Meet the finalists of this year’s Alaska Angel Conference
One Alaska startup will receive a $100,000 investment at this year’s Alaska Angel Conference. Meet the five finalists that have made it to the end of the 12-week process.
60Hertz — Anchorage, Alaska
60Hertz, a microgrid maintenance software designed to benefit villages, islanded grids, military resiliency grids and non-traditional microgrids, is hoping to secure an investment at this year’s Alaska Angel Conference.
Tonya James, co-founder and vice president of business development at 60Hertz, says that Alaska currently has 200 communities with operating microgrids. 60Hertz’s software supports the maintenance of microgrids in rural Alaska and is suited for diesel, solar, battery, small hydro and wind.
“Seventy of [Alaska’s microgrids] have renewables tied to them,” James said.
60 Hertz officially started in 2017 alongside co-founder and CEO Piper Foster Wilder. That same year, the company launched a 45-day pilot program among 30 operators in 14 communities across the state.
James says the pilot taught them that the market is willing to take on a digital processor instead of the analog process. One of their operators from the pilot program had admitted to never using a computer to do his work. Over the course of 45 days, he had logged 140 entries, removing the need for a pen and paper. In turn, it saves headquarters staff countless hours of entering data.
60Hertz learned how to make the software appeal to the operators’ strengths, many of whom desired to have peer-to-peer connectivity. James says since the pilot, they have added software that allows isolated technicians to interact with one another.
Last week, 60Hertz deployed its software to several communities in the state. They’re planning on deploying the software four communities at a time.
“Currently, we’re in the midst of our first commercial rollout,” James said. “We have four communities on right now.”
James says an investment from the Alaska Angel Conference would go towards personnel costs. Currently, their strategy requires six people at the table, but they only have four.
For more information about 60Hertz, visit their website.
Attently — Fairbanks, Alaska
What started out as a business processing analytics of crowds has turned into a model fit for the future.
Eric Solie is the co-founder and CEO of Attently, a browser extension that allows companies to measure attention and emotional responses of users from the comfort of their own home.
Attently stands out from its competition with its ability to measure reactions “in the wild,” as Solie likes to say. He says it’s normal to receive a bias answer in a laboratory setting, compared to someone at home watching movies on their couch. Attently runs in the background while users search YouTube or watch Hulu. In exchange, participants are paid per hour whenever they are watching the two platforms on their computer.
Solie says it’s important to recognize that the video images never leave the computer; all they do is take data points and emotional responses from the people that are watching, then aggregate it and share it with their clients. With this technology, content creators will be able to create more compelling and interesting video.
Attently launched its beta program yesterday, with hopes of understanding and interacting with users more. Solie said he was shocked at how fast people were signing up.
“We built a list of about 1,000 people that want to install this extension and get paid a little bit when they’re watching online,” Solie said. “We launched to a small chunk of that 1,000 people and we’re just making sure that our systems can handle the greater influx of data, any sort of user experience issues… this is our chance to fix those.”
Solie says that $100,000 from the Alaska Angels Conference would go towards fulfilling pilots with three major brands.
Interested in being a beta user? Visit Attently’s website.
Legalverse — Anchorage, Alaska
When Jeff Levin started a consulting practice in 2015, one of his clients was a law firm. The firm had a tight deadline involving document review in 2017. When Levin tried to get access it a software to help him view the documents, it was so expensive that he ended up building his own to get them through the project. Thus, Legalverse was born, a service that allows lawyers to handle document review.
Eight months later, he got a call asking if he could complete another project for the firm. From his first prototype, he made a number of improvements and added features to streamline the process. Legalverse allows users to upload and import any digital document, which are then converted to a singular format. This allows users to search through a document and find information quickly and accurately, as opposed to individually searching through a handful of documents across different platforms.
“When you’re getting these documents, they come in all sorts of different formats, increasingly, it’s text messages and photos, but in the corporate world it’s emails and excel files and word documents and powerpoints and things like that,” Levin said. “We basically take all of that and we get it into one format and make it really easy for these companies to handle the document review moving forward.”
Levin says that 74 percent of lawyers work for firms that are 10 people or less. Many of the current software suits on the market can start as $100,000, only allowing those who had the best technology to afford them. He hopes that Legalverse serves as a more affordable option for small law practices.
"We picture lawyers as people who eat fancy lunches and have embossed business cards, but the deeper I get into this industry, the more I meet down to earth, forward-thinking people who are ready to embrace new technologies and ways of doing things,” Levin said.
Levin says funding from the Alaska Angels Conference would allow his company to go through their software build cycle without needing to bootstrap and building the product and bringing it to market.
For more information about Legalverse, visit their website.
Molly B’s Bingerz — Soldotna, Alaska
Molly Blakely started Molly B’s Bingerz with only $150. Now, she has businesses like Albertsons and Walgreens wanting to carry her cookies.
Blakely is no stranger to being in business; she’s owned 13 herself and grew up in her family’s Soldotna diner, Sal’s.
Last summer, Blakely decided to open a halibut taco food truck. She had just sold a bar and had bottles of leftover liquor in her garage; when she and her son started selling cookies that summer, she figured she could throw some brandy into the batter for taste (the alcohol cooks out).
“I noticed that day that the cookies sold within 10 minutes,” Blakely said.
Blakely quickly realized that people were stopping by the foodtruck for her cookies, so she got to baking. She ended up shutting the food truck down at the end of the season to devote her time to subscription boxes for Molly B’s Bingerz, previously named Loaded Cookies. For a while, she was mailing out 20 to 30 dozen cookies a week, and then — out of nowhere, it was per day. She found out she had been featured on Buzzfeed’s list of booze-infused subscription boxes.
“I thought it was clickbait,” Blakely laughed.
Blakely says that if she wins the Alaska Angels Conference, she’ll invest in a co-packer, which will help her roll out into some big box stores.
“I did this with $150. I’ve started other businesses with $10,000, and other businesses with $50,000… When people believe in your product and they believe in you and you believe in what you’re doing and you’re willing to do the hard work, it works. You’ll usually know right away if it isn’t going to work.”
Molly B’s Bingerz can be purchased at Brown Jug’s Anchorage locations, Tesoro and Holiday stations across the state and online.
Ramper Innovations — Sitka, Alaska
When Tim Fulton was working at Alaska Airlines, he kept running into the same problem; moving fish boxes. His solution was a folding roller system that moved baggage inside the bellies of larger 737 planes.
Fulton spent 38 years as a ramper and experienced first-hand the physical toll the job takes on your body. He says one of the reasons why he could work for Alaska Airlines for so long was because of his product.
Fulton founded Ramper Innovations in 2014, but had created his first prototype in the early 90s. In 2016, Fulton quit Alaska Airlines to devote his time to his product, TISABAS, which stands for “Tim Saves Backs.”
Today, Fulton says there are 14 TISABAS throughout Alaska Airlines’ route system, which can hold up to 150 pounds per square foot. Unlike other conveyor belts, Fulton’s conveyor folds up like an accordion, making it easily fit into the plane’s belly — but what’s even better is his price point. Fulton says competitors sell individual units for around $250,000. He’s trying to bring his price in at around $40,000.
As a longtime ramper, Fulton didn’t want to make a product that cut jobs — he just wanted to make their jobs easier.
“I wanted to make it affordable so that it could be out there and be used,” Fulton said. “Then, I didn’t want to replace rampers… I just wanted to make it more efficient and make the job safer.”
Fulton has been recognized for his entrepreneurial endeavors, placing first at Juneau’s Innovation Summit in February. He says if he’s awarded an investment from the Alaska Angels Conference, he hopes to roll their units out to other major carriers to be tested and gather data to support their sales cycle as they move forward.
“I wish that I had taken this opportunity earlier,” Fulton said. “It has been such a grand ride working through and figuring all this stuff out. If you have an idea, there are people out there that are willing to mentor you and help you. Just start making it happen.”
For more information about Ramper Innovations, visit their website.