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

data-driven meetup-nov2015

By Dennis Clemente

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you become a digital nomad? If you care to listen to the speakers of Cafe Numerique (Beligan for digital), you’ll find out how the world is getting smaller the way people from all over the world are finding each other, doing business and sharing ideas.

Last September 17, the Brooklyn Borough Hall was the setting for the International Day, the last of the four-day international Transatlantic Entrepreneur (TEP) conference which brought together investors, entrepreneurs, media and policy makers from the US, Asia and Europe.

Scott Heiferman is perhaps the most unassuming CEO and co-founder you’ll ever meet in this city. For someone who runs one of the city’s earliest and most successful startups, meetup.com, which was formed 13 years ago, he still considers his company a startup. His company, he says, is older than most startups. It’s older than Google Maps, older than Facebook,– heck, older than Friendster and yet, he pauses to think if he’s still a startup.

Twitter’s Adam Sharp, Head of News, Government and Elections and Niketa Patel, News Partnerships Manager were the speakers at Conversations, a series of open discussion held by NY Daily News Innovation Lab, at Microsoft last September 9. It was also a way for Twitter to drum up support for its upcoming Project Lightning, a curated feed of tweets.

When every tech meetup seems to be covered at night, count NY Tech Breakfast counts on the early risers to come to its monthly event, now held at Microsoft for the second month. Last September 8, NY Tech Breakfast featured PolicyGenius, Proscape, TableSwipes and LawGo.

Last September 2, General Assembly held a talk featuring three companies offering online coding courses, One Month, Thinkful and Hopscotch at its offices in the Flatiron District.

The product challenges at the Product Council last August 31 were the digital clinic app offered by Maven Clinic and the new permissions level to be offered by JustWorks starting September 1. The meetup was held at the Pivotal Labs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hardwired’s 19th meetup last April 22 might just have assembled the most interesting mix of startups so far —a drone that collects data fast, a pet activity and health monitor, a virtual reality content creator and—are you ready?—a new way of growing meat. Not your typical tech meetup in the city, folks.

More than 400 startups pitched to 10,000 attendees at the fourth-year of the largest annual tech fair called Tech Day. The event held last April 23 showcased startups in various industries such as education and e-commerce, design and deliveries, food and fashion, music and things mobile as well as that services catering to them like co-working spaces, immigration and recruitment companies.

Last April 22, a new venue emerged from the meetups gaining popular steam in springtime New York, just as the Tribeca Film Festival was rolling its week-long fest of indie and alternative films. It had the same makeup as the tech meetup talks, except it was held at the De Niro-propelled film center and headlined Designing Innovation.

Last April 14, the Data Driven Meetup featured How Liu, founder and CEO of Airtable; Scott Crunch, co-founder and CEO of Mark43; Bob Muglia, CEO of Snowflake and Emil Eifrem, founder and CEO of Neo Technologies at the Bloomberg offices.

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

Dash, City Maps and even a 105-year-old startup named IBM stood out from the demonstrations hosted by NY Tech Meetup last April 7 at the NYU Skirball Theater. But Dash was clearly the night’s favorite the way it connects cars to smartphones and unlocks enhanced performance, cost savings and social driving.

Sometimes the title of a meetup ends up being more. You simply need a host who knows how to push the right buttons and no demos. Last April 1, the Disruptive Technologists group planned a forum called “Balancing a Cool Idea with Profitability” with host/moderator Bruce Bachenheimer, a Pace University professor. It turned out to be about a lot more, including a call for immigration reform to fill up the critical need for developers and other talented people in the United States.

How would you like your bike to guide your way with navigation lights? Hammerhead wants to lead the way with this idea. How would you like virtual reality as a productivity tool? IrisVR aspires to make that a seamless experience. These were just two of the presenters at Hardwired NYC’s meetup last March 24 at Quirky at 28th West and 11th Avenue. The others were Brilliant Bike, American Prison Data Systems and Wink.

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

Silicon Alley is extending all the way to Queens as the Digital NYC Five-Borough tour made its stop at the LA Guardia Community College last March 26. An initative of Mayor Bill de Blasio, digital.nyc is the city’s online hubs for all things tech and startups. Eric Gertler of NYCEDC (New York City Economic Development Council) said it is making sure all of its programs extend to everyone in New York as part of an initiative to reduce income inequality.

Nir Eyal talks about his latest book, ‘Hooked: How to build habit-forming products

Nir Eyal
Nir Eyal

By Dennis Clemente

How do you like some structured thinking to go with your startup brainstorming?

The New York tech meetups happening in the city every night are wholly unstructured. It’s just a channel for startups to quickly demo their product and, even in some cases, get feedback from startups, right on the spot. Some presentations may do better in the on-the-fly, off-the-cuff talks, but there’s always no guarantee. What’s guaranteed is how you get the chance to watch a startup founder talk about a work in progress.

Last November 4, structure came to the Alley NYC Meetup when Nir Eyal launched his book there that day called “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products.” Eyal certainly gets my nod for being one of the most lucid presenters in the NY tech meetups this year and it’s perhaps on account of how he has formulated a clear basic framework on the subject for a couple of years now, which was evident in his presentation.

It also helps that he has taught at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and Hasso Plattner Institute of Design. His writing on technology, psychology and business appears in the Harvard Business Review, The Atlantic, TechCrunch, and Psychology Today. Nir blogs at NirAndFar.com.

The book is a must-read if you are designing a new startup or leading a product development team, as it talks about behavioral uses of technology, apps and social media while also leaving room for us to tackle the hard ethical questions on forming habits. His basic framework is as follows:
1. Trigger
2. Action
3. Variable reward
4. Investment

Triggers: (Internal and External).
Do you know your user or customer’s internal trigger? Find out your user’s itch. People always look for associations, solutions and patterns. It cues the user for the next action, telling what the user what to do next. Look for associations. Ask yourself, when you are bored, what do you do? You go to YouTube? Do you know your trigger? Do they fear missing out on something?

Action.
It is the simplest behavior in anticipation of a reward. Once you have them using your app, what can they do to get a reward of some sort? He cited Facebook’s “Like.” That is a powerful reward that makes people keep coming back to the social network.

Variable reward.
This is social validation among friends or personal gratification. For example, there are 5,000 questions answered daily on Stackoverflow, which indicate how people like to share their knowledge without asking for anything in return, contented as they are that it makes them feel good helping people. People also like feeling a sense of self-achievement or mastery, consistency and control.

Investment.
Users invest for future benefits. Investments store value, improving the product with value. Unlike a chair which depreciates in value, your startup should appreciate in value. The more followers you have for example, the better your value.

Also check out his blog, nirandfar.com

Who wants to challenge the YouTube business model?

By Dennis Clemente

How would you challenge the YouTube business model? Nine years since the video platform launched, no viable competitor has emerged, even if major media companies are reportedly working on plans to disrupt it. Can one really take on Google in the first place? If so, what could a new platform mean for content creators?

Last July 30, VideoInk, in partnership with BigSceen LittleScreen and Magnet Media, hosted a fireside chat with guest speakers Shira Lazar, co-founder and host of What’s Trending and Erika Nardini, chief marketing officer of AOL Advertising, to talk about YouTube and how to diversify the video ecosystem. Sahil Patel served as moderator.

“If you want to develop and nurture an audience, YouTube is the platform to do it,”
Nardini said. However, she also points out that it’s not a curated environment. If you look at iJustine (who has her own show on AOL), YouTube offers the same box that YouTube offers Conde Nast, my kids, and anyone here.”

AOL is known for pursuing personalities like iJustine, an internet celebrity and occasional TV host, as well as Nicole Richie, TV personality and fashion designer. “We love looking to YouTube to find talent for our programming. We love [iJustine’s] YouTube following. We discovered her there and we want her to grow it.

“But we believe there is an opportunity to program and distribute premium environments, and one thing YouTube doesn’t do is distribute. What we believe is having a really significant syndication platform that curates content,” Nardini said.

How does anyone grow a business on YouTube these days? For the panel, the glass half-full scenario is that YouTube allows zero barrier of entry; but the glass half-empty scenario points to the platform earning money, nor the person.

Asked if YouTube didn’t exist where can content be distributed more effectively? Lazar took on this question: “(Choose) either Netflix or Hulu. Amazon is harder, as they don’t curate as much as Netflix or Hulu.”

Two short videos were screened at the event. Set to start on August 11 on YouTube is “Master Date,” a comedic series about dating in New York City featuring Kate Oliva and Bryan Pauquette of Covert Bacon.

The other video was by Ryan Holloway of Forge Apollo. Showing on YouTube channel since May is his short-form series, “American History X-Men.” It’s about what happens in the future when Hollywood runs out of movie ideas.

The meetup was organized by Tiffany Asher.

Is a media startup a good investment?

Adrienne Skinner of e-marketer and Rafat Ali of Skift
Adrienne Skinner of e-marketer and Rafat Ali of Skift

By Dennis Clemente

Media startups — a good investment or not? It really depends on who you’re talking to. This was the topic at the TiE meetup last June 24 on Park Avenue South.

If you’re pitching to a VC, convincing them to invest in your media startup is not easy. That’s what Rafat Ali, founder and CEO of Skift, the leading global travel intelligence publication, will tell you.

If we’re talking numbers, it’s a lucrative industry, because digital ad spending has reached $51 billion. That’s the number Adrienne Skinner of e-marketer showed us.

So if VCs are out of the question, you’ll need to raise funds in your immediate vicinity: family and friends and after that, angel investors, even accelerators or incubators. You could also bootstrap it yourself, hope to raise traction and once you accomplish that, try with a VC again. It can happen.

BuzzFeed and Vice have raised $330 million deals. More recently, Upworthy got $7 million in funding. They’re exceptions, Ali will tell you. Having been a longtime journalist, his insights have always been spot-on.

“The growth curve of media is not as high,” he said, pointing to how media requires brand-building efforts in some of his previous interviews.

Media as an asset class is not a focus for venture capitalists. “Venture capital is geared toward giant opportunities,” he added.

It doesn’t mean that media is not a good investment, of course. Some venture capitalists just have different priorities and others like Lerer Ventures, is perfectly fine as an investor of BuzzFeed.

Travel turned out to be a lucrative choice for Ali, a tech journalist before he ventured into his first startup, PaidContent in 2002, which he sold to The Guardian in 2008.

“Travel is the largest B-to-C e-commerce category at $145 billion (US digital travel sales) and $416 billion (worldwide),” said Skinner of e-marketer, the authority on digital marketing, internet market research, statistics, and objective analysis.

Two inflection points that media can look into are mobile ad spending and digital ad spending. In 2016, ad spending is estimated to increase by 83 percent, overtaking the desktop, which shrunk 2.4 percent in 2014. In 2018, digital ad spending will overtake TV

Mobile’s share of the pie is only doing one thing: Getting bigger at 613 percent. That’s growth in daily time spent with mobile from 2010 to 2014.

Still, digital pubs and ad agencies should take into account that that ad spending is also highly concentrated among a handful of companies. Google, Facebook, Microsoft Yahoo, AOL, IAC, Amazon, Twitter and Linkedin share 66 percent of it, which has reduced traditional ad agencies’ share of the pie.

Social accounts for more than 13 percent of digital ad spending. It’s at $7 billion to $51 billion for digital ad spending. Ali cautions people looking into social opportunities. “Social is really easy to get into, but like badminton, hard to master,” Ali said.

Beyond the number-crunching, Skinner said every marketer needs to know 3 fundamental things: 1) How consumer spend money; 2) how consumers spend time and 3) and how best to reach consumers

For the latter, Ali stressed email newsletters more than once. “It’s the no. 1 source for us for getting users.”

The meetup was hosted by “TiE Bootstrap,” a focused series of panel discussions and workshops for entrepreneurs considering a new venture or in the growth stage.

Sponsored Content videos offer more monetizing opportunities for publishers

At the NY Video Meetup at AOL
At the NY Video Meetup at AOL

By Dennis Clemente

If you’re a publisher, you know how Sponsored Content can help you monetize your site. For the uninitiated, Sponsored Content can be advertorials or story links that usually sits below your favorite news sites, although some are also known to pop up when you least expect it.

Last June 19 at the NY Video Meetup at AOL, Sharethrough and Taboola presented just how videos on Sponsored Content are gaining headway. They were two of four presenters, just the right number; it’s what every meetup should strive for.

Dave Ford of Sharethrough showed how Vine is popular on its in-feed ad exchange, for example. Sharethrough natively integrates all types of brand content (video, images, sponsored content and yes, vines) into the news feeds and content wells of relevant tier one publisher’s mobile and desktop sites.

In his demo, he showed how the integration of in-feed ad exchange to a publisher’s content is supposed to “respect the user experience” because if an item is promotional, it simply says that on the feed.

Why is Vine popular? Is the 6-second video loop the secret to Vine’s success? That was a question posed by host Steve Rosenbaum to the audience. Many in the industry say it’s fast and easy to upload videos. It has also gained huge following on Twitter. What this tells us is how sponsored content continues to improve to the advantage of publishers.

Ford assured us that “feeds are the most effective way for brands to distribute content.”

Taboola’s Andrew Milk noted 30 percent more activity for its videos. The content discovery platform reportedly serves 130 billion recommendations to over 350 unique visitors every month on publishing sites like USA Today, The Huffington Post, Time and The Weather Channel.

Publishers, marketers, and agencies leverage Taboola to retain users on their sites, monetize their traffic, and distribute their content to drive high-quality audiences.

“Our videos have given us an advantage,” he said, adding how publishers can screen ads that fit their identity. He also pointed out how related story links is working for them.

Another presenter relevant for publishers is Appfigures. Its suite of app-data tools are built to deliver insights to developers, publishers and enterprise. What does it do? It’s basically a reporting platform for mobile developers that automatically downloads and visualizes sales data, App Store reviews, hourly ranks and more.

Co-founder and CEO Ariel Michaeli designed around bringing clarity to complex data. If you’re into collaborative video production, Ryan Fitzgerald offers Celtx, which he described as Google Docs for video production teams. Supplemented by mobile and desktop apps, it provides a start-to-end ecosystem for video pre-production.

With Celtx, you can create scripts, storyboards, shot lists, scene breakdowns, budget schedules and more. “We provide an all-in-one solution,” Fitzgerald said.

For people who can’t wait for email and need to be able to move all the time, you can share documents with your entire team (maximum of 50) and work together on productions in real time.

Editorial is connected to programming nowadays

By Dennis Clemente

AppNexus meetup on business development and digital marketing
AppNexus meetup on business developmemt and digital marketing

“Everything we do in editorial is connected to programming.”

That’s Patrick Yee of Refinery 29 confirming how editorial roles have evolved through the years as online publishing keeps changing face, too. “Editorial now has equal partnership with product and technology.”

Editors have taken on many roles beyond editing and closing pages indeed.
Yee said editors today get SEO training, find out what are the implications of posting on Twitter, oversees how a photo on Facebook will look like and makes sure to know what articles are trending online.

Yee was at the AppNexus offices on 23rd St near Flatiron last April 29 talking about business development and digital marketing with the other speakers: Rich Kennedy of Business Insider and Kia Hsing of IAC. Gawker’s Erin Pettigrew moderated the talk with Alex Guttler, partnerships manager at AppNexus, serving as host.

How is programming connected with editorial? Just take a look at the immense popularity of BuzzFeed. “They (quizzes) get 5 to 10 million uniques a day,” Yee claimed.

With talk of digital marketing, Google was bound to come up. “The biggest traffic in media was Google but not anymore,” Yee said, pointing out how lots of disruption will continue to go on and you just have to embrace agility.

Yee said the size of the market of media is going to grow ten-fold. “We may even see media companies with valuation of $300 million to $10 billion.”

But going back to editorial has journalistic integrity been compromised by the race to get more page views? A tough one to answer because ignoring page views can also spell doom for online publishers and content creators.

Now it’s always about the packaging vis-a-vis the salacious headline.

But that’s not the only editorial challenge these days. “(It’s about) the person who spent 10 minutes who will be more interesting (for the publisher) than someone who spent only a few minutes,” Yee said.

It’s all about the time you spend on a site these days. It makes perfect sense, because we have become so easily distracted. Let me say this: Our attention span will be the most elusive commodity. You can quote me on that.

Bloomberg meetup tackles Big Data for context, advertising, service

Data-Driven presentation at Bloomberg LP
Data-Driven presentation at Bloomberg LP

By Dennis Clemente

How important was the Data Driven NYC #26 meetup last April 15? For people who confused “join” the meetup online as the way to RSVP for the event, it meant waiting half an hour to get in at the security-tight Bloomberg offices.

The wait was worth it. The top startups at the meetup showed how the world of big data analytics is gaining so much attention and million-dollar funding these days.

The presenters were Jason Tan, founder and CEO of Sift Science (fights fraud on websites with machine learning); Stephen Purpura, founder and CEO of Context Relevant (big data analytics); Ashish Thusoo, founder and CEO at Qubole (next-generation big data platform) and Josh Schwartz, lead data scientist at Chartbeat.

The spotlight presentation by Charlie Jacobson, co-founder and CEO of Firestop (end-to-end, cloud-based system for fire data, from inspection to fire ground) was the emotional favorite.

Tan demonstrated Sift Science and how its machine-learning algorithms can sift or sniff fraud online, like in a credit card purchase, for example. A human being flags this down later for review.

“With machine learning you can teach computers to build the rules themselves using statistics as data,” Tan says.

Sift is aiming at small-to-mid e-commerce businesses without the resources or budget to have sophisticated technology.

Another presenter catering to resource-challenged businesses is Context Relevant.

From Seattle, Purpura presented Context Relevant, a company that offers predictive data analysis using real-time data from HDFS, SQL, web logs, CRM systems, market data and social media to output analyses and projections.

The application also uses “behavioral libraries” which analyze interactions specifically for finance, web personalization and online travel.

Chartbeat’s Josh Schwarz’s presentation was more about getting people to talk about his question, paraphrasing here, “What if an internet ad was priced based on its display duration?”

A new study by Chartbeat on the success of internet ads found that about half of “viewable impressions” are only seen for 1 to 5 seconds. Online, it turns out, people look at an ad for up to five seconds.

Ad agencies, especially its creative and media planning departments, should set goals for different advertisers, because it turns out that an ad with a more complex storyline could still run for 6 to 15 seconds and still create an impact.

One might think making it on Google and Facebook is a life-long career, but some people prefer putting their own dents in the universe.

Tan came from Google and next presenter, Ashish Thusoo ran Facebook’s data infrastructure team before he co-founded Qubole.

Qubole offers big data-as-a-service with a “true auto-scaling Hadoop cluster.” It’s auto-scale feature automatically spins up users’ clusters when a job is started and automatically scales or contracts based on workload, cutting back on costs and management requirements.

An intuitive UI expands the reach of this service beyond data analysts to entire lines of businesses. Qubole handles the initial setup and then maintains the clusters. Its customers include Pinterest, MediaMath, Nextdoor and Saavn.

The audience responded warmly to a new iPad app developed for firefighters who need critical information quickly and intuitively as they respond to emergencies.

Charlie Jacobson, founder, showed how the app provides data like building layouts, fire hydrant locations and hazardous materials warnings to give firefighters the critical information they need during an emergency.

The meetup was hosted and organized by Matt Turck, VC at FirstMark Capital.

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.

Beyond disruption, creating business opportunities in book publishing

By Dennis Clemente

What are the new, business opportunities in book publishing in the digital age? When you feel at a loss with every new technology vying for your attention, it’s normal to think we’re living in the middle of a (digital) revolution, we just don’t know where we are going. Last June 27, the panel of guests at the Fordham GBA’s Media and Entertainment Alliance provided a roadmap.

Mallory Kass of Scholastic Press, Nina Lassam of Open Road Media, and Rachel Fershleiser of Tumblr shared us their experiences and insights in the fourth panel discussion of the continuing Digital Media Disruption lecture series at Fordham University, Lincoln Center.

Scholastic Press, publisher of the Harry Potter books, has gone multiplatform. Kass showed us how the New York Times best-seller for kids, “39 Clues,” its first multiplatform series, has changed children’s book publishing as we know it.

What is multiplatform? “You can engage with the book any you want to. You can read the book and play the game (in the book), solve puzzles, interact with other fans online on our message boards. It can be as rich an experience as a kid would want it to be,” said Kass.

It appears Scholastic Press is making the best use of technology to connect with young readers all over the world. It’s now published in 27 countries, has 16 million print editions, 2 million registered users on line, 1,200 new registered users every day, and 1,000 posts on its board every day.

The global appeal of the book is understandable. It unlocks a key to “historic power” or knowledge about the world, giving you clues along the way, as it gives you a sense of being in other parts of the world. In the most recent series of “39 Clues,” Scholastic has tapped the famous crime novelist David Baldacci introducing him to children’s book writing in the process. Available in print and e-book, “39 Clues” comes with six game cards with unique digital codes that unlock clues.

Next presenter Lassam said Open Road creates opportunities in book publishing by serving as a marketing arm for authors 365 days a year. That’s refreshing to hear for those who wonder why their book publishers suddenly develop amnesia after publication.
Since its inception in 2009, Open Road has become one of the most sought-after e-book publishers (they’re going to do print as well). From literary fiction, it has moved on to do all other genres.

Showing a short video clip of author James Salter, Lassam said that Open Road is in branding authors as a way of marketing the author’s books. Being in the business of words is not enough, especially in a world where everything is getting more visual.
The solution: Do a bio video of an author. The videos come out in Biography.com, The Daily Beast and Tumblr. That is one tactical approach that can involve–as part of a more wholistic strategic ad campaign–retail merchandising; establishing a social media presence, interacting with a fan base, and having a big publicity push.

Among the three speakers, only fast-talking Fershleiser of Tumblr is not in book publishing at the moment, although she has a more expansive wealth of experience. She has been involved in different facets of publishing from event management to “freelance journalism,” researching (for Freakonomics) and editing. Fershleiser likes to believe the opportunities in digital publishing now has been democratized where only a select few (i.e., “white men”) in the past could get in.

The moderator, Fordham Professor Bozena Mierzejewska, asked if a good story will always sell.

“No, there are great books that tank (without the benefit of marketing),” Fershleiser said. What she guarantees is illuminating: “A good story will always survive the march of time. A good story simply indicates selling potential. A good story will connect with the right audience if the audience finds it,” subtly hinting at the value of buzz or marketing in general.

For the audience to find you, she insists on using more personalized marketing approach. That means involving readers in the writing process, through Tumblr or other social media means. From personal experience, this writer received an email from Susan Cain (or a staff), author of the huge best-seller, “The Quiet,” about topics that could be included in her sequel—and was later invited to chat with her.

“The more you involve readers in the process of writing a book and how it succeeds (in the marketplace) will make them feel valuable, too. It empowers them to share it,” she said.

The question that amused the panel the most was the question on self-publishing and how book publishers are dealing with it. “Publishing is not just about writing,” Fershleiser said.

Close to asking if you can be your own editor, agent, contract lawyer, designer, marketer or distributor, she asked if you can do all the nitty-gritty work. A book clearly involves so many people and many factors that Fershleiser advises aspiring authors without a name to go to a book publisher or an agent.

Lassam echoed Fershleiser’s sentiments, emphasizing again how important it is to have a strategy in place aside from giving importance to the production of a book.
She added how media coverage on self-publishing has given it widespread appeal, but she cautons how this perception needs to be tempered, especially since only some genres like erotica (eg. “Fifty Shades of Grey”) and those with cult appeal have enjoyed some measure of great success.

Kass agreed that if you’re getting your foot in the door, you need an agent, because they can also match you with the right editors and book publisher for your book to succeed.

With these new opportunities in book publishing, has storytelling changed? It certainly has the way different platforms can be used or how kids’ reading patterns will change, but Kass said certain components will not change like narrative arcs and characters.

But how are these new opportunities translating to jobs?

Lassam advises those looking forward to a career in book publishing to learn content marketing. Kass, for her part, thinks editorial requirements remain the same but bringing a genuine interest in it is important. The more practical Fershleiser puts it this way if you can’t get a job: “If you’re not a Harvard graduate, you need an established social media presence.”

How to make money from your own videos

By Dennis Clemente

From video consumption, the four startups at the NY Video Meetup in Columbia University last January 24 were excited to declare how anyone can profit from video production using different platforms, even without YouTube in the picture. The companies are Montaj , Vidwala , NowThisNews and NYVS.

Montaj co-founder Demir Gjokai called his new app, “Instagram for Video.” Using an iPhone, Gjokai showed how to use the app to make short clips, edit it with the special Montaj storyboard and provide the score from one’s own iTunes playlist. How easy is it to use the app? He proceeds to show a graphical interface on how to shoot videos and shake the phone to edit or change a song. Once satisfied, you can share on YouTube and other social networks.

Emphasizing his preference for storytellers as opposed to clip-makers is one way he foresees his company working on a business model that helps him connect with brands. Being a fairly new product, Montaj works only on the iPhone for now.

Talking about storytelling , NowThisNews is looking at redefining journalism for the mobile generation with video news coverage that could pit them against Vice Media and even BuzzFeed, the company where it gets its share of funds from Lehrer Ventures.

Drake Martinet, co-founder of NowThisNews, says that journalists can grab a video camera and report the news and have his young demographic view the news in his platform. Asked how he will monetize the site, he says the company is considering producing branded content.

Martinet finally put rumors of NowThisNews’ connection with Huffington Post to rest.

vidwala

For its part, Vidwala’s video distribution platform is aimed at independent video producers looking to make a profit for themselves. It aims to empower indie video producers to be in control of monetizing its distribution, especially with its new iPad app.

“By utilizing Apple’s micro payment system, Vidwala’s iPad app allows fans to buy shows, which translates directly into earnings for video producers,” says co-founder Kabir Mohammed

Not only that, producers will reportedly be able to promote their films and web series, reach new audiences with easy video uploads and set their own prices or even offer free episodes as part of a marketing strategy. Fans, on the other hand, will enjoy the security and ease of in-app purchase to buy their favorite shows and even have the option to download episodes to watch them offline.

But for the easily intimidated, how can people even begin to learn how to make high-quality videos let alone edit them like a real pro? How do you become video literate?

Alex Collmer of NYVS believes that his company can help users learn about producing high-quality films. NYVS is an online film school that allows anyone in the world to learn how to make videos, discuss them with peers, get useful instruction from the NYVS staff and share experiences with people from all over the world for a small fee.

Collmer doesn’t believe everyone needs to go to a top-notch film school in order to be able to make a video to sell a car or house or meet someone online.

The lively Steve Rosenbaum, founder and CEO of magnify.net, hosted the meetup.