A Madison startup that boosts new musicians by creating an online fan base will see if Silicon Valley investors sing to its tune.
LÜM, or Live Undiscovered Music, is the winner of Pressure Chamber, the pitch contest for startups staged by the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce at the Overture Center on Thursday.
The prize: a “golden suitcase” — representing a Chamber-sponsored trip to California to meet with venture capitalists.
LÜM gives unknown artists a social media platform to play their music and lets music fans promote their favorites through online games.
“It’s a music discovery and streaming platform for the next generation,” said co-founder and CEO Max Fergus. “It lets fans control the direction of their music.”
Fergus said while streaming music is becoming highly popular, fewer than 1 percent of musicians make a decent income that way. LÜM gives them exposure to build a base and move up to more mainstream music outlets, he said.
LÜM was one of five young companies that took the stage for the Pressure Chamber competition.
The others were DataChat, GymDandy, AmebaGone and Breathe for Life.
DataChat, founded by UW-Madison computer sciences professor and serial entrepreneur Jignesh Patel, analyzes data to give business leaders the type of information they need to make decisions.
Data is called “the new oxygen” for companies to survive, Patel said.
But it’s not only for businesses. Patel said a health care organization in California plans to use DataChat’s chatbots to sift through data to find the smallest amount of radiation needed to attack its patients’ cancerous tumors.
GymDandy CEO and co-founder Nicholas Kartos said his company is “fixing the biggest problem in youth sports, a $15 billion industry — 100 percent of them need a place to play.”
Kartos said organizers waste too many hours on phone calls and paperwork to line up practice and playing times. He said Gym Dandy puts the process online, making it faster and more economical for both sports groups and venues.
Kartos said the Madison Parks Division uses GymDandy and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation recently came on board, as well.
AmebaGone has come up with a new way to attack the bacterial diseases that destroy plants — employing organisms within the soil itself. “We re-purpose ameoba in the soil to clear plant infections,” said executive director Mark Benedyk.
The company’s lead product is a treatment for soft rot in potatoes, Benedyk said. The company, whose technology came from the lab of UW-Madison bacteriology professor Marcin Filutowicz, already has received more than $3 million in grants.
Breathe for Change says its mission is to “change the world, one teacher at a time.” Co-founders Ilana Nankin and Michael Fenchel said their company teaches not only yoga and wellness but also social and emotional learning.
Breathe for Change certified 600 educators last year, “from pre-kindergarten to higher education,” Fenchel said, and expects to triple that figure this year.
Nankin gave the audience a taste of the company’s message, as she wrapped up her presentation. “Together, take a deep breath in ... and exhale out your gratitude,” she said.
Each of the companies had five minutes to make its pitch and then the entrepreneurs fielded questions. Three judges from out-of-state venture capital firms and the audience all cast votes.
Fergus said it was “absolutely phenomenal” that LÜM won Pressure Chamber.
LÜM will launch its app on Friday, but already has more than 1,000 musicians nationwide lined up to use the platform, Fergus said.
Pressure Chamber was part of neXXpo, a Greater Madison Chamber networking event that also showcases exhibits by 35 innovative local companies.
They ran the gamut from Shukrah, with hair and beauty products planned for multi-ethnic women, to Goods Unite Us, an app that displays which political parties have received contributions from companies, to Borrowed Bar, with taps for beer and wine mounted in a decorative wall that can be rented for parties.
Participants at neXXpo chose seven of the exhibiting companies as finalists for the Chamber’s Most Innovative Company award: Breathe for Change, Curtis & Cake, The Digital Ring, Domeloz, Goods Unite Us, LocknCharge, and ThirdSpace. The winner will be announced later this year at the Chamber’s nex7 Stage event.
Pressure Chamber and neXXpo were part of the first day of activities in the Forward Festival, an eight-day celebration of entrepreneurs and innovation. About 50 panel discussions, conferences and social gatherings are part of the festivities, which are being held at more than a dozen locations throughout the Madison area through next Thursday.
More information is available online at forwardfest.org.