Ten tech startups from around the world who are building innovative media, entertainment, and connectivity companies showcased their products and stories on Thursday at “Demo Day,” the finale of the inaugural Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs Accelerator, powered by Techstars. A founder from each company took center stage at The Franklin Institute and pitched their business to hundreds of investors, mentors, Comcast NBCUniversal team members, and Philadelphia’s tech and startup community, while a global audience watched online via livestream.
During the 13-week accelerator program, the 10 companies worked with more than 50 mentors across Comcast NBCUniversal, including Comcast Cable Chief Business Development Officer Sam Schwartz; Senior Vice President of Strategy & Business Development for Universal Pictures Pank Patel; and NBC President of Digital Enterprises Maggie Suniewick to refine and test their business models. Mentors that engaged with the startups also included executives from the NBC broadcast and cable networks, Universal Studios, Universal Theme Parks, DreamWorks, Comcast Business, Strategic Development, Comcast Ventures, LIFT Labs, and the teams that build XFINITY products and services. Comcast NBCUniversal mentors joined an esteemed Techstars community that includes over 75 mentors who have deep industry, investment, and entrepreneurship experience.
It was announced during Demo Day that many of the startups landed pilot projects during their time in the accelerator, and others are in the works. As of Demo Day, three of the companies are maintaining a presence in Philadelphia after the program, where Comcast NBCUniversal is headquartered.
In the last 13 weeks, the companies learned from more than a dozen talks from founders of companies, multiple media trainings, and hundreds of business meetings. They also recently visited NBCUniversal headquarters at 30 Rock to meet with executives and participate in practice interviews with CNBC Squawk on the Street, TODAY, NBC Nightly News, and Your Business with JJ Ramberg. “We were inspired by the spirit and creativity of these companies as they were building their businesses,” said Schwartz. “For our executives, it was an exciting opportunity to mentor and learn alongside them. There are many collaboration stories, and we hope this is just the beginning of what’s to come. Some of the founders will continue to build successful companies alongside us, in our hometown of Philadelphia, and in other cities around the globe.” "Having worked closely with these 10 companies, I've been inspired by how they have considerably evolved over a short period of time. I'm eager to watch them continue to grow and collectively unfold the future of how media will be defined, how it will be consumed, and how it will bring us together,” said Techstars Managing Director Maya Baratz. “Now a part of the Techstars network, I also look forward to watching them expand this core network that helps entrepreneurs succeed as they scale their companies."
Notable advancements from the last 13 weeks showcased by the startups at Demo Day included:
- alive5, Austin, TX: alive5 offers the easiest way for small-to-medium-sized businesses to engage customers and accept payments on any digital messaging channel. The company supports over 800 customers, including 200 of the top pro and college sports teams, major hotel brands and Comcast Spectacor. alive5 is now partnering with Spectra Venue Management, which manages hundreds of venues throughout North America, to pilot alive5's messaging and concierge services.
- eyecandylab, US and Munich, Germany: Eyecandylab enables video content creators to engage their viewers and monetize their media through interactive augmented reality experiences. After an initial launch in Germany with a major media company that resulted in 365k downloads and a #1 rank in the App store, eyecandylab debuted in the US successfully with Nickelodeon.
- Orai, Philadelphia: Orai is an artificial intelligence speech coach that helps people become more effective and confident communicators. With 100k users and counting, Orai is now the #1 public speaking app in the App store. The company has solidified a channel partnership with Mandel Communications, and has enterprise customers including Comcast and Medallia.
- Pium, New York City and Seoul, South Korea: Pium allows you to experience a variety of mood-boosting scents throughout your day with one connected device and a subscription-based scent platform. The company has plans to partner with Universal Parks and Resorts and Loews Hotels to offer a sneak peek of the product to hotel guests.
- Polycade, Los Angeles, CA: Polycade turns video games into in-person social events with an engaging, connected arcade console and a curated, digital gaming platform. After successfully raising $120k above a $20k ask on Kickstarter, the company reached over $750,000 in sales, without any marketing. Their active pilot customers include WeWork, Grubhub, and Comcast Business.
- Portl Media, Toronto: Portl is the personalized entertainment platform for rideshare vehicles today and autonomous vehicles tomorrow. After an initial test in Toronto that drove 89% user engagement, the company has signed content and advertising deals with partners including Vice and Nestle and will soon be piloting in cities in the US, including Philadelphia. Portl also negotiated a deal with a major telco provider to activate hundreds of thousands of tablets on the telco’s network nationwide through 2023.
- Tally Interactive, Toronto, Canada: Tally empowers content creators to make and host their own live, interactive shows. On average, people spend 95 minutes watching gaming livestreams on Twitch for every 3.5 minutes watching non-gaming livestreams. Tally bridges this gap; 9 out of 10 viewers interact with shows on Tally and, on average, viewers engage twice every minute with no monetary incentive.
- Thinker-Tinker, Los Angeles, CA: Thinker-Tinker transforms kids’ screen time to quality, active play time with a character-based learning platform that blends traditional tactile play and digital interaction. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, Thinker-Tinker is taking on an exciting and unique opportunity to partner with Universal on a licensing arrangement that combines its play platform with a variety of DreamWorks iconic characters, including those from classic films like Shrek and Kung Fu Panda as well as favorite characters from some of DreamWorks' latest theatrical and future animated series, including Trolls, Spirit Riding Free and DreamWorks Dragons.
- Trapica, New York, NY: Trapica leverages artificial intelligence to optimize targeting decisions in advertising campaigns as they run, allowing marketers to reach the right audiences at the exact time they are ready to convert. Using their product, their customers have saved up to 70% off their conversion cost and increased their ROI by 300%. In the last 6 months, Trapica has grown in revenue by 25% month-over-month, and has recently added some of the biggest advertisers as clients, ranging from Universal Studios to Dirty Lemon.
- WiARframe, Singapore: WiARframe empowers anyone to prototype and share augmented reality experiences in minutes. While it is widely held that AR has the potential to be even bigger than the web, currently only people with deep technical knowledge can design for it. WiARframe changes that. Now notable media companies, including SYFY, and leading agencies including Huge, EON Reality and Nexus Studios are gearing up to use WiARframe for their next AR projects.
Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs will begin accepting applications for its second accelerator class, run in partnership with Techstars, scheduled to begin next July in Philadelphia. Founders from around the world who are serious about developing the next generation of media, entertainment and connectivity companies are encouraged to apply starting in January 2019 by visiting their website.
Comcast has a long history of supporting startup communities and LIFT Labs is just one of the many ways in which entrepreneurs can gain valuable access and insights to Comcast NBCUniversal. Comcast launched its first venture arm in 1999, and in 2010, Comcast Ventures was formed and has since grown into one of the most active corporate venture arms in the country. LIFT Labs, with its first location in the new Comcast Technology Center opening later this year, offers programmed talks, mentor sessions with Comcast NBCUniversal employees and partners, plus events and other educational resources designed to help entrepreneurs launch and grow their businesses. For more information, including access to free resources, visit www.ComcastNBCULIFT.com or follow @LIFT_Labs on Twitter.