Meet the Local Startups Vying for $100K in Rise of the Rest Pitch

Leaders from the competing startups took some time recently to talk to Dallas Innovates about their businesses, what sets them apart, and how a win next week could impact their work. 

Eight startups with North Texas ties will compete Monday for $100,000 in the area’s first Rise of the Rest pitch competition. 

The contest will culminate a day of programming addressing startup growth challenges and opportunities in Revolution’s Rise of the Rest tour with Steve Case. Rise of the Rest is a seed fund started by Case, co-founder and former CEO of AOL Time Warner. 

As part of the competition, each startup will have four minutes to present its company, followed by three minutes of Q&A from the judges.

In addition to the $100,000, the winner will join the Revolution portfolio under the Rise of the Rest seed fund. The win includes potential additional investment in follow-on funding rounds and connections with other potential investors, board members, executives, potential customers, and advisers. Revolution also provides portfolio companies with assistance in communications and PR throughout the company’s lifecycle.

Learn more about Rise of the Rest’s first Dallas tour stop and sign up to attend here

Leaders from the competing startups took some time recently to talk to Dallas Innovates about their businesses, what sets them apart, and how a win next week could impact their work. 


Michael Patton, founder and CEO of Fetch

What led you to start your business? 

When I moved to Dallas a few years ago, I was living in a big Uptown apartment building that was always flooded with packages. I initially felt the pain point as a resident, because it was inconvenient and annoying to go down and get my package during leasing office hours that didn’t fit my schedule. More importantly, I saw how much money my building was spending to deal with packages (a full-time staff member that only dealt with packages) and saw the opportunity to solve their problem.

Can you explain your product/business?

Fetch is the first off-site package solution for apartment buildings. We accept all resident packages at local warehouses and coordinate scheduled, door-to-door delivery with residents directly through our software platform.

What differentiates your business from others in your particular field?  

We are the first to market with an off-site solution, while other companies try to solve the problem with limited space and resources at the property. Fetch is a complete and permanent solution for property managers, and a concierge-level service for residents.

Where are you at in product development?

We’ve been operating for almost a year and a half, and we’re working with some of the largest property management companies in the country, including Greystar, Pinnacle, Wood, and ZRS. We just opened our second location in DFW and we’re expanding to Houston and Austin this summer.

How much money have you raised? What round of funding are you in?

We’ve raised pre-seed money totaling almost $500,000. We’re in the middle of a larger seed raise to fuel expansion.

What would a win at the Rise of the Rest pitch mean for your company?

We’ve already won to a large extent by just being a finalist. This event will provide great exposure and coverage for Fetch and the other great startups in the competition.  Winning would be icing on the cake, and the $100,000 is a nice bonus.

Is there anything else people should know about you and/or your business? 

If you’re a property manager dealing with an onslaught of packages, reach out to us. If you’re a resident dealing with a terrible process, tell your building manager about us.


Cameron Johnson, founder and CEO of Nickson

What led you to start your business?

 

I moved 10 times in eight years during my 20s and it was a costly pain every time. As a renter, when I would lease a new apartment I would not get a place to live, but rather a place to put my things. I started Nickson so that people could click a button and turn an empty apartment into a place to live without having to move and install couches, beds, dishes, etc.  Frictionless moving is now a reality.

Can you explain your product/business?

We provide on-demand living solutions that empower renters to effortlessly transform their new apartments into move-in ready, fully-furnished, customer-designed homes for an affordable monthly fee. 

Photo: Nickson

What differentiates your business from others in your particular field?

We offer the most comprehensive, convenient, and affordable home design and furnishing service as compared to our competitors. We do not offer individual furniture items for rent. Our living solutions literally include everything you need to live in an apartment, from art on your walls to sheets on your bed, tailored to your style, and installed prior to your arrival on your move-in day.

Where are you at in product development?

We’ve built a fully-functional procurement, design, logistics, and customer service platform that can completely transform an empty apartment into fully-furnished home in less than three hours. We are in the process of refining our systems and readying for scale.

How much money have you raised? What round of funding are you in?

$2.5 million in a seed round.

What would a win at the Rise of the Rest pitch mean for your company?

A win at the Rise of the Rest pitch would be game changing. We believe in the power of entrepreneurs as change agents and would embrace the opportunity to join the Revolution ecosystem. An investment would be great, but the shared knowledge and guidance is what we would be most grateful for.

Is there anything else people should know about you and/or your business? 

We believe our team’s work ethic, skill sets, and passion are true differentiating factors behind Nickson    


Chanel Melton, founder of RoseGold

What led you to start your business? 

When I launched my first business, I had no help. I wasn’t sure what steps to take to be successful, I made costly mistakes, and I didn’t have the money to scale my company the way I should’ve. I don’t want those problems to be a burden to other female entrepreneurs. And, it’s important to me that I create more jobs and opportunities for women in Dallas.

Can you explain your product/business?

RoseGold is a SaaS subscription platform that helps female entrepreneurs launch beauty a based business with the support and tools to help them win. We handle inventory and fulfillment for our clients so they can launch their business quickly with less overhead.

What differentiates your business from others in your particular field?  

I’ve been in my particular industry for over 10 years. I share my personal lessons about businesses with our members. And, we understand the struggle of launching a business, so we handle their inventory and fulfillment. We also help them with marketing and building their business so they can succeed. We also know our product inside and out and we listen to our customers. We are able to make adjustments with our company quickly because we have direct access to our customers.

Where are you at in product development?

We launched Aug. 1, 2017, and as of today we have made $301,000 in sales. We have 149 paid users and an active waiting list of 3,700 entrepreneurs who want to join our program.

How much money have you raised? What round of funding are you in?

We haven’t pursued funding at this time. We are looking to fund raise in the next few months. We will be pre-seed.

What would a win at the Rise of the Rest pitch mean for your company?

Oh man, a win would really mean everything! We would be able to use the money to continue to scale our business. We haven’t paid for advertising yet, so we would use this money to really market our business and get the word out about our platform so we can acquire new customers. And having the capital to handle the influx of business when we do accept new members is paramount. We also want to use the winnings to hire more staff.

Is there anything else people should know about you and/or your business? 

I’m beyond grateful for this opportunity! I can’t even really put into words how happy I am just to be in the running. We have really big plans to grow our company and really make a difference in Dallas and in Texas in general. We’re working to build out our customer service and fulfillment centers and we really would like to work with single mothers on welfare or domestic and sexual assault victims to teach them how to be a great customer service staff. Our plan is to train and hire them and to also equip them with budgeting skills, opportunity to grow with our company, and achieve financial independence. Helping women succeed is really important to us.


Brenda Stoner, founder and chief good guy of PICKUP

What led you to start your business?  

I experienced the pain, inconvenience, and security risk of large retail item delivery. I’ve been an entrepreneur for years, so the need created the opportunity. There’s no reason for a customer to wait days or weeks and then have a six-hour window to receive a big item purchased from a retail store.

Can you explain your product/business?

We have dramatically improved the customer experience in last mile delivery for big and heavy retail. We pair trusted good guys with retail deliveries and create a win for our retail partners. 

Photo: PICKUP

What differentiates your business from others in your particular field?  

We consider culture and workforce to be our primary hallmark. Technology is great, and we have some steller tech, but the operational excellence of running a real street-level business is winning us business every day. We kill it at the curb every day.

Where are you at in product development?

We are on our second full generation of tools and have not had a service fail due to technology in over 30,000 deliveries and three years. Our next phase is optimization and better reporting and analytics for retail partners. 

How much money have you raised? What round of funding are you in?

$4.6 million over three rounds and now looking for a significant equity raise to grow nationally.

What would a win at the Rise of the Rest pitch mean for your company?

It would provide PR and credibility to help us land that equity raise, which is a really hard thing to do in Texas. The A and B round capital is hard to find here. This will get the attention of the right partners to help us Rise above the Rest. The sole barrier to growing our business today is adequate capital.

Is there anything else people should know about you and/or your business?

We are building a sustainable workforce culture that transcends all else. The good guys are our hallmark and our purpose. We create living wage opportunities for some of the best people around and we count on them to create perfect experiences.


Farrukh Malik, founder and CEO of Roomored 

What led you to start your business? 

Consumers make a significant amount of their purchases online — wether it’s buying a book, clothes, or even a car online. People are certainly shopping for existing homes on Zillow, but so far, the new home space has been stubbornly an offline process. That just baffled me and that is what we have set out to change.

Can you explain your product/business?

Roomored is a 3D technology which partners with homebuilders, transforming their sales, marketing, and design processes. 

What differentiates your business from others in your particular field?  

Majority of existing companies in the 3D technology space, are targeted to designers and architects. Roomored is the only comprehensive visual solution for homebuilders, which provides their homebuyers with a rich customer experience during the sales and design process.

Roomored

[Photo: Roomored]

Where are you at in product development?

Revenue stage with large corporates as customers, and significant ongoing traction. 

How much money have you raised? What round of funding are you in?

Roomored closed their seed round at the end of last year and we will be raising our Series A by the end of the year. 

What would a win at the Rise of the Rest pitch mean for your company?

A win at the Rise of the Rest pitch will be marked as a major milestone in our company’s history. In addition to Revolution fund’s investment, we are also very excited about our company being noticed by major icons in the tech and entrepreneurial world, who are investors in the Revolution fund.


Natasha Alexeeva, CEO of Friendly

What led you to start your business?

Deep expertise in health care that I developed after losing a loved one. I spent 12 years researching the subject and those endeavors led me to start Friendly.

Can you explain your product/business?

Friendly is an artificial intelligence platform for processing highly heterogeneous text in medical paperwork. We transfer all hand-written and scanned data into digital format and perform natural language analysis on it to identify billing mistakes, missed diagnosis, or automatically determine eligibility 

What differentiates your business from others in your particular field?  

Accuracy. Our models deliver unprecedented 90 percent accuracy in data transformation, which is the key to precise analytics.

Where are you at in product development?

We are very grateful for our early adopters who are also paying customers. The product is in beta testing by them.

How much money have you raised? What round of funding are you in?

We raised seed funding and are looking for a Series A round. We are funded by revenue now.

What would a win at the Rise of the Rest pitch mean for your company?

An opportunity to be evaluated and placed in Gartner Magic Quadrant. We need some funds to get there and this exposure will give us a lot of credibility and will create a strong pipeline of clients which will in turn position us for a strong A round.

Is there anything else people should know about you and/or your business?

We are experts in medical data analysis and are looking for life and health insurance companies who are interested in automating their workflow to join our early adopters.


Mike DeCoursey, chief operating officer of CounterFind 

The Dallas technology startup founded in 2016 by former Dallas Cowboys player Darren Woodson is helping businesses defend against counterfeit versions of their products being sold on the internet. Its technology combines image recognition with “industry expertise to recognize, report, and remove all ads marketing counterfeit merchandise on Facebook and all counterfeit listing on Amazon in real time.” Last year, CounterFind partnered with Epic Rights, a licensing and branding management firm, to protect brands in the music industry around the world.

During this year’s Dallas Startup Week, Woodson said CounterFind has barely scratched the surface of counterfeit goods.

“The future is that in the next three to four years, we’ve reached at least four to five different verticals,” Woodson said. 

In January, the startup announced it had raised $1 million from Deep Space Ventures, Green Park and Golf, Blue Star Innovation Partners, as well as the Capital Factory in Austin, and a few other investors. Chief Operating Officer Mike DeCoursey said that money would be used to grow and scale the company including upgrades to its software. DeCoursey will be representing the company next week in the pitch competition. 


Mandeep Kumar, co-founder of Deep Cognition

What led you to start your business? 

I and my co-founder are passionate about AI. Currently, the shortage of AI talent is limiting the adoption of AI into businesses. We wanted to make AI simple enough so that regular developers can ramp up faster as well as seasoned AI developers can become more efficient. This lead us to create Deep Learning Studio that is being used by thousands of AI developers as of today.

Can you explain your product/business?

Deep Learning Studio is a software tool that aims to simplify the creation of deep learning models used in artificial intelligence. It is compatible with a number of open-source programming frameworks popularly used in artificial neural networks, including MXNet and Google’s TensorFlow. Prior to the release of Deep Learning Studio in January 2017, proficiency in Python, among other programming languages, was essential in developing effective deep learning models. Deep Learning Studio sought to simplify the model creation process through a visual, drag-and-drop interface and the application of pertained learning models on available data.

What differentiates your business from others in your particular field?  

Our product reduces the complex learning curve typically needed to become proficient in AI. 

Where are you at in product development?

Our product is publicly launched at deepcognition.ai. We are working towards version 3.0.

How much money have you raised? What round of funding are you in?

We have raised about $350,000 and currently are looking to raise Series A funding.

What would a win at the Rise of the Rest pitch mean for your company?

I think It will be a good validation point that will help us socialize our ideas further.

Is there anything else people should know about you and/or your business? 

Our software is AI developer focused and is free for all including researchers, startups, and commercial companies.

David Kirkpatrick, Lance Murray, and Taylor Lowder contributed to this report.

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