German startups MeteoViva, Minodes, Brandnew seek traction, funding in US

german chancellor dirk kanngiesser

By Dennis Clemente

While gaining traction is crucial in the US market, it’s also where German startups can get funding to scale their businesses globally

NEW YORK–The presenters at the German Accelerator at Rise last March 22 had one thing in mind. They know the US market is big. While gaining traction is crucial in the US market, it’s also where they know they can get funding to scale their businesses globally.

German startups MeteoViva, Minodes and Brandnew presented their startups to a panel of venture capitalists–Urs Cete, managing partner at BDMI; Ulrich Quay, head at BMW Ventures; Alicia Syrett, founder and CEO at Pantegrion Capital; and  Anton Waltz, managing director of US Digital Ventures.  

meteovivaMeteoViva helps the customers save 15 to 40 percent of energy costs in corporate buildings with its unique Saas solution. Its technology is reportedly based on a patented computer simulation model and was developed at RWTH Aachen University (Germany’s MIT).

It essentially predicts how much heating and cooling a building to maintain the desired climate at the lowest cost. It can reportedly be used in any building–factories, office buildings, shopping centers.

For retail analytics, Minodes offers insights into visitors’ in-store shopping behavior using Wi-Fi sensors it puts on stores. Data is viewable in its dashboard and in customizable email reports. Additional and more granular reports are provided depending on business requirements

As it optimizes in-store customer pathways, Minodes also offers omnichannel retargeting and beacon campaigns. For instance, it retargets offline store visitors through Facebook Google Apps. Now in 12 countries, it is in the United States to gain traction and get better valuation.

simple process Offering itself as influencer marketing in its presentation, Brandnew  connects brands with influential users on Instagram. It hopes to address the 3 key frustrations for brands and agencies–scalability, targeting and analytics–through its Saas service, either on subscription or six-month basis. Rates are about $20,000 depending on campaign.

A VC said it needs a “one money-shot sentence” for better positioning.

Dirk Kannigiesser, CEO of the German Accelerator in Silicon Valley, was in attendance to present the startups and VCs along with CleanTech, Berlin’s largest industrial park, which is optimally aligned to the requirements of productive-driven companies.

Startup hopes to take film production paperwork online

NEW YORK– If you’re looking for startups in its early MVP stage, Silicon Alley Council’s meetup last March 23 at Microsoft in Times Square offered impromptu presenters a chance to talk about their startups. Tim and Dhalsa were two of the presenters.

http://www.meetup.com/siliconalleycouncil/events/229557457/?rv=mc1&_af=event&_af_eid=229557457&https=off

Michael Dearborn of Tim talked about how being an associate director mean filling up 23 pages of paperwork, a standard in the TV, video and production business these days. Those pages include call sheets and schedules.

Tim is taking film production paperwork online. Dearborn said the site  is still in prototype but it will have dual encryption process.  All the documents will reportedly be in the site, so you can toggle between multiple productions.

It aims to have one universal packet that works for every future new-hire regardless of position or union with a permissions-based system so you can choose who edit, view and upload materials; differentiate between core crew and day players and see information specific to their position. Some accounting matters, including payroll, can be downloaded. Sensitive information like Social Security numbers will reportedly be kept for a short period of time.   

Dhalsa hopes to be an alternative to celebrity endorsements as a strategy for building global brand recognition on a large scale.

It hopes to solve the problem for corporations who spend millions of dollars in celebrity endorsements, as it claims to have developed a better solution for global brand recognition than celebrity endorsements using a suite of original products developed within the Social networking and entertainment industry.

Its solution hopes to provide any company with global brand recognition. These include a social networking platform and branding in their music groups and feature films.

The meetup allows anyone to present as long as technology is “applicable to consumer technology,” is “not commercially available on the mass market and “must be demonstrable as a prototype or software mockup.”

Book authors on videos, cameras for rent

NEW YORK—What is Penguin Random House doing in a video meetup, especially the NY Video Meetup? It turns out the publishing house carries a collection of videos in different subject matters with some tongue-in-cheek book reports.

http://www.meetup.com/nyvideo/events/226241170/

Penguin Random House also carries videos of authors, so you can see your favorite authors talking about the creative process or just talking, all on its YouTube in channels called Papercuts (for fiction) and Videcracy (for non-fiction material). It makes complete sense, because it publishes 3,500 books a year and there are several ideas and inspiration that it can be mined.

Penguin Random House was also with KitSplit, Viosk, and YouNow were also at the meetup last March 24 at HBO. Steven Rosenbaum hosted and gave his audience his usual recap of video industry news and updates before the show-and-tell demos.

YouNow’s Dorian Dargan demonstrated how its live streaming channel can be so much fun and popular, especially among the millennials, as it picked a random musician online to interact with a birthday celebrant in the audience, singing Happy Birthday to her on split screen view, to everyone’s delight. The platform, which made it in the list of Inc.com’s most innovative companies, has over 150,000 broadcasts or real-time streaming daily.

No if you want to make some videos for viewing anytime, Viosk’s Alex Romanovich showed how to make simple drag-and-drop videos in a few minutes complete with voiceover (even your own voice, if you prefer) and music (with Viosk having an in-house musician composing the tunes). The videos can be uploaded on YouTube.

“It’s a self-serve product with existing templates,” Romanovich said.

And if you’re strapped for cash, it need not stop you from making videos. Kitsplit makes camera rentals made easy, vetted – and even insured. It carries 20 million worth of camera gear, even drones and VR rigs, with delivery. It’s a marketplace site.

“Rental houses work with us. It’s also a marketing tool for them,” co-founder Lisbeth Kaufman said.

Platforms that pick your clothes, find the right people

By Dennis Clemente

Meetup showcases platforms that shops for you, picks right people for the job

NEW YORK—The AXA  Equitable Center makes for a grand entrance. Thus said Matt Turck, long-time host of Data Driven, as he welcomed the crowd to its majestic auditorium, complete with velvet curtains and flattering spotlight. One of the most attended meetups in the city, Data Driven is holding its meetups at AXA for a few months until the Bloomberg auditorium finishes its renovation.

At the meetup last March 16, Data Driven divided the talks based on its format. Eric Colson, chief algorithms officer of Stitch Fix; and Kieran Snyder, founder & CEO at Textio presented their companies while Peter Fenton, general partner at Benchmark and Eliot Horowitz, co-founder & CTO at MongoDB sat with Turck to discuss their companies and their industry in general.

Colson opened the night’s data talk with StitchFix. “There is no shopping in our site, because people hate shopping.”  That got people’s attention. What StitchFix does is create your style profile and give you five hand-picked items. You keep what you like and send the rest back.

Recommendations have worked for several companies. For Amazon’s sales, 35 percent; Linkedin’s connection’s, 50 percent; Netflix’s watched movies, 75 percent and StitchFix, 100 percent of its sold merchandise.

Colson said they combine both data and human insights to make StitchFix work. There’s no denying the importance of human insights because of their wealth of experience, according to him.  “(But) they can’t be doing the same things as (its data/algorithms),” he said.

Next presenter Snyder said Textio mines data from recruiters and hiring mangers to find patterns that work, showing how it works to help companies hire better. It was as simple as copy pasting a job posting from a site to a Textio blank field.

Using statistics and machine learning, it analyzes job text and outcomes data using listings from a set of companies.  It makes use of patterns that it finds to predict the performance of job postings and help you fix it before you ever publish it, with analytics and feedback right as you’re typing.  It makes use of color to highlight words (green for phrases that work) and red (for least successful ones) that should help its clients get the talents they need.

It offers real-time feedback as well as sharing and collaboration on job listings with colleagues. On average, Snyder claims that people who use Textio see a 24-percent lift in qualified applicants, a 17-percent drop in time to hire; and a 12-percent increase in underrepresented applicants. “We found words like synergy don’t work among underrepresented applicants,” she said.

Snyder said the best feedback loop comes from its customers, as she also observed how job listings can amplify a company’s voice, throwing wrong assumptions about the lack of creativity of job listings. Expedia is one of its customers.

With MongoDB, Horowitz asked the audience, how many are frustrated with their databases? When MongoDB came into the picture in 2007, it was tackling what is seemingly a persistent problem with databases. In 2009, Salesforce ported their database to MongoDB.

“Developers say (MongoDB) is a pretty good experience,” says Horowitz, adding it looks forward to making users more productive by offering more ways for developers to keep using it.

Addressing a monetization question, Horowitz offered consulting and support, its BI tools and cloud services.

Started in 2007, MongoDB takes pride in having 85 percent of work done in New York.  In 2015, the company released its 3.2 version that helps address a pernickety issue these days—encryption.  It also started a BI connector with Tableau and Compass.

What does it take to be an entrepreneur? Peter Fenton, who invested in Twitter when it was only 25 people, echoed the sentiments of Paul Graham of Y Combinator: “Is the entrepreneur deeply authentic?” He also points out how feeling uneasy can actually work for you, if he means being grounded enough to think of the realities of the startup business.

“Take two those variables and layer around that,” he said.

As for figuring out which is promotional and authentic among the current crop of startups, he describes the tech startup world based on how whales breach and then submerge again. “We’re moving (in a) cycle, but we’re making the ecosystem healthier.”

Fenton pointed how institutional money may have given tech startups longer capital runway and burn rate, but valuations do go down and money may not be as easy to get.

For radical growth, Fenton thinks ubiquity is crucial. However, he points out how some technology has a gestation period (before they hit critical mass).

Edutech panel discuss if bootcamps should regulated

By Dennis Clemente

From its “cease and desist” years, says a panelist, the government has flipped the switch on bootcamps

NEW YORK—The proliferation of bootcamps in the city and all around the United States begs the question, should they be regulated? You will hardly hear a contrarian view in the tech meetup scene by the very nature of the meetups as marketing vehicles for like-minded startups and panelists, but last March 15, the NY Ed Tech meetup saw two panelists disagree on regulation for bootcamps.

Dan Friedman, CEO of Thinkful was for regulation, while Rebekah Rombom, VP Business Development of The Flatiron School opposed it. However, both of them, along with Marissa Shorenstein, president, AT&T-Network and Liz Eggleston, co-founder of Course Report, agreed on some third-party auditing.

Friedman cited some online universities for falling short of expectations, which clearly undergoes more scrutiny. Rombom was more flexible, given the agile and ephemeral construct of technology stacks; what’s in demand now may fall by the wayside later. Mean Stack development is becoming more popular these days, for instance—and established bootcamps in New York don’t offer it yet.

Rombom puts it this way:  “We offer a job guarantee. Within 6 months if you don’t get a job, you get your money back,” she said of the Flatiron School, adding that anyone can even make suggested changes to its syllabus on Github. It claims more openness and transparency to its data and curriculum while reportedly keeping the quality of its immersive teaching up to par.

Friedman thinks it’s crucial for government to see the data and regulate bootcamps as it will also help add consumer protection.

Eggleston offers some perspective on the success of bootcamps and how it has come a long way. From its “cease and desist” years, she has seen how government has flipped the switch. It funds and finds scholarships to deserving students now, emboldened by how established bootcamps have over 90 percent placement rates, on account of how immersive learning has proven to be effective.

As the employer of developers for AT&T, Shorenstein admits to hiring developers from development bootcamps, even funding non-profit programming bootcamps like Girls Who Code. “We’re looking for breadth of experience, more than school credentials.”

For those with only experience and no college degree, she discourages new developers from bootcamps in applying on their online portal. “We suggest going to hiring or networking events,” she said, adding how current employees are also retrained.

In 2015, a total of 16,000 students graduated from bootcamps in US and Canada In 2015. The entry level salary is $70,000, with some getting a $15,000 to $20,000 bump in salary in their second year.

TripExpert opens API to developers

NEW YORK–Last March 9, TripExpert, Pass the Plate LLC, Criteek and TenViz presented at the NY Tech Breakfast at Microsoft in Times Square.

http://www.meetup.com/NYC-TechBreakfast/events/226907378/

TripExpert, the platform for expert (media) reviews on travel, announced its API at developer.tripexpert.com and an upcoming beta of its app weeks from now. TripExpert gets eyeballs through media syndication, according to Emily Hughes and Andrew Nicol.

Referring to the difference between media-based reviews and user reviews? “There are huge disparities in the reviews,” he said, citing the prevalence of fake reviews in high-end hotels.

TripExpert extracts a piece of information (from media), so it doesn’t need permission, although in some cases, they negotiate with individual publications.

TripExpert puts more weight on opinion or reviews of some pubs.

Next presenter, Pass the Plate makes giving to charities easier with its phone app as it pointed out the $360 billion opportunity in donation industry, citing a Blackbaud index.

It also sees a fragmented market and think his app can address the needs of 1.6 million registered non-profit companies in the United States. A donor can give to non-profit companies from one location. A 501 c3 company,  it charges 50 US cents per transaction fee and get 2.65 percent. For every donation, it mails the check to the recipient. It needs to vet non-profit companies and one way to do that, as suggested by an audience, is to have mission statements visible on the app.

Criteek presented its Saas platform , which automates the process of sourcing, hosting, curating and streaming video product reviews. Beyond eyeballs, it hopes to get clients, brands and retailers on board its B2B platform. Right now, it focuses on sports reviews.

“We are going (for) retailers (as) they are already in touch with their customers,” Kyle Wilkinson said.

Predictive analytics for finance and investment management is TenViz’s business It offers a range of data-driven solutions using both traditional statistical and most recent machine learning tools to solve complex problems for customers.

It will focus in the following areas: asset management, retail banking, commercial banking, retail and consumer goods, energy and utilities. It is $90 a month after its free trial.

Addressing comparisons with Bloomberg, Konstantin Fominykh said TenViz is more analytical.  Getting critical information days ahead of an investment would really be good, one pointed out.  

Japanese startups showcase products in NYC

NEW YORK– Last March 7, Japan Startups presented five startups from Japan. Crowd Realty, Tribus, Laxus, Machizukuri Gift and Hanasuke which took turns presenting to a packed audience at Pivotal Labs in the Chelsea area. After the presentations, the audience had the opportunity to sit down with the Japanese founders and interpreters to discuss their products and services in more detail.  

http://www.meetup.com/Japan-NYC-Startups/events/228950350/

Crowd Realty is a crowdfunding platform focused on both domestic and global real estate.  These include commercial property, the revitalization of unused land by private companies as well as the creation a new capital market of secondary deals between investors. It is said to be based on financial technology.

TRINUS structures a new value for open manufacturing. It provides the platform where superb technology and sophisticated design come together, developing product concept and selling them on e-commerce sites from crowdfunding initiatives, securing customers and investments in the process.

ES Corporation’ Laxus is an interesting concept. It allows women to borrow bags from the world’s best brands via monthly membership. Delivering cost is free and any scratches are subject to guarantee. It claims to have luxury handbags such as a Louis Vuitton, Hermes and Chanel as you want them for an unlimited period. Whenever you’re feeling bored with your bags, you can quickly replace them with new and popular ones.

Laxus carries about 6,000 bags with insurance. One can borrow one handbag up to a month or at least one bag without limit. In one year, 25 million bags are reportedly borrowed.  Since there is not enough stock, the company is seeking funding. Plans to launch in Manhattan this summer are afoot.

Machizukuri Gift plans and develops products that make use of regional resources in rural areas. This is in an attempt to foster a sustainable economic community and promote recycling in Japan. It shows promotional videos of Japan’s various regions– as a way to “find” “improve” and “deliver” the attractiveness of rural regions in Japan.

About 60 percent of women in Japan reportedly quit their jobs after giving birth. This gave birth to Waris which is empowering Japanese women to find flexible work, especially since modern mores are changing and women are getting more opportunities to work nowadays.  

Waris helps these women find jobs for companies with a flexible working style. This means working only on certain days of the week or working remotely.  

Offering a flexible working arrangement for women seems to be working as the company’s gross sales last year $24 million. By 2020, it hopes to earn $18 million.

 

Flower concierge from Hanasuke gives recommendation flowers as a gift and delivers the best flower from select flower shops throughout Japan. Inspired by the needs of individual consumers, it creates new ways of giving flowers as a gift. For the company, flower concierge is more reliable than flower shops in one’s neighborhood and more convenient than any other flower networks.   

The flower concierge service also gives advice, helps deliver the best flowers, responds to follow-up follow up emails and sends pictures of the delivered flowers. Under its service, it has 200 selected florists in major cities in Japan.

Mass 3D production, cinematic VR and hoverboards at Hardwired

NEW YORK–Last March 9, Hardwired NYC featured  Jonathan Schwartz

founder & CPO, Voodoo Manufacturing; Yuval Boger, CEO of Sensics, Cyril Ebersweiler, founder and managing director of HAX and Jens Christensen, founder & CEO of Jaunt VR.

http://www.meetup.com/Hardwired-NYC/events/228778453/

It’s not often you hear presenters talk about insights into an industry, so it was good to hear  Schwartz discuss why interest in 3D printing went down a few years ago. As observed, 3D consumer printing did not become the hit it was expected to be. This has given Voodoo Manufacturing a big opportunity to market itself as 3D mass producers.

In mass production, 3D printing can be more affordable and easily scalable, providing high quality and reliability in the long haul.

Schwartz said Voodoo Manufacturing makes it easy for any company to work with them. Sending a 3D file is reportedly a cinch. It then goes through a process of validation, repair (if needed), orientation, plating and slicing.

Boger talked about Sensics and how it creates cutting-edge VR products, advancing choice and innovation alongside a community of contributors and partners.

Still dreaming of the ultimate hoverboard? You’re not alone. So far, we have the hoverboard, the Segway, the Segway with knee steering, the one-wheeled platform, the one-wheeled skateboard and the electric skateboard. Ebersweiler of HAX sees more morphing happening in hoverboards in 2016.

Ebersweiler of HAX is the man to talk to if you want to know where the hoverboard craze is going. HAX’s factories in China builds hoverboards along with products for the lifestyle, health and robotics industries. Started in China four year years ago, HAX now has offices in New York and San Francisco.

Inventing is only half the battle, of course, as protecting and commercializing it is the main challenge.

Also at the Hardwired meetup was Christensen who talked about Jaunt VR, which is pioneering the future of creative storytelling through cinematic virtual reality.  

The end-to-end VR company creates cameras and VR tech Through its Jaunt Studios division, it works with brands that want to be involved with good stories.

Founded in 2013, Jaunt also develops the hardware, software, tools, and applications to enable cinematic VR.Headquartered in Palo Alto, California, the company also maintains a presence in Los Angeles and produces branded and original VR content for audiences worldwide.

Fintech startups on partnering with banks, internal fraud, innovation

NEW YORK–How is disruptive technology changing the world’s oldest business? Last March 2, the MIT Enterprise Forum featured a panel of financial experts to share their thoughts on the topic at the Betterment offices in Chelsea.

http://www.eventbrite.com/e/how-disruptive-technology-is-changing-the-worlds-oldest-business-finance-tickets-21046701250?mc_cid=db6dfcf56b&mc_eid=27b1361c89

The panelists consisted of Jon Stein, CEO and founder of Betterment; Eran Barak, business operations point man at Symphony;  Phil DeGisi, chief marketing officer of CommonBond and Lowell Putnam, CEO and founder of Quovo.

Betterment is an automated investing service that provides optimized investment returns for individual, IRA, Roth IRA & rollover 401(k) accounts. Symphony is a cloud-based communications service that delivers organizational productivity where markets and individuals come together to create vibrant communities in which to share content, insights and opinions.

CommonBond refinances student loans, while Quova empowers sophisticated investors with Big Data tools ranging from portfolio aggregation to sophisticated analytics.

Below are some of their thoughts on a host of things, including consumer data

  • Why is there no Amazon of financial services? Partly (because of) regulations
  • Services are balancing privacy and comfort use
  • Encryption technology helps keep consumer data (secure)
  • Seeking a more advised world to offload burden from consumes
  • There is need for better access to data
  • Looking for more transparency to consumer data
  • Complexity of the system is rearing its ugly head
  • The industry we’re in is being disrupted. Over time, the hope is to be disrupted (to improve financial services) as the endgame
  • Is there always going to be a need for choice? In a driverless world, we still need to know where to go, which restaurant to go to. So it’s the same with financial services
  • We can partner with a lot of companies. Banks are taking mini-entrepreneurship routes. They’re trying to beat startups at their own game
  • People love the diversity of choices now
  • People will adapt new technologies to protect their valuables—from Apple and FBI
  • 3 things where technology is headed: finance, education, healthcare
  • International courts have not resolved regulation (If an American is in the United Kingdom talking to someone in Hong Kong, which regulation needs to be followed—US, UK or HK?
  • Open innovation in fintech as it comes back as value because people create value
  • On security, internal fraud is more worrisome
  • Security nowadays is like Mission Impossible territory with chemicals used for protection  
  • Banks like partnering because they can buy the asset

Create new products with IBM Watson cognitive IoT

NEW YORK–At Rise New York last February 29, the IBM Watson Cognitive Meetup demonstrated how businesses can apply Watson IoT solutions and drive disruptions in the physical world, so you can improve and lower costs, create products and business models and drive engagement and customer experiences.

http://www.meetup.com/IBM-Watson-and-Cognitive-Business-Meetup-NYC/events/228437445/

Cognitive IoT reportedly represents 25 billion installed IoT devices by 2020; $3.6 trillion in potential impact per year by 2020 with $70 billion in IoT B2B value.  

How does IBM Watson works? Main speaker Bambi Grundwerg explained it simply as cognitive technology that processes information more like a human. From its early years when it competed in Jeopardy some years back, Watson has certainly acted like a diligent student and is now linking the physical and digital worlds to transform businesses in IoT. It is learning how to analyze speech (tone analyzer), understand phrase words (emotion analysis) and expressive text to speech (visual recognition).

With Cognitive IoT, IBM is testing the limits of programmable computing. It is not explicitly programmed but Watson learns from experiences with the environment and experiences with people. It brings machine learning to systems and processes to better understand goals, integrate and analyze relevant data.

How will companies benefit? IBM helps clients achieve better business outcomes with IoT by taking data from multiple sources, even social sentiment.  

“The data that comes out of IoT can help you create new products,” Grundwerg said.  

Where can you find IoT in the real world? Examples include all facets of travel— the airport, in travel booking, the airplane, the flight data, etc. There are 600,000 parts in an airplane with potential for a huge number of (attaching) sensors,” Weed said.

Cognitive IoT can be used to understand traffic congestion. Put an Android phone on, say, a garbage truck, look at accelerometers, find out travel time and get road condition data to improve movement of trucks or fix routes.

“We write the application. You deploy,” Grundwerg said.

To realize your your IoT potential and help you capitalize on the connected world, IBM has more hands-on knowledge and information at IoT Academy.With host Bruce Weed, Grundwerg announced a new competition amounting to $5 million in mid-May. Connect and play with the IoT Platform at http://www.ibm.com/internet-of-things/watson-iot.html