Five Louisville Startups to Watch in 2018 | EdjAnalytics
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Five Louisville Startups to Watch in 2018

Five Louisville Startups to Watch in 2018

The startups landscape in Louisville is growing.

Low costs of doing business, a supportive community and an entrepreneurial atmosphere in the city all factor into many entrepreneurs’ decision to move their company to the city.

But, as with anything, there are always a few that stand out among the pack. Here are startups we think you should keep an eye on this year:

1. Qualmet

Qualmet LLC CEO Jim Beckett launched this business platform in 2017 and is seeking investment to grow the business.

Beckett spent years working to drive revenue growth and assess value for large companies such as Frost Brown Todd LLC, and through all of his time as a lawyer, he realized one thing: The communication between in-house legal departments and outside counsel stinks.

Beckett was called on last year to lead the creation of Qualmet, the brainchild of Beckett’s now business partner Mark Smolik, general counsel for DHL Supply Chain Americas.

Together they invented Qualmet, a cloud-based platform that helps companies rate lawyers and encourages conversations with legal counsel to improve the quality and value of services. The platform is available in an app form or as a browser interface.

It tracks statistics and data points, gathered from survey questions on the platform, to improve communication and interactions.

Beckett weighed in on what’s to come in the year ahead:

“After ending our first year by entering into agreements with the Legal departments of 3 Fortune 500 companies, Qualmet’s focus in 2018 is to aggressively increase our market penetration with the most progressive corporate law departments in North America, Europe and Australia.

“The commencement of the 2018 journey will be closing on a seed round of investment. New capital will fuel the company’s continued development of our law firm performance management capability. Capability to provide deeper insights, more sophisticated integration with other law department technology platforms and provide even greater strategic and financial benefits for our clients. Qualmet will be a catalyst in the beginning of corporate legal departments and law firms sharing performance results and meaningful expectations. We will call this true relationship candor.

“Concurrent with our product evolution, Qualmet will be expanding its sales, marketing and customer success activities, driven by bringing on more of the region’s most talented and diverse people.”

2. Kentucky Distillation Services

Kentucky Distillation Services LLC brings science to Kentucky hemp fields. The company invented a machine that extracts CDB oil from the hemp plant. The oil then is sold back to the farmer, who can mix it into candies, lotions, foods and more.

Because the hemp industry is relatively new in the U.S., support businesses for the hemp industry haven’t fully developed. When KDS launched, there was no way for producers to extract and clarify the oil that came out of their hemp plants, which they need to do to commercialize the product.

The CBD oil extracted from hemp can be taken orally for severe pain, such as from cancer treatments, or it can be mixed into a lotion for topical pain relief, for conditions such as arthritis.

Now, the company will scale up, building as many as 10 new extraction machines in the next year.

“In 2018, our goal is to expand our service to additional markets via licensing / joint ventures, and investigate novel crude plant-oil purification technologies. In 2018, our core focus will be expanding our footprint locally first here in Kentucky and internationally, and job creation. We will invest heavily in research and development and aggressively penetrate emerging markets where our expertise is in demand. Furthermore, in 2018, our vision is to deliver state-of-the-art solutions to product development programs in terms of purification because what we are doing is fundamentally changing the science of industrial hemp extracts.”

3. Curio Learning

Curio Learning was launched by a Louisville-area teacher to bring technology to teaching.

This year, the company launched its flagship product, Curio. It’s a learning platform, somewhat akin to Pinterest but made specifically for teachers.

To help inspire the rebellious type of teaching she loves, Lamb-Sinclair created the digital platform (and soon to be app) to help teachers and educators curate ideas for better teaching and to further collaborate with other educators on those ideas.

“Curio is an app that allows teachers to discover, curate and collaborate on new ideas in the classroom,” Lamb-Sinclair said in an interview.

The user interface displays “stacks,” which are like Pinterest boards. Within the stacks, teachers can post “cards,” similar to Pinterest’s pins.

Other teachers can get on the site and look at the stacks and cards from educators around the world to help with lesson planning, getting through to students on a tough topics and any other type of professional development that other teachers post in their cards.

Lamb-Sinclair had some thoughts on the company, and where it’s heading:

“For the last 16 months we’ve run customer discovery sessions, developed the app and created a community of Curio Rebel educators. Curio provides a space for teachers to discover new ideas, curate them visually, and collaborate with others.

We hope to attain a user base of 200k trendsetters and visionary educators by 2019. Our model includes a free forever plan, an $8/month premium plan, and $8/month per teacher enterprise plan. This model will make us profitable while providing a valuable service to any teacher around the world who wants to collaborate with other teachers at an affordable cost.

In 2018, we plan to launch the beta and implement our marketing plan, but most exciting, we hope to create a Teacher Rebel Counsel of rockstar teachers who will advise and support Curio, as well as present at the most prominent ed-tech conference in the world, ASU-GSV, in April.”

4. EdjAnalytics

EdjAnalytics uses big data to solve even bigger problems.

The company starts by breaking problems into three parts: the information available, the rules of the game and the outcome desired.

Breaking a problem into these components allows Edj to simplify it. The company uses analytical tools around neural networks (programs that allow for continuous learning), regression and genetic algorithms to further break down a problem. From there, Edj takes this data and employs predictive modeling techniques to help organizations make more informed decisions.

CEO Sean O’Leary said that it helps take the emotion out of decision-making, which is important in making good sense business choices.

O’Leary weighed in on what’s driving Edj in the new year:

“At EdjAnalytics, our focus will be around our services business and building products for employee retention and workforce optimization, which is a large need across several industries we work in. Our EdjSports division will continue to expand into new collegiate and professional sports opportunities.”

5. El Toro

El Toro is a Louisville startup heavyweight, and it’s looking like 2018 could put the company in an even higher class.

People often ask me when a startup stops being a startup and becomes just a company. There’s not a specific formula, but what I do know is that El Toro is coming close to losing its “startup” designation.

El Toro provides targeted internet advertising and marketing to companies, using a proprietary method that does not use internet cookies. Using cookies, or the digital footprint of an internet user, is how targeted digital advertising is normally done. But El Toro decided the method is invasive and invented an algorithm for advertisers to precisely target customers based on their Internet address.

In 2017, the Louisville-based tech company grabbed the No. 13 slot on Deloitte’sTechnology Fast 500 list, with revenue growth of 12,031 percent from 2013 to 2016. It was the only Kentucky company to make the list.

CEO Stacy Griggs told me that he expects 2018 to bring even more growth:

“We are planning on 2018 being a really big year. After being named the 13th fastest growing tech company in North America in 2017 our team is continuing to keep their heads down and continuing to execute.

El Toro recently hired our 80th employee, and we plan to add another 40-50 staff in 2018. We are seeing significant growth from Fortune 500 companies using our system as well as large ad agencies and marketing partners. Additionally, El Toro is the best tool available for targeting political ads; with 2018 being an election year, we anticipate working in over 2,000 elections across the U.S.”