Customer acquisition: Go out there, sell it yourself–and yes, PR works


NEW YORK—“I was sending 300 emails a day on Linkedin,” said Daniella Weinblatt, CEO and co-founder of TTI (Take The Interview) who even among the female panelists at an Orrick meetup last June 14, knows there are no bounds to customer acquisition for a startup. As a founder — and this was also raised by a panelist — you may actually wonder when you will need to apply the breaks when you’re excited about your journey as an entrepreneur.

Weinblatt was part of a panel that consisted of Hayley Barna, venture partner at First Round; Jessica Beck, co-founder and COO at Hello Alfred; Alanna Gregory, founder and CEO at  VIVE Lifestyle with Gesche Haas, founder of Dreamers//Doers.

As a founder, Weinblatt said,  “You need to go out there and sell it yourself.” Which you won’t mind anyway, because your work can consume you, which is good when you’re just starting out and you need to gain traction.” TTI is a NY-based job interview management solutions provider. The company believes better technology enables greater efficiency and better communications which results in better interviews, which then produce better hires.

It’s interesting how the panelists didn’t even react to a question about the timing for spending for marketing because many of them didn’t do it when they first started.

For Hello Alfred, Beck said, “If you’re first in the market, you have to educate your market and we did it through PR (public relations).” Hello Alfred has staff to take of your household chores, from your laundry to house cleaning to grocery shopping. Weinblatt said the public relations effort of the accelerator program helped as well.

Both Beck and Weinblatt didn’t believe in giving away anything for free even from the very beginning. TTI said they had paid pilots and Beck didn’t offer free services.

Barna, co-founder of Birchbox and now First Round, remember starting her startup while at Columbia University. Beck thought of hers while at Harvard Business School. Birchbox offers personalized samples via  a monthly subscription. “We had 8 brands (in the beginning).”

The other panelist was Alanna Gregory, founder at Vive Lifestyle, is a new way to book and save on last minute blowouts at pre-vetted salons in your city.

Weinblatt’s takeaways:

  • First beta pilot clients include ABC Universal. They were paid pilots.
  • First few months they will be using our software.
  • We asked ourselves, Did we accomplish our objective? Once we converted, then we knew we were on to something
  • Initially people who were signing up was not our audience. People were not searching for video interviews or interviewing more effectively
  • They asked themselves, Who will understand the value proposition we’re selling
  • WOM and the community were big for us
  • We worked with Blue Apron, Warby Parker
  • We use salesforce for CRM and Marketo for marketing
  • We tracked number of emails and had set-up demos. Where it gets tricky is in running demos, as you ask yourself, “Am I personalizing the message properly?”
  • We spent as much time on customer acquisition as we did retention;  six people focused on retention of customers
  • Nothing gets investors more excited than performing better every month
  • We learned to fire fast (instead of holding on to someone that was not a cultural fit)
  • If clients are happy, we get testimonials

Beck’s takeaways:

  • We didn’t know who our customer was (in the beginning)
  • Find out how to grow faster
  • In our first year, as part of our growth we had to learn more and scale.
  • Show and you’re your story through photos
  • (“Alfreds”) would make eye contact
  • On sustaining business: “We (offer) a monthly home cleaning. We restock toiletries.”
  • For quality service: We (knew) we needed W2 people, not 1099 people
  • Hire jack of all trades in beginning
  • (Must have in the beginning): Look for someone with finance specialty

Barna’s takeaways:

  • (Be clear with) messaging and how to position your product
  • The box is just the beginning, we’re a retailer.
  • Theres the power of PR and telling a good story
  • We hired an internal PR team, built relationships
  • We track the cost of everything
  • No accident we had a pink box—and people didn’t know what they would see inside the boxes
  • I like founders who have authentic passion for their business
  • What makes a good founder: “You’re the only person who understand (your business well).”
  • A few happy customers is better than a million unhappy ones
  • Sleep more. It’s a marathon, not a race.
  • Highs were highs lows were lows
  • (Give yourself) 12 to 18 months of (financial) runway

Gregory’s takeaways:

  • We had to validate our assumptions
  • We acquired salons
  • (We tried to find out) how many we need
  • We make sure customers are really happy.
  • We are introducing auto-renewals (soon)
  • You need to find investors who really believe in your vision
  • Be honest with yourself and what you can do

Social media experts: Start early on new social networks, reach out to influencers

NEW YORK–You won’t find a meetup that dissects each social network these days but last April 20, AlleyBoost did just that in its talk, “Social Media Done Right” featuring Courtney Spritzer, co-founder and COO of Socialfly; Jeongwoon Eun, founder of Tigerwon; and Pavel Konoplenko, co-founder and CEO of Spoiled Media at Workville near Times Square.

On Facebook

  • If you are just starting on Facebook, use paid advertising as it’s hard now to grow organically
  • Tryt hangout for Facebook
  • You need optimal time and frequency on Facebook
  • Only way to tell it’ working for you is by experimenting: Post one a or five times a day
  • Test ad buys worth $5 dollars a day
  • You might as well work with Facebook (as big as it is), not against it
  • Try Instant Articles
  • Start Facebook Live now
  • Post inspiring quotes
  • Video does well

On Twitter:

  • Still good for reaching to journalists and publications
  • Twitter is important for political figures
  • Twitter is becoming more of an aggregator
  • Twitter is good for breaking news
  • Used for complaining
  • Make use of Twitter’s Periscope for live streaming
  • Too noisy of a platform

On Instagram:

  • Try Instameets; communities in all those networks can be very big
  • When you do the ads, you can have your link
  • Any brand that is visual should be on Instagram
  • Fashion brands should be on Instagram
  • Use it as recruiting tool
  • Influencer marketing is good for instagram
  • With algorithm, (photo) can be curated better

On Snapchat

  • Influencers are active here
  • You will see more branded content
  • Use to find influencers on Snapchat
  • Snapchat videos are difficult  to discover
  • Snaps only take a brief period of time before they disappear
  • You can’t flaunt number of followers because there’s none, which means you can’t buy followers
  • It’s a whole new world for  cultural immersion


  • You need content and influencer strategies
  • You need to adopt early to new social networks to have organic growth
  • You will want to test out that content against a  different audience
  • Always measure results
  • Looking to market to China? try Wechat
  • Good storytelling is a good way to sell your product
  • Use Periscope for live streaming events
  • Social media guru Gary Vaynerchuk uses all the different platforms
  • YouTube and Pinterest are still relevant

The meetup also had two presentations with Parisa Wang of Parisa NYC and Craig Ettinger, founder and CEO of Tastebud talking about their startups. Wang showcased her handbags, lining them up on the floor, as she talked about how each bag represented a story, from breakup to independence, in what she called a “relationship journey.”

Wang showed how one handbag’s clever conception; it can be slung on her arm, so “I can free my hand to hold his hand. She is launching a Kickstarter campaign in May to produce more of the bags pegged at $200 to $500.  

Ettinger opened his presentation by talking about how the US spends $60 billion in entertainment every year and how his iOS app, Tastebud, is about sharing their recommended entertainment choices–books, music, movies, podcasts.

“These are for people who like to sift through the entertainment haystack to find these needles, he said, referring to good entertainment selections. Tastebud filters feed and follows other tastemakers as well as read curated critics’ picks.


Malcolm Gay talks about Brain Electric at MIT Enterprise Forum

NEW YORK–Last April 5, the MIT Enterprise Forum held a fireside chat with Malcolm Gay who talked about his debut book, “Brain Electric: The Dramatic High-Tech Race to Merge Minds and Machines,” at the Pryor Cashman LLP offices and its sprawling view of Times Square.

Gay is an award-winning journalist who holds an MJ from the University of California, Berkeley, Graduate School of Journalism. His writings and essays have appeared in the New York Times, The Atlantic, and Time.

He regaled us with stories of  scientific leaders, their labs, startups and careers and their perseverance and vision in leading the world toward an era when lost limbs and paraplegias are only obstacles of past generations.

On the cusp of decoding brain signals that govern motor skills, neurologists are developing new technologies to enable paraplegics and wounded soldiers to move prosthetic limbs and manipulate computers and other objects through thought alone.

Part life-altering cure, part science fiction, these cutting-edge brain-computer interfaces reportedly promise to improve lives—but also hold the potential to supplant combat capabilities of, say, soldiers.

He talked about emerging technologies behind the scenes — in operating rooms, start-ups, and research labs where the future is unfolding. He asked us to rethink our relationship to technology, our bodies, even consciousness itself—challenging our assumptions about what it means to be human.

The notion of joining the human mind to a machine used to exist only in science fiction, but Gay’s own research made him believe that we have moved past concept stage.

Winslow Burleson,  associate professor of NYU College of Nursing, conducted the fireside chat.

The MIT Enterprise Forum of New York City has for forty years supported entrepreneurs in their efforts to start and run technology-driven business ventures.    


‘Obstacle is men,’ says female guest in tech talk

NEW YORK–Who’s stopping women from succeeding in the tech startup world? The male-dominated VC world or even their fellow women?

Five women panelists at the Disruptive Technologies meetup last January 25 at Microsoft were in agreement: They face many challenges with just not VCs dominated by men but with their gender as well, although they see the latter less of a problem in the tech space.

One of the panelists said, “The obstacle is men; men should be more women than men saying women should be more like men.”

The panelists were Lori Hoberman,  lawyer and mentor to 37 Angeles; Caitlin Thompson, director of content at Acast, a Swedish company that offers end-to-end podcasting services; Aria Finger, CEO at, a cause-oriented group for young people; Leslie Ali Walker, CEO and co-founder of Need/Done, an app that helps working parents get the help they need from the people they trust and Maria Seidman, co-founder at Yapp, an app that helps create and publish mobile apps without coding or design experience required.

Before the discussion, Susan Danziger, founder/CEO of Ziggeo, showed how to broadcast events on her app, especially to the meetup at Ziggeo uses a patent-pending video capture API/SDK technology.

Each panelist shared her thoughts:

On why women are different from men

  • Women are apologetic about asking for money; there’s hesitation. Men go out there (and ask for money)
  • Women feel beholden but they should think it’s worth investing in them
  • Women do research, making sure their ducks are in a row; men just go out (and do it)

Obstacles that can slow down success

  • We create some obstacles ourselves.
  • There’s a lack of women investors
  • Some don’t believe in themselves. If you waste time because of obstacles, you become a terrible person
  • The obstacle is men; men should be more women than men saying women should be more like men
  • I was told (by a man) I was too ambitious. It is important to see obstacle on the road, whether you want to go around the system or find another road.
  • Learn about obstacles and what may not be overcome

How do you feel about being a woman in tech?

  • You have to learn how not to scratch and claw your way to the top; I promised myself I’ll never do it that way.
  • It should be gender-blind
  • Women should mentor other women not being taught by men
  • Still have a long way (for us) but millennial (women are changing things)
  • Once you’re on top, you can lead by example
  • Women are being ignored in my space so I am doing this
  • Make sense of it all by advocating (for women) and listening to different stories

Why are women not helping other women?

  • Tech industry is more open; women helping other women is happening in tech industry, not in other industries
  • If women my age are not helping me, I’m going younger (who help older women)

What’s the best way to raise perception of women in tech space?

  • If we can have more research about women performing well, then it will raise value of women
  • If the women succeed, they can become investors (for women)

On seeking funds

  • Picking your investor team is a highly personal decision; (you don’t want a) nasty divorce
  • Make sure to have (the right) people and associate on your side and have someone before he or she leaves the VC firm

On approaching women VCs for funds

  • I think it’s limiting. The opportunities (whether men or women VCs) are endless


‘AI is stuck because it fell in love with stats and big data’

NEW YORK–”Why is AI (artificial intelligence) stuck?” asked Gary Marcus of Geometric Intelligence.”Because it has fallen in love with statistics and big data.” He was showing how, in so many ways, AI is not where we thought it would be by now. For example, one would expect translation online by now to be more precise but not, really. Quoting Peter Thiel, he also said: “We wanted flying cars instead we got 140 characters,” in reference to Twitter, of course.

Marcus was at the Data-Driven meetup last January 19 at Bloomberg. Marcus, a scientist, bestselling author and entrepreneur, had the crowd of data scientists, developers and business intelligence analysts chuckling along with his funny yet whip-smart and practical insights. He is also  professor of psychology and neural science at NYU.

The other presenters were Amir Orad, CEO of Sisense, which handles business intelligence for complex data; Shivon Zilis, investor at Bloomberg Beta, an early-stage VC firm; and Dan Scholnick, general partner at Trinity Ventures, a VC firm based in Silicon Valley.

Started 8 years ago, Orad likes to say how Sisense came about because of 5 data geeks who met in university and who wanted to make business intelligence understandable, cost-efficient and accurate,” adding how “the more complex your data the more you spend.”

Sisense is bringing disruptive simplicity for big data or multi-source data. He run a list of things the company is looking into: DBA to build database’ defining what data will be queried; joining tables upfront; normalizing and creating a star schema.

What lessons have they learned at Sisense? “Dream big. Refine benefits. Don’t automate, obliterate Disrupt, don’t improve. Be totally different, that’s the only way to offer value,” he said.

“Speed is not the end game but beginning of something else,” he added.

Shivon Zilis of Bloomberg Beta gave us updates on the companies that the venture capital fund is investing on–hundreds of them that she certainly had no time to explain but show, slide after slide, the logos of many recognizable names. She termed it an “explosion of activity” with “startups focusing on niches that provide immediate value”  

In all these investments, Zilis listed the following what-if scenarios that we certainly hoped can be solved: what if I had the same support as a Fortune 400 CEO?; what if I never had to feel lonely again; what if I never had to go to a primary care physician; what if I could measure the effectiveness of every word I said? what if I never had to drive again?


Some realistic expectation includes how in five years, it will be crazy for a farmer to overwater their fields or how in five years it will be crazy to ever hit “publish “without using a domain specific text optimizer, one that makes you smarter even when you’re not using it.

It was also good to hear Scholnick of Trinity Ventures say that his VC firm doesn’t outsource work to junior staff, which have become important for startups looking to reach the decision makers right away.  

As for hiring, he advised startups to make sure they’re hiring people with the right experience

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, 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 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,, 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 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 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 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 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 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, 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.

Take a creative bootcamp; get over full stack anxiety in programming


By Dennis Clemente

NEW YORK–With all the coding bootcamps out there, should there be a creative bootcamp as well? As for programming, isn’t it causing you “full stack” anxiety, with one language and framework after another coming out like there’s no end to it? 

Last January 13, Design Driven took a different direction with its monthly meetup by having the speakers dig deeper into their design mindsets and processes. It helped to see Aaron Weyenberg, a UX and product designer at TED as one of the presenters as well. Others were Soraya Darabi of Zady and Foodspotting; Joey Califa, product design lead at Digital Ocean and Gary Chou, founder of Orbital who clearly gave a most illuminating presentation about creativity.

Chou’s Orbital, a home for developing and learning new ideas, talked about how constraints spur creativity, citing one project for students to raise $1,000 on a product they were working on, leveraging Kickstarter and using a metric to gauge their success.

Orbital offers an intensive 12-week course focused on helping you launch your project with the emphasis on putting your idea out of your head and into the world. Instructors and advisors provide feedback as you undergo exercises to increase your fluency in information and social networks. He could actually call it a “creativity bootcamp” and just attribute us for it.

Darabi who we last saw at a meetup presentation at Pivotal Labs talked about how a good design is about choices that get the appropriate reaction.

If you ask Weinberg how TED stands out in a saturated marketplace, he thinks slow news is important, even more than trends, explaining how “how we craft experience that keeps people interested.” It shows in the work TED does when most media prefer the race to coverage.

Califa addressed what could perhaps be in most people’s minds these days in terms of what they need to learn, calling it  “full stack anxiety.” Both a designer and coder, he asks what can you really do if you’re asked to do everything else?  

With so many tools and software and skills required now than ever before, he said it exacts a toll on our brains, leaving us no room to focus and become specialists. It was a humorous, Sisyphean pliant, clearly justified. His solution: Produce a list, narrow down choices and stick by the shorter list of skill sets you need.

However, almost sounding like Woody Allen, he prepares his audience to what an employer might demand these days: “I want someone with a specific skill who can do everything else.”


‘No two people have same understanding of info architecture’-Covert

NEW YORK–“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.

That is the challenge in a world faced with increasing amount of complexities. “No two people have the same understanding of information architecture. That’s how challenging mess is,” she said. The obvious hurdle is also about how Information is not something you can put up or down.


Information architecture, she said, is how we arrange parts to be understandable as a whole. She suggests looking closely at language:

  • How many words are you using in your organization.
  • How many duplicative nouns does your team deal with?
  • How many duplicative verbs are related to those nouns?

For the first bullet point, think about how you want to use, say, edit or modify–and figure out if they are the same thing. Controlled vocabularies (Covert’s term) or what publications call style guides can help a company speak with a voice that is theirs to learn.


Going by nouns or verbs, she cites how “one label per noun or verb is not always the best way to go. Simplifying is not the goal. The goal is to know what you mean when you say what you say.”

Covert said she actually gets hugs when she helps companies control their vocabularies. The trick is to write down the words you don’t use and not to use words used by competitors.

To start a controlled vocabulary, she suggests going through this exercises:.

  • Identify & define nouns first
  • Identify nested nouns
  • Eliminate duplicative nouns
  • Attach verbs to nouns
  • Beware of adjectives

But nothing is going to happen if organizations wait for someone to do this. Covert suggest you “be the one to slay the semantic dragon in your organization.”.


It’s also crucial to know “there is no right way” if you talk to anyone that deals with information architecture.


For someone who likes to organize stuff, Covert said she argued with her partner once about how to organize their vinyl records. She initially argued why it should be by last name but later found out how most music-streaming sites actually use the first names of artists.

“Taxonomy is rhetoric,” she said. “That means what matters is reaching your goals.”

What tools can you use to organize your thoughts? “Card sorting is a good step. This means using Post-Its, for instance. Pictures also give people something in common to point to. Visualize something that is hard to explain. “I use Omnigraffle for word association,” she said.

Other thoughts she tackles, which comes in her book, “How to Make Sense of Any Mess”: “Be careful of reductionism. Acknowledge complexity. With agreement comes momentum.”

Maurya gives us peek of principles behind upcoming book, Scaling Lean

NEW YORK–“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.”

“We build needless time building the wrong product,” he stressed. “We need a systematic way for identifying risks– one that doesn’t require guessing.”

Maurya briefly discussed what we can look forward to in his book, Scaling Lean, which he categorized in the following ways: defining progress, seeing waste and achieving breakthrough.

Progress here means traction and how it “matters above everything else, although he also cautioned against gaming it. For him, one has to create and capture value first then you charge and deliver value, knowing “monetizable value is not current revenue but future of revenue.”.

For Maurya, business models cover three things–direct models (one supplier and several customers); multi-sided models (adding value to users first followed by monetization) and the marketplace model, certainly the buzzword this year for the way it has taken AirBnb and Uber to a mainstream audience.

Citing a company that has provided valuable direct-model service and traction, Maurya said Starbucks’ rebranding efforts based on consumer insights made them acknowledge what brings customers to coffeehouses. It certainly works as the third place for home and office. .“They realized the more people spend time (there) the more they are likely to buy,” he said.

Calculating customer lifetime value between $14,000 and $20,000, he points out how the time people spend at the coffeehouse is connected with its revenue and how happy customers drive referral.

Going back to the meta principles of Running Lean, he points out how to document Plan A, identify the riskiest parts of your plan and systematically test plans,

As a proponent of his own business model canvas, does he have anything against a business plan? “I’m not against business plan but its format. But it’s a document that investors want you to write but don’t read.”

Maurya also touched on how to see waste correlates to how we see the customer factory floor. Talking about how every business has a weak link, he reminds us how to avoid premature optimization. It’s important to focus on a single metric.

For more on Ash Maurya and his lean principles, visit


Artists, lawyers lament ‘copywrong’ people and search as enabler of piracy

NEW YORK–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.

Setting the tone early, singer-songwriter-record producer Blake Morgan was livid throughout the hour-long talk, as he riled at the way piracy is downplayed and what it really means— robbing people off their livelihood. “Without copyright, I have no rights,” he said. “There is a fundamental lack of respect for my profession by these ‘copywrong’ people.”

Morgan was lamenting how his work is perceived to have no value and how it affects many musicians like him who are middle class, and even those who are big entertainment names like Metallica which was “brought to its knees” by people clamoring for —and downloading — free music. But there are artists fighting back like Taylor Swift who are not allowing their music streamed online. This week, Adele did the same.   

Morgan was with panelists Sandra Aistars, senior scholar and director for Protection of IP at George Mason University; Michael Friclas, EVP and general counsel at Viacom; and Stephen Mayes, photographer. Rick Kurnit served as moderator.

“We are dealing with a cultural issue,” Mayes said, as he stressed how people neglect to see the product: the person or what he calls “who you are.”  

Friclas said courts are wrestling with the copyright issues but he offered a glimmer of hope. He cited how European courts are blocking pirate sites. The movie-streaming site Popcorn Time is now off the air, he said.

He added how Paramount Pictures is also making efforts to narrow the gap of theater screening and online pay-per-view screening to limit unscrupulous online streaming.

There’s a lot of work to be done. “(There are) 20 hearings in Washington (on copyright issues),” Aistars said, adding how misuse of fair use is also a concern. A big company got its way to make books available online through some deal with publishing houses–but it left the authors without any compensation at all.   

Morgan can’t believe there is a discussion whether piracy is good or bad, but his story of a how a 22-year-old gets his music free online somehow and his father is a musician is the perfect example of how tough the battle is for any artist to protect their work.

So what other methods can be done to curb piracy? Fricklas said, “Search (engine) is the problem. It’s the enabler of piracy.”