Entrepreneurs make their pitches at Demo Day
Casper Daugaard ’13 stood in front of an audience of potential investors, pitching his startup, Spylight. The product—a mobile app that directs television viewers to the products that they see on network television shows—beats the competition by obtaining product data on site through exclusive contracts with Hollywood studios. While Spylight’s imitators are busy researching episodes and fan websites for clues, Daugaard’s only task is to input the products into the database and collect a percentage of each Spylight-facilitated purchase.
It’s a time-honored business strategy: cutting out the middleman. But in today’s hyperlinked society, identifying the middleman can be difficult and complex. And while the mere seconds of difference between a Spylight search and a Google search might seem minuscule, every advantage matters.
“[Our competitors] validate that there is an interest in getting stuff from the screen into your own home," Daugaard explained. "Spylight is better than any service currently offered because our data is accurate, comprehensive, and can be shown when the moment the show airs instead of hours or weeks later.”
Daugaard was making his case at the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute’s 2013 Demo Day last week. His was the last in a series of presentations by the institute’s summer fellows, responding to managing director James Boyle’s challenge: “Can you convince the world that the idea you have is worth thinking about, that you’re the person worth investing in, and that people should join you in your adventure?” (You can watch all the Demo Day presentations on YouTube.)
In the modern corporate landscape, crowdsourcing and other technologies allow ideas to become profitable businesses at the click of a mouse. As a result, distinguishing one’s startup from dozens of competitors—even those yet to be founded—becomes the hallmark of success. Daugaard was especially keen to explain how his project would eclipse the industry in the coming years.
“Spylight will generate a mine of unique and potentially very valuable data that will help both brands and studios identify trends, popular products, and can help them broker new product placement arrangements,” he said.
The Danish Yale graduate went on to win prize money in a three-way tie between Spylight; Dextro, an image-recognition service; and Lab Candy, which offers "fun and fashionable" lab gear for girls. The winners were chosen based on anonymous ballots collected from the audience of local investors, mentors, and fellow entrepreneurs.
YEI Summer Fellows participate in a ten-week intensive crash course in which they develop their ideas by listening to speakers, pitching to several mentor groups, visiting Google’s New York office and even embracing their fears on a zip line course.