The summer 2013 class of seventeen startups pitched to a crowd of over 100 investors at Boost VC’s demo day in Menlo Park last week. Seven of the startups in the incubator’s most recent class were bitcoin-focused.
To help educate investors on the concept of digital currency, an explanation of bitcoin was included on the back of the demo day’s program for the event.
Each startup was given four minutes to present a pitch to investors and try to raise money. This demo day gave credence to the rise of bitcoin-based businesses as each startup offered some compelling reasons why it thought they would succeed in the digital currency economy. Here’s a quick look at each bitcoin-based startup that pitched during the demo day.
Right now, the traditional brokerage investor lacks access to bitcoin. That’s a problem Vaurum is working to fix by building an API for financial organizations to link into.
Vaurum founder and CEO Avish Bhama displayed a slide of Mt. Gox’s website and asked the question, “Would you trust these guys?” With all the problems that Mt. Gox is experiencing, it’s getting harder to do so.
The team at Vaurum has experience with financial trading products and is building what they called a “robust trading engine” that could be linked into traditional brokerages for bitcoin investing. Vaurum was looking for $1 million in its seed round, and had already secured $150,000.
Have you ever had to verify your identity in order to use a bitcoin exchange such as Bitstamp? If you have, you might know how long the “know your customer”, or KYC process takes to complete.
VerifyBTC is looking to streamline that process, and the company’s cofounder Manoj Das says that its process can take seconds to complete. It does this by automating the verification process, cross-referencing data provided with databases from credit card companies.
The goal is to eliminate the manual process that companies like Mt. Gox go through. VerifyBTC is already being used by fellow Boost startup BitBox. The company was looking to raise $700,000 from investors.
Andy Zissner of Arbiter believes that betting in games is a “core game mechanic”. The problem is that it is hard to build a game with betting.
Arbiter is looking to solve that problem for game developers by building a platform that can be plugged into mobile apps. And to ensure fast payouts, Arbiter is using bitcoin as the currency in its platform.
Arbiter has already partnered with a large game developer with 150,000 active daily users, but Zissner was unable to reveal the publisher at this time. The company was not trying to raise additional cash at this time since it still has some of its initial Boost funding.
Founder and CEO of BitPagos, Sebastian Serrano told us how his startup focuses on paying South American businesses quickly in bitcoin for credit card transactions instead of local currencies.
Serrano, from Argentina, has seen his home currency wiped out three times in his lifetime.
In Argentina, he told the audience, bitcoin sometimes has a 60% markup because it is considered more stable than the Argentinian peso.
Bitpagos is focusing on South America, where only 30% of people have bank accounts, and 10% have credit cards. The company was looking for $500,000 in investment money.
Kinnard Hockenhull, BitBox’s CEO, started his Boost pitch talking about failed economic systems.
He spoke about the city of Detroit, where he is from, calling it “a victim of monetary policy”. BitBox has been doing business as an exchange initially, but the company’s strategy is to be a “bridge”, a vertically integrated company that provides an array of bitcoin services.
One area of interest, according to Hockenhull, is the $5 trillion per day foreign exchange market. The company already has 8,000 users and has done $300,000 in volume , $145,000 of which was transacted in the past month.
The company was looking to raise $500,000.
The first company at Boost VC to present its business, BitWall CEO Nic Meliones started with a statistic: 276 publishers have failed in the past few years.
The company believes that the answer in the publishing industry is micropayments. Its system puts a wall up requesting a small fee in bitcoin for viewing digital content. Consuming new media on the internet is an industry that Meliones, who previously worked at Visa, believes is a $36 billion industry.
BitWall has already signed up 10 publishers including bitcoin news aggregator ZeroBlock, where you can see their system in action. BitWall has 100 other publishers already interested. It was looking to raise $300,000.
“Technology is best when it disappears”, Gliph co-founder and CEO Rob Banagale told the audience during its pitch.
Gliph is the only app available for the iPhone that allows users to send bitcoin to one another. It does this by using a messaging interface to “attach” a bitcoin payment.
Gliph connects to wallet providers; it’s currently compatible with Coinbase, BIPS, and it recently added blockchain.info. Instead of operating as a wallet, the company relies on these providers instead.
The company has 20,000 users, 1,800 of which have wallets connected to the app. Gliph has already closed $200,000 from investors, and was looking for $600,000 more.
What do you think about these bitcoin startups? Do you feel that Boost VC is helping to legitimize the bitcoin economy? Let us know in the comments.