Category Archives: Funding

Grist for the tech mill: 2015 events from over 1,100 NY tech meetups

data-driven meetup-nov2015

By Dennis Clemente

There are more than 1,100 tech meetups in New York. Here’s a summary of what happened in one year from March to December 2015.

Instead of having the always selling mentality, Mark Roberge, chief revenue officer of Hubspot, suggests having an always-be-helping mentality. Roberge’s sales talk last December 17 at Enterprise Sales Meetup in midtown Manhattan was especially meaningful as it’s not too often you hear someone from a programming background lead sales teams. The topic, Sales Acceleration Formula, was the same title of his book based on his experience taking a job in sales at Hubspot and coming from a programming background.

It was not your typical meetup in the city. For one, it was scheduled on a Friday night last December 18 (most meetups in the city are from Monday to Thursday). Second, it was held at a store, the new Microsoft Flagship Store on the shopping district of Fifth Avenue. But the crowd trickled in to watch the presentation of devices at the meetup curiously billed “Understanding Live Video Streaming with Periscope and Meerkat.”

German startups Keeen, Favendo and Night Adivsors took turns demonstrating their platforms at the German Accelerator NY last December 15 at Rise NY.

Would you rely on Big Data or The Force? It was a Star Wars evening for the Data-Driven meetup last December 14 at Bloomberg, especially for Nick Mehta, CEO of Gainsight who sounded giddy using the epic fantasy flick as reference for his presentation. He was joined by Arcadia Data, MapR and Datameer.

”How do you make sense of any mess?” That was the first question information architect Abby Covert threw at the audience last December 10 at the Designers & Geeks meetup at the Spotify offices.

“Life’s too short to build something nobody wants,” says Ash Maurya in his talk last December 8 at We Work in Wall Street. Maurya is the acclaimed author of “Running Lean,” a concise guide that helps you take action in using lean startup and customer development principles. He was at We Work to present his ideas for scaling business–clearly a prelude to his upcoming book, “Scaling Lean.” For Maurya, the root cause of a startup’s problem is when solution is perceived as the product. “Your solution is not the product. Your business model is the product.”

Last Dec 9, Uncubed took the holiday season as an opportunity for startups like Moat to discuss their 2015 accomplishments and future plans at its offices in the Lower East Side. By 2016, Moat, an independent SaaS Marketing analytics firm focused on transforming online brand advertising through trusted measurement and analytics, will reportedly be the first third party to measure viewability on YouTube.

Last December 1, Hardware Meetup featured talks from the founders of Grove, OneDrop and Boxee at the Microsoft offices. Gabe Blanchet, CEO of Grove, showed how food lovers can grow food at home while–get this–fish swims below it. Yes, even it will fit in a cramped New York apartment.

How do you make data scientists more productive? Jeremy Achin has an answer for you. The current path to becoming a data scientist is based on learning statistics, programming and algorithms, then applying practical knowledge and practicing real world experience which can unfortunately take up a lot of time. Achin spoke with other presenters Josh Bloom of Wise.io, Alexi Le-Quoc, founder of Datadog and Haile Owusu, chief data scientist of Mashable at Data-Driven’s monthly meetup last November 16 at Bloomberg.

Moral rights versus individual rights. That’s the struggle the entertainment industry faces these days when individual rights have blurred the lines between individual ownership and what is other people’s content, the title of the breakfast forum hosted by Gotham Media last November 18 at the Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz at 40th Street on Madison Avenue.

What is Birchbox? In the city, most tech meetups always asks people by a show of hands, how many people have heard of Birchbox? Most of the nearly hundred people raised their hand. If you’re still wondering, what it is about, it’s this: Birchbox delivers monthly boxes of beauty or grooming samples, picked to match your profile. Last November 19, CTO Liz Crawford talked about her role and how the company operates at the NYC European Tech Meetup at Spotify’s roomy offices.

Last November 9, Coinvent held a whole-day tech startup fair with several startups and inspirational talks at the Metropolitan Avenue in Chelsea. Dog Parker was one of the most popular startups as it showed a “doghouse” that provides secure dog parking when you’re out and about in the city with your dog and you need to run an errand. Dog Parker partners with businesses to place Dog Parkers in front their stores.

Last November 3, Alley Boost held a half-day startup expo featuring more than 60 startups at La Venue on 12th Avenue, blocks away from the Javits Convention Center.

The future of event ticketing will have some kind of empowerment and engagement, according to Taku Harada, CEO and co-founder of Peatix who presented at last November 2 at the Japan NYC Startups at Pivotal Labs.

The NY Expo Business Conference held last October 27 at the Javits Center packs in hundreds of startups, not necessarily all online-based companies or early startups. Touted as the largest New York business conference event, it has exhibitions, seminars and free business consultations for an audience that’s not entirely from the city either.

Last October 14, OLC attended AngelCube NYC Demo Day at WeWork in SoHo. In classic WeWork fashion, it took less than a minute for us to be reminded that there was beer on tap (In addition to a cheese plate and an array of mini-burgers). WeWork’s creative space had a foosball table, a kitchenette disguised as a bar, and hanging light bulbs with exposed filament.

What is the real reason why Microsoft Ventures Accelerator can choose to fund your startup for $500,000 without equity? Not only that, you get work in its Seattle office and have what graduates say are great meals as you work on your startup there.

“It’s Tinder for doctors,” says Toby Hervey about his app, on-demand house-call doctors. He was one of the presenters that included Ulula, Kiddo App and Domain Skate last October 20 at the NY Tech Breakfast at Microsoft.

The second Korean Summit NYC last October 16 at the New Yorker Wyndham. featured several Korean startups with Charlie Kim, founder and CEO of Next Jump, and Murat Aktihanoglu, managing director of Entrepreneurs Roundtble Accelerator as main speakers.

Last October 14, the New York Tech Meetup brought back two of its most popular demos – Addicaid and Pager — to mark the launch of its new “Demo Deep Dive” event series in lower Manhattan.

Last October 12, Area 1 Security, Birchbox, Livefyre and Metamind, presented at the packed Data-Driven meetup at Bloomberg.

It’s seldom you hear honest talk about investors snoring soundly or checking their phones every so often when you’re pitching to them but the founders of these companies — Wayup, F Cubed, Manicube, getringly and ELOQUII — had those stories to share. What’s more unusual perhaps is how even those who they thought couldn’t care less were the ones interested in investing in them.

Last October 7, Devin Rogerino of Inc.com presented a talk on video creation or how to cost effectively enter the video creation community at the Wix lounge in Chelsea. Essentially, you need four things—ideation, inspiration, brainstorming, planning—before you even make your video, and let’s not forget how you have to know whether you need YouTube, Facebook or Vimeo.

Last September 30, Tech in Motion deviated from its usual show-and-tell meetup presentations for an exposition of startups with cocktails at Ainsworth Midtown East. The startups on exhibit were beGlammed, GoButler, FlyCleaners, Zeel and ZIRX, all riding on the popularity of uber and the way it’s propping up the sharing economy.

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.

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.

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, meetup.com, 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

What is the future of media? The question may resonate the most among journalists and other media practitioners. After all, it’s their livelihood at stake. The answer in a word may be video, especially the way the panelists talked about how it is going very far and coming in. Even GoPro is reportedly adding some kind of news coverage.

On the second day of the Yahoo Developer Conference last August 26 at the Marriott, breakout sessions were held, with user acquisition as a topic attended by OLC. The key takeways: Developers have a three-month grace period to get sticky; get the app store experience right; app install ads work, but it’s important to talk to your users through a variety of marketing channels.

Is one percent better than zero or none at all? We’re not talking about the affluent in the United States, but if the one-percent effort or initiative that big companies dedicate to social impact is sufficient—or if it’s just a compromise, a public relations move. If you’re keeping up with the tech scene these days, you won’t hear Mock Series A Term Sheet Negotiations too often. It may be your first time to hear it, as we did, so we went to Orrick’s Total Access last August 24 at CBS to find out how it would unravel for us.

Tech meetup groups have taken most of the summer off, but Codecademy took the quiet time to hold an HTML and CSS workshop of its newly released web projects last August 20 at its office in midtown Manhattan with the people behind it in attendance–Zach Sims and Ryan Bubinski.

If you’ve seen a drone, most likely you’re thinking how hard can it be to fly one, right? Well, it was not so easy for Easy Aerial’s CEO Ivan Stamatovski. Stamatovoski was one of four other presenters at the NY Video Meetup last July 23 at the AOL offices. “I have been flying a drone for two years but still suck at it,” he admitted.

Some apps certainly function as if they were invisible like Dennis Mortensen’s x.ai. It’s an artificial intelligence powered personal assistant that schedules meetings for you. Mortensen was again going the rounds with Amy, the name of his A.I. personal assistant who happened to be in the same room as Larry, which is Raad Ahmed’s text-responder of a lawyer, a mix of automation and human beings. Larry is the text version of Ahmed’s LawTrades. It’s personalized legal help tailored to your business over text. Both presenters and other startups Alfred and Stefanshead were at The Product Hunt meetup last July 22 at Animoto’s offices.

How do you cover the media when you’re the media? For its fifth meetup, The Tech Press Meetup invited Jason Abbruzzese of Mashable, Shannon Bond of the Financial Times and Tom Kludt of CNN to shed light on this topic at the Arthur L. Carter School of Journalism at 20 Cooper Square.

Having covered the tech meetup scene for the past few years, it’s interesting how a meetup about “Getting your startup set up and funded” produces a new group of aspiring entrepreneurs, new to the tech scene and what it takes to build one. There’s certainly something for everyone in the fastest-growing tech city and that’s what Megan Hannum, venture partner at Comcast, co-founder at Fundedby, was at Spark Labs last July 15 for–to help newcomers get their feet wet in the startup scene.

More than 35 investors, panel talks, lightning pitches, everyone one-on-ones with VCs, a venture fair—it was a summer blockbuster of a tech meetup what NY Tech Breakfast pulled off last July 10 at Microsoft, near Times Square. What’s amazing is how it was all pulled off in one half day, from 8 am to noontime.

What do you think people would Google: How to survive a breakup or divorce lawyer? You could do both or just the former if you think it’ll be better SEO for your business. “The key is to be creative with your link-baits (to set you apart and own that search), said Kevin Lee, founder and CEO of Didit.com last July 11.

JJ Fliegelman is generous with his ideas and insights into his business, Campus Job, an online marketplace for college students to find jobs that he co-founded with ex-Googler Liz Wessel. Launched only last September, Campus Job has already signed up 2,300 colleges, 3,000 employers, 100,000 students and—music to every startup founder’s ears—funding to the tune of $9 million.

When you have everyone discussing about their design process, it makes for an engaging presentation. Last June 24, Design Driven’s meetup was the best so far the way each speaker presented a specific topic—and more importantly, because the presenters were generous with their thoughts and candid with their answers, especially Bradford Shellhammer, founder of Fab.com and most recently, founder of Bezar.

Joseph Essas of Open Table, the world’s leading provider of online restaurant reservations, opened the talk at the Data Driven last June 16 at Bloomberg’s offices. It was Data Driven’s last monthly meetup as it takes a well-deserved two-month summer break.

“If it doesn’t fit excel, it’s big data.” That was Gilad Lotan, chief data scientist at Betaworks, giving a digestible meaning of how big data is about volume and variety as much as it is about velocity and variety, which conveniently rounds up to the four essential Vs you need in big data. Lotan was speaking at Tech in Motion’s first ever Big Data meetup at the spacious office of Mediaocean, a leading software platform provider for the advertising world. He was with two other Big Data panelists Bruce Weed, program director of Big Data and Watson at IBM and Claudia Perlich, chief data scientist at Dstillery.

Asking if you really need to know the number of your eggs on your fridge is perhaps the best way to determine how much automation you need for your home. It determines if you need Canary, Hggns, Keen Home or Smart Things, the presenters at the IoT Central meetup last June 17 at R/GA Accelerator’s offices near Port Authority. How do you get attention amid all the noise out there? If you ask Ben Parr, he will tell you that you need 7 captivation triggers, which he expounds on his recently launched book, “Captivology.”

How do you get attention amid all the noise out there? If you ask Ben Parr, he will tell you that you need 7 captivation triggers, which he expounds on his recently launched book, “Captivology.” Asking if you really need to know the number of your eggs on your fridge is perhaps the best way to determine how much automation you need for your home. It determines if you need Canary, Hggns, Keen Home or Smart Things, the presenters at the IoT Central meetup last June 17 at R/GA Accelerator’s offices near Port Authority.

Last May 28, The Hatchery presented four startups–Moving Analytics, Crowds Line, Mobiquire, Centrallo and Revenue Mantra at the Microsoft Building. “The Hatchery: Are You Serious?” Meetup group has been holding startup presentations for eight years now, but sometimes this writer wonders if the question extends beyond the earnest question. After all, it’s not easy to launch a successful startup let alone present in front of VCs.

The Market New York Expo for small businesses last May 21 at the Javits Center featured several talks on branding, email marketing, digital sales and mobile marketing. What stood out for us were the talks on Search Engine Optimization by Ruben Quinones, NYU adjunct instructor and VP, Client Strategy at Path Interactive and Mobile Marketing by Warren Zenna, EVP & Managing Director at Mobext (Havas Media).

FlyLabs has wowed audiences at the NY Tech Meetup months back and at the NY Video Meetup last May 20, it again drew some ecstatic applause for its video-editing apps, Fly, Clips and its new one called Tempo, a quick way to alter video time speeds.

Last May 14, PandoMonthly hosted a one-on-one interview with Sheila Marcelo, CEO and co-founder of care.com who talked at length about her Filipino roots and how the influence of her “Tiger mom” and the discipline they inculcated in her formed a big part of her success now.

Minerva Tantoco, New York City’s first-ever chief technology officer (CTO), said she pretty much created every job she had at the StartupGrind meetup last May 7. Tantoco directs the Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation, overseeing the development and implementation of a coordinated citywide strategy on technology and innovation and encouraging collaboration across agencies and with the wider New York City technology ecosystem. “We are a little startup inside city hall,” she said.

It’s good to see Scott Heiferman show up at NY Tech Meetup last May 5. Once a regular fixture of it many years ago, even as co-host, the Meetup founder has understandably been busy building his community of meetups, 30,000 for tech alone around the country. It was, as he has explained over time, a “9/11 baby.” He was at this particular meetup to announce the NY Tech Meetup Apple Watch app. The presenters of the night were Ananas, AptDeco, Amadeus, CornellTech, Epicure, OneDrop and X.ai with Wikitongues as hack of the night.

Adesoji Ojugbele of Google Android may have nailed it when asked about how to measure people’s attention span these days by using Instagram as an example: How long does it take you to post a photo on Instagram? The photo app is a good example, because as more people get used to its quick functionalities, the more people will not have patience for everything else that takes longer. The word “longer” here has come to mean longer than, say, 10 seconds; that could be an eternity for some people. Instagram is quick enough that anything else will be slow.

Last April 29, Uncubed held its meetup, “Hacks that saved my life” at Refinery 29 with the World Trade Center building gleaming behind it as early evening set in. This is not your typical show-and-tell meetup. It might as well be classified the hacked-and-tell meetup as each presenter talked about how a new app or site made their life easier, more fun and even useful in an unusual way.

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.

More than 400 startups pitched to 10,000 attendees at the fourth-year of the largest annual tech fair called Tech Day. The event held last April 23 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.

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.

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.

Last April 8, AlleyNYC’s SquadUp featured three female-owned startups Bird and Stone , Plum Alley, Quarterlette and Dreamers//Doers with some VC guests giving tip on how to get funded. Made in New York, Bird and Stone sells its own jewelry line with 15 percent of sales funding micro loans and agri-business training in Kenya, where 75 percent of its people live in rural areas. So far, it has funded 8 women with $200 microloans and provided them with financial training, industry training and mentorship.

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.

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.

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.

Last March 23, the On-Demand Economy meetup featured Button, Managed by Q and Minibar at the Animoto offices in midtown Manhattan. Much of the tech world is trying to figure out deep linking, that is, making the mobile app ecosystem work more like the web.

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. An initative of Mayor Bill de Blasio, digital.nyc is the city’s online hubs for all things tech and startups. 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.

Powerfelt claims it can power portable devices like the iPhone

uls-ener

By Dennis Clemente

International ThermoDyne’s Powerfelt bagged the most votes at the Ultra Light Startup presentation of eight energy startups that presented last October 9 at Microsoft, as it claimed to answer the ever-increasing need for clean power, especially in portable devices.

“Powerfelt is a thin material that harvests heat and motion and converts energy into useable electricity,” Paul Solitario said. “You can use it to charge your iPhone.”

The other startup presenters were Shailendra Suman of SmartCharge, Burt Hamner of Titan Ocean Energy; Jason Force of E-Mow; Ariel Fan of Grid Symphony; Raj Lakhiani of Athena Power; Graham Smith of Open Energy Group and John Jabara of Savenia Home Ratings.

The panelists who gave their critique and feedback were John Freer, manager of External Technology Initiatives at GE Global Research; Dave Kirkpatrick, managing director of SJF Ventures; William Lese, managing director of Braemar Energy Ventures and Willem Rensink – GameChanger of Shell.
ThermoDyne’s prospective customers for Powerfelt cut across various industries– mobile electronics, construction, transportation, textiles, government.

Asked if it could narrow down its intended market, Solitario said they could focus on remote sensors as it offers portable “electricity” anytime anywhere without batteries or the grid. “We have no moving parts.”

Investor’s advice to Solitario: Focus (on a specific market); find where the material can be unique; find an application where it’s available; understand how product competes in the landscape; study lifespan with a device.

Suman of SmartCharge was also one of crowd favorites. His successful Kickstarter campaign launched the world’s first LED light bulb that you can turn on or off from the same wall switch even during a power outage. It provides four hours of continued use. Battery is reportedly 300 cycles. When using the light bulb normally, it will reportedly last for three years.

The panel was impressed to hear that SmartCharge is selling already at $34.95. It started shipping 5,000 units in 32 countries last month with 100,000 units of soft orders. His gross margin is 20 percent of cost.

Suman hopes to target homes owners, small businesses, the direct online sales sector as well as wholesale to big box retailers such as Amazon.com, Duke Energy, Lowe’s and Home Depot.

Investors’ advice to Suman: Work on IP; introduce more product(s); look for other distribution channels to accelerate the business; find out where it goes on store shelves; and figure out positioning of the product.

Titan Ocean Energy’s Hanner presented the mobile platform for office offshore wind power and drinking water production already installed in Sweden. A panelist said, “You’re on the right track in Europe.”

Globally patented, the mobile jack-up platform reportedly supports 6MW + offshore wind turbines and met towers ad desalination systems.

Investors’ advice to Hanner: Make sure you’re protected; Target corporations; repurpose existing rig; keep it light; laser-focus on costs

E-Mow came next with Jason Force talking about its self-powered drone bioenergy harvester which creates renewable grass fuel pellets at low cost. It seeks revenue from pelleted agricultural products.

“It will be a significant cost reduction again existing methods,” Force said who’s looking forward to it as a build-and-operate model.

Prototype challenges for him would be the maintenance of this self-powered technology

Investors’ advice to Force: Work with a big player like John Deere so you can market faster; powering it by biogas is not the best way to go about it; look at all the pieces you want to integrate; and determine MVP, being a relatively complex engineering system.

Ariel Fan presented Grid Symphony, an intelligent brain for the electric grid to prevent utilities and priority clients from power meltdowns like Hurricane Sandy. It emerged from Columbia University’s machine learning lab.
“It’s not an emergency product. We want to create an optmization product,” she said.

Utilities are targeted customers but right now, it is looking at system integrators. The distribution strategy aimed at selling directly to enterprise smart/medium customers.

Investors’ advice to Fan: Survey how many people will use it; think how this business scales; test in some places like Hawaii to get customer exposure before scaling; work with system integrators, because they see everything; make sure you have a partner; explore idea in business model canvas.

Athena Power has developed a self-powered wireless fault sensor for underground distribution networks. It is hard to find faults, but Lakhiani is confident about its startup based on its four-year engine and his experience.
Still, he thinks it’s better if Athena works with utilities. “Underground (networks) are tricky.”

Investors’ advice to Lakhiani: Know the sensor market to make sure you get plenty of pilots; score early with Exelon as a demonstrable result; (recognize) it’s a timely product to bring to electric utility to the world; (think of it as a) unique entry point to get data

The last two presenters were Smith of Open Energy Group and Jabara of Savenia Home Ratings.
The former is an online marketplace for renewable energy investments.

“We offer accredited investors direct access to higher return, lower risk, fixed income products by directly funding the construction and operation of commercial renewable energy power projects in the States,” he said. This includes solar projects.

Investors’ advice to Smith: Make loans that banks don’t give; look for a partner when it’s time to add deep pockets, focus on residential (market)

Savenia Home Ratings helps home sellers unlock the value of home efficiency upgrades to differentiate, sell faster and capture more value.

“Energy auditors focus on the negative. We focus on the positive,” Jabara said. “We’re CARFAX for home efficiency.”
Asked if it has a method, he said the company validates the rating through documentation. “Customers do most of the work; we check (the work).”

Investors’ advice to Jabara: The platform can be bigger, think of other groups doing the rating; and get accurate data from third-party source.

This time, Graham Lawlor of Ultra Light Startup hosted the meetup with Tim Hoffman of Cleantech Open.

David Tisch talks about his Spring e-commerce app, startups’ key to success

david tisch

By Dennis Clemente

Last October 8, Orrick hosted a fireside chat with David Tisch, former managing director of TechStars NY, co-founder of BoxGroup and startup investor at the WeWork offices in Soho West.

The chat centered on his new Instagram-like mobile e-commerce startup Spring where he sits as chair, and his former role as managing director of TechStars.

Spring was funded under Series A by Thrive Capital, Groupe Arnault and Box Group. Other investors included Founder Collective, Google Ventures, SV Angel, and Lerer Hippeau Ventures.

“We believe buying things should be simple,” a listing for Spring on AngelList says. “We are on a mission to build a platform that connects the people who make products directly with consumers who love them.”

Available only on iOS, Spring aims to make the best experience for buying things on your phone or tablet.
Tisch co-founded Spring with his brother Alan Tisch, Ara Katz, and former Googler Octavian Costache with talents from Bergdorf Goodman, Cannon Tekstar Hodge and former fashion director of ShopBop, Kate Ciepluch. The other team members came from Fab, Beachmint, Google, Foursquare, Ralph Lauren, and DVF.

“We launched our company with 32 staff. That’s insane. But each startup is different,” he admitted.

Tisch was quite candid in the chat which was unfortunately marred throughout by a dysfunctional microphone, obscuring some key points. Still, we managed to hear some gems for startups:

RESEARCH
On day one of your startup, do research. The best companies take a lot of time with their idea and research before they start building

MARKET
Have a real understanding of the market

COMPETITION
If you have a similar startup with another and you don’t have the culture (in place), you lost already

SECRET SAUCE
Ask yourself why you are the best person for an idea
The most important for a startup to have—leadership; (it’s crucial) if you can convince people to join you
Those who are ready will be able to accelerate
A startup is rebellious by nature yet so many founders spend a lot of time conforming

OUTSOURCING
You can’t outsource if it requires local discovery and it’s one of the differentiators

DEALING WITH INVESTORS
Food is a great leveler when talking to investors
Build real relationships that will last years; find 5 people not 150 people, and not because they are on a list
They are (investors) not going to take you if you are not ready

FUNDING
We (investors) look at those who have built stuff before. We have to see something, especially (one that matches) your background
You can get money from banks with no equity
When do you need to ask money? If you need to accelerate faster. Money is fuel
How much money do you need? Based it on your milestones
We (investors) don’t even need to see the idea; we don’t even need to see the product—(we look at) the team and the market, because they are easier to identify
Your Idea must match startups with investors

GROWTH SECTORS
Healthcare and automotive sectors will grow

CONTENT
Create your own story. Engagement is key

SUCCESS OF SPRING
As an entrepreneur, he is confident it will succeed but there’s always “my awkward Jewish nervous self.”

Hatchery is back with no-nonsense feedback to startups

hatchery-yao

By Dennis Clemente

You better be prepared when you present at “The Hachery: Are you serious?” meetup, because even if there are so many similar meetups in the city, it doesn’t fail in one regard: giving serious, constructive feedback.

The secret to its no-nonsense approach probably lies in two things. It has fewer startup demonstrations—four this time, as one presenter didn’t show up. Second, startups have five minutes to pitch to the panel of investors, usually four or them. In the startup demo world, the five-minute presentation format is, of course, an eternity and for the panel listening, just more information for them to give serious feedback that startups truly need to hear.

It also helped that The Hatchery’s first meetup last September 25–after taking the summer off–had the candid Kamran Elahian talking about his decades-long investing experience. The other panelists were Jeff Neu of B2B Ventures and Gregg Young of NY Angels, respectively.

The investors were unanimous in saying how all the presenters need to review their financial projections. Elahian spoke at length about how in the interest of time, presenters should not do three-year financial projections, believing this to be unreliable based on his experience.

“Value is in the eye of the beholder…not in the spreadsheets,” Elahian, talking about an unspoken reality in this business. “Make (investors) like you.” He added: “Establish value then negotiate.”

With over 29 years of experience in the tech industry, Elahian has co-founded 10 hugely successful companies. As the chair and co-founder of Global Catalyst Partners, he has invested in multi-stage companies in the United States, China, Japan and Israel.

The first presenter, Aspirevest, connects individual investors to financial advisors and asset managers in the alternative investments space pay per connection auction and data social feeds.

CEO Daniel Roth sees a $1 billion opportunity, especially with “the financial world (being) 10 years behind the internet.” He is looking to raise $750,000 with a milestone in 18 months.

With 3 US patents, bio-medical startup Synchropet is also seeking $750,000 in its variation on PET scanning for animals. Working prototypes are called rat cap and pet insert MRI It is competing in a $235 million by doing something smaller and cheaper.

Each unit could cost $295,000. Beta products are expected to be done in December, delivery by the end of the summer of 2015 and sales by the end of 2015. It’s a high ticket product, especially being in the hardware category. “Make sure you are in the cash flow,” one of the investors said.

“I have about 15 customers for the rat cap from Europe,” said founder and CEO Marc Alessi.

The rise of personalized medicine is something that Bridget Osetinsky, co founder and CEO of Hyperfine, is hoping to capture with its Cornerstone tool. It aims to redefine the landscape of data search tools by introducing intelligence algorithms that will help in knowledge extraction in hospitals initially.

For $20,000 a year, doctors can also reportedly use it among patients using on-premise solutions and later, in the cloud. It is seeking $3 million and would have to figure out issues of liability and confidentiality.

CEO and founder Chris McBride presented Alta Editions, a digital platform for premium cooking content as a way to solve hard-to-find free recipes online.

“Cookbooks represent a $3 billion global market,” he said as he noted how Cooks Illustrated may have the American market but not the global market.

What is it going to do different? Re-launching early 2015, it will reportedly have a more personalized (approach) based on skill level, dietary needs, food purchases and user tastes. Founded in 2011, it faces an uphill battle. Content space is really difficult.

GoPRit and University Beyond were initially scheduled to present.

Startups in mobility: charters, electric charging and smart automation present mobility concepts to BMW

bmwi

By Dennis Clemente

You know the brand behind the ultimate driving machine? BMW is also investing in startups under BMW I Ventures. And since it’s in the automobile business, you’ll have to be in the area of mobility services like the startups that presented last September 23—Buster, EverCharge, SmartCar and TransitScreen.

Founded in 2012 to help groups and charter operators find each other, Buster might as well be the Uber for group traveling. “It’s a marketplace where customers can discover, compare and book group transportation online,” said founder Matthew Kochman who also offered a similar service to fellow students back at Cornell University.

Reportedly an $11.4-billion market, Buster is for everyone who wants to book private group charters, whether for a school trip, company excursion or fun weekend getaway. Average price per booking is 1,000

With over 20,000 charter industry operators, Buster is reportedly aggregating bus companies and aims to offer centralized fleet services as well as discounts on insurance, maintenance and financing.
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Next presenter, EverCharge is an electric vehicle charger from your parking space or for apartments and condos. You just tap your access card and plug in for EverCharge to automatically authenticate your vehicle and log your usage for billing purposes.

Minimum charge for EverCharge’s membership is about $40 for 500 miles.

From California, SmartCar is automation for connected vehicles. It is a web service that connects to internet-connected cars wirelessly over a cellular network. You should be able to configure and monitor your vehicle’s automation settings from your smartphone, tablet or laptop.

Founder Sahas Katta talked about the many features of its app. If you want to have the perfect temperature in your, for instance, you can set a schedule and Smartcar will automatically begin cooling or heating your vehicle. It is also reportedly energy efficient.

It can also reportedly learn your driving patterns and automatically create a schedule to charge your car at the right time.

Smartcar is designed for the Tesla but it is working to have connected vehicles from other manufacturers in the near future.

A different startup from all the rest was TransitScreen. Matt Caywood recognizes the growth of smart cities, so he’s concentrating on real-time display of all transportation options at a specific location. This includes digital display ads.

The last presenter, Valet Anywhere, hopes to offer on-demand parking valet service for cities. Right now, it is only offering its service in New York City, the $25 billion parking market. “We hope to solve parking,” said founder Robert Kao.
How does it work? It assigns a uniformed vetted valet who greets you and parks your car for you. Valet also returns the car to you…wherever you may be in the city. Actual parking is said to be included in the price.

“How do you scale?” That was the frequently asked question by the guest panelists Matt Turck, managing director at First Mark Capital; Chris Thomas, founder and partner at Fontinalis; and Ulrich Quay, managing director at BMW i Ventures.

What female founders should aspire to

orrickpicBy Dennis Clemente

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Indiegogo, Alphaworks, TDBank flex meaning of fundraising

Indiegogo's Jerry Needel
Indiegogo’s Jerry Needel

By Dennis Clemente

DUMBO, Brooklyn is far from all the tech meetups happening in New York City, but it makes sense to hold an event here. After all, it’s where many startups hold office.

This makes perfect sense for Digital DUMBO, which produces live events, conferences, content and custom experiences, like it did last June 26 when it hosted a meetup featuring Alphaworks, Indiegogo and even TDBank. Crowdfunding meets Bank—an unusual partnership but one that should make sense. Every startup needs funding no matter where it’s coming from, even from a bank like TDBank.

So other than angel investors and VCs, startups have more choices. Crowdfunding, for instance, is gaining immense popularity, especially those who have tech hardware in or wearable in mind. Crowdfunding sites are magnets for any physical device, because it’s easier for people to invest in something they can physically grasp, literally.

The Pebble Watch’s success was the turning point. Now, people easily identify with physical devices pitched on a crowdfunding site like Indiegogo. Jerry Needel, Head of Growth at Indiegogo, told us the story of how the founder of Bug a Salt, a gun-like fly swatter, invested 300,000 of his own money and maxed out on his credit cards with almost no hope of recouping his investment until he posted his idea on Indiegogo and people responded in kind (read: money).

Milton Berle once said, “If opportunity doesn’t knock build a door.”

Even when poked at, one can’t discount how Bug a Salt became a huge success. It’s on Amazon for $39.95.

So ask yourself if you really need the money, because Indiegogo thinks you can bring out an idea much sooner with them. Needel said you need to test your market,
find out your market validation, build buzz, capture data and raise capital.

“Crowdfunding is a proving ground for startups,” he said as he talked about the success stories in Indiegogo like Misfit Shine which raised $846,000 or Knix, which raised $60,000 in 30 days – success is how much money you need to raise.

But what if you want to be a co-owner of a startup? You can do that with Alphaworks.

Nick Barr, VP Product of Alphaworks, said the company’s mission is to empower passionate communities to become owners in the companies they love. Founded by Betaworks, it represents a new kind of ownership, a world in which companies are likely to be owned by a community of people

Alphaworks, founded by Betaworks, represents a new kind of ownership – a world in which companies are as likely to be owned by a community of people as they are by just a few individuals. Our thesis is that over time, this new kind of community owned business will lead to more profitable and lasting organizations.

If you want to invest, Barr recommends Giphy, See me and Quibb.

It was easy to tell who came from TDBank last Thursday. Brandon Williams of TDBank’s Head of US Wealth, even kidded about it. “We’re the ones in suits.”

To express his commitment to startups, he said, “We want to be partners with you. No company is too small,” he said.

If you’re interested in learning more about TD Bank and how they can help you or your company, contact Peter Izzo, VP Commerical Banking, at (212) 918-4186 or Tarryn Kone, TD Private Client Group, at (212) 897 2658, or visit www.tdbank.com.

Digital DUMBO started in 2009 as a social gathering for innovative companies in the DUMBO neighborhood of Brooklyn, a six-block area with over 100 media and technology companies. If you’re In the neighborhood, there’s no excuse if you don’t what it means. It’s Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.

Global Innovator presents foreign startups in transit, mobile marketing, marketplace and health

WIN's Global Innovator meetup
WIN’s Global Innovator meetup

By Dennis Clemente

Where most tech startup events lump all startups without geographic distinction, Global Innovator makes it entirely clear that foreign startups has an American audience and more importantly, a panel of guests from New York’s VC world to give them feedback and possibly, funding.

The bi-monthly series is powered by the Worldwide Investor Network (WIN), a New York-based platform focused on helping early stage global tech startups shorten the path to funding and acceleration in the US market.

What also makes Global Innovator different from other tech meetups is how the whole affair has an air of formality about it, quite different from other meetups where the standard garb is T-shirt and jeans and the setup is freewheeling. Here, attendees wear suits, wine keeps flowing, press kits (even without the press in attendance, except this blogger) are provided, and just for added glamour, all the kibitzing continue to the rooftop—for VIP ticket holders. Like I said, it has an air of formality. And it helps that they have sponsors to pull this off.

Last June 25, the four foreign startups followed Global Innovator’s theme-Mobile Apps. The presenters were TransitApp, YouAppi, Gone! And Nutrino. Following the format, they presented for five minutes with no apparent time limit for VCs to give their feedback. Tanya Prive, founder of RockThePost moderated the event with WIN’s Eyal Bino opening the affair. They may consider introducing where each startup comes from.

Sam Vermette, co-founder of TransitApp, spoke about its app—how its finds your next departure instantly. Free. What makes it different from any other transit app? Instead of giving you just a schedule or map, it tells you when your public transport is nearby.

“People only want one thing: When is my ride coming?” he said.

He’s confident that in the future, people will be using more public transport, citing how China moves 2.5 billion in public transport. He’s eyeing the world. With $17 billion in fares in US and Canada, the numbers out there for his other 70 markets must be huge. His biggest market is New York.

He looks forward to the day when you can just beam your phone on any public transport system. “Our friction-less payment (method) is in prototype.”

But what makes it different from Google? “We think public transport deserves its own app where Google is the Swiss knife of apps,” he said, as he looks forward to the day also when every city has Wi-Fi.

Moshe Vaknin, founder of YouAppi, presented YouAppi, a mobile apps recommendation platform that has reportedly raise $2.2 million.

Using the YouAppi system, publishers of mobile apps, reportedly gain a simple and reliable way to target their acquisition and retention resources for the highest valued and most loyal consumers.

“YouAppi is for mobile publishers struggling to monetize their inventory using traditional banner ads,” Vaknin said.

Nico Bayerque of Gone! showed how his app works as an algorithm-powered concierge service that sells your items, pick them up, package them appropriately and fulfills them.

Addressing what he calls the 350 billion market, he is answering what’s foremost in our minds: What do we do with our junk? And suggesting why not sell them through Gone! Electronics is a best-seller.

He demonstrated how he mines pricing data using ebay, for example, to gauge how much you can sell your products lying in waste at home.

Highest worth of products Gone! has picked up and the windfall the person received for using their app: $1,600. “Once we remove anything from your house, you get paid,” he said.

Why them? He said they know the marketplace. “If you want to sell wine, for example, we know the marketplace for it.”

The last presenter was Nutrino. Using your personal and medical profile, goals and food preferences, Nutrino’s patent pending technology helps create a healthy dietary plan for you.

Nutrino adapts to you in real time, continuously improving its recommendations. It’s supposed to be the first data-driven personalized food recommendation engine in the market.

The VCs at the presentations were Danny Schultz, managing director, Gotham Ventures; Jalak Jobanputra, managing partner, FuturePerfect Ventures; Hadley Harris, founding general partner, Eniac Ventures; and Nic Poulos, principal, Bowery Capital.

The other speaker of the night was Dave Kerpen, founder and CEO of Likeable Local and best-selling author, likened fundraising to dating.

Based on his experience, here are his fundraising tips:

• Transparency is good but not o too much

• Don’t waste your time once you know it’s not a good fit

• They’re going through the same thing you are

• Persistence is vital in any relationship worth having

• In the end it’s worth it

Startup challenge: Present in 2 minutes, get feedback from VCs

By Dennis Clemente

The growing number of startups in this city must be overwhelming tech meetups. Last June 12 at the Microsoft Building in Times Square, Ultra Light Startups kept its regular programming of eight startups but with more VCs on the table: Jeff Finkle. co-chairman at ARC Angel Fund; Jerry Hao, associate at NYU Innovation Venture Fund; William Reinisch, venture partner at Paladin Capital Group and Caitlin Strandberg, associate at Flybridge Capital Partners.

The invited panel of investors listened to the two-minute presentation of startups and in between, provided them the necessary feedback for possible venture funding. The presenters were a mixed bag.

Wise Banyan claims to be the world’s first free wealth manager. “We’re reducing barriers to investing,” said founder Herbert Moore who said the startup is gaining “incredible traction with millennials.” This report alone could have been elaborated, but because of time limitation, the presentation moved on.

The Loadown is called a real-time marketing optimization platform for apps with clients like PBS and Random House.

The VCs’ advice to David Renard of The Loadown: “Think how pricing will affect profitability and get more data. Plan how to get $100 million in revenue in 5 years.” It sounded like the startup is on the right track, but sometimes it’s really just about the VCs trying to get more data and insights from the startup.

DoRevolution is supposed to be an actionable platform for online advertising based on Watson’s AI engine, but sometimes it’s hard to tell what the company is about when the presenter is in a squirrel mask. Samir Patel removed it eventually, but the distracting mask confused a VC: “What do you do?”

Aarting’s Todd Wahnish describes his startup this way: “It’s a crowdfunding platform that makes it easy for visual artists to create and sell custom products. “We have a product the hustles itself.”

For artists, it’s a way to test the waters and see if there is demand for your work. “We don’t have to make anything. It’s all pre-order. We have no inventory or warehouse,” said Wahnish who has come a long way from “being homeless.”

Echovate reportedly provides fact-based hiring insights for the modern small business. Think FICO score. What is its value? Turnovers can be costly. Matthew Gough said companies should think of reduced turnover.

Chatwala is a two-way, face-to-face ongoing video conversation with your friends and family. It’s been nearly a year since we last saw Chatwala at the AOL building, but Tej Bhatia clearly has to be more aggressive these days when, according to one VC, “Snapchat is rolling something similar.”

What is it? It’s making conversation real-time even if it’s not real-time. Or how you can come back to the great-looking video interface and resume a previous conversation, as if it’s in real-time.

A VC gave some cautionary advice: “Raising 1 million to figure out your startup may not be the way to do it.” That commend would have been normal hearing It from Reinisch, the Hatchery regular, but the VC went out of character, telling Bhatia to “forget the noise.” Reinisch stressed how important it was for Chatwala to hone in on the technology it wants to use. Strandberg said Chatwala may want to study its users.

Binary Event Network with its Pivit is a marketplace that captures, rewards and reports changing public opinion about real-world events in real-time.

Then there’s the “real” software among all the other presenters, AfreSHeet, which presented disposable bedsheets which the young founder Maxwell Cohen thinks would be perfect in dorms—the college market.

“Martha Stewart vouched for this,” said Cohen whose co-founder is his mother.
Strandberg leaned in saying the market is really hot, especially when people are talking about protecting the environment.

Mark Caron of bMobilized and Bill Gallagher hosted the show.

How ripe are you for Seed A investment—and other VC insights

By Dennis Clemente

What makes a startup ripe for Seed A investment? There’s the most obvious answer: “You have demonstrable revenue growth.” There’s the hopeful response: “You’re selling more metrics and data than just sizzle.” And the standard throwaway response: “…If you’ve become a revenue-focused brand.” You’ll do better with the first reaction; keep your hopes up for the second; plan long for the third.”

Last May 13, Rubicon Venture Capital’s Joshua Siegel hosted a night of VC talk and startup demonstrations at Orrick at CBS building. For the first part of the night, Siegel brought in the venture capitalists to answer his prepared questions like the one above. The VCs were Marc Michel of Metamorphic Ventures; Will Peng of Red Swan Ventures; Brad Svrluga of High Peaks Venture Partners; Nikhil Kalghatgi of Vast Ventures and Matt Gorin of Contour Venture Partners.

Elaborating on their responses regarding Seed A investment, the VCs put importance to having customer acquisition metrics and a repeatable sales process. “If you’re past the idea of product/market fit thinking, then you’re ready,” Michel said.

Still, at least two VCs said it has become harder to pinpoint what Seed A means nowadays. “The nomenclature has changed. What was an A can now be B.”

Peng said strong engagement with a group of people is key, but he also attempted to simplify it, “Early stage is, ‘Do people want it’ (your startup)? Series A is, ‘Do a lot of people want it’?”

What areas or sectors are ripe for Series A funding? VCs may not always give you a straight answer, because even without them saying it, the tech space is always evolving, if not converging with some other service or technology. Michel considered marketplaces, the shared economy, even mentioning Uber as a marketplace, but to avoid pigeonholing himself, he said, “Every firm will have its own idiosyncrasies.”

Really now, why can’t they say more? Peng doesn’t want to influence mindsets, “We don’t want you to change your business model based on trends, because we look for companies that come from a genuine place. If you are building something you are passionate about and you have the conviction to make it work, then we’ll take a look at it.” For a few seconds, he buckled and said food, but stopped short of elaborating. If he is talking about Soylent, look into it if you haven’t heard about it.

Asked if they work with other investors, Michel said, “We syndicate everything we do. We look for good partners and share financial risk, because most companies take time to develop.”
VCs have the resources to add value to your startup where angel investors can only provide expertise. Kalghatgi, however, is not one to share a startup with another investor if it means he’ll be hampered by what his firm can offer.

The difference between East Coast and West Coast investors is a topic not brought too often in public, but Siegel tried to say who would respond. Without going into detail, he said, “We hear a lot of crazy stuff in San Francisco, (how) it’s easy to get money.”

Svrluga said, “It’s 10 times bigger (there). There are also better entrepreneurs out there.”
In New York as opposed to Silicon Valley, there was also a comment about how good VCs see through the hype—and fakery. They ask about hitting milestones that attract investors. They want the right team, the right technology, the right differentiation.

Peng added how he doesn’t like you buying traffic, because it’s fake growth, akin to what we’ve learned with the Emperor with No Clothes fable. “It you stop buying traffic, you will (see) that you don’t have anything. Don’t go this road of lies.”

A question that pops up every now and then is how to get noticed by VCs. The response has always been the same: (face-to-face) networking, but Svrluga went a step further. True to how technology has improved networking, he said Linkedin is the greatest referral tool. “If you can’t figure out Linkedin, then you won’t be able to get the audience.”

Naiveté permeates entrepreneur novices, according to Svrluga. He suggested you come to him with a warm lead; for Gorin, a strong reference; for Kalghatgi, a person who knows you really well and can give you an accurate portrayal.

It’s true what they say. Mondays are no-nos for VCs. Michel laid out his schedule on the table: “I have 30-meeting slots dedicated to meeting new companies. But he is also quick to say how it’s physically impossible to meet everyone. Mondays are a no-no. It’s all a day of meetings.”

After the VCs’ talk, the startup demonstrations followed. The presenters were Jeremy Kagan of Pricing Engine; Michael Ibrahim of Whisk, an Uber competitor; co-founders Merritt Baer and Brian Fenty of TodayTix; Peter Stebe of nextSociety, and Doug Chambers of Field Lens.

For those starting out in New York, nextSociety’s Stebe tells us how networking with the right people proved crucial in his life away from his home, Germany. Now he’s monetizing it with nextSociety, an iOS networking app using a relevance score, a smart indicator that tells you how well a connection aligns with your professional interests.

Every startup has an interesting back story. For Stebe, who is from Germany, it was always how he dreamed of living in New York. Now he has a startup here.

Field Lens’ Chambers was succinct and to the point in his short presentation. In his construction work app, he talked about how he is answering the problem of communication breakdowns typical in construction work. He has a solid team, another important ingredient in a startup.

Having been funded, he knows the drill. Determining a problem and how you can solve it is crucial to your success and VC funding.