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Four Sleeper Startups Ready for Your Radar

The founders of Cadmirror, from left to right, Paul McPherson, Eric Popoff and Dejay Noy.

The team at Rental Kharma.

The team at Stylus-n-Stuff.

Denver Startup Week was a little juice in the arm for the city’s thriving startup community, but before Denver Startup Week, there was Denver Startup Weekend, an opportunity for startup wannabes to be. While many startup weekend ideas fell by the wayside, these four companies outlasted the startup frenzy. 
Long lauded for its entrepreneurial spirit -- in 2011, Denver was the fifth best city to live for young entrepreneurs and in 2012, it came in at No. nine on a Forbes list of the 15 best cities for female entrepreneurs -- events like Denver Startup Week and Denver Startup Weekend feed the city’s entrepreneurial pipeline. 

While hundreds of ideas are thrown around at these events, many people don’t have the time or interest to pursue their ideas as a full time business. But then there are the others, the eight percent that take an idea to market in what seems like no time flat, companies like H2Lo, Cadmirror, Rental Kharma and Stylus-n-Stuff

“As an organizer, I plant the seeds for the teams and challenge them to find the motivation to move forward and execute with their team and project,” says Jon Rossi, Denver Startup Weekend organizer. “These four companies are moving forward because they have found a problem or a lull in their community/environment and have a solution to provide resources to assist the user. Any idea can become an actual business if the person or team follows through with the execution.”

To succeed beyond Denver Startup Weekend, a founder needs motivation, inspiration and the dedication to succeed. That’s exactly what Denver has in these four newbies. 

H2Lo: Smart Sprinklers
Christopher Klein, co-founder of H2Lo, was walking his dog one day when he realized that even in the colder months, people were leaving their sprinklers on, watering brown lawns and leafs. Soon after, he launched H2Lo. 

“We wanted to make dumb sprinklers smart,” Klein says. “Let’s come up with something environmentally involved that will reduce the amount of water wasted on lawns.”  

Although it’s only been a few months since he started H2Lo, Klein and his team have focused on a device called WeMo, a software solution that allows users to turn power on and off wirelessly, effectively putting water use reduction in the hands of Denver residents. 

Right now, H2Lo is working on securing early access to Belkin's WeMo API, which is currently reserved for key partners. Klein and his team are also working to qualify for an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) WaterSense label, which would secure a Denver water rebate that would reward users for good water use habits.  

“We have been in a state of extreme drought, and it’s not likely to change,” Klein says. 

Startup week events and networking provided Klein with ample resources that allowed him to team up with like-minded individuals.

“We're currently ironing out legal entity formation and are in the early prototyping phase of our product,” Klein says. 

CADMirror: Connecting Public Safety Networks
Dejay Noy, of CADMirror, a public safety startup based out of Superior, Colo. that was launched during Denver startup events, is an IT engineer. One of his clients, a fire department, needed a company that could link the metro area fire and police departments through the web. This gave Noy an idea, which eventually turned into CADMirror, a service that facilitates communication between emergency districts. 

The concept for CADMirror was born a year ago at Denver Startup Week. Since its creation, Noy, Co-Founder Eric Popoff and a team of three developers, have been working to close the information gap between districts. 

“Each district is its own island and they have no idea what’s happening next to them,” Noy explains. “They don’t know if there is a broadcast for all help needed, which could be critical during times like the Aurora shooting.” 

CADMirror links districts, providing clarity for a district or an area to see what is going on with people who need help, as well as where the emergency assistance assets are. The goal is to help save lives, as well as taxpayers’ dollars, by not using unnecessary resources.  

“With this system, it will be about $100 a station to implement,” Noy says. “Money will come from the collection of data in a district and turning it around to produce customized reports for capacity planning, insurance companies, traffic companies like RTD and the media, but we won’t see a profit for about a year.”

Rental Kharma: Credit Where Credit is Due
Cullen Canazares’ idea for Rental Kharma had plenty of traction during the first Denver Startup Week.

“The challenge is whittling down the people you meet to find the right fit,” Canazares says. “You pitch your business and if they like it, they talk to you and you move on from there.” 

Canazares had the idea for Rental Kharma a year and a half ago after Experien, a major credit reporting service, decided to include rental history on credit scores. Before the announcement, credit bureaus didn’t give much weight to history of rent payments. Experien didn’t offer a system for letting people report rent payments, unless it was through a major rental company, and only a small percentage of renters rent through one of these larger companies.

“The reality is they only service around three percent of renters, and I wanted to enable the renter to report their rent payment history easily,” Canazares says. 

Rental Kharma can validate and report rent payments for a one time fee of $10, which includes two years of past payment history reports. Other companies provide a similar service, but require a monthly payment and cannot report to larger credit agencies. 

In the beginning, Canazares wanted to include a level of transparency for renters too. He envisioned a service that would have a database of landlords and their history, so renters could know who they were renting from. Eventually, however, the concept was consolidated and simplified. 

“The original idea of Rental Kharma is to create a place online where all aspects of the renter and landlord relationship take place,” explains Canazares. “However, we have the classic chicken and egg problem with that scenario from day one. That is, it's hard to get two parties unknown to each other in the same place and the same time. This is what has led us down the road of our renter side services first, then as we grow, we will continue to build out our services on all ends as we get more and more users. We do plan to include landlord background information as we grow the business.”

Rental Kharma has three full-time employees and moved into Thrive office spaces at the end of 2012.

Stylus-n-Stuff: So Much More Than a Case
Stylus-n-Stuff was a venture started, well, accidentally. Joni Kripal needed an iPad accessory that could act as a case while holding everything else she might need for a meeting. When she made one and started toting it around, other people wanted one, too.  

In June of 2012, Kripal partnered with friend Jill Dellinger for the launch of Stylus-n-Stuff. 

“Since then, we’ve been riding the rollercoaster of how to bring our product to market," Kripal says.

A week before Denver Startup Week, Kripal and Dellinger launched a Kickstarter campaign. During startup week, Kripal attended all sessions, taking advantage of the networking opportunities while learning to maximize social media as a business building tool. 

While they’re still looking for a product manufacturer (they currently make the product themselves), they have hired other busy moms as contract sewers. 

“We love the opportunity that social media and online retailing opens up for people,” Dellinger says. 

Read more articles by Samantha Alviani.

Samantha Alviani is a freelance writer and contributor to Confluence and Westword.
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