More than 300 technology startups surfaced at Ascent Conference 2019 this week in New York. The crowd -- estimated at 3,500 attendees or more -- includes former MSP (managed IT services provider) owners and operators who had successful business exits and are now focused on new business development. Many of the startups were not IT services related. But in my never-ending quest to better understand the entrepreneurial journey and market shifts, I grabbed a few meetings with executives from a range of vertical markets.
Here' s a quick look at our speed-date meetings (15 minutes each) at the conference. Our day included time with...
1. Our.News: Led by former MSP owner/operator Richard Zack, Our.News is building interactive Nutrition Labels for News. The data-driven platform makes it easier for anyone to make a quick determination between real and junk news and content, Zack asserts. He previously held key executive posts at IT service provider-focused companies. Examples include Pantek, an open source tech support and service management company, as well as Pantek Internet Services - the first dial-up Internet Service Provider in Geauga County, Ohio.
2. Wooter Apparel: Next up I grabbed some time with Alex Kagan, CMO and founder of Wooter. Most of what we discussed was on background. But here's a timely example of a company that pivoted from a pure technology background into a specific use case...
3. Skillion: My sit-down with CEO Pete Cooper and Sales Director Steve Case gave me some timely details on fleet management. Not your traditional MSP truck rolls or service technician management. This conversation focused on a turn-key solution to manage, monitor and monetize using advanced IoT technology and camera-centric visual monitoring of scooters and bikes. Much of the conversation zeroed in on earlier adopters in Asia. And perhaps some moves here in North America.
4. Nuovo: CEO Nicolas Ortega and Co-founder Andres Ortega explained their short-term rental business to me. The company leases and improves apartments in multiple markets, and then sub-leases those apartments to travelers who average three- or four-night stays (give or take). I plan to give the platform a try next time I'm in Miami.
5. Saavor Inc.: This is an early stage startup from CEO and Co-founder Poonam Vasantha Kumar. The company's app links local chefs to local customers. The idea: Allow customers to order fantastic meals from chefs who can actually work from home. Kumar is a programmer -- and a great communicator. Her meeting pitch note to me was perfectly crafted and on-message. Hence, my decision to take a meeting far outside my typical IT services focus.
6. Acreto IoT Security: Here's another sit-down involving a former MSP (COO Thad Eidman) jumping into the SaaS market. Eidman previously was president of Corserva (midmarket MSP). He has now teamed up with CEO Babek Pasdar to build Acreto -- an early stage IoT security platform provider. Marketing Coordinator Patricia Cucolo is helping to shape the startup's messaging. It's difficult for me to capture the scope of the conversation in a few short sentences, since the four of us covered everything from bank ATM security to APIs and multi-tenancy for MSPs. If I had to guess, we'll be hearing soon about some early Acreto deployments...
7. Onemata: This Denver-based startup is seeking to help small businesses with an age-old problem -- finding and closing more business deals more rapidly. CEO William Smith explained the lead generation software to me -- vowing that it's simple, powerful, low-cost and reliable. Here's a teaser video for the company.
8. ClearOps: This startup strives to help companies automate compliance, security control and privacy-tasks. Think of it, in some ways, as a CRM system built for compliance-related tasks. CEO and Co-founder Caroline McCaffery has a legal background. And the company is part of the NYU Tandon Future Labs accelerator.
Disclosure: Many (though not all) of the companies listed above are seeking funding. I am not an investor in the companies mentioned.