The early-stage startup accelerator Progression Labs selects three companies every three months to receive $20,000 of working capital, $5,000 in office rent, and mentoring to help them jumpstart their ideas. Here’s the scoop on the summer session, funded by the Downtown Project.
While the media coverage of Bitcoin has calmed down, Las Vegas companies hoping to capitalize on the digital currency continue to pop up. One of the newest is Leetcoin, a competitive video gaming platform that allows gamers to battle for Bitcoin in real time with immediate payouts.
Las Vegan Kingsley Edwards came up with the idea while playing popular computer game Minecraft, when a friend showed him a Bitcoin casino hosted in the virtual realm. He thought that the concept could easily transfer to video games, and launched Leetcoin in October. The company already boasts 1,000 beta players and raised $40,000 from Edwards’ friends and family before entering Progression Labs.
While in the three-month accelerator, Edwards hopes to build more traction and raise more funding, which may not prove hard thanks to a new partnership with Riot Games, the video game publisher behind popular PC game League of Legends, played by 27 million people each day, according to the Wall Street Journal. Leetcoin is currently developing support for the game, as well as for Counter-Strike and Team Fortress 2. The company is also reaching out to game developers by making their API, the programming interface that specifies how the software functions, available for free. So independent developers can decide how they want to integrate Leetcoin into their games, build their player base and then monetize.
Due to online gaming regulations, Leetcoin is legal in 37 U.S. states, as well as Canada, most of Europe, Asia and South America. Edwards plans to integrate other currencies in the platform in the future.
Want to learn a new language while texting with your friends—even if they don’t speak that language? A new messaging app called Ling turns smartphones into language learning tools by swapping out certain English words for foreign language words. Using contextual clues from the message, users can figure out what the new words mean and grow their vocabularies. For example, if a friend messaged you “What are you doing this weekend?” the message would read “What are you doing este fin de semana?”
Romanced by the Downtown Project, founders Sam Mendelson and Allan Zhang moved from New York to Las Vegas to join Progression Labs. They plan to develop a game aspect of the app where users can advance to more levels, much like Candy Crush.
Ling works best when running alongside a foreign language class. So the duo will also spend part of their time in Las Vegas getting feedback from the Clark County School District and other educators. The app is scheduled to launch in September with Spanish, with possible later versions featuring French and Chinese.
The third startup in the summer session comes from a familiar entrepreneurial face: Rolltech Bowling’s Brooks Halladay. Halladay, who has been writing apps since 2009 and joined Rolltech’s team last year, is transitioning to a new venture, FlightGear. The social and photo discovery mobile app allows users to bookmark and share sports products—think Pinterest for active gear. “People are mostly excited about what’s coming,” Halladay says. “With this, you can see what are the coolest products in sports now.”
Former NFL player and tech entrepreneur Gerome Sapp helped Halladay flesh out the idea while the latter was enrolled in the Mill, the early stage seed fund hosted in Work in Progress. While in Progression Labs, Halladay intends to build a team and launch the app, which could eventually include a following function, in which users could find sports players and take a peek inside their gear collections.
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