5 Hot Startups Connecting the Local Economy

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Our local economies are changing. But it’s not just big box stores and ecommerce sites that are impacting our malls and main streets: the web has started to reinvent the very systems that help us find, buy and get on our hands on goods and service for sale in the real world.

The success of Uber and Airbnb have sparked a renewed interest (and renewed investment) in startups working across the local technology industry. Investors are pouring billions of dollars into a new batch of startups that are working to help us better coordinate with everyone from tech geeks to our children’s play dates while helping business more efficiently find the assets needed to run their business.

At Street Fight Summit West in San Francisco on June 2nd, we will take a look at how technology companies, both big and small, are reinventing the local economy. These four startups, each of whom are enrolled in this year’s 500 Startups class, will be speaking at the event about how they want to make dog sitting, childcare and commercial real estate work more effectively in local economies.

The biggest investment most retailers make is in overhead. And too often, that means committing to a long-term lease even when it might be better to set up a shorter, more temporary stay and then move on to the next space.

San Francisco-based Storefront wants to solve that problem. The company, which operates in seven cities across the U.S., lists a range of spaces to rent — from traditional retail spaces to more unconventional opportunities such as kiosks at malls or shared spaces within an existing store. Storefront also provides consulting services for renters, providing access and advice to find point-of-sale systems, store designers, and other necessities to getting a store up and running.

Parents are a force in local economies. But often, they are stuck taking care of tasks for their children in the absence of trusted helpers to assist in those unplanned moments. Enter KangaDo, a mobile chat app that allows parents to coordinate with other nearby parents in order to pool rides, connect with babysitters, and the like.

Think of the service as half Uber, half Nextdoor. Parents can organize into groups based on schools and then coordinate playdates and carpools to school and sports practices. The company has partnered with a handful of San Francisco-area schools to help promote the app to parents.

Consumer and small business tech support is a $30 billion-plus industry in the U.S., and it’s dominated by a quickly aging infrastructure. Businesses often rely on costly consultants to set up systems (although that’s changing) and consumers, more often than not, need to find consultants through outdated retail establishments.

Drawing in part from the on-demand model, Geekatoo wants to bring tech local support to the homes of consumers. The company offers fixed prices for basic services such as computer repair, home theater, and television mounting. But the big market could eventually be small businesses who are increasingly dependent on web-based systems to run their back office.

There’s been a surge of investments in consumer-facing marketplaces as of late, but lots of innovation still occurs behind the counter. Rover, a Canadian startup, has developed in-store messaging software that uses beacons to send offers and other content to shoppers as they browse through a brick-and-mortar location. Unlike other startups which sell software and hardware together, the company’s software can operate with a handful of beacon makers such as Estimote and Gimbal.

The way in which small businesses buy technology is broken. Small businesses often receive hundreds of calls from vendors a week, leading to frustration among merchants and low conversion rates for sellers. Sidewalk, a New York-based startup, wants to help vendors find the right small businesses. By using social media data, the company can rate the savviness of a small business owner, point vendors to the merchants who might be willing to try something new and away from those who are not.

Steven Jacobs is Street Fight’s deputy editor.