Frontier Tech Startup Showdown: Dog Parker Wins with Business Plan for Urban Pet Parents
Inside 3D Printing NYC has now come and gone for another year, leaving in its trail a wake of excitement, big news, and, for one company, a big win. We’ve been looking forward to the Frontier Tech Startup Showdown since the conference was announced — it’s always a highlight! — and applications opened back in February. A number of startup companies take the stage, are given just 4 minutes to present and a 2-minute Q&A session from the judges, and then one of them walks away with a (literally) giant check: the excitement in the air for these events is palpable.
The judges in NYC certainly had their work cut out for them, with seven companies presenting startup pitches at this conference. Fortunately, the judges were more than up to the challenge, as they have the experience and keen eyes to see what might make for the best business model. For this week’s Startup Competition, the judges included:
- Tyler Benster, General Partner, Asimov Ventures
- Oliver Mitchell, Partner, Mach 5 Ventures; Co-Chair, Frontier Tech Committee
- Zack Schildhorn, Partner, Lux Capital
- Anarghya Vardhana, Senior Associate, Maveron
Before the new presentations began, we were treated to updates from a couple of the previous winners of the competition, to follow up on their stories since their wins when they were standing in these new competitors’ shoes.
From 3D Hubs, Bram de Zwart noted that his company has seen great growth since becoming the inaugural winners of the Startup Competition. As it stands, 3D Hubs raised $4.5 million right after winning, can now provide 1 billion people access to a 3D printer within 10 miles of their home, and now sees 30,000 prints ordered each month. It was nice to follow up again with de Zwart, who in February had answered A Few Questions For me as we also like to keep up with these winners! He noted as well that 3D Hubs has formed partnerships with Autodesk (the first 3D print partner for their Spark platform), Thingiverse (just announced the day before!), and Fairphone (for whom they created more than 10,000 proofs of concept).
Enger Bewza of Wiivv was also on-site to follow up since their big win at the Startup Competition, and we’ve certainly been following their success story as well. Two years ago, at the time of their win, Wiivv had three employees; they now have more than 25. With $4 million in investment and grands, Wiivv is famously the most funded 3D Printed product on Kickstarter.
Winners of the Startup Competition, as we continue to see, are certainly using this successful platform to truly launch to great heights. And so it was that the stage was set, and this round of entrants were ready for their shot at winning a $15,000 SAFE investment.
In order of presentation, this competitions’s entrants included:
1, Arevo — With a plan to “transport the ‘3D printing’ industry from 2.5D to True3D,” as we’ve seen in their platform, Arevo Labs’ CEO and co-founder Hemant Bheda noted that his company sees a clear future, wherein “the revolution will be printed.” The California-based startup is striving to position itself as a world leader in 3D printed composite parts. They aim to streamline manufacturing, adding simplicity (such as by taking 50+ traditionally manufactured parts and turning them into one single 3D printed part), reducing cost and weight, and creating a more efficient supply chain. They see that what is required is high-performance material capabilities for production applications, 3D printing software for production parts, and a scalable manufacturing platform. With a continuous carbon fiber composite material five times stronger than titanium, software that creates “true 3D printing” that addresses the Z strength, and applications and case studies in aerospace, oil and gas, industrial spare parts, medical, and consumer sectors, Arevo noted some major plans. Below is their video highlighting their unique robotic platform for “true 3D printing”:
2. Cellink — The first creator of bioink, Sweden-based Cellink sees a future where 3D printed biomaterials can be used in testing and other applications, seeking to be a “one-stop shop for bioprinting.” While the rest of the Cellink team was back in Sweden (meeting the king that day, in fact), CFO Gusten Danielsson presented their business model. “Imagine no humans die because of a lack of organs, imagine a future where no animals need to be used in testing,” he said, noting that the EU had already banned animal use for cosmetic testing applications. By printing tissue, Cellink seeks to offer skin for cosmetic testing, cancer tumors for pharmaceutical testing, liver parts to try drugs, and many more. By presenting theri bioprinter for $4,999 and their bioink for $99, they are looking strictly toward an affordable, scalable model, noting that their competitors’ products retail around $200,000 and do the same thing.
3. Voodoo Manufacturing — Another company we’re familiar with already, Voodoo Manufacturing CPO Jonathan Schwartz took the stage next to discuss, following a keynote on a similar topic, high-volume 3D printing and a look at how things will be made. Since its creation in May 2015, Voodoo Manufacturing has gotten their cluster of desktop 3D printers up to 125 machines all running together, making them a manufacturing company with the benefits of 3D printing. As production continues to become niche and custom, Schwartz asked, how are we going to make unique physical goods in small batches? Their use of several desktop 3D printers in conjunction can create 1-10,000 units with “unprecedented reliability and quality.” Schwartz noted that while they use 3D printing, their value is not because of 3D printing, but because they are solving customer problems, as they operate all machines together as one high-throughput machine. The company is quickly growing, having doubled in the past five months.
4. Applied Motion — Founder Jose Jimenez of Applied Motion was up next, presenting his company’s solution to fatigue-related injures using bio-feedback markers. Part of the Zahn Center NYC Accelerator, Applied Motion features an open API with their device designed for the general public. As fatigue is one of the biggest injury-related causes in athletics, it is important to keep track of physical status during physical activity. Designed to work in conjunction with other wearables, like a FitBit, or even be worn on a necklace or attached to a bicycle, the haptic/sound/visual response of the Applied Motion add-on would also retail at just around $10.
5. Dog Parker — Co-founders Chelsea Brownridge and Todd Schechter of Brooklyn-based Dog Parker introduced a new concept in their presentation that immediately grabbed the audience’s attention: on-demand dog houses. Presenting “dog parking by the minute,” these dog houses are intended to be, effectively, parking spots for “urban pet parents” to safely leave their dogs for a few minutes while running errands, in a more secure alternative to tying a leash around a tree or bike rack. A membership card opens the house, the dog can be guided in, and no one else can gain access until the dog’s owner returns a few minutes later, using the same membership card or the Dog Parker app to unlock the house. Similar to a Zipcar model of business, a membership would run $25 annually per dog — leading, they say, to a $1.7 billion business opportunity that could benefit up to 2.4 million urban dogs. With Boyce Technologies as their tech partner, Dog Parker tested three different sizes for their dog houses, now using a one-size-fits-most model that fits about 97% of dogs (sorry, no mastiffs). Requiring regular maintenance similar to a vending machine, the Dog Parker houses also function as their own advertising, as they would be placed right on the streets in urban areas, starting with New York City. The Dog Parker FAQ answers some of the big questions, and below is a video illustrating the system:
6. Jodone — Next up came CEO Cole Parker of Jodone, introducing his company’s vision of a human/robotic hybrid interaction that can lead to the best of human intelligence combined with the speed and productivity of robots to solve some of the world’s pressing issues — namely, waste. The US alone spends $36 billion on waste each year, and picking through that waste is a huge exercise in time, patience, and exacting specifications. Humans alone are too expensive to do all the sorting, but as it stands, robots are “too dumb” to do so. So bringing them together, human operators can provide solutions for robots. Tested at Pope Douglas in Minnesota, a state with a 75% recycling goal going into effect, the robots pick up skills through active learning via AI to augment their accuracy — and they’ve seen 2500 picks per hour, with a 95% success rate. Jodone is a software company, partnering with robotics companies to create labs for picking. Set up in a shipping container, the only installation is the drop-off; it costs about $600K to create the shipping container lab.
7. 3D Matter — Last but certainly not least, Arther Sebert, Founder of 3D Matter, took the mic to present his company’s vision. They seek to model and forecast properties of 3D printed products to optimize use for functional products. With the example of a hairbrush, which most people would perhaps 3D print as a prototype but not an actual usable product, Sebert showed a three-step testing process looking at mechanical performance, visuals, and processability. OptiMatter software can compare and optimize printing configurations, providing optimal materials, parameters, and printing orientation. It uses unbiased data, not set to lean on any one supplier or material, to present the best solution of all known options. The model is starting up with FDM/personal printers, as this was the most cost-efficient way to get the model started, and will ultimately expand to all professional printers, and materials including metals, ceramics, composites, and more. The next step is to become more user-friendly and more part-specific.
Following the presentation, the judges certainly required a bit of time. And, just after Shapeways’ keynote and prior to Tyler Benster’s presentation, they came back with a decision.
In the competition for the $15,000 uncapped note from Asimov Ventures, the finalists were:
3. Voodoo Manufacturing
And, with the win,
1. Dog Parker
“We’re honored to have been able to pitch against many amazing companies, and stand out amongst those who are doing incredible work in bio-cell printing and manufacturing-level 3D printing. As an early-stage company, these early validations give us the confidence to keep moving forward, not to mention the capital awarded by Asimov Ventures which will help us achieve our next milestones. We’re thankful to Asimov Ventures for holding this competition and encouraging innovation in this space,” Chelsea Brownridge, co-founder and CEO of Dog Parker, said.
Dog Parker exhibited impressive enthusiasm in their presentation — and even more following the announcement of their win.
“We’re thrilled to be here, and want to thank Asimov Ventures for the opportunity to pitch among such an amazing group of frontier technology companies. This is going to be a valuable stepping stone for us as an early stage startup that has been self-funded to date,” noted Dog Parker co-founder Todd Schechter. “We’re in the midst of closing our first round, so not only is the feedback and response from the audience invaluable, but the direct investment and relationship we’ll have from Asimov moving forward will help us close some of those other relationships.”
The Dog Parker team’s well-researched, already-tested business model struck the judges as the most promising startup vision, and they walked away with a well-earned win.
“We had an incredible cohort of participants at the Frontier Tech Startup Showdown,” said Tyler Benster of Asimov Ventures. “Best in show went to a company pushing the boundaries of Pet Tech: Brooklyn-based Dog Parker! The pitch struck a humorous and empathetic note with the audience, narrowly beating out an innovative approach for robotic trash sorting (Jodone) and a high volume 3D manufacturer (Voodoo Manufacturing).”
It should be noted this is the second pet-based Startup Competition win recently, with CleverPet winning the December RoboGameChanger Startup Competition. Not only are pets beloved by owners around the world, they also provide big business and big opportunities across the board — including in the tech world. Our congratulations to Dog Parker and all the entrants in this latest Startup Competition!
Below are more photos of their business model that I took during the presentation.
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