Atlanta’s startup and business community descended on Midtown’s TechSquare Labs on Tuesday night for the fifth Atlanta Startup Battle, a quarterly pitch competition where the winner walks away with a $100,000 investment from the Labs’ early-stage fund.
After five pitches, in a surprise announcement, two startups were crowned winners in front of a sold-out crowd: social travel recommendation platform Rayka and social media manager marketplace Socionado.
This quarter’s five finalists looked a little different from previous Battles. Whereas many of the previous finalists had been in industries like cybersecurity, martech and blockchain, these startups were all consumer-facing in the travel, family care and media markets.
TechSquare Labs co-founder Allen Nance attributes this shift to the growth of the Atlanta Startup Battle brand.
“We’re getting more applications and more diversity — not only in teams but in ideas,” Nance tells Hypepotamus. “We’re also going beyond Atlanta. Tonight, we had teams from Austin, Charleston, and Los Angeles.”
“These teams are coming to Atlanta because they want to do business in the city and joined the TechSquare Labs family. It’s all part of what we’ve grown in the past two years.”
On stage, Nance recapped the last 24 months since the inaugural battle in October 2016. A total of 5,000 entrepreneurs have applied to the competition, submitting 2,200 applications which were narrowed down to 60 semi-finalists, 25 finalists, and in the end, six $100K investments.
“We’re talking about thousands of people that have invested not only financial capital by coming here, but investing emotional capital, which is probably the most important thing an entrepreneur can have,” Nance said on stage.
The winners also gain access to resources, mentorship and a network within Atlanta’s only Google for Entrepreneurs hub.
The Battle was judged by ATDC’s former Interim Director Jane McCracken; Atlanta Seed Company’s Jamie Hamilton; BIP Capital’s Mark Buffington; Spider Capital’s Minsoo Chi; and 11-11 Ventures’ Arul Murugan.
The investment will be put toward customer acquisition and business growth, Kofi Frimpong, CEO of Los Angeles-based Socionado, tells Hypepotamus. The startup helps companies who need part-time social media help find vetted social media manager talent to build their brand online.
“We definitely have target goals that we want to hit as a company, hopefully before the end of the year, and scale further.”
The second winner was Charleston, SC-based Rayka. On stage, they pitched a social travel app where users can search for recommendations from friends, similar communities, and celebrities, versus searching through starred reviews on a platform like Yelp or TripAdvisor. Through influencer and travel company partnerships, Rayka hopes to disrupt the way people plan their travel.
Rayka’s CEO Landon Sanford talked about his founding team, which includes the former CTO of Peloton and advisors such as the president of LendingTree, the founder of Plated, and the head of partnerships at Uber.
The other three pitching startups were:
- Theoracare (Austin, TX) — a set of tech solutions, from wearables to smart sensors and bed monitors, for caregivers to stay in touch with and monitor elderly loved ones.
- Usit (Atlanta, GA) — an on-demand babysitting app that connects parents with pre-vetted college students from local universities.
- TopPick (Atlanta, GA) — a recruiting automation software for building talent pipelines through a CRM to make the hiring process more seamless and access the best candidates.
TechSquare Labs co-founder Paul Judge also brought previous Atlanta Startup Battle winners onto the rooftop stage to share updates, including supply chain optimization startup Oculogx and marketing team collaboration tool Eletype.
The next iteration of Atlanta Startup Battle will happen next spring. Stay tuned and see more news about TechSquare Labs here.