Education, dating and e-commerce startups in full force at NY Tech Day

By Dennis Clemente

Last April 25, New York had its biggest NY Tech Day ever with an audience that is triple its size from last year and exhibitors from education, dating and e-commerce industries showing up in full force. All in all, about 10,000 people trickled in to hear from more than 400 startups and not-so-recent startups at the sprawling 75,000-square-feet Pier 92, with majority of them based in New York and its boroughs.

Startup founders talked to everyone who cared to listen.
There was Paul Canetti of, formerly of Apple, who offers a publication app with no programming required. “Now, the magazine industry need not bother with the million-dollar cost of coming up with their own magazine app if they can use our app system.”
Would it save and even make magazines thrive? That remains to be seen.

There were about a dozen education sites and apps for both young and old—and those looking to transition to another career. aims to give professionals the chance to upgrade their skills.

Across from each other were and Founded in 2010 Wandy Yeap Hoh and David Park, MeeGenius digitizes children’s stories in audio playback, whereas the latter, founded by Daniela Arredondo, comes in video format. Both think they can co-exist in the marketplace.

For adult learners, and General talked to everyone interested in their short courses and workshops, which range from the marketing kind (social media marketing) to the startup and programming kind, for those not yet familiar with them.

Learning another language took another dimension with Susan O’ Brien demonstrated the app’s interactive capabilities; they’re developed as videos and games.

Sites for the romantically inclined abounded. is about online matchmaking for tattoo lovers; is still doing the online matching in reverse; for couples who need dating ideas and dares you to start phone conversations with strangers.

Asked about how she is going to compete against all the other dating sites, Lori Cheek of raised her hand in a triumphant gesture. “I’m in it to make it!” was featured in The New York Times sometime back.

To look great in those dates, DietBet offers a unique app game—you lose weight you win money. To begin, everyone puts money in a pot. You’ve got four weeks to lose 4 percent of your starting weight. Whoever hits their 4 percent goal is the winner—and splits the pot.

And for those looking to give special gifts, there’s for those must-have coupons,, which bills itself as a “smart gifting engine,” and, with the most unique gifting idea—“social gifting for yourself.” You go to the site, post your lusted-after item, let your friends chip in, and get the money to buy it.

Those looking to make skilled, trade and household services easier to find were also in attendance:, and aim to fit every possible need outside of IT. Finding IT professionals is an entirely different challenge. For even the best recruiters, like and and the new ones like, it must really feel like looking for a needle in the haystack with startups mushrooming everywhere. Some e-commerce sites like and media companies like also used the event for their tech and marketing recruitment efforts.

Not all startups were for necessarily for consumers. Carlos Carbonell and Mat Gaver of, a digital agency with emphasis on mobile innovation, launched their new company, EchoTime at the event. “It makes time tracking affordable and fun for employees to fill up.”

There were some physical devices, too—and they’re both made from Brooklyn. demonstrated its 3D printing machines which sold for $499. Set to launch this year, offers a real-time sensor data that allows you to manage your garden from any web browser.

For those who want to start their own online businesses, start getting crowdfunded at or who were also in attendance. But if you can fund the business yourself like Afzal Faroroqui, owner of, then we should also see you in next year’s tech startup event.

Making better business decisions using Agile and lean startup methods

By Dennis Clemente

What’s your process in terms of making better business decisions? Have you considered Agile critical thinking? It’s easy to spot if your company is using it or not. Ask yourself, Is there always someone in your company selling you an idea you have to accept without argument? And if nobody is held accountable, is there actually a bad decision? You’d be surprised how many companies will tell you they are results-oriented but have never heard of Agile or lean startup thinking.

“The greatest risk is when people assume they know what they (really) don’t know,” said Brian Bozzuto, BigVisible Solutions’ principal Agile coach, at the “Techniques, Experiments and Actionable Metrics: Tools for Enterprise Change” meetup last April 23 at the iRise on Madison Ave.

Brian Bozzuto
Brian Bozzuto

Whether you’re starting a new company, launching a new product or introducing a new initiative, BigVisible is one of the companies now offering Agile training courses and coaches specializing in helping you succeed. Agile is a simple but powerful framework for applying critical thinking to business decisions. It’s even more critical to consider it when new research shows that 75% of startups fail, according to Harvard Business School’s Shikhar Ghosh.

Bozzuto took us back in time when, which raised $80 million in early capital, closed in 2000. That was a lot of funding at the time and even to this day. For the challenges facing startups, he recommends Agile or lean startup thinking, particularly in using revolutionary framework that goes with it: Alexander Osterwalder’s Business Model Canvas.

Borrowing from Eric Ries’ Lean Startup model, Bozzuto suggests this sequence — “idea,” “build,” “produce,” “measure,” “data” and “learn.” Giving your initiative(s) or company an honest assessment is key, so is asking the right questions, i.e., “is it (the idea) feasible.” Even knowing how to accept failure goes a long way in helping people learn, assuming companies can accept failure as part of a process.

Bozzuto finds companies that cannot accept failure cannot believe in testing—and the actionable metrics that help inform and stir good decisions.

Business Model Canvas

The Business Model Canvas chart (also pictured here) is a good framework for a product owner or team leader to ask his participants the following questions as part of the exercise– for whom are you creating value; what value do you deliver to the customer; how do you create and maintain relationships with customers; and how do you deliver value created for the customer. Beyond that, the product owner should be able to ask what will you do with these resources to build value; what will you need to create this value; and who would you partner with that will provide key resources or key activities.

What’s the clear takeaway here? Agile thinking is an invaluable addition to any product development team looking to improve their ability to learn from the marketplace and build solutions more suited to their current and future customers.

Sill, there are the risky assumptions. For any company using the diagram, Bozzuto said the hardest to answer are the columns on customer segment and value proposition.

As a parting shot, he proposed adding a column on a Kanban or task board to validate assumptions. “We should start building into our processes regularly checking the assumptions around work and validating if the work we complete does for what we thought it would.”

For more information or to consult with Bozzuto’s top-notch Agile coaching for your business, visit

The meetup was organized and hosted by Debbie Madden and Eli Bozeman at the iRise. iRise ( takes your mobile and web applications beyond prototypes, wireframes and mockups, creating interactive simulations so you can test drive before code.

Lux Ahoy: Creating the Top 10 HTML5 Game of 2012

By Dennis Clemente

If there’s an award for the Most Generous Presenter this year in a tech meetup category, the creative digital agency Luxurious Animals is in the lead to win it. The company’s presentation called “Cannons A’Blazing! Post-mortem: LuxAhoy HTML5 Game” last April 18 at the Microsoft office was more than a meetup it was like a workshop.

The event stretched to more than two hours as Luxurious Animals’ founder Garrett Nantz, along with his “team of animals,” showed every stage of the creation of its hugely popular HTML5 game LuxAhoy ( It was named one of the Top 10 HTML5 games of 2012 by

Nantz, who is also its Chief Creative Officer, started the agency in 2008 to merge traditional storytelling with interactivity. Since then, the company has created websites, games, installations, and commercials for brands such as Esquire, Lufthansa, HBO, Porsche, Lunchables and Panera Bread.

The meetup felt like a workshop as Nantz and his team, Tai U, Ali Baranker and Cathy Davenport Lee showed sketches, wireframes and comps, the thinking behind the Box 2d Physics engine as well as the animation process and creation of JS Suite, Spritesheets and Optimizations. He addressed the challenges in different devices, the enhancements, tests and prototypes that happen and the tools that made it all possible.

Nantz is happy to have created the game entirely with the HTML5 canvas tag and javascript, an achievement for a company known for its predominant Flash background. “We were not sure yet how much we could push HTML5. We took our knowledge of flash and thought – ‘rock paper scissors’ would do the trick,” he said.

The challenge in developing an HTML5 game is optimization and browser compatibility. Canvas rendering is reportedly still quite slow on many browsers, even on iPhone4s up and the iPad. Google Chrome is ok, but with certain Android tablets, it’s not unusual for the team to encounter compatibility issues. “We optimize for one and another for our clients to test,” he said.

What does Nantz think now of HTML5? “I thought it was going to be a big challenge (creating games); that it can’t do anything perfectly. But I found out that there are more workarounds,” Nantz proclaimed.

HTML5 delivers the same complex animation, sound, and interaction people have come to expect from Flash. It works on mobile, canvas, CSS3 animations, local storage, plugin-free videos and audios. Even better perhaps is that unlike Flash, Google can index HTML5. Being found, after all, is imperative in a social media world.

Panera: Live Consciously, Eat Deliciously – HTML5 Site and Banner Campaign from Luxurious Animals on Vimeo.

Diving deep into the details, the team’s use of EaselJS, SoundJS, Box2dWeb and a dash of jQuery paid dividends. And in exporting all the character animations, it used Zoë to convert flash animations to spritesheets. It turns out Zoë also works together with Easel.

All assets such as vector illustrations were assembled, then transferred to Photoshop to add light and texture effects. A dozen animation libraries later, the team discovered EaselJS (now a part of his CreateJS).

For its physics engine, the team went with its familiar Flash, Box2D. “We settled on box2dweb, finding it to be the most up-to-date and efficient version,” he said.

“We are happy with the result of our first integration of box2dweb with EaselJS. There was concern initially. We found that the physics of box2d are so good, but when a cannon ball scored a direct hit, the collision sent the ship careening off-screen. To avoid this, we came up with the drop anchor,” he explained. A quick test proved that real-world physics sometimes require real-world thinking.

Overall, Lux Ahoy focused on four areas: mobile, performance, game play, and file size. It even switched from frame-based to time-based animation. With a time-based approach, the team was able to provide a smoother experience by making the application adaptable to varying conditions. The experience is top notch.

For those on the design field, you will like to hear that as much as physics is a big deal for some of its games, Luxurious Animals think the graphics play a big role, too. “We work closely with our designers.” The team also used ImageAlpha to greatly reduce the file size of spritesheets with no discernible loss in quality.

But how does Lux Ahoy work? Like any game designed for mobile devices, it’s a no-brainer. Two rivals – a sophisticated monster called LUXAMILLION and a posh elephant TRUNKFORD – face each other across the seas.

With galleons equipped with massive cannons, they fire cannons at each other. The victor takes home treasure in the form of gold coins, giving players two objectives — to destroy the enemy and to collect as much booty as possible. The loser sinks in the bottom of the ocean.

One other example that impressed people in attendance was the Panera Bread site, which blends photo and video assets captured in a studio with elements created in 3D.

In that outstanding piece of work, the team explored four of Panera’s most important brand pillars–bread, craft, trust, and community. Then it presented this wrapped in a beautiful, tablet-friendly HTML5 web experience featuring an intuitive user interface.

Luxurious Animals stays afloat with its impressive body of work at

How to crowdfund your business idea successfully

By Dennis Clemente

You have the idea, but you don’t have the money? You might want to try crowdfunding. Last April 15 at the Microsoft office, John Vaskis, Indiegogo’s Gaming Vertical Lead, presented how you can crowdfund your business successfully, whether it’s a game or your dream of publishing your own book: Do a video pitch.

Vaskis said a video pitch gives you twice the chance of getting funds. “Campaigns with videos raise 114% more than campaigns without. Do a three-minute video and make it personal, but also offer unique perks.”

Citing one successful pitch, Vaskis said Angry Video Game Nerd got 6,700 people to create a feature film based on his YouTube personality. “The Nerd sent over 2,500 autographed photos with custom message for his most ardent supporters.”

Vaskis also said updates every five days are important to keep the communication going with your audience. “It has been our experience that this doubles expected funding. “The higher number of updates…the greater the funding success.”

What is crowdfunding? It’s the pooling of funds, from the people who have passion about your idea. It’s as old as the pooling of funds for the Statue of Liberty stand in Ellis Island. Back then, it was the New York Times that served as the platform for New York to raise over $100,000 in funds. Average contribution the paper received: 89 cents.

Crowdfunding is about raising money and connecting with funders online. But where other ways of funding can be merely static collection, crowdfunding is about the shared enthusiasm between the fund-seeker with the funder.

How does one choose a platform these days? There’s the hugely popular, and the fairly new, which may still be free of charges.

Why do people give money for altruistic reasons when he could get a return on his investment somewhere else? That’s been a question for some people, but not for people who sincerely want to help another person fulfill his or her dream.

At Indiegogo, crowdfunding takes these steps to fruition: post a campaign, build virality, collect money, fulfill perks, and get started.

Getting started is just the beginning. You will need to generate interest and momentum for your campaign and that includes knowing how to motivate people to contribute to you. Vaskis said the keys to creating a good pitch are honesty, transparency and authenticity. “Make sure you know what you are raising money for, when your project will take place; why you are raising funds and how you can get people involved.”

It’s also vital that you develop a social media/PR strategy and discuss updates with your audience, as you push your goal and offer perks to your fundraising campaign. It could be a combination of any of the following: offer early access to products/services or discounts or coupons; throw a party for funders; teach a class or host a tour; offer unique, limited edition items; give personal thank you notes; share insider secrets; join the conversation and most important perhaps, communicate early and often.

But where do you even begin? That’s what may intimidate you at first, but it turns out that family and friends can be counted on to be your no. 1 cheerleaders, as Vaskis pointed out how 30 to 40 percent of funding came from them. This creates validation.

If anything, crowdfunding is fanbase building but with some money attached to it. Your network is your “fans” who may contribute $70, the average contribution at Indiegogo.

But what makes Indiegogo unique? It has been doing this on an international scale since 2008, ahead of Kickstarter, which has also proven to be very successful in the U.S. Indiegogo claims to have over 120,000 campaigns from 196 countries.

For more information, visit, and

How public Wi-Fi affects public policy, security and civil liberties

By Dennis Clemente

When you nonchalantly access public Wi-Fi in a café to check your friends’ newsfeeds on Facebook, other people have something more than Caramel Macchiato in mind. They’re thinking where does anyone even begin to think of public policy issues, including universal broadband access, federal spectrum policy, data security and civil liberties. The purpose of spectrum policy is to manage a natural resource for the maximum possible benefit of the public.

It turns out public Wi-Fi access is that serious a subject, as it even brought in the cavalry to the eBay office last April 11, in an event called “Internet Everywhere: Role and Implications.” The panels of experts came from government, the academe, legal profession, non-profit organizations, public policymakers and cyber security world.

With a big panel to moderate, Nilay Patel, managing editor of The Verge, had the experts take their turn answering questions based on their field of expertise. However, the talk presented more questions than answers with little wiggle room for the panel of eight experts to elaborate on their thoughts given the limited one and a half-hour time period.

Still, there were some interesting answers to questions that don’t come up too often. For example, is it possible to lose your Internet rights? Yes, if you have six recorded copyright violations.

There were comments about anonymity and security, as both have a corollary effect on a computer user. One can be anonymous at a Starbucks, but you may not be safe and can actually be rendered vulnerable by an application that can be easily bought online.

Others were confident about security online. One expert assured how encrypted data provides protection 90 percent of the time, although developing better mousetraps were still suggested.

Panel of experts at eBay office
Panel of experts at eBay office

New York City Council’s Gale Brewer was in attendance and she pointed how times have certainly changed since she allowed IBM to set up kiosks near municipal hall in the mid-90s. That was the time when just getting an Internet connection was already a big deal.

She might have been referring to how in January 8 this year Google didn’t need kiosks, as they wrapped Chelsea in free Wi-Fi—the largest Wi-Fi hotspot in the area where it also holds office, incidentally.

And that’s even a year too late, as Brewer recounts how “MTA (Metro Transit Authority) took a year to respond to Google” about the tech giant’s plans. She claimed the MTA finally responded when she asked MTA to return the call from Google. This anecdote drew some laughs but it also raised the issue of the city’s tech preparedness. Because in January this year, the city also announced a pilot program to turn payphones into open Wi-Fi hotspots.

To date, the City and AT&T has a five-year initiative to provide free Wi-Fi service at 26 locations in 20 New York City parks across the five boroughs. At present, AT&T Wi-Fi is now available free of charge to park visitors in all five boroughs. There are also plans to have 200 underground stations in New York’s subway platforms.

The event was hosted and organized by the Federal Communications Bar Association (NY Chapter), New York Law School, eBay NYC, the New York Legal Hackers Meetup, the Cardozo Cyberlaw Society, and the Brooklyn Law Incubator & Policy Clinic.

The panel of experts, not in any particular order, were: Diedre Flynn, executive director of Telecommunications Policy and Strategy, NYC DoITT; Joe Plotkin, Board member, NYCWireless; Bruce Regal, senior counsel, New York City Law Department; Mike Roudi, SVP Corporate Development, Time Warner Inc.; Michael Santorelli, Director, Advance Communications Law & Policy Institute, New York Law School; Christopher Soghoian, Indepdent Privacy Researcher; and Jody Westby, CEO, Global Cyber Risk.

Publishing, marketing teams face Agile challenge: deadline dates

By Dennis Clemente

If you’re looking to improve your scale or capability, there’s nothing like having some Agile thinking in place. For the uninitiated, it could simply mean having a workflow with sticky notes on a white board that categorizes tasks as “to be done.” “in process” and “finished.” But it’s more than that for two teams at the Agile for Non-Software Team meetup hosted and organized by Lori Masuda last April 9 at Kaplan Test Prep.

At the meetup, the two Kaplan teams that were paired with editorial and marketing staff presented the result of their Scrumban and Lean practices in a panel discussion that allowed for the “sharing of the good, the bad and the future.”

The toughest challenge for both teams proved to be meeting deadline dates.


One team was tasked to write the LSAT (Law School Admission Test) Premier, while another, Grad Marketing, worked on improving its own processes in both managing general tasks and fulfilling requests for marketing collaterals.

In the past, it was not unusual for the LSAT team to write a book with one author. This time, the LSAT team faced the challenge of collaborating with a large group of people where not all the great feedback can be incorporated instantly; that hefty book is like the yellow pages of old where the process of completing it can test the most patient of stakeholders and authors.

The marketing team, for its part, had a “black-box” process with many submissions but no clear way of prioritizing all the requests. They wanted transparency and collaboration with their stakeholders.

Both teams implemented daily scrum meetings and visual task boards. For the LSAT team, they implemented the Demos and Sprint Planning. For the marketing group, they streamlined retros and single product owners.

Masuda listed the following challenges presented by the panel:

1. Managing deadline dates. How to address deadline dates with shifting priorities
2. Planning/estimating/team capacity. How to adjust to unavoidable guess work
3. Commitment level. How to make everyone commit 100%
4. Work-in-progress concerns. How guidelines work but hard for everyone to stick with on a regular basis

When everyone can’t be together, it seems Agile thinking beats huddling in front of a computer, as it resulted in something that should inspire the rest of us:
1. Increased transparency
2. Increased collaboration and
3. Better communication and alignment with business

Since most of the participants worked remotely, a challenge for many, they discovered how Google Hangout was heaven sent.

Founder of reusable garment bags gets ‘wisdom of crowd’ inputs

By Dennis Clemente

It has been more than three years since Tonia Torrellas, a registered nurse used to seeing disposables at work, invented a reusable plastic bag, a solution to cutting down on plastic waste found in dry cleaning shops.

She considers the official day of her company’s inception, June 9, 2009, as a fateful day because, on the same day, a United Nations official also called for the widespread ban on thin film plastic bags. See

It’s My Bag is a reusable dry cleaning bag for the eco-minded in us. It’s made of vinyl but for Torrellas, green in this case is about the reusable aspect or sustainability of the product.

At The Product Group meetup hosted by Jeremy Horn, Torrellas presented the challenge she faces with dry cleaning companies who prefer to stick with disposable plastic bags. The group was more than willing to give suggestions on how she can market her product, including how she can better address her foremost concern–getting distribution chains.

For now, her product has become more of a corporate gift; she is looking to sell to more dry cleaners and big home furnishing stores who have, for now, “rejected me.” One suggested she concentrate on getting local stores other than dry cleaners.


Torrellas is quick to point out though that her dry cleaning customers like her product. Still, buying it is another matter altogether, as plastic coverings are still much cheaper than her product. “They (dry cleaners) just want somebody else to buy it.”

Obviously exhausted from selling her product with no big distribution chains to make her company completely take off, Torrellas intimated also how she is relatively unknown, being from a small town in Hicksville, New York.

The participants were in agreement about one suggestion to sell her product to the luxury market, giving hotel chains the opportunity to place their branding or logos in the bag. The product may also need to be redesigned, aside from considering how it can be packaged better.

To scale her product, the attendees also suggested crowdfunding sites like Made in China and New Jersey, Torrellas said she has 3,000 bags at the moment and they retail for $12.50.

Is it important for a mobile UX strategy to be ‘fickle’?

By Dennis Clemente

Could a meetup called “Context in Mobile UX Strategy: The importance of being fickle?”come only from someone with a background in continental philosophy. It appears that way when you’re talking to Thomas Wendt, a UX strategist and founder of Surrounding Signifiers, a strategy and design consultancy currently with an innovation team at American Express talking in a midtown Manhattan office.

The context Wendt is talking about concerns the discourse of a mobile UX strategy between user and (portable) device. “Strategy should also be movable, fickle and adaptive. We should be able to adjust based on changing priorities and contexts. It embraces the fickle nature of how we exist in the world.”

But Wendt is not fickle when it comes to mobile design practices, as he adheres to the following:
1. Contextual inquiry. Observe directly within the context of everyday use
2. Ethnography. Observe indirectly within the context of everyday use
3. Participatory design. Have users participate in the design process
4. Storyboarding. Sketch a narrative from beginning to end
5. Contextual personas. A great place to start…a terrible place to end(?)

Explaining the latter, he breaks the context of personas as doing (involving physical activity and ability habits), thinking (involving cognitive assumptions, educational ability) and feeling (involving psychological state, anxiety, confidence, stress, desire)

Context for him is cultural, for only then can have its meaning. For his industry, “meaning emerges out of the difference between self, world and micro world.”

What makes mobile portable? “Mobile is about potential and adaptation. The portable phone became mobile when we establish discourse with them,” he said.

Wendt emphasizes how the interface is not just a screen, but an interaction space. He sees how the interface has evolved from being a screen-based graphic to a discourse-based one that involves a more natural and organic interface – for instance, those touch-enabled computers and Google glasses.

Yes, it’s been that long since the era of the command line and graphical interfaces.

The meetup was hosted by the Catalyst Group, a team of researchers and designers fascinated by how people interact with websites and software.

Follow Wendt looks up to

CAD modeling, robot touch sensors enliven Tech Hardware meetup

By Dennis Clemente

As many tech startups there are in New York to admire, people always marvel at the sight of an actual physical invention, as the NY Tech Hardware Meetup demonstrated in its 7th meetup last March 26. It showcased a CAD community site, a heart matrix, bike computers, a robot touch sensor, and many more.

If you’re into CAD modeling, GrabCAD ( helps even the most technically challenged. One novice rendered a snow rider by literally grabbing designs from the site, while another from India, with no CAD experience whatsoever, designed the interiors for a Shelby Mustang.

Founded in 2009 by Hardi Meybaum, GrabCAD is a mechanical engineering community for sharing talent, including making use of its free CAD model library and engineering tools. As a community, the site has a voting mechanism for the best answers to the CAD questions.

If you want to start something, the site is brimming with over 90,000 projects, with about 530,000 logging in time at the site. GrabCAD is headquartered in Boston in the United States, but maintains an office and development team in Tallinn, Estonia, where the company was started.

The next presenter, LucidTronix ( from Brooklyn, showed how open source DIY technology can be extremely fun. For its LED-enabled Heart Matrix, you can spell out any message you like, or have 70 of its LED lights dance in different patterns on the display. It takes about 30 minutes to solder and assemble with three signal wires and two powers.

LucidTronix’s bike computer kit is your personal on-cycle data processor. It can measure your speed, distance, calories burned, but it is so much more than a speedometer. It measures the temperature, honks a little buzzer and controls LEDs to light your way and stylizes your ride!

Both are built on top of an arduino platform. The website offers a detailed tutorial with step-by-step instructions, videos, diagrams, and sample code so getting them running should be a breeze. If LucidTronix has a bike computer, Peter Pottier of MyBell gives those classic round cycling bells a new spin er sound.

Pottier showed a video of how his early stage MyBell contraption works featuring David Sheinkopf, electric designer, at work: “The bell has an efficient high-powered amplifier, a small wave player and LED lighting system.”

MyBell is about customizable sound. “People can upload ringtones or the music they like as their bell (horn),” Sheinkopf added.

These gadgets are already small but the last presenter Takktile ( showed us an even tinier invention—an open-source robot touch sensor with digital barometers called Freescale Semiconductor. It has to be small to fit on a cell phone as it offers location pinpointing technologies that supplement GPS. It gauges positions based on changes in atmospheric pressure.

People will like to hear that the tiny barometers are reportedly easy and inexpensive to assemble.