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Cover Story: 10 Atlanta startups to watch

Meet the men and women behind some of the city's most interesting new business concepts

Company: Uruut


Founded: 2012

Name: Mark Feinberg

Position: CEO and co-founder

Website: www.uruut.com

Elevator Pitch: Crowdfunding platform for nonprofits and civic organizations

Location: Atlanta Tech Village

Mark Feinberg wanted to make a difference with his career. So after a successful stint in corporate America, the Emory alum and seasoned businessman combined his philanthropic desires with the growing crowdfunding movement to create Uruut (pronounced "you-root"). Unlike competitors Kickstarter or Indiegogo, which are primarily focused on helping individuals, Uruut's platform focuses on community initiatives. The civic crowdfunding tool also caters to corporations and nonprofit foundations to contribute cash to local efforts. It also emphasizes transparency, a knock on other platforms, and helps donors track how their gifts are being used. Feinberg's startup recently launched its first campaign to help Brookhaven's Ashford Park Elementary School raise $100,000 for an outdoor classroom. And given that the startup is well-connected — boasting advisors from Arthur Blank Foundation, Piedmont Health System, and Park Pride on its board — Uruut could find its way behind some major Atlanta fundraising efforts down the road.

Company: Badgy

Founded: 2011

Name: Rob Kischuk

Position: CEO and founder

Website: www.bad.gy

Elevator Pitch: Mark Cuban-funded firm helps social media marketers better reach their audiences

Location: Hypepotamus

Georgia Tech alum and serial entrepreneur Rob Kischuk received a bit of luck with his latest startup, Badgy. During a trip to the 2011 Super Bowl, he worked his way into a "Shark Tank" premiere party, where he struck up a conversation with Dallas Mavericks owner and investment tycoon Mark Cuban. The two quickly hit it off and Cuban eventually liked the sound of his company. Months later, the investor offered the social media marketing startup a $600,000 angel investment. Kischuk's company, whose clients include Half Off Depot, Ticket Alternative, and Magnolia Pictures, has used the cash to help social media marketers connect better with their target consumers and drive online sales. Not bad for a chance encounter.

Company: Sidewalk District

Founded: 2012

Name: Janelle Jolley

Position: CEO and founder

Website: kickoff.sidewalkdistrict.com

Elevator Pitch: Creating an online marketplace for local indie retailers

Location: NEX Atlanta, Hypepotamus

When Janelle Jolley came to Atlanta to attend Georgia State University in 2009, she didn't know where to shop locally. "I don't need to go to the mall for everything," she says. "I don't want to look like everything else." After struggling to find boutique stores in Atlanta, many of which didn't have a Web presence, she decided to create Sidewalk District. With her online marketplace, she strives to provide local independent stores with a way to connect with consumers via phone, laptop, or tablet. The company launched earlier this year with Roost, a Toco Hills gift and home store, but plans to expand with other clients this fall.

Company: We&Co

Founded: 2010

Names: Jared Malan and TJ Muehleman

Positions: Co-founders

Website: www.weand.co

Elevator Pitch: Connects service industry professionals with restaurateurs, like a LinkedIn for waiters

Location: The Goat Farm

After working a number of grueling restaurant jobs, Jared Malan and TJ Muehleman wanted to start a company to help improve the lives of service industry workers. After a failed attempt at a Yelp-like concept for individual waiters, bartenders, and baristas, they shifted We&Co's focus to help connect waitstaff with restaurateurs. We&Co allows service industry workers to create an online profile highlighting their experience to facilitate job searches. It also helps managers hire staff faster in a high-turnover industry. With Iberian Pig owner Fred Castellucci on board as a partner, We&Co has gotten off to a fast start with more than 100 paying customers, including restaurants in Atlanta (Bacchanalia, JCT Kitchen), New York, Washington, D.C., and Las Vegas. Down the road, Malan and Muehleman think they can help make a difference in an industry that's close to their hearts.

Company: Nuracode

Founded: 2012

Names: Iziah Reid and Jovonni Pharr

Positions: Co-founders

Website: www.nuracode.com

Elevator Pitch: Collective of African-American coders and developers

Location: Strongbox West

After years in corporate America, software developer Iziah Reid grew tired of the work he was doing. He wanted to code meaningful projects, particularly ones that catered to underrepresented perspectives in technology. Out of that frustration came Nuracode, a coding collective of African-American developers with an overarching mission to design tech and Web products for a minority audience. "We're a cultural company that uses technology as a medium," Reid says. He and fellow co-founder Jovonni Pharr now lead a team of six that has already created SayRoom, an app that deciphers voice messages and translates their accompanying emotions into text. The team is also putting the finishing touches on Wavy, an app that delivers free mixtapes of a user's favorite hip-hop artists to his smartphone. To help fund their creative endeavors, the developers have successfully partnered with clients such as AARP, Kodak, Samsung, and "Veggie Tales" to pay the bills.

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Company: Bitpay

Founded: 2011

Name: Tony Gallippi

Position: CEO and co-founder

Website: www.bitpay.com

Elevator Pitch: Online Bitcoin payment service, a kind of Paypal for Bitcoin

Location: Atlanta Tech Village

Tony Gallippi wants to change the way people pay for goods and services. His approach has nothing to do with cash or credit cards, but through harnessing the potential of Bitcoin, an online currency that allows users to send encrypted payments anonymously without leaving a trace. After hearing about Bitcoin in 2011, he and co-founder Stephen Pair started day trading the volatile commodity. They noticed it was used mostly by hardcore tech geeks and saw an opportunity to create a user-friendly service that was available to mass consumers. The financial tech startup could strike gold if more people begin sending peer-to-peer payments from their smartphones and computers. But that's hardly guaranteed given that the federal government doesn't regulate Bitcoin. And some skeptics think it's unsafe and falls into a gray legal area. Depending on how things play out, it'll be boom or bust for Bitpay. They're hoping for the former.

Company: Tunefruit

Founded: 2011

Name: Mango Tunefruit

Position: Co-founder

Website: www.tunefruit.com

Elevator Pitch: Music licensing platform that helps artists place music syncs in corporate videos

Location: Strongbox West

After playing in bands as a guitarist and writing commercial jingles, Mango Tunefruit, who uses an alias to separate his musical past from his licensing business, entered the world of music licensing. Tunefruit and Big Banana, the company's other co-founder, decided they wanted to help musicians sell and license their music to new markets. So they created Tunefruit, a website that connects artists to paying clients. "We're like a stock photo database for music," he says. In its first couple of years, the startup has helped classical, pop, and electronic artists license compositions for Web promotions, corporate ads, and how-to videos. To ensure TuneFruit's continued success, the co-founding musicians curate the service's entire database so that clients such as Mars, Home Depot, and Filippo all walk away with the right kinds of music.

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Company: Hugecity

Founded: 2011

Name: Hugh Malkin

Position: CEO and co-founder

Website: www.hugecity.us

Elevator Pitch: An app that places Facebook events on a map and shows where your friends are going

Location: The Goat Farm

Hugh Malkin once relied upon Creative Loafing's event listings and Scoutmob's app to find out what was going on in Atlanta. But those resources didn't show him where all his friends were going each night. So he started Hugecity, a global website and app that visually shows Facebook events laid out on a map. In doing so, it allows users to see who's going to different events across a city. "We see interactions that people have with their cities all over the world," he says. "We couldn't normally find pop-up shops or zombie crawls just through our friends. This way we can step out, explore, and see that much more." Combined with a daily email blast, Hugecity wants to change the way people plan their days, nights, and weekends.

Company: Madame You

Founded: 2013

Name: Jess Watson

Position: Chief Technical Officer and co-founder

Website: www.madameyou.com

Elevator Pitch: A place where black women can talk hair care

Location: ATDC, Hypepotamus

Throughout their lives, African-American entrepreneurs Jess Watson, Chanel Martin, and Candace Mitchell wanted an open forum to discuss their hair. Earlier this year, they created Madame You, a portal for black woman to discuss their hair experiences, styles, and products. Watson intends for discussions on their proposed site to include women ranging from expert stylists to novices with tons of questions. After successfully crowdfunding $25,000 earlier this year, the startup will soon soft launch its iPhone app. The co-founders will be exclusively partnering with Design Essentials, a black-owned Decatur hair product company. Moving forward, Watson says she would like Madame You to become a "premier resource of black hair" for women across the globe.

Company: Medicast

Founded: 2013

Name: Sam Zebarjadi

Position: CEO and co-founder

Website: www.medicast.co

Elevator Pitch: Connecting patients with on-call doctors

Location: Alpharetta

Sam Zebarjadi's Medicast app, which he says is like "Uber for on-call health care," helps people find doctors in the area to come to their homes, similar to how Peapod might deliver groceries. Instead of the potential chaos that comes with scheduling and attending a doctor's appointment, the service aims to provide a better experience in patients' households. While Medicast is only available to self-paying customers now, that'll soon change. Medicast has already launched in Miami and is looking to expand to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York. Wherever it goes, Zebarjadi thinks the app can help offer high-end patient care at an affordable cost.


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