Stanford’s StartX Demo Day Review: Companies to WatchBy Brian Chan
Stanford’s StartX Demo Day Review
This story was co-authored by fellow Stanford Scout Daniel Levine.
StartU’s Stanford Team attended this year’s StartX Campus Demo Day. Held at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, the event featured pitches from their top portfolio companies and panels Q&As with founders and diverse members of the university startup ecosystem, giving early stage student founders an opportunity to share their innovative ideas with the public and potential investors.
What Is StartX?
The StartX accelerator is a non-profit program that connects current Stanford student founders with financial aid, mentorship, and broad entrepreneurship resources. Rather than specializing in specific verticals, StartX supports founders across a wide range of industries and backgrounds who demonstrate high levels of passion, commitment, and growth potential.
The StartU team highlights a few of the most promising startups from this special event below:
Featured Company: Black SMS – Encrypting your private messages
Have you ever checked your personal texts only to find someone else reading them over your shoulder? Scared that sensitive information could be subject to a hack? Black SMS, founded by Stanford dropout Tyler Weitzman, shields your texts from data breaches and wandering eyes by encrypting messages until they are unlocked by the recipient with a secret key.
Black SMS presents these texts as black bubbles and encrypts them with a military-grade algorithm, AES-256, to ensure the utmost privacy. Additionally, the app is fully integrated with iOS 10, so messages can be encoded and decoded on both ends seamlessly in iMessage itself. While Black SMS has been around for quite a while, privacy has never been more important to consumers, presenting an exciting opportunity for the team. They are currently working on building a standalone messaging app.
Featured Company: Sail Internet – Disrupting traditional ISPs
The tech-savvy consumers of today are expressing increasing frustration with their internet service providers, raising the bar for both speed and affordability. Sail Internet, based in Fremont, CA, is delivering high-speed internet via a unique wireless technology on the roofs of customers’ homes. Sail pitches this technology as able to achieve the speed of fiber without its installation difficulties.
Furthermore, Sail capitalizes on growing consumer dissatisfaction with the poor customer service and spotty quality offered by traditional ISPs. Their innovation is part of a larger pattern of disruption in legacy utilities, in which large conglomerates with huge market share let inefficiencies languish. To date, Sail Internet has deployed in Fremont and San Jose, California, and raised $3.5 M total in its seed round.
Featured Company: Audacy – Providing “Space as a Service”
Currently, spacecraft and their launch operators on the ground face frequent lapses in communication due to obstructed lines of sight. Audacy, based in Mountain View, CA, addresses this problem by creating a system of strategically positioned relay points on the ground and in Medium Earth Orbit. This network aims to securely and consistently pass client communications through their systems, decreasing the reliance on ground-based infrastructure.
As the capital-intensive space-tech industry continues to grow, so will the demand for effective infrastructure and logistics to handle new services. This presents a massive opportunity for companies like Audacy, as their market can only multiply with the progression of complementary technological demands for edge computing, higher data throughput from satellites, and other types of off-planet functionality. To date, Audacy has raised $11.1 M and recently went through a round of debt financing after their Series A.
Looking Ahead: Shifting Consumer and Industry Demands
Most notably, each company covered in this article shares the attribute of satisfying recently-developing consumer or industry demands. Black SMS has powerful potential applications in the face of communications privacy concerns, Sail Internet is pitching its solution when consumer distrust of large monopolistic corporations is at a documented high, and Audacy is laying its infrastructural roots in an industry projected for exponential growth.
The most successful founders will continue to be those who foresee a unique type of solution to a given problem–one that, due to technological, social, and cultural advantages, is only feasible for the first time ever–and time their product-market fit perfectly.
Stay tuned with StartU to hear about the next generation of these founders and their companies.