NJ Startup Roundup: SureTech, PromoVerse,Villij, giftivo, StearClear, EatDrinkNJ

  Dana_Molina_of_SureTech_pitches

SureTech: SureTech.com, a Princeton, N.J., startup, won a pitch competition at a World of Business Ideas (WOBI) entrepreneurial networking conference sponsored by JPMorgan Chase in New York on Oct. 4, 2012. The conference, judged by well-regarded financial personality Barbara Corcoran of the TV show “Shark Tank,” was entitled “Business on Edge: Igniting Your Vision.”

COO Dana Molina pitched the company’s concept of an “IT department as a service” catering to small and midsize businesses. SureTech plans to offer those businesses five PCs and a networked server in the cloud in five minutes for $5. The company expects to provide a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee, use best practice solutions for clients and never require a long-term contract. Said Molina, “The biggest misconception around what we do is that we sell tech, when in fact what we really sell is productivity, security and workflow flexibility.”

SureTech is one of three companies randomly selected from the 200 that competed to deliver a pitch onstage. The firm won a one-on-one lunch with Corcoran.

PromoVerse: A N.J. startup is giving back to the community. The Areli Group (Asbury), the company that created PromoVerse — a location-based app providing N.J. shoppers local deals while streamlining the redemption process for merchants — is sponsoring a contest to give one of five nonprofits' websites a free makeover. NJTechWeekly.com covered PromoVerse’s launch here. Founder Steven Chiocchi says his company is giving back just in time for Thanksgiving.

The clever social media outreach program is also a way to promote the app. Users can go to the PromoVerse Facebook page, “like” the page and then "like" a nonprofit of their choice. They can download the PromoVerse app and scan the nonprofit's QR code on the image to give the organization three bonus points.

Nonprofits participating in the contest include Youth Empowerment Services (New Brunswick), Mom2Mom (Piscataway), Change One (Jamison, Pa.), Ultimate Allstars (Flemington) and the NJSPCA (New Brunswick).

The contest began on Oct. 29, 2012. Runners-up will receive "a significant discount on a website makeover and social media consulting," Chiocchi said. The winner will be announced before Thanksgiving. Given the weather situation, Chiocchi said the company may extend the voting period.

giftivo: Hoboken resident Brett DiDonato launched his gift recommendation website, giftivo.com, on Nov. 6, 2012 in time for the holiday season. An experienced entrepreneur and computer science graduate of Syracuse University, he started Online Broker Review four years ago and the Twitter statistics site WordCurl last year.  DiDonato calls giftivo.com a “smart giving engine.”

Users can import their Facebook friends and find gifts for those who might not have a Facebook profile. The front page includes a neat slideshow that gives a demo of all the site's features, making it easy to use. There are some noteworthy customization features, too. Users can enter an interest such as “motorcycles and mobile phones,” for example, specify a price range and actually obtain recommendations that make sense.

Villij: A 2012 startup with solid N.J. ties is making big moves in the social networking recommendation world. Saro Cutri, a Wall Street veteran and cofounder of Tout'd, now Villij, a New York startup, has a strong relationship with N.J. Having grown up in Leonia, he now lives in Tenafly.

In July, Tout'd closed a $1.4 million seed round led by Warner Hill Angels. The round included participation by the founders — Cutri, Rob Morelli and CTO Arron Kallenberg — and, we understand, 25 third-party investors. Tout’d emerged from the pivot of another startup, WhichDoc.com, a physician recommendation engine driven by social circles. WhichDoc was recently named one of Entrepreneur magazine’s 100 Brilliant Companies of 2012, and it has been folded into Villij.

Tout'd used funding round cash to acquire Villij, a TechStars 2007 portfolio company  of which Kallenberg was a cofounder and whose name it took. In its original form, Villij matched people with similar interests and recommended individuals to one another based on the content those users had created on the Internet through blogs, social networking and bookmarking sites.

The new Villij lets communities of friends collect and share recommendations without leaking those recommendations outside that community. The company has completely redesigned the website to enhance the user experience and include a social search feature that can source all content from the site, Villij said. Other improvements include enhanced integration with Facebook and Gmail, higher-quality mobile Web optimization, new notification frequency settings and a graphical map representation of locally recommended businesses, the company noted.

StearClear and EatDrink NJ --Wyckoff-based StearClear, a company we've covered before and who received some funding recently, acquired another NJ startup company called EatDrink New Jersey, a local restaurant discount service that began as EatDrink Hoboken. EatDrink NJ's founder David Liebler will join StearClear as a Chief Marketing Officer and be on the board.

The deal was a cash plus equity deal worth about $500,000. EatDrink New Jersey, which began as EatDrinkHoboken in 2009, provides deals at N.J. bars and restaurants plus a 10% daily discount off checks at participating merchants. StearClear provides a designated driver app. Customers pay a pickup fee and per mile charge for two drivers to pick them up from a bar or party and drive their car home. StearClear operates on a franchise basis. The deal gives StearClear access to the bars and restaurant the company needs.

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