Chicago’s Launch Competition
by Jeff Segal
Why does a B2B digital marketing agency that works with some of the biggest and best-known companies in America send a team to a startup competition?
Because marketing and startups actually have a lot in common.
- Marketing is about problem solving, and startups are founded to solve problems.
- Marketing is about storytelling, and every startup has a story.
- Finally, a great marketing campaign and a successful startup both make people say, Wow, I wish I’d thought of that!
Out of the dozens of startups entered in last week’s Techweek Launch competition, here are five that made me and my coworkers say, “Wow!”
Technology has revolutionized nearly every aspect of healthcare in the last 20 years. But if you break your arm, your cast will look and feel just like one from 50 years ago.
Cast 21 wants to change that. Their lattice design—stiff on the inside, soft on the outside—lets patients shower and even swim, and lets doctors dress and treat the affected skin underneath. No more itching, no more smell.
CEO Ashley S. Moy explains, “Our co-founder [and bio-mechanical engineer] Jason Troutner wore casts for nearly three years of his life. He was passionate about solving the complications that accompanied the casts, and his energy was contagious. We knew there was no other option but to change the way people heal broken bones.”
If you know a college student or recent grad, you’ve probably heard about the increasing burden students loans are putting on the youngest members of our workforce.
Some recent University of Chicago graduates have designed a platform that makes paying off loans a little easier. Common Cents connects mobile spending apps like Venmo to a student’s loan accounts, so spare change from everyday purchases goes directly toward paying those loans down.
How much difference can a few cents here and there make? Co-founder Madeleine Barr says an average student who puts just $1.33 per day toward loan repayment can save more than $3,000 before finishing school, and more than $20,000 over the lifetime of a loan.
She adds, “As recent graduates with student debt, we are building the app we wish existed for us.”
FIND YOUR DITTO
Find your Ditto CEO Brianna Wolin has lived with multiple chronic illnesses since she was four years old. And she spent four stressful years at college without meeting a single other person living with the same conditions.
Her solution: build a mobile platform that allows people to make local, on-demand connections with others living with the same chronic illness. These connections can help relieve the isolation and depression that so often accompany chronic conditions like Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, diabetes, cancer and eating disorders.
The result: Within five days of Brianna starting the Find Your Ditto pilot at the University of Michigan, another female student with exactly her same conditions had signed up.
If you read lots of online content, Flipword can help you learn a new language without special classes or software.
Like many startups, the idea for Flipword came from a real-life problem. CEO Thomas Reese was trying to teach himself Mandarin, but didn’t have time to study. One day while browsing the web, it hit him that he could learn Mandarin at the same time.
The concept is mind-bogglingly simple. Read whatever online content you like, and Flipword replaces a few words per page with words from the language you want to learn, along with definitions and pronunciations. Maravilloso!
Jelani Floyd, CEO of Here2, explains how this “pop-up social broadcasting” app came to be:
“My brother and I attended a Bulls game at the United Center. We noticed so many people around us taking photos and videos and we wondered, where was all this content going? We searched hashtags on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, but we could not find any content relevant to that game.
“We posted a photo to Facebook, and one of our friends—whom we had no idea who was also at the game—commented on our pic and said ‘I’M HERE TOO!!’”
Here2 locates users geographically, so they can connect with each other in real time without having to guess hashtags or channels. And users who can’t make an event can still get authentic insight from the crowd’s perspective—the next best thing to being “here too!”
Links to the Five Companies
Jeff Segal writes blogs and social content for digital B2B marketing agency StudioNorth, while crusading tirelessly against the words provide, quality, strive and utilize. This post originally appeared at Inside the Studio, the StudioNorth blog.
Check out Stories We’ve Told and Techweek Launch Competition
Graphics courtesy Jeff Segal
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