A guide to the DEMO Traction 2015 winners in Boston
On September 16 at the Westin Waterfront in Boston, the leaders from 30 enterprise startups all stood on stage in front of thousands of onlookers to tell their stories. James A. Martin gives us the highlights from the event.
On September 16 at the Westin Waterfront in Boston, leaders of 30 enterprise startups stood on stage to tell their stories to a room full of CIOs, CMOs, and other high-level tech executives. Each brief presentation focused on several key areas: What the startup does; how it differs from others in its space; which problems it is solving; and how it is gaining traction in its field.
Among the 30 startups, four received a DEMO Traction Enterprise award: LiquidPlanner, Treasure Data, Greenhouse, and Emotient. The following are videos of their presentations (including follow-up questions that judges asked), along with a summary of each winner’s presentation.
LiquidPlanner is a SaaS-based predictive project management system primarily targeted at IT and engineering teams.
“I’m obsessed with estimation,” confessed CEO Liz Pearce. As examples, she said she routinely tries to estimate how long it will take to get her kids to school or what her tax bill will be.
People constantly make best and worst case estimations in life as well as in business. But in business, “we don’t always have the tools we need to dimentionalize that uncertainty.” It’s a big problem, Pearce noted, citing a study that said the U.S. economy loses $50 billion to $150 billion per year due to failed IT projects.
LiquidPlanner is designed to capture the uncertainties in business, especially in large technology projects, and calculate realistic outcomes. The product uses three inputs as its “secret sauce”:
What are the project’s priorities?
What is the effort required to complete the project?
What resources are available to get the work done?
Based on those inputs, LiquidPlanner’s predictive scheduling engine calculates projection completion dates “to tell you realistically what can be accomplished with the team and people you have and the time you need to work in,” Pearce said.
Seattle-based LiquidPlanner was founded in 2006. Pearce said the company is growing 40 to 60 percent annually and currently has about 2,000 customers, many of which are Fortune 500 companies. LiquidPlanner has received approximately $11.5 million in funding, according to its CrunchBase profile.
Treasure Data promises a “simplified cloud analytics infrastructure” as a service, which enterprises can leverage as a data analytics pipeline.
Mountain View, Calif.-based Treasure Data was founded in 2011. Founder and Chief Technology Officer Kazuki Ohta said the company’s goal is to help organizations manage their growing data. “Data is growing rapidly, but…the number of people who can build and maintain the data structure is not growing,” he noted. “There would be a clear talent gap in the future here. So that’s why we founded the company, to provide a cloud-based analytics infrastructure.”
Treasure Data is currently collecting about 100 million “new events per second,” which Ohta says is 100 times greater than the Twitter data stream. The company has 100 people around the world managing its cloud service, with customers in such sectors as mobile/gaming and Internet of Things (IoT). Customers include Yahoo! Japan, Muji, Pebble, Pioneer, and Equifax.
As a use-case example, Ohta mentioned an energy company customer that collects real-time sensor data from windmills it operates. With Treasure Data, the data gathered is used to predict which windmills might require maintenance. This allows the energy company to do proactive, selective maintenance to “prevent windmills from going down.”
To date, Treasure Data has raised $30 million, Ohta said.
Greenhouse is a SaaS platform designed to help organizations “plan, execute, and optimize a better recruiting process end-to-end,” said Daniel Chait, CEO and co-founder.
There are about 250+ recruiting platforms on the market today, Chait said. Greenhouse is “elevating the class of problem we’re solving” by taking a different approach, he added.
At most companies, recruiting is regarded as a hassle, full of paperwork and bureaucracies, and is ultimately viewed as a distraction from the “real business at hand,” Chait explained. For Greenhouse, recruiting “is the real business at hand. If you want to be a great company, you have to be good at recruiting,” according to Chait. You must be smarter and more competitive, and you need tools and automation to help you get there.
The New York City-based Greenhouse, founded in 2012, built its SaaS recruiting platform to “help build better companies.” The strategy has enabled the startup to obtain 1,000 customers in under two years and to raise nearly $60 million from prominent venture capital firms such as Benchmark. And in an Aug. 23, 2015 article, The New York Times named Greenhouse as one of 50 companies that “may be the next start-up unicorns.”
Greenhouse tools enable organizations to create unique scorecards for each job, “so everyone is on the same page with exactly the decision you need to make,” said Chait. Other tools let you configure an interview plan; use an interview kit to give “clear guidance” to interviewers on questions to ask and areas on which to focus; configure a scorecard with which to rate all candidates, to help make “smart” hiring decisions; provide job candidates with an interview experience survey to get feedback; and use email templates to stay in touch with candidates.
The process of hiring — from prospecting to the moment you hire — is increasingly tech-driven, said Chait. But all the various steps, such as prospecting, assessments, background checks, interview scheduling, and so on, often had their own individual toolsets. Greenhouse launched “the first API platform to make all this work together.”
Only about 15 percent of video ads are pre-tested before being released, said Ken Denman, president and CEO of Emotient. In most cases, advertisers have relied on focus groups to gauge reactions to their messaging, promotions, or advertisements. But such methods “take too long, cost too much, and aren’t accurate,” Denman said.
That’s where San Diego-based Emotient, a developer of “facial expression analysis” software, comes in. Emotient’s SaaS platform captures video of respondents as they watch an ad, a political debate, or other event; sends the video to the cloud for processing; and compares the video-captured reactions “on a timestamp basis” to the ad, debate or other event to which participants are reacting.
Using “deep learning, computer vision, and cognitive neuroscience,” Emotient then helps its customers gain a deeper understanding of the emotions, such as ‘joy,’ contained within facial expressions, Denman explained.
Emotient is also “the only company in the world” that can simultaneously measure hundreds of faces, such as people at a sporting event, while also measuring their emotions, demographics, and “where they are looking,” Denman said. This will be a game changer for events and venues, where engagement with ads is currently measured based on “butts in seats.”
“You’re going to see over time variable rate pricing based on levels of engagement and attention that a venue operator will guarantee and deliver on or provide a discount” if the promised levels of engagement don’t materialize, Denman predicted.
For a use-case example, Denman said that Emotient video-recorded reactions of 60 Republicans during one of the recent Republican TV debates. Using its emotion analysis, Emotient accurately “called the winner immediately after the debate was over” while it took polls three days to declare a victor, he said.
Emotient was founded in 2012 and currently has received $6 million in funding, according to CrunchBase.
Editor’s note:Traction Watchis a new column focused obsessively on growth, and is a companion to the DEMO Traction conference series, which brings together high-growth startups with high-potential customers. The next DEMO Traction will take place in Boston on September 16, 2015. Growth companies can apply to present, or those similarly obsessed can register here to attend.
James A. Martin is a seasoned tech journalist and blogger based in San Francisco and winner of the 2014 ASBPE National Gold award for his CIO.com blog. He writes CIO.com's Living the Tech Life blog and is also a content marketing consultant.