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TechLaunch startups strut their stuff for potential investors at demo day

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For the nine technology startups who spent the last 16 weeks in intensive business development training at the Clifton-based TechLaunch, it all came down to today on the Montclair State University campus — demo day, the chance to make their pitch before a room of investors flush with cash and eager to find the next big thing.

Each startup was given 10 minutes to make its spiel to the angel investors and venture capitalists in attendance. Each had practiced diligently to be able to answer the big question: How will these nascent companies take hundreds of thousands of dollars in investment and turn it into profit?

"It's a coming-out party," said Mario Casabona, founder of the technology accelerator TechLaunch. "What I tell investors is, 'Bring your checkbook.'"

The companies cover a wide range of industries, from beauty and wellness to comics and sales.

Inbox, for example, is looking to revamp the texting experience. Caktus is trying to help people drink enough water. Prospect Predict wants to help salespeople find the right targets. And Beautystat.com is an online marketplace looking to help women find the best deals on beauty products.

"Our mission is to change the way women shop for beauty," said Ron Robinson, Beautystat's founder, as he asked investors for $500,000 to help the company grab a piece of the $31 billion U.S. beauty industry. "We are growing. We have momentum."

The companies each have received $25,000 in seed funding from TechLaunch and have spent the last 16 weeks getting training, developing their business plans, practicing their pitches and working with mentors — who also are investors.

Carol Curley is one such mentor. She is the managing partner of Golden Seeds, a New York-based firm that invests in businesses with at least one woman in a C-suite position. She helped the companies refine their pitches and tailor them to fit what investors want to hear.

"They've done a really great job," Curley said. "It's hard in 10 minutes, because 10 minutes is either not enough time or too much time."

"Your goal at demo day," she added, "is to get that next meeting."

One of those investors trolling for intriguing startups worthy of that next meeting is Ketan Patel, a principal with the Murray Hill-based New Venture Partners, an early stage investor in technology companies.

Patel said several of the startups seem to have the potential to cause disruption in their individual industries — which can be a very good thing.

But Patel said he definitely did not bring his checkbook, despite Casabona's tongue-in-cheek request. He was there to keep up with what's going on in the startup space.

"Writing the check is the easy part in this business," Patel said. "It's finding the right project, the right team. That's the hard part."

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