Foreign startups present to media-owned VCs

Win Global Innovator

By Dennis Clemente

Last February 27, WIN (Worldwide Investor Network) hosted Global Innovator featuring five presenters—Hyperactivate, TripTease, Mommy Coach, $Social and 365Scores—to panelists that included media VCs at 1221 Avenue of the Americas.

What is interesting is how the panelists included two media VCs–Cyna Alderman, managing director of Daily News Innovation Lab and Scott Levine, managing director of Time Warner Ventures. The two other VCs were John Elton, partner of Greycroft Partners and Ross Goldstein, managing director of /gothamvc.com/”>Gotham Ventures. Goldstein was voted best judge of the night.

Hyperactivate offers a turnkey solution that amplifies your brand messages across multiple channels, while $Social figures out the how to monetize “celebrities” social media engagement.

Lastly, 365Scores chooses your favorite team and leagues for you to create a Sports Channel.
MommyCoach connects you to live experts for parenting advice. TripTease, on the other hand, relies on you to be the expert in sharing your travel stories online.

Hyperactivate’s March Fischman likes to point how his startup solves the accountability problem all marketers face when attempting to quantify ROI on any company’s social media investment with its “active management platform” or dashboard.

“Clients don’t know what success is,” said Fischman who thinks he can determine social media success for its business. To scale his business and add new features, he is seeking $3 million.

Triptease’s Charlie Osmond, a presenter at The Hatchery last February 20, says his startup is like a “digital postcard.” You upload or link a photo from a gallery and give your review. He also calls it “photo review” or “user-generated travel magazine.”

Osmond, who was at the Hatchery a week ago, won over the crowd again for his presentation skills, with one panel remarking how it helps to have a British accent, like what another VC said at The Hatchery meetup.

“Hotels love it (Triptease),” he said. “We are connecting inspiration and bookings.”
Osmond said he has signed up 10 hotels, integrating Triptease with the hotel management system in the process.

It may not be so unusual for Osmond to get such high marks from the previous panels he has pitched to as the global travel market is worth $750 billion, with the luxury and hip travel industry amounting to 475 billion. He is raising $1.5 million in mid-year.

Is offering classes and advice for moms a viable online business?

Christophe Garnier, CEO of Mommy Coach, likes to think there is room for him with 90 million moms in the world. It helps if you put a number around its worth: $7 billion.

The Frenchman claims to have 1,000 experts but to keep things under control, he narrowed down his expert mom experts to 250. “It’s like Airbnb (for moms),” he said. “We don’t have doctors but our experts have parenting licenses.”

Having raised $600,000, he is looking to raise $150,000 more to reach his target f $750,000 in convertible note. “I will use some of the funds for market development.”

$Social’s CEO and co-founder Gil Eyal drew chuckles when he said celebrities need our help. He offers a way for high-profile social media users to monetize their online presence. Guy Tamir is CTO and co-founder.

To monetize their idea, they are looking share revenue with celebrities initially before it sets the stage for major brand partnerships in the second phase of its business. Both of the founders are looking to raise $1 million.

For the sports enthusiasts, 365Scores offers your own Sports Channel. It reportedly gathers sports information from hundreds of sources. The site then analyzes and organizes the data according to user preference and delivers the data to users with real-time push notifications.

The presence of two media personalities in the panel shows how most media outlets these days are looking for collaborative opportunities with startups

As befits the meetup, Goldstein pointed out how its firm has 10 countries represented in its portfolio. Gotham Ventures focus on adtech and e-commerce, among others.

Levin is looking to invest in startups that afford financial return and strategic partnership with cutting-edge media platforms. “Series B is a sweet spot,” he said.

Jeff Pulver talks about Zula, Vonage and his life less than 80 pounds

Jeff Pulver with Brian Park
Jeff Pulver with Brian Park

By Dennis Clemente

“I don’t want to hear about What’s App,” said Jeff Pulver, the Vonage co-founder considered a pioneer in VoIP telephony. Pulver was at the Startup Grind at AOL last February 19 to present his latest venture, Zula. What’s App was acquired by Facebook for $19 bilion this week.

People heeded his plea. Besides, the comparisons have to stop sometime soon. Its site has this to say: Whatsapp focuses on social interaction, while Zula provides a central stream of conversation that gives users access to shared files, shared events, polling and one-touch group calling.

The talk was beyond Zula, it was about Pulver who didn’t mind talking freely and openly about his early years, Vonage and his successful weight loss of some 80 or so pounds. He is now 51.

On how he discovered VoIP (voice-over internet protocol): “I was very lonely growing up,” said Pulver who grew up in Kings Point, New York. “I didn’t have any friends.” The word “lonely” escaped his mouth more than five times, but he didn’t mind talking about the past he remembers fondly.

Not having any strong connection with the people around him, Pulver communicated with people using ham radio when he was very young. He earned his license by the time he turned 12. “I listened, connected, shared and engaged with them. “I never met them, but I knew their personality.”

He recounts how he made his family miserable with his obsession over ham radio, even on vacations. “When we were in Barbados, I was on the radio eight(sic) straight days.” In his teen years, he turned to disc jockeying to be able to get close to the girls.

Pulver was always trying to earn extra money. He created a consulting company at 16, even set up 3 companies along the way. Because he was earning so much money, “college didn’t matter.” But he became a “trained accountant.”

In figuring out VoIP, he knew back then he could make use of two modems–one for dial-up internet; one for telephony. In 1995, he launched Free World Dial-up, the first international voice calling. That lay the groundwork four Min-X which became Vonage in 2001.

“Getting fired saved my life,” he said. Today, Pulver describes himself as a futurist, serial entrepreneur and long-time evangelist for VoIP technologies. He founded the VON Coaltion in 1996 which helped keep VoIP unregulated in America for 9 years and paved the way for Skype and Google Voice.

On how Zula will gain more acceptance, he recounts how in presentations, he see how people can get online faster than him setting up the projector. “Independence from my laptop is everything.”

On how to solve the high cost of phone plans nowadays, he said, “We need more competition.”
On how he lost weight more than 80 pounds, he said it was important for him to avoid wheat and sugar, which he said has given him more energy and made him more productive. Before when people told him to exercise, he would say, “Exercise judgment.”

Now he exercises regularly. He said it’s important for him to point this out to everyone, because he thinks it affects how we can all work more effectively.

Brian Park hosted the talk.

Travel is good, video advertising hard–VCs

By Dennis Clemente

How would you like to be a travel reviewer? Triptease does that. How would you like to use a productivity tool that helps you see what matters? There’s Seer. How would you like to connect with investor relations teams. Closir claims that it can close that deal for you, socially. Finally how would you like your advertising to work for you? GoChime it or nTangle it.

But is it that simple? Not exactly, as the presenters found out from the VCs who gave them feedback after their five-minute presentation last February 20 at the Hatchery at Chadbourne Park, Rockefeller Center building.

The meetup also included a critique of the presentation style of each pitcher from GK Training’s Victoria Dicce, now a staple of the meetups.

The TripTease app is a social travel magazine that relies on user-generated reviews. Talking about how they monetize the site, Chief Tease Charlie Osmond said, “Hotels pay us to email their guests.”

All the VCs invited to provide their feedback said they like the travel space: “There’s a lot of disruption going on there.” “It’s an attractive market.” However, they were also interested in knowing where the app can go in terms of conversion. “We will be raising seed next week,” Osmond assured.

The VCs were Sutian Dong of First Mark Capital; Jeff Neu of B2B Ventures and Itzik Ben-Bassat of Wix. A regular, Sachin Jafe of Klifer Capital did not make it to the meetup.

However, the app is only available on iPad.“We believe that the iPad is growing much faster than the smartphone,” Osmond said who also received the highest marks with his confident presentation style.

Ben-Bassat quipped, “It helps if you (Osmond) have a British accent.”

Pierre-Marc Diennet presented nTangle, an interactive video platform idea that embeds ads.
How does it work? It’s simple. A video creator uploads their video. They tag objects, people, and places in that video and then link those things to the wider internet. With each click, nTangle delivers linked information,” Diennet said.

nTangle reportedly stores each tagged object in a database and connects it to semantically categorized Open Knowledge sources. “Our long term plan is to automate the process.”

Diennet said nTangle has a 400-percent participation rate. “Clients can use this data to learn more about their audiences, about their videos, and more about the conversations they inspire.”

The VCs think video advertising is a hard, competitive space. “Hosting will be an additional cost. It’s a tough squeeze. Look at your revenue model.”

Next presenter, GoChime founder Austin Evarts asked the audience in his presentation, “What is the percentage of unopened email?”

Putting it at 80 percent, Evarts said using GoChime to go with your email strategy will increase your reach 2 to 3 times more. “We sync data to Facebook campaigns.”

GoChime is direct marketing for social which, Evarts said, has experienced a 60 percent growth. “We are raising $500,000 in convertible notes.”

VCs did not provide feedback, saying only that it was a solid presentation.

A social and productivity platform, Closir was the last to present. It is focused on bringing companies and the investment community closer together using technology, according to Ratsko Illic.

“We want to capture at least 10 percent of the market,” he added. Competitors include Bloomberg.

Offered at $5,000 a year, Neu said sometimes too cheap is too cheap. Other comments from VCs pointed out how the “field is complicated” and “how hard it is to disrupt Bloomberg.”

“We did it because we strongly believe the existing tools and “one-size-fits” all platforms are no longer sufficient to meet the needs of today’s investors and companies alike,” Illic said.

Vibease shakes up NY Tech Meetup crowd

By Dennis Clemente

“Software. Hardware. Sexware.” That’s how one attendee described the NY Tech Meetup last February 4 at the Skirball Theater.

The last 3 presenters of the night had the 400 attendees chuckling the whole time. Cindy Gallop of makelovenotporn.com started on a serious note, explaining how any online sex idea is ignored by “Silicon Valley, Silicon Alley and Silicon everywhere,” but she hopes not for long. She advocates for real sex online, not porn, inviting everyone to create their own videos and to share them with the world on makelovenotporn.tv. The TED Talks presenter is an eloquent speaker.

“I aim to make sex socially acceptable. I am diffusing porn for real sex,” she said.

Then there’s Bang with Friends re-launched as Down. The sex app works like a racier, unapologetic version of Tinder. It helps you find your Facebook friends’ friends who are eager for a hookup as much as you–if you happen to like (read: click) each other. You could say Down means getting down to business.

The app can recommend the “hottest” friends of your friends’ friends. Asked how he makes the distinction, the poker-faced founder Colin Hodge said he has “a patent-pending bangability score” which drew hoots. If anyone recalls, Hodge’s controversial Bang with Friends was banned from the App Store.

The night, however, belonged to Vibease’s founder and CEO Dema Tio. The Singaporean’s app is a merging of both hardware and software. It’s a sexware. It’s a wearable vibrator. It’s as simple as making a phone call and a physical vibrator does the rest of the work. His demonstration had the crowd in stitches.

Rejected at first at Kickstarter, Dema Tio put his idea for crowdfunding on Indiegogo, raising $130,000 as of press time. Available on iPhone and Android, it is accepting orders for March delivery.

The idea came to Dema Tio when he was in Boston and away from his wife in Singapore.

The other eight presenters included Birdi, Capti, CircleStop, Confide, Lenddo, Radiator Labs, Soccket and ThinkUp

Launched in Indiegogo, Birdi monitors air quality, everyday health hazards, pollution and emergencies like fire and carbon monoxide so you can stay connected and protected in your home.

Capti captures text online and converts it into audio files, while Confide likes to be the Snapchat of email, which elicited a throwaway question about how it could have worked for Chris Christie.

Jeff Stewart and David Singh talked about Lenddo, an online platform that helps the emerging middle class use their social connections to build their creditworthiness and access local financial services. For instance, getting loans based on one’s social currency works for Lenddo in the Philippines, the social networking capital of the world, as this blogger also wrote about sometime back http://opinion.inquirer.net/20225/the-good-bad-of-ph-as-world-social-networking-capital.

Lenddo was also featured in this blog months ago at http://reimaginetech.com/lenddo-founder-offers-lending-platform-based-on-social-currency/

Next presenter Radiator Labs solves a nagging problem—how it can help stop fluctuating heat in your room, while ThinkUp serves personal analytics for social media, explaining in simple language how to get more out of the time you spend on Twitter or Facebook.

Dennis Clemente with Dema Tio of Vibease
Dennis Clemente with Dema Tio of Vibease

Best New York tech meetups of 2013

By Dennis Clemente

Let me introduce the best New York tech meetups of 2013, my extremely biased assessement of the best New York City had to offer from its startups, investors and tech meetup groups last year. I do hope you can give me some leeway in terms of my choices. After all, I was in more than a hundred tech startup meetups, fairs and other similar events.

It’s also what I could call the 2013 Reimagine Tech Awards or how I spent my night life attending one meetup after another. All in all, I wrote, mentioned and talked to more than 650 startups and investors (angel and otherwise) from these meetups–the ones who make it possible for many of these startups to get funding, of course.

I also logged in some hours talking to lawyers—those who offered their services and those who threw in the towel to join startups. It’s interesting to point out how so many of these so-called secure jobs are not just secure anymore.

So many professions are being disrupted. Jobs are scarce, as operations are being automated. And those who can’t get into entry-level jobs find themselves—what else?—transformed as entrepreneurs, which can be a good thing, if your startup makes it.

Different people from different parts of the world were in the meetups—either to pitch and present, lurk or watch closely. How are these startups doing now? We’ll just have to wait and see how they emerge a year or so from now.

Here are some of the best I’ve seen last year in New York’s tech meetups, not counting those pricey trade fairs I can’t afford to go to, although I managed to make it New York Tech Day and NYC Big Apps with Mayor Bloomberg in attendance.

BEST MEETUP GROUP. Hatchery’s Are You Serious meetup. You want honest-to-goodness feedback on your startup, business model and presentation style? You’ll get it here. Guest panel of investors from venture-backed firms are regulars and are familiar with the five-year long structure of the meetup. Host Yao Hui Huang runs a tight ship.

BEST MEETUP TALK: Steve Blank at Startup Grind. The native New Yorker who made his name as a Silicon Valley giant was entertaining and engaging to listen to. Runner-up: Joe Meyer, former CEO of Hopstop now with Apple, gave us valuable startup advice in a talk that lasted more than two hours—the longest by any one speaker last year.

BEST VC TALK: Fred Wilson. You can divide VCs into two categories. Those who don’t crack open a smile but are very helpful and those who smile but are not really helpful. Wilson managed to be both accommodating and helpful, but he certainly had more bite to his talk, giving a no-holds-barred opinion on NY and its tech startups. The other VCs were just too guarded, most likely because they get wooed all the time but hats off to Shai Goldman of 500 Startups, Adam Quinton of Lucas Point Ventures and Charlie O’Donnell of Brooklyn Bridge Ventures for their amazing fireside chats.

BEST ANGEL INVESTOR TALK: John Ason. Last year, there were so many of them who taught us so many things about how to get funding, but Ason was very candid and generous with his time. He didn’t have the stage for himself, but as part of a panel, he stood out. He’s also very approachable.

BEST MEETUP MODERATORS: Helman and Horn. It’s a tie between Michael Helman of Startup Nation and Jeremy Horn of The Product Group. Helman, host of Startup Nation and co-founder of WILLiFEST and Crowdzu, is a great interviewer with just the right pace and structure to his gentle grilling. Horn, on the other hand, is able to make nearly all 400 of his attendees speak up.

BEST MEETUP TALK SHOW: Startup Grind. Hats off to StartupGrind’s Brian Park for having the most important people in the tech world open up about what it takes to succeed as a startup—or in the world in general. Guests have included Steve Blank, Gary Vaynerchuck and Chet Kanojia.

Best venue. Skirball Theater, NY Tech Meetup's home.
Best venue. Skirball Theater, NY Tech Meetup’s home.

BEST VENUE. NYU Skirball Theater, home of NY Tech Meetup. With its cavernous 700-seating capacity, it’s even bigger than most Broadway stages with balconies and boxes, and huge after-presentation mixer on another floor. Runner-up: Queens Tech Meetup is on the top floor overlooking Manhattan’s skyline.

BEST AUDIENCE. Startup Grind’s. It won me over for having the most engaged audience. Others have the most number of attendees for their venue but with Startup Grind, no matter where it holds its next meetup, the audience just keeps on coming.

BEST TIP OR QUOTABLE QUOTE. It’s a tie between John Ason and Shai Goldman. When pitching to Ason, you need to do the following, in order: “Entertain. Engage. Inform.” Goldman had this to say, “All startup teams need 3Hs—hustler, hipster, hacker.” Runner-up: Mike Bloomberg, on not joining 2013 NYC Big Apps contest: “I didn’t join because it would be unfair to everyone here.”

BEST STARTUP. It’s hard to determine this from more than 600 startups I wrote or talked about last year. Besides, what would the criteria be for that? Instead, I have the BEST STARTUP PITCH OR PRESENTATION: The Lux Animals team and Dennis Crowley of Foursquare. The Lux team came in full force at the Microsoft Building to talk in detail about the many facets of its gaming business and advertising work. On the other hand, Dennis Crowley of Foursquare proved to be an engaging storyteller about his beginnings and his success now.

One final award goes to the MOST GRATEFUL STARTUP, because they took the time to say thank you for my write-up even with just a Tweet. It’s a tie between Lux Animals and Warby Parker. They thanked and tweeted me profusely for the blog write-ups. Thanks, guys.