The Download: Startups show off at Tech Cocktail

The collection of upstarts that turn out for the District’s semi-regular Tech Cocktail mixers are always a grab bag. Last Thursday night was no exception.

From a social media site that tracks illness to photographs that adhere directly to walls, entrepreneurs pitched ideas at an event that felt part tech expo, part science fair on the 14th floor of the Key Bridge Marriott in Arlington.

(Jeffrey MacMillan/For Capital Business) - Lauren Thorp, chief executive of gift subscription service Umba Box.

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David Simnick was a Teach for America educator in one of Philadelphia’s roughest neighborhoods when he conceived the idea for TalkChalk, a Facebook application that connects teachers, parents and students.

“Schools are missing out on an amazing opportunity to reach students where they want to be,” Simnick said. He and co-founder Daniel Dollsaid teachers can remind students about assignments, set up discussion boards and communicate with parents.

Sickweather also built its company on the backs of popular social networks, combing Twitter and other sites for references to sickness. Chief executive and co-founder Graham Dodge said the Web site, which is still in test mode, then plots those references on a map to show outbreaks.

“If you’re coming down with something, you can go on Sickweather and see if it’s something that’s going around with everybody,” he said. How will it make money? Ideally advertisements from drug manufacturers.

Thursday’s event was a return engagement for Klaggle , an online review company that first presented at a Tech Cocktail reception last year.

The firm now provides a software that skims a review before it posts and offers the writer a score with suggestions on how to improve the review’s balance, detail and clarity. Top scorers can share the write-up on social networks and earn reward points.

Lauren Thorp’s creation stood out as one of the evening’s lower-tech enterprises, but could prove no less genius for any husband or boyfriend who has a habit of forgetting special occasions.

Umba Box mails subscribers hand-crafted gifts from artists every month. Products like an eye glasses pouch, beeswax birthday candles and ginger lip balm arrive in a decorative box for $26 a month. The get-out-of-the-doghouse card comes free.

Any attendees using Sponto at Thursday’s reception would have no trouble spotting the crowd. The mobile app helps users find large gatherings by highlighting areas where many users have congregated.

In all, 18 startups peddled their ventures. Here’s a rundown:

How many unused cell phones are you hoarding? Yippity touts a mobile app that assesses a phone’s resale value. The company then buys the phone and resells it whole or for parts.

InStream Solutions created an online platform for financial advisers who want to monitor a client’s money. Alerts remind managers of predetermined financial milestones and notify them when a financial plan slips.

Another local wealth management player, HelloWallet, put its product on display. The expanding company sells software as a benefit to 401k providers and employers to help people of average wealth save money.

Facebook collects reams of data on its users personal preferences. Converge.me aims to harness that information to connect individuals who may have common interests but are outside of one another’s social circles.

Journalists, aid workers, law enforcement officials and others who want to track major events as they unfold on social media can use MetaLayer to troll for mentions of the event and gauge whether the remarks are positive or negative.

Saylo combines two burgeoning tech trends, geolocation and group messaging, to give smartphone and Web users an application where anyone within 150 yards is one text message away.

Friendly Look aims to peel away some of the anonymity that comes with online dating by allowing registrants to find other singles with whom they have mutual friends or contacts.

For the photo enthusiast, ClingPhoto.com prints high-resolution digital images on a peel-and-paste paper that doesn’t actually bind to the wall. It clings — as the company’s name suggests — on everything from glass to brick but lifts away without a trace.

College kids who need academic help could turn to Tutor Assignment once the startup officially debuts in January. Unlike other services, student and professional tutors bid for jobs.

Also geared toward the college set is NeverBoredU, an event listing service created by University of Maryland students that’s currently available at three colleges. Its mission: Get students out of the dorm.

Fitness facilities such as yoga studios or tennis courts can create custom packages that Play Occasion then advertises to people on the hunt for new activities. The company just expanded to the District.

Have you ever gone to a movie and found the theater empty? Philadelphia-based Chimp Flix sees each chair as missed revenue. The Web site allows cinema operators to offer discounts and other deals at times of low demand.

Lastly, New York-based Local Bigwig lists extended stay and corporate housing options for traveling professionals, then offers booking and rent payment services to provide a one-stop site for guests and hosts alike.

 
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