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Excelerate in the News’ Category

FORBES on SpotHero raising $2.5 Million

Chicago’s SpotHero Raises 2.5mm to Bring Sanity to Urban Parking

The influx of West Coast VC money to Chicago continued today with the announcement that SpotHero, a recent graduate of top incubator Excelerate Labs, has raised USD2.5 million from an array of investment firms across the country. The round was led by Battery Ventures (who maintain offices in Silicon Valley, Boston and Israel), along with 500 Startups, David Cohen’s Bullet Time, e.Ventures, OCA Ventures, New World Ventures, Lightbank, & Draper VC.

West Coast money is crucial to the rapid growth of Chicago’s entrepreneurship community.  As explained by Mark Suster at Chicago Booth’s SeedCon, it’s not that VCs don’t want to invest in our city; it’s just not convenient for them to do so right now.  They don’t have offices here, nor do they have many portfolio companies with which to meet.  That makes it harder for entrepreneurs seeking funding to land meetings, and the vicious cycle continues.   SpotHero founders Jeremy Smith and Mark Lawrence took an ambitious whirlwind trip to the Bay Area just days before Excelerate Labs’ Demo Day.  Initially the trip was slated to be a turn-around; one VC meeting, then back on the plane.   But the wind was in Jeremy and Mark’s sails; tapping the powerful Excelerate Labs network, they set up a veritable tour of Sand Hill Road instead.

These were not casual meet-and-greets, all smiles and handshakes.  As Jeremy explained to a rapt audience at the Startup Leadership Program‘s class on negotiating with VCs last night, he had one goal; come home with a term sheet.  Between their expert guidance from Excelerate, the sheer quantity of meetings they took and their raw ambition, they succeeded in glorious fashion.

Planning to use this funding to expand to national markets, SpotHero is currently only operating in Chicago and Milwaukee.  As with most startups receiving an influx of cash, they plan to spend a good chunk of that money on engineering talent.

 Original Article

Filed under: Excelerate in the News — December 13, 2012

Food Genius Helps Food Industry Understand Trends with Big Data Tools

Food Genius entered the crowded market of dish recommendation apps last year, using big data to revolutionize the way people discover restaurants and dishes. At the time, the startup’s focus was on getting (scraping) as much menu-level data as possible, which they parsed by ingredients, preparation methods, spices and other aspects of a dish, and then combined with a user’s personal preferences and reviews shared on other websites. The company was still exploring business models, but knew that collecting and combining data about what, when and where their users were eating could offer invaluable insights to anyone from consumer packaged goods companies (CPG) to mom-and-pop restaurants, CEO Justin Massa told me in an interview last year. And now, they’re releasing their first related product for businesses…

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Filed under: Excelerate in the News — Tags: , — October 5, 2012

Food Genius snares $1.2 million VC investment

By Steve Hendershot

Food Genius, a Chicago startup that analyzes restaurant menu data to predict food-industry trends, will announce this week it has raised $1.2 million in venture capital.

The lead investors are Hyde Park Venture Partners and Hyde Park Angels; others include New World Ventures, the I2A Fund, Amicus Capital and product-development firm IDEO, where Food Genius was a startup in residence. Food Genius was also part of the 2011 class at Chicago accelerator Excelerate Labs.

Food Genius plans to release its signature product in January: Food Genius Reports, a food-trends dashboard that allows users to search for and analyze menu-level industry trends. Food Genius is also announcing two data partnerships, with CHD Expert and GrubHub. Both deals will provide Food Genius with access to data on restaurant menu data; Food Genius’ database includes 260,000 menus, more than half of all U.S. menus.

Justin Massa, Food Genius’ founder and CEO, tells Silicon City about the investment and Food Genius Reports.

Describe your new flagship product, Food Genius Reports. How does it work?

Justin Massa: Food Genius Reports is designed to help you figure out what to make, how to package it, how to market it, where [it is likely to be popular], how much should you charge for it, all that stuff. It takes you from the beginning point of the creative process, where you’re deciding what to make, to the end, where you’re looking for the right price point and the words you should use to describe it…

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Filed under: Excelerate in the News — Tags: , — September 11, 2012

SpotHero gets jump on VC support

The 10 companies participating in Chicago tech accelerator Excelerate Labs got to make their formal pitches to investors last week. But that didn’t stop one of the participating companies, parking-reservations startup SpotHero, from securing an initial round of funding beforehand from Silicon Valley venture-capital firm 500 Startups.

SpotHero met with 500 Startups founder Dave McClure when Mr. McClure visited Excelerate in July and finalized the deal shortly thereafter. SpotHero will receive an undisclosed sum between $50,000 and $100,000 and become a 500 Startups portfolio company—though not a participant in the 500 Startups accelerator, which would force SpotHero to relocate to California. SpotHero will remain in Chicago…

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Filed under: Excelerate in the News — September 1, 2012

Startup businesses pitch to investors at Excelerate Labs’ Demo Day

Graduation day for a tech startup means trading pomp and circumstance for T-shirts and a polished, high-energy slideshow presentation aimed at persuading investors to get out their checkbooks.

Wednesday marked such an occasion for 10 startups that have spent the summer at Chicago-based Excelerate Labs, an annual boot camp program for entrepreneurs. The companies’ owners, from places as far away as France and India, attended seminars and met with more than 100 mentors to prepare to pitch potential investors…

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Filed under: Excelerate in the News — August 30, 2012