The sixth annual Venture Sharks competition culminated on Wednesday with the startup LOGjustrips winning a $10,000 prize package.
LOGjustrips connects your car to your smartphone and logs your rides. At the end of each trip, the app asks whether the drive was for business or personal reasons. Founder Steve Arkon works for LeasePlan, a leading fleet management company.
Despite the soundness of the idea and the practical nature of the app, LOGjustrips seemed an unlikely winner. The app has not yet been launched, and the company doesn’t have a functional website yet.
But the judges (aka, Sharks) saw promise in LOGjustrips, one of four startups that presented pitches in Wednesday’s finals during the Venture Connectors Luncheon at the Muhammad Ali Center. The four finalists had been chosen from an original field of 11 startups.
The Sharks were particularly brutal this year as they sensed “blood in the water,” according to emcee Larry Horn. Horn also noted that all of the past five winning companies are still in business.
The other competitors were:
Ecobridge Industries, which we profiled back in February, works with farmers to grow kenaf, a tropical plant that looks like bamboo but is in the hibiscus and jute families. Its fibers are routinely used in green building materials and are imported mostly from Asia. Ecobridge seeks to save green building material makers and users up to 51 percent by growing and processing the plant domestically.
The Sharks challenged founders Sean Vandevander and Elisa Owen about potentially undercharging for their products. Since the semi-finals, the company has secured $750,000 in contracts for 2016.
hello parent is a mobile app to help parents organize events like playdates, childcare, after-school events and carpool. They are in the process of rolling out in northern Kentucky and Cincinnati in a closed beta.
The Sharks questioned the need for another organization app. Shark Zack Pennington (CEO of U.S. Chia) brought up the fact that technology changes so rapidly that it would be hard to gauge the “lifetime” of the app.
The final presenter was Phone Falcon, which we profiled in October 2014. The presentation began in dramatic fashion when one co-founder told us that every two seconds a smartphone is broken, prompting the other to take a hammer to the screen of an iPhone.
Phone Falcon repairs smartphones onsite and on-demand. They’ve performed 600 repairs already (including for one of our editorial staffers, who was very pleased with the service). On review sites, they’ve never received fewer than five stars. An average repair costs $109.
Sharks pointed out that expanding the business could create a very expensive scheduling system nightmare.
The other Sharks were Vik Chadha (co-founder of Backupify), Lou Kelmanson (CEO of Kelmanson Holdings) and Elizabeth Rounsavall (of Chrysalis Ventures). Pennington was filling in for Bob Saunders (of Saunders Capital).