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Hollrback, ScoreYard, Uppward enter Madness in TechStars contest

(Screenshot from thisorthat.com.)

The NCAA men’s basketball tournament doesn’t tip off until later today, but another type of tournament got under way Monday — and some Silicon Prairie startups are vying for the title.

Startup accelerator TechStars is sponsoring a Startup Madness Tournament hosted at thisorthat.com.

Startup Madness, which is billed as a way to find “the next big idea,” features 64 startups in a single-elimination tournament. Companies are pitted in head-to-head matchups and advance through the tournament bracket by receiving more votes than their opponents. Public voting will take place over six rounds, beginning Monday and concluding on April 4, the day of the NCAA championship.

Three startups from the Silicon Prairie cracked the 64-company field, which includes startups from across the United States and a handful of international entries. 

Uppward (Des Moines), a mobile travel application that’s used to connect travelers across the globe, and Hollrback (Omaha), a context-sensitive contact-exchange platform, are facing off in the first round. 

ScoreYard (Des Moines), a social team-management platform, is pitted against Planely (Copenhagen, Denmark), a flight-based social application.

Uppward (Des Moines) is facing Hollrback (Omaha) in the first round of TechStars’ Startup Madness. Screenshot from thisorthat.com

The 64 teams were chosen from a pool of applicants that ScoreYard’s Mike Templeton said he heard numbered close to 200. Templeton attributed ScoreYard’s inclusion in the field — which was chosen through a nomination process that factored a company’s Twitter mentions into the decision — to the backing of the local startup community. 

“It was just a great example,” Templeton said, “of the community continuing to support what is going on.”

The tournament champion will celebrate not with One Shining Moment but with $25,000 in prizes, including $12,000 in Rackspace hosting credits, $6,000 in advertising from TechCocktail.com and $5,000 in advertising on Seattle 2.0. The runner-up and semifinalists also will receive prizes. 

As in the basketball version of March Madness, there figure to be a few Cinderella stories in the TechStars tournament. The competition is designed to expose and assist tech startups still trying to find their footing, so to qualify for the tournament, startups had to satisfy several requirements: 

  • They haven’t raised funding of $250,000 or more and haven’t generated revenue of more than $250,000 in a single year
  • They have a live, usable public site or an accessible demo on their home page
  • They have not already been in the TechStars program
  • They must be an Internet, software, or hi-tech company

“It’s an exciting deal,” Templeton said. “What I really like about it is that it’s completely tech- and startup- focused, and they put that specific angle on it of ‘We want companies that are brand new.’ 

“I think it’s a great platform that they’ve put together to try to highlight some of the people that just need a little more exposure.”

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