Seattle field trip: Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure powered by TechStars

It’s always nice to take a look at what’s happening in other startup scenes. Yesterday, I was up north at the—deep breath—Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure, powered by TechStars Demo Day on the Microsoft campus in Redmond, WA. All told, 10 new companies came out of the Accelerator, the first based on Azure.

The relevance of the program—and the need for it—was hammered home by the opening remarks from Damon Danali [Editor: I might have slaughtered the spelling], a former Microsoft employee who left to enter the world of startups.

“Microsoft needs to engage with the startup community,” he said. “We collectively need to make this program successful.”

And if this Demo Day is any indication, Microsoft is doing an excellent job of beginning to get engaged. And providing a landing spot for many former Microsofties.

Here’s who stood up on stage at Demo Day in the order they presented:

Realty Mogul

Described as “a marketplace for accredited investors to pool money online and buy shares of pre-vetted investment properties. It’s crowdfunding for real estate,” Realty Mogul is like AngelList for real estate investments, allowing groups of investors to research and invest through a simple and straightforward interface.

“We’re redefining the way people invest in real estate,” said CEO Jilliene Helman, “by democratizing real estate investments.”

The company is attacking a $150 billion market. They feel the timing is good thanks to the JOBS Act, which promises to allow for public promotion of investments. They make money through administrative fees and charging the real estate companies. Those real estate companies will pay for the service because of the investor management, promotions, and other tools that Realty Mogul provides.

The company is raising $750,000 of which $400,000 has been committed.


Embarke pitches their service as “the next generation analytics for messaging… [increasing] engagement and revenue for marketers by automatically delivering messages when users are most likely to engage.”

They’re planning on attacking all sorts of messaging—a $40 billion industry. But they’re starting with the $1.7 billion email marketing industry.

In a nutshell, Embarke moves beyond the “open” and “click” tracking of most email systems to track discreet analytics on individual users, like what time of day they are most likely to open email and engage. Then they use that knowledge to their advantage. Delivering email to individuals at the time they are most likely to open them.

They’re currently partnered with email sending juggernaut and TechStars alum SendGrid. In the Windows Azure Store.

Embarke is asking for $600,000 of which one-third is already committed.


Positioned as a “game management platform,” Staq is designed to “make it simple to monetize and optimize free-to-play games on mobile, web, and consoles.”

Is there a market there? Making money from free apps? Boy howdy is there. There were more than $2 billion generated from in app purchases in the free-to-play game industry, last year—in the App Store, alone.

Staq helps game developers with virtual stores, analytics, promotions for games which is integrated via a cross-platform SDK. They’ve developed a dashboard that allows developers to manage their in app purchases from a dashboard. Best of all? Developers are able to sell across a variety of platforms—Apple App Store, Xbox, Google Play—from within the dashboard. And they’ll help folks identify which players are buying the most. Manage promotions for engaging more players.

Staq is asking for $500,000. The didn’t mention how much was already committed.


You can find anything you want about sportsball teams online, but you can’t find out anything about the fans. Fanzo hopes to solve that problem by becoming the authority in ranking sports fans.

Think of it as Klout with a sports focus. It watches as fans interact with teams and then generates scores for those fans in particular subjects. They’re currently pulling Facebook, Instagram and other social networks. And fans, teams, and brands are all interested. For reference, brands spend $620 billion per year targeting sports fans.

Fanzo is seesking $750,000 of which $300,000 is already committed.


MetricsHub is designed to keep “cloud applications up and running for the lowest possible cost.” Using analytics, they perform automatic actions to help. They tell folks how much they’re spending and how much they’re wasting. Thanks to their insights and analytics on running cloud services combined with their cloud management automation, they’ve already managed to drive down cloud bills by 15%.

They’re pursuing a freemium model and planning to make money with subscriptions for advanced features.

MetricsHub is raising $500k of which $145k has been committed.


Socedo is designed to help “sales and business development professionals leverage the social web to discover leads and build relationships more effectively.” The service allows folks to define the qualifications for a target audience—stuff they would generally manage with a spreadsheet—and the tool uses that data to automatically search their CRM systems and other information sources relevant warm leads.

Does it work? Well, they’ve already used their own product to land their initial clients.

Socedo makes money by charging a subscription for their services.

The company is raising $500,000 with $150,000 already committed.


It’s no secret that most businesses make their money from referral business. In fact, 80% of new customers come from referrals. But the current referral marketing system isn’t as efficient as it could be—because it’s too paper based.

That’s where Keebitz is hoping to help. And they’re startup with the real estate market, an industry that spends $9 billion online per year. Think of it as Referly but with virtual stored value card management.

They plan to charge of subscription starting at $199 per month.

Keebitz is raising $500,000 with $300,000 already committed. And to round up that last $200,000? They were rewarding investor referrals at demo day with bottles of champagne.


A good chunk of the population has difficulty making ends meet. And its not folks with lower income. It’s the middle and upper middle class. Juggling bills. And trying to determine what to pay when.

That’s where Mobilligy hopes to help, by providing “an elegant solution that takes the pain and problems out of bills for the tens of millions of Americans who live paycheck to paycheck.”

Their first opportunity? The $22.5 billion in credit card late fees Americans are charged every year.

The killer feature? Using Mobilligy, users can opt to pay industry late fees on payments or they can pay a reduced fee to Mobilligy—and Mobillight will pay the bill on time. Which can also be a great way of salvaging your credit rating.

Mobilligy is raising $1.2 million of which $400,000 has been committed.


Think WordPress, for restaurants. That’s what Appetas wants to provide: a simple, straightforward service that “makes marketing a restaurant online simple, effective, and beautiful.”

Using the service, restauranteurs can salvage all of the information from their existing site and plug it into a visually compelling template. Then the service automatically generates Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest pages for the restaurant, as well. Just as important, they add the restaurant to Yelp and Foursquare. All automatically.

They’re attacking the $5.8 billion restaurant promotion market. And they plan to charge a monthly subscription for the service.

Appetas is raising $300,000 of which $50,000 has been committed.


BagsUp thinks you’re missing out on really compelling experiences. That’s why they want to connect you “to the experiences your friends and the people they know are sharing on their social networks to help you find great places for a night out, weekend away, or next vacation.”

“Technology is great at helping us book trips,” said CEO Ben Jackson, “but it’s horrible at helping us figure out where to go.”

At first blush, this struck me as a similar concept to what made SecondPorch so compelling—leveraging social networks for something more than status updates.

They’ve projected revenue from hotel and restaurant referrals to the tune of $10 per user per year.

BagsUp is raising $750,000. No mention of current commitment.

There you have it

The nice thing about the Azure program is the breadth of companies that can apply. If you’re building something in the cloud, you’re eligible.

But you have to hurry. Applications close February 1.

  1. Rick! Thanks for the very thorough coverage! We really appreciate it…definitely the deepest dive we’ve seen thus far. We @embarke couldn’t be more excited about our future…


  2. Thank you Rick for the great summary. I liked the part about the stored value. Very smart! anne

  3. Thanks for the coverage, Rick. The startups did an incredible job, both yesterday and for the last three months. Looking forward to working with the Portland community to build a stronger Pacific Northwest startup community! Matt

  4. Thanks for the summary Rick. It was a fantastic day and testament to the Techstars process, the staff and all the teams. Honored @bagsup was part of the class.

  5. Rick,

    Thanks for this report! We’re really excited at New Relic about the opportunities for app devs that Windows Azure offers. Another interesting initiative up in Redmond is their Open Technologies subsidiary: http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/openness/default.aspx#home


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