The Morgan Stanley Multicultural Innovation Lab, Morgan Stanley’s in-house accelerator focused on companies founded by multicultural and female entrepreneurs, hosted its second Annual Showcase and Demo Day. The event also featured companies from accelerators HearstLab, Newark Venture Partner Labs and PS27 Ventures. (Note: I was formerly employed by Morgan Stanley and have no financial ties.)
The showcase represented the culmination of the program’s second year, which followed an initial five-company class that has already seen two acquisitions. Through the six-month program, Morgan Stanley provides early-stage companies with a wide range of benefits, including an equity investment from Morgan Stanley, office space at Morgan Stanley headquarters, access to Morgan Stanley’s extensive network and others. Applications are now open for its third cohort of companies, with the application window closing on January 4th, 2019.
The 16 presenting startups, all led by a female or multicultural founder, offered solutions to structural inefficiencies across a wide array of categories, including fintech, developer tools and health. Though all of the companies offered impressive presentations and strong value propositions, here are three of the companies that stood out to us.
In hopes of democratizing software and app development, Hatch Apps provides a platform that allows users and companies to build iOS, Android and web applications without any code through pre-built templates and custom plug-and-play functions. In essence, Hatch Apps provides a solution for application building similar to what Squarespace or Wix provide for websites.
In the modern economy, every company is in one way or another a tech or tech-enabled company. Now the demand for strong engineers has made the fight for talent increasingly competitive and has made engineering quite costly, even when only needed for simple tasks.
For an implementation and subscription fee, Hatch Apps allows companies with less sophisticated engineering DNA to reduce entering costs by launching native apps on their own, across platforms and often on faster timelines than those seen through third-party developers. Once an app is launched, Hatch Apps provides customers with detailed analytics and allows them to send targeted push notifications, export data and make in-app changes that can automatically go live in app stores.
The company initially took a bootstrapping approach to financing and raised funds by selling a 2016 election-themed “Cards Against Humanity”-style game created on the platform. Since then, Hatch Apps has already received funding from the Y Combinator Fellowship, Morgan Stanley and a number of other investors.
While estate planning is a topic many don’t like to think about, it’s a critical issue for managing cross-generational wealth. But will drafting can often be very complex, time-consuming and costly, requiring hours of legal consultation and coordination between various parties.
Founded by two former classmates at Stanford Business School, FreeWill looks to simplify the estate-planning process by providing a free online platform that automates will drafting, in a similar function to what TurboTax does for taxes. Using FreeWill, users can quickly set allocations for their estate and select personal recipients, charitable donations, executor specifications and other ancillary requests. The platform then creates a finalized legal document that is legally valid in all 50 states, to which users can also quickly make changes and replace without incurring expensive legal costs.
FreeWill is able to provide the platform to consumers for free due to the proceeds it receives from its nonprofit customers, who pay to be featured on the platform as a partner organization. FreeWill offers a compelling value proposition for partnering companies. By acting as a channel to funnel user donations to listed organizations, FreeWill has been able to drive a 600 percent increase in charitable giving to partner organizations on average. FreeWill also provides partner organizations with backing analytics that allow nonprofits to track bequests and donors through monthly reports.
FreeWill currently boasts an impressive roster of 75 paying nonprofit partners that include American Red Cross, Amnesty International and many others. In the long-run it hopes to be the go-to solution for financial and legal end-of-life planning for investment advisors, life insurance and employee benefits providers.
Shoobs is looking to be the go-to platform for local “urban” events, which the company defined as events centered on local nightlife, comedy and concerts in the hip-hop, R&B and reggae genres to name a few. But unlike the genre-agnostic, transaction-focused event management platforms that can make the space seem pretty crowded, Shoobs focused on providing genre-specific even discovery. Shoobs matches urban event goers with artists of their choice and related smaller-scale events that can be harder to discover, acting as a form of curation, quality control and discovery.
For event organizers, Shoobs helps provide digital ticketing and promotion services, with event recommendation capabilities that target the most promising potential customers. Through its offering to event organizers, Shoobs is able to monetize its services through ticket sale commission, advertising and brand partnerships.
Since its initial launch in London, Shoobs notes it has become one of the top urban events platforms in the city, with an extensive base of recurring registered users and event organizers. After previously working with AEG for its London launch, Shoobs is looking to expand stateside with the help of organizers like Live Nation. Shoobs joins a long list of promising Y Combinator alumni companies with YC also acting as one of Shoobs’ initial investors.
Other presenting companies included:
Morgan Stanley Multicultural Innovation Lab
- BeautyLynk “is an on-demand hair and makeup service provider, specializing in customizable services for women.”
- Broadway Roulette “is an events marketplace that pairs consumers with surprise cultural events, beginning with Broadway theater.”
- CariClub “is an enterprise software platform to connect young professionals with nonprofit opportunities.”
- COI Energy Services “is an integrated platform for electric utilities and business users to optimize and manage energy usage.”
- CoSign “is an API and application that allows anyone to create, distribute and monetize visual content.”
- Goalsetter “is a goals-based gifting, savings and investing platform designed for children.”
- myLAB Box “offers customizable at-home health-test kits and relevant telemedicine consultations / prescription services.”
- Priori “is a global legal marketplace changing the way in-house teams find, hire and manage outside counsel.”
- TRENCH “is an online fashion marketplace that makes use of the unworn items in every woman’s closet.”
Newark Venture Partners Labs
- Floss Bar “is a new type of preventive brand for oral health care. The company offers high-quality, routine dental care across flexible locations at thoughtful prices.”
- Upsider “is a software solution allowing recruiters to leverage AI technology to identify a comprehensive set of candidates who align with their business and role requirements, resulting in a more strategic understanding of the best possible talent for the job.”
- BlueWave Technologies “is a cleantech company and the creators of the BlueWave Cleaning System — a water-free, detergent-free and chemical-free plasma device that cleans items that are extremely hard or impossible to clean with a washer and dryer.”
- OnPay Solutions “focuses exclusively on business-to-business payments. They create payment software and offer payment web services to enhance efficiency and productivity for Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable.”