"Do you like movies?"
That was the ice-breaker laid on me by Pilot Analytics CEO and Founder Alan Xie as he caught me spying his start-up's space at last week's HUBweek Demo Day event in Boston, trying to figure out what the heck the company did.
Being on a shoestring budget, the recent Harvard University grad and his colleagues decided to forego a more elaborate booth set-up, instead relying a a couple of laptops, some basic branding in the form of cardboard cutouts and their story. This outfit has a system for crunching numbers to help movie studios better gauge how much they might make on a movie, no matter how awful it sounds. Factors such as genre, cast and geographical viewing markets all play roles, of course.
The Pilot Analytics team hopes it's got a blockbuster idea
Interacting with start-ups minus the overbearing marketing hype is what really makes events like this attractive. With innovative ideas oozing from those affiliated with Harvard, MIT, Babson and other nearby schools, the enthusiasm of founders is marketing enough in my book.
Standing behind a barebones table, Harvard alum Daniel Nevius of Analytical Space said he was hopeful that the young company he co-founded will win a chunk of the $1.5M in zero-equity awards being doled out in early November by start-up accelerator MassChallenge. Analytical Space, which has developed hybrid RF-laser data relays designed to increase information throughput for satellite operators, is one of more than 100 finalists in the competition. As I chatted with Nevius, he pondered what vertical markets -- beyond financial -- would be most keen to greatly reduce the latency of data communications.
Beyond the exhibition floor, a competition among startups at Demo Day to win $10K in cash forced entrepreneurs to get their points across efficiently, giving them time to briefly introduce themselves and answer a few questions (Why should customers be loyal to you? What would you do with $1M? Who is your dream business partner?).
Among those taking part was Suelin Chen, an MIT Ph.D., and CEO/co-founder of Cake, a business that encourages you to put your end-of-life requests into the cloud via a free app. "Every single one of us is going to die one day, and when that happens, will all of your loved ones know all the things you want them to know?" Chen asked to start her pitch (see her presentation, and that of smart fitness wearable company Humon, in the Facebook Live video below...apologies for poor lighting).
While Cake, Analytical Space and Pilot Analytics are green startups, HUBweek also showcased slightly older businesses, including Julia Computing, which has been around since 2013 to commercialize and support the high-performance Julia programming language that came out of MIT.
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