Global Innovator presents foreign startups in transit, mobile marketing, marketplace and health

WIN's Global Innovator meetup
WIN’s Global Innovator meetup

By Dennis Clemente

Where most tech startup events lump all startups without geographic distinction, Global Innovator makes it entirely clear that foreign startups has an American audience and more importantly, a panel of guests from New York’s VC world to give them feedback and possibly, funding.

The bi-monthly series is powered by the Worldwide Investor Network (WIN), a New York-based platform focused on helping early stage global tech startups shorten the path to funding and acceleration in the US market.

What also makes Global Innovator different from other tech meetups is how the whole affair has an air of formality about it, quite different from other meetups where the standard garb is T-shirt and jeans and the setup is freewheeling. Here, attendees wear suits, wine keeps flowing, press kits (even without the press in attendance, except this blogger) are provided, and just for added glamour, all the kibitzing continue to the rooftop—for VIP ticket holders. Like I said, it has an air of formality. And it helps that they have sponsors to pull this off.

Last June 25, the four foreign startups followed Global Innovator’s theme-Mobile Apps. The presenters were TransitApp, YouAppi, Gone! And Nutrino. Following the format, they presented for five minutes with no apparent time limit for VCs to give their feedback. Tanya Prive, founder of RockThePost moderated the event with WIN’s Eyal Bino opening the affair. They may consider introducing where each startup comes from.

Sam Vermette, co-founder of TransitApp, spoke about its app—how its finds your next departure instantly. Free. What makes it different from any other transit app? Instead of giving you just a schedule or map, it tells you when your public transport is nearby.

“People only want one thing: When is my ride coming?” he said.

He’s confident that in the future, people will be using more public transport, citing how China moves 2.5 billion in public transport. He’s eyeing the world. With $17 billion in fares in US and Canada, the numbers out there for his other 70 markets must be huge. His biggest market is New York.

He looks forward to the day when you can just beam your phone on any public transport system. “Our friction-less payment (method) is in prototype.”

But what makes it different from Google? “We think public transport deserves its own app where Google is the Swiss knife of apps,” he said, as he looks forward to the day also when every city has Wi-Fi.

Moshe Vaknin, founder of YouAppi, presented YouAppi, a mobile apps recommendation platform that has reportedly raise $2.2 million.

Using the YouAppi system, publishers of mobile apps, reportedly gain a simple and reliable way to target their acquisition and retention resources for the highest valued and most loyal consumers.

“YouAppi is for mobile publishers struggling to monetize their inventory using traditional banner ads,” Vaknin said.

Nico Bayerque of Gone! showed how his app works as an algorithm-powered concierge service that sells your items, pick them up, package them appropriately and fulfills them.

Addressing what he calls the 350 billion market, he is answering what’s foremost in our minds: What do we do with our junk? And suggesting why not sell them through Gone! Electronics is a best-seller.

He demonstrated how he mines pricing data using ebay, for example, to gauge how much you can sell your products lying in waste at home.

Highest worth of products Gone! has picked up and the windfall the person received for using their app: $1,600. “Once we remove anything from your house, you get paid,” he said.

Why them? He said they know the marketplace. “If you want to sell wine, for example, we know the marketplace for it.”

The last presenter was Nutrino. Using your personal and medical profile, goals and food preferences, Nutrino’s patent pending technology helps create a healthy dietary plan for you.

Nutrino adapts to you in real time, continuously improving its recommendations. It’s supposed to be the first data-driven personalized food recommendation engine in the market.

The VCs at the presentations were Danny Schultz, managing director, Gotham Ventures; Jalak Jobanputra, managing partner, FuturePerfect Ventures; Hadley Harris, founding general partner, Eniac Ventures; and Nic Poulos, principal, Bowery Capital.

The other speaker of the night was Dave Kerpen, founder and CEO of Likeable Local and best-selling author, likened fundraising to dating.

Based on his experience, here are his fundraising tips:

• Transparency is good but not o too much

• Don’t waste your time once you know it’s not a good fit

• They’re going through the same thing you are

• Persistence is vital in any relationship worth having

• In the end it’s worth it

Is a media startup a good investment?

Adrienne Skinner of e-marketer and Rafat Ali of Skift
Adrienne Skinner of e-marketer and Rafat Ali of Skift

By Dennis Clemente

Media startups — a good investment or not? It really depends on who you’re talking to. This was the topic at the TiE meetup last June 24 on Park Avenue South.

If you’re pitching to a VC, convincing them to invest in your media startup is not easy. That’s what Rafat Ali, founder and CEO of Skift, the leading global travel intelligence publication, will tell you.

If we’re talking numbers, it’s a lucrative industry, because digital ad spending has reached $51 billion. That’s the number Adrienne Skinner of e-marketer showed us.

So if VCs are out of the question, you’ll need to raise funds in your immediate vicinity: family and friends and after that, angel investors, even accelerators or incubators. You could also bootstrap it yourself, hope to raise traction and once you accomplish that, try with a VC again. It can happen.

BuzzFeed and Vice have raised $330 million deals. More recently, Upworthy got $7 million in funding. They’re exceptions, Ali will tell you. Having been a longtime journalist, his insights have always been spot-on.

“The growth curve of media is not as high,” he said, pointing to how media requires brand-building efforts in some of his previous interviews.

Media as an asset class is not a focus for venture capitalists. “Venture capital is geared toward giant opportunities,” he added.

It doesn’t mean that media is not a good investment, of course. Some venture capitalists just have different priorities and others like Lerer Ventures, is perfectly fine as an investor of BuzzFeed.

Travel turned out to be a lucrative choice for Ali, a tech journalist before he ventured into his first startup, PaidContent in 2002, which he sold to The Guardian in 2008.

“Travel is the largest B-to-C e-commerce category at $145 billion (US digital travel sales) and $416 billion (worldwide),” said Skinner of e-marketer, the authority on digital marketing, internet market research, statistics, and objective analysis.

Two inflection points that media can look into are mobile ad spending and digital ad spending. In 2016, ad spending is estimated to increase by 83 percent, overtaking the desktop, which shrunk 2.4 percent in 2014. In 2018, digital ad spending will overtake TV

Mobile’s share of the pie is only doing one thing: Getting bigger at 613 percent. That’s growth in daily time spent with mobile from 2010 to 2014.

Still, digital pubs and ad agencies should take into account that that ad spending is also highly concentrated among a handful of companies. Google, Facebook, Microsoft Yahoo, AOL, IAC, Amazon, Twitter and Linkedin share 66 percent of it, which has reduced traditional ad agencies’ share of the pie.

Social accounts for more than 13 percent of digital ad spending. It’s at $7 billion to $51 billion for digital ad spending. Ali cautions people looking into social opportunities. “Social is really easy to get into, but like badminton, hard to master,” Ali said.

Beyond the number-crunching, Skinner said every marketer needs to know 3 fundamental things: 1) How consumer spend money; 2) how consumers spend time and 3) and how best to reach consumers

For the latter, Ali stressed email newsletters more than once. “It’s the no. 1 source for us for getting users.”

The meetup was hosted by “TiE Bootstrap,” a focused series of panel discussions and workshops for entrepreneurs considering a new venture or in the growth stage.

‘Wearables can only be ready if you can bring it to a date’-engineer

Toq by Qualcomm
Toq by Qualcomm

By Dennis Clemente

Would you bring a wearable to a date?

Imagine you’re in full tech regalia. You have the Google Glass, the Galaxy Gear, the Vusix M100, the Epson Moverio BT200, the Oculus Rift (suddenly hot from its billion-dollar purchase by Facebook), the Avegant Glyph, the Sony Smartwatch, the Nod, Pebble and Qualcomm’s Toq, to name a few of the few gizmos you can bring with you.

That is taking wearable garbs to Darth Vader extreme, but until all these are seamlessly integrated in your body, you won’t wear any of these on a date, because who wants something between them and their date?

Putting it in this context, Andrew Sugaya, senior software engineer at APX Labs, is just confirming what we already know: “Wearables are not ready for consumers.”

Giving proper perspective on wearables, he asked, “Would you wear it if your boss asks you to wear it?” If you put it that way, yes.

Speaking at NY Mobile Forum at Microsoft last June 23, Sugaya said he is confident that it’s just a matter of time, though.

Would you take his word for it? It probably helps to say that Sugaya graduated at the top of his class with a B.S. and M. Eng from M.I.T. and soon after, became a senior software engineer of APX Labs, the leading software builder of immersive digital experiences. As part of the research and development group at APX Labs, Sugaya works with wearable displays and devices for enterprise solutions.

Outside of it, he is the winner of several hackathons, including the Qualcomm Uplinq 2013 Hackathon, where he won the grand prize for the Internet of Things category.

So when you have those credentials, it’s probably easy to tell consumers, “Google Glass is not there yet.” Yes, he said it. It’s not something you hear often from someone who makes a living in this field.

Out of the than 233 mobile devices out there, Sugaya talked about 10 smart glasses and smart watches as well as other wearables.

Making anything work is easy, but it’s more than that. The bigger question should be, “Will people use it? What are we looking for here in terms of the complexity of the challenge? What’s the real challenge here?”

Let’s put it this way, Sugaya insisted: Unless you can stick Google search in your brain, it’s not a wearable.

Setting a high standard is clearly in Sugaya’s mind, as he proceeds to share us his insights on the following wearables:

    “Google Glass: ‘Fashionable-ish’,” but “not there yet”
    Vusix M100: “Don’t ever use it”
    Epson Moverio BT200: Originally designed for media consumption, it’s popular in Japan where you can watch a movie on its packed trains. “It’s a tad clunky, but when it comes to virtual reality this is the best one out there”
    Oculus Rift: Immersive in its virtual reality capabilities, “but it’s not a wearable because you won’t wear it outside. It’s completely for consumers, an entertainment device”
    Avegant Glyph: Not virtual reality and not augmented reality, but somewhere in between. “It doesn’t have a world in enterprise; for consumers, yes.”

Sugaya is challenging our expectations of what wearables need to be. By saying it in public, he has put the problem out there for everyone to think of a solution. In terms of our physical interaction with the world, he said we need to consider different head sizes, interpupils and viewbox (where our eyes can be).

For smart glasses, Sugaya suggests looking into how cameras and motion captures work, as you also figure out the camera’s variable position relative to eyes and depth. Figuring out input (gesture-based) functions, he added, is an interesting UX challenge. For head tracking, the following three head gestures must be considered: “Roll is unnatural. Yaw is unreliable. Pitch is awesome. Stay away from Yaw.”

The perennial technical challenges: battery life and Wi-Fi. A wearable has to be online all the time, not only when there’s Wi-Fi.

Two “smartwatches” have addressed battery life: Toq by Qualcomm and Fitbit.
Sugaya recommends Toq by Qualcomm, a concept smartwatch from the world leader in next-gen mobile devices. Its low-power 200MHz Cortex M3 processor offers battery life of up five days, thanks to its Mirasol display, a technology originally demonstrated in e-ink style e-readers. On top of that, it’s also highly reflective with high contrast images that make the screen visible in direct sunlight.

As a multifunctional smartwatch, Toq allows you to send and respond to your phone’s text messages via voice-to-text, initiate voice calls on your phone, view recent call and text activity, listen to music, monitor your daily activities, and more.

Fitbit, on the other hand, could not be so different from all the smartwatches. It’s a no-nonsense health smartwatch and little else, which may be why it has gained a cult following. It measures your steps, calories and sleep with a battery life of 10 to 14 days.

In their separate categories, what they have in common is that they’re both lightweight.
If you’re an early adopter, you may have your choices already. But as a developer, you know you won’t be satisfied until your product hits critical mass. “Voice is also an interesting challenge, because it’s unnatural to dictate over a wearable,” Sugaya said.

Sugaya shared some of his thoughts on smartwatches and other related gadgets:

    Pebble: “Developer-friendly.”
    Galaxy Gear: “Great device, just not marketed well”
    Qualcomm Toq: Colored screen, software buttons, has Mirasol (based on e-ink technology for longer battery life); Sugaya: “The only usable wearable I have”
    Fitbit: Only wearable he thinks is consumer-ready

An even bigger challenge for wearables is how developers have to grapple with so many codes. “Hopefully, someday, there will be just one code. As for how to create a wearable, he said if you can program for a phone, you can program for a wearable. Test your skills at

With smart glasses and smartwatches staking their claim in our technology ecosystem, wearable devices are the next step in the evolution of computing devices.

A wearable for me should pass two tests. If I hardly notice I’m wearing it; it’s a wearable. If my date doesn’t notice it and is focused on me, it’s a wearable.
The day Sugaya presented another smartwatch came out: the Moto 360, the first round-shaped smartwatch. Apple is rumored to be launching its own smartwatch.

One thing is for sure: You can expect more wearables and more opportunities for developers to figure out what will make consumers buy them.

Sponsored Content videos offer more monetizing opportunities for publishers

At the NY Video Meetup at AOL
At the NY Video Meetup at AOL

By Dennis Clemente

If you’re a publisher, you know how Sponsored Content can help you monetize your site. For the uninitiated, Sponsored Content can be advertorials or story links that usually sits below your favorite news sites, although some are also known to pop up when you least expect it.

Last June 19 at the NY Video Meetup at AOL, Sharethrough and Taboola presented just how videos on Sponsored Content are gaining headway. They were two of four presenters, just the right number; it’s what every meetup should strive for.

Dave Ford of Sharethrough showed how Vine is popular on its in-feed ad exchange, for example. Sharethrough natively integrates all types of brand content (video, images, sponsored content and yes, vines) into the news feeds and content wells of relevant tier one publisher’s mobile and desktop sites.

In his demo, he showed how the integration of in-feed ad exchange to a publisher’s content is supposed to “respect the user experience” because if an item is promotional, it simply says that on the feed.

Why is Vine popular? Is the 6-second video loop the secret to Vine’s success? That was a question posed by host Steve Rosenbaum to the audience. Many in the industry say it’s fast and easy to upload videos. It has also gained huge following on Twitter. What this tells us is how sponsored content continues to improve to the advantage of publishers.

Ford assured us that “feeds are the most effective way for brands to distribute content.”

Taboola’s Andrew Milk noted 30 percent more activity for its videos. The content discovery platform reportedly serves 130 billion recommendations to over 350 unique visitors every month on publishing sites like USA Today, The Huffington Post, Time and The Weather Channel.

Publishers, marketers, and agencies leverage Taboola to retain users on their sites, monetize their traffic, and distribute their content to drive high-quality audiences.

“Our videos have given us an advantage,” he said, adding how publishers can screen ads that fit their identity. He also pointed out how related story links is working for them.

Another presenter relevant for publishers is Appfigures. Its suite of app-data tools are built to deliver insights to developers, publishers and enterprise. What does it do? It’s basically a reporting platform for mobile developers that automatically downloads and visualizes sales data, App Store reviews, hourly ranks and more.

Co-founder and CEO Ariel Michaeli designed around bringing clarity to complex data. If you’re into collaborative video production, Ryan Fitzgerald offers Celtx, which he described as Google Docs for video production teams. Supplemented by mobile and desktop apps, it provides a start-to-end ecosystem for video pre-production.

With Celtx, you can create scripts, storyboards, shot lists, scene breakdowns, budget schedules and more. “We provide an all-in-one solution,” Fitzgerald said.

For people who can’t wait for email and need to be able to move all the time, you can share documents with your entire team (maximum of 50) and work together on productions in real time.

How to succeed as a startup

At Tech In Motion
At Tech In Motion

By Dennis Clemente

How would you like to know what it takes to succeed as a startup? That question is surely in the minds of everyone planning a startup or even those who are years, even nearly a decade, into their startup.

One of the Twitter founders once said that timing, perseverance and 10 years of trying will eventually make you look like an overnight success. Today, Twitter is still trying to find a way to monetize its business. It’s really that hard.

But nobody in recent memory has said it with all honesty than the guest panel at Tech in Motion last June 18. The honesty part is about how they told their own stories of failure staring back at them when they first started 10 to 15 years ago.

The intrepid panel consisted of Andrew Yang, founder of Venture for America; Nihal Mehta, founder of Local Response & general partner at Eniac Ventures; Brett Martin, entrepreneur, building Switch, a co-founder of Sonar Media; Anna Khan, venture capitalist at Bessemer Venture Partners. Kunal Mehta, author of The Disruptors, moderated the talk.

It’s a great panel and if nobody noticed a diverse one that ultimately led to what you often don’t hear in a tech meetup– a multicultural perspective on success. Nihal is proud of his Indian American heritage but he reveals how it’s also a culture where failure is not taken lightly.

If everybody is wondering why Indians or Indian Americans are driven and ambitious, it’s also because the pressure to succeed is very high in this ethnic group. As Nihal was brought up to think, you either you become a doctor or engineer, as these professions reward you with stability.

Right after college, Nihal didn’t do this, as jumped into the world of startups and failed miserably. He was 22 when he filed for bankruptcy. He has had five startups since then before he turned to venture capital.

What does it take to succeed? For him, it’s a four-letter word that he wants every startup to own: grit.

Before the crash in 2001, Nihal said people invested in your idea in a napkin. In 1999, he claimed having the Elon Musk sign a check on the spot. Today, 93 percent of the time you can be declined.

The panel oscillated between success and failure in their talk, but they agreed with each other on what it takes to succeed. Right after Nihal said “grit,” one after the other pitched in. Khan said “passion and visionary operators”; Martin said “resilience” and Yang said “persistent adaptability.”

But rather than serving platitudes, the panel revealed more of themselves.

Elaborating, Yang said, “You need to have a thirst for solving a problem and this problem consumes (you).It’s going to shape to a different person: closer to the person you want to become.”

Failure is part of it all. Giving us more complex layers of his views, he added: “What you don’t know is actually your friend or you wouldn’t be doing what you need to do.”

Like Nihal, Yang has been in the startup world for over a decade. He left a corporate law firm for a startup. Like Nihal, he also admitted to failing big time. He can be blasé about it now, but he experienced the pits of living without money. “I would even take my dates to Subway.”
Martin had a longer and also honest response on this one. He thinks you need resilience more than persistence.

In his startup years ago, he remembers “racking up $60,000 credit card bills” and trying to get “$11,000 in 3 days”. Somehow he got the money, lost it again, and got it when he gained traction.

What he learned from the experience can give all startups some hope. After his big failure, he decompressed at the beach. “Then the next thing I know, I had five job offers with startups.”
What’s the lesson here? “If you stay in the same job and the world has changed, what are you going to do?”

If you failed as a startup, that’s a badge of honor. It means you know why you failed and startups will want you for the wisdom and experience you can bring to the table.

All of them have one advice to give for those preparing to launch their startups: Try to find a team to apprentice or join to learn what it takes to be a startup, as it also helps you gain the confidence you will need. Because if you don’t have the confidence, then how can you expect investors to have confidence in you?

“Be an apprentice for a startup for 2 years,” Yang said.

As a woman, Khan said it’s important for women not just to have confidence but to know how to “talk up” an investor. From Pakistan, Khan said that there are few women in tech because it’s populated by men.

Nihal agreed, saying it’s because men know only other men, like how referrals go. He said crucial to have women in the tech world, whether they’re in a startup or they’re a VC. He cited how one instance when a young girl produced an app that solves the queue problem in the women’s restroom. “A guy will not be able to think of that.”

The coup de grace of the night was when Martin answered a question from the audience regarding the question of bootstrapping or getting funding. He said there’s something patently wrong about approaching a VC: “93 percent of you will be rejected. A VC can tell you how another startup is going to take your market share.”

But why are people talking about getting funding from VCs all the time. Martin added, “They (VCs) have so much mindshare (read: exposure out there). They’re everywhere, because their main job is to be out there.”

The rest of the panel chimed in, saying bootstrapping your way is ok, but if you need to scale your startup, at least you know where to go. But if you need an angel investor instead, Yang said you’ll need to rely on your network.
The meetup was sponsored by Microsoft.

What’s happening in education technology around the world

Ny ed tech

By Dennis Clemente

What is happening in (edtech) education technology around the world? It’s too broad a question to tackle in one hour. But there were some recognizable buzzwords at the NY EdTech meetup at Knewton last June 17 in East Village: telecommunication companies, content translation, international entrepreneurship, MOOCs (massive open online courses).

Giving their opinion on the subject were Alison Lytton, senior product manager of Scholastic; Josh Robinson of Business & Development Strategy at Knewton and Andrea Tejedor, an EdTech steward. Scholastic publishes and distributes children’s books around the world, serving customers in 45 languages and employing about 9,500 employees worldwide. Knewton personalizes learning for all using predictive analytics to detect gaps in knowledge and differentiate instruction for each student.

It was an informal, free-wheeling discussion on international education technology or in short, ed tech. However, the speakers did have a lot to say on certain issues. Lytton said her company’s work involves testing results in East Asia these days. “I see lots of telcos (telecommunication companies). We’re also past infrastructure to provide (educational) content. We’re looking to improve math and reading in schools, and making sure parents are engaged. Digital is opening doors for engagement,” she said.

Robinson said he focuses on Asia Pacific: “There is a huge adoption in technology, with penetration of broadband. So many people have smartphones in Korea and Japan. We’re seeing ed tech moving forward in Singapore and Hongkong,” he said.

Developments in China are reportedly driven by parents, but Japan seems to be heading into more ambitious territory as it intends to have tablets for use by all students by 2019. “Now that computing (cost) is going down, they can implement it,” he said.

Tejedor, who just arrived from Turkey, sees Brazil’s tremendous potential. “Historically, Brazil has not paid attention to education until the 80s.” But she said that was in the past. “Today, Brazil is also initiating Startup Brazil. It’s an emerging market. Amazon is working with its Ministry of Education through the Whispercast platform. Khan Academy is hiring teachers who can do video.”

Robinson said the internationalization of MOOCs is paving the way for big organizations to provide help in terms of translation of education materials. The World Bank was cited as one of the companies doing this. There’s so much culture in reading and learning and engaging kids, according to Robinson.

What excites Tejedor is how you can choose tools and then translate for kids everywhere. “You can also communicate from anyplace. There is less language barrier where you can even have Google translate for you. You can connect with kids everywhere, almost seamlessly.”

LLytton said that even if Scholastic has a big global presence, but fostering international entrepreneurship for them is still a challenge. She mentioned how having one person in 20 countries is still not enough, especially when you consider how each market is unique. “We’re training for tablets and some teachers don’t know how to use it. There’s a lot of hand-holding and consultation.”

As far as international startups go, Robinson cited Vox Learning with its 6 million learners. Japan has traditional publishers not interested in ed tech. In China, it’s growing organically. Still, he thinks there is entrepreneurship going on, it’s just that some big companies need help because they can’t do it in-house.

All this beehive of activity is welcomed by Robinson. “One might think there are more startup from us but some local startups are doing something. To focus on home (in the U.S.) is not going to work well for ed tech.”
Most of the panelists agree how ed tech can only flourish if it involves adopting different cultures in the learning mix. In Japan, everything is collaborative. For instance, a teacher may put containers in a classroom and asks which one will hold most water.

The drilling and memorization are happening at home,” Robinson said. Echoing this statement, he said, “We can’t teach you how to debate but we can teach you the facts to get ready for debate. It’s about creating a well-rounded person not just good in math.”

How do you teach while adopting to a country’s culture? Lytton said it is market-specific, or should we say country-specific? New Zealand has 4 to 5 million people who are outward-facing.
Lastly, how does America handle data collection concerns in different countries? Tejedor implied that it’s the least of their worries, as their primary concern is to move people out of poverty. Lytton said it’s different, though in Canada and Europe where people care about their privacy and they find themselves in endless legal talks.

Robinson said the best way to learn about any country is to be on the ground. If you’re interested, the panelists said read up, write to contacts, and connect with someone passionate about ed tech, too.

Startup challenge: Present in 2 minutes, get feedback from VCs

By Dennis Clemente

The growing number of startups in this city must be overwhelming tech meetups. Last June 12 at the Microsoft Building in Times Square, Ultra Light Startups kept its regular programming of eight startups but with more VCs on the table: Jeff Finkle. co-chairman at ARC Angel Fund; Jerry Hao, associate at NYU Innovation Venture Fund; William Reinisch, venture partner at Paladin Capital Group and Caitlin Strandberg, associate at Flybridge Capital Partners.

The invited panel of investors listened to the two-minute presentation of startups and in between, provided them the necessary feedback for possible venture funding. The presenters were a mixed bag.

Wise Banyan claims to be the world’s first free wealth manager. “We’re reducing barriers to investing,” said founder Herbert Moore who said the startup is gaining “incredible traction with millennials.” This report alone could have been elaborated, but because of time limitation, the presentation moved on.

The Loadown is called a real-time marketing optimization platform for apps with clients like PBS and Random House.

The VCs’ advice to David Renard of The Loadown: “Think how pricing will affect profitability and get more data. Plan how to get $100 million in revenue in 5 years.” It sounded like the startup is on the right track, but sometimes it’s really just about the VCs trying to get more data and insights from the startup.

DoRevolution is supposed to be an actionable platform for online advertising based on Watson’s AI engine, but sometimes it’s hard to tell what the company is about when the presenter is in a squirrel mask. Samir Patel removed it eventually, but the distracting mask confused a VC: “What do you do?”

Aarting’s Todd Wahnish describes his startup this way: “It’s a crowdfunding platform that makes it easy for visual artists to create and sell custom products. “We have a product the hustles itself.”

For artists, it’s a way to test the waters and see if there is demand for your work. “We don’t have to make anything. It’s all pre-order. We have no inventory or warehouse,” said Wahnish who has come a long way from “being homeless.”

Echovate reportedly provides fact-based hiring insights for the modern small business. Think FICO score. What is its value? Turnovers can be costly. Matthew Gough said companies should think of reduced turnover.

Chatwala is a two-way, face-to-face ongoing video conversation with your friends and family. It’s been nearly a year since we last saw Chatwala at the AOL building, but Tej Bhatia clearly has to be more aggressive these days when, according to one VC, “Snapchat is rolling something similar.”

What is it? It’s making conversation real-time even if it’s not real-time. Or how you can come back to the great-looking video interface and resume a previous conversation, as if it’s in real-time.

A VC gave some cautionary advice: “Raising 1 million to figure out your startup may not be the way to do it.” That commend would have been normal hearing It from Reinisch, the Hatchery regular, but the VC went out of character, telling Bhatia to “forget the noise.” Reinisch stressed how important it was for Chatwala to hone in on the technology it wants to use. Strandberg said Chatwala may want to study its users.

Binary Event Network with its Pivit is a marketplace that captures, rewards and reports changing public opinion about real-world events in real-time.

Then there’s the “real” software among all the other presenters, AfreSHeet, which presented disposable bedsheets which the young founder Maxwell Cohen thinks would be perfect in dorms—the college market.

“Martha Stewart vouched for this,” said Cohen whose co-founder is his mother.
Strandberg leaned in saying the market is really hot, especially when people are talking about protecting the environment.

Mark Caron of bMobilized and Bill Gallagher hosted the show.

Hacks provide comic relief; Floored floors everyone at NYTech Meetup

By Dennis Clemente

In the weekly two-hour long startup presentation at the New York Tech Meetup, there’s a featured hack that provides welcome comic relief. That’s when co-organizer Brandon Diamond momentarily takes over the podium, opening his segment with a tech joke that ends up being funny because it misfires; sometimes it’s the delivery, not the punchline.

Diamond’s earnest self-deprecating humor also rubs off on guest hackers who, for three consecutive months now at the meetup, have been just as funny as Diamond, even unintentionally. Diamond certainly deserves a meetup of his own, one filled with hacks, as he showcases more hacks every month.

Last June 3, for instance, Diamond featured three hacks,, a print-ready flyer-maker from a Facebook event; moteio2048, a multiplayer and 2048 game; and 2048 Against Cancer. The two hacks’ take on the immensely popular 2048 game compelled an inspired shout-out, “You could work together to fight cancer.” That;s scaling the fight against the dreaded disease, because multiple players mean more donations.

But you ask, how do they guarantee the money goes to the right person? Sam Agnew of said he uses, a free money transfer service that even “contacted me to verify.”

In the startup presentation, doing some social good as well is Goodnikels, a skill-sharing platform. Volunteering to help organizations with a social cause pays you a goodnikel. It’s by Goodnik, an organization dedicated to helping social entrepreneurs access the resources they need to be successful.

Another skill-sharing startup, Simplist or Get Simplist works like Goodnikels, only on a more permanent basis. Say you’re looking for a co-founder, it helps you search for them on various social networks. It’s easy to put down one startup being no different from another, but wait till they get traction.

The six other presenters included Glimpse. You use the app to send disappearing photo and video messages. Does it sound familiar? You can write captions/text on the image and share right away. CEO Elissa Shevinsky took the opportunity by announcing that Glimpse is mentoring 1,000 women this summer.

Rukkus would be just another ticket-buying app, if not for its best feature. It gives you a photo/view from an actual seat, perhaps not in all seats. And if you’re thinking of buying tickets for a concert but you don’t know the performer, the app gives you access to their music to sample.

However, it was the last presentation by Floored that, well, floored everyone. Suddenly, everybody was quiet and listening attentively, marveling at its 3-D scanning and data visualization tool for real-estate applications.

Other startups at the meetup included a bike-sharing startup called Socialbicycles, a company access-sharing app called Commonkey and an open-source programmable jewelry called Jewliebots for teenage girls. “It takes friendship bracelet to a whole new level,” said host Nate Westheimer.