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.

Startups in New York: If you know the drill, you can be spared the grilling

Investors at Ultra Light Startup
Investors at Ultra Light Startup

By Dennis Clemente

Startups in New York should know the drill by now. When you go from one tech meetup to another as you present your app or idea, you’re going to get different reactions and even some water-dousing realizations if you’re not prepared, because no tech meetups are alike. You could be largely entertaining in one, but questionable in another; “fundable” in one, need pivoting in another. The difference: Venture capitalists and/or investors are present in some meetups where in others, you’re just facing an audience who don’t care if you have a business model or not. The audience is there to have fun where VCs mean business. Bottom line: Investors want to know if you have a viable startup and if you do, you’re selling it to them properly.

Guest speakers-investors at the Ultra Light Startup last May 8 at the Microsoft Building near Times Square made sure they got their message across where the eight presenting startups may have not been so clear or forthcoming with theirs; it happens to the best startups when nerves can get in the way, as one did when he completely blanked out for 30 seconds in his two-minute allotted time.

The panel that may have intimidated that presenter consisted of Murat Aktihanoglu, ER Accelerator founder; Somak Chattopadhyay, managing partner at Armory Square Ventures; Brian Cohen, chairman at New York Angels; Pankaj Jain, venture partner at 500 Startups.

Each of the eight startups presented to the investors who then asked questions and gave an actionable feedback—a “what-a startup-needs-to–do-the-next-morning?” type of advice—after their two-minute presentation. They were Josh Stein of Adhere Tech; Zeb Dropkin of RentHackr (both having presented at NY Tech Meetup without a hitch); Emily Washkowitz of Shareswell; Charles Brun of Now In Store; Zach Goodman of Unlockable, Claire Cunningham of Lessonface; Rafael de Haro of Lifedots; and Juri Kaljundi of Weekdone.

Since many of these startups are in their early stages, let’s spare them the humiliation and just let you do the guesswork—as a way to determine your capacity to find out which one needs to pivot or reinvent itself, to put it mildly.

Here then are some “editorialized readings” into the questions and advice given by the investors—some brutally honest, another appeasing which compelled one investor to say to another, “You’re so nice,” as if there were no nice VCs.

• Testing the panel’s patience: It went from polite, “Messaging has to be clear.” (Read: What business are you really in?) to serious advice, “Choose another business” to frustration, “I still don’t understand your business”
• The name matters. For one highly personal product, the suggestion was to add a pronoun.
• Bottle pill product. Two investors suggested making it recycled, as the price of every new bottle could be a challenge. A serious question was asked, What if a handicapped bedridden person can’t use it and need help? Another question, Can you add social networking to it?
• On pain points. What is the pain point in the renting space? What is the incentive for the renter? Ask yourself, how many users do you need before you get to the landlord? Build user base first and tell brokers you will give them qualified leads. How are you acquiring these users? Another startup was also asked to answer what pain points he is addressing and why do consumers need him.
• Customer acquisition. Focus on it, or do cool tech. Of course, both would be better
• Pitch carefully because you’re in a crowded space (for investors’ ears)
• Find out the percentage of people downloading catalogs
• Focus on effective than pretty
• Think of Pinterest integration
• If it sells, it’s clever; if not, sell “cleverly.” Think of the tech behind it and the incentive for artists who may not be as receptive to the idea as normal people
• Allow changes… real-time (best advice of the night)
• How much monitoring can you actually do with the space constraints of a mobile phone? Consider pivoting app as report generation
• Think of privacy issues (especially In light of Snapchat’s current dilemma)
• Give first before taking. Give everyone here free subscription, with the investor motioning to the meetup audience.

The night’s winners (presenters) as voted by the audience: For the startup presentation, Shareswell won for its inspired idea: gifting stock inspired by the bridal registry concept. And what do you know; the founder is engaged to be married in a few weeks. The question we forgot to ask is, “Which came first, though: The startup idea or the upcoming nuptials?”

For most valuable tips, Somak, the investor labeled nice guy, won. But do nice guys invest first?

All-women tech panel talk about customer acquisition and building successful corporate culture

Guest panelists at Orrick meetup at CBS Building
Guest panelists at Orrick meetup at CBS Building

By Dennis Clemente

At the Orrick Total Access meetup last April 30, Joy Marcus, CEO of Bloglovin & venture partner at Gotham Ventures, looked at the panel in admiration. Seeing all were women tech founders, she looked at them proudly before turning to the audience and acknowledging each one of them. She said she relishes the day when she doesn’t need to say the guest list consists of an all-women panel, just a panel.

At the Orrick law offices at the CBS Building that night were women. For the customer acquisition talk, the panelists were Tanya Menendez, co-founder, Maker’s Row; Carly Strife, co-Founder, BarkBox; Kathleen Utecht, angel investor & venture partner; and Danielle Weinblatt, co-founder & CEO, Take the Interview.

For the corporate culture talk after, panelists were Angela Lee, founder of 37 Angels, moderated Mona Bijoor, founder & CEO, of Joor; Kellee Khalil, founder & CEO of Lover.ly; Elissa Shevinsky, co-Founder & CEO, Glimpse Labs of Nina Sodhi, Founder & CEO of Nackina.

In the first talk, Menendez said understanding users is very important. “Do user interviews. Find out if users are obsessed with it (your product), then create products designed for them, making sure you have the right people onboard to tell your story that resonates with the audience, your community and among journalists.”

The other women agreed, but Weinblatt put it in her own way, saying she makes customers “adore us.” How? “Never underestimate the power of ‘polite persistence.’ Not everyone closes doors on your face. Do it over and over again.”

As an investor, Utecht’s comment was right up her alley, “The best way to acquire customers is (by getting into) partnerships.”

Strife, on the other hand, said word of mouth comprises 50 percent of her site’s monthly acquisition with referral as her “most successful channel.” “We pay them real money.”

In terms of measuring success with analytics, the women agreed that SEO, SEM and content creation are crucial, as well as A/B testing everything. Menendez said she should have focused on SEO from Day 1.

The next talk moderated by Angela Lee was tricky, as it tackled something not easy to quantify or measure: culture.

The panel suggested watching out for the following:
1. Ask yourself if you are experiencing something toxic and political?
2. Are you excited to come to work?
3. Are you excited about the product?
4. When something bad happens, who saves the day?
5. Can you bro it out with the guys?
6. Are people buying into the pain points you’re addressing?
7. Do you share the values of the staff and startup?

The panel also shared their hiring choices with Lee the moderator kicking it off. “I don’t do interviews. I ask people to do projects.”

Shevinsky said she finds people overlooked by the industry whereas Khalil said she prefers to test her hires with a 90-day contract.

But how do you become a successful startup? “It’s all about consistency. It’s a marathon,” Bijoor said.

Stream Web and Infomous stand out in startup demos at Columbia Business School

By Dennis Clemente

New York’s tech startup scene has nightly hour-long meetups that serves as both entertainment and fund-raising ventures, but Columbia Business School’s Startup Demo Night #23 (media and entertainment) last April 17 took it to another level.

For four hours starting at 6 p.m., 11 startups in the entertainment and media space presented to six investors who then provided feedback. With limited time, presenters could only talk about some features of their startup ideas.

Like Stream Web which was, along with Infomous, the two standouts of the night, not only in terms of what they have to show for but how the other presenters could learn a thing or two about how to present properly, snark-free. I guess when you are confident about your startup, confidence comes naturally.

Stream Web is a web browser app for iOS packed with great features like dual browsing but founder Paul Canetti only had time to show the Stream. Instead of a URL link to share, you copy and paste an image as a URL. The clip itself is a link.

It’s simple to use. You cut out anything on the screen with two fingers and paste to share on your social networks, email, SMS or save for later.

“URLS are ugly and outdated. We’ve created a new modern standard that utilizes the essentials of the mobile experience: Visual, social, gesture-based,” Canetti said.

Infomous turns text into an interactive visualization that gives users an instant snapshot of what is trending. Founder and CEO Paolo Gaudiano presented again after being a favorite at innovator evening weeks ago. http://reimaginetech.com/infomous-gets-top-nod-vcs-innovator-evening-event/

Lori Cheek of Cheekd, who appeared on ABC 7’s Shark Tank recently but did not get funding from any of the show’s sharks, is not one to be easily discouraged. In about 10 weeks, she said she will have an app version.

What’s cheekd.com? Well, if approaching the opposite sex intimidates you, Cheeks offers a “covert: solution: old-school calling cards with clever pick-up lines.

Like what Cheek said on Shark Tank, she is determined to make her business work. It clearly shows in her presentation where others who face setbacks can’t put up a brave front, unless they know deep down how, three years into their startups, the challenges have become costly problems and they are not going to go away anytime soon.

The other startup presenters were Metodi Filipov, co-founder of Flipps Media; Nathaniel Casey, co-founder and CEO of Blaztrak; Waywire’s Javier Soto and David Larkin, founder and CEO of GoWatchIt.

David Larkin, CEO and founder of GoWatchIt
David Larkin, CEO and founder of GoWatchIt

The second leg of the presentations consisted of John Weinstein, founder and CEO of YouAreTV, Jeb Balise, CEO of Puzzle Social and Michael Jaschke, co-founder and CEO at 48Bricks Inc. Katerina Vorotova presented Try the World.

The investors who came in to provide feedback and advice were Neil Chheda, angel investor & managing partner at Romuls Capital; Jeff Pulver, angel investor & co-founder & chairman at Zula; Giordano Bruno Contestabile, angel investor & VP of product management and revenue at Tilting Point, Claude Zdanow, angel investor and founder and CEO of Stadiumred and lawyer Jonathan Maisel.

VCs at Gotham Media Ventures talk about hot trends, funding issues

Gotham Media Ventures panel
Gotham Media Ventures panel
By Dennis Clemente

A typical New York meetup night usually hosts many startup presentations (seven or more most of the time) and not much about investors alone. At Gotham Media Ventures last April 8, it was refreshing to see no startups, just venture capitalists taking the limelight to talk about funding, trends and the challenges facing startups.

“Funding is hard. It stays hard,” said Scott Kumit, the candid founder and CEO of Keep, Swizzle as well as former CEO of About.com.

Kumit is giving us perspective and a better read of how funding now can be complex, easy in the first seed round, harder in the institutional round. The former is clearly easier, because with less money, there’s less risk. What makes the next stages hard, of course, is how you can ask for more money to scale your startup.

Jerry Spiegel, moderator and partner of Frankfurt Kumit Klien & Selz, got the same responses from the other panelists, Jason Klein, Merrill Brown, and Daniel Schultz.

“Institutional funding takes longer (these days). There will be a crunch,” said Klein, founder and CEO of Ongrid Ventures and board member of HBS Alumni Angels.

It’s common for investors to talk this way to keep things in check as they also talk about trends.

Klein sees geo-disruptive businesses and location-based technologies as the next hot trends. Think drones, although that may just be the obvious complimentary technology right now.

Brown, a venture partner at DFJ Frontier who is also the director of School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University, thinks there are still lots of money in a news platform. He was a media person back in the eighties.

For him, there will be more ways to do voice and data, citing box.com, messaging systems and platforms, and ad-supported media or ad tech.

“Stock prices look encouraging in ad tech. That means that news and TV will be disrupted.” It looks like the internet of things can pave the way for the disruption of communication channels. Think drones again.

Kumit agrees with Brown about content and ad tech, encouraging people to just go out there to do business. “Last year ad tech was nothing. So if you invent something, there is something for you.” BuzzFeed was cited.

Schultz, managing director and co-founder of Gotham Ventures, thinks the challenges are easy to overcome: “Anything you can think can be improved upon can be improved,” talking about the limitless possibilities out there. “We can improve quality of life on a global basis.” That includes home safety in a connected house.

Amazon was mentioned and it too can be disrupted, according to the VCs who think e-commerce is a multi-trillion dollar market. It’s just a matter of who is up to the challenge.

A question that has popped up lately is crowdfunding and almost always, VCs like to say they embrace it. Like Schultz. What’s not to like about it when customers fund a startup idea initially, half of the work for VCs (customer acceptance of a product or idea) is done. VCs can take the next logical step of scaling the business.

Kumit is averse to angels, though. His advice: “Take professional money over angel money. And take 3 or 4 times more money (that) you need.” Why? “Everything is twice as hard. You’ll work 18-hour days. Take more than you need,” he stressed.

The panelists also talked about big data and what you can do with massive amounts of data, but thinks the bitcoin craze is something else entirely. Only Klein seemed to be open about his skepticism over bitcoin—at least the technology behind it.

Infomous gets top nod from VCs at Innovator Evening event

By Dennis Clemente

At innovator evening, host Alan Brody will tell you his meetup is not a meetup, “it’s a crafted conference.” Brody means business. So does his esteemed panel of guests last April 2 at Dorsey & Whitney LLP near Grand Central Terminal.

Brody kicked off his conference with a two-hour workshop that asks (and answers) the question, “Are you Fundable?” followed by the presentation of six startups in front of some discerning, no-nonsense judges.

Alan Brody of ievening
Alan Brody of ievening

In order of their presentations were ColdSteel Laser, Infomous, Vidaao, Soshio, BeautyStat, Nonnatech and JetRyte with Infomous getting the top vote and the opportunity to present to Private Equity Forums on May 1. Visit privatequityforums.com

CEO Jerry Korten presented ColdSteel Laser as a startup medical device company that has developed a novel technology, one that remotely controls an endoscopic surgical laser. The technology is being licensed from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. To date, ColdSteel Laser has raised $1.125 million and expects delivery of a functional platform in June this year.

How does it work? The technology allows a surgeon to visualize an operative field on a graphics tablet and, by tracing a stylus over the image, control a CO2 laser as it cuts tissue inside a patient, in real time.

The next presenter, Infomous, looks similar to a tag cloud, but founder and CEO Paolo Gaudiano shows us how trending topics pop up right from its “cloud.” It claim users can find quickly the information they care about, as it appears to get rid of the media noise all-too prevalent out there.

Vidaao’s Justin Park said his startup reduces the cost of creating videos by 25 to 30 percent. This is accomplished through an online marketplace—one that connects brands with more than 500 video creatives in 48 US and EU cities.

Soshio is into Chinese social media analytics using technology that analyzes content in native Chinese text, with a proprietary emotion analysis, for which it reportedly has an approved provisional patent application.

CEO Matt Grotenstein sees a big market, more than 600 million in China, in fact. With Facebook and Twitter blocked in China, he sees a more focused approach is required to address and understand the rapidly growing Chinese market.

BeautyStat led by Rob Robinson also sees potential in the beauty market amounting to $32.4 billion. The site is a search and discovery site that gives consumer alerts of beauty product deals, exclusive offers and ways to discover products.

“Consumers need unbiased info to help them make smarter purchases,” he said while also announcing the partnership it struck with Amazon last week.

Nonnatech presented remote behavioral monitoring using its connected aging devices.

The last presenter was Pillar Rock USA Corp, a nutraceutical company that specializes in the development and distribution of over-the-counter effervescent tablets that fit in water bottles. Its mission is to build high-quality effervescent nutraceutical niche products. Its flagship product is jetRyte, a patent-pending effervescent tablet that is a refreshing change from hard tablets and messy powders.

Guest Wazi Wazihullah, professor of entrepreneurship at Molloy College, also provided valuable insights and feedback.

VC Teten’s criteria for investing in your startup idea

Handshake? A handstand is better.
Handshake? A handstand is better.

By Dennis Clemente

How do you know if your startup idea is worth pursuing? “If your idea can be stolen just by you speaking about it for 20 minutes, it’s not worth pursuing,” says David Teten of ff, a VC firm with $3.5 million investments. “Have an edge and be able to better execute your idea over someone else in the same space.”

Last March 25, the monthly Startup Grind hosted by Peter Crysdale featured Teten as its guest speaker. Teten said ff invests as early as the napkin stage and as late as the revenue stage. In a convivial mood, he cautions men about how “Seinfeld startups” never work. These are men who think of startups for finding beer and women. “In my time, we always found a way to meet women.” He’s in his late 40s.

Kidding aside, he said he is looking for people with an edge and proof that his or her idea is better than anyone else.

Below is a more comprehensive list of Teten’s/ff’s criteria for investing in a startup:
1. Team. What qualifies you to execute your idea successfully and better than five other companies in your space: Work history, network, and skills are key
2. Demo. Be ready with a demo or at least a mockup.
3. Market. What is the problem, why does it exist, and how big is the opportunity?
4. Solution. Your value proposition—how you solve the problem faster, cheaper, smarter.
5. Business model. How do you make money? Who pays, how much, from where?
6. Customer/user. Who are they and how many. How will you reach/acquire them
7. Competition. Know every competitor and why they aren’t addressing your market adequately. List major competitors; understand their processes, and what your competitive advantage is.
8. Financial overview. What are the expected revenues, expenses and EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) three years out? How long will this round’s cash last you?
9. Funding. How much are you raising and how are you going to use the money—to grow a team, to support overhead, to expand. How much have you raised thus far and from whom?
10. Milestones. What is your vision for the future, measured in milestones for the next 3 years? This is crucial, because ff will evaluate your progress against these milestones in board meetings.

Teten could have read this aloud while doing a handstand as he did at the end of his talk. He is a practitioner of parkour, a holistic training discipline using movement that developed from military obstacle course training.

Foreign startups present to media-owned VCs

Win Global Innovator

By Dennis Clemente

Last February 27, WIN (Worldwide Investor Network) hosted Global Innovator featuring five presenters—Hyperactivate, TripTease, Mommy Coach, $Social and 365Scores—to panelists that included media VCs at 1221 Avenue of the Americas.

What is interesting is how the panelists included two media VCs–Cyna Alderman, managing director of Daily News Innovation Lab and Scott Levine, managing director of Time Warner Ventures. The two other VCs were John Elton, partner of Greycroft Partners and Ross Goldstein, managing director of /gothamvc.com/”>Gotham Ventures. Goldstein was voted best judge of the night.

Hyperactivate offers a turnkey solution that amplifies your brand messages across multiple channels, while $Social figures out the how to monetize “celebrities” social media engagement.

Lastly, 365Scores chooses your favorite team and leagues for you to create a Sports Channel.
MommyCoach connects you to live experts for parenting advice. TripTease, on the other hand, relies on you to be the expert in sharing your travel stories online.

Hyperactivate’s March Fischman likes to point how his startup solves the accountability problem all marketers face when attempting to quantify ROI on any company’s social media investment with its “active management platform” or dashboard.

“Clients don’t know what success is,” said Fischman who thinks he can determine social media success for its business. To scale his business and add new features, he is seeking $3 million.

Triptease’s Charlie Osmond, a presenter at The Hatchery last February 20, says his startup is like a “digital postcard.” You upload or link a photo from a gallery and give your review. He also calls it “photo review” or “user-generated travel magazine.”

Osmond, who was at the Hatchery a week ago, won over the crowd again for his presentation skills, with one panel remarking how it helps to have a British accent, like what another VC said at The Hatchery meetup.

“Hotels love it (Triptease),” he said. “We are connecting inspiration and bookings.”
Osmond said he has signed up 10 hotels, integrating Triptease with the hotel management system in the process.

It may not be so unusual for Osmond to get such high marks from the previous panels he has pitched to as the global travel market is worth $750 billion, with the luxury and hip travel industry amounting to 475 billion. He is raising $1.5 million in mid-year.

Is offering classes and advice for moms a viable online business?

Christophe Garnier, CEO of Mommy Coach, likes to think there is room for him with 90 million moms in the world. It helps if you put a number around its worth: $7 billion.

The Frenchman claims to have 1,000 experts but to keep things under control, he narrowed down his expert mom experts to 250. “It’s like Airbnb (for moms),” he said. “We don’t have doctors but our experts have parenting licenses.”

Having raised $600,000, he is looking to raise $150,000 more to reach his target f $750,000 in convertible note. “I will use some of the funds for market development.”

$Social’s CEO and co-founder Gil Eyal drew chuckles when he said celebrities need our help. He offers a way for high-profile social media users to monetize their online presence. Guy Tamir is CTO and co-founder.

To monetize their idea, they are looking share revenue with celebrities initially before it sets the stage for major brand partnerships in the second phase of its business. Both of the founders are looking to raise $1 million.

For the sports enthusiasts, 365Scores offers your own Sports Channel. It reportedly gathers sports information from hundreds of sources. The site then analyzes and organizes the data according to user preference and delivers the data to users with real-time push notifications.

The presence of two media personalities in the panel shows how most media outlets these days are looking for collaborative opportunities with startups

As befits the meetup, Goldstein pointed out how its firm has 10 countries represented in its portfolio. Gotham Ventures focus on adtech and e-commerce, among others.

Levin is looking to invest in startups that afford financial return and strategic partnership with cutting-edge media platforms. “Series B is a sweet spot,” he said.

Travel is good, video advertising hard–VCs

By Dennis Clemente

How would you like to be a travel reviewer? Triptease does that. How would you like to use a productivity tool that helps you see what matters? There’s Seer. How would you like to connect with investor relations teams. Closir claims that it can close that deal for you, socially. Finally how would you like your advertising to work for you? GoChime it or nTangle it.

But is it that simple? Not exactly, as the presenters found out from the VCs who gave them feedback after their five-minute presentation last February 20 at the Hatchery at Chadbourne Park, Rockefeller Center building.

The meetup also included a critique of the presentation style of each pitcher from GK Training’s Victoria Dicce, now a staple of the meetups.

The TripTease app is a social travel magazine that relies on user-generated reviews. Talking about how they monetize the site, Chief Tease Charlie Osmond said, “Hotels pay us to email their guests.”

All the VCs invited to provide their feedback said they like the travel space: “There’s a lot of disruption going on there.” “It’s an attractive market.” However, they were also interested in knowing where the app can go in terms of conversion. “We will be raising seed next week,” Osmond assured.

The VCs were Sutian Dong of First Mark Capital; Jeff Neu of B2B Ventures and Itzik Ben-Bassat of Wix. A regular, Sachin Jafe of Klifer Capital did not make it to the meetup.

However, the app is only available on iPad.“We believe that the iPad is growing much faster than the smartphone,” Osmond said who also received the highest marks with his confident presentation style.

Ben-Bassat quipped, “It helps if you (Osmond) have a British accent.”

Pierre-Marc Diennet presented nTangle, an interactive video platform idea that embeds ads.
How does it work? It’s simple. A video creator uploads their video. They tag objects, people, and places in that video and then link those things to the wider internet. With each click, nTangle delivers linked information,” Diennet said.

nTangle reportedly stores each tagged object in a database and connects it to semantically categorized Open Knowledge sources. “Our long term plan is to automate the process.”

Diennet said nTangle has a 400-percent participation rate. “Clients can use this data to learn more about their audiences, about their videos, and more about the conversations they inspire.”

The VCs think video advertising is a hard, competitive space. “Hosting will be an additional cost. It’s a tough squeeze. Look at your revenue model.”

Next presenter, GoChime founder Austin Evarts asked the audience in his presentation, “What is the percentage of unopened email?”

Putting it at 80 percent, Evarts said using GoChime to go with your email strategy will increase your reach 2 to 3 times more. “We sync data to Facebook campaigns.”

GoChime is direct marketing for social which, Evarts said, has experienced a 60 percent growth. “We are raising $500,000 in convertible notes.”

VCs did not provide feedback, saying only that it was a solid presentation.

A social and productivity platform, Closir was the last to present. It is focused on bringing companies and the investment community closer together using technology, according to Ratsko Illic.

“We want to capture at least 10 percent of the market,” he added. Competitors include Bloomberg.

Offered at $5,000 a year, Neu said sometimes too cheap is too cheap. Other comments from VCs pointed out how the “field is complicated” and “how hard it is to disrupt Bloomberg.”

“We did it because we strongly believe the existing tools and “one-size-fits” all platforms are no longer sufficient to meet the needs of today’s investors and companies alike,” Illic said.

Best New York tech meetups of 2013

By Dennis Clemente

Let me introduce the best New York tech meetups of 2013, my extremely biased assessement of the best New York City had to offer from its startups, investors and tech meetup groups last year. I do hope you can give me some leeway in terms of my choices. After all, I was in more than a hundred tech startup meetups, fairs and other similar events.

It’s also what I could call the 2013 Reimagine Tech Awards or how I spent my night life attending one meetup after another. All in all, I wrote, mentioned and talked to more than 650 startups and investors (angel and otherwise) from these meetups–the ones who make it possible for many of these startups to get funding, of course.

I also logged in some hours talking to lawyers—those who offered their services and those who threw in the towel to join startups. It’s interesting to point out how so many of these so-called secure jobs are not just secure anymore.

So many professions are being disrupted. Jobs are scarce, as operations are being automated. And those who can’t get into entry-level jobs find themselves—what else?—transformed as entrepreneurs, which can be a good thing, if your startup makes it.

Different people from different parts of the world were in the meetups—either to pitch and present, lurk or watch closely. How are these startups doing now? We’ll just have to wait and see how they emerge a year or so from now.

Here are some of the best I’ve seen last year in New York’s tech meetups, not counting those pricey trade fairs I can’t afford to go to, although I managed to make it New York Tech Day and NYC Big Apps with Mayor Bloomberg in attendance.

BEST MEETUP GROUP. Hatchery’s Are You Serious meetup. You want honest-to-goodness feedback on your startup, business model and presentation style? You’ll get it here. Guest panel of investors from venture-backed firms are regulars and are familiar with the five-year long structure of the meetup. Host Yao Hui Huang runs a tight ship.

BEST MEETUP TALK: Steve Blank at Startup Grind. The native New Yorker who made his name as a Silicon Valley giant was entertaining and engaging to listen to. Runner-up: Joe Meyer, former CEO of Hopstop now with Apple, gave us valuable startup advice in a talk that lasted more than two hours—the longest by any one speaker last year.

BEST VC TALK: Fred Wilson. You can divide VCs into two categories. Those who don’t crack open a smile but are very helpful and those who smile but are not really helpful. Wilson managed to be both accommodating and helpful, but he certainly had more bite to his talk, giving a no-holds-barred opinion on NY and its tech startups. The other VCs were just too guarded, most likely because they get wooed all the time but hats off to Shai Goldman of 500 Startups, Adam Quinton of Lucas Point Ventures and Charlie O’Donnell of Brooklyn Bridge Ventures for their amazing fireside chats.

BEST ANGEL INVESTOR TALK: John Ason. Last year, there were so many of them who taught us so many things about how to get funding, but Ason was very candid and generous with his time. He didn’t have the stage for himself, but as part of a panel, he stood out. He’s also very approachable.

BEST MEETUP MODERATORS: Helman and Horn. It’s a tie between Michael Helman of Startup Nation and Jeremy Horn of The Product Group. Helman, host of Startup Nation and co-founder of WILLiFEST and Crowdzu, is a great interviewer with just the right pace and structure to his gentle grilling. Horn, on the other hand, is able to make nearly all 400 of his attendees speak up.

BEST MEETUP TALK SHOW: Startup Grind. Hats off to StartupGrind’s Brian Park for having the most important people in the tech world open up about what it takes to succeed as a startup—or in the world in general. Guests have included Steve Blank, Gary Vaynerchuck and Chet Kanojia.

Best venue. Skirball Theater, NY Tech Meetup's home.
Best venue. Skirball Theater, NY Tech Meetup’s home.

BEST VENUE. NYU Skirball Theater, home of NY Tech Meetup. With its cavernous 700-seating capacity, it’s even bigger than most Broadway stages with balconies and boxes, and huge after-presentation mixer on another floor. Runner-up: Queens Tech Meetup is on the top floor overlooking Manhattan’s skyline.

BEST AUDIENCE. Startup Grind’s. It won me over for having the most engaged audience. Others have the most number of attendees for their venue but with Startup Grind, no matter where it holds its next meetup, the audience just keeps on coming.

BEST TIP OR QUOTABLE QUOTE. It’s a tie between John Ason and Shai Goldman. When pitching to Ason, you need to do the following, in order: “Entertain. Engage. Inform.” Goldman had this to say, “All startup teams need 3Hs—hustler, hipster, hacker.” Runner-up: Mike Bloomberg, on not joining 2013 NYC Big Apps contest: “I didn’t join because it would be unfair to everyone here.”

BEST STARTUP. It’s hard to determine this from more than 600 startups I wrote or talked about last year. Besides, what would the criteria be for that? Instead, I have the BEST STARTUP PITCH OR PRESENTATION: The Lux Animals team and Dennis Crowley of Foursquare. The Lux team came in full force at the Microsoft Building to talk in detail about the many facets of its gaming business and advertising work. On the other hand, Dennis Crowley of Foursquare proved to be an engaging storyteller about his beginnings and his success now.

One final award goes to the MOST GRATEFUL STARTUP, because they took the time to say thank you for my write-up even with just a Tweet. It’s a tie between Lux Animals and Warby Parker. They thanked and tweeted me profusely for the blog write-ups. Thanks, guys.