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Five DC Startups to Watch

Submitted by on June 21, 2010 – 12:15 pm4 Comments

I have a lot of respect for entrepreneurs – it’s not easy to get up on stage and sell your baby (figuratively speaking). At DCWeek, the start-up showcase involved three seasoned entrepreneurs asking tough questions of five startup leaders – what’s your business model? Great, but how are you going to SELL this thing?

With ease, the entrepreneurs rattled off their ideas, some of which are nascent and run out of someone’s house, and others of which have small offices and funding.  Below is a quick recap of the five startups that presented:

  1. HealthEWorks
    For doctor-run HealthEWorks, customizing emergency health education – and ultimately reducing ER visits and re-visits – is the goal. The company has a library of 400 (and growing) tailored videos that provide information on diagnosis and treatment after a patient is discharged from the ER. Run by David Matheson, an emergency room doctor by day who admits the ER is “not the best time to give education,” the company’s next move is to get already-excited hospitals on board to use its product. Hospitals, Matheson said, have been the most enthused about the videos, as they see first-hand the growing number of ER visits and repeat visits (annually, it has increased 26% from 1994 to 2005).
  2. HotPads.com
    At Georgetown-based HotPads, CEO Matt Corgan continues to try to help apartment hunters find the best rates for their specific desired living situations. Need pet-friendly housing? There’s a button for that. On the fence between buying and renting? There’s a tool to figure out what makes more sense financially in a given area. HotPads is growing and is now available nationally – and say their only competitor content-wise is Craigslist (which I see as a formidable player in content, but as a regular apartment hunter, I must say it’s time-consuming to search through).
  3. Struc.to
    Structo’s goal is to help developers build web applications “for faster world domination.” In reality, Structo gives developers the tools and resources they need to majorly cut down on time. While I’m not quite in this user base (read: I have been banned from trying to code PHP into WordPress by our developers after a few innocent mistakes) I am a big fan of anything that eases information sharing online, and allows people to collectively build on each others knowledge and experiences.
  4. Giv.to
    Giv.to is the kind of product that is so smart and useful that it makes you wonder how you didn’t think of it earlier. Giv.to’s technology allows a branded area for content at the top of any given page to allow you to continue your relationship with the user and to take advantage of viral content. Think of the “top frame” from about.com, but more integrated and less annoying, and specifically meant to secure conversions with on-page open fields for donation money input, email addresses, etc. This product has been successful thus far for political campaigns and non-profits seeking donations through what it is coining “distributed conversion.”
  5. FitFeud
    FitFeud started its presentation with the message that “America is fat… and getting fatter.” With a mission to motivate through competition, FitFeud prompts offices and groups to organize competitions and track individual results via regular check-ins. So far, the company has an 88% success rate, and says it helps competitors to lose an average 6.5 lbs per competition. FitFeud is not about making “people look like they are on TMZ or whatever,” says co-founder J Nicholas Tolson, but instead about motivating users to make healthier decisions.
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