Adways offers interactive CTA overlays in video platform

By Dennis Clemente

Last May 15, the NY Video Meetup played host to startup presenters with an international pedigree—Adways from France and Fluendo from Spain. Even the first presenter, Vyer Films, said the name Vyer in Norwegian means having a clear perspective of the future. But they’re Americans like the remaining two presenters—Digiriot and the husband-and-wife tandem of Feedbac. It’s not common to find a married couple presenting their own co-founded startup but we wish there were more of them.

The affable host Steven Rosenbaum opened the night talking about and showing a short clip from his film, 7 Years At Ground Zero. It was a long day for Rosenbaum who came from the 9/11 Memorial Museum launch early that morning. He was given access to document the building and curation of the museum. He kidded about needing an editor to trim over 700 hours of footage to 90 minutes. Email him if he is serious about it.

Vyer Films works like Mubi and Fandor. If you like watching independent and foreign films before they arrive in the U.S., they have films streaming on their site. It’s $20 a month for 2 films a month. “Vyer Films is a new film curation service, or the meaningful-experience-through-film business,” said K.C. McLeod, founder and CEO.

For the curation part, the movies are categorized based on your mood. They also have a curator’s statement for each film and in some cases, even interviews with filmmakers. The startup has four staff, including Meredith Wade, co-founder and CMO.

Can you create a cloud-based interactive video in less than five minutes? It really depends. If you have the video and you just need interactive overlays, it’s possible.

Adways offers videos, photos, shopping cart and social media tools to help you craft call-to-action messages from the videos.

The tool uses a drag-and-drop functionality in HTML 5 and offers interactive overlays such as videos, photos, frames, shopping cart and social media tools.

Adways’ Fabrice Jaeger said he worked at NBC before, went back to France and then came back to go full-time on his video creation tool with Zeb Holt, VP of Technology. It was hands down the night’s crowd-pleaser.

Feedbac was interesting from the perspective of how a married couple, sharing the same animating skills, collaborated on a collaboration tool—one that allows anyone to give real-time visual feedback on videos.

“With the tool, you can bring your team to the cloud to watch, make frame-by-frame notes, notate and assign tasks on your video projects,” said Dara King-Fequiere who came with hubby Chris Fequiere.

From Barcelona, Fluendo is a company that enables multimedia and video on a wide variety of devices and operating systems. It just launched a new product suite called OnePlay for corporate users and resellers/OEMs. Test how the subtitles work.

Last presenter was Jeff Koenig of Digiriot, which currently shows an original sci-fi video series but who wants to give more content creators out there better exposure and success for their programs via its platform.

The NY Video meetup changes venues every now and then. It was at Columbia University at one time, at the Made in NY Media Center in Dumbo, Brooklyn and at AOL near NYU. The meetup was co-hosted by Bianca Francis.

Strategies for your patent, trademark, copyright and domain names

Boag with his deck
Boag with his deck

By Dennis Clemente

Last May 14, Andrew Wong’s New York Entrepreneurs Business Network hosted a special talk on how to strategize for your patent, trademark and copyright as well as the siginificance of the new domain names in Battery Park, downtown Manhattan.

David Boag presented “The Big Three”: patents, trademarks and copyrights. He runs boutique intellectual property law practice that focuses on trademark, copyright and technology law.
Just to give a brief description of one and the other, patent (terms is 20 years from filing; use upon issuance) is the right to exclude others from making, using, selling or importing the invention, described in the patent’s claims.

Trademark (indefinite, use in commerce) is a symbol that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others. Copyright (life of the author +70s, fixation) is the exclusive right of an author to exploit a work, including making copies, publicly performing the work, and preparing derivative works.

Boag explained The Big Three. For patents, he said you need to identify patent-worthy inventions. The important thing, he said, is for you to aim at not just any patent, but a valuable one. Next thing you can do is file early and be the first to file, and file continuations and adapt. For trademarks, confirm availability early and make sure to be distinctive, as you take care of it, use it correctly and protect it.

What’s the difference between that TM and r symbols? The one with the r symbol is actually registered. For copyrights, register important materials, the source code of the website, for instance; and have registration requirement for infringement claim.

What are some examples of design patents? It can be a shoe design, smartphone, GUI or graphical user interface.

Other things to keep in mind:

• Use your trademarks properly and consistently; non-use or generis use can be deadly
• For patents, file within one year of your first public disclosure; many foreign jurisdictions require “absolute novelty”
• By default an employee owns work done within the scope of employment; use employment agreements
• Consulting is different from employer-employee agreements
• Avoid infringement of the right of others; confirm FTO (freedom-to-operate) before starting
• Fair use is not always fair. Limited use for commentary, criticism, parody (look at purpose, amount nature and impact)

Breaking down the costs for each, patents will set you back $5,000 to $10,000 up; trademark about $1,000; and copyright, about $300.

Boag said the problem will find you if you don’t do it right. In 2013, there were a total of 302,948 patent issues; 40,000 software patents and 4,701 patent infringement suits, 62 percent bought by NPEs. How much does a wrongdoing cost? How does $29 billion in direct costs and litigation costs sound to you?

Boag said seeking patents is expensive and may not be worth it.. “It’s a judgment call.” Companies use it to protect early market share. Trademarks, on the other hand, protect your identity and branding. It has national rights and puts others on notice, but requires care and feeding.

The night’s other speakers were David Mitnick and Howard Greenstein of DomainSkate, an Internet company that focuses on online brand protection. The two talked about the new Top Level Domain Names that you can use for your startup or as investment as well as issues on cybersquatting and mirror sites.

Mitnick, CEO, said he created Domainskate when he saw the potential in the expansion of the global Top Level Domain space. He also shared his expertise in the area of Domain Law. Greenstein teaches social media in the Masters Program at the Heyman Center for Philanthropy and Fundraising at NYU SCPS. He is currently contributing editor for Inc. Magazine, writing the weekly Startup Toolkit.

The Big Three
The Big Three

How ripe are you for Seed A investment—and other VC insights

By Dennis Clemente

What makes a startup ripe for Seed A investment? There’s the most obvious answer: “You have demonstrable revenue growth.” There’s the hopeful response: “You’re selling more metrics and data than just sizzle.” And the standard throwaway response: “…If you’ve become a revenue-focused brand.” You’ll do better with the first reaction; keep your hopes up for the second; plan long for the third.”

Last May 13, Rubicon Venture Capital’s Joshua Siegel hosted a night of VC talk and startup demonstrations at Orrick at CBS building. For the first part of the night, Siegel brought in the venture capitalists to answer his prepared questions like the one above. The VCs were Marc Michel of Metamorphic Ventures; Will Peng of Red Swan Ventures; Brad Svrluga of High Peaks Venture Partners; Nikhil Kalghatgi of Vast Ventures and Matt Gorin of Contour Venture Partners.

Elaborating on their responses regarding Seed A investment, the VCs put importance to having customer acquisition metrics and a repeatable sales process. “If you’re past the idea of product/market fit thinking, then you’re ready,” Michel said.

Still, at least two VCs said it has become harder to pinpoint what Seed A means nowadays. “The nomenclature has changed. What was an A can now be B.”

Peng said strong engagement with a group of people is key, but he also attempted to simplify it, “Early stage is, ‘Do people want it’ (your startup)? Series A is, ‘Do a lot of people want it’?”

What areas or sectors are ripe for Series A funding? VCs may not always give you a straight answer, because even without them saying it, the tech space is always evolving, if not converging with some other service or technology. Michel considered marketplaces, the shared economy, even mentioning Uber as a marketplace, but to avoid pigeonholing himself, he said, “Every firm will have its own idiosyncrasies.”

Really now, why can’t they say more? Peng doesn’t want to influence mindsets, “We don’t want you to change your business model based on trends, because we look for companies that come from a genuine place. If you are building something you are passionate about and you have the conviction to make it work, then we’ll take a look at it.” For a few seconds, he buckled and said food, but stopped short of elaborating. If he is talking about Soylent, look into it if you haven’t heard about it.

Asked if they work with other investors, Michel said, “We syndicate everything we do. We look for good partners and share financial risk, because most companies take time to develop.”
VCs have the resources to add value to your startup where angel investors can only provide expertise. Kalghatgi, however, is not one to share a startup with another investor if it means he’ll be hampered by what his firm can offer.

The difference between East Coast and West Coast investors is a topic not brought too often in public, but Siegel tried to say who would respond. Without going into detail, he said, “We hear a lot of crazy stuff in San Francisco, (how) it’s easy to get money.”

Svrluga said, “It’s 10 times bigger (there). There are also better entrepreneurs out there.”
In New York as opposed to Silicon Valley, there was also a comment about how good VCs see through the hype—and fakery. They ask about hitting milestones that attract investors. They want the right team, the right technology, the right differentiation.

Peng added how he doesn’t like you buying traffic, because it’s fake growth, akin to what we’ve learned with the Emperor with No Clothes fable. “It you stop buying traffic, you will (see) that you don’t have anything. Don’t go this road of lies.”

A question that pops up every now and then is how to get noticed by VCs. The response has always been the same: (face-to-face) networking, but Svrluga went a step further. True to how technology has improved networking, he said Linkedin is the greatest referral tool. “If you can’t figure out Linkedin, then you won’t be able to get the audience.”

Naiveté permeates entrepreneur novices, according to Svrluga. He suggested you come to him with a warm lead; for Gorin, a strong reference; for Kalghatgi, a person who knows you really well and can give you an accurate portrayal.

It’s true what they say. Mondays are no-nos for VCs. Michel laid out his schedule on the table: “I have 30-meeting slots dedicated to meeting new companies. But he is also quick to say how it’s physically impossible to meet everyone. Mondays are a no-no. It’s all a day of meetings.”

After the VCs’ talk, the startup demonstrations followed. The presenters were Jeremy Kagan of Pricing Engine; Michael Ibrahim of Whisk, an Uber competitor; co-founders Merritt Baer and Brian Fenty of TodayTix; Peter Stebe of nextSociety, and Doug Chambers of Field Lens.

For those starting out in New York, nextSociety’s Stebe tells us how networking with the right people proved crucial in his life away from his home, Germany. Now he’s monetizing it with nextSociety, an iOS networking app using a relevance score, a smart indicator that tells you how well a connection aligns with your professional interests.

Every startup has an interesting back story. For Stebe, who is from Germany, it was always how he dreamed of living in New York. Now he has a startup here.

Field Lens’ Chambers was succinct and to the point in his short presentation. In his construction work app, he talked about how he is answering the problem of communication breakdowns typical in construction work. He has a solid team, another important ingredient in a startup.

Having been funded, he knows the drill. Determining a problem and how you can solve it is crucial to your success and VC funding.

Startups in New York: If you know the drill, you can be spared the grilling

Investors at Ultra Light Startup
Investors at Ultra Light Startup

By Dennis Clemente

Startups in New York should know the drill by now. When you go from one tech meetup to another as you present your app or idea, you’re going to get different reactions and even some water-dousing realizations if you’re not prepared, because no tech meetups are alike. You could be largely entertaining in one, but questionable in another; “fundable” in one, need pivoting in another. The difference: Venture capitalists and/or investors are present in some meetups where in others, you’re just facing an audience who don’t care if you have a business model or not. The audience is there to have fun where VCs mean business. Bottom line: Investors want to know if you have a viable startup and if you do, you’re selling it to them properly.

Guest speakers-investors at the Ultra Light Startup last May 8 at the Microsoft Building near Times Square made sure they got their message across where the eight presenting startups may have not been so clear or forthcoming with theirs; it happens to the best startups when nerves can get in the way, as one did when he completely blanked out for 30 seconds in his two-minute allotted time.

The panel that may have intimidated that presenter consisted of Murat Aktihanoglu, ER Accelerator founder; Somak Chattopadhyay, managing partner at Armory Square Ventures; Brian Cohen, chairman at New York Angels; Pankaj Jain, venture partner at 500 Startups.

Each of the eight startups presented to the investors who then asked questions and gave an actionable feedback—a “what-a startup-needs-to–do-the-next-morning?” type of advice—after their two-minute presentation. They were Josh Stein of Adhere Tech; Zeb Dropkin of RentHackr (both having presented at NY Tech Meetup without a hitch); Emily Washkowitz of Shareswell; Charles Brun of Now In Store; Zach Goodman of Unlockable, Claire Cunningham of Lessonface; Rafael de Haro of Lifedots; and Juri Kaljundi of Weekdone.

Since many of these startups are in their early stages, let’s spare them the humiliation and just let you do the guesswork—as a way to determine your capacity to find out which one needs to pivot or reinvent itself, to put it mildly.

Here then are some “editorialized readings” into the questions and advice given by the investors—some brutally honest, another appeasing which compelled one investor to say to another, “You’re so nice,” as if there were no nice VCs.

• Testing the panel’s patience: It went from polite, “Messaging has to be clear.” (Read: What business are you really in?) to serious advice, “Choose another business” to frustration, “I still don’t understand your business”
• The name matters. For one highly personal product, the suggestion was to add a pronoun.
• Bottle pill product. Two investors suggested making it recycled, as the price of every new bottle could be a challenge. A serious question was asked, What if a handicapped bedridden person can’t use it and need help? Another question, Can you add social networking to it?
• On pain points. What is the pain point in the renting space? What is the incentive for the renter? Ask yourself, how many users do you need before you get to the landlord? Build user base first and tell brokers you will give them qualified leads. How are you acquiring these users? Another startup was also asked to answer what pain points he is addressing and why do consumers need him.
• Customer acquisition. Focus on it, or do cool tech. Of course, both would be better
• Pitch carefully because you’re in a crowded space (for investors’ ears)
• Find out the percentage of people downloading catalogs
• Focus on effective than pretty
• Think of Pinterest integration
• If it sells, it’s clever; if not, sell “cleverly.” Think of the tech behind it and the incentive for artists who may not be as receptive to the idea as normal people
• Allow changes… real-time (best advice of the night)
• How much monitoring can you actually do with the space constraints of a mobile phone? Consider pivoting app as report generation
• Think of privacy issues (especially In light of Snapchat’s current dilemma)
• Give first before taking. Give everyone here free subscription, with the investor motioning to the meetup audience.

The night’s winners (presenters) as voted by the audience: For the startup presentation, Shareswell won for its inspired idea: gifting stock inspired by the bridal registry concept. And what do you know; the founder is engaged to be married in a few weeks. The question we forgot to ask is, “Which came first, though: The startup idea or the upcoming nuptials?”

For most valuable tips, Somak, the investor labeled nice guy, won. But do nice guys invest first?

NY Tech Meetup: How to organize your life, death and TV (in no particular order)

By Dennis Clemente

NY Tech Meetup folks: Ever thought of how to organize the way you organize; how to watch TV endlessly; and yes, how to realize you’re not immortal, after all? It’s the May edition of the most entertaining tech meetup in the city. Even the hosts are entertaining. And that inquisitive 11-year-old boy Peter is back asking the most interesting questions.

Last May 6’s presenters at Skirball Theater were Centrallo, Endless TV, Everplans for the first three startups this blogger just mentioned followed by HackHands, Lifedots, Pagevamp, the funny duo of Poncho, Qvit, Strayboots and Hack-of-the-Month presenter Heat Seek NYC.

Centrallo took to the sage first telling us how its app can organize your life. You can create unlimited lists within lists and share them with your network. You can also view priorities and focus on what matters most. It’s only on iOS for now; Android is next.

What if the phone and TV had a baby? The presenters said it would deliver EndlessTV. It picks the TV/video clips you want to watch, almost non-stop as it still has ads to sustain it. Its success will definitely hinge on how it refines the selection for you, having been spoiled by the streaming music brands Spotify and Pandora.

Death comes to us all, so how you can prepare for it? Everplans said it’s got your back but questions about it arose from the live audience: How much information about yourself are you willing to put online? How can you expect old people to go online?

Another “messianic” startup, HackHands wants to save developers the trouble of figuring out development challenges with its instant coding support—24/7 at that. Right now, it offers support for Ruby on Rails only.

How about saving your photos the Lifedots way? Or turning your Facebook photos into a website via Pagevamp? Both of these startups tap Facebook, although the former also allows you to use Twitter and its iOS app for you to get photos from your social pals to keep for yourself.

Pagevamp makes use of your photos to create a website in one click. It’s riding on the Facebook eco-system, so you have to have Facebook to use it.

Poncho is all about personalization of your weather service. It’s certainly fun compared to the weather sites we’re used to. You get emailed about the weather as it relates to your daily rituals.

Qvit offers a virtual dressing room online. You measure yourself first then you go online to see how clothes will look on you, as worn by a model; it’s only an image, not a live model.
The three women behind it said they are working with 30 brands now. And soon enough, even your face could appear on the site along with the clothes you’re trying out—online.

Because it has an API, the virtual room can be recreated on retail shop’s sites.
You might not have guessed Stray Boots by its name right away, but it’s a neat idea when you have people asking you where to go. If you’re too busy to be the tour guide, you can just create an itinerary for them to go to. It generates all the landmarks and interesting places for you.

Even a better idea, Heat Seek NYC, as the Hack of the Month, helps tenants prove their apartment is too cold when landlords don’t turn up the heat during wintertime. Just so you know the legal requirement in the city is 55 F. It’s a heat sensor that connects to Wi-Fi, by the way.

The founders said “it’s our way of ‘algorithmic advocacy-ing’.”

Why did I say the The NYTech Meetup is the most entertaining of all tech meetups in NY? It is for most people, but this blogger has more fun when there are actual investors in meetups, giving their own feedback to the presentations.

All-women tech panel talk about customer acquisition and building successful corporate culture

Guest panelists at Orrick meetup at CBS Building
Guest panelists at Orrick meetup at CBS Building

By Dennis Clemente

At the Orrick Total Access meetup last April 30, Joy Marcus, CEO of Bloglovin & venture partner at Gotham Ventures, looked at the panel in admiration. Seeing all were women tech founders, she looked at them proudly before turning to the audience and acknowledging each one of them. She said she relishes the day when she doesn’t need to say the guest list consists of an all-women panel, just a panel.

At the Orrick law offices at the CBS Building that night were women. For the customer acquisition talk, the panelists were Tanya Menendez, co-founder, Maker’s Row; Carly Strife, co-Founder, BarkBox; Kathleen Utecht, angel investor & venture partner; and Danielle Weinblatt, co-founder & CEO, Take the Interview.

For the corporate culture talk after, panelists were Angela Lee, founder of 37 Angels, moderated Mona Bijoor, founder & CEO, of Joor; Kellee Khalil, founder & CEO of Lover.ly; Elissa Shevinsky, co-Founder & CEO, Glimpse Labs of Nina Sodhi, Founder & CEO of Nackina.

In the first talk, Menendez said understanding users is very important. “Do user interviews. Find out if users are obsessed with it (your product), then create products designed for them, making sure you have the right people onboard to tell your story that resonates with the audience, your community and among journalists.”

The other women agreed, but Weinblatt put it in her own way, saying she makes customers “adore us.” How? “Never underestimate the power of ‘polite persistence.’ Not everyone closes doors on your face. Do it over and over again.”

As an investor, Utecht’s comment was right up her alley, “The best way to acquire customers is (by getting into) partnerships.”

Strife, on the other hand, said word of mouth comprises 50 percent of her site’s monthly acquisition with referral as her “most successful channel.” “We pay them real money.”

In terms of measuring success with analytics, the women agreed that SEO, SEM and content creation are crucial, as well as A/B testing everything. Menendez said she should have focused on SEO from Day 1.

The next talk moderated by Angela Lee was tricky, as it tackled something not easy to quantify or measure: culture.

The panel suggested watching out for the following:
1. Ask yourself if you are experiencing something toxic and political?
2. Are you excited to come to work?
3. Are you excited about the product?
4. When something bad happens, who saves the day?
5. Can you bro it out with the guys?
6. Are people buying into the pain points you’re addressing?
7. Do you share the values of the staff and startup?

The panel also shared their hiring choices with Lee the moderator kicking it off. “I don’t do interviews. I ask people to do projects.”

Shevinsky said she finds people overlooked by the industry whereas Khalil said she prefers to test her hires with a 90-day contract.

But how do you become a successful startup? “It’s all about consistency. It’s a marathon,” Bijoor said.