Navigation lights on your bike, virtual reality as productivity tool

NEW YORK–How would you like your bike to guide your way with navigation lights? Hammerhead wants to lead the way with this idea. How would you like virtual reality as a productivity tool? IrisVR aspires to make that a seamless experience.

These were just two of the presenters at Hardwired NYC’s meetup last March 24 at Quirky at 28th West and 11th Avenue. The others were Brilliant Bike, American Prison Data Systems and Wink.

http://www.meetup.com/Hardwired-NYC/events/220782387/?a=ea1_grp&rv=ea1&_af_eid=220782387&_af=event

Hammerhead’s Piet Morgan said the idea of a bike-mounted LED navigation came to him when he biked 63 days from New York to San Francisco and thinking how airplanes also require navigation lights. It has since been an 18-month work in progress in China. “We have an iOS app and will soon have an Android version. “We are working full speed on the Android development by the time we ship in the next few weeks,” he said.

The bike-mounted gizmo works with flashing diodes to give turn-by-turn navigation, crowdsourced paths (via Straya and MapMyRide) and even direction to the nearest Citibike exchange. Is this safer cycling? Hammerhead thinks so.

If you have the Hammerhead gadget then, you must want to try having your own bike from Brilliant Bike, a startup focused on cycling manufacturing and sustainable development. A startup built by bike enthusiasts Adam Kalamchi and Kane Hsieh, the bikes are meant to bring down pricing of bikes without scrimping on design. It is doing this by cutting out middlemen and big retail spaces to let you purchase bikes in advance—to your customization needs; it’s biking a la carte.

While also thinking of bringing prices down, Hsieh and Kalamchi stressed though how important it is to over-invest in early runs. “Cost engineering is a tempting but slipper slope,” Hiseh said.

For Shane Scranton of IrisVR, work can be everywhere –and he sees it in his VR tool for pros like architects, engineers and designers. Scranton said many tools are still confined to the computer screen. “Our software enables you to make immersive, VR walkthroughs on your computer,” he said, as he aspires to make it invisible, seamless, non-technical.

Scranton sees a lot of industries that can make use of it; industries like real estate, gaming, film and advertising worlds. What he’s most excited about is how to apply the multiplayer function in gaming and how to use it for productivity purposes. If it succeeds, he sees it as a way for companies to save on travel cost.

Its app currently supports SketchUP files but will add other tools later.

The other presenter, American Prison Data Systems (APDS), hopes to be an education, rehabilitation, and job training and placement for prisoners using technology.

The idea is for more inmates to get their GED and increase their book learning while behind bars, making them productive citizens when they get out of prison. But what makes it different from any social-civic undertaking is ho w prisoners will be able to join the digital revolution. APDS sees prisoners using tablets so they can study for their GED, do homework, and basically learn anything they can use to get their second chance out of prison.

As its parent company, Wink was also present to talk about Relay, a touchscreen that acts as a command and control center for all your connected devices. It allows you to monitor and manage everything in your home.

For Wink, it’s crucial then that it has Honeywell, Philips, Chamberlain, Schlage, GE and others developing Wink-compatible products while making it available to buy at Home Depot and Amazon.

New York tech startup initiatives and programs extend all the way to Queens

NEW YORK—Silicon Alley is extending all the way to Queens, as the Digital.NYC Five-Borough tour made its stop at the La Guardia Community College last March 26 at La Guardia Community College. An initiative of Mayor Bill de Blasio, digital.nyc is the city’s online hub for all things tech and startups.

http://www.meetup.com/queens-tech/events/221041359/
The night opened with an illustrious panel of guests from the government and private sector talking about the growing tech community in New York and how it has also partnered with the City University of New York to make sure minority communities can see the many opportunities in tech. Startup presentations followed soon after.

Eric Gertler of NYCEDC (New York City Economic Development Council) said it is making sure all of its programs extend to everyone in New York as part of an initiative to reduce income inequality.

“This is of paramount importance to the mayor.”

Gertler was part of a panel that consisted of David Rose of Digital.nyc and gust.com and Bruce Weed, program director of Big Data and Watson at IBM who spoke about how traditional businesses can be infused with technology.

“There should be some way you could leverage Watson,” Weed said when he talked to a traditional business about taking his business to the next level.

The night’s presentations featured the launch of Bobbypin, an app for creating your own tours and for people to explore using it. Coming out this spring, it’s from the creators of Strayboots and similar in its function.

“We’re showing Bobbypin to you for the first time,” he said. Founder and CEO Avi Millman said. Aside from its creation tool, he said, “Now you can keep track of your favorite spots and share them with friends.” It will be on a tablet and app this spring.

Melissa Kwan from Spacio demonstrated her app and how it organizes your home search from various sites. From Vancouver, Kwan moved to New York four weeks ago, after a long career building mobile apps for real estate developments.

She moved to the real estate capital of the world to solve a fundamental problem. She said there isn’t one place online to help buyers find properties from various sites. Its app also aims to capture the offline experience in apartment or house hunting with a beacon. Spacio is looking forward to becoming the best real estate organizer.

Kristin Hodgson, communications director of meetup.com. spoke last, talking about how the growth of tech meetups in New York and worldwide has grown immensely and why tech holds many opportunities for people out there.

There are over 1,100 tech meetup groups in the city and 23,000 tech meetup groups worldwide. Also, the entire United States has 130 cities with 10 tech meetups

Button is building deep linking to open the walled garden called apps

NEW YORK–Last March 23, the On-Demand Economy meetup featured Button, Managed by Q and Minibar at the Animoto offices in midtown Manhattan.

http://www.meetup.com/Product-Hunt-NYC/events/221089761/

Much of the tech world is trying to figure out deep linking, that is, making the mobile app ecosystem work more like the web.

Button is building deep linking. “When you go to site it’s hard to open links and open it because of the walled garden in apps,” Mike Dudas of Button said. “Deep linking will become a utility.”

Founded only last year, Button is accelerating its product after receiving a $12-million series A investment. Button is an official development partner of Uber.

Managed by Q provides office cleaning and other smart services to help your office operations run smoothly—all managed via an iPad that’s installed for free in your office.

Managed by Q shared 10 key principles on how it runs its product which are essential for any startup.

1. Obsess over structure because structure defines outcomes

2. Organize by audience, not business departments. Instead of structuring it by department, cleaning departments, we organize by the audience it serves

3. Build teams around problems — not products

4. Match-make designer and engineer pairs and prototype things quickly

5. Formalize your process of meeting your users

6. Only hire designers with s trifecta of skills. You need to understand user and product problems; wireframe and design pretty pixels and vectors; have coding experience

7. Beware of product snacking—low effort and high impact

8. Own your code; no one to review code

9. Deploy multiple times a day. Small increments to build into a crescendo, keeping things agile

10. Connect the dots. Talk to product teams and others

And that name Q? It’s from the James Bond movie.

Started last year and now in 8 cities, Minibar provides on-demand delivery of wines, spirits, beers and mixers.

“We connect local liquor stores to offer the best selection of products,” CTO Chris Kohonen said. They (stores) are connected to our payment gateway.”

Still in its growing stage, Minibar faces the fact that it needs convince the liquor store, refine their technology and ultimately face regulatory concerns but Kohonen sounds like he has the cojones to tackle these challenges with his team.

Minibar is reportedly in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Washington, DC, Miami and Dallas.

10 things you need to know about investors

Investors

By Dennis Clemente

NEW YORK–Learning about how to find investors is almost always different when you’re in 40s-up midtown (much older crowd) and 30s-below midtown (younger crowd). The former usually frowns on the word “meetup” to describe an after-office talk whereas a few zip codes down it’s less of an issue.

If you’re new to the tech community in New York, just use “talk” to describe what happened last March 19 at the Lee Hecht Harrison law offices when investors from different companies gave people tips on how to find an investor in the city. Here are some of the thoughts of Anna Garcia of 37 Angels, a community of women angel investors; Michael Beller of CoVenture; and Judith Feder of Harvest Capital.

1. Know if you really need investment. Know if you really need venture capital or angel investment or if you need to find out if you can get corporate grants or non-profit grants. Your idea could still be financial tech and still be non-profit.

2. Know when you need to pitch. Angel investors hold quarterly pitch forums. You will also find accelerators and incubators accepting startup funding applications quarterly and may run a pitch training program for 3 to 4 months.

3. How to find out if you’re a good fit for a venture capital investor or an angel investor. With VCs, study their websites and blogs and more importantly, their portfolio. Be aware that VCs invest in themes, while angel investors, because they come from different backgrounds, may have a diverse portfolio.

4. Still, VCs have some differences. There are VCs who are either hedgehogs or foxes. Investors who are hedgehogs are single-minded and tend to invest in teams with deep expertise and come from the same industry. Investors who are foxes are more dynamic, more adaptable and more open to anyone with a transformative product and creating new markets.

5. How to email investors. They prefer that you are coming to them with reference. If you met them before and they gave their contact info, you can contact them directly. For VCs, it’s important you have the same connections. For angels, know one and you raise the possibility of being introduced to another angel. Approach everything not as a mechanical process, but as a relationship-building exercise.

6. How to meet investors. Put yourself out there and be engaged in the startup eco system. Go to meetups, hackathons (even if you’re not a developer), tech talks, founders’ clubs, and mixers.

7. What is a no-no. No investor will read a business plan (but have one for yourself), because investors get it right away. Pitching to investors don’t exceed 7 minutes and can even be about 2 minutes. Also, make sure to describe your startup instead of using big words. When it comes to pitching, though, no is just an opportunity to explain your business better.

8. The bigger pie over small pie. A small slice of pie from a big pie is always better than a small slice from a small pie. Keep that in mind when you’re seeking investment.
When to grow your business and ask for money. Sometimes startups are far too early in the process to think of growth. You’re going to lose money, because you need to care about the growth. Growth is not a proxy for product-market fit.

9. How much money will you need? Think 18 months of runway. When you need to raise money, you need to know for sure how much you need, because sometimes you can underestimate your needs. How do you know if it’s a good deal? Think of how much money you need. Then double it. The best way to negotiate terms is have VCs competing

10. Other takeaways:

  • Be completely researched on what your competition is
  • Don’t be afraid to contact people you haven’t talked to in years.
  • Investors always want an equity deal than a convertible note
  • Husband-and-wife team not exactly ideal partnership to invest in
  • Tantoco, other female tech leaders talk about NY innovation, disruptions

    appnexus event

    By Dennis Clemente

    NEW YORK–Last March 18, some of New York’s top technology leaders shared their experiences as technology officers of their respective domains at App Nexus. The speakers were Minerva Tantoco, CTO of New York City; Lucille Mayer, managing director and CIO, Bank of New York Mellon; Camille Fournier, CTO of Rent the Runway and Catherine Williams, chief data scientist of AppNexus.

    As the first CTO of New York City today, Tantoco likes to see how innovation can work to scale culture and organizational design. She cited the “pockets of innovation” and creativity in the city. In late 2015, the city will be able to make use of old payphones as fast Wi-Fi spots covering 150 feet. With hyperlocal advertisements, the payphone-turned Wi-Fi spot will generate income for the city.

    More speficially, she is looking into how technology can do wonders for every kid in the city. Tantoco’s challenge to anyone up to it, “If you have the technology, how do you teach every kid?”

    Being New York’s CTO, she said, “is the hardest job and the best job.” The hardest part about it comes from her next statement about how innovation can be risky for governments as well.

    The talk about disruptive technology provoked Fournier of Rent the Runway to say, “Apps are annoying, infuriating and disheartening.” Anyone could relate to this when you count the fact that there are only few web browsers and most people use Chrome already whereas the total number of apps is now 2.5 million.

    When it comes to online security, Tantoco talked about how it’s crucial to develop a better experience with it. “You can’t even get in yourself (these days)” when you need to have five passwords in anything.”

    Mayer’s own qualm these days was directed mostly at lawyers: “Tell me how I can do it instead of saying what I can’t do.”

    The audience responded well to Tantoco’s talk about New York being the second tech hub in the world after Silicon Valley. New York has over 300,000 tech jobs and non-tech jobs in tech companies. It is center of publishing, finance, health and many other areas. “I think we’ll be no.1 soon.”

    For someone who grew up in Flushing, Queens with Filipino lineage, Tantoco likes how New York has become the most diverse city in the world.

    Fournier responded to talk about the city, by saying how she loves the business savvy of New Yorkers, even in software development.

    Mayer sees the city scaling up with talent and having more role in community building.

    Smith of Qualtrics, Medlock of Swiftkey draw huge crowd at Data-Driven meetup

    data-driven meetup2

    By Dennis Clemente

    NEW YORK—CEO and founder Ryan Smith of Qualtrics spoke candidly about his beginnings in Ohio when he set up his company with his academician-father, ran it in his basement for five years and how he knocked on university doors in New York to offer his service to academicians at first last March 17 at the Data-Driven meetup at Bloomberg’s offices. After 12 years, the company is now valued at $2.1 billion.

    “We built a product together that was simple enough for me, and sophisticated enough for him (his father),” he said of his product that makes sophisticated research simple.

    In a sit-down talk with host Matt Turck, Smith talked about how many companies sometimes miss the forest for the trees. He remembers being asked so many business questions when almost always, it would have been better to ask “your employees and customers.”

    The Data-Driven meetup is a mix of both presentations and sit-down talk in a span of an hour and a half.
    CTO and co-founder Ben Medlock of Swiftkey chose to talk next about artificial intelligence in general as it relates to the future of mobile typing, the way it’s building the world’s smartest keyboard.

    Ben Medlock of Swiftkey talked about his smart prediction technology for easier mobile typing. “Swiftkey is a narrower AI company,” he said of his company designed in 2010, with close to 10 billion users today and 50 trillion characters written down.

    “How can we model how we think?” asked his audience.

    Swiftkey is building language models among other things based on fast and efficient smoothed n-gram models ; optimized trie search; morphemes and neutral nets/representation learning

    For input modeling, it uses Gaussian distributions to model interaction with the keyboard surface and linear gaussians. As for data collection, it has partnered with a UK-based company.

    CEO Paul Dix, for his part, presented how Influx DB works

    InfluxDB is a time series, metrics, and analytics database. It’s written in Go and has no external dependencies. Once you install it, you don’t need to install Redis, ZooKeeper, HBase, or whatever.

    InfluxDB is targeted at use cases for DevOps, metrics, sensor data, and real-time analytics.

    “It arose from our need for a database like this on more than a few previous products we’ve built,” Dix said.
    Dix announced plans to launch the testing build of version. 0.9.0 in a few months. Some new features will include support for tags and API changes. InfluxDB currently supports the following:

    • SQL like query language
    • HTTP(S) API
    • Storage of billions of data points
    • Database managed retention policies for data
    • Built in management interface
    • Aggregation on the fly

    “It’s (InfluxDB) is a discovery engine for what you are collecting,” Dix said.

    CEO Ion Stoic sat down to discuss the history of Databricks which was founded by the creators of Apache Spark.

    Protecting customers, company and brand through cryptography

    By Dennis Clemente

    How do you protect your customers, company and brand? At the IoT Central meetup on security at General Assembly last March 12, Atmel’s Dan Ujvari put it this way: it’s all about the CIA. Well, not the intelligence agency but this: “confidentiality of messages, integrity of transmissions and authentication of messages.”

    Atmel is developing what could be the Security of Things: innovative technologies that fuel machine-to-machine (M2M) communication and the “industrial Internet.” It’s not new to the tech world but it is trying to address the new demand for Internet of Things.

    Founded in 1984, Atmel designs and manufactures microcontrollers, capacitive touch solutions, advanced logic, mixed-signal, nonvolatile memory and radio frequency (RF) components. Atmel provides the electronics industry with system solutions focused on industrial, consumer, security, communications, computing and automotive markets.

    Ujvari said three things that crypto-authentication and crypto-communication should be able to address: confidentiality, integrity and authentication.

    Ujvari said it should “ensure one can read the message except the intended receiver” (confidentiality), assure the received message was not altered in any way (integrity) and “it should prove something what it is declared to be (authentication).”

    Why do we need crypto-authentication? You will want to prove components and disposables are genuine; ensure clearance level and control delivered services.

    With a “shared security key,” Atmel sees how it can do the following:
    • Assure code is genuine before booting
    • Downloads are from genuine source and unmodified
    • Secure your messages today and tomorrow with its “perfect-forward” security
    • Protection from cloners

    In terms of ecosystem control, Atmel claims it can prove components and disposables are genuine, while also ensuring client clearance- and access- level and control delivered services.

    Crypto-authentication is clearly needed when a study by HP points to 70 percent of IoT devices being vulnerable to attacks. It was also found in another report that here are security flaws in embeddable systems, even in simple USB firmware.

    Put it simply, Ujvari said your device is going to be in the hand of somebody else. “They can easily replace parts (to assess it),” he said.

    With its shared secret key (a combo of private and public keys), he said digital signatures and certificates will create a circle of trust.

    Barton LLC also provided a legal perspective on IoT Security.

    Early startups get their chance to present at accelerator meetup

    By Dennis Clemente

    NEW YORK–ER Roundtable hosts show-and-tell demos like no other tech meetups in the city. Startups present without a deck or without spelling out the name of their startup. They’re not even listed in the announcement.

    Covering this event for over a year now, the presenters are a mix of both months-old and year-old startups. Some are in the building stage, while others have their startups but may change their name later. It’s all early here, but one cannot discount the fact how successful this meetup is in drawing a sizable crowd, precisely because it’s where newcomers to the startup world take their baby steps. It makes sense because ER is an accelerator that guides startups until they’re ready to make more noise out there.

    At its regular venue at Microsoft last March 16, there were 11 presenters plus time for anyone in the audience to present their startup, as long as you’re deemed worthy based on the questions thrown by the host or a guest speaker. LendEDU was the night’s startup winner/presenter.

    There are 7 in 10 graduates with student loans with an average balance of $30,000. LendEDU aims to take the stress out of student loans and refinancing by allowing consumers to view options from several lenders in a few minutes. It also provides student loan tools such as a repayment calculator, a student loan payment calculator and tips on personal finance.

    Aside from having a feasible idea, sometimes winning your crowd is all about how you present your startup.

    “We charge our borrowers nothing. We are paid by our lending partners. We work with private school lenders and don’t compete against them. We are a marketing tool for lenders,” CEO Nat Taylor said.

    Another presentation called Increase likes to call itself a lead generator for business. Because it finds advertising expensive and word of mouth difficult to measure, it aims to address the “how” for small business. It claims to analyze social networks and provide a script that you add to your HTML. It aims to make through subscription plans.

    A company called Lovoy is aggregating volunteer work with the recent Chinese immigrant-presenter saying, “It’s time we contribute to our city.” The site is in beta. It aims to charge non-profit organizations.

    Coming from its Turn to Tech presentation, X Labs’ Oliver Christie is hoping to make the Internet faster in the United States and in other countries. “We’re using AI to compress data. ISPs can’t cope, content can’t deliver.”

    “We think this biz is ready for enterprise in 3 to 6 months,” he said. “The biggest need is for people like Netflix. We don’t want to interfere in their existing business model but maybe we can help them (in other ways).

    Ox Content’s Matt Lovett is trying to solve content creation which he said is a
    $44-billion industry. Developed with Gary Chan, his software aims to help automate story generation.

    Next presenter, Stickmen aims to become “the Ikea of the gaming world.” People are already buying casual games, so it looks forward to becoming a one-stop for gamers everywhere.

    Dream Forward asked the audience to ask the hard questions about their 401K and it will attempt to answer it, while BlendCalendar, currently available on Android, offers a productivity tool that aims to become a “digital version of your day-to-day life.”

    LendEDU wins over crowd in startup presentations at ER Roundtable

    NEW YORK–LendEDU was the night’s startup winner/presenter at ER Roundtable’s meetup last March 16 at Microsoft.

    http://www.eventbrite.com/e/entrepreneurs-roundtable-80-with-paypal-tickets-15526549327

    LendEDU CEO Nate Matherson opened his presentation by saying, there are 7 in 10 graduates with student loans with an average balance of $30,000. LendEDU aims to take the stress out of student loans and refinancing by allowing consumers to view options from several lenders in a few minutes. It also provides student loan tools such as a repayment calculator, a student loan payment calculator and tips on personal finance.

    Aside from having a feasible idea, sometimes winning your crowd is all about how you present your ideas.

    “We charge our borrowers nothing. We are paid by our lending partners. We work with private school lenders and don’t compete against them. We are a marketing tool for lenders,” Matherson said.

    Another presentation called Increase likes to call itself a lead generator for business. Because it finds advertising expensive and word of mouth difficult to measure, it aims to address the “how” for small business. It claims to analyze social networks and provide a script that you add to your HTML. It aims to make through subscription plans.

    A company called Lovoy is aggregating volunteer work with the recent Chinese immigrant-presenter saying, “It’s time we contribute to our city.” The site is in beta. It aims to charge non-profit organizations.

    Coming from its Turn to Tech presentation, X Labs’ Oliver Christie is hoping to make the Internet faster in the United States and in other countries. “We’re using AI to compress data. ISPs can’t cope, content can’t deliver.”

    “We think this biz is ready for enterprise in 3 to 6 months,” he said. “The biggest need is for people like Netflix. We don’t want to interfere in their existing business model but maybe we can help them (in other ways).

    Ox Content’s Matt Lovett is trying to solve content creation which he said is a $44-billion industry. Developed with Gary Chan, his software aims to help automate story generation.

    Next presenter, Stickmen aims to become “the Ikea of the gaming world.” People are already buying casual games, so it looks forward to becoming a one-stop for gamers everywhere.

    Dream Forward asked the audience to ask the hard questions about their 401K and it will attempt to answer it, while BlendCalendar, currently available on Android, offers a productivity tool that aims to become a “digital version of your day-to-day life.”

    Fireside chat with millennials Young, Smith on startups, retail, fundraising

    millenials

    By Dennis Clemente

    NEW YORK—General Assembly hosted a fireside chat featuring two young millennial disruptors– female venture capitalists and entrepreneurs Colette Young and Samantha Smith last March 11 at the Hudson Hotel.

    The two young women both started businesses when they were 14, owning and operating retail stores and similarly, working in early-stage consumer tech in top VC companies. They talked about retail and startups.

    Young is currently building out the retail and luxury goods division for o9 Solutions, a SaaS-based enterprise planning start-up, founded by entrepreneur Sanjiv Sidhu. She is the founder of Coco Zaza, a boutique consultancy specializing in tech, fashion, food and hospitality. Young is also a co-founder of an NGO called The Happiness Assembly and is currently one of the youth mentors for UN Habitat’s Global Youth fund. Colette previously worked at FirstMark Capital and at Prada Corporate.

    Smith, on the other hand, is a former operations manager at First Round Capital. She graduated from NYU Gallatin where she designed a self-directed major in government and philosophy and founded the NYU Entrepreneurs Network. Her prior work experience includes time at KIND Healthy Snacks, DoSomething.org and working at the Office of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

    Below are the highlights of the fireside chat with Young and Smith.

    On starting a business
    Young: The only way to do it is to do it, but show proof of concept.

    On timing
    Young: 2010 was the year when social media came into the picture but SEO (prevailed)

    Smith: Always look for intent, the founding team. Sometimes there’s not a right time for a product, even when’s it’s a good (product).

    On what makes a great company
    Young: What makes a great company? Answers these: Does it make money? Is it defensible? How does it scale?

    On work-life balance
    Young: I was working 100 hours a week. I only do things I believe in. Know that it’s extremely important to have something on the side. Don’t ever work in a job you hate

    Smith: Sorry I’m not sorry (about her busy life). (Have) strong relationships and friendships. Set a standard for your life

    On how some startups are not making money
    Young: There are some great companies not earning. They have not figured it out, but their value is so significant, which was why they were able to raise money

    On accelerators
    Smith: Use it as resource, not just a way to get funded

    On life hacks
    Young: Read a lot. Smart people read lot.

    Smith: I love to read. I also listen to audiobooks. You can consume a lot from audibooks, read while you’re in-between meetings and at the gym.

    The meetup was organized by General Assembly’s Lena Xiao.