More than four weeks after Tallwave announced the six finalists of its first High Tide competition, the startups are already planning how that money will be used to grow their businesses in the marketplace.
Tallwave is a Phoenix-based business acceleration company meant to help startups develop their ideas and bring them to market. Businesses typically have to pay for Tallwave’s services, but the High Tide competition was designed as a means to award a cash grant and Tallwave scholarship to a few select deserving companies.
Each of the six finalists were awarded $15,000 in cash and a $35,000 scholarship for Tallwave’s services throughout the second phase of the High Tide competition. There were 20 semi-finalists that made it to phase one, and Tallwave Senior Vice President Donna Kent said the company is still working with the 14 companies that didn’t make the cut to phase two.
“We didn’t want the competition to have winners and losers,” Kent said. “We wanted everyone to gain.”
The finalists continue to be excited about the opportunities provided through Tallwave and what the future holds. Networking is one of the biggest advantages offered by Tallwave, according to multiple finalists. Connecting startups with investors and other important people within their markets is an advantage these companies are not taking for granted.
Four of the finalists are based in Arizona, one in California and one in Colorado. Picking out six finalists was a tough decision, Kent said, adding that Tallwave ultimately chose the businesses it thought it could help the most.
“Some of it clearly had to do with the idea and the concept,” she said. “It had to do with the impact that idea or concept would have.”
The finalists agreed that they were up against some great ideas.
“There were some amazing companies in this competition,” said Ryan Naylor, founder of LocalWork.com. “I knew my work was cut out for me.”
LocalWork is a job posting site based in Phoenix that focuses on local communities. Naylor said he got the idea when he wanted to post a job listing for his first company LocalWorkMarketing but found that large, national sites like Monster.com charged hundreds of dollars per listing. LocalWork charges $50, giving small businesses working on a budget a better chance to find the talent they need, Naylor said.
HiringSolved is another finalist focused on finding the right talent for a job. The Chandler-based company is trying to become the “Google for talent,” according to founder Shon Burton. The site allows people to search for a skill or field of work and pull up results for people who match the search terms.
Burton said he spent 10 years in San Francisco recruiting talent for large tech companies like Google and Apple. He came to Arizona to find cheaper talent for these companies and realized there was a need in the market to more quickly find people with the necessary skills.
Burton said as someone who came from San Francisco, it took him time to appreciate Arizona. Once he became acquainted with the startup community, he said, he was soon humbled by the talent he found.
“What I found here was great technical talent that was on par with anybody I’ve ever recruited,” he said.
HiringSolved is a “cashflow positive company,” according to Burton, so the $15,000 grant will not change the company’s plans. The money will mostly go toward marketing, he said.
Convrrt is also based in Chandler and was the last finalist to be announced. Co-founder Kavin Patel said there was a lot of tension that day.
“When I did my pitch I got to sit in a room and hear other people’s pitches,” he said. “Honestly, the day I left, I didn’t know what to expect. There were a lot of great ideas.”
Convrrt allows people with little technical know-how to quickly build launch pages both for computers and mobile devices. He said these days 50 percent of traffic comes from phones, making sited formatted for mobile devices important.
Patel said he plans on using the grant money for product development and gathering customer feedback.
ExchangeMeds is the finalist based outside Denver in Westminster, Colo., but founder Anand Shukla said he is excited about the Arizona market.
“Tallwave has given us the perfect entry point in the state of Arizona,” Shukla said.
ExchangeMeds allows hospitals to find other locations that might have a surplus or shortage of certain medications so they can make an exchange before the drugs expire-eliminate wasting a valuable resource.
Shukla said he is already looking into working with BannerHealth and other Arizona hospitals.
SaveOnCouriers.com and Creative Allies are the last two finalists and could not be reached for comment.
SaveOnCouriers is based in Phoenix and allows people to cheaply send correspondence and packages across town by finding a courier who is closest to the customer. Kent compared it to Uber, a company that allows people to hire on-demand private drivers. She said it was that kind of instant gratification that was key to the company.
Creative Allies is a Santa Monica, Calif.-based company that connects artists like bands and filmmakers with fans to help crowdsource merchandise. People can submit art designs for their favorite band and possibly see it on merchandise sold on the website.
“It’s a wonderful way to get mass media and people who become fanatics and fans to create branding,” Kent said.
While each company has its own market and goals, they are now all part of the Tallwave community and are helping to fulfill Tallwave’s mission: boosting the Arizona economy.
“Everywhere I go I hear great stories about entrepreneurs and what they’re trying to do,” Patel said about the Arizona technology market. “The Entrepreneurship here is really picking up… It’s almost like the desert Silicon Valley that’s about to start.”
Featured photo:Jeff Pruitt and LocalWork.com President Ryan Naylor.
Photos courtesy of Tallwave