Atlanta-based startup Stackfolio, an online marketplace for bank loan trading, won the Judges Favorite award at the 2017 Google Demo Day event. It out-pitched 12 other startups, including Durham’s PRSONAS, to take home a $150,000 investment from Tech Square Labs

Detroit’s Waymark, which makes short video ads for clients in seconds, was the audience favorite and won $50,000 from Tech Square Labs.

Triangle-based startups won the Google Demo Day event two out of the previous four times it was held.

Adam Klein, of the American Underground, which hosted a watch party at its Main Street location in Durham, was at the event in San Francisco. He told the investors present and those watching the live stream that “We will provide a travel stipend for investors to visit Durham. We promise to feed you well.”

PRSONAS raising $3.2 million

PRSONAS CEO David Rose, accompanied by one of the company’s holographic personas, told the investors the company began because the pharmaceutical company Biogen “Came to us with a problem. They wanted the researcher to who developed a new blockbuster drug to attend events and presentations, but she wasn’t available. They were looking for a technology to solve the problem.

PRSONAS developed Holographic Kate to take her place, make a presentation and answer questions. Other large pharmas have also bought the product, Rose said. The newest versions of the holographic personas can speak multiple languages, including sign language and have more sophisticated personalities. He explained that the company is marketing the holographic personas for events, retail, and concierge roles.

The company has racked up $1 million in sales, $120,000 last month and has deployed 55 units. It has software at its core and can be delivered across any virtual reality or augmented reality platform. The company is raising $3.2 million. “And I’m worth it,” the hologram said.

Investor and judge Steve Case, founder of AOL, got a laugh asking “If they’re so good, why didn’t you have Holographic Kate make the presentation?”

Case presents a challenge

Case later said he will invest $100,000 in any of the presenting startups that raise $1 million in 100 days. He also committed to investing 20 percent of whatever Stackfolio raises in its current round.

Case said the judges had a vigorous debate before settling on Stackfolio. “It’s a compelling idea,” he said. “You have a lot of traction and show execution against the idea.”

Stackfolio offers a data research platform that helps financial institutions make sophisticated trading decisions. It has 450 clients in its network current and expects a 1,000 by the end of the year. It disintermediates what is now a human brokered activity.

The most striking thing we noticed is that while the first three companies presenting used AI and machine learning as key elements of their products, all but a handful of the startups presenting were data driven, heavily reliant on databases and data analytics. Dave Neal, formerly with The Startup Factory and currently managing director of HARP, said in his years with the Startup Factory, data driven firms tended to be successful because they operated from the reality presented by the data, not wishful thinking.