How to become a digital nomad; tales from a web developer

NEW YORK–How do you become a digital nomad? If you care to listen to the speakers of Cafe Numerique (Beligan for digital), you’ll find out how the world is getting smaller the way people from all over the world are finding each other, doing business and sharing ideas.

Organized by local teams once or twice month, the teams choose a topic, look for speakers and a place to welcome their community. Last September 23, New York featured Adam Romer as speaker on the subject of being a digital nomad.

Established in October 21, 2009 in Brussels, Belgium, the digital cafe talk emerged in Life, Mons, Namur and Charleroi and beyond Belgium before expanding to 18 cities to date. The concept is simple. The organization thinks of a topic and invites anyone in general to share their thoughts. Cafe Numerique is composed of Aida Kalanderi, Julie Govaert and Luis Mercao.

In last Wednesday’s talk, Romer, a website developer, took us to different places where he has lived for the past year or so. He discussed how you can be digital nomad like himself. He discussed about mail services, travel-and tax-friendly states like Florida, Texas and South Dakota.

“You don’t have to live where you register your business,” he said, adding points about banking and how manage one’s business and personal accounts.

Even better, he added, is geoarbitrage; what he calls “when a dollar isn’t a dollar.” This simply means the affordability of other places and where your dollar goes a long way.

He could not stress enough how important it is to get internet connection at all times and how, having 4G in a remote location, allowed him to work on a mountainhill underneath a starry night. How one can work in such beautiful locations, based on the photos he showed, is beyond us. “Get a unlocked phones and use a Sim card as well as LTE connection.”

Romer addressed the elephant in the room–safety and security, giving the following pointers:

Be aware of your surroundings
Don’t be an easy target
Stay out of places you don’t belong
Get travel insurance
Don’t be conspicuous

Even when you’re off the grid, he said it’s important to create a routine, because the temptation to wander off will be harder to control. “Create a routine. Explain (to people) that you are not on vacation.”

TEP International Day brings investors, entrepreneurs and policy makers from US, Asia and Europe

NEW YORK–Last September 17, the Brooklyn Borough Hall was the setting for the International Day, the last of the four-day international Transatlantic Entrepreneur (TEP) conference which brought together investors, entrepreneurs, media and policy makers from the US, Asia and Europe.

TEP 2017

Eric Adam, Brooklyn Borough president and Maria Torres Springer, president of the New York Economic Development Council, were the main speakers on September 17.

Tweaking the Emma Lazarus poem, Adams said, “Bring me your disrupted technology and apps “

It was unlike any other tech event in the city, as it featured more international companies and government representatives from Australia, Berlin, Catalonia, Hong Kong, Korea, Denmark, The Netherlands, Portugal, Taiwan and the UK.

The talks covered international expansions with guests Olaf Koch, CEO, Metro Group; Alice Cheng, founder and CEO, of Culinary Agents. Startup demos, a weekly staple in New York, was held at the main lobby.

Roundtable discussions had different sectors well represented–New Manufacturing, Fintech, Smart Cities, Connected Health and Media, with the latter perhaps the most curious one for onlookers listening in, because of the challenges it faces in light of new technologies that work, if not, perceived as a threat.

Country-specific presentations from Australia, Denmark and Korea were the most interesting, as they presented opportunities for New Yorkers to set up shop in these countries, test their products there or outsource projects in their tech-friendly ecosystems. Joseph Juhn of Kotra, the Korean government agency dedicated to helping overseas Korean small-medium enterprises, talked about how companies in New York can benefit from doing business in Korea, the most innovative country in the world.

Overall, the whole event was aimed at helping attendees connect with, present collaboration opportunities and exchange knowledge that can help entrepreneurs define actions they need to produce results anywhere they choose to do business.

Some of the startup presenters were resmio, an online marketing and reservation management for restaurants; videopath, a digital video solution that lets you easily create and publish interactive videos on the web; gokid, a carpool service for families and their kids; and panono, a way to keep your memories in 100 megapixels.

Hyper Heiferman: ‘Person beside you is smarter than you are…’

NEW YORK–Scott Heiferman is perhaps the most unassuming CEO and co-founder you’ll ever meet in this city. For someone who runs one of the city’s earliest and most successful startups,, which was formed 13 years ago, he still considers his company a startup. His company, he says, is older than most startups. It’s older than Google Maps, older than Facebook,– heck, older than Friendster and yet, he pauses to think if he’s still a startup.

Arriving at the StartupGrind meetup last September 16 at Pivotal Labs, the 43-year-old founder stands in a corner, waiting as if he’s part of the audience. People hardly notice him come in his yellow T-shirt, washed-out jeans and gray New Balance shoes. He’s fidgety, though, like Robin Williams-fidgety. As he’s announced and he speaks up, the manic energy is contained a bit by his pregnant pauses, as he carefully weighs every word as an empathetic speaker would.

He constantly doubles- even triple-checks himself, to avoid being arrogant or judgmental, even asking asking the audience to rephrase a question thrown by Peter Crysdale, just to make sure he gives the right answer–and in some cases, admits to not knowing the answer. People applaud his honesty and thoughtfulness.

We’re all used to seeing how interview subjects give one-on-one talks facing an interviewer, but Heiferman looks like he can’t sit for very long. This is because he’s always looking at the audience as if he wants to be part of it, to be the observer, not the observed.

And almost always, in every speaking engagement we’ve heard him, he looks like he knows what the questions are before they’re asked and saves the host the time by elaborating on thoughts that sometimes meander to details that may turn off some but not this particular audience.

“My dentist asked me why my teeth was strained. And I said I had 50 coffees,” he said, in explaining how the process of hiring a CTO meant enduring those many coffees to find the right candidate for a job. This writer is tempted to ask if drank way too much coffee for this interview.

Heiferman doesn’t know if he’s being funny, but he got the crowd chuckling, even he’s a serious guy true to his mission of making people meet offline by signing up online at “Raise your hand if you’ve had a friend,” he tells the crowd, who willingly obliges him.

Egging on the audience to talk to the person beside them, he says, “The person sitting beside you is smarter than you are (long pause) about something.” Minutes later, the room buzzes in a two-minute chat fest; he does this in any meetup where he’s the guest. He wishes there was a way for one person to meet his or her match in an event or meetup by just “pushing a button,” literally and figuratively, but not in a way, if you catch our drift.

Heiferman believes the way to make money is to serve people. He recalls the time when he didn’t want advertising to “bastardize” his site and turn off people, which led to the idea of charging organizations formed on the site $10 a month.

When he implemented this fee in the early days, he said he saw how 50,000 members suddenly dwindled to 5,000, but he thought it was good, because it also weeded out those who were not serious in their organizations or community. In hindsight, it turned out to be a good decision. “Be adaptable. Be flexible,” he said. “Because you never know.”

Meetup now has 25 million people with the app proving to be the engine of his phenomenal growth. ‘Millions join a week compared to a year ago which was less than half of that,” he said.

Many say it’s also important to have the right team to succeed as a startup. That has been the default answer, but Heiferman cares to elaborate with gusto. You cannot have a team of contractors. You need partners who will work hard to make things easy. It’s really hard to make something easy–and making something easy is everything.”

It’s crucial the team shares your vision and culture, and for him, it’s still is about how his company should benefit the most number of people. Envision what would the world would be like with your startup years from now. “Paint it, smell it.” Listening to Heiferman speak is a visceral experience.

Twitter talks about upcoming Project Lightning with journalists

NEW YORK–Twitter’s Adam Sharp, Head of News, Government and Elections and Niketa Patel, News Partnerships Manager were the speakers at Conversations, a series of open discussion held by NY Daily News Innovation Lab, at Microsoft last September 9. It was also a way for Twitter to drum up support for its upcoming Project Lightning, a curated feed of tweets.

Host and moderator Jay Rosen asked the Twitter speakers the most challenging questions about how Twitter is going to work with publishers and how the company is investing in new forms of discovery as well as its impact in the 2016 elections.

In the roomful of journalists at Microsoft, Sharp responded how the site will not be influenced by advertisers or other business decisions. In the open discussion later, though, an intriguing question was asked, Do you feel that the average person is represented on Twitter?

In response to an audience’s request for a better Tweetdeck, Sharp pointed out “how 80 percent of Twitter usage is on mobile devices, which isn’t a practical platform for a Tweetdeck.”

Slated for a Fall release, the new Twitter will have a team of editors curating the content which is foreseen to be more visually driven.

Here are other quotables quotes from the Twitter meetup with NY Daily News’ Innovation Lab:

“Twitter at its core has always been real-time, public and conversational,” said Sharp.

“When there’s a major event and you dive into those tweets, you see a healthy cross-section of the country”

“There is no original reporting being done by Twitter’s Project Lighting team”

“Too much great content is Twitter’s biggest problem. That’s where Project Lighting comes in.”

“We’ve come a long way from the days where it’s just headlines and links,” said Patel

“We have no plans to tinker with the main timeline, because we know that’s a core part of our platform.”

“Whatever the topic is, it is all about picking the best content that highlights the story.”

Online insurance, waiter app, design app at NY Tech Breakfast

NEW YORK–When every tech meetup seems to be covered at night, count NY Tech Breakfast counts on the early risers to come to its monthly event, now held at Microsoft for the second month. Last September 8, NY Tech Breakfast featured PolicyGenius, Proscape, TableSwipes and LawGo.

How about getting most of your insurance needs online? PolicyGenius’ CTO, Ian Yamey, talked about how the startup guides people to apply for insurance every step of the way, with a coverage calculator to help anyone make informed decisions.

He gave a walk-through of the application online, showing us how it’s easy to just fill in information to get different types of insurance online. “It’s an insurance checkup that takes 10 minutes to do,” he said, adding how it’s important for them to educate consumers about insurance as well.

If you’re shopping for the right company, Yamey guarantees unbiased quote comparisons as it hopes to cater directly to consumers, skipping agents altogether. Other insurance it offers includes pet and renters.

What makes them different? Insurance companies capture your information and sell to multiple insurance brokers/agents, while PolicyGenius claims it’ll work with you personally.

Also, it claims it’s easier to comparison and understand insurance the way it has focused on delivering a great experience.

Proscape helps ad agencies use the marketing app cloud to build and deliver apps–without coding. It makes sense for ad agencies that have to meet insane deadlines from clients everyday.

It’s supposed to reduce your app production times to hours, not months; eliminate the complexity and pain associated with custom app development; build powerful apps that integrate with CRM systems that generate insightful reporting; and give you the creative freedom you need to design in your tool of choice.

Proscape has a different pricing model, even for stores and sales and device, but there is a pricing model for the rest of us at $25 a month.

Since this is clearly targeted for ad agencies, its audience should at least know how to use Adobe Photoshop

Next presenter Prem Babu of TableSwipes said nobody has bridged the gap between owner and waiter with customers. What he means is the wait customers have to endure to be served their food–the wait to get seated, the wait to place orders, the wait for food and finally, the wait again to pay.

His app may just help waiters manage their time more efficiently in between tables and the kitchen. His solution, TableSwipes, will allow Waiters to use their iPhones to take orders at the table. Its app is customer designed and equipped with powerful features to help streamline order-taking. Its payment gateway is Stripe.

Orders can be instantly related to the kitchen on top of giving customers the necessary friendly alerts to help waiters better improve their dining experience.

Another presenter was LawGo. You choose a legal service, purchase the service you need in 5 minutes and get started with your lawyer. What many will like about the service is how you can choose a fixed-price legal service.

One Month, Thinkful present online programming courses with Hopscotch

NEW YORK–Last September 2, General Assembly held a talk featuring three companies offering online coding courses, One Month, Thinkful and Hopscotch at its offices in the Flatiron District.

Chris Castiglione, co-founder of One Month, the Y Combinator-backed learning platform, talked about how One Month is precisely that—it helps anyone learn any of its technology-based online courses in one month. These are online tutorials in Ruby on Rails, HTL, CSS, Growth Hacking, iOS and Programming for Non-Programmers.

Castiglione said it has more than 25,000 students, including employees from various companies. “We have students build (something) from day 1. By day 5, you have something you can upload on Github or Heroku,” he said. “If you don’t know what that means, you’ll know.”

While bootcamps preach total immersion, One Month lets learners take their time—15 minutes a day for 30 days, all online. “We have our own style compared to other courses out there. We are a school, not a library like Lynda.

One Month builds a course in 3 to 4 months and offers it for $49 a month.

Dan Friedman, co-founder of Thinkful, spoke next, took the opportunity to announce new educational offerings on its site. Tonight, it will start offering a library of online courses at $99 a month and in the following week, it will feature graduates of its programs.

Founded three years ago, Thinkful raised $4.5 million in a new round of funding last January, which is aimed at expanding its educational offerings online.

Unlike bootcamp classes which can set you back by a whopping $15,000, Thinkful offers a more affordable solution to learning starting at $300 to $1000 a month. One is paired with a mentor in a real-time online learning system or what Friedman calls the “magic of one-on-one plus the flexibility of online,” inspired as the company was on the one-on-one mentoring study by Benjamin Bloom.

What type of student do they get? “They go to us after they go to Codecademy,” he said. They get students paid for by the companies they work for, as part of their corporate training.

Next presenter was Samantha John, co-founder of Hopscotch, the iPad app that teaches kids how to create an app. Launched 2 years ago, it reportedly has 2.5 million downloads. “There’s no typing, no tricky syntax, just drag blocks of code with your fingers and play what you make instantly,” she said.

It ended up being used a lot in classrooms, she added.

Digital clinic app Maven Clinic on the spot; JustWorks launches new permissions level

NEW YORK– The product challenges at the Product Council last August 31 were the digital clinic app offered by Maven Clinic and the new permissions level to be offered by JustWorks starting September 1. The meetup was held at the Pivotal Labs.

Maven Clinic’s Suzy Grange presented her app as a way to connect women with vetted healthcare experts via video complete with a forum for female patients and medical practitioners to talk to each other. It’s her answer to Googling your symptoms well and the endless wait in clinics.

The app works this way: You choose a practitioner, book an appointment and follow up. Pricing is $15 per session.

Why women? Women, said Grange, make 80 percent of healthcare decisions in their families. Women interact with the healthcare system at so many different points in life. And 80 percent of healthcare practitioners are women.

Launched last April 2015, the app is available nationwide with prescriptions offered in 5 states. It runs on iOs only right now.

What are the barriers to usage? Grange pointed out education, trust and immediacy. Just getting message across platforms can be a challenge along with immediacy, which may be reactive and requires developing a relationship with a practitioner.

Also present to give their inputs were Camilla Velasquez, Head of Product at Justworks, Jung Sin, a Product Design and UX Consultant and Jen Ator, Fitness Director at Women’s Health Magazine. –

If things don’t work out on video, Velasquez pointed out how it might be good if the company could help her schedule and meet her doctor in person. Safety was also raised. But overall, the response, even from the audience, was positive, saying it could make people more pro-active about their health.

To make the app sticky, another panelist suggested big-name practitioners to anchor the site. Others said determining her market is also crucial. She may also need to look into how coaching sites work, so people will keep coming back to the site. This is because if they only go when they’re ill, that’s a one-time incident. Offering something free for a period of time was also suggested.

As far as understanding her audience, it’s also important not to assume a lot of people know about what ails them or what they need to be tested for. College-age students may not know a lot of things about their health, for instance. It would have been better if the meetup had a doctor already signed up to the system as guest to give us an idea what she thinks about it and how she will be compensated.

Another panelist stressed again out how the app is “breaking a culture,” which means changing women’s behavior, young or old, into becoming more pro-active about their health.

The next speaker of the night was Velasquez of JustWorks, also one of the panelists, who talked about the launch of the site’s new permission system. Justworks is a platform that automates HR, payments, benefits and government paperwork for SMBs. There are 28M small businesses in the US.

Camilla Velasquez, head of Product at Justworks, pointed out the four product principles to explain Justworks’ new permission system: simple, fast, guiding and scales.

She said Justworks is solving the problem but sticking to their principles. Simple and fast: Small number of easy to understand permissions; too early for groups; Guiding: instruct users which permissions are for which roles; require admin status before adding permission; Scales: one overview screen, two entry points; flexible framework.

For direct reporting, she cited the changes in the following manner. Simple, fast: Turn on/off. Limit groups until later, with option to take action via email; Guiding defaults: Clear communications. Roll up and transparency for senior levels; Scales: Lay foundation for groups as new features are rolled out.