Two Triangle companies were among the winners in the Startup Showdown, a competition of startup companies at the Internet Summit Internet Summit in the Raleigh Convention Center.


PopUp and InRFood, both based in Durham, were announced Wednesday as the chosen winners along with Cinegif, an Austin, Texas-based company. The Startup Showdown was part of the Startup Summit, a portion of the Internet Summit event geared specifically to early-stage companies. Showdown participants had the opportunity to present their technologies in five minute pitches. The three winners were selected by the audience who made their choices known by “investing” the fake thousand dollar bills that were handed out before the presentations.

PopUp has developed a mobile app that allows users to leave “notes” at physical locations. These notes could be directions, restaurant reviews, or even a reminder from a spouse about which items to pick up at the grocery store. The notes pop up on the mobile phone of the intended person when that person reaches a particular location.

“It’s about what do you need to know here,” CEO Dov Cohn told the audience.

InRFood is focused on nutritional information. With the company’s mobile app, a user can scan the bar code of a grocery store product and obtain nutritional information about that product. With more nutritional information, consumers can make healthier choices, CEO Keval Mehta said.

Mehta made his point by walking up on stage with a box of McDonald’s french fries, just as he did when presenting at CED’s Tech Venture Conference in September. The two-year old fries still looked fresh because of the preservatives in the product, he said. While InRFood makes no medical claims about its informational offering, the company has drawn the attention of health insurers and grocers alike.

Cinegif has developed platform that integrates GIFs into digital content, which the company advertisers and marketers can make part of their digital strategies.

The investment money was fake but the exercise was not just fun and games. The three winners now have the opportunity to pitch at the Southeast Venture Conference, scheduled to be held in Virginia in February.


Of the 22 presenting companies, 13 hailed from the Triangle; two others came from Charlotte.

Here’s a recap of North Carolina presenters:

  • StepLeader

Mobile apps developer StepLeader works with an array of clients to deliver news, information and advertising to smartphones and tablets.

“We are reinventing how content is delivered and displayed,” said Director of Product Marketing Matthew Davis.

Raleigh-based StepLeader’s roots date to 2004 when it was part of Capitol Broadcasting’s New Media division and was then known as NewsOverWireless. Capitol Broadcasting is parent to WRALTechWire, which is also part of Capitol’s New Media division. Davis said the initial problem StepLeader solved was delivering news content to smartphones. In 2008, the company’s next step was delivering content to tablets. StepLeader was spun out as a separate company in 2012. Davis said the next step will be making the content delivered to the user personalized.

  • Cousefork

Think of Coursefork as open sourced education. Online education has grown with “massive open online courses,” or MOOCs. But these courses just show content, says Coursefork CEO Elliott Hauser. Durham-based Coursefork offers a way for users develop courses and make them available to anybody. But it also allows users to “fork” courses and change them, make them better. In doing so, Coursefork engages users to be part of a community in a way that MOOCs do not.

Coursefork launched the alpha version of its offering in late September and now the company has more than 1,000 users. Hauser said that one of the first forked courses was the course on “How to use Coursefork.” A user translated that course into Chinese, making the offering available to 1 billion potential Coursefork users.

Earlier in the day Tuesday, Coursefork was one of six companies backed by The Startup Factory in Durham that made their case to investors in TSF’s “Pitch Day” event at the nearby Fletcher Theater.

(Other firms participating were: Rocketbolt, Brevado,, 4Soils and HomeWellness.)

  • mpression

Companies track what consumers see and do on their devices via cookies. But Joseph Jones, founder of mpression, says that’s a dated way of doing things. His company has developed a way to track users regardless of the device. He calls it the “knew” cookie. What mpression can offer companies is better customer targeting and cross-device marketing. But the company is still in its early stages. Jones said that he’s looking to build out mpression’s management team and add strategic partners to the Raleigh company.

  • Adzerk

Publishing has moved into a new era with online tools. Adzerk is bringing new advertising tools to online publishing. The Durham startup offers a platform that allows online publishers to deliver advertising. The platform allows customers to build advertising offerings tailored to them.
Among its biggest customers is Reddit.

“This is the future of online advertising,” Avery said.

  • FilterEasy

Changing your home air filters improves air quality and helps heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment run more efficiently – the typical home HVAC system represents 51 percent of a home’s energy usage. But it’s hard to remember when to change filters. Raleigh startup aims to remove remembering from your list of worries.

FilterEasy offers a subscription service for home air filters. After signing up online, customers can get air filters delivered to their homes at the exact times they need to be replaced. FilterEasy says that it can offer its American-made filters for less than what it costs to buy filters in your home improvement store. Shipping and handling is free; customers are charged only the cost of the filters.

  • Dibs Rewards

Brad Halferty, CEO of Dibs Rewards, aims to take on Groupon and Living Social and he says he can win. The Durham startup has developed software platform that combines the flexibility of e-mail marketing with the more immediate return of a daily deal. By contrast, he says, companies that place deals on Groupon or Living Social end up waiting between 30 and 60 days to get their money from a deal.

“Merchants get paid within days so they’re never upside down on a deal,” Halferty said.

Halferty said Dibs Rewards already has customers signed up from around the country. The company is now in the midst of raising $250,000.

  • Groundfloor

Raleigh startup Groundfloor aims to take banks out of the equation when it comes to financing real estate developments.

Groundfloor offers an alternative by pooling investments from individuals. Right now, individuals who want to invest in a portfolio of properties can can put their into a real estate investment trust. But REITs don’t give individual investors control over which properties are backed by the investment. Groundfloor invests in properties and developers seeking less than $1 million in investment. Groundfloor takes applications from properties and developers and matches them with Individuals who want to invest. Individuals can commit as little as $100 and decide the type of properties they want to back.

“Finance used to be a community-oriented activity,” co-founder Nick Bhargava said. “We think it can be a community-oriented activity again.”

Groundfloor recently closed on a $125,000 round of fundraising for the company. Its investors include Capitol Broadcasting’s American Underground. Capitol is parent to WRALTechWire.

  • InRFood

Ever walk down the grocery aisle and wonder just how nutritious that package of food is? InRFood has developed a mobile app that can tells the user the nutritional value of a food product by analyzing the ingredients of that product. All a user has to do is scan the bar code of the product’s packaging. Durham-based InRFood has amassed a product database of more than 250,000 products as well as an ingredient database of more than 15,000 ingredients. InRFood’s app is for informational purposes only and is not to be interpreted as medical advice. But the app has caught the attention of some big players. Among InRFood’s partners are health insurers Blue Cross Blue Shield and Aetna as well as grocery store chain Kroger.

  • PopUp

Mobile app developer PopUp has developed a free iPhone app that allows users to leave notes for followers at a physical location. When those followers arrive at that spot, a note pops up on their phones. Some of the popups that users have left for friends include jokes, suggestions, tips, reviews, news, advice and directions. The service is opt-in and the pop ups come from people that the user knows.

PopUp is not available for Android but the company says it expects to report something about PopUp for Android by the end of the year.

  • MLB Digital Academy

Young baseball players can hone their skills using technology offered by MLB Digital Academy. The Digital Academy is powered by the company Big League Analysis (BLA). Founder and CEO Tyson Hanish, a former shortstop in the New York Yankees organization, said that the online tools allow players to upload a video of their swing, which can then be analyzed and compared to swings of Major League Baseball players.

The software, aimed at youth players ages 8 to 15, will give players tips and pointers on their stances and swings. Other offerings from the subscription software include the ability to track youth baseball around the country and personalized content delivered to users about their favorite team.

  • Podanize

Anyone parent who has tried to coordinate a group activity with other parents is well acquainted with the e-mail chain. Podanize has developed software that helps parents organize activities in private online groups, or “pods.” Podanize co-founder Steven Sacks said that the company launched a private beta in June, followed by a soft launch of the service in August. Sacks said that right now, the Charlotte company’s main competition is e-mail and social media offerings such as Facebook, both of which have drawbacks.

Podanize is free though Sacks says in the future it could be a subscription offering for premium features. Sacks said that the company is now seeking marketing advisers.

  • MobileWebie

Software company MobileWebie aims to help small businesses design and develop landing pages for mobile devices. Founder Corey Harris has developed a way for companies to design landing pages without need to know or understand how to do computer coding. He claims it’s so easy that a four-year-old child could do it.

MobileWebie’s beta testers included Big Brother, Big Sister. The company’s technology was named one of the top 50 startups by the Kauffman Foundation. Now the company is aiming to put its offering in place with 1,000 early adopters.

“The heart of our strategy is mobile because that’s where everything is going,” Harris said. “The future is mobile.”

  • Infina Connect

Details of health care costs and outcomes are tough to come by. Infina Connect has developed cloud-based software that puts that information at the fingertips of the health care provider. The first track of information is “Drug Utilization Management,” an offering that has already helped North Carolina Medicaid trim reduce unnecessary prescriptions, in turn trimming costs. The “Care Utilization Management” offering gives health care providers information helps physicians select the lowest cost and best outcome options when making a referral to a specialist.

Cary-based Infina Connect is already being used by more than 4,000 North Carolina physicians. The company was one of 24 selected to participate in the Wall Street Journal’s Startup of the Year Competition.

  • Avelist

Raleigh startup Avelist aims to help people deal with information overload. The company’s website and online app allows enables users to create lists to stay organized. But CEO Jody Porowski said Avelist also sees lists as a way of sharing knowledge. Lists in a particular area could be useful for someone looking at that area.

In addition to allowing users to create private lists, the company’s free mobile app allows users to public lists that can be shared and searched. The idea is to create a place where users can organize, share and find new information in a more efficient way. Avelist, which is targeting young professionals ages 21 to 29, aims to monetize its offering through ads and analytics. Avelist will also target experts, whose lists could draw traffic.

  • ApplicationToGo

The Charlotte startup helps businesses modernize legacy applications faster and cheaper. Chief Strategy Officer Steven Manz said that the company recently completed work for a client he identified only as a “top five bank.” Manz said that ApplicationToGo beat out the estimate of an offshore vendor, doing the work faster, with fewer people and at less cost. It’s secret is a software development platform that the company has dubbed “Genie.”
“Think about what it would mean to you if you could build your business applications in half the time and half the cost,” Manz said.