Last Wednesday was D-Day - Demonstration Day - for five tech entrepreneurs in Charlotte. They showed off their products to potential investors who gathered at the business incubator Packard Place.
Sure, these kinds of events happen all the time in San Francisco and New York. But there’s something different about this gathering. The mayor is here, there are dozens of men and women with deep pockets rubbing shoulders. They’re walking around the room taking notes, offering advice and they’re all smiling. Adam Hill, director of Packard Place tells the crowd that a new initiative called RevTech Labs is making a difference.
“When we started RevTech, the idea was we had to have great companies, have great mentors and a great Demo Day," Adam Hill, director of Packard Place says before he calls Zerrick Bynum, founder of Viddlz, to the stage.
Bynum explains that Viddlz is a "peer-to-peer internet company in perishable foods". It focused initially on baked goods in the Charlotte market – so purchasing from "your neighbor, or woman from church or could be your uncle, who makes great pies or cupcakes or raw vegan tarts …”
Bynum says it’s basically a virtual farmer’s market. He connects consumers to home bakers and chefs who are certified by the state to sell food.
“So the idea is that you’re buying from people in your local area, be it bakers or cooks," Bynum says. "And also, we help you to showcase the story of the baker. Know the story behind the food. And also just see what the quality of the food is. Everyone always says they make the great, best peach cobbler around, so now you can see how the community rates the food.”
In return for a monthly fee, Viddlz also provides basic services like marketing the business and processing payments.
Five start-up companies made up the first RevTech class this summer and they set up shop at Packard Place. The idea is to get creative people talking and helping each other.
Bynum says the water-cooler conversations helped him move from alpha to beta mode. That just means he’s now a lot closer to being fully functional to the public.
After his presentation, Bynum was approached by investor John Warner of Greenville, South Carolina.
Moments like this played itself out several times throughout the evening. Investors, many with hand-written name-tags, approached promising start-ups to ask what they needed and how they could help.
Just a few feet away from Bynum, Flaviu Simihaian is pitching his iPad app called iMedicare. It’s the first Medicare part D plan finder on the iPad. It launched in August. Simihaian says it takes pharmacists up to 45 minutes to fill out a lengthy form when patients become eligible for Medicare. He says his app reduces that to about 5 minutes. It costs about $60 to $150 a month.
Simihaian says he was able to expand his idea after a conversation with a Packard Place tenant.
“It says on the entrance, building communities, which sounds like a lot of fluff but that’s really what has to happen," Simihaian says. "You gotta have people running into each other, talking to each other, bouncing ideas … And so, he actually helped me develop a new business model for chain pharmacies and retail.”
There were three other companies at RevTech: AutoPilot, a start-up that allows you to book a driver on demand through an iPhone app when you can’t or don’t wish to drive, The Torch, a website that lets you pass on and manage crucial information to loved ones, and DataSet/IO, a new adaptable data management system.
Adam Hill, the director of the Packard Place, says the five companies will be invited to stay in the space and serve as mentors for the next RevTech class.