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Meet the 19 startups in AngelPad’s 12th batch

AngelPad just wrapped the 12th run of its months-long New York City startup accelerator. For the second time, the program didn’t culminate in a demo day; rather, the 19 participating startups were given pre-arranged one-on-one meetings with venture capital investors late last week.

AngelPad co-founders Thomas Korte and Carine Magescas did away with the demo day tradition last year after nearly a decade operating AngelPad, which is responsible for mentoring startups including Postmates, Twitter-acquired Mopub, Pipedrive, Periscope Data, Zum and DroneDeploy.

“Demo days are great ways for accelerators to expose a large number of companies to a lot of investors, but we don’t think it is the most productive way,” Korte told TechCrunch last year. Competing accelerator Y Combinator has purportedly considered their eliminating demo day as well, though sources close to YC deny this. The firm cut its investor day, a similar opportunity for investors to schedule meetings with individual startups, “after analyzing its effectiveness” last year.

Feedback to AngelPad’s choice to forego demo day has been positive, Korte tells TechCrunch, with startup CEOs breathing a sigh of relief they aren’t forced to pitch to a large crowd with no promise of investment.

AngelPad invests $ 120,000 in each of its companies. Here’s a closer look at its latest batch:

LotSpot is a parking management tool for universities, parks and malls. The company installs cameras at the entrances and exits of customer parking lots and autonomously tracks lot occupancy as cars enter and exit. The LotSpot founders are Stanford University Innovation Fellows with backgrounds in engineering and sales.

Twic is a discretionary benefits management platform that helps businesses offer wellness benefits at a lower cost. The tool assists human resources professionals in selecting vendors, monitoring benefits usage and managing reimbursements with a digital wallet. Twic customers include Twitch and Oscar. The company’s current ARR is $ 265,000.

Zeal is an enterprise contract automation platform that helps sales teams manage custom routine agreements, like NDAs, independently and efficiently. The startup is currently working on test implementations with Amazon, Citi and Cvent. The founders are attorneys and management consultants who previously led sales and legal strategy at AXIOM.

ChargingLedger works with energy grid operators to optimize electric grid usage with smart charging technology for electric vehicles. The company’s paid pilot program is launching this month.

Piio, focused on SEO, helps companies boost their web presence with technology that optimizes website speed and performance based on user behavior, location, device, platform and connection speed. Currently, Piio is working with JomaShop and e-commerce retailers. Its ARR is $ 90,000.

Duality.ai is a QA platform for autonomous vehicles. It leverages human testers and simulation environments to accelerate time-to-market for AV sidewalk, cars and trucks. Its founders include engineers and designers from Caterpillar, Pixar and Apple. Its two first beta customers generated an ARR of $ 100,000.

COMUNITYmade partners with local manufacturers to sell their own brand of premium sneakers made in Los Angeles. The company has attracted brands, including Adidas, for collaborations. The founders are alums of Asics and Toms.

Spacey is a millennial-focused art-buying platform. The company sells limited-edition collections of fine-art prints at affordable prices and offers offline membership experiences, as well as a program for brand ambassadors with large social followings.

LegalPassage saves lawyers time with business process automation software for law firms. The company focuses on litigation, specifically class action and personal injury. The founder is a litigation attorney, former adjunct professor of law at UC Hastings and a past chair of the Family Law Section of the Bar Association of San Francisco.

Revetize helps local businesses boost revenue by managing reputation, encouraging referrals and increasing repeat business. The startup, headquartered in Utah, has an ARR of $ 220,000.

House of gigs helps people find short-term work near them, offering “employee-like” services and benefits to those freelancers and gig workers. The startup has 90,000 members. The San Francisco and Berlin-based founders previously worked together at a VC-backed HR startup.

MetaRouter provides fast, flexible and secure data routing. The cloud-based on-prem platform has reached an ARR of $ 250,000, with customers like HomeDepot and Sephora already signed on.

RamenHero offers a meal kit service for authentic gourmet ramen

RamenHero offers a meal kit for authentic gourmet ramen. The startup launched in 2018 and has roughly 1,700 customers and $ 125,000 in revenue. The startup’s founder, a serial entrepreneur, graduated from a culinary ramen school in Japan.

ByteRyde is insurance for autonomous vehicles, specifically Tesla Model 3s, taking into account the safety feature of self-driving cars.

Foresite.ai provides commercial real estate investors a real-time platform for data analysis and visualization of location-based trends.

PieSlice is a blockchain-based equity issuance and management platform that helps create fully compliant digital tokens that represent equity in a company. The founder is a former trader and stockbroker turned professional poker player.

Aitivity is a security hardware company that is developing a scalable blockchain algorithm for enterprises, specifically for IoT usage.

SmartAlto, a SaaS platform with $ 190,000 ARR, nurtures real estate leads. The company pairs agents with digital assistants to help the agents show more homes.

FunnelFox works with sales teams to help them spend less time on customer research, pipeline management and reporting. The AI-enabled platform has reached an ARR of $ 75,000 with customers including Botify and Paddle.


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Luminar nabs former Uber executive to lead LiDAR startup’s business development

Luminar, the buzzy LiDAR startup founded by Austin Russell, has added another high-profile executive to its ranks. This time, Luminar has hired Uber executive Brent Schwarz as its head of business development.

Schwarz, who has been at Luminar for about two months now, comes from Uber by way of self-driving truck startup Otto, which acquired his own LiDAR startup.

Schwarz is a veteran in the LiDAR sensor industry. He was vice president of sales and marketing at Velodyne from 2009 to 2012 and helped turn it into a startup that was hand-building LiDAR units into a commercial enterprise. Velodyne has become a major supplier of LiDAR sensors to companies testing autonomous vehicles. Before Velodyne, Schwarz worked at Intel and Magellan Navigation.

Schwarz would later launch his own company, Tyto LiDAR, which was purchased by self-driving truck company Otto. Uber acquired Otto in 2016. Schwarz stayed on with Uber after the acquisition, and most recently led the effort to build Uber Freight’s financial systems.

“This is a rocket ship I had to be a part of,” Schwarz explaining his reasons for joining Luminar.

LiDAR, or light detection and ranging radar, measures distance using laser light to generate a highly accurate 3D map of the world around the car. LiDAR is considered by many automakers and tech companies an essential piece of technology to safely roll out self-driving cars.

Luminar aims to take LiDAR to the next level, in both technical capabilities and scale. After years of operating in stealth, Luminar made its public debut in the autonomous vehicle startup scene in April 2017.

Luminar built its LiDAR from scratch, a lengthy process that resulted in a simpler design and better performance. It made a leap forward in April 2018 with the introduction of a new LiDAR unit that performs better, is cheaper and is able to be assembled in minutes rather than hours. Luminar’s acquisition of Black Forest Engineering was a big part of its plan to improve the quality along with efficiency. So was the addition of its 136,000-square-foot manufacturing center in Orlando, Florida.

“This is the fundamental shift, when we went from having optics PhDs hand assemble these systems to having proper production to where we can actually scale up and take on new customers beyond the four we’ve been working with the past year,” Russell told TechCrunch, referring to partners that use Luminar sensors in their AV test and development fleets.

The company has disclosed Volvo and Toyota Research Institute as customers. Volvo invested in Luminar earlier this year and became a commercial customer of its new perception development platform.

“We’ve had some massive progress on the business development front, both with bringing Brent on board and scaling up a number of customers,” Russell told TechCrunch in a recent interview. “We’re now able to really address the immediate needs of these various autonomous test and development programs that are now starting translate into volume production, real-world systems for consumers.”

In the past four months, Luminar has quadrupled the number test and development customers. The company now has contracts with 16 OEMs (a combination of automaker, trucking, tech and ride-sharing type companies) and is in negotiations with another 16 or so, Russell said.

Bringing in testing and development customers is a good first step. But locking them in as commercial customers, meaning they’re integrating the sensor into volume production products, is the ultimate target. Schwarz will be a big part of that effort.

Right now, Schwarz says he is focused on hiring to create the teams that will manage the pipeline of new customers as well as help bring those using Luminar sensors for testing and development into series production.

In June, the company hired Fitbit executive Bill Zerella as its chief financial officer and Tami Rosen as chief people officer. Rosen was at Goldman Sachs for 16 years, a senior director of human resources at Apple and most recently vice president of people at Quora.

Earlier this year, Luminar released a new “perception development platform” for which Volvo is the first customer. Luminar’s perception development platform detects and labels what its LiDAR hardware sees and then delivers that data to the car’s self-driving system. The platform is not making decisions. It’s just meant to provide more robust data to help the car’s “brain” make the right ones.


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