Hardwired assembles most interesting mix of startups so far

By Dennis Clemente

NEW YORK—Hardwired’s 19th meetup last April 22 might just have assembled the most interesting mix of startups so far —a drone that collects data fast, a pet activity and health monitor, a virtual reality content creator and—are you ready?—a new way of growing meat. Not your typical tech meetup in the city, folks.


Skycatch and Modern Meadow clearly got people’s attention at the meetup held at WeWork. For what it’s used for these days, Skycatch’s founder and CEO Christian Sanz said its drones are being used for making maps and surveying for construction companies and mining operations. They build both the hardware and software.

Sanz said Skycatch is close to getting a series B funding. It leases the drones and offers trained pilots to companies as well.

In its early R&D phase, Modern Meadow is looking to build a future of sustainable eco-friendly and cruelty-free animal products. It got the most people crowding CEO and founder Andras Forgacs afterwards. They were intrigued how the startup may just solve low meat production—even possibly hunger—in other countries. It’s too early to say so, of course.

Modern Meadow claims that it does not produce genetically modified meat nor does it print 3D meat. It also reportedly sources naturally and produces a nurturing environment for them to grow and create high-quality animal products.

Next presenter Christina Heller, co-founder and CEO of VR Playhouse, is looking forward to making virtual reality mainstream by creating content for it. It is looking forward to working with brands in terms of creative and production work, as she stressed its $150-million industry potential.

Heller said plans are afoot to bring a “Being John Malkovich”-like experience in June, referring to the movie that puts you inside the actor’s head.

The last presenter, Steven Eidelman, co-founder and COO of Whistle, talked about his whistle activity monitor, a health tracker for your dog. It attaches to any collar and measures your dog’s activities, giving you a new perspective on day-to-day behavior and long-term trends.

In designing the monitor to work easily, he said, “Just because people want your product doesn’t mean everyone will use it.”

Tech Day draws thousands of attendees to 400 startups

By Dennis Clemente

NEW YORK–More than 400 startups pitched to 10,000 attendees at the fourth-year of the largest annual tech fair called Tech Day. The event showcased startups in various industries such as education and e-commerce, design and deliveries, food and fashion, music and things mobile as well as that services catering to them like co-working spaces, immigration and recruitment companies.


Auctio promoted itself as a new source of high-quality leads. It uses its SaaS platform to introduce incentive programs that drives employees to submit leads based on their existing
sales and account management activities.

Ricardo Ibarra, founder and CEO, said employees just need to submit a lead via the website site or mobile app. The platform alerts the sales manager who reviews and assigns it. The deal closes and the referring employee receives a reward.

Have you had enough of all the hundreds of wireframing tools out there? Well, Cacoo, handcrafted by nulab, is different in the sense that any wireframing and prototyping can be mirrored in real time over somebody else’s computer.

Postag can help you look at how specific clothes are worn by people from all the world–and how it helps you decide whether particular styles or patterns suit you.

Ever thought how you can play the lottery or scratch cards on your phone. Jackpocket is working with official state lotteries to make this happen.

Appnexus was at the fair to find talents. It’s a technology company that provides trading solutions and powers marketplaces for Internet advertising.

Coalition Space is like other co-working spaces, except that it also offers more flexible arrangements, even virtual offices. For those who like a new desk anytime, it offers Freestyle. And if you need coaching, another startup called CoachMarket says there’s a difference between having all the skills, a disadvantage in some ways, and focusing or mastering just one skill to get a job out there.

Where everyone is specializing like Sailo (it just rents boats), Rentah is offering a marketplace where individuals and businesses can rent out their goods and services and spaces within their city. You could say it’s emulating Craigslist and Airbnb in one site/service, but can it be all things for everyone? That remains to be seen.

x.ai’s Amy is focused on perfecting scheduling technology

NEW YORK–In a multitasking world, x.ai founder Dennis Mortensen likes Amy to do one thing but to do it better than anyone else. That means better than humans, because she is an “it” or artificial intelligence, to be exact. Amy or x.ai is a personal assistant who schedules for you.


Mortensen was at the NUI meetup last April 20 to discuss where Amy is headed. Nope, she can’t help you google a trip for you yet, but she at least knows how to schedule for you, which Google Voice and Siri can’t do yet. This is perhaps the reason why some attendees are clearly big fans of Amy, because it can book an appointment for you by simply arranging meetings for you via email where other A.I.s can only do search.

We wonder if Amy can eventually recover lost notes, as this story had to rely on memory after the notes disappeared, but Mortensen plays it conservatively when questions persist about what Amy can also do. His recent secured funding, a

$9.2 million in a Series A financing led by FirstMark Capital, may just vanish too if x.ai tries to do too much. His budget can only do so much.

Right now, all Mortensen is saying as he further develops Amy is to get more data. That’s where the seed money is going, so he can see a fully emulated human scheduling negotiator in Amy.

A question was asked if Amy will have a dashboard or some visual interface—and Mortensen doesn’t mince words and says no. Right now, the process is simple. You cc Amy on first contact with an email respondent, then she does the rest of the follow-ups for you—you just sit back and let Amy do the worrying. By the way, the system does not require no sign-in, no password, no download, you just cc to amy@x.ai when you’re planning a meeting with anyone.

Amy sends a meeting invite to you and your guest for the agreed upon time. The date, time and location will align to your personal preferences, your current free/busy time and the constraints set by your guest. You obviously don’t see any of this, you just receive the invite – and will be looking forward to a chat with your vendor, without having to deal with the two days of stress scheduling it.

Amy recently got good press from CBS News which said: “Amy feels like the future. Even more than Siri and Google Now, she seems seamlessly human and as effective as a real person doing the same task.”

Designing museums and pay phone booths

NEW YORK–Last April 22, a new venue emerged from the meetups gaining popular steam in springtime New York, just as the Tribeca Film Festival was rolling its week-long fest of indie and alternative films. It had the same makeup as the tech meetup talks, except it was held at the De Niro-propelled film center and headlined Designing Innovation.


Mike Dyer who wears many hats for Daily Beast as co-managing director, chief product and strategy officer of Daily Beast, moderated the panel consisting of Mike Abbink, creative director of the Modern Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and Colin O’Donnell, founding partner of Control Group.

Abbink addressed the museum’s main concern now—how to attract more 18 to 39 year olds, a hard demographic to capture which was interesting given that the new Whitney Museum is opening next month in a location with heavy foot traffic, a tourist belt called the Highline.

In line with the day’s agenda, O’Donnell spoke about how the Control Group is well on its way to convert New York City’s pay phone booths around the city into free Wi-Fi spots. It won the right to do that under the initiative of Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city’s first CTO Minerva Tantoco.

Abbink is responsible for managing and leading the internal design team at MoMA as well as creative leadership of the brand experience and visual identity of the Museum across all platforms and departments.

This includes exhibitions, advertising, programs, and events, as well as retail, publications, digital, and the MoMA PS1. Before joining MoMA Mike spent the past 18 years developing brands and designing identities, typefaces, packaging and websites.

Mike’s design career started at MetaDesign in San Francisco where he helped developed the strategy and visual concepts for Niketown Honolulu and in-store design systems for Nike stores in Melbourne and Toronto. After three years there, he went on to co-found the agency, Method, where he served as creative director and helped shape the company’s design vision. Mike oversaw the development of corporate identity, interactive design and web design for clients such as Adobe, Autodesk, MSN, Gucci and MoMA.

Mike gained extensive experience working as a design director at Apple Computer where he designed packaging (the first PowerBook G4, Power Mac G5, iSight Camera, and OSX Panther) and directed a major update to the company’s corporate identity when Apple changed their typeface from the classic Garamond to the more austere Myriad — a decision that affected every piece of the company’s collateral which was redesigned by Mike and his team.

O’Donnell, on the other hand, is responsible for corporate strategy, business development and thought leadership that drives the company’s growth. He has led the company toward groundbreaking initiatives such as On-the-Go, the award-winning information kiosks for the New York City MTA; and LinkNYC, the most advanced public Wi-Fi and advertising network in the world.

Recognized as one of AdAge Magazine’s Creativity50 for being a top creative influencer, O’Donnell works with forward-thinking clients to develop business-focused strategies and products that take advantage of the web’s evolution from browser, to mobile, to the physical world. He has been featured in major media outlets such as Fast Company, Wired, and the New York Times for his transformative work with urban environments, retail, and mass transit.

Startups aim to eliminate duplicates and make databases mobile- and graph-friendly

NEW YORK–Last April 14, the Data Driven Meetup featured How Liu, founder and CEO of Airtable; Scott Crunch, co-founder and CEO of Mark43; Bob Muglia, CEO of Snowflake and Emil Eifrem, founder and CEO of Neo Technologies at the Bloomberg offices.


Airtable is making complex sets of databases easy and simple to access on mobile devices. A freemium model, Liu said Airtable is for high-end business users looking beyond spreadsheets which are designed to do numerical tasks and financial analysis.

The next speaker, Crouch told the crowd composed mostly of seasoned developers that his only background was college before introducing Mark43. At 23, he already has a startup that helps identify duplicate people in law enforcement records. He thinks Mark43 can help first responders fight violent crimes.

The problem he is solving stems from the dated law enforcement software. “We’re building a cloud-based records management and analysis platform. There is no universal master record of people,” he said of his startup founded in 2012.

How big is this problem? Crouch showed figures that point to 40 percent of 5M million people in the Washington, DC area being duplicates, based on record of records of the DC Metropolitan Police department.

Crouch acknowledged concerns about police harassment and the need for a high level of accountability in using his technology. “The whole point is to use data to make more informed decisions that can enable them to do their job better.”

How did you get people to trust him being 23 and with no law enforcement background? With the police department in DC having no other means to develop its technology, Crouch was able to make it happen for being at the right place at the right time with the right police chief. “We were lucky to have a police chief in DC, run by a woman, make a forward-moving choice.”

Snowflakes’ Muglia asked the crowd, “Can the cloud solve my data warehousing challenges?”

The answer, of course, is if you use Snowflake. Most of Muglia’s presentation leaned on the benefits of using the cloud, by trying to answer all the concerns about it, whether it’s public or private, especially how few companies have the latter, because of its prohibitive cost.

What cloud model should you use? Infrastructure, Platform or Software? Muglia is unperturbed about its competition: Redshfit, the data warehouse of Amazon, if it thinks cloud deployment can save businesses money — and it can be right there to offer its service, and more.

Neo Technologies’ Eifrem presented next, telling his audience how graphs are eating the world and how a graph database is important in building relationships between data. Pulling out data from Forrester Research, he said over 25 percent of enterprise will use graph databases.

Without mentioning the social network it works with, Eifrem said a graph database is effective in Facebook’s social graph. Another client, Walmart, uses its neo4j graph database to understand connections between companies.

Making prototyping work for an agile-challenged enterprise

By Dennis Clemente

Prototyping is common in the startup world, but how does one do it with institutions and established companies? Emma Pinkerton, director of UX Consulting, explained how Bright Starr does it. She was one of three presenters that included Hans van de Bruggen, product designer at Cureatr and founder of Swipe Tools as well as Steven Cohn, founder and CEO of Validately.


Prototype is currently underserved in big companies for many reasons Pinkerton pointed out. “Enterprise environments are typically not agile environments; documentation is (preferred) versus visual communication and more significantly, politics often trumps usability.”

But some companies are also realizing the importance of prototyping or at least agile development as in paving the way for clearer communication, speeding up design processes and more important perhaps, saving the company time and money.

Even with these realizations, though, bad habits are hard to break. But Pinkerton thinks the key is to educate them on the process and make sure all decision makers are involved from day one.

Pinkerton shared use cases, showing an Axure prototype for a particular client. “We don’t share any PDFs or JPEGs until final sign off. If possible, we just share an Axure URL that is constantly being updated and published.”

With big companies, it’s common to have many changes on a project and Pinkerton thinks you should be able to prototype on the fly. Still, she cautions how the importance of defining the boundaries of the prototype. It shouldn’t be considered a design, for one.

From enterprise prototyping, next speaker Hans Van De Bruggen refreshed our minds about what design is really about as it also relates to prototyping. “Design is a process, not an end result. People do not design designs.”

Quoting Jeff Atwood, he says, “Prototypes are designed to be thrown away.”

Van De Bruggen thinks one must have a lower expectation of prototypes when developing from it, only in the sense that it is not the finished product after all but a guide. He went even further to say that “it should not be about creating usable code.”

The process of design for him is the process of “Thoroughly Thinking Through” something, stressing how good design “saves time, shortens the feedback loop and communicates more clearly.”

Cureatr is a mobile healthcare coordinating solution with over $5 million in funding. Van De Bruggen previously worked at Linkedin and Atlassian.

Steven Cohn of Validately spoke last about the importance of validating demand with a prototype using his own tool, a demand validation test.

Talking more about how products fail, one reason it happens is when you start making tradeoff decisions. He advised testers to look at the problem solution versus solution space and to have respondents use your prototype in a natural environment and then ask them cost questions.

Dash, Citymaps wow audience at NY Tech Meetup

By Dennis Clemente

NEW-YORK–Dash, City Maps and even a 105-year-old startup named IBM stood out from the demonstrations hosted by NY Tech Meetup last April 7 at the NYU Skirball Theater. But Dash was clearly the night’s favorite the way it connects cars to smartphones and unlocks enhanced performance, cost savings and social driving.


“It’s both a hardware and software product,” CEO and founder Jamyn Edis said.

Founded in 2012, Dash presented its second version available already on Android and iOS. It now has 200,000 users in 150 countries.

Citymaps is a personalized map that helps you collect places. It creates maps for yourself and even together with friends. It’s different the way the user interface pops up like cards. It claims to have a partnership with Songkick which should show you maps of performances as they happen everywhere around the world.

DataCamp is an online data science school using video lessons and interactive coding challenges. Currently with 110,000 students, it aims to target everyone interested in data science. Also in the education space, Fedora offers anyone to teach online or offline and monetize it through its site, whether you’re doing a livestream, offsite meetup to share online later, or ebook discussion. It was built 100 percent for teachers.

Another presenter, Share Right, now in beta, likes you to use its site to share, predict and monetize your digital assets.

If you’re looking for reviews of hotels, restaurants and attractions, check out TripExpert. It aggregates reviews from about 40 publications. For those without ratings, TripExpert uses a manual process. It’s interesting to watch how it will scale.

IBM showed BlueMix, its open enterprise cloud enabling secure data and infrastructure integration in the cloud for developers to deploy applications.

Only the shopping app of the night, Photochromia allows you to explore 2nd generation wearable technology through UV responsive garments in Printallover.me. Being fairly new, it estimates delivery of orders to take three weeks.

The NY Tech Meetup would not be complete without the fun Hack(s) of the Month demos. Chirp by Adam Obeng adamobeng.com makes your tweets shorter with emojis, while Chintastic makes your chin come to life in real-time in song and dance with your own background video! You have to check it out at to believe it.

Last but not the least was ROMDOM at https://github.com/sagnew/ROMDOM
Ever thought of hacking old Nintendo games? It does that using javascript. It could turn out to be a fun and interactive educational tool.

Digital NYC panelists talk about city’s dire need for tech talents

Last April 2, the Digital NYC Five Borough Tour made its second stop from Queens to Flatiron in Manhattan where there are around 300 startups and 20 co-working spaces.


The panelists consisted of angel investor David Rose of gust.com, Bruce Weed of IBM, Jessica Singleton, NYC’s digital director and Eric Geltler of the NY Economic Development Council but this time, a second round of panelists came to join the regular panel to discuss about how to better address the shortage of developers with the right tech education.

As Geltler stressed in the earlier panel, “Tech is integrating every industry.” It’s even more important to equip New Yorkers for a future that may require them to learn about programming, whether it’s for a tech company or any company that will also need to adapt to technology for its business.

Rose said, “Technology is enabling and accelerating every business. In five years, we’re going to see more opportunities for everyone.”

Rose likes to say how New York has come a long way when it had zero infrastructure in the 80s. Now it’s the fastest growing tech city in the world with a fertile eco system. But with all the companies mushrooming in the city, the challenge now is how to fill up jobs in tech.

Jayana Johnson, who majored in broadcasting then took a bootcamp class, is interning in a major publication soon as a web developer. She was part of the second panel that delved on the topic about tech talents, with Kristen Titus of NY Tech Talent Pipeline leading the discussion on tech talents.

Also in the second panel were Hagos Merhreteab of Codecademy and Jake Schwartz, founder and CEO of General Assembly where the meetup was held . Both also shared their thoughts about how vital it is for tech education to continue to evolve, as traditional education is not sufficient.

True enough, Johnson said all she learned in college was outdated. Good thing, she was interested in technology.

Digital NYC is the one-stop shop for all things New York tech. “To find everything in one place is critical,” Weed said, as he offered IBM’s Bluemix and Watson in general for people to explore for their own startup or ideas. Meanwhile, Singleton mentioned Minerva Tantoco, the city’s CTO, as the one in charge of making sure” the tech house is in order.”

Right now, the city needs talent badly but the city doesn’t have enough developers to fill up positions. “Companies are hungry for talent,” Titus said whose goal now is to help New Yorkers get coding and working with bootcamps and other educational institutions to scale tech education.

“As we speak, right now, it’s on fire,” Merhreteab said. He said the city needs coders short term. Long term, he added how some learning needs to happen in kindergarten.

With regard to jobs, Schwartz said the junior person is not hard to find right now. The challenge is the middle—it’s like a dessert (there),”

The city was clearly not prepared that tech would play such a huge role 20 years since Double Click opened shop. Demand has been huge since then, but the recruiting process needs rethinking these days.

“Relying on where you went to school was a shortcut for recruiters,” Merhreteab said.

But it need not be a case anymore, especially with the shortage.

Merhreteab advised new developers to join and contribute to Github, because “the code will speak for itself.”

Hotels by Day and Encore Alert win pitches at Alley Boost demo day

Why can’t you book a morning, midday or afternoon hotel stay? By making last-minute bookings possible, Hotels By Day won over other startup presentations at Alley Boost’s meetup last March 31 at Mercy College. AlleyBoost had two separate presentations with Encore Alert as the winner in the other room.


Hotels by Day is unlocking latent intra-day inventory, giving premium business and leisure travelers the flexibility of short stays on demand. Intra-day inventory is unsold rooms from the night before it’s pooled with early checkouts, said to be a $19 billion market. Intraday stays are a minimum of 4 hours between 7 am and 7 pm.

With Airbnb turning business away from hotels, HotelsByDay is bringing business back to hotels. Who are these travelers? They’re business travelers and parents who want to want to have some free time from their kids on holiday. The site has reportedly received 30,000 visits in its first month with 70 hotels in 10 cities in its roster. It is looking to raise $3.6 million to scale the business.

Encore Alert identifies key mentions and trends from your brand’s social media and sends you proactive alerts with recommended actions. It reportedly processes 4 million tweets per using its proprietary algorithm.

It aims to become the next-generation of marketing automation, as it thinks alerts help marketers prioritize their time and highest impact opportunities. Clients include IDEO.

Back to the other room, Uptop presented its startups for renters to connect directly with each other. We take a small commission on each transaction. With site beta set to launch in a few days, it has reportedly raised $350,000 but is looking to raise $200,000 more for platforms. With no commission fee, it looks to offer advertisements.

How would you like your news to be more digestible? Sungmin Cho of Glance thinks people’s attention span is shorter these days, so he aims to create a site that summarizes it for you. “We turned them into flash cards, bite-sized facts and insights extracted from daily news stories.”

How will he do it? He reportedly developed a content extraction but it will still have a mix of algorithmic and manual editing. For revenue, he’s looking at sponsored content and SaaS API and CMS. He is raising $850,000.

One VC feedback addressed how it could be better off producing content for hedge fund companies instead of coming up with a consumer app, as 90 percent of any funds raised will only go to marketing.

The runner-up was Jack Lukic of Semantic UI, whose open source UI platform aims to help companies reduce the costs of development and simplify their front end codebase. Lukic was a front and software engineer at Quirky and is a consultant for Chris Hayes.

Semantic’s syntax is based on useful principles from natural language which allows for code that is human-readable, descriptive, and easy to maintain.

Semantic UI comes equipped with a comprehensive theming platform. Powered by 3,000+ underlying variables, and six levels of nested inheritance, front end designers can hone their brand’s visual identity once, then easily port their designs across disparate web products and brand channels.

Its catchy to call the Catzenpup wet food pet feeder the Keurig of pet feeders, but Garrett Wilson who demonstrated it said he is addressing the $4.7 billion USA wet food market. “It’s battery-operated because the UL Listing is expensive.”

For sports fanatics, Barnburner has come up the first location-based sports game. Key things it has on its sleeves: you create a team in under two minutes, earn rewards for points instead of gambling and join the game at any time. It’s currently in development.

Sim Gulati, co-founder & CEO and Bradley Feinstein, co-founder & President are behind Liquid Assets which has developed water- and stain-repellent natural fabrics. Claims to have proprietary hydrophobic nanotechnology implemented on cotton

“We want to work with retail and department stores. We’re going to do it with licensing, so we can be (on the) inside (track),” they said.

“With a scalable supply chain in place, we have opportunity to explore both B2C and B2B opportunities,” Gulati said. It is currently raising $1.5 million.

Ferdinand Piano of DocTourz is banking on the increase in medical tourism these past few years. For people who love to travel, finding a good physician can be hard. It hopes to become the match.com for your global physician search.

Piano said DocTourz is a portal for government to easily manage their cross border healthcare as it offers advanced search and filtering capabilities specifically designed for government buyers. Marc Doria, Lou Holder are part of the team with Narciso Reyes of Google Philippines one of its key advisers.

Execution trumps ideas but immigration can bring in more talent

NEW YORK–Sometimes the title of a meetup ends up being more. You simply need a host who knows how to push the right buttons and no demos.


Last April 1, the Disruptive Technologists group planned a forum called “Balancing a Cool Idea with Profitability” with host/moderator Bruce Bachenheimer, a Pace University professor. It turned out to be about a lot more, including a call for immigration reform to fill up the critical need for developers and other talented people in the United States.

Bachenheimer asked his panel questions that made for an interesting evening at Microsoft’s office at Times Square. It helped that there were no demos, just talk.

The panelists consisted of investors Ed “Skip” McLaughlin, Harry Edelson, Thatcher Bell and startup founder Patrick Freuler, founder and CEO of Audicus, which offers high-tech affordable hearing aids online.

What makes America thrive and what more can it do?

McLaughlin: We are rewarded for taking risks.

Edelson: We’re (US) cutting back on research. Yes, we spend more per child, but we’re throwing at the problem that is not solving the problem….In every study like math and sciences, we’re behind. I’ve been to China a hundred times. They’re focusing on speed. We can’t even pass budgets.

Bell: I overestimated the importance of transparency and rule of law (in the US). We have some advantages in our legal system, in our IPR rights, even culturally, against (other) nations. But we need to fix (immigration) and Congress to approve it (seeing how Cornell Tech has great minds not permitted to work permanently in the US). It makes me irate.

Freuler: I’m from Switzerland benefiting from the US’ fertile ecosystem of advisers who connect the dots for you….In Europe, nobody looks at if you fail the first time.

On ideas, the importance of execution, why protecting an idea is not always the right away

McLaughlin: Execution trumps ideas

Edelson: I look for good potential and good management (to execute)

Bell, paraphrasing Aaron Rice of NJ Tech Meetup: The more experienced you are the more you (should) shout your idea out from the rooftop

Freuler: Execution is what creates the value. It’s a marathon. Some started with a bad idea but in iterating, improved on the idea

On the importance of founders

Edelson: Getting the right jockey and getting everybody to cooperate with him.

Freuler: Whether it’s the horse or jockey, it’s the jockey that counts.

On crowdfunding

Edelson: They will have the money when the economy goes down.

Bell: There are three types of crowdfunding–donation, lending and equity based. Almost all of them come from institutions. Institutions know what they’re getting into. Equity lends itself to fraud. Equity scares me.

On Shark Tank the TV show

McLaughlin: It’s phenomenally entertaining. I am strong believer in profit the mandate. It all starts with profit.

Edelson: They don’t (get) pre-money or post-money.

Bell: I’ve never seen the show

Freuler: It has to fit the investment mission of the investor. They paint a bad picture of investors. Our investors are awesome.