Hello! I’m Jake Bullock a General Studies student majoring in Computer Science. Fingers crossed, I’ll receive my degree at the end of this academic year. I’m also Columbia Entrepreneurship’s new Venture Associate. I’ll be helping out the team at the Columbia Startup Lab. I’m new, but I’ve been here long enough to get to know some of the teams here a the Lab.
Here’s a bit about three of my new friends.
Sqwad – Fan Engagement on a Whole New Level
Fantasy sports has been growing in popularity over the past few years, but a new addition to the market, Sqwad, is about to make the online pastime more exciting than ever. Boasting partnerships with the WNBA and West Coast hockey teams, the real-time fantasy sports app is adding a completely unprecedented layer of immediacy and fan engagement for spectator sports.
After graduating from Columbia with a degree in psychology, Sqwad CTO and co-founder Manuel Pineyro, ‘12CC, joined Nike as an application engineer; he attributes the bulk of his development skills to the time he spent there.
Manuel and his co-founders Nick Lawson and Lee Jorgensen started building an in-stadium fan engagement platform for the Portland Winterhawks, a very popular junior league ice hockey team in the area. Fans were able to select a player through the platform in real-time as that player made points or assists, and any fan with that player selected would receive points based on the player’s performance. Those points could later be redeemed for rewards like merchandise or access to events, effectively gamifying the fans’ experience of spectator sports.
Sqwad is currently raising a pre-seed funding round.
If you want to get involved today, please visit http://sqwadapp.co/
But what took the platform to the next level was Sqwad’s move to basketball, propelled by a contract with the Seattle Storm. Where their prior platform was limited to in-stadium engagement, the new platform was accessible from any viewing location, meaning that fans could interact with games they watched on TV.
While there are plenty of fantasy sports platforms, Sqwad is the only one that’s based on fan engagement — that is to say, it doesn’t revolve around gambling or player statistics, but merely seeks to reward fans for paying close attention to the game. This emphasis has drawn them a largely young audience, who use the app to directly involve themselves in a world of sports fandom that might not have otherwise interested them.
Stay tuned, Sqwad is working to monetize its service and establish a robust user tracking system so advertisers can target specific rewards to specific users.
Bokksu – Japanese Culture Delivered to Your Doorstep
Founded by Danny Taing ‘14SEAS in late 2015, Bokksu sends its subscribers a collection of authentic Japanese snacks; each one curated thoughtfully around a monthly theme. January’s snack box, for example, was built around the Japanese symbol “Maru” which means “circle.” Each snack in January’s box is meant to recall both the shape of the symbolism of Maru. While not every customer will recognize the significance of each box’s theme, Taing promises that they will appreciate its taste and that every box will be filled with snacks that people in Japan eat.
Taing was inspired to start the company while living in Tokyo, where he dove into the local culture and “ate everything in sight.” When he moved to New York to study computer science at Columbia, Taing realized it was difficult to find many of the unique dishes and spices that made Tokyo dining culture so unique. He set to work thinking of a way to combine his passion for Japanese culture with his computer science and web development skills, and soon enough, Bokksu was born.
In the meantime, if you’re looking to get your snack on, Bokksu is happy to accommodate.
Subscribe for a monthly delicious curation on Bokksu’s website.
Taing credits the Columbia Startup Lab not only for its “amazing office space,” which provided him with a level of credibility he wouldn’t have had working out of his bedroom but also for the opportunity it granted him to meet and collaborate with other founders.
Shortly, Taing plans to grow his team and more thoroughly establish Bokksu’s brand presence in New York. In accordance with his goal of making Japanese snack food more mainstream, Taing is collaborating with Japanese celebrity chefs, as well as the NYC cultural nonprofit Japan Society. As Bokksu continues to grow, Taing hopes to create more original web content on the topics of Japanese food and travel culture.
Vidrovr – Video Analytics Venture Finds Funding
Co-founded by Ph.D. candidates Joseph Ellis ’17CU and Daniel Morozoff ’16CU, Columbia startup Vidrovr announced in December that it secured a National Science Foundation Small Business Research grant for $225,000 to conduct research & development work on autonomous multimedia video und
erstanding systems. The Vidrovr team was
Vidrovr developed an award-winning, patented news, and social media video processing system called News Rover, which indexes, tags, and understands video content in real-time. News Rover analyzes multiple elements of video (such as pixels, audio, and text) and applies machine learning algorithms to identify people and objects on-screen, add tags, and link on-screen text to other text- and image-based information online.
To learn more about the NSF SBIR/STTR program, visit www.nsf.gov/SBIR
To learn more about Vidrovr, visit their website
News Rover technology is being leveraged in collaboration with enterprise customers and news media experts to design pilot programs that address clear market needs: Automatic metadata generation for videos, video content management solutions that enable automatic placement, and recommendation of video clips for digital products. It can also automatically link and source visual social media content that is relevant to a particular video or online article before it is published.