Mark Gritter (markgritter) wrote,
Mark Gritter

Minnesota Startup Curmudgeon

Project Skyway announced their list of 25 semi-finalists for the first cycle of their "accelerator" program. They'll cut that down to around 10 to fund and host for three months. My quick sort of the startups:

The good

ArtsApp is a tool for college applications that require video or audio submission (like conservatories.) I was surprised to see them--- they presented at Minnedemo in 2010, and were a MN Cup semifinalist in 2009. They've got a working site and real customers, so I'm curious what value they see in the accelerator. Is the company not getting traction, or having problems scaling?

I've been excited about TelemetryWeb since I saw his application for MinneSpark, and have chatted with Neal a couple times. I really like how he's honed the message; my paraphrase: "manufacturers of smart devices shouldn't also have to know how to build cloud infrastructure to support them." Neal presented at the latest MinneDemo.

The bad

Imdorse wants you to put a brand logo on your Facebook or Twitter profile photo. Please, please do not do this.

The Referral Squirrel is about your real estate agent sending you coupons (in the hope that because of this "relationship" he or she can get extra referrals.) Their "how it works" page is an embarrassingly bad version of the sort of sales pitch you would normally see on web sites advertising self-help books, pick-up artist coaching, male enhancement, vanity presses, or other scams.

What Does That Even Mean?

"Bundly is building an experience marketplace that removes the financial risk associated with creating, sharing and finding meaningful experiences within one’s social network." The greatest financial risk I'm aware of within my social network is that I'll lose money at a poker game.

Impulse is developing "a web browser application to help online shoppers save, share and purchase products from multiple sites simultaneously via a persistent personal shopping cart." I am unclear why I want to see my Amazon, Steam, and Delta purchases within the same "cart", let alone sites I shop less often.

Spice Apps "is developing niche web communities to help passionate users connect with like-minded people and brands through highly visual and interactive interfaces." They have a bunch of applications with spice names. So they're app developers, I guess? But they push an SDK angle too, trying to be a platform for other developers.


These aren't necessarily bad businesses. But a lot of them are second-movers, small-scale endeavors, or other things where it's hard to see a scalable, successful business emerge.

Game startups: SieEnt (female-centered narrative games), QwickMind (publishers of "GoGoMongo"), Nodeler (hardware startup --- some sort of flexible game controller, neat but not sure of the value proposition) I know I've heard of SieEnt somewhere--- maybe Minnedemo?--- and thought they were further along.

Educational: Early Learning Labs, Labels 2 Learn (seems more like an advertising play), Naiku (SaaS for classrooms w/ built-in metrics). TuitionCast is a search engine for colleges and degree programs, and UnderBooks is a search engine for buying college textbooks.

Study Sourced is an interesting idea: a "marketplace" to connect business students with real-world problems. Not sure whether a Quora or StackOverflow model wouldn't be a better fit, although confidentiality requirements might eliminate that as a viable option.

B2B: VanquishAP (real-estate management platform), Qualtrx (vendor <-> health care provider), Nitch, ePhiphony (, COR² Technology (SaaS workflow automation) Some of these probably belong in the 'good' category; there's certainly room in the market for them. Nitch, though, seems like Groupon for Businesses and we all know what I think about that. ;)

P2P: PayPongo (because the world needs another mobile payment platform), NaviDate (because the world needs another dating site), and SAYL (because the world needs another E-Bay. Actually this one is rummage sales, not auctions.) PayPongo's site has a 2007 copyright date?

The group, taken as a whole, has the potential to produce a few wins. But, IMO it includes too many "old startups" that haven't taken off--- is their problem really not enough exposure? Do they need advice that they're not currently getting?
Tags: minnesota, startup
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