Name: Mark Feinberg
Position: CEO and co-founder
Elevator Pitch: Crowdfunding platform for nonprofits and civic organizations
Location: Atlanta Tech Village
Mark Feinberg wanted to make a difference with his career. So after a successful stint in corporate America, the Emory alum and seasoned businessman combined his philanthropic desires with the growing crowdfunding movement to create Uruut (pronounced "you-root"). Unlike competitors Kickstarter or Indiegogo, which are primarily focused on helping individuals, Uruut's platform focuses on community initiatives. The civic crowdfunding tool also caters to corporations and nonprofit foundations to contribute cash to local efforts. It also emphasizes transparency, a knock on other platforms, and helps donors track how their gifts are being used. Feinberg's startup recently launched its first campaign to help Brookhaven's Ashford Park Elementary School raise $100,000 for an outdoor classroom. And given that the startup is well-connected — boasting advisors from Arthur Blank Foundation, Piedmont Health System, and Park Pride on its board — Uruut could find its way behind some major Atlanta fundraising efforts down the road.
Name: Rob Kischuk
Position: CEO and founder
Elevator Pitch: Mark Cuban-funded firm helps social media marketers better reach their audiences
Georgia Tech alum and serial entrepreneur Rob Kischuk received a bit of luck with his latest startup, Badgy. During a trip to the 2011 Super Bowl, he worked his way into a "Shark Tank" premiere party, where he struck up a conversation with Dallas Mavericks owner and investment tycoon Mark Cuban. The two quickly hit it off and Cuban eventually liked the sound of his company. Months later, the investor offered the social media marketing startup a $600,000 angel investment. Kischuk's company, whose clients include Half Off Depot, Ticket Alternative, and Magnolia Pictures, has used the cash to help social media marketers connect better with their target consumers and drive online sales. Not bad for a chance encounter.
Company: Sidewalk District
Name: Janelle Jolley
Position: CEO and founder
Elevator Pitch: Creating an online marketplace for local indie retailers
Location: NEX Atlanta, Hypepotamus
When Janelle Jolley came to Atlanta to attend Georgia State University in 2009, she didn't know where to shop locally. "I don't need to go to the mall for everything," she says. "I don't want to look like everything else." After struggling to find boutique stores in Atlanta, many of which didn't have a Web presence, she decided to create Sidewalk District. With her online marketplace, she strives to provide local independent stores with a way to connect with consumers via phone, laptop, or tablet. The company launched earlier this year with Roost, a Toco Hills gift and home store, but plans to expand with other clients this fall.
Names: Jared Malan and TJ Muehleman
Elevator Pitch: Connects service industry professionals with restaurateurs, like a LinkedIn for waiters
Location: The Goat Farm
After working a number of grueling restaurant jobs, Jared Malan and TJ Muehleman wanted to start a company to help improve the lives of service industry workers. After a failed attempt at a Yelp-like concept for individual waiters, bartenders, and baristas, they shifted We&Co's focus to help connect waitstaff with restaurateurs. We&Co allows service industry workers to create an online profile highlighting their experience to facilitate job searches. It also helps managers hire staff faster in a high-turnover industry. With Iberian Pig owner Fred Castellucci on board as a partner, We&Co has gotten off to a fast start with more than 100 paying customers, including restaurants in Atlanta (Bacchanalia, JCT Kitchen), New York, Washington, D.C., and Las Vegas. Down the road, Malan and Muehleman think they can help make a difference in an industry that's close to their hearts.
Names: Iziah Reid and Jovonni Pharr
Elevator Pitch: Collective of African-American coders and developers
Location: Strongbox West
After years in corporate America, software developer Iziah Reid grew tired of the work he was doing. He wanted to code meaningful projects, particularly ones that catered to underrepresented perspectives in technology. Out of that frustration came Nuracode, a coding collective of African-American developers with an overarching mission to design tech and Web products for a minority audience. "We're a cultural company that uses technology as a medium," Reid says. He and fellow co-founder Jovonni Pharr now lead a team of six that has already created SayRoom, an app that deciphers voice messages and translates their accompanying emotions into text. The team is also putting the finishing touches on Wavy, an app that delivers free mixtapes of a user's favorite hip-hop artists to his smartphone. To help fund their creative endeavors, the developers have successfully partnered with clients such as AARP, Kodak, Samsung, and "Veggie Tales" to pay the bills.
- Joeff Davis
- BRIGHT IDEAS: BitPay CEO and co-founder Tony Gallippi sits atop a giant beanbag inside the financial tech company’s Buckhead office.