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Newbie tech companies in NYC scrounging for startup stardom

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snow Photo Credit: Shane Snow, co-founder of Contently, gives presentation at TechStars' Demo Day. (TechStars handout)

The leap from no-name startup to global tech titan is an enormous one.

But should the next Facebook or Foursquare explode out of New York, it could very well happen through TechStars, a brainy boot camp for newbie startups, said New York managing director David Tisch.

The program, founded in Boulder, Colo., in 2007, opened a Big Apple outpost in Union Square in 2010. About 1,200 applications are typically received for just 12 spots during each three-month term.

The rewards include mentorships, seed money and networking with top names in the industry, including Foursquare co-founder Dennis Crowley and investor Brad Feld. The summer session gave out $20,000 to each company, but participants in the upcoming spring class will receive $120,000, Tisch said.

"The goal is to have the next Google or Facebook come out of here," said Tisch, who's now accepting applications for the spring. "But the beginning's not pretty. There's ugly stuff that happens."

Even with the professional guidance and access to investors, companies may not take off for several years -- if at all. amNewYork spoke with some of the recent crop of "graduates" hoping to become household names.

Wantworthy

What it is: Wantworthy.com launched in October, allowing users to bookmark items found on retail shopping sites and create a single online shopping list.

"We got the idea because I'd constantly find items I liked online, and I'd have tons of tabs open," said Lauren McDevitt, 22, of the Financial District, who founded the company with fellow University of Pennsylvania grad Joshua Wais, 23. "We want to change how people shop."

How it would make money: Partnerships with retailers

Their startup superstar: Tumblr founder David Karp

Contently

What it is: Contently.com launched in February, connecting publishers with journalists and writers for freelance projects.

"You look back at companies like Groupon and think, it makes so much sense," said Contently co-founder Shane Snow, 27, of Hell's Kitchen. "We're in the trenches now. We could quit, but we're not going to."

How it would make money: The goal is to raise about $3 million from investors and profit by getting a cut of each contract.

His startup superstar: Behance CEO Scott Belsky

Urtak

What it is: Creates an online polling tool for publishers -- with "yes," "no" and "don't care" options -- allowing users to analyze their audience. Clients include The Daily Beast and Glenn Beck's TheBlaze.com.

Urtak founders Marc Lizoain and Aaron Gibralter were Harvard roommates and attended the school when Facebook founder Marc Zuckerberg was still enrolled in 2004. "We want to know what the world is thinking," said Gibralter, 26, of the Upper East Side.

How it would make money: Split revenue with publishers from related advertising

Their startup superstar: GitHub, a social network for web programmers

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TechStars by the numbers

90: Companies that have been funded through the program nationwide

22: Companies in New York City that have gone on to raise money from venture capitalists

$50 million: Combined amount those N.Y. companies have raised

6%: How much in common stock TechStars owns in each participating company

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