independent monitoring of player head impacts. You could also picture a world where a college athlete could provide all their analytics for every impact they had to NFL scouts and those that don’t were considered riskier draft picks. There are lots of scenarios where there is a need for tens of thousands of cranium impact monitors and the accompanied data storage and analysis.

The thing I love the most how much of a product of UNM this is. The tech was created and licensed by UNM to a UNM alumni creating the company and testing being done with the UNM Lobos and Duke City Gladiators. This is just a great example of all the pieces, so far, coming together to build a company with a lot of potential.

Pressure Analysis Company, @ePACtech

sheSPIRE, Renay Moya – I was not terribly excited about this startup. It seemed like personal mentorship wasn’t something that could scale to be a large profitable company. However, Renay gave the most passionate and personal presentation of all the pitches. She did an amazing job and I can now see the growth potential where sheSPIRE is a combination of eHarmony + LinkedIn for connecting those in need of a mentor with a personalized mentorship. Explained that way it is easy to see how it can position itself for rapid growth.

sheSPIRE, @sheSpire

Teeniors, Trish Lopez – Teeniors was the second most personal speech and a great example of how this company creation process in Albuquerque can work. I mentioned earlier this year that Teeniors won the Startup Women’s Weekend. From there they kept the idea alive and were accepted into the ABQid program and now they have come out with it with a company that has clients and is growing. Teeniors connects teenage mentors with seniors that need personal help with technology or computers. I am not sure how this scales as a company, there does not seem to have any potential for high growth. That said, I think Teeniors could be one of the most important companies for changing Albuquerque for the better. It is certainly the one I want to see succeed the most.

Trish told the stories of the seniors and teenagers who had been paired together and it is amazing to picture how life changing and how meaningful to the teenagers and to the seniors something a company like this can be. It feels such an amazing emotional niche. Teens who want to be respected, helpful, useful, appreciated and valued. Seniors, who need help with technology and a personal connection or time with people. I am really excited to see if they can connect teens and seniors on a much larger scale.

Teeniors, @Teeniors

So far I haven’t found any videos of Demo Day, but there were lots of people filming so I am hoping to start to appear soon.

The next chance to watch pitches in Albuquerque is at Pitch Fiesta 4.0 on September 17th,