Category Archives: Startup Demos

Value or vibe, what is a startup culture and what does it take to build one?

By Dennis Clemente

A pingpong table does not a startup culture make, as six distinguished panelists can attest to at the meetup, “How to build a startup culture” last September 17 at the Orrick offices at CBS building.

The panelists were Dane Atkinson, CEO, SumAll; Wiley Cerilli, former CEO of SinglePlatform, Current VP of Constant Contact; Mark Peter Davis, managing partner, Interplay Ventures; Allyson Downey, co-founder & CEO, weeSpringZain Jaffer, CEO, Vungle; and Joaquin Roca, consultant & COO, Venwise.

How do you build the culture you want throughout the life of your company?

For Roa, it’s about “knowing your culture is connected to your business strategy and how you must all be together in knowing how to win your market.” He insisted on having “core values that rarely change” right from the start. For Downey, an ideal startup culture is about having “some radical transparency.”

Cerilli, who probably has more staff than all the panelists with more than 120, agrees. “Hire people brutally honest with you and have a no-a–hole policy.”

Creating and preserving your startup culture requires some honest assessments. Cerilli likes to give leeway when it comes to off-hours camaraderie.

“As you get bigger, not everyone likes going out for drinks. People have different ways of celebrating,” he said, in response to how some startups think: “You must work together if you look at someone and think you can drink with him.”

As for how people choose a startup culture, Jaffer, who has about 40 staffers, responded to how people sense it, intuitively. “Culture is about unspoken things.”

When it comes to hiring people, Cerilli said he doesn’t do interviews anymore but at one point in time, he said a person who often said “I” instead of “we” and those who mentioned their previous bosses (in an unflattering light most likely) are big no-nos.

For Davis, it’s crucial that he gets people who think in terms of being a partner than just an employee. “If you feel you can’t deliver bad news, that’s a boss-employee relationship, not a boss-partner relationship.”

In terms of talent, Jaffer said he likes “hiring people smarter than me” whereas Atkinson puts a high premium on “trust” and, borrowing from Cerilli’s management style, having a push-up drop-down policy for those who think they’re getting “pudgy.”

“We ask if a someone had a bad day for three successive days,” Atkinson said. This way they can respond accordingly and do their best to help.

For Roa, diversity is the most important thing. “Ask yourself what you are missing in your team, because oftentimes we like people who like us. And if we’re white and we only have white men, that’s not good. A diverse team sees things wholistically.”

In Downey’s case where she and her husband are co-founders, they try to be honest about what the other half can’t do—and that includes knowing how to balance work-life balance and a virtual workforce. “If you can’t do (the latter), you’re doing it wrong.”

But how do they communicate culture? For Davis, he likes to “drop the F bomb” and see how his interviewee reacts. “It’s all about show and tell.”

Jaffer went for a more measured approach. “We do anonymous surveys,” especially for those exiting the company, because they’re more honest. Cerilli likes how people communicate Wow moments on a wall at his company’s office.

But how do they handle a problematic employee?

Davis said you don’t want to be last person to find out if there’s a problematic employee, because it can affect your bottom line. He said he has given someone another change, but when things didn’t change, he went by “addition by subtraction,” as he noticed the company and staff became more productive. “We just had to let this person go.”

Jaffer likes to ask himself, “I ask “Is it my fault? Did I give this person an opportunity to succeed. If we didn’t, everybody is accountable. You have to give this person a chance.”

The meetup was hosted by David Concannon, a partner at Orrick.

Fashion tech products showcased at Alley NYC

By Dennis Clemente

Last September 12, Alley NYC was transformed into a mishmash of a trade fair’s open layout with cocktails all around, as it held coincided demonstrations of fashion tech products with Fashion Week just a few blocks up Midtown.

Acustom Apparel, Bauble Bar, Gilt Groupe, Hukkster, Makerbot and MaterialWrld founders and staff talked about their fashion tech products along with Buncee, not in the list of exhibitors, showing off its new content creation tool. It looked like a game-fied Pinterest but with interactivity functions.

Nearly 600 people crowded Alley NYC to watch the simultaneous demos going on.

Acustom Apparel is using new technology and a 3D body scanning process to make custom clothing better fitting, easier to purchase and less expensive than traditional methods. A 3-second scan allows you to download over 200,000 data points – combined with our proprietary digital bespoke technology. Acustom can reportedly make Bespoke jeans for under $200. Bespoke jeans usually cost $800-$1,200.

Acustom currently offers custom-fit men’s suits, shirts, blazers, jeans, winter coats, polo shirts, and khaki pants. But how do you get scanned in the first place?

Jamal Motlagh, CEO and co-founder, said Acustom is opening its new retail store at 330 West Broadway this Fall.
The ladies will have to wait.

For those who want to envision a dress they may want to buy or make or share with friends, Buncee showed how its interactive multimedia creation tools can do that.

Not exactly new but still a startup, Bauble Bar is an ecommerce start-up based in New York City “It is building a unique retail destination for fashion jewelry. It closed Series A funding in April 2012 and are backed by Accel Partners and Greycroft Partners.

No introduction needed but perhaps the most visible this year in various meetups, the Gilt Groupe is still the leader in terms of providing instant insider access to today’s top designer labels at up to 60% off.

This year, Gilt spent much of 2013 exploring the exciting world of personalization–releasing test roll-outs of personal sales to make offerings even more relevant to its eight million members. Gilt said feedback shows how Gilt members love personal sales

Hukkster demonstrated its online shopping tool–a bookmarklet that installs in your browser and optimizes your shopping experience online. As you visit all your favorite e-commerce sites you can “hukk” products to collect them in one place for immediate access and be informed via email or text when those select products go on sale. You will also find out about any site-wide promotions or coupon codes!

Perhaps fashionistas can make use of MakerBot the desktop 3D printing service that must be like how sawing machines inspired many back in the day. Founded in 2009, MakerBot has reportedly built the largest installed base of desktop 3D printers sold to innovative and industry-leading customers worldwide

Material Wrld is all about luxury resale. Founded in 2012 by experienced online fashion professionals who love to shop, Material Wrld has been featured in many fashion publications, clearly a win for them in terms of getting the necessary media mileage.

Six new health apps aim to improve systems, awareness

By Dennis Clemente

How is an app good for your health? Last August 26, AOL Ventures hosted a meetup featuring six new health apps –
Healthcare Recovery Solutions (HRS), Personal Beasties, Sherpaa Health, Sense Health, Mobile Commons and Carewrite.

Jarrett Bauer of Healthcare Recovery Solutions presented first, talking about how HRS is helping hospitals and patients reduce congestive failure readmission through a research-based platform that constructively guides a patient’s behavior. Also, HRS is an outcome-based organization designed around using meaningful data.

“In general, hospitals have no time to delve into the details of a disease but with our app, anyone can read up and watch videos about their diseases,” he said, adding that even nurses spend only an average of seven minutes per patient.

HRS can provide content to hospitals with librarians in charge. At present, it has Hackensack and the Holy Name Medical Center as clients.

Paula Murgia and Jane Dowling came next with Personal Beasties Breathing, an app that aims to make it easier for users to take a few deep breaths—one that helps people go back to their calm, cool selves.

Both women look forward to getting some psychologists and colleges to use their app for kids, the demographic they are targeting, citing an Internet Addiction Disorder study back in 2011. Talk about using an app to curb an addiction?!

Next was Sherpaa’s Tracy Avin & Jay Parkinson who showed perhaps the most interesting app of the night, as they specialize in two things—first, they help companies het the right plan that matches their employees and second, they give employees 24/7 email and phone access to hired doctors.

“It’s like having a doctor in the family.” Parkinson said.

Are they replacing health insurance? Parkinson said that Sherpaa helps you find the best insurance plans, or use your current plan wisely. “We do not take money from health insurance companies or brokers. We do charge $50 a month per employee, but we save your company money throughout the year and year after year.”

But who pays for access to Sherpaa? The employer pays monthly, and employees can use the service as many times as necessary.

Next presenter, Ben Stein of Mobile Commons, empowers brands to increase sales and consumer engagement in the health care world. With the Affordable Care Act (the new health care plan) taking effect this October, Stein is looking to use text messaging to spread the word about the Care Act.

Stein said that 42 percent of Americans are unaware of the current status of the health law. With 48 million uninsured Americans and not many aware of the health law, he thinks a wide-scale awareness campaign is vital.

Stein came up with three things to make his campaign a success. These are 1) connect, the uninsured sign p to learn about health insurance via text messaging; 2) educate – subscribers receive text messages about health insurance marketplace; Enroll – starting October 1, consumers get alerts about open enrolment deadlines. The messages will be available in both English and Spanish.

Who is using this now? Stein said government, insurance provides, clinics and health care facilities. “We have partnerships between us and our developers and public health academics,” he said.

Stan Berkow of Sense Health took his turn in presenting how to deliver superior health support to clients. Like Mobile Commons, SenseHealth makes use of text messaging but calls his app a script, a schedule of text messages that supports people in between health care appointments.

The last presenter of the night was also the newest in the app world. Eva Luo spoke for Carewrite, a new venture winner out of Harvard University who is looking to equip 66 millions caregivers in the US a mobile tool to improve coordination and quality of care. This time, though, family and friends can join as caregivers—and what could better than keeping this free.

The newest of all the apps, Carewrite serves text reminders, central sharing of notes and searchable repository. “We will pursue licensing agreements with variety of healthcare institutions,” she said.

The meetup was organized by AOL Ventures with Amanda Moskowitz hosting.

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

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

From her Gilt trip, Susan Lyne takes on another journey as AOL’s new Brand Group CEO

Lyne. Laid-back where another high-profile female exec leans in?
Lyne. Laid-back where a female counterpart leans in

By Dennis Clemente

Getting a job in an industry you know nothing about is close to impossible, but that’s because you’re not Susan Lyne, the woman who has worked in magazines, movies, TV and most recently, members-only shopping site Gilt. In her sixties now, Lyne can choose to rest on her laurels. She has worked with A-listers– director Francis Ford Coppola for City, Michael Eisner at Disney, Martha Stewart and the ABC Network—but she chooses to go her adventurous way and this time, she has gone AOL.

At the AOL Ventures office last August 19, Chieh Huang, former director at Zynga, introduced Lyne as the new CEO of AOL’s Brand Group. She follows an impressive list of powerful women in the limelight these days — Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and Marissa Mayer, President and CEO of Yahoo.

So what is she bringing to AOL.—and what can we expect? Lyne is going to be in charge of its brands such as Engadget, Huffington Post and Tech Crunch and what used to be ubiquitous–

She said she’ll be focused on the content side. “First thing I thought was rethink I’m thinking of it not just as a destination but with content on it that will also allow us to bring consumers to the mix,” she said.

Not necessarily with but for its other brand, she wants to do short-form entertainment, 2-minute news updates, live entertainment and overtime, create multiple channels…aggregate and push content out. Do big ‘wows’ that the Internet will allow us to do.” And if we heard her correctly, she wants to do more than what broadcast networks do.

Looking at the future of AOL in the Internet space, she is sorting all the things they have done and how they can be used. Asked about the possibility of a single user app for AOL, she gave it some thought before saying “I like an app that does one thing well like Uber.”

She expressed her desire to have a team of product designers and engineers working as a single unit, even asking someone from the AOL staff to shepherd resumes along her way; a new challenge for Lyne who is single-minded when she wants to be, even if her career history told us otherwise.

Talking about her past incarnations, she is quick to admit that she didn’t plan to have such a divergent career, “but I do go where I am a beginner again.” In ruminating why she’s often attracted to a job that’s new to her or know nothing about. “Those are the times where my mind works best.”

A perceptive editor sees trends coming her way and that came into play when Lyne made the dramatic shift to the Internet with Gilt. “Back then, there were no tablet computers, no Android and no Pinterest (not to mention mobile e-commerce being in its infancy).” She is saying this, because Gilt ultimately benefited from consumer technology’s rise.

Talk about being at the right place at the right time. Lyne has impeccable timing but she clearly credits her experience in the magazine industry for her success in turning around organizations, for those she loved and abhorred.

She clearly has a preference. “I hated it (job) at Disney. I was happy at ABC, because it was like a magazine.” She also handled Martha Stewart ‘s magazine “at the time she (Martha) was in jail.”

Still, Lyne counts her Gilt trip as a great learning experience. “I was drawn to some kind of change but I also I learned an enormous amount in four years that I was there,” she said. “The ‘aha’ moment for me there was recognizing flash sales is entertainment! Every noon, when new items come up on the site, it was entertainment.”

Lyne sounds more introspective than deliberate when she speaks. “Sometimes you start to believe your own mythology,” she trailed off at one point, close to the end of her talk, as if she were relaxing at a porch on a lazy Sunday morning.

Perhaps the secret is to make all the hard work look easy and laid-back where a younger counterpart may still need to lean in.

Noom founder inspires foreign startups with his Korea-to-New York story

By Dennis Clemente

If you’re a foreigner, how do you start a tech company in the United States? You can look at it in five different ways—from someone who experienced it first hand, another who helps you raise funds, from two other people who know the legal ins and outs of the business and from an organization that helps facilitate it for you.

Last August 16 on Park Avenue, Kotra hosted the Korean entrepreneur and founder series on Park Avenue with startup panelists Saeju Jeong of Noom, which every tech website has praised as one of the best fitness apps out of there, and Sang Lee of Return on Change. Sonny Whang and Sonwha Lee provided legal advice that overwhelmed even Saeju and Sang for their comprehensive scope.

Some people are easily contented with their homegrown success but not Saeju. He had a successful independent music label called BuyHard Productions, chosen as the most promising business in Korea in 2001 but he still went to the States, so he could do more.

That was more than five years ago when he left Korea to make it in the States without knowing anyone. Failure was not even an option for him. In his determination to succeed, he made cold calls and even entrusted $50,000 of his money–cash that he handed out in a brown bag—for the musical “Bye Bye Birdie” to hold an Asian tour.

That’s how Saeju got his start, but later on, he decided to do more, but he was again faced with several rejections. I pitched more than 1,000 times, but I also learned how to pitch better. But in my persistence, I was able to raise $180,000—average of $20,000 to $50,000 each person, from angel investors, doctors, engineers, and “even the founder of LG.”.

Then he met tech developer Artem Petakov who he partnered with to create Noom. What came out of it, he said, was the highest-grossing fitness app on Google Play for nine months now. “Our mobile apps help people live healthier through diet and exercise,” he said. “It’s hard to believe we have not spent a dollar on acquisition marketing, We serve 18 million customers.”

“We earned $10,000 in two weeks—and a million dollars in only a year,” he said, explaining his success came from the growth of the smartphone business.

“Our app is not really about what to eat, but how to build you a better habit. We customize messages and tasks. Also, our no. 1 priority is product quality,” he added.

Saeju took an arduous route to success when there were no crowdfunding sites yet.

The next speaker, Sang offers his crowdfunding site for people who want to succeed like Saeng.. “You got the 3Fs– friends, families and fools.” Today, he is promoting his site called Return on Change, a crowdfunding platform like Kickstarter.

Sang gave us startling data that could douse any startup’s dreams, saying “98% of business plans are rejected by venture capitalists,” adding that “only 1,500 startups get funding from VCs in the US.” He is trying to make a compelling point about how crowdfunding is another way for tech entrepreneurs to get much-needed funding.

In terms of seed deals, Sang said “innovation is being stifled with the 32.9 percent in seed deals.”
With these challenges facing the growing number of startups, it’s more important than ever to have an original idea, according to Sang.

Sang said the good thing about crowdfunding nowadays is that you can openly solicit funds now, because the JOBS ACT has been passed and will take effect on September 23 this year. “It will revitalize the startup industry, lift the ban on general solicitation and permit crowdinvesting.”

What is the big deal about the JOBS act? “Before you could not email people to solicit funds nor could you tweet about it. Now you can use social media and advertise your solicitations.”

Sang didn’t just promote his company but also asked for a change in perspective. “If Americans invested 1/10 of what they gamble per year, they would equate to $55 billion,” he said.

For those who are thinking of putting up a startup in the crowdfunding space, Sang suggests startups have the following in mind;
• Business plan
• Financial model
• Term sheet
• Incorporation
• Right platform
• Transparency

He also recommends how people should address the following:
• Define the need (for your business
• How big is this market? Who is your customer?
• How are you going to make $
• Who’s your competition? How are you different?
• How are you going to brand your business?
• Who are your team and advisors?
• How are your investors going to make money?
• How much money do you need to start?

The event was hosted and organized by KOTRA and by the Korean Startups & Entrepreneurs (KSE) with KOTRA IP desk consultant Joseph Juhn moderating.

KOTRA is a Korean government agency focused on facilitating Korea’s economic development through various trade promotion activities such as overseas market surveys and business matchmaking. The KSE meetup group was created to bring together Koreans and those of Korean heritage who are passionate about startups and entrepreneurs.

From the Gilt page, 3 female tech founders go their own e-commerce ways

By Dennis Clemente

If Sex and the City were set in New York circa Silicon Alley 2013, they could be tech startup founders named Katie Finnegan, Jill Sherman and Sari Bibliowicz.

Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda would actually have a hard time making ends meet after the economy tanked in 2008, especially Carrie whose job as a journalist would have been disrupted by now by, say, a tech startup?! The TV show is dated.

With these beautiful new tech startup founders, the TV show could just as well be called Tech and the City. Samantha would complete the quorum, although this time she’d be making more productive use of her excess energy. As a publicist, Samantha can help the three women get some much-needed media mileage to promote their sites.

The three she will be promoting are Finnegan, the co-founder of Hukkster, Sherman the co-founder of Modalyst and Bibliowicz the co-founder of Bib + Tuck. They were the panelists at the E-Commerce Alley meetup organized by Ben Stein and Chad Rubin last August 12 at the City Winery in Varick St.

Finnegan recalls her early start when she left her job in corporate retail along with co-founder Erica Bell. The two said goodbye to corporate employee discounts for something much better up their sleeves.

Following Gilt’s success in the subscription-shopping service, the two pushed the envelope with a “bookmarklet”— what you pin on top of your web browser, similar to Pinterest’s system. As you shop for deals online, you press the “hukk it” button or bookmarkelt to start tracking items you want to buy at a reasonable price. Prices are tracked for marked items and email notifications come to you when the price of the item drops. They raised $250,000 in seed funding.

The next panelist, Sherman, had logged in 11 years in the luxury sector of retail and editorial fashion before she embarked on Modalyst with co-founder Alain Miguel. Her love for discovering new brands and independent fashion led to her founding of the online curated marketplace.

From inventory orders, now there’s the experience of collective buying, where boutique buyers can try out new brands with less restrictive minimum orders, raise their purchasing power collectively to compete with big retailers, and buy regularly instead of seasonally.

What’s their marketing approach? Rather than promote the company, they make use of social media to highlight their brands and boutiques. Sherman is most satisfied about the high-touch process of direct personal interaction with boutiques and designers.

Modalyst was funded by family and friends, but they are working on getting in touch with investors..

Barter is sexy for Bibliowicz and the members-only community Bib + Tuck she co-founded with her namesake, Sari Azout, a former trader. “We bring together the hippest people so that each can find the new in another’s old.”

In the last two years, secondhand marketplaces with fashionable leanings have made it increasingly easy to buy and sell secondhand apparel and accessories online.

But where others have little regard for quality, the two Saris said their items are more upscale. The site allows members to upload images of items they would like to barter with an option to exchange for a virtual currency called “bucks.” Bib + Tuck earns from a flat shipping fee paid per item, and it also sells bucks in small increments to members who need more than they have on hand.

Bib + Tuck is making secondhand classy. High-profile names keep the site interesting, which draws interest among those curious to know who want to let go of their precious luxury brands. You know who’s scouring the site if not the Sex and the City women emboldened by the Tech and City women.

IBM is in media and entertainment in case you didn’t know

tiran dagan

By Dennis Clemente

Who spends $6 billion in research, thinking of monetization in the trillion-dollar range, have acquired 130 companies since 2000 and is into cloud analytics, the cloud and security? That’s the IBM we know.

But who knows that IBM is also in Media & Entertainment? Its new partner Tiran Dagan, for its Global Business Services Group, is making that clearly known. Dagan started as an entrepreneur then moved through NBC to E&Y to IBM managing—yes, its media and entertainment empire, with 20 years of experience under his belt. Speaking of belts, he is a Six Sigma Master Black Belt, so we don’t want to mess with him.

Last August 9, Dagan had an informal sit-down talk at The Hatchery located at the American Management Association Building near Times Square. He turned up slide after slide of impressive statistics at a fast clip—for a good reason, because one hour would not have been enough to cover what IBM does, let alone how much he can actually disclose, as discussions covered more general aspects of IBM’s business.

IBM has Media & Entertainment strategy and transformation executives working with customers to create profitable growth strategies, transforming operations and aligning people, organization and technology in the industry. We heard him talk about IBM Revenue and Royalty Management, IBM Workflow and Business Process Management.

Dagan did go into some detail, citing some examples of how IBM analyzed tweets collected in real time and how its media analytics database provide solutions to increase customer satisfaction. The “how part” rests in its proprietary technology.

What was interesting was his mention of IBM’s Watson, the “voice response” computer who (sic) beat the two best Jeopardy contestants and who might just replace the call centers in the United States and abroad. “Oh, it’s coming,” he said cautiously. What is Watson capable of? “’The what’ is the complex question, Watson is ‘the how’.”

He talked about other companies “Netflix has been doing Big Data for many years. Depending on your viewing habits, it can predict what movie Netflix needs to buy and how many movies.”

Since the talk turned to movies, he asked a dozen or so people in the audience how many versions are created for a new release? That’s a total of 411 versions, which include versions for airlines and hotel chains.

Dagan ended his brief talk by talking to each attendee, asking about their backgrounds.

What else do you need to know about Dagan? He was the Broadcast & Cable leader at Ernst & Young’s Media & Entertainment advisory practice. Previously he was at NBC Universal where he led Strategic Initiatives & Analysis (SIA), NBCU’s corporate strategy group. Tiran brings a depth of experience in media technology solutions, business process transformation and change management that is grounded in real world experience working for a $15 billion entertainment company across all business units.

Prior to joining NBC Tiran worked as a process & transformation advisor to Capital One and T. Rowe Price. Tiran spent a decade in healthcare culminating in the launch of a large diagnostic imaging facility. He later founded a full service media agency in New York city (6FootMedia , so aptly named for his height of six feet four).

Tiran is a Director, Engagement Leader with GE/NBC Universal’s Strategic Initiatives & Analysis East coast team. He brings a wealth of experience in innovation and strategic initiatives in financial services, healthcare and information technology.

Prior to joining NBCU, Tiran was a managing consultant at a firm located in the Washington DC area leading high impact strategy alignment, BPM & enterprise architecture and transformation initiatives for key accounts such as Capital One, T. Rowe Price and the Armed Force Benefits Association as well as coaching clients in the deployment of Lean, Six Sigma & Agile methodologies in the respective organizations

Tiran possesses over 20 years experience in IT, multimedia design & production and has previously held various roles in systems architecture, software development and project, portfolio and program management. Over the years he has acquired deep vertical knowledge in the medical field, specifically diagnostic imaging, medical devices and biomedical informatics.

Tiran has a Bachelors of Science in Artificial Intelligence and Mathematics from State University of New York and an M.B.A. from Tel-Aviv University.

3 types of customers come to Gilt, says founder Michael Bryzek

By Dennis Clemente

How do you get hundreds of people to listen to you when you’ve just heard 22nd startups pitch for 60-seconds each? You just have to be Michael Bryzek, founder of Gilt Groupe, perhaps the most successful CTO in the members-only shopping website which features insider access and discounts to top-notch brands.

But nobody would have thought of that the way Bryzek came to Pitch Night last August 7. Pitch Night, as hosted by Meredith Monroe, provides the platform for really early stage startups to practice and improve their startup pitch.

Bryzek went onstage as if he were the 23rd startup pitching his idea for the first time with his nondescript black Tee (granted it had an emblazoned Gilt logo), faded jeans and well-worn shoes. You could say it’s just his style to be low key and dressed down where his site is known for carrying the most fashionable luxury brands.

For those who don’t know Bryzek, he has his roots in non-profit. Prior to 2007 when he launched Gilt, Bryzek founded Volunteer Solutions and also served as the CTO after the company was acquired by United Way of America in 2001.

As we cornered him later, Bryzek explained to us the purpose of three devices, especially for Gilt. “These are three types of customers,” he insisted. “There is the impulsive mobile shopper, the casual shopper who watches TV with tablet computer in hand, and the laptop user who likes to take his or her sweet time before buying.”

If that’s the case, are we a nation of impulsive buyers? “Forty percent of our revenue is in mobile,” he said.

Not wanting to steal the limelight from the 20 or so presenters, Bryzek let the Pitch Night go with its usual 60-minute pitches from each startup. and won the audience over with their pitches.

LineApple allows you to electronically get into lines and check into appointments. The app virtually holds your place in line so you can shop, play, run errands, or experience local savings nearby while you wait.

Swap enables the purchase of any item in a store or web site using any vendors’ gift card or points. We increase foot traffic, shopping cart conversions and increase wallet share for our merchants.

So for those gift cards you don’t like, founder Rafi Cohen said now you can swap them for something you really want.

Other interesting presenters included’s Shradha and Anisha. “Women in the US spend $133,000 of clothing in their lifetime yet 60 percent complain what to wear,” they chorused. Why is that exactly? Well, the presenter did not so much as answer that as say their site is a “fashion dilemma solver.” They reportedly now have 7,000 visitors.

There are not too many, if any, presenters from Thailand. So it was interesting to hear someone talk about a social network for writers,, only it’s mostly in Thai. It claims to have 12,000 writers.

Founder from Norway, Mikael Hveem, presented his startup,, a digital bulletin board used to create the real-life changes and interactions you want to see in your neighborhood, city or university.

Raad Ahmed, a lawyer, knows how much his profession has been disrupted, so he goes by the tenet, if you can’t lick ‘em, join ‘em in his site called “We are making use of technology to make the law affordable, accessible and transparent,” he said.

LawTrades quickly connects people to talented lawyers through its online platform. People can find a nearby lawyer, see their live availability, and book an appointment on the site right away.

As an added bonus, he said anyone will be able to create, sign and send legally binding agreements in seconds. Whether you’re at a party talking about your latest idea, in front of a fellow craigslister, or lending your expensive camera to a friend’s friend, have peace of mind with LawTrades’ on-demand contracts.

LawTrades’ Lawyer Connecting Service will initially be available in New York.

For all these presenters, Bryzek had some essential tips. “Have an intense focus on execution. Build foundations of trust. Make great decisions.”

If Bryzek is not exactly the epitome of style, what makes Gilt so stylish. “We hire people of great taste, who love great fashion.” Enough said.

Rise of creative technology is challenge for ad agencies


By Dennis Clemente

What do tech hardware and advertising have in common? It’s not unusual to find an ad using tech hardware.electronics to promote brands anymore. Nike Fuel Band is one among a slew of products giving rise to talk of creative technology’s role in advertising. Indeed, the creation of a thing is the marketing itself. It’s also a new challenge and opportunity for ad agencies.

Last July 30 at WeWork/IDSA Inspiration Lounge, Amanda Peyton of Grand St. and Daniel Shaw of Weiden & Kennedy presented its case about how they make use of creative technology in their respective industries.

Grand St is an online marketplace for creative technology–what ad agencies certainly don’t mind venturing into for inspiration. Why? Devices are increasingly becoming identity pieces—and what is identity if not branding in the ad world.

For example, Dr. Dre headphones and Google glasses have become new fashion accessories, with the latter even making its debut at a Diane von Furstenberg fashion show last September.

Those are high-end technologies but there’s room for low-cost creative technology, thanks to crowdfunding, the long-tail phenomenon, and the inspiration spawned by the increasing use of mobile phones. “As cost (of developing new technologies) goes down, creativity is going up,” Peyton said.

Peyton mentioned a few breakthrough tech products produced by Grand St. These include the Netatmo Weather and SideKic. Netatomo is a device that syncs to Apple or Android mobile phones, allowing you to remotely monitor your home’s weather and air quality. SideKic, on the other hand, is a $170 sous vide cooking device that retails for $500 or more.

Shaw of Weiden & Kennedy knows how crucial it is to develop relationships with companies like Grand St., because the old creative process (idea = execution) doesn’t cut it anymore. Elaborating on his thoughts, tech companies have changed advertising. Now execution (tech hardware can be the launching pad for generating an idea). Developers are the new storytellers. “They’re like the art directors and copywriters, only they code. And they can make provocative brand experiences via code,” Shaw said.

Time plays tricks on us. In the sixties, the artists were creative and the technologists, the cerebral ones. Now it’s the other way around. The artists have become cerebral where the technologists have become the creative ones. What’s certain is how the creation of a thing now is the marketing itself and user experience is the advertising (message).

More changes are afoot if we can learn to adapt fast. Quoting media theorist-writer Douglas Rushkoff, Shaw said, “In the world ahead if you don’t know how to program, you don’t know how to speak.”