Category Archives: Product

Sensors, wearables and devices: Progress, fashion or better sex?

New strap-n for better sex
New strap-on for better sex

By Dennis Clemente

If last August 27’s meetup at Wework is any gauge, Ignite NYC may just be the counterculture to NY’s predominant pitch-and-get-funded startup scene, the way it tackled how people relate to sensors, wearables and devices from various anthropological, existential, medical and even recreational standpoints.

The speakers presented their ideas and thoughts on the subject with an academic formality with just enough eccentricity to appear like the East Coast of TED Talks—only shorter, unfortunately. A welcome change in the tech space indeed!

Jacqueline Kurdziel, the first presenter, cited a study about how “people are more open to (talking to) a virtual shrink.” It made us think how the premise of “Her,” a movie about a man’s romantic relationship with his operating system, can happen to us sooner than we think. People’s tastes and habits, she said, evolve with their web-based interaction.

Virtual empathy, it seems, can carry us through our loneliness, but only up to a point. The next presenter makes a strong point about how we will still crave for physical contact with another human being. Said Lux Alptraum said, “We do not want to have sex with robots. We want to make our sex better.” She also brought up a tantalizing question, “What metrics are we using to measure sex?”

Alptraum showed the sex strap-ons, emphasizing the importance of its progeny—bionics, which essentially makes sex devices more affordable.

If all these sound too self-serving, former journalist Amy Vernon asked if all the technology we want is for the greater good or for ourselves — and where we need to draw the line with privacy.

Vernon thinks we’re at that point where we can’t have both privacy and progress. “We can’t complain about giving up our privacy at the same time that we love the technology that comes about as a result of the information we’re sharing ourselves. Still, how safe is our quantified selves?”

Adds Mari Kussman when it was her turn to speak, “Were quantifying like we know where we’re going and we’ve never made a mistake before.”

Kussman observes how IoT promises better living through ubiquitous connectivity. But she asked, “What metrics are we using to measure success (read: this better living)?”

Beyond the question of metrics, Krysytal D’Costa’s talk centered on how technology in general is making us better liars the more we lose our privacy.

D’Costa thinks even fitness wearables are teaching us to be better liars. “We are using social pressure to stay fit,” she said, “but are they really changing our behavior or simply teaching us to game the system?” If that means lying how much we’ve lost calories.

“Wearables help us with deception. We lie online, because it’s just easier to get away with it. It could be as simple as having a photo on your social networks taken years ago.” Online, we can certainly have a better version of ourselves.

Graeme Ossey thinks wearables are helpful as digital health devices. “Not only does it tap into the mainstream quantified-self movement but allows greater points of engagement for providers and patients.”

He looks forward to technology that prevents injuries, provides early diagnosis, reduces cost and time, and increases providers’ information.

All these talk about the rapid of technology is hogwash for Chris Allick. “2013 and 2014 were supposed to be “The Year of the IoT” connected devices and big data! A revolution was supposed to take place in which we would sit back and watched data, wearables, and sensors talk to each other, and magically our lives would be better.”

Well that has not happened. “I’ve researched most, if not all, of the development platforms for people to create products for the IoT and I’ve found some interesting things about people’s ability to understand scale and value.”

“Today, we don’t have an internet of things we have an internet of products,” he added.

If IoT is not in the horizon, this could prove to be disappointing for Nick Doiron. He hopes to see new wearables and handheld technologies bring fictional plot devices to life.

Having studied product design, Bernard Mehl would be content though to see this happen in the workplace.

He longs for Star Trek technology at the workplace. “What do I have in my pocket now? Boring stuff,” he said. He’d like to know when a room is occupied and how to switch off lights when not in use.”

Ignite NYC was hosted by co-directors Oscar Torres and Martha Denton.

What size is the rumored iPhone 6? Get instant iPhone case with 3-D prints

By Dennis Clemente

Have you tried 3-D printing before? Makerbot is everywhere these days, in retail stores around the country, where you can see how they work and how it hopes it will speed up mainstream adoption. With the rumors of a new iPhone 6 swirling around (Apple released media invites for a September 9 event), Fraemes as its second printing enabled app could help produce those cases.

Last August 26, Brooklyn Tech Meetup hosted an event featuring Makerbot with Maureen Coiro and Ben McCallum talking about 3D printing and 3D scanning, respectively. Coiro showed a video of its type of users – engineers, designers, educators and students.

What is 3D printing and how did it come to be? For the uninitiated, it was used for prototyping. It’s still used in the regard but now it’s also used for function, fit, user testing design, validation, packaging and of course, for fun.

How does it work? At Makerbot, Coiro said, it’s as simple as setting up the replicator, sending file to printer, and start printing.

In terms of 3D scanning, McCallum explained its value proposition as follows:

• Reduction of the customer timeline: 8-man weeks to integrate customer timeline
• Cost savings of staffing years: No need to build an enterprise platform
• Platform as a service, minimal permanent staff
• Risk is reduced: To deploy a voice control
• Premium price now: Staying competitive long term

Radiolab used the Digitizer to help “tell the story of one little thing that has radically changed what we know about humanity’s humble beginnings and the kinds of creatures that were out to get us way back when.”

In the not so distance future, consider facial analysis, identification, security and contextual interfaces, even gaze tracking and emotion recognition.

Earnest talk on product costs, no-holds-barred dissection of Vintage 141

By Dennis Clemente

Jeremy Horn’s Product Group meetup is a hybrid of the focus group and brainstorming session. A topic is explored followed by the dissection of a startup, which clearly benefits the startup founder, as he or she listens to different points of view from the audience. Steve Blank would be proud.

As is always the case, the most attended meetups in New York can draw in a sizable crowd, even if it’s a stormy night and Independence Day is the next day. The lure of the meetup is its earnestness. In most cases, the attendees share their expertise, knowledge and insights.

Last July 3, it tackled “product costs,” with the attendees speaking about how it relates to infrastructure that incurs technical debt; that’s when you do it the wrong way, because it’s the fastest way to do it.

Then there’s product costs that ties in with development, when the quality of code is not up to par or worse yet, not scalable. There’s also the usual tug-of-war that happens between engineering and product. Engineering wants to scale, while Product wants as many features.

A proof of concept helps to rein in costs, but it’s not exactly fool-proof. Most people naturally agreed it’s different when you have infinite sources like Google.

At the Product Group, the discussion is also freewheeling, so if you’re reporting the meetup as is, it’s not wrapped up in a specific theme, like an organized event. One person talked about acquisition costs, but the topic swerved to marketing strategy and plain old tactics as part of product costs. where it is free to market your startup, how to find bloggers and partners that can champion you, and how social media visibility is essential. Marketing is a topic that clearly needs a separate session.

The featured startup of the night, vintage 141, is an app that socializes small groups of trusted friends or co-workers. “Vintage groups are akin to digital cocktail parties (both social and professional) and allow for information to be safely passed on from one group to another (and back) without broadcasting the information to an entire network or spamming everyone with emails and text messages. Our goal is to take the ‘work’ out of networking,” said founder Andy Kennedy who comes from the finance world.

Other than the description of the app, Kennedy was right in assuming a neutral stance on his app, the better for the attendees to speak freely about it. By distancing himself, he explains how friends can help each other share knowledge quickly—noise-free and in a more enjoyable manner. “(The app) is information passed on like a baton.”

The broadness of information gathering is, of course, a challenge. How do you begin? Kennedy is thinking information becomes a trusted source when it moves to relationships.

Kennedy said the app will be renamed grapevine.im and will be launched three months later, which will benefit him as he takes in all the inputs and use it to pivot before his product launch.

Some insights from the audience:

  • Understand that people need an ego stroke, so have some vanity metric in there
  • Pick a small segment and market it
  • Think of the noise-to-signal ratio
  • Think life milestones
  • Think authenticity
  • Think gamification
  • It could be an enterprise solution
  • “What I’m learning now is how it’s important to position this (app),” he said whose comments on various social networks were also interesting. He’s clearly not a fan of Quora and Twitter, but thinks “you don’t do anything there (on Linkedin)” and Google + is a list-based structure.”

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

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

    By Dennis Clemente

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Based on his experience, here are his fundraising tips:

    • Transparency is good but not o too much

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

    • They’re going through the same thing you are

    • Persistence is vital in any relationship worth having

    • In the end it’s worth it

    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.

    Vibease shakes up NY Tech Meetup crowd

    By Dennis Clemente

    “Software. Hardware. Sexware.” That’s how one attendee described the NY Tech Meetup last February 4 at the Skirball Theater.

    The last 3 presenters of the night had the 400 attendees chuckling the whole time. Cindy Gallop of makelovenotporn.com started on a serious note, explaining how any online sex idea is ignored by “Silicon Valley, Silicon Alley and Silicon everywhere,” but she hopes not for long. She advocates for real sex online, not porn, inviting everyone to create their own videos and to share them with the world on makelovenotporn.tv. The TED Talks presenter is an eloquent speaker.

    “I aim to make sex socially acceptable. I am diffusing porn for real sex,” she said.

    Then there’s Bang with Friends re-launched as Down. The sex app works like a racier, unapologetic version of Tinder. It helps you find your Facebook friends’ friends who are eager for a hookup as much as you–if you happen to like (read: click) each other. You could say Down means getting down to business.

    The app can recommend the “hottest” friends of your friends’ friends. Asked how he makes the distinction, the poker-faced founder Colin Hodge said he has “a patent-pending bangability score” which drew hoots. If anyone recalls, Hodge’s controversial Bang with Friends was banned from the App Store.

    The night, however, belonged to Vibease’s founder and CEO Dema Tio. The Singaporean’s app is a merging of both hardware and software. It’s a sexware. It’s a wearable vibrator. It’s as simple as making a phone call and a physical vibrator does the rest of the work. His demonstration had the crowd in stitches.

    Rejected at first at Kickstarter, Dema Tio put his idea for crowdfunding on Indiegogo, raising $130,000 as of press time. Available on iPhone and Android, it is accepting orders for March delivery.

    The idea came to Dema Tio when he was in Boston and away from his wife in Singapore.

    The other eight presenters included Birdi, Capti, CircleStop, Confide, Lenddo, Radiator Labs, Soccket and ThinkUp

    Launched in Indiegogo, Birdi monitors air quality, everyday health hazards, pollution and emergencies like fire and carbon monoxide so you can stay connected and protected in your home.

    Capti captures text online and converts it into audio files, while Confide likes to be the Snapchat of email, which elicited a throwaway question about how it could have worked for Chris Christie.

    Jeff Stewart and David Singh talked about Lenddo, an online platform that helps the emerging middle class use their social connections to build their creditworthiness and access local financial services. For instance, getting loans based on one’s social currency works for Lenddo in the Philippines, the social networking capital of the world, as this blogger also wrote about sometime back http://opinion.inquirer.net/20225/the-good-bad-of-ph-as-world-social-networking-capital.

    Lenddo was also featured in this blog months ago at http://reimaginetech.com/lenddo-founder-offers-lending-platform-based-on-social-currency/

    Next presenter Radiator Labs solves a nagging problem—how it can help stop fluctuating heat in your room, while ThinkUp serves personal analytics for social media, explaining in simple language how to get more out of the time you spend on Twitter or Facebook.

    Dennis Clemente with Dema Tio of Vibease
    Dennis Clemente with Dema Tio of Vibease

    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.

    How to reduce constant customization and still satisfy your clients

    mpp global

    By Dennis Clemente

    Being a slave to client demands for constant customization beset MPP Global Solutions. To the rescue is the Product Group, the meetup group that utilizes the wisdom of its nearly 400 attendees at the Viacom building in Times Square.

    The meetup presents an hour of free-wheeling discussion on an issue before host Jeremy Horn introduces the featured company. Last November 7, MPP Global Solutions turned to the group to find a way to unshackle themselves from clients used to getting customized solutions.

    MPP Global Solutions works directly with publishers and media organizations to provide advanced eCommerce solutions integrated with multiple payment types such as credit and debit card, direct debit and mobile billing, as well as payment methods such as pre and post-pay micropayments, subscriptions and real time payment channels, including the web, mobile and connected-TV.

    Media and entertainment companies are able to unlock the value in both their digital and physical assets and charge for access, products, subscriptions, and downloads using services like MPP’s.

    The crowd puts their minds together to suggest some solutions.

    Since MPP’s APIs can be done in 10 different ways, the group suggested splitting the license with big companies and its mom-and-pop shops. “There are just too many choices, so much customization. You just need enough to protect your legacy system. Having a plug and play solution will help.”

    MPP claims to have level 1 PCI-compliant platforms that enable clients to deploy any number of revenue generating business models and gain a greater ROI. It’s called content monetization.

    Among its more than 100 clients, UK’s Daily Mail is reportedly getting 15,000 new subscribers a day. Publishers are able to monetize with MPP’s pay wall system.

    For more than a decade now, MPP has provided customer relationship management, payment and eCommerce solutions to the media and entertainment sectors in Europe, but it is confronted with another challenge. The United States is a tough barrier to entry.

    “Publications here are fragmented, but the market is big enough,” said Meghan Wright, VP Publishing and Media.
    At the meetup, each of the attendees is encouraged to provide his or her own insights on a given topic. Last week, it was about how to maintain good communication across continents.

    The product managers at the meetup believe in the following:
    • Don’t do email. Use Skype, so you can see people’s faces and their reactions
    • Earning badges and points encourage more cooperation
    • Have a daily scrum standup in the morning
    • Use open-source product management tools like Podio
    • Shame people into transparency

    The latter point was certainly brought to the table, literally the “large Thanksgiving table” as Horn likes to call it, not only because of how nearly a hundred people can fit in there (on top of the chairs surrounding it) but also how people are more encouraged to speak their minds in this setup.

    The attendees also provided additional market research information and resources using Google Ad, Knodes and Touchstone Research, to name a few.

    Child welfare management system featured in Product Group meetup

    Last September 5, the Product Group meetup moderated by Jeremy Horn hosted a talk featuring Patrick Colgan, product manager of Case Commons, a non-profit software development company aimed at transforming public sector human services through user-centered design and technology.

    Case Commons offers a product called Casebook, a collaborative, family-centered case management system for child welfare, which enables workers serving the most vulnerable families and children to be more effective and efficient via Web-based software tools.

    “We currently handle all child welfare management for the state of Indiana, and have plans to expand to other states in 2014,” he said at the Product Group held at the Viacom building in Times Square.

    Case Commons was founded by and continues to be supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which is the leading philanthropy dedicated solely to disadvantaged children and families in America.

    Colgan said the company has three goals: Changing lives above all, helping the helpers and measuring results.

    Case Commons, Inc. is also helping to drive a broader conversation about how to improve technology innovation in government, ensuring that government technology makes lives better for people every day.

    The organization believes America’s future depends on government adopting a forward-leaning approach to information technology. The technology gap between government and the rest of society is growing.

    Colgan echoes what Case Commons stands for about how they can help government reach Americans more directly; reduce waste; throw open the doors to make government more transparent; and transform the public sector from a follower into a technology innovation leader.

    “Analytics and research are important to us. We have set out to apply leading-edge technologies, such as predictive modeling, factor analysis and text mining, to equip caseworkers to make sense of their data and, in turn, help agency managers, researchers and policy makers understand what works and why.

    “We continuously analyze Casebook data to explore patterns and prove statistical hypotheses. We collaborate with researchers from leading universities and other policy research organizations to understand what socio-economic factors are mostly responsible for child abuse and neglect.

    “We aspire to share our findings with the broader human services community, not only in published papers and conference presentations, but also directly through Casebook features that support day-to-day decision-making. In taking these steps, we can help make policy and practice based on evidence,” he said.

    Colgan says Casebook Analytics was built not around units of work, such as cases, but rather around persons, relationships and groups, such as families and households. This person-centric design enables users to follow individuals and families over time.

    This means you may not need to repeat yourself like a broken record when you need someone to review your case.

    Lenddo founder offers lending platform based on social currency

    Jeff Stewart_ NYC Angel Investor + Lenddo + Mimeo + Urgent Ventures .... - The Hatchery - New York Dot Comers (New York, NY) - Meetup-1

    By Dennis Clemente

    Having invested in half a dozen startups in the United States, angel investor Jeff Stewart knows how to find a great opportunity wherever it takes him. This time, he found it in the Philippines and Colombia where he started a lending platform called Lenddo.com.

    Co-founded with Richard Eldridge, Lenddo is an online platform that helps people in emerging economies use their social connections to build their creditworthiness and access local financial services.

    “Lenddo is focusing only on the the Philippines and Colombia for now, but it plans to expand in other emerging economies as well,” said Stewart last August 23 at the Friday speaking series of The Hatchery.

    What makes it different from standard lending institutions? With chief scientist Dr. Naveen Agnihotri, Lenddo is banking on a person’s trustworthiness than a credit score based on his or her social graph. However, Stewart is quick to point out that it does not facilitate lending between members. “We lend our own capital and the capital of our investors and partners,” Stewart said.

    In the Philippines, the average loans are $400, and they are used for tuition, health care or repairs after a natural disaster, such as floods in the Philippines.

    Lenddo takes the wealth of data from your many social networks (including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter), looks at the people in your Lenddo Trusted Network (family, friends, co-workers), verifies you have a full-time job, and uses predictive algorithms to confirm your identity and calculate if you are a risk. The site reportedly uses these algorithms: Bayesian (pattern matching), validators (identity verification, other information provided), and homophily (bonding with others of the same persuasion).

    Being matched with the right investors is important. Lenddo’s investors include Accel Partners, Blumberg Capital, Omidyar Network, iNovia and Metamorphic Partners – some of the same investors behind the world’s top technology companies, from Facebook and Groupon to Kiva and Prosper.

    As an angel visitor, Stewart gave some tips for those looking to form their own startups: Here are some key takeways during his talk:

    • Having a great team is absolutely critical
    • Marketing talent is just as important as tech talent
    • Start a company you are passionate about
    • “Over-invest” in research
    • Know that a good business will get funded
    • Get advice from those who have succeeded

    On finding a business partner, he said it’s not always Macaroni and cheese, but realize that good investors can also connect you good co-founders.

    Also at the meetup was Justin Kreamer, senior project manager of The New York City Economic Development Corporation.

    In a one-on-one talk later, Kreamer recommended the organization’s NYC Next Idea competition for talents anywhere in the world to showcase their talent in the city.

    For more information, visit http://www.nycedc.com/program/nyc-next-idea