Yesterday marked a major milestone for America: President Obama hosted the first ever White House Demo Day in Washington DC. The event was created to bring startups, entrepreneurs, investors, mentors, advisors, and major influencers from across US tech ecosystems together to celebrate the current state of America’s tech startup landscape.
There were a number of Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship who were invited, alongside public and private sector leaders, to meet and engage with the exhibiting entrepreneurs. A number of entrepreneurs were also invited to be honored at the event: the full list of everyone in attendance – startups included – can be found here.
Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship
- Steve Case: Chairman and CEO of Revolution
- Daymond John: Founder, President, and CEO of FUBU
Public and Private Leaders
- Alison Rosenthal: VP of Strategic Partnerships with Wealthfront Inc
- William Bell: Mayor of Birmingham Alabama
- Bobby Franklin: Piresident and CEO of National Venture Capital Association
- Michael Gillette: Mayor of Lynchburg Virginia
- Rosalind Hudnell: Chief Diversity Office at Intel
- Mitch Kapor: Founder of Kapor Capital
- Kay Koplovitz: Founder of the USA Network
- Jeff Lawson: Founder and CEO of Twilio
- Evan Sharp: cofounder of Pinterest
Like any other demo day though, the focus of this event was on the tech startups that were present to pitch their ideas to the eager crowd, President Obama included. In total, the White House Demo Day welcomed 32 different companies to pitch. We assembled a list of the startups that caught our eye, but I want you to understand that this list in no way indicates that the listed startups are either better or worse than the companies not listed.
Here are 10 startups that stuck out the most at the White House Demo Day:
- Bidr – Sam Staley- Charleston, South Carolina: An online platform that reinvents fundraising to make nonprofit events more profitable for causes and campaigns. Fundraisers use Bidr to sell event tickets, host online silent auctions, and receive donations all from a donor’s mobile device.
- Bounce Imaging – Francisco and Carolina Aguilar – Boston MA: They came up with the idea for Bounce Imaging’s ball-shaped camera after learning about challenges facing responders during Haiti’s devastating earthquake in 2010. While there were some fiber optic cameras that could be used to search through rubble for survivors, the equipment was expensive and required a skilled operator. Bounce Imaging develops low cost, throwable sensor units that provide omnidirectional images of hazardous, unseen spaces and transmits them to a user’s smartphone.
- Declara – Ramona Pierson – Palo Alto, CA: In 1984, at age 22, Ramona Pierson was hit by a drunk driver, grievously wounded, and put into a coma for 18 months. She was totally blind for 11 years, and had to relearn just about everything in her life, including how to breathe and walk. However, it made her realize the importance of being a lifelong learner, which is why she founded Declara. The platform helps develop new ways for people to learn in personalized ways, through advanced semantic search and predictive analysis.
- Detroit Dirt – Pashon Murray – Detroit, MI: As a child, Murray was inspired when her father founded a waste hauling company. Then, in 2011, she founded Detroit Dirt, a business that collects food waste from companies including General Motors, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and the Detroit Zoo, and transforms it into rich soil. Using advanced composting techniques, Detroit Dirt helps companies regenerate their waste into resources that will educate the community, create jobs, and provide gardeners rich, life bearing soil.
- Duolingo – Luis von Ahn and Gina Gotthilf – Pittsburgh, PA: Guatemalan born serial entrepreneur and computer scientist, von Ahn founded Duolingo as a free language learning and crowdsourced text translation platform. To date they’ve gotten over 100 million global users, and was awarded Apple’s iPhone app of the year in 2013: it was the first time it had been given to an educational app.
- Go Electric – Lisa Laughner – Anderson, IN: Laughner founded Go Electric in 2011 with only three employees and a $3 million contract with the US military. The contract to build a micro grid for a Marine Corps base in Hawaii required integrating several large lithium ion batteries, two large diesel generators, and Go Electric’s micro grid technology. Four years later, their technology integrates solar, wind, generators, and batteries and optimizes those energy resources to deliver energy services that stabilize the grid and ensure businesses and government organizations have secure, low cost power 24/7.
- Pigeonly – Frederick Hutson – Las Vegas, NV: After serving time in prison for a nonviolent drug offense, Frederick Hutson learned how important family support is on the path to recovery. He founded Pigeonly to make a positive impact on the lives of inmates by creating solutions for people who want to stay in touch with loved ones in prison. To that end Pigeonly features photo sharing and printing by phone and low cost phone call options. To date Pigeonly has shipped over 1 million photos and processed over 8 million phone minutes.
- Partpic – Jewel Burks and Jason Crain – Atlanta, GA: Partpic combines image recognition and machine learning technologies to transform the industrial supply industry, a $570 billion annual market worldwide. Traditionally, finding a replacement part requires a lengthy process of serial number verification and supplier communication. However, with Partpic, customers simply snap a picture of the part they want to replace and automatically receive product name, specifications, and supplier information.
- Sparo Labs – Andrew Brimer and Abby Cohen – St. Louis, MO: Sparo Labs was born out of a student group at Washington University in St. Louis and founded by Abigail Cohen and Andrew Brimer. Their product, Wing, is a powerful app that works with a pocket sized sensor to measure lung function. Effectively the company empowers asthma patients to understand, track, and proactively manage their condition.
- Spot on Sciences – Dr. Jeanette Hill – Austin, TX: Dr. Hill spent 20 years conducting and managing biotech research before striking out to found Spot On Sciences. The company’s signature product, HemaSpot, offers simplified remote blood collection by finger stick and sample shipment by mail, reducing the need for needles and trips to the lab.
Image Credit: Ted Kingsbery's Instagram page