By Don Winter & Rory Winston
“And every vine-stock is clad in new brilliancies. And wild desire falls like black lightning”, wrote Ezrah Pound in his poem Spring. Although Pound didn’t quite have New York in mind when he wrote his paean to Ancient Greek civilization, the local parks are none the wiser as they fill up with traces of his sylvan world where bright green and lavender tones engulf our vision and desire strikes in both expected and unexpected forms. As the Mark Morris Dance Company celebrates Spring, Spring, Spring at BAM and the annual Cannabis Parade hits Washington Square and the TD Five Boro Bike Tour (with 32,000 cyclists from around the world) rides through 40 miles of vehicle-free streets, Spring burgeons with startups. Spring is a time to assess newly budding entrepreneurs and their blossoming businesses, while also keeping an eye out for the sweet chirping sound of fly-by-night companies and the more well organized birds heading our way for the summer.
Appropriately named for the season, Spring, a company born in 2014 and founded by angel investor David Tisch seems to have taken to the air quite nicely. As a sort of Instagram for shopping – one wherein you swipe through lifestyle images – Spring has been getting the attention of consumers and retailers alike. Just a few taps and you’ve not only purchased something on the app but have played an essential role in Spring’s pollination process by helping the new company bloom.
For every Snowden that instills fear into a government agency, there are dozens upon dozens of corporate spies making executives equally worried on a daily basis. If you think paranoia is reaching mythical proportions just check how the Homeland security level of surveillance being made available to IT administrators with Skyhigh, a program making it possible to uncover and secure all the cloud services employees are using. The Orwellian product is not only being bought by more and more companies, but is slated to become a staple for administrators who, like the classic 70’s song went, ‘have blown it all Skyhigh.’
What about if you’re the employee? Well then there’s always CyberDust, an app that sends self-destructing texts and photos so they not only vanish after being read but also destroy all traces of ever having been sent.
Spring can hardly be spring without thoughts of Paris, and – according to cinema insider Julien Dussuyer (a broker for Vincent Cassel/Monica Belucci real estate holdings overseas) – the film veteran Yves Chevalier and Loïc Trocmé are changing the face of the film industry. All too aware that beauty in cinema can today be found even on a micro budget, their company Point Blank is developing, financing, producing high concept genre films – El Mariachi, Paranormal Activity, the Cube – offering accredited investors the opportunity to participate in the Singularity Project that involves the creation of 10 feature length films for an investment of (10 million pounds) 15 million USD. The last acquisitions by Chevalier’s other company, Synergy Cinéma, had been Paul Haggis’s Puzzle (the Third Person) and Knock Knock by Eli Roth. The buzz at this year’s Tribeca film festival was: next stop for their company is NYC.
No matter what the season, Glamsquad seems to be a perfect fit. Showing up at people’s homes and styling them for a nominal fee, the company is a hit whether their customers are based in NY or in their recently launched sectors of Miami and LA.
The oncoming summer is, of course, a natural reminder of how important sunlight is as a sustainable energy source. Companies like the European based SW Group know this. Operating very low profile, the company – working in tandem with Aalto University and VTT – has invented a cost effective way to produce PV solar panels (10 times lighter than their glass counterparts) by simply printing them on an old school-styled printing press. At present the company is also involved in government level consultancy –i.e. their Rebuilding Somalia project where thanks to the new regime working in tandem with the US government to stop the progress of al-shabab, investments are pouring in to revive their infrastructure so that the country with the biggest amount of Uranium in Africa and bigger oil and gas reserves than the Sudan can come into its own. It isn’t surprising to hear many calling SW Group the next big thing in energy.
When it comes to another form of energy, as in the level of enthusiasm employers feel, Headspace is touted to have medicinal energizing properties. Helping to unlock productivity, Headspace offers mobile and web platforms that allow you to meditate on your own time.
Moving south of the head, Hampton Creek is aware that what you put in your stomach can not only effect your performance but can have long term effects on your overall mood and longevity. Josh Tetrick is clearly a name to watch for in the world of food engineering. He seems to have a very definite plan on what it takes to cut down on obesity and make Americans healthier in the long run.
As many Americans invest in real estate abroad and Eastern European capitals sell off their historic properties one by one, there are companies like Sinple – run by Judith Kardos in Budapest – that know what it takes to revamp a many century’s old home so that it contains all the state-of-the-art comforts while still retaining its authenticity. Working in tandem with companies such as Roomba (the primary importer of Baxter, Bonaldo, Domani and Occhio designs for all of Hungary), Sinple finds timeless solutions for both contemporary homes and historic properties.
Finding the balance between nuance and an antique sensibility, the company has created a niche for many highly talented restorers and interior designers; and has attracted investors intent on seeing it grow.
For those unfazed by seasonal wanderlust and more concerned about resting up there is Casper. The company has streamlined mattress shopping on the web so you can find what you’re looking for without loosing any sleep over it.
Coming out of winter hibernation, the Nordic country of Finland has a startup company that has gone all out on the subject of spring being a time of rebirth. Teddi, a company with both an enhanced reality glasses and a robotics division has inventions that will easily convince one that the frozen tundra is the fertile soil for new ideas. Imagine buying your child one amorphous car that can become a fire truck, a police car, a racecar simply by putting Teddiglasses on. With engineers from gaming giants Supercell and Rovio and more applications than you can imagine, the upcoming generation of 3D glasses will be everything from a memory device for Alzheimer’s sufferers to a way of getting a docile internet addicted child to exercise outdoors all while he still feels he is moving inside the confines of his fictitious world. As cyber inventions go, this one is built to foster socializing in the real world. Kids can be playing freeze tag in a regular field while what they experience is a battle dressed up like the Game of Thrones. As Mickey said of Life Cereal, “just don’t tell your kids these glasses are good for them”. As for the robotics division, they will be tested on supermarket checkouts in the upcoming months. How do we know about this company? Simply put, when we heard of what they were up to, some of us at the Resident made it a point to get involved with development. Does that make us biased? Of course it does. Then again, a bit of spring fever never hurt anyone.
A company we aren’t involved in but wish we were is Slack, an app that lets work environments use a group chat room, file sharing all while maintaining private messaging features. It is by all accounts the fastest growing enterprise out there and is the talk of the business world. As for the equally popular high school gossip app Yik Yak, the location based anonymous app definitely does have people talking but it also raises questions about abetting school bullying and has already been banned by several schools.
Although this may not become as memorable a May as the one famed for the Arab spring, it is, nevertheless, an exciting one in terms of startups. As spring fever in business is concerned, consumers are as hungry as ever, ready to pounce on just about anything sexy. Only time will tell if the relationships struck will end in a breezy summer romance or last through the colder months.