Category Archives: Investors & Personalities

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


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.
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.

Jason Klein explains angel work; Sailo offers you a boat to rent

jason klein

By Dennis Clemente

How many times have you seen investors make actual Powerpoint presentations? Another question, how many of them have you seen present in front of a big audience in an engaging way—smiling at that? Even more pointedly, when did you last get a great handshake, smiling again and with steady eye contact?

In a job that requires lots of patience, it’s refreshing to see angel investor Jason E. Klein do all these in front of all the aspiring entrepreneurs at the ERA Roundtable last September 18 at Microsoft. Last time this blogger met a smiling investor it was Fred Wilson.

In the grand scheme of things, of course, you wouldn’t probably care if they were stone-faced and taciturn as long as your startup gets funded. Still, it certainly works for Klein and his investments.

Klein is founder and CEO of On Grid Ventures LLC, an advisory and investment firm in digital media, marketing and information. He also is chairman of the Harvard Business School (HBS) Alumni Angels of Greater New York, a member of New York Angels ad several NYC-based incubators.

Klein was at the ERA Roundtable meetup to give his feedback to the startup presenters who can also learn a thing or two about presenting with a PowerPoint deck, even just to show the landing page and twitter handles of their startups—the better to promote them and engage attendees.

Klein talked more in behalf of the HBS Alumni Angels, explaining how its members invest on their own individual accord:
• They invest in what they know
• They seek ROI
• They do diligence (20 hours of work, background check)
• They build a portfolio. They want to build a range of investments
• They want to add value

More important perhaps for startups is what HBS Alumni Angels looks for when investing in a startup. Here’s what Klein outlined:

A game changer, preferably. If not, then a key piece of a game changer that could be a part of a greater solution.
Competitive edge. Why you will win vs. your competition? Assuming the competition wakes up, how do you defend your turf?
Angel and entrepreneur-friendly terms. There are sample term sheets at The valuation should be realistic, given the stage need for additional rounds of capital, and potential exit scenarios.
The CEO. It looks for vision, leadership qualities, uncanny drive, intelligence, smarts, results-focus, and high professional standards and ethics
Value added. Having overseen and grown companies, it wants to help grow yours. Respecting your time and full plate, your involvement will vary over time based on circumstances. A New York City metro area location is preferred. To apply, visit

“Typically, I or more investors become investors,” he said, clarifying again that the HBSAANY as a group makes no recommendations for investment.

In the presentation of the startups, Sailo stood among the other three presenters with a simple but very promising idea—rent a boat from the owner. It makes sense when you think about how many boats supposedly sit idle: 95 percent.

Before you worry about who’s going to steer the ship, Sailo is offering what others have left out: Having a captain of your choice for your peace of mind.

“You need someone who actually knows what he is doing—the captain,” said co-founder Delphine Braas who is looking to raise $500,000 to expand. “We also vet the boats and the insurance.”

Braas assured that Sailo can cover a trip up to a million dollars. If you list your boat, an insurance provider will look into it. Captains have to upload their license.”

Klein was receptive to the idea, suggesting partnering with Active Captain and asking how she is going to scale the business. “We are looking forward to doing a lot of marketing…offering loyalty perks and more.”

Sailo is available in the tri-state area with plans to launch Florida in the Fall.

The other presenters were Hello Fang, Kidklass and CthruNutrition.

De Blasio introduces NY’s first CTO, Minerva Tantoco

Minerva Tantoco
Minerva Tantoco

By Dennis Clemente

“New York’s tech story is an underrated story,” said New York mayor Bill De Blasio who graced the NY Tech Meetup last September 9 to introduce “one more thing” on the day of Apple’s big event: New York’s first-ever chief technology officer in Minerva Tantoco.

De Blasio is right. Ask New Yorkers if they know what’s happening in NY’s tech scene and it’s highly unlikely they will know about it. If you drop $128 billion in the conversation, you’ll get an incredulous look. That is actually the money poured into New York’s tech economy last year. While we’re at it, also tell New Yorkers that the city is the fastest-growing tech scene in the world and you’ll get bored looks directed at you.

The tech scene is not exactly a mainstream topic like news and entertainment. But at the NY Tech Meetup, it’s up front and center and fills up 600 seats easily. And yes, it doesn’t help that New Yorkers are not easy to please as well.

With De Blasio and Tantoco, Tuesday’s meetup was also one of its longest events., exceeding two hours on top of its show-and-tell format: 9 presenters and one (sometimes two or three) hack of the month that divides people: Those who think the show’s length is just about right and those who complain how by the seventh presenter, they have mentally checked out or left the building.

The startup presenters were Bubble, Dashlane, Heat Seek NYC, Hopscotch, Knotable, Makr, QuickMVP, Tengrade and The Campus Job. The hack of the month was bitshift.

It was a serendipitous day for Heat Seek NYC. With De Blasio at the event, the team of Heat Seekers asked the city to support its cause: provide a thermometer to residents with no heat in the winter. “It affects 200,000 people in the city and is the no. 1 complaint at 311. We look forward to delivering 100 sensors in buildings.”

De Blasio welcomed the startup’s idea, saying he will present it to the housing authority.

Two startups offered new ways of programming: Bubble is a new way of programming web and mobile apps without code, while Hopscotch offers a fun way of programming.

On the same day Apple announced Apple Pay, Dashlane took to the stage to assure the audience there are other brands and devices for it to compete against Apple Pay.

How do you boost your productivity? Knotable aims to lessen the noise in your email threads. Another startup, QuckMVP, can test a new business idea, reportedly in just five minutes. What about a way to boost students’ productivity? The Campus Job is a marketplace for students to find jobs. Another presenter, TenGrade uses a tornado rating system in its reviews from “reliable” sources—friends.

Makr is relying on its user experience to get people to use its app, a tool for customizing products (eg. corporate gifts, T-shirts), design and have them printed or manufactured.

Bitshift, the hack of the month, is a semantic source code search engine.

Charlie O’Donnell: A refreshingly candid VC at NJ Tech Meetup


By Dennis Clemente

The attendees at the NJ Tech Meetup held at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NH last August 27 were all praises for venture capitalist Charlie O’ Donnell of Brookyln Bridge Ventures and his “refreshingly candid” talk as a VC. The meetup also featured three startups.

The Hoboken audience listened intently to O’Donnell as he talked for over an hour, showing his appreciation for the effort put in by host and organizer Aaron Price in making sure New Jersey also has its tech meetup as well as the startup presenters – Cartwheels, Share911 and WRM4.

O’Donnell, who has been a VC for 15 years, dislikes being approached as if he were doing them a big favor. “Without pitches, I won’t have a job,” he said, assuring the audience that “it’s not a bother.” It’s important to approach a VC with confidence, not officiousness.

He said pitching to him in meetups is not a good idea, only because he thinks it’s unfair for the person seeking funding. “He may have worked on it for many years and for him to squeeze in 15 seconds of his time (is not worth it).” He said he was open to the idea of meeting somewhere else, so one probably discuss his or her startup.

Asking him about trends is not a good idea, too. Using bitcoin only as an example, he said, “You should tell me what’s exciting about bitcoin (or any sector). I’m surprised when people tell me about a sector (they know very well).

How does he know if a startup entrepreneur has the wrong mindset. “If he’s thinking more about pitching and he’s not worried about selling.”

He gave some important takeaways for the aspiring startups in the audience.

• He has favored founders with the average age of 33, because he favors those who have already some insights into their field already
• When pitching, think of a great hook (citing a female startup founder for her strong opening line about how her company’s fast start)
• How does he know who to invest in? When it doesn’t make more than two meetings to make him invest
• When an initial email to any VC goes unnoticed, ask if he or she received your email. Keep nudging

O’Donnell is an “early chap” as VC, taking in 5 percent where others in advance stages may take 20 to 25 percent.

As for the presenters, Cartwheels talked about how it offers locations and reviews of food trucks in New York City. It hopes to get place-based advertising and in the future, on-cart advertising. Some challenges it hopes to address is the unreliable location of moving vendors (they’re mobile, after all). There’s also lack of accountability.

Next was What Are Minds For, Inc. (WRM4) is the provider of Vognition. It is designed to control devices using natural language processing (NLP) and natural language understanding (NLU). Using its platform, it expects to cut development time from months to weeks; provide high voice recognition reliability with NLP and NLU; reduce long term support costs and most importantly create an improved user experience.

Last presenter, Share 911 is a real-time Emergency Information System for schools that enables educators and employees to share information with one another and First Responders.

The social network for emergencies is for connecting directly with police officers, firefighters and the people around you at your school or in your workplace. This way, you can share what’s happening in a specific location (eg. text alerts) and receive real-time visibility to what’s happening around you.

There’s nothing to download, so people can use it right away.

Secondmic and David Rose get most audience votes at Ultra Light


By Dennis Clemente

Every month the Ultra Light Startup group asks the audience to vote for the night’s startup presenter and the investor giving the feedback. Last August 14, Secondmic won against eight other startups but it was also interesting to see David Rose, hardly seen in any meetup, get the votes for his comments.

Rose was also one of the four investors and the audience who think Secondmic has a great idea. Imagine broadcasting the sports games yourself, while also talking to fans as they watch a game on TV or at the stadium? And if that’s too daunting a role, it claims to have other pros who can do the job. There’s Chasity Melvin, WNBA veteran and Dave Holcom, Football Nation host and Star Ledger sports reporter to give you the blow-by-blow account.

“We’re trying to figure out partnerships with event providers,” said Francisco Prat of SecondMic who was told about “the importance of keeping the quality of content high.”

David Rose
David Rose

Rose is a rare sighting in meetups but he addressed the startups by offering his connections and his generosity, jumping at the opportunity to praise a great presenter in nTangle’s Pierre-Marc Diennet. “That’s the best two-minute presentation I’ve heard (for sometime).” Presentations only take two minutes then investors give their feedback.

Rose–considered the father of angel investing and founder of Gust, the Saas funding platform for startups–was part of a panel consisting of Gil Beyda, Genacast Ventures; Jalak Jobanputra of FuturePerfect Ventures; and Jay Levy of Zelkova Ventures.

The other startup presenters who received feedback from them were Closir, Pass, Novaux, Sailo, Simplist, nTangle and Univate. Closir and nTangle were in another meetup last February and presented again at the Ultra Light, hopig to raise funds from the investors.

Closir is a dedicated investor relations platform, connecting companies and institutional investors. “We do engagement whereas Bloomberg does data,” Andrei Powers of Closir said, as it charges $10,000 a year of subscription.

“Why was it not done years ago?” an investor asked him more out of concern than a challenge.

Another presenter, Javier Dutan of Novaux, is into bitcoin payment processing for small businesses through its POS software and terminal packages. Is his timing right or is he too early? That’s the question foremost in investors’ minds. “We take care of all crypto currencies. We partner with resellers, he said, citing how he charges $1 and $2.75 for credit card.

An interesting pitch was from Sailo, a peer-to-peer boat rental service. Jobanputra, the lone female investor in the panel, said: “I don’t even want to rent out my car,” as the investors mulled about the challenge for it. Will boat owners rent out their own boats?

Hosted Mark Caron and Steven Kuyan, the ULS Investors Feedback Forum is organized monthly by Graham Lawlor.

Breakfast with startup champion Mike Edelhart

Mike Edelhart
Mike Edelhart
By Dennis Clemente

A tech meetup at 9 a.m. is a rare occurrence in New York but so is an opportunity to chat with an angel like Mike Edelhart, a current investor in 82 companies, a past investor in 11,000 startups but who is now focused on his “two-sided” company. Edelhart is the lead partner at Social Starts and CEO of Tomorrow Project, LLC, producers of the Pivot Conference in New York and other services for major brands.

At last August 13, Edelhart was early, talking to his audience even before the talk was set to start. He was serious all the way as he shared his thoughts on many things tech, asking people every now and then to ask questions.

Yes, he has gray hair, but he clearly knows the youth market. Surveying the room, he asked, “What do millennials do these days?”

With some tentative responses here and there, he answered the question himself, telling us the sector most investors avoid but one he embraces. “They’re looking for news,” said the former executive editor of PC Mag.

He thinks one shouldn’t be hang up on demographics, though. “There is no such thing as a youth market. He added that it’s not true the youth don’t care about products they care about what goes into it. And what you also don’t hear these days from other investors: “Cool days for young people are off-internet days.”

Perhaps on account of his journalistic roots, Edelhart had this to say, “Startups with some emanating truth is worth looking into.” From his experience, he can tell, “‘This person’ is actually telling the truth. He actually believes in it.” But he also stressed how pitching cannot be a charm offensive. “You cannot BS your way. You have to put together a cohesive argument of your idea with your team.”

Edelhart didn’t elaborate as much which happens in a fireside chat as opposed to a structured interview. And to accommodate all the questions, he switched from one sector to another fast, talking as both an investor and observer in the tech community.

Clearly a very busy man, he announced that he made four new investments in the past week. Still, he was generous with his time. He answered as many questions as he could and talked with each attendee afterwards.

On investing in a startup: “I look at great teams”
On future of tech: “Our bodies will produce content,” referring to sports analytics
On healthcare: “We’re not getting into it. We’re getting into the analytics of it”
On foreign startups: “It doesn’t matter what country you’re coming from” (He has invested in a startup based in Slovenia.)
On markets, opportunities to avoid: “The college market is small.” “I would not go near the ad business”
On big data: Look into the shift in big economics, game economics, predictability
On being an investor: I spent my entire life doing what I wanted to do. I would stop sleeping if I can. Investing? It’s a lot of work.”

For Edelhart, tech revolutions are not defined by their beginnings but by their middles. He was a founder and managing director of First30 Services, a new company-creation consultancy. He also served as interim CEO at LiveDeal, Inc. a NASDAQ company that delivers classified and small business marketing services over the Internet. He has been an advisor to Deep Dyve, Inc., which has developed revolutionary technology for high end search, after serving as its initial CEO. He was chairman of the board of Olive Software, a Sequoia backed XML software developer, where he was CEO. He was also CEO at digital magazine distributor Zinio. Earlier in his career, he was a senior executive at Softbank and Ziff-Davis Publishing and the author of 22 books.

The meetup was organized by StartupOneStop and the New York Society Startup Society.

Out of 14 startups, Flower Turbines get investors’ votes at Startupalooza

By Dennis Clemente

How do you tweak the startup meetup? The drill in New York meetups: Startups pitch for two to five minutes to investors who then provide their feedback. That’s how it goes.

In the Startupalooza meetup last July 24, host Alan Brody tweaked that formula. This time, he had the startups in place while the investors—this time angels, not the usual VC—roamed around asking questions. Think trade fair. And how it could only be pulled off like one because there were just too many startups—14 in all.

Out of the 14, Brody picked four to present to the audience. They were Flower Turbines, Potboiler, 90Grand and CelebDare.

Flower Turbines, the night’s winner based on votes by the angel investors, makes small, easily started, nearly silent vertical axis wind turbines that efficiently generate electricity.

Clustering them causes an additional 20 percent “flower power boost” in net energy output, according to Farb Daniel.

Potboiler produces serialized novellas with graphics, video, animation and social media components and distributed through Amazon, iBooks and Barnes & Noble. Check out where single chapters can be read or refined along the way. Stories are created from scratch.

90Grand, for its part, is looking into the corporate rewards and loyalty sector with its licensed iconic photographic images of luminaries, celebrities and personalities, shot by renowned photographers of the last century.

“We carry no open receivables or inventory, with minimal infrastructure. We are also fully scalable,” said Roger Maggio, chief of operations.

Another presenter, CelebDare is a crowdsourcing platform aimed at engaging celebrities or anyone in the spotlight for the purpose of advancing a common good.

Founder Jeffrey Katz sees it as a new avenue for charities and companies to reach key objectives.

Asked what is the unique aspect of the business? Katz, a Harvard grad, recalled how another startup back in his day was also not that unique but how it still made it big. He let the audience say it was Facebook.

For Katz’s business model, there’s the challenge of reaching a celebrity, but he is undaunted.

One interesting startup is a white label service offered by Trained advisors give personal live dating advice directly through a dating site.

Among the investors at the meetup were John Ason and Barry Kolevson of Joshua Capital who also announced the Private Equity Forum event on Oct 2 where the winner, Flower Turbines, will get to pitch and raise funding for his startup. Visit

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.

Startup presenters compete like it’s the World Cup


By Dennis Clemente

The Ultra Light Startups: Investors Feedback Forum last July 10 lived up to its name. It was light with a French twist. With the World Cup in full swing, the startups—some from Europe, others from the US but still multi-ethnic—competed for the startup of the night honors. The goal: VC funding, of course.

Regular host Mark Caron was joined this time by Kikai Mining’s Arnaud Collery whose off-color humor, in his thick French accent, made light of the entire proceedings.

He wasn’t alone in the ribald jokes. Ian Sigalow asked one presenter if he was going to allow adult content on his site. He clarified that he was not an investor in one to drive home his point, which drew some chuckles from the attendees at Microsoft Building at Times Square.

Sigalow of Greycroft Partners won against the three other panelists Brendan Dickinson, associate at Canaan Partners, Matt Turck, managing director at First Mark Capital and Matthew Witheiler, general partner at Flybridge Capital Partners.

The eight presenters were Alex Feldman of Crowds Unite; Darius Jamiolkowski of Outdoor Exchange; Anton Topikha of Airjump; Rachel Kaplowitz of Honey; Dan Nelson of Kpass; Tim Bernal of Kwoller; Raad Ahmed of Law Trades; and Akash Srivastava of Rewardable. Many of them are foreign startups.

Crowds Unite, a crowdfunding review site, filters, sorts and compares crowdfunding sites to find the best one for you. He was asked if could pivot the company to offer insurance than just listings or provide content about where to get loans.

For a membership fee, Outdoor Exchange rents out outdoor gear. When Jamiolkowski said the site aims to be the Netflix for outdoor gear, one of the VCs kept asking questions that put the startup on the defensive. Lesson to be learned here: Don’t use such buzz phrases if the answers are not forthcoming.

In response to how he is going to build his brand, he said it’s going to happen in partnerships. He is in talks with one car rental and a car pickup service that has been in the news lately, which will remain unnamed here pending the deals push through.

Airjump is all about live streaming to social networks which prompted the comment from Sigalow about adult content. Other VCs asked Topikha to check out and ustream as they offer similar services.

Topikha said his differentiator is superior technology and how he wants people to create live TV channels. He said 60 percent of his revenue will be advertisements.

Sigalow and Turck were on the same page on this one, saying how the site needs something visceral, selfies perhaps, or videos that tap into the human emotion. Find a vertical where can build a wedge, because just being the best is not going to be enough. You have to have a compelling use case.”

Honey, the night’s winner, is an enterprise social network that improves information sharing in the workplace. Yammer is a competitor.

“We are more Reddit for enterprise,” Rachel Kaplowitz said, but because it’s done by Huge Labs, the startup division of the digital design agency, you will see the design and user experience standing out. is projecting $500,000 as its year-end income. It has 15 companies as clients paying $4 a month.

“The big thing for Honey is finding integrations. Right now it integrates with Dropbox,” she said. For VCs, the hard part in this space is engagement and sales. “Honey has to find out the sales tools they need, what hooks they need. Right now, it’s just scratching the surface. It has to build relationships early.”

After a five-minute break, the remaining 4 startups took their turns presenting, starting with Dan Nelson who said Kpass, his company, is the safe digital identity for kids, one that can empower them to safely connect to their favorite sites online. There was the usual question on how the parents will be involved, but Nelson was advised to focus on mobile, not the web.

Next was Tim Bernal, the Filipino American behind Kwoller, a mobile commerce company or what he calls Tinder for shopping. “We’re an affiliate-based company. We get commissions. We get 7 percent.”

Overall, the VCs seemed to like Bernal among all the startups not just for his startup but for his engaging presentation as well. Turck’s only critique was how 200,000 swipes on the app is not a big number.

How can Bernal scale his business? “You need customer acquisition, how to make people download it. You will need to refine your viral mechanism,” the VCs said.

Yet another listing site is Raad Ahmed’s Law Trades. This time, the listing shows top-notch lawyers focused on offering personal legal services which he says is a $90 billion industry. When asked what he will do if the listings are filled up, he said he will go global. Still, a VC said it’s hard to scale; he was advised to pivot.

How do you want to get paid while you shop? That’s the idea behind Rewardable. You are assigned a specific task to complete and you are paid in cash for your efforts.

The idea sounds like an advertising agency came up with it, which can be both to its advantage and disadvantage. The VCs had a lot to say about this startup, especially how it can sustain itself when ad agencies work on campaigns, which are set periods of time. “How do you get users to submit data for how much you need to spend versus taking that from retailers?” The concern also was the barrier to entry.

In term of scaling the business, Komassa said he will sell through channel partners. Rewardable is raising $5 million.

For those who have not attended the meetup, there is pizza, networking and introductions at 6:30 pm; the 8 startup pitches at 6:45 p.m., followed by the investor providing actionable advice following each two-minute pitch. At 8:15 p.m., the audience votes for the best startup. Winners are announced and prizes are awarded. Last night, Honey won for the startup. Sigalow won as the panelist of the night; it’s most likely for his useful feedback and advice to the startups, and not for his charm, because Colley, the French co-host, would likely dispute this one.

The meetup is organized monthly by Graham Lawlor.

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

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.