40 new games to playtest. It’s like being let loose in a candy store

By Dennis Clemente

If you’ve never been to a gaming playtest, it’s like being let loose in a candy store.

At the NYC Games Forum at Microsoft last July 29, host and organizer Rohit Crasta did just that, giving us enough of a sugar high when he presented more than 40 independent game developers and their new games to excited playtesters like us. Crasta might as well be Willy Wonka for pulling this off.

The titles were diverse enough for playtesters to test the games for bugs and flaws before they go out to market. There were intricate games like the Sombrero by Pixel Metal, a fast-paced Spaghetti Western 2D local multiplayer arena-based competitive death match that would not be out of a place in a Robert Rodriguez movie.

GamingThere were also unassuming titles such as the Tetris-like ColorFinger by Quikding, this blogger’s favorite because of its deceptive simplicity that had testers addicted right away. It’s Tetris for the swipe-playing 21st century.
Some games fit certain devices to a T. Tapinator’s Balance of the Shaolin works well on the iPad (also on iPhone) on two counts: first, the actions of the game are limited to tapping left or right to keep the Shaolin in balance from his one-legged mountaintop stance. Second, the iPad’s real estate space gives you the scenery—the better to enjoy passing birds and other obstructions trying to mow you down from your serene stance.

Mokuni.com showed its new game called Kitty in the Box developed for iOS and Windows by developers from China who came here three years ago and now calls New York City their home. Asked why the game is not available on Android, “It’s just a (precaution) to make sure no one copies the game.”

Not all games were digital. Urban Land Games’ Funemployed is a storytelling board game that should easily be the life of any party. “To be hired,” you must create a story using “qualifications” that make you perfect for a job. For example, if you apply as a Pirate, you must craft a convincing story around your cards (your qualifications). Our cards read Narcissist and Package. Go on, tell us how you would tell your story?

And not all games were necessarily designed to be current. Rad Raygun is a game that takes you back to the 1980s as you shoot your way through monochrome off-green shades yet ultra-sharp 144p resolution graphics. People bent down to listen closely to its great soundtrack. It’s coming out soon on Steam and Xbox 360.

The event was not just about all fun and games. Sam Eng, an enterprising artist-programmer-indie developer, said he offers free lessons in Unity, which many of the games at the forum are made of. Check out his site, sam-eng.com, for updates. His game at the event was called Zarvot a two to four-player cube fighting title.

There were other great games but just too many to mention here. If you want to know more about the presenters, check out their games: Air Brawl by Wilhelm Nylund; Arcade Basketball Blitz Online by Toneaphone LLC; Bik by Zotnip LLC; Blackjack Warriors: MMO Battle by Jim Lynch; Blue Dot by Urthworx; Bunny Love by Computer Lunch; Carbon Cutters by Dented Pixel; Chronosphere by Kind Fortress; Clobsters by Hart Laboratories; Clockwork for iOS by Michael Ren; Crystal Brawl by Studio Mercato; Dirtbags MotorClub by Eppy Games; Extreme Exorcism by Golden Ruby Games; Got Light? by Benjamin Reynolds; LEX, Digits, and others by Simple Machine; Magicis by Boogie Down Games; Meriwether by Sortasoft LLC; Mother Goose by Robotic Potato; Neon Krieger Yamato by LIONPLEX; Nika by Studio Mercato; Organic Panic by Lastlimb Games and Pet Pat by Goodnight Games.

Another board game came from Phoenix Covenant by Hikari Games.

The night also featured R.E.M. by Dragonllama Games; Recurse by Lumalus Inc; Roger E Pedersen’s ‘Warehouse 517’ by PSI Software Inc; Skyhook by MegaStorm Games; Sombrero by PixelMetal; Super Rad Raygun by Tru Fun Entertainment; That Rock Paper Scissor Game! by Philosoplay; The Good, The Bad & The Funny by The Completely Surrounded; The Splits by Trollcore Enterprises TM; Vidar by Dean Razavi and Voxatron Table by VOXON & Lexaloffle Games.
Crasta’s event was sponsored by Autodesk, Millennial Media, Qualcomm and the Law Offices of Christopher G. Reid.

Out of 14 startups, Flower Turbines get investors’ votes at Startupalooza

By Dennis Clemente

How do you tweak the startup meetup? The drill in New York meetups: Startups pitch for two to five minutes to investors who then provide their feedback. That’s how it goes.

In the Startupalooza meetup last July 24, host Alan Brody tweaked that formula. This time, he had the startups in place while the investors—this time angels, not the usual VC—roamed around asking questions. Think trade fair. And how it could only be pulled off like one because there were just too many startups—14 in all.

Out of the 14, Brody picked four to present to the audience. They were Flower Turbines, Potboiler, 90Grand and CelebDare.

Flower Turbines, the night’s winner based on votes by the angel investors, makes small, easily started, nearly silent vertical axis wind turbines that efficiently generate electricity.

Clustering them causes an additional 20 percent “flower power boost” in net energy output, according to Farb Daniel.

Potboiler produces serialized novellas with graphics, video, animation and social media components and distributed through Amazon, iBooks and Barnes & Noble. Check out getfisk.com where single chapters can be read or refined along the way. Stories are created from scratch.

90Grand, for its part, is looking into the corporate rewards and loyalty sector with its licensed iconic photographic images of luminaries, celebrities and personalities, shot by renowned photographers of the last century.

“We carry no open receivables or inventory, with minimal infrastructure. We are also fully scalable,” said Roger Maggio, chief of operations.

Another presenter, CelebDare is a crowdsourcing platform aimed at engaging celebrities or anyone in the spotlight for the purpose of advancing a common good.

Founder Jeffrey Katz sees it as a new avenue for charities and companies to reach key objectives.

Asked what is the unique aspect of the business? Katz, a Harvard grad, recalled how another startup back in his day was also not that unique but how it still made it big. He let the audience say it was Facebook.

For Katz’s business model, there’s the challenge of reaching a celebrity, but he is undaunted.

One interesting startup is a white label service offered by datingadvisors.org. Trained advisors give personal live dating advice directly through a dating site.

Among the investors at the meetup were John Ason and Barry Kolevson of Joshua Capital who also announced the Private Equity Forum event on Oct 2 where the winner, Flower Turbines, will get to pitch and raise funding for his startup. Visit privateequityforums.com

How would you like some hip hop to go with your school lessons?


By Dennis Clemente

How would you like some hip hop to go with your linear equations or your history lesson? Last July 17, Flocabulary, one of four presenters at the NY Video meetup, brought the house down with its educational videos. The other presenters were Zentrick, Veenome and Kaltura.

“Kids love this,” CEO Alex Rappaport said. Apparently, so did the adults who cheered him on at the AOL offices.

Flocabulary is an online library of educational hip-hop songs and vies for grades K-12. “More than 20,000 schools use Flocabulary to engage and inspire students. Our team of artists and educators is not only committed to raising test scores, but also to fostering a love of learning in every child,” he said.

But how can he keep up? It turns out there are many rappers out there who like doing this for their community, according to him.

Started with two people, now Flocabulary has 35 staffers and freelancers.

Zentrick, the second presenter, is an interactive video platform that allows brands, marketers and publishers to build, deliver, manage and measure interactive videos.

How interactive can you get? You can add interactive apps to videos, publish it to the web and all linked social network, unify media buying and content publishing to any channel, network or partner. Plus, its real-time programmatic optimization helps personalize and optimize for media performance goals.

Ever thought of the “viewability” of your videos in terms of brand safety and content? Veenome, the next presenter, is taking on the challenge of analyzing determining this with its technology.

Based on its indexing video impressions, it found out that 83 percent of objectionale impressions occur on predominantly brand-safe publishers.

This is done automatically and efficiently, at huge scale so that millions of videos may be analyzed easily, according to Kevin Lenane, founder and CEO of Veenome.

“We use computers but there’s still a human element,” he said. “The trick is doing it quickly,” he stressed.

Powering any video experience to transform the way people learn work and entertained is how the last presenter, Kaltura, talked about its service, its open source online video platform, which provides both enterprise level commercial software and services.

Kaltura’s Vitaly Shter, director of product marketing, enterprise and Iddo Shai, director of Product Marketing promoted the company’s real-time placement of TV ads.

NY Enterprise Tech features Hightower, x.ai, Aorato

Hightower's Brandon Weber
Hightower’s Brandon Weber

By Dennis Clemente

Last July 16, the New York Enterprise Technology Meetup hosted by Jonathan Lehr featured three startups—Hightower, x.ai and Aorato– with Jason Lemkin, managing director at Storm Ventures, co-founder and CEO of EchoSign, and author of SaaStr.com, also talking about how to “Hire (and Fire) Your VP of Sales.”

Founded in July 2013, Hightower is disrupting the commercial real estate market with a mobile technology platform that allows landlords and their brokers to collaborate on deals in real time, track important documents and information, and view real-time analytics, all from the smartphone in your pocket.

Hightower is perhaps the best tool out there with its sophisticated leasing platform for commercial owners and brokers. From its demo of the app, it shows how it is clearly modernizing the commercial real estate industry.

It aims to empower investors, landlords and brokers to make faster data-driven decisions. You can manage your portfolio, deal pipeline, leasing documents, and collaborate with your leasing team, all in real time.

Hightower was founded by Brandon Weber, a high-profile technologist who ventured into commercial real estate. He was a First Vice President at CBR, the world’s largest commercial real estate services firm. He started his career in software product development at Microsoft developing Excel, and later at Zillow.

Weber said customer adoption has been strong and are working with landlords and brokers in over 14 markets. “It’s as powerful on your mobile device as it is on your desktop,” he said.

The next presenter, Dennis Mortensen, got the laughs with x.ai, a personal assistant who schedules meetings for you. He named it Amy.

Mortensen demonstrated the app, showing the pain of scheduling a meetup and how he (and Amy) eliminates that for x.ai customers by showing a side-by-side email conversation display. “We thought a live demo was the way to go,” he said..

A participant was asked to email Mortensen for a meeting in his own words and challenge Amy by not accepting the first option site presented Mortensen would email with an agreement and let Amy handle the scheduling.

With x.ai, he said you won’t need to hire (a personal assistant) in the Philippines, referring to the country which has dominated this space for some time now.

The other presenter was Aorato. It protects your organization and active directory by automatically learning, profiling and predicting entity behavior.

Aorato’s Directory Services Application Firewall (DAF) protects active directory and leverages its central role in the network to secure organizations from advanced targeted attacks. Nowadays, attackers compromise all types of entities (non-privileged and privileged users, devices, servers, etc.) in order to gain a foothold into the network. It is not enough anymore to track only privileged accounts to protect the organization against advanced attacks.

DAF, a non-intrusive solution, transparent to Active Directory, introduces a new approach. DAF reportedly detects suspicious activities through learning, profiling and predicting entities’ behaviors. DAF

Asked how to detect password-sharing, he said, “We look at your role In the company”.
Lemkin

In his keynote talk on hiring your VP of sales, Lemkin said he or she the first VP of sales (VPS) has to be you and then you hire reps “Besides, you cannot attract any one good too early.

But when do you make the hire? “Immediately once you have as repeatable process.”

“A great VPS is accretive, a mediocre VPS is a cost center,” Lemkin said. A great VPS raises revenue per lead.”

For Lemkin, the top 5 things a Saas VP of sales must know and do:

1. Recruit the team (You’re going to need a team and a good one quickly)
2. Player-coach sounds great, but at best, will be quickly obsolete as a role
3. Backfill and help his/her sales team
4. (Develop) sales tactics
5. (Develop) sales strategy
6. Create and sells deals himself/herself

He also added ways your VPS will increase your revenue

• Ask for the most $$$ per lead
• Close: It’s an art — and a science
• Hire (someone) better than you
• Scale: Get more reps quickly
• Position: Give prospects right context
• Go upmarket: Drive to the highest practical deal
• Better: Great VPS makes your product better
• Great VPS makes it fun

But hire wrong and you’re set back a year.

What female founders should aspire to

orrickpicBy Dennis Clemente

Tech meetups in the city have always attracted men, but law firm Orrick clearly knows how to attract women to their own meetups. For the second time last July 15, Orrick only featured all-women founders and speakers in a talk titled “Life of a Founder” with an equal proportion of men and women in the room.

Host Joy Marcus of Bloglovin opened the night’s talk about what female startup founders should aspire to:
• Be tech smart but not necessarily technical
• Be analytical; understand the data
• Be business smart
• Be super-competitive (“great companies are not built on a 9 to 5” schedule)
• Be user smart
• Be a firehouse of new ideas, being careful not to be derivative
• Be curious, thorough and a risk-taker
• Most of all, be communicative

It’s a long list for sure, but Marcus said being a founder is hard. “You make tough decisions every single day, including firing your friends.”

It’s therefore important to foster a great culture to attract the best people.

Managing people well is vital. “Having one day off at least makes everyone so much better,” one said in response to how boundaries have been broken and how communication extends outside of the working hours in the startup world.

Another said she has a gratitude session every day. “We celebrate daily wins. It doesn’t have to big things but small things as well.”
And when it comes to dealing with VCs, you have to m
ake the board work for you and you’ve got to do your work in return. “You benefit from VCs beyond money, but you also have to believe in yourself.”

When it seems hard to convince a VC, “don’t think no is always a no. But know this: “If they don’t respond to your email, they are not interested in your company.”

The speakers were Sarika Doshi, co-founder, Rank & Style; Amanda Hesser, co-Founder & CEO, Food52; Kate Kendall, co-founder & CEO, CloudPeeps; Kathy Leake, co-Founder & CEO, LocalResponse; and Elissa Shevinsky, co-Founder & CEO, Glimpse. The other panelists were Elodie Dupuy, senior associate, Insight Venture Partners; Keegan Forte, general manager, Bowery Capital and Kegan Schouwenburg, co-Founder & CEO, SOLS. Kelly Hoey, chief marketing officer of Cuurio, moderated.

Orrick is global law firm with a particular focus on serving companies in the technology, energy and financial sectors.

Startup presenters compete like it’s the World Cup

ultralight

By Dennis Clemente

The Ultra Light Startups: Investors Feedback Forum last July 10 lived up to its name. It was light with a French twist. With the World Cup in full swing, the startups—some from Europe, others from the US but still multi-ethnic—competed for the startup of the night honors. The goal: VC funding, of course.

Regular host Mark Caron was joined this time by Kikai Mining’s Arnaud Collery whose off-color humor, in his thick French accent, made light of the entire proceedings.

He wasn’t alone in the ribald jokes. Ian Sigalow asked one presenter if he was going to allow adult content on his site. He clarified that he was not an investor in one to drive home his point, which drew some chuckles from the attendees at Microsoft Building at Times Square.

Sigalow of Greycroft Partners won against the three other panelists Brendan Dickinson, associate at Canaan Partners, Matt Turck, managing director at First Mark Capital and Matthew Witheiler, general partner at Flybridge Capital Partners.

The eight presenters were Alex Feldman of Crowds Unite; Darius Jamiolkowski of Outdoor Exchange; Anton Topikha of Airjump; Rachel Kaplowitz of Honey; Dan Nelson of Kpass; Tim Bernal of Kwoller; Raad Ahmed of Law Trades; and Akash Srivastava of Rewardable. Many of them are foreign startups.

Crowds Unite, a crowdfunding review site, filters, sorts and compares crowdfunding sites to find the best one for you. He was asked if could pivot the company to offer insurance than just listings or provide content about where to get loans.

For a membership fee, Outdoor Exchange rents out outdoor gear. When Jamiolkowski said the site aims to be the Netflix for outdoor gear, one of the VCs kept asking questions that put the startup on the defensive. Lesson to be learned here: Don’t use such buzz phrases if the answers are not forthcoming.

In response to how he is going to build his brand, he said it’s going to happen in partnerships. He is in talks with one car rental and a car pickup service that has been in the news lately, which will remain unnamed here pending the deals push through.

Airjump is all about live streaming to social networks which prompted the comment from Sigalow about adult content. Other VCs asked Topikha to check out justin.tv and ustream as they offer similar services.

Topikha said his differentiator is superior technology and how he wants people to create live TV channels. He said 60 percent of his revenue will be advertisements.

Sigalow and Turck were on the same page on this one, saying how the site needs something visceral, selfies perhaps, or videos that tap into the human emotion. Find a vertical where can build a wedge, because just being the best is not going to be enough. You have to have a compelling use case.”

Honey, the night’s winner, is an enterprise social network that improves information sharing in the workplace. Yammer is a competitor.

“We are more Reddit for enterprise,” Rachel Kaplowitz said, but because it’s done by Huge Labs, the startup division of the digital design agency, you will see the design and user experience standing out. Honey.is is projecting $500,000 as its year-end income. It has 15 companies as clients paying $4 a month.

“The big thing for Honey is finding integrations. Right now it integrates with Dropbox,” she said. For VCs, the hard part in this space is engagement and sales. “Honey has to find out the sales tools they need, what hooks they need. Right now, it’s just scratching the surface. It has to build relationships early.”

After a five-minute break, the remaining 4 startups took their turns presenting, starting with Dan Nelson who said Kpass, his company, is the safe digital identity for kids, one that can empower them to safely connect to their favorite sites online. There was the usual question on how the parents will be involved, but Nelson was advised to focus on mobile, not the web.

Next was Tim Bernal, the Filipino American behind Kwoller, a mobile commerce company or what he calls Tinder for shopping. “We’re an affiliate-based company. We get commissions. We get 7 percent.”

Overall, the VCs seemed to like Bernal among all the startups not just for his startup but for his engaging presentation as well. Turck’s only critique was how 200,000 swipes on the app is not a big number.

How can Bernal scale his business? “You need customer acquisition, how to make people download it. You will need to refine your viral mechanism,” the VCs said.

Yet another listing site is Raad Ahmed’s Law Trades. This time, the listing shows top-notch lawyers focused on offering personal legal services which he says is a $90 billion industry. When asked what he will do if the listings are filled up, he said he will go global. Still, a VC said it’s hard to scale; he was advised to pivot.

How do you want to get paid while you shop? That’s the idea behind Rewardable. You are assigned a specific task to complete and you are paid in cash for your efforts.

The idea sounds like an advertising agency came up with it, which can be both to its advantage and disadvantage. The VCs had a lot to say about this startup, especially how it can sustain itself when ad agencies work on campaigns, which are set periods of time. “How do you get users to submit data for how much you need to spend versus taking that from retailers?” The concern also was the barrier to entry.

In term of scaling the business, Komassa said he will sell through channel partners. Rewardable is raising $5 million.

For those who have not attended the meetup, there is pizza, networking and introductions at 6:30 pm; the 8 startup pitches at 6:45 p.m., followed by the investor providing actionable advice following each two-minute pitch. At 8:15 p.m., the audience votes for the best startup. Winners are announced and prizes are awarded. Last night, Honey won for the startup. Sigalow won as the panelist of the night; it’s most likely for his useful feedback and advice to the startups, and not for his charm, because Colley, the French co-host, would likely dispute this one.

The meetup is organized monthly by Graham Lawlor.

No holds barred with top VC Nikhil Kalghatgi

Nikhil Kal
Nikhil Kalghatgi

By Dennis Clemente

The venue was just perfect for a meetup that promises to tell us what we need to know about venture capital. Eyes squinting above Grove Street, this blogger walked down a dark basement, which took him into a tiny, cavernous bar that was almost claustrophic. For atmosphere, the host meetup group, Phat Startup, got it right. It was like going to a meeting of The Fight Club with Nikhil Kalghatgi telling us the rules.

It turned out to be a fun talk with the charismatic VC of Vast Ventures whose portfolio companies have included ZocDoc, OpenX, Quigo, Fab, Sweetgreen and many more.

“Have you played poker? “Kalghatgi begins his talk. “The game starts before the first cards are dealt.” It turns out where you sit matters. “If you really don’t know where to sit, you have lost already.”

What is he trying to say? “Think of being the entrepreneur as the new person entering a poker room. Some tables will be easy, some will be hard. But either you’ll win and take an entire small table of investors’ money or walk away empty handed having to seek another table.”

Investors’ impression of whether you are the winner or not happens pretty quick:
“You have to have the appearance of momentum.”

In his talk, Kalghatgi went on his own momentum, taking us into the VC mind.

Three things you need to make sure you know when talking to a VC: Your team, your market, your traction.

• Team is “squishiest” of them all
• If your market is less than a billion, don’t ask for investment, that’s not VC business
• Traction can be misleading. The only traction that matters for me is revenue numbers

On how to get to VCs
VC 101: Intros through friends of investors especially CEOs of portfolio companies.

Scheduling meetings with VCs
Create momentum in your fundraising. Don’t take meetings sequentially, book all of them as close together as possible. As for number of meetings, he agreed what an audience suggested: 100 meetings in 30 days

On sharing decks
If they ask for a deck, send them the deck, but use watermarks or tracking systems.

How to best manage VCs:
The best thing to do is under-sell but over-deliver.
Remember, it’s your show.
If you bend (to their demands) all the time, that’s how they’re going to treat you

He said the best people to approach for investments are rich people.
“The ultra wealthy are far more accessible than we think. Find their sweet spot. I helped their kids.” Investor sherpas are your best friend…unless they are doing it for money.

On finding rich people:
You’ve got to be where they are. Host coffee talks at Four Seasons, that will cost you 6 bucks.

On tech meetup to go to meet investors:
Best events are not posted on social media. It’s in private events.

What VCs to avoid?
If your investor takes lot of your time and they have no control, stop spending time with them.
Avoid those focused on deal terms, focus on those that are aligned with your principles and values.

What are his biases?
I have a bias for companies who can raise money easily. I have a bias toward younger entrepreneurs, and those living in cities where “business serendipity” exists

On struggling startups, he’s more circumspect
If there’s no progress, he says he digs into the problems the team faced and if reasons for failing were warranted, tells them to “re-evaluate.”

On your educational background, as asked by host James Lopez
No one really cares what school you went to, unless it’s their school.

For more info on The Phat Startup organized by Anthony Frasier and Lopez, visit http://www.thephatstartup.com/

The future of UI design is in the cards

By Dennis Clemente

The future of UI design is in the cards

That’s the prognostication of lively and dynamic speaker Christopher Tse who is inviting people to stage a counterculture revolution in UI design. “Rather than Silicon Valley (leading it), let it be New York this time,” he implored his audience at the NYC UX Acrobatics meetup at Amplify in DUMBO, Brooklyn last July 8.

Titled “Patterns of Card User Interface Design,” Tse’s talk started with an overview first of how designers have tapped card-based UI to present units of content responsively across a wide range of mobile devices and screen sizes. “We see this with Twitter cards, Google Now cards, Passbook passes, Pinterest tiles, Facebook Paper.”

When done right, Tse said a card can look like a responsive web content, work like a focused mobile app, and feel like a saved file that you can share and reuse.

Card UI design

“As these “cards” become more interactive, they go from being just concentrated bits of content and turn into mini-apps that can be embedded, capture and manipulate data, or even process transactions,” he said.

“If you look more deeply into the current state of card-based UI, you can see that cards are growing out of just concentrated bits of content and are turning into mini-apps that can be embedded, capture data, and drive actions,” he added.

Thinking about how playing cards carry information in digestible form should give you the idea. To put playing cards in place, you need a container. In Card UI design, a container can be a narrative, to help tell a story, a conversation or workflow, or a discovery channel the way Facebook and Pinterest rounds us up.

What needs exploring is the architecture beneath the cards. “This is to see whether cards built on the foundation of HTM5, CSS3, and modern Javascript, can re-inject the ethos of the Open Web back into mobile development and turn back the tide against proprietary platform lock-ins and app silos,” Tse said.

How is Tse planning his counterculture revolution n UI design?
Recent announcements from Google around the unification of their UIs using Material Design and from Apple about notifications widgets in iOS 8 show that that the big players are also firmly behind this new UI trend.

Saikiran Yerram, a veteran software developer/designer, showed a prototype of a card-based playlist app, created using Google’s Material Design guidelines, bringing multiple web-based educational tools into one unified learning experience.

Perhaps the best way to promote Card UI design is to find people who work in government, policy-makers or those in non-profit organizations, according to Tse who is clearly on a mission to democratize his ideas. Addressing the audience, Tse said, “Let me know if you know anyone.”

Earnest talk on product costs, no-holds-barred dissection of Vintage 141

By Dennis Clemente

Jeremy Horn’s Product Group meetup is a hybrid of the focus group and brainstorming session. A topic is explored followed by the dissection of a startup, which clearly benefits the startup founder, as he or she listens to different points of view from the audience. Steve Blank would be proud.

As is always the case, the most attended meetups in New York can draw in a sizable crowd, even if it’s a stormy night and Independence Day is the next day. The lure of the meetup is its earnestness. In most cases, the attendees share their expertise, knowledge and insights.

Last July 3, it tackled “product costs,” with the attendees speaking about how it relates to infrastructure that incurs technical debt; that’s when you do it the wrong way, because it’s the fastest way to do it.

Then there’s product costs that ties in with development, when the quality of code is not up to par or worse yet, not scalable. There’s also the usual tug-of-war that happens between engineering and product. Engineering wants to scale, while Product wants as many features.

A proof of concept helps to rein in costs, but it’s not exactly fool-proof. Most people naturally agreed it’s different when you have infinite sources like Google.

At the Product Group, the discussion is also freewheeling, so if you’re reporting the meetup as is, it’s not wrapped up in a specific theme, like an organized event. One person talked about acquisition costs, but the topic swerved to marketing strategy and plain old tactics as part of product costs. where it is free to market your startup, how to find bloggers and partners that can champion you, and how social media visibility is essential. Marketing is a topic that clearly needs a separate session.

The featured startup of the night, vintage 141, is an app that socializes small groups of trusted friends or co-workers. “Vintage groups are akin to digital cocktail parties (both social and professional) and allow for information to be safely passed on from one group to another (and back) without broadcasting the information to an entire network or spamming everyone with emails and text messages. Our goal is to take the ‘work’ out of networking,” said founder Andy Kennedy who comes from the finance world.

Other than the description of the app, Kennedy was right in assuming a neutral stance on his app, the better for the attendees to speak freely about it. By distancing himself, he explains how friends can help each other share knowledge quickly—noise-free and in a more enjoyable manner. “(The app) is information passed on like a baton.”

The broadness of information gathering is, of course, a challenge. How do you begin? Kennedy is thinking information becomes a trusted source when it moves to relationships.

Kennedy said the app will be renamed grapevine.im and will be launched three months later, which will benefit him as he takes in all the inputs and use it to pivot before his product launch.

Some insights from the audience:

  • Understand that people need an ego stroke, so have some vanity metric in there
  • Pick a small segment and market it
  • Think of the noise-to-signal ratio
  • Think life milestones
  • Think authenticity
  • Think gamification
  • It could be an enterprise solution
  • “What I’m learning now is how it’s important to position this (app),” he said whose comments on various social networks were also interesting. He’s clearly not a fan of Quora and Twitter, but thinks “you don’t do anything there (on Linkedin)” and Google + is a list-based structure.”

    Augmented reality app Blippar wows NY tech audience

    By Dennis Clemente

    Blippar sprinkled fairy dust to the mesmerized crowd of the NY Tech Meetup last July 1 at Skirball Theater. Taking the stage as the first of eight presenters, Alana Kalin, account executive of Blippar, showed her smartphone in one hand, pointed to Heinz Ketchup on the other hand as if she were Mary Poppins, and the next thing people saw was their jaw dropping.

    On the giant screen, the audience, estimated at 400, marveled at how the Heinz label came alive. Augmented reality has trumped advertising yet again.

    Blippar has been in the news recently. Funded by giant mobile chip set maker Qualcomm in its early stage, the startup has certainly grown enough to be able to purchase augmented reality pioneer Layar last month.

    The audience was clearly satisfied with Blippar’s presentation, but the NY Tech Meetup could not be bothered with details, so it continued with the other startups–7 remaining plus one featured hack.

    72Lux’s Shoppable.com is just the e-commerce site suited for both companies and consumers. If you’re a publisher, you can sell products directly from your site. If you’re a shopper, you don’t need to go to another site, it’s there where you found it.

    Using Google Maps Business View, Vosmap is another startup. It offers people a virtual experience of establishments. People see the layout, décor and interior of establishments with HTML snippets of Map APIs. Businesses can reportedly link to these images from their own business website and social networking pages.

    How do they create the virtual world? “We take the images of the stores. The magic happens after we take the shots,” Maureen Erokwu said. But how frequently can they update the experience?

    Almost Tinder-like in its approach is Knozen. It’s all about rating personalities. When asked about the psychology of the process, the speakers dropped Carl Jung’s name. “There is no wrong answer.”

    Next presenter was Jack Levine of Electric Objects, a company building the first computer made specifically for art. He wants the creative and expressive to come out of the internet and live in the physical world.

    Having presented at the NY Tech Meetup, the second go-round for Amicus Post is all about how its startup offers real postcard sending once you finish writing it online. A neat feature allows you to add the addresses of your recipient. For friends on social networks without addresses, they can get you the address. That elicited some feigned howls of protest. They have purported partnerships.

    If you want to see more of earth than what you see on Google, check out satellite.org, the featured Hack of the Month was satellite.org.

    There were other startups FieldLens which offers mobile field management for the construction industry, and Syncmotion which connects the physical and digital worlds.

    Nate Westheimer, the host and president of NY Tech Meetup, was this time also a presenter. He is part of Picturelife, what he calls a smart home for your photos on the cloud. It pulls in photos from Facebook and Instagram, too.

    “We think pictures need an awesome place to live,” he said. Well, the search feature is awesome, for a start.