Editorial is connected to programming nowadays

By Dennis Clemente

AppNexus meetup on business development and digital marketing
AppNexus meetup on business developmemt and digital marketing

“Everything we do in editorial is connected to programming.”

That’s Patrick Yee of Refinery 29 confirming how editorial roles have evolved through the years as online publishing keeps changing face, too. “Editorial now has equal partnership with product and technology.”

Editors have taken on many roles beyond editing and closing pages indeed.
Yee said editors today get SEO training, find out what are the implications of posting on Twitter, oversees how a photo on Facebook will look like and makes sure to know what articles are trending online.

Yee was at the AppNexus offices on 23rd St near Flatiron last April 29 talking about business development and digital marketing with the other speakers: Rich Kennedy of Business Insider and Kia Hsing of IAC. Gawker’s Erin Pettigrew moderated the talk with Alex Guttler, partnerships manager at AppNexus, serving as host.

How is programming connected with editorial? Just take a look at the immense popularity of BuzzFeed. “They (quizzes) get 5 to 10 million uniques a day,” Yee claimed.

With talk of digital marketing, Google was bound to come up. “The biggest traffic in media was Google but not anymore,” Yee said, pointing out how lots of disruption will continue to go on and you just have to embrace agility.

Yee said the size of the market of media is going to grow ten-fold. “We may even see media companies with valuation of $300 million to $10 billion.”

But going back to editorial has journalistic integrity been compromised by the race to get more page views? A tough one to answer because ignoring page views can also spell doom for online publishers and content creators.

Now it’s always about the packaging vis-a-vis the salacious headline.

But that’s not the only editorial challenge these days. “(It’s about) the person who spent 10 minutes who will be more interesting (for the publisher) than someone who spent only a few minutes,” Yee said.

It’s all about the time you spend on a site these days. It makes perfect sense, because we have become so easily distracted. Let me say this: Our attention span will be the most elusive commodity. You can quote me on that.

Text-to-speech messaging using Obama, Bush and Schwarzenegger’s voices

Heath Ahrens of iSpeech.org
Heath Ahrens of iSpeech.org
By Dennis Clemente

Heath Ahrens, CEO and founder of iSpeech, can send you text messages using the voices of Obama, Bush and Schwarzenegger and what’s remarkable is how he makes the voices sound like, well, the real thing. And it’s free for everyone to use and play with. That’s text to speech.

“Why do people buy stickers when they can Google a photo (and just turn it into a sticker)?” asked Ahrens, the guest at the NUI (natural user interface) community meetup at WeWork Labs last April 21. It’s because the market for it is huge.

Ahrens believes “messaging app users by end of 2014 will hit 2 billion, 40 percent of these active sticker users.” Median sticker pack price estimates: $318 million.

Now, merge sticker thinking with speech-recognition and you have TalkZ, a talking sticker (png file), essentially a new UI for messaging that uses both text and voice in every message.

The use of the voices of public figures is admittedly a gray area, legally, but Ahrens also asked how public figures are just obvious choices. The audience found it entertaining to hear the voices of public figures. Ahrens has not monetized TalkZ yet.

Test it for yourself. Simply download at the Apple store (no Android or Windows version yet) and test how Obama, Bush, Schwarzenegger sounds likes in your text message to a friend, with yes, the accompanying sticker. You won’t believe your ears.

Speech recognition has certainly come a long way, although Ahrens is quick to point out that it still can’t do Shakespeare. “Statistical models can’t read Shakespeare,” he said, which in layman’s terms just mean, “it’s not natural conversation.”

Ahrens also talked about how UI in voice has remained a challenge in public. Barking commands at your phone in public is still unnatural, for one, but that’s also how Ahrens came to think of effective UIs for his products.

Before TalkZ, Ahrens started iSpeech the company back in 2007. It provides human quality text-to-speech and speech recognition solutions to consumers, developers and businesses worldwide.

The quality of text to human speech on iSpeech is so natural, even it is speaking 30 languages, doing SMS dictation or serving as a personal assistant.

Ahrens said the idea came to him back in 2007 when he wondered, “What if you could text-speech while driving, which resulted in DriveSafe.ly, a mobile messaging app aimed at curbing distracted driving.

DriveSafe.ly reads your text messages and emails it out loud, so you can concentrate on the road. It reads and automatically responds to you. And you can respond by voice.

Downloaded well over 20 million times since September of 2009, DriveSafe.ly users have reportedly heard and spoken over a billion messages.

But what is the future of messaging? If WhatsApp was acquired for $19 billion, shouldn’t there be more developments in the user experience of mobile messaging? New clever uses of multimodal technology should emerge soon.

Today, over 12,000 developers have reportedly signed up for iSpeech to power their applications, appliances, automobiles, websites and platforms.

Stream Web and Infomous stand out in startup demos at Columbia Business School

By Dennis Clemente

New York’s tech startup scene has nightly hour-long meetups that serves as both entertainment and fund-raising ventures, but Columbia Business School’s Startup Demo Night #23 (media and entertainment) last April 17 took it to another level.

For four hours starting at 6 p.m., 11 startups in the entertainment and media space presented to six investors who then provided feedback. With limited time, presenters could only talk about some features of their startup ideas.

Like Stream Web which was, along with Infomous, the two standouts of the night, not only in terms of what they have to show for but how the other presenters could learn a thing or two about how to present properly, snark-free. I guess when you are confident about your startup, confidence comes naturally.

Stream Web is a web browser app for iOS packed with great features like dual browsing but founder Paul Canetti only had time to show the Stream. Instead of a URL link to share, you copy and paste an image as a URL. The clip itself is a link.

It’s simple to use. You cut out anything on the screen with two fingers and paste to share on your social networks, email, SMS or save for later.

“URLS are ugly and outdated. We’ve created a new modern standard that utilizes the essentials of the mobile experience: Visual, social, gesture-based,” Canetti said.

Infomous turns text into an interactive visualization that gives users an instant snapshot of what is trending. Founder and CEO Paolo Gaudiano presented again after being a favorite at innovator evening weeks ago. http://reimaginetech.com/infomous-gets-top-nod-vcs-innovator-evening-event/

Lori Cheek of Cheekd, who appeared on ABC 7’s Shark Tank recently but did not get funding from any of the show’s sharks, is not one to be easily discouraged. In about 10 weeks, she said she will have an app version.

What’s cheekd.com? Well, if approaching the opposite sex intimidates you, Cheeks offers a “covert: solution: old-school calling cards with clever pick-up lines.

Like what Cheek said on Shark Tank, she is determined to make her business work. It clearly shows in her presentation where others who face setbacks can’t put up a brave front, unless they know deep down how, three years into their startups, the challenges have become costly problems and they are not going to go away anytime soon.

The other startup presenters were Metodi Filipov, co-founder of Flipps Media; Nathaniel Casey, co-founder and CEO of Blaztrak; Waywire’s Javier Soto and David Larkin, founder and CEO of GoWatchIt.

David Larkin, CEO and founder of GoWatchIt
David Larkin, CEO and founder of GoWatchIt

The second leg of the presentations consisted of John Weinstein, founder and CEO of YouAreTV, Jeb Balise, CEO of Puzzle Social and Michael Jaschke, co-founder and CEO at 48Bricks Inc. Katerina Vorotova presented Try the World.

The investors who came in to provide feedback and advice were Neil Chheda, angel investor & managing partner at Romuls Capital; Jeff Pulver, angel investor & co-founder & chairman at Zula; Giordano Bruno Contestabile, angel investor & VP of product management and revenue at Tilting Point, Claude Zdanow, angel investor and founder and CEO of Stadiumred and lawyer Jonathan Maisel.

Bloomberg meetup tackles Big Data for context, advertising, service

Data-Driven presentation at Bloomberg LP
Data-Driven presentation at Bloomberg LP

By Dennis Clemente

How important was the Data Driven NYC #26 meetup last April 15? For people who confused “join” the meetup online as the way to RSVP for the event, it meant waiting half an hour to get in at the security-tight Bloomberg offices.

The wait was worth it. The top startups at the meetup showed how the world of big data analytics is gaining so much attention and million-dollar funding these days.

The presenters were Jason Tan, founder and CEO of Sift Science (fights fraud on websites with machine learning); Stephen Purpura, founder and CEO of Context Relevant (big data analytics); Ashish Thusoo, founder and CEO at Qubole (next-generation big data platform) and Josh Schwartz, lead data scientist at Chartbeat.

The spotlight presentation by Charlie Jacobson, co-founder and CEO of Firestop (end-to-end, cloud-based system for fire data, from inspection to fire ground) was the emotional favorite.

Tan demonstrated Sift Science and how its machine-learning algorithms can sift or sniff fraud online, like in a credit card purchase, for example. A human being flags this down later for review.

“With machine learning you can teach computers to build the rules themselves using statistics as data,” Tan says.

Sift is aiming at small-to-mid e-commerce businesses without the resources or budget to have sophisticated technology.

Another presenter catering to resource-challenged businesses is Context Relevant.

From Seattle, Purpura presented Context Relevant, a company that offers predictive data analysis using real-time data from HDFS, SQL, web logs, CRM systems, market data and social media to output analyses and projections.

The application also uses “behavioral libraries” which analyze interactions specifically for finance, web personalization and online travel.

Chartbeat’s Josh Schwarz’s presentation was more about getting people to talk about his question, paraphrasing here, “What if an internet ad was priced based on its display duration?”

A new study by Chartbeat on the success of internet ads found that about half of “viewable impressions” are only seen for 1 to 5 seconds. Online, it turns out, people look at an ad for up to five seconds.

Ad agencies, especially its creative and media planning departments, should set goals for different advertisers, because it turns out that an ad with a more complex storyline could still run for 6 to 15 seconds and still create an impact.

One might think making it on Google and Facebook is a life-long career, but some people prefer putting their own dents in the universe.

Tan came from Google and next presenter, Ashish Thusoo ran Facebook’s data infrastructure team before he co-founded Qubole.

Qubole offers big data-as-a-service with a “true auto-scaling Hadoop cluster.” It’s auto-scale feature automatically spins up users’ clusters when a job is started and automatically scales or contracts based on workload, cutting back on costs and management requirements.

An intuitive UI expands the reach of this service beyond data analysts to entire lines of businesses. Qubole handles the initial setup and then maintains the clusters. Its customers include Pinterest, MediaMath, Nextdoor and Saavn.

The audience responded warmly to a new iPad app developed for firefighters who need critical information quickly and intuitively as they respond to emergencies.

Charlie Jacobson, founder, showed how the app provides data like building layouts, fire hydrant locations and hazardous materials warnings to give firefighters the critical information they need during an emergency.

The meetup was hosted and organized by Matt Turck, VC at FirstMark Capital.

Solving technical challenges in ad tech

By Dennis Clemente

How many ads were served in 2008? Zero! Fast forward to 2014 and the total ads served are now close a hundred billion a day. As a result, ad technology (now simply called ad tech) companies in lower Manhattan have become a hotbed of technology, delivery and marketplace, focused on solving technical challenges at massive scale.

Last April 10, LaunchLM and CloudRFP presented NSOne, AeroSpike and MediaMath to talk about the solutions they are pursuing to meet the scalability and performance demands of modern digital advertising.

Kris Beevers, founder and CEO of NSOne, said nothing is fullproof, but he believes his company has worked hard to offer the following: perfect visibility in real time; high frequency; granular; and low latency.

Brian Bulkowski, founder and CTO of AeroSpike and Roland Cozzolino, CTO at MediaMath talked about real data and real solutions.

“We avoid hot spots to maintain tight latency, provide immediate consistency with replication and ensure long-running tasks do not slow down,” he said.

Later, Sam Machiz, VP of Solutions Engineering at Internap; Troy Paradiso, senior Systems Engineering manager at A10 Networks; James Marcus, director of IT at PulsePoint joined Beever, Bukowski and Cozzolino in the Q&A forum to address the needs of the online, mobile and mixed-content advertising space.

At present, the group is looking forward to improving the following:
• Global traffic distribution challenges and solutions at high scale
• Scaling distributed bidding engines to 100k+ QPS and responding <100ms • Consuming the internet's impression feed: queuing and real-time data systems in digital marketing Moderated by Zachary Smith, the meetup was held by Launch LM at Stack Exchange in Lower Manhattan. LaunchLM was designed to embrace collaboration, the diversity of industries, and the pursuit of progress. Developed by the Alliance for Downtown New York in collaboration with a group of technology, venture capital, urban planning and real estate professionals who share a desire to help grow innovation and build community in the central business district, LaunchLM intends to connect and support the growing tech community in Lower Manhattan. Learn more about LaunchLM at LaunchLM.com

VCs at Gotham Media Ventures talk about hot trends, funding issues

Gotham Media Ventures panel
Gotham Media Ventures panel
By Dennis Clemente

A typical New York meetup night usually hosts many startup presentations (seven or more most of the time) and not much about investors alone. At Gotham Media Ventures last April 8, it was refreshing to see no startups, just venture capitalists taking the limelight to talk about funding, trends and the challenges facing startups.

“Funding is hard. It stays hard,” said Scott Kumit, the candid founder and CEO of Keep, Swizzle as well as former CEO of About.com.

Kumit is giving us perspective and a better read of how funding now can be complex, easy in the first seed round, harder in the institutional round. The former is clearly easier, because with less money, there’s less risk. What makes the next stages hard, of course, is how you can ask for more money to scale your startup.

Jerry Spiegel, moderator and partner of Frankfurt Kumit Klien & Selz, got the same responses from the other panelists, Jason Klein, Merrill Brown, and Daniel Schultz.

“Institutional funding takes longer (these days). There will be a crunch,” said Klein, founder and CEO of Ongrid Ventures and board member of HBS Alumni Angels.

It’s common for investors to talk this way to keep things in check as they also talk about trends.

Klein sees geo-disruptive businesses and location-based technologies as the next hot trends. Think drones, although that may just be the obvious complimentary technology right now.

Brown, a venture partner at DFJ Frontier who is also the director of School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University, thinks there are still lots of money in a news platform. He was a media person back in the eighties.

For him, there will be more ways to do voice and data, citing box.com, messaging systems and platforms, and ad-supported media or ad tech.

“Stock prices look encouraging in ad tech. That means that news and TV will be disrupted.” It looks like the internet of things can pave the way for the disruption of communication channels. Think drones again.

Kumit agrees with Brown about content and ad tech, encouraging people to just go out there to do business. “Last year ad tech was nothing. So if you invent something, there is something for you.” BuzzFeed was cited.

Schultz, managing director and co-founder of Gotham Ventures, thinks the challenges are easy to overcome: “Anything you can think can be improved upon can be improved,” talking about the limitless possibilities out there. “We can improve quality of life on a global basis.” That includes home safety in a connected house.

Amazon was mentioned and it too can be disrupted, according to the VCs who think e-commerce is a multi-trillion dollar market. It’s just a matter of who is up to the challenge.

A question that has popped up lately is crowdfunding and almost always, VCs like to say they embrace it. Like Schultz. What’s not to like about it when customers fund a startup idea initially, half of the work for VCs (customer acceptance of a product or idea) is done. VCs can take the next logical step of scaling the business.

Kumit is averse to angels, though. His advice: “Take professional money over angel money. And take 3 or 4 times more money (that) you need.” Why? “Everything is twice as hard. You’ll work 18-hour days. Take more than you need,” he stressed.

The panelists also talked about big data and what you can do with massive amounts of data, but thinks the bitcoin craze is something else entirely. Only Klein seemed to be open about his skepticism over bitcoin—at least the technology behind it.

Infomous gets top nod from VCs at Innovator Evening event

By Dennis Clemente

At innovator evening, host Alan Brody will tell you his meetup is not a meetup, “it’s a crafted conference.” Brody means business. So does his esteemed panel of guests last April 2 at Dorsey & Whitney LLP near Grand Central Terminal.

Brody kicked off his conference with a two-hour workshop that asks (and answers) the question, “Are you Fundable?” followed by the presentation of six startups in front of some discerning, no-nonsense judges.

Alan Brody of ievening
Alan Brody of ievening

In order of their presentations were ColdSteel Laser, Infomous, Vidaao, Soshio, BeautyStat, Nonnatech and JetRyte with Infomous getting the top vote and the opportunity to present to Private Equity Forums on May 1. Visit privatequityforums.com

CEO Jerry Korten presented ColdSteel Laser as a startup medical device company that has developed a novel technology, one that remotely controls an endoscopic surgical laser. The technology is being licensed from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. To date, ColdSteel Laser has raised $1.125 million and expects delivery of a functional platform in June this year.

How does it work? The technology allows a surgeon to visualize an operative field on a graphics tablet and, by tracing a stylus over the image, control a CO2 laser as it cuts tissue inside a patient, in real time.

The next presenter, Infomous, looks similar to a tag cloud, but founder and CEO Paolo Gaudiano shows us how trending topics pop up right from its “cloud.” It claim users can find quickly the information they care about, as it appears to get rid of the media noise all-too prevalent out there.

Vidaao’s Justin Park said his startup reduces the cost of creating videos by 25 to 30 percent. This is accomplished through an online marketplace—one that connects brands with more than 500 video creatives in 48 US and EU cities.

Soshio is into Chinese social media analytics using technology that analyzes content in native Chinese text, with a proprietary emotion analysis, for which it reportedly has an approved provisional patent application.

CEO Matt Grotenstein sees a big market, more than 600 million in China, in fact. With Facebook and Twitter blocked in China, he sees a more focused approach is required to address and understand the rapidly growing Chinese market.

BeautyStat led by Rob Robinson also sees potential in the beauty market amounting to $32.4 billion. The site is a search and discovery site that gives consumer alerts of beauty product deals, exclusive offers and ways to discover products.

“Consumers need unbiased info to help them make smarter purchases,” he said while also announcing the partnership it struck with Amazon last week.

Nonnatech presented remote behavioral monitoring using its connected aging devices.

The last presenter was Pillar Rock USA Corp, a nutraceutical company that specializes in the development and distribution of over-the-counter effervescent tablets that fit in water bottles. Its mission is to build high-quality effervescent nutraceutical niche products. Its flagship product is jetRyte, a patent-pending effervescent tablet that is a refreshing change from hard tablets and messy powders.

Guest Wazi Wazihullah, professor of entrepreneurship at Molloy College, also provided valuable insights and feedback.

NY Tech takes a Breather, ShortCut, Stream Web and Fake Girlfriend with Zach Morris

NY Tech meetup audience
NY Tech meetup audience

By Dennis Clemente

If you want to find out about tech startups and be entertained at the same time, there’s nothing like the NY Tech Meetup. The nine to 10 presentations–with hacks-of-the-month specials to boot–are still too many to cover in a span of two hours, but the hosts can be forgiven because they keep things light and playful.

The breezy, relaxed atmosphere can be contagious. Presenters feel at ease onstage, even when the internet connection–not a problem before but has been for the past two meetups—can be scattershot.

It has unruffled some presenters, but Paul Canetti, as one of the presenters last April 1, kept his cool, adlibbing and poking harmless fun on the internet. It helped that his new venture, Stream Web, a smartphone browser for iPhones, was the night’s easy favorite.

Stream Web is a browser specifically made for smartphones. It gets how people use their iPhones, with the search function located at the bottom, instead of the middle of the phone. This makes it convenient for one-hand iPhone users. Yes, Stream Web is only on iOS, for now.

The audience was thrilled to hear from nine startups.

Ny Tech meetup presenters and Adhere Tech's patented bottle
Ny Tech meetup presenters and Adhere Tech’s patented bottle

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Breather offers private rental spaces in New York and Montreal. A question pointed to a malicious reaction, because who knows what you and someone else can do there in a few hours?! Of course, if you have a dormant real estate space, here’s an opportunity to rent out your space.

Adhere Tech was serious in its presentation, as it asked how many times have you forgotten medication you’re supposed to take at the precise time you have to take it? AdhereTech’s patented smart pill bottles can do this now.

How about turning a term of endearment into a crowdsourced knowledge base? Honey.is appeared to have created a more personal Yammer, as it captures and shares conversations and tools you use everyday –text, links, videos, and files of all types but with closing deals, not just social interaction, in mind. Let’s see how that goes for them.

Shufflrr is another app that’s trying to disrupt Powerpoint. It calls itself business social in the sense that you can easily broadcast presentations using social tools.

Everyone already felt so appreciative of the new technologies they were hearing and seeing onstage, but Shortcut, a presenter at AOL just a few months ago, would excite the audience even more. Here’s a question. What if you could control all things happening in your home by voice automation?

That’s Shortcut. You left your lights on, you talk to your phone to turn it off. It’s impressive how it works to make most of your household appliances and electronics stuff at home almost magically turn on with a voice command. However, it’s not alone in this idea; this may become just a race to whoever hits critical mass first.

The last presenter of the night, Kandu, is a tool that lets kids make games and apps without knowing how to or need for code. It’s an “entertainment” tool if you compare it to Scratch. Will it encourage more kids to go to the next level? Learning how to code, that is.

The other presenters included Skillcrush, a place for learning programming languages and WeWork, which announced new co-working spaces for entrepreneurs in New York.

To break the monotony of startup presentations, the NY Tech Meetup has Hacks of the Month. Ricky Robinett’s Fake Girlfriend and Emergency Zach Morris hacks got the crowd laughing. With Fake Girlfriend, he said, you can create a Fake Girlfriend number and equally fake name and then choose to get a pre-recorded call or text message from your virtual girlfriend. For his second hack, he showed how to get your Zach Morris fix. You call 718-395-5255 to hear the voice of the Saved by the Bell star. A voice in the crowd, certainly someone who didn’t grow up in the 80s, asked who?!

This blogger looks forward to the day when NY Tech Meetup gives fewer presentations with more time allotted for startups to talk about their business in more detail, especially how an idea was born, how a product was conceived, how an app was created and how a team was formed. Writers would also be able give these startups fair media coverage–and give Robinett time to explain who Zach Morris is.