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10 Babson Startups to watch in 2015

2014 brought about all sorts of interesting discussion amongst the entrepreneurs at Babson.  Ongoing was the discussion of how to better shift desktop platforms for an increasingly mobile audience.  That particular discussion has changed the way founders approach new ideas as many are starting with a mobile-first strategy, such was the case with the first company on the list, WineKick.  The list of startups to watch in 2015 is primarily looking at those entrepreneurs who are responding to change.  It’s important the community pay attention to their progress as they define a response to this year’s market opportunities.  As these founders are already traveling down the unbeaten path, look to see what new insights they can offer about responding to perceived needs that will appear in 2015.

1.  Winekick

WineKick provides all-in-one digital marketing of wine and craft beer for liquor stores, distributors, and producers (wineries/breweries).  The centerpiece of the marketing service is the Sidekick kiosk and mobile app that recommends beer or wine based on customer preference.  The software highlights local stores, bottles in that store, description, and location of the chosen bottle according to a store map.  The back end of the service provides analytics to stores, distributors, and wineries.  WineKick has sold its centerpiece kiosk to five stores in MA and Whole Foods is interested in testing the kiosk and app in New England stores.  Founder, Daniel Qualls M’15




2.  Artistia

Artistia is a global online marketplace to buy and sell handmade goods and supplies. The objective is to give artist a sense of citizenship to a global community where they can introduce and sell their goods on a smarter e-commerce platform.  The handcraft industry faces competition from economy of scale goods produced and sold at lower prices.  However, customization remains the competitive advantage of the artisan.  Artistia aims to empower handcraft artist and encourage local production.  The founders have interviewed Artists from varying regions and found there is an opportunity for a marketplace to also act as a support system operating in many languages.  Founder, Lulwa Alsoudairy M’15 with team



3.  Cleanzy

Cleanzy is system for mobile phone sanitization that uses UV-C technology to kill 99.9% germs.  The founder plans to install the sterilizing machine next to hand sanitizer outposts so that patrons can sanitize their mobile devices along with their hands.  Research cited by the founder suggests that mobile phones are on hand an average of 18 hours per day and the proposed system could greatly reduce the spread of infectious germs.  The revenue model so far is to sell the machines on 5 year leases with monthly maintenance contracts and potentially sell advertisement on the cleanzy stations.  Founder, Siddharth Astir M’16



4.  Consultafy

Consultafy provides an opportunity to help small businesses across the country by leveraging the know-how and experience of retirees as consultants through an online platform.  The website connects small businesses to experienced professionals that can provide the support and solutions sought out by small businesses.  Consultants are able to bid on projects within their area of expertise and are paid when the project is completed.  Consultafy separates itself from existing competitors (odesk, elance, experfy, hourly nerd) by focusing on smaller companies typically with fewer than 20 employees.  Founder, Lauren Taggart M’15



5. CBX Investments

CBX is in an investment fund which seeks to create a liquid market for ownership in US commercial farms.  CBX plans to oversee operations and management of farms where they own a stake.  The founders consider REITS and a handful of Private Equity firms to be their main competitors.  To overcome the competition, management cites their own experience in previously having acquired and operated farm assets.  Founder, Christian Bax M’15



6. DARTdrones

As drones are becoming increasingly popular and useful for specialized services, training to use drones effectively is also in demand.  DARTdrones is a flight school for unmanned aerial vehicles focusing on simplifying the user experience for first time drone operators.  The startup proposes a blended learning model to train students online with video tutorials and in person with a regional Flight Officer.  The organization aims to bundle product reviews, industry news, certification tracking, and drones for sale from manufacturers.  DART is going to focus on two customer segments: emergency response teams and small businesses implementing drones for simple commercial purposes.  Founder, Abby Speicher M’15



7.  HempGreen

HempGreen is looking to promote hemp as a primary input to manufacture sustainable building materials.  While hemp has many uses, the founder is exploring hemp to create an alternative mixture for blending concrete.  The mixture is known as ‘hempcrete’.  The startup is targeting buyers for infrastructure and real estate development projects.  Entrepreneur who previously looked to scale hemp production have faced a multitude of skeptical consumers.  However, the founder is well networked throughout India and is uniquely positioned to produce the raw material inexpensively.  The challenge for this entrepreneur will be convincing builders to make a shift away from an industry standard.  Photographed below, Ashni Shah M’15



8.  Hive Interns

Hive Interns is a platform that will allow students in Uganda to apply for internships from one central location.  Similar services in the United States have done well and positively enhanced the internship search experience especially among under-represented minority groups.  However, college aged students in Uganda have no comparable service to aid in their search for transitional internship experience.  After working personal networks the standard protocol is to leave a resume or CV at company offices in hopes someone will get back to you.  Considering the amount of work invested in preparing a resume, the current process is in desperate need of innovation.  Photographed below, Hakim Kasule ’15



9.  Orora Global

Orora Global is a for-profit social enterprise which designs and manufacturers solar products for off-grid rural households in developing countries. Currently they are focused on markets in India.  Orora’s Solar Home Solutions is capable of powering light, air circulation, and cell phone charging for individual households and small businesses.  The company is a member of the Clinton Global Initiative Commitment to Action (2014), they’ve completed 7 pilot rollouts in Rural India (Summer 2014), and have registered business entities in both US and India.  Photographed below, Marissa Goldstein M’15



10.  Allison Linley

Allison Linley is a boutique, high-end, women’s golf apparel company.  The founder is focusing on delivering fashionable and functional golf attire that performs well while looking good.  Allison Linley designs were on display at the Babson Forum this year and they appear ready to compete with high end athletic retail.  Photographed below, Allison Smith M’14