How Blue Apron’s Ratings Work to Understand Customers’ Needs


By Dennis Clemente

Blue Apron, Verve Mobile and Imaginary Forces present their design process at Buzzfeed

NEW YORK — Ratings provide us a chance to quickly review a product or service, but Blue Apron found out it’s more than that. Melody Koh said, “People rate (our) recipes because people want us to learn more about them.”

Koh was speaking at the Design Driven meetup last September 13 at the Buzzfeed offices. She was joined by Tom Harman, design manager at Buzzfeed; Walter Geer, creative director at Verve Mobile and Alan Williams, creative director at Imaginary Forces.

If you haven’t heard of Blue Apron, it’s about time you did if you’re interested in learning how to cook. The startup provides all the ingredients you need to make a delicious meal in exactly the right portions.

Blue Apron takes care of the menu planning and shopping (providing you with fresh, locally sourced ingredients in pre-measured quantities), so all you have to do is cook and enjoy. You can choose to skip your orders up to 5 weeks in advance or cancel at any time.

People who don’t know how to cook at all like the idea of having ingredients, as it’s time saved going to the supermarket. Once you get the ingredients, you can watch the video on its site to find how to cook your meal.  In terms of portions, it offers a 2-person plan and family plan. You can check out its list of meal choices here

Its 2-Person Plan consists of 3 meals perfectly portioned for 2 people, and is delivered to you once a week. Based on preferences, you’ll receive 3 recipes out of the 6 unique options created by its culinary team each week.The price per serving is $9.99 a meal, or $59.94 for the entire 6-serving delivery. Shipping is always free.

Its Family Plan is for feeding a family of 4 and consists of 4 delicious recipes delivered to your door each week. Depending on the plan, you’ll receive either 2 recipes or all 4 recipes created for that week.

For the week of September 246, here are some meals you should be able to make: Beef & Shishito Open-Faced Sandwiches with tomato, cucumber & Romaine salad; Five-Spice Chicken with Vermicelli, Mushrooms & Baby Fennel; Crispy Catfish with  Kale-Faro salad & warm grape relish.

It will also offer Thai Red Curry & Rice with shokichi squash & eggplant;  Fontina & Leek Grilled Cheese Sandwicheswith romaine, cucumber & radish salad; Broccoli & Spinach Stromboli with fennel-bell pepper salad & tomato dipping sauce.

Harman talked about design process at BuzzFeed, stressing how important it is to have a unified design process, especially when scaling a business.

“A strong design process establishes a shared vocabulary and offers clear expectations,” he said.

He discussed the five design phases the Buzzfeed design team follows with a chart showing the process and how it unfolds in reality

  1. Define. Know the problem and uncover as many constraints as possible.
  2. Explore. Generate as many solutions as possible while exploring the problem space.
  3. Refine. Validate which solutions work before distilling down the simplest design.
  4. Build. Translate this through code and design
  5. Learn. Understand whether the design was successful and whether it needs further work.

Verve Mobile’s Geer thinks that mobile without location is simply display advertising.

Showing how the iPhone can pinpoint your most frequented locations, Geer showed how Verve works to offer only relevant ads.

Founded in 2005, Verve creates mobile ad campaigns for the biggest brands, harnessing the power of location-context mobile data, so the only ads you will see are based on your experiences in your area.

Do you like title designs? The next presenter, Williams certainly does.

If you recall the animated title sequence in Mad Men or the retro design in Netflix’s Stranger Things, the company behind it is Imaginary Forces, a design-based production studio with offices in Hollywood and New York.

Williams showed us how the title design for HBO’s Vinyl came to be. He bought packs of baking powder and used it to create the look for the series’ title design sequence.

“I work using a ‘’method branding approach,” he said, which borrows from the way he actors immerse deep into characters called method acting.

He collects and curates to get the real feel for a project. For Vinyl, it was about “feeling rock and roll.”

Imaginary Forces’ has been doing title designs since 1996 with an impressive roster of clients that include Powerade, Microsoft and Nike.

Rethinking spreadsheets, voter forms, food and wholesale grocery

NEW YORK—Who likes Excel? If you’re the last holdout to spreadsheets or you’re more visually inclined, Airtable should make you use them more. It’ a complete rethinking of spreadsheets; it makes them colorful with visual aids to boot.

Have you tried doing a spreadsheet on your phone? Other than its grid-based desktop web interface, Airtable also carries a mobile app that formats your table rows, allowing to add and remove records and fields, attach files, share tables just like what it says you should be able to do on your desktop. All inputs are synced on all devices.

Andrew Olfstad presented Airtable at the Design-Driven Meetup at Oscar, the health insurance startup in its Soho offices. The other speakers were Dana Chisnell, co-founder of Center for Civic Design, who is always working toward making voter interaction between government and citizens easier. Boxed’s Jillian Bromley, the wholesale delivery service and Greg Hathaway of Maple, food delivery that offers a rotating daily menu from New York’s culinary talents.  

Chisnell showed how democracy can be a design problem. This happens when voting forms turn out to be too confusing when they’re meant to be as simple and clear as possible. She showed how a voting form in the 2000 presidential elections proved disastrous for democracy.

“Design changes the outcome of elections. Design even affects world peace,” Chisnell said as  the photo of George W. Bush beamed up on the projector screen.

“There was no usability testing in the 2000 elections,” she said as she showed slide after slide of poor ballot designs.  

To improve design of voter forms, she also highlighted the importance of accurate instructional illustrations.

Bromley said Boxed is Costco without the membership fee.  When you sign in, you’ll see a dashboard on the left side with the name and illustrated icons of the items you want delivered in bulk, from groceries and stationery to beverages. If it all seems like everyone else offers delivery these days, Boxed should have a sufficient runway to compete in the e-commerce space with the $100 million it has raised so far.  

Maple is also in the delivery space but it hones in on one thing — food and to keep you coming back, it’s not just any food; it’s made and prepared by New York’s culinary talents reportedly using high-quality ingredients.   

“We have thoughtfully sourced and prepaid cuisine. We are redesigning what we eat,” Hathaway said. “(We are) a restaurant without a restaurant.”  

The lesson he learned from designing the site included how people clicked more on Get Started button than its down arrow.  He also showed how its lunch box packaging evolved through time, which almost looks like jewelry boxes.  

Gear rental, personalized bedsheets among new e-commerce startups

NEW YORK—Last March 28, District Cowork hosted more than 10 tech startup presentations, the most number of presentations we’ve attended that include feedback from its panel of venture capitalists in this city with Cody Cowan of Cowan NY; Byron Ling of Primary Venture Partners; Jason Fiedler of Red Sea Ventures; Allison KErn of Starvest.

Anjelika Kour, founder and CEO of Brick & Portal, is redefining shopping. Kour said it can scan your inbox and present items you have purchased.

Brick & Portal is a social fashion platform where you can open a store and merchandise it with apparel, accessories, and beauty products from a wide range of top name global retailers and brands. You can customize, build, and curate a personal storefront with your own name and unique url, select the wallpaper and color scheme, then add images, text, and items.

Retailers reportedly handles the shipping of items. “We will scan your inbox. And present you items you have purchased,” she said.

IngotHQ is an AB testing plugin for WordPress sites. Since it claims no one is a CRO expert, it hopes to increase your conversions online. The company reportedly earned $655,200 from its 1-year marketplace deal with MOJO.  It competes against industry leader Optimizely.

EatTiamo’s Pietro Guerrera is offering Italian artisanal produce to address the lack of good authentic Italian food in the US and caters to increasing foodies in the city.

Just arrived 3 weeks ago, EatTiamo claims it has 50 products for sale. It has a revenue model-set up fee from producers. Products are shipped within 2 weeks and more than a month for others from a warehouse in Italy. “Fresh products are impossible to bring here,” he said.

How would you like personalized bed sheets, the kind that speaks to your personality, Flaneur has been taking orders since November last year. It can reportedly make any color for customers and deliver in New York within 7 business days. The customer base accounts or $160,000 in revenue.

GearBooth aspires to be the world’s premier marketplace for musical instruments and instrument guidance. What probably makes it unique is its extensive data collection, user interaction with data and no seller fees. It is addressing the $17 billion market.

It gets 10 percent if you want to sell your own musical instruments on its site.

Serge Lubkin would like to be part of the $16 billion US personal care market. With Jointle, he is offering customers unique and limited eco-friendly products and at the same, helping them save money on products and supplies at the same time.  

Adventure travelers, Rent Ride Return offers you gear rental. The site hopes to be part of the market estimated to be $646 billion. The platform also offers ways for you to save money on rent and rides. As the name suggests, the platform will take care of those three things for you.

Another presenter, CoSign, turns images into digital storefronts. It’s reportedly the first mobile app to make photos shoppable.

German startups MeteoViva, Minodes, Brandnew seek traction, funding in US

german chancellor dirk kanngiesser

By Dennis Clemente

While gaining traction is crucial in the US market, it’s also where German startups can get funding to scale their businesses globally

NEW YORK–The presenters at the German Accelerator at Rise last March 22 had one thing in mind. They know the US market is big. While gaining traction is crucial in the US market, it’s also where they know they can get funding to scale their businesses globally.

German startups MeteoViva, Minodes and Brandnew presented their startups to a panel of venture capitalists–Urs Cete, managing partner at BDMI; Ulrich Quay, head at BMW Ventures; Alicia Syrett, founder and CEO at Pantegrion Capital; and  Anton Waltz, managing director of US Digital Ventures.  

meteovivaMeteoViva helps the customers save 15 to 40 percent of energy costs in corporate buildings with its unique Saas solution. Its technology is reportedly based on a patented computer simulation model and was developed at RWTH Aachen University (Germany’s MIT).

It essentially predicts how much heating and cooling a building to maintain the desired climate at the lowest cost. It can reportedly be used in any building–factories, office buildings, shopping centers.

For retail analytics, Minodes offers insights into visitors’ in-store shopping behavior using Wi-Fi sensors it puts on stores. Data is viewable in its dashboard and in customizable email reports. Additional and more granular reports are provided depending on business requirements

As it optimizes in-store customer pathways, Minodes also offers omnichannel retargeting and beacon campaigns. For instance, it retargets offline store visitors through Facebook Google Apps. Now in 12 countries, it is in the United States to gain traction and get better valuation.

simple process Offering itself as influencer marketing in its presentation, Brandnew  connects brands with influential users on Instagram. It hopes to address the 3 key frustrations for brands and agencies–scalability, targeting and analytics–through its Saas service, either on subscription or six-month basis. Rates are about $20,000 depending on campaign.

A VC said it needs a “one money-shot sentence” for better positioning.

Dirk Kannigiesser, CEO of the German Accelerator in Silicon Valley, was in attendance to present the startups and VCs along with CleanTech, Berlin’s largest industrial park, which is optimally aligned to the requirements of productive-driven companies.

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

data-driven meetup-nov2015

By Dennis Clemente

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bezar founder talks about early struggles and ultimate success

bezar brad shellhammer

bezar brad shellhammer

By Dennis Clemente

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

Held at WeWork in Chelsea, the meetup featured Ben Hindman of Splash who tackled Scalable Design; Julie Logan of Giphy who explained to us why its “gifs not jifs;” Shellhammer of Bezar who talked about his experience as a design founder, and Cap Walkins, VP of Design at BuzzFeed, who spoke about running a design-driven organization.

The flamboyant Shellhammer had a lot to say about Bezar, his members-only curated design marketplace for design enthusiasts. He liked talking about his early struggles doing everything on his own. He said he studied the competition and every shopping and social experience of people in other websites. He also admitted to writing every piece of copy for his site, and how he used his gmail contacts for his email marketing efforts.

In building his site, he liked figuring out his MVP. “An MVP allows you to strip things down. I’m at heart and soul a minimalist,” he said.

When it comes to raising funds for his site, he was also candid about it. “My deepest insecurities come out no matter how experienced I am when I am raising funds. It’s an extremely hard to think over for an emotional person. It becomes easy when you have relationships with them,” he said.

He noticed most investors often ask if you have built anything. “You have to have built something. You need to have convinced someone to develop something for you,” he said.

The startup world had been a positive experience for him, but if there’s anything he despises, it’s the practice “of hiring and firing people quickly” that permeates most of startup culture. “Don’t follow that advice,” he stressed.

Offering experiential marketing with Splash, Hindman talked about how it has scaled its business for users with well-designed themes, familiar layouts and reusable blocks — and how he makes things work in one click. The designs, especially the color overlays, are certainly much better than the ones we see from other event-marketing sites. It reportedly has 300,000 freemium users.

Logan of Giphy presented next, stressing how gifs are “not jifs,” what she calls “an art form.”

From text messaging, a new form of self-expression has emerged. With gifs, Logan said, “Nobody has to explain your tone, text or your voice” because you can express your thoughts with a gif.

Last speaker of the night was Cap Wilkins, VP of Design at BuzzFeed, who showed a photo of his product design team, evidently proud of his team of 18 designers, telling us how important it is to work as a team “to make your company design-driven.”

“You have to define an ideal state of the world,” he said. He would not stop there, as he emphasized how important it is to “sacrifice for the short term for the long term (gains).”

“Design everything,” he said, adding how “designers should know how to code.”

Fireside chat with millennials Young, Smith on startups, retail, fundraising


By Dennis Clemente

NEW YORK—General Assembly hosted a fireside chat featuring two young millennial disruptors– female venture capitalists and entrepreneurs Colette Young and Samantha Smith last March 11 at the Hudson Hotel.

The two young women both started businesses when they were 14, owning and operating retail stores and similarly, working in early-stage consumer tech in top VC companies. They talked about retail and startups.

Young is currently building out the retail and luxury goods division for o9 Solutions, a SaaS-based enterprise planning start-up, founded by entrepreneur Sanjiv Sidhu. She is the founder of Coco Zaza, a boutique consultancy specializing in tech, fashion, food and hospitality. Young is also a co-founder of an NGO called The Happiness Assembly and is currently one of the youth mentors for UN Habitat’s Global Youth fund. Colette previously worked at FirstMark Capital and at Prada Corporate.

Smith, on the other hand, is a former operations manager at First Round Capital. She graduated from NYU Gallatin where she designed a self-directed major in government and philosophy and founded the NYU Entrepreneurs Network. Her prior work experience includes time at KIND Healthy Snacks, and working at the Office of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

Below are the highlights of the fireside chat with Young and Smith.

On starting a business
Young: The only way to do it is to do it, but show proof of concept.

On timing
Young: 2010 was the year when social media came into the picture but SEO (prevailed)

Smith: Always look for intent, the founding team. Sometimes there’s not a right time for a product, even when’s it’s a good (product).

On what makes a great company
Young: What makes a great company? Answers these: Does it make money? Is it defensible? How does it scale?

On work-life balance
Young: I was working 100 hours a week. I only do things I believe in. Know that it’s extremely important to have something on the side. Don’t ever work in a job you hate

Smith: Sorry I’m not sorry (about her busy life). (Have) strong relationships and friendships. Set a standard for your life

On how some startups are not making money
Young: There are some great companies not earning. They have not figured it out, but their value is so significant, which was why they were able to raise money

On accelerators
Smith: Use it as resource, not just a way to get funded

On life hacks
Young: Read a lot. Smart people read lot.

Smith: I love to read. I also listen to audiobooks. You can consume a lot from audibooks, read while you’re in-between meetings and at the gym.

The meetup was organized by General Assembly’s Lena Xiao.

David Tisch talks about his Spring e-commerce app, startups’ key to success

david tisch

By Dennis Clemente

Last October 8, Orrick hosted a fireside chat with David Tisch, former managing director of TechStars NY, co-founder of BoxGroup and startup investor at the WeWork offices in Soho West.

The chat centered on his new Instagram-like mobile e-commerce startup Spring where he sits as chair, and his former role as managing director of TechStars.

Spring was funded under Series A by Thrive Capital, Groupe Arnault and Box Group. Other investors included Founder Collective, Google Ventures, SV Angel, and Lerer Hippeau Ventures.

“We believe buying things should be simple,” a listing for Spring on AngelList says. “We are on a mission to build a platform that connects the people who make products directly with consumers who love them.”

Available only on iOS, Spring aims to make the best experience for buying things on your phone or tablet.
Tisch co-founded Spring with his brother Alan Tisch, Ara Katz, and former Googler Octavian Costache with talents from Bergdorf Goodman, Cannon Tekstar Hodge and former fashion director of ShopBop, Kate Ciepluch. The other team members came from Fab, Beachmint, Google, Foursquare, Ralph Lauren, and DVF.

“We launched our company with 32 staff. That’s insane. But each startup is different,” he admitted.

Tisch was quite candid in the chat which was unfortunately marred throughout by a dysfunctional microphone, obscuring some key points. Still, we managed to hear some gems for startups:

On day one of your startup, do research. The best companies take a lot of time with their idea and research before they start building

Have a real understanding of the market

If you have a similar startup with another and you don’t have the culture (in place), you lost already

Ask yourself why you are the best person for an idea
The most important for a startup to have—leadership; (it’s crucial) if you can convince people to join you
Those who are ready will be able to accelerate
A startup is rebellious by nature yet so many founders spend a lot of time conforming

You can’t outsource if it requires local discovery and it’s one of the differentiators

Food is a great leveler when talking to investors
Build real relationships that will last years; find 5 people not 150 people, and not because they are on a list
They are (investors) not going to take you if you are not ready

We (investors) look at those who have built stuff before. We have to see something, especially (one that matches) your background
You can get money from banks with no equity
When do you need to ask money? If you need to accelerate faster. Money is fuel
How much money do you need? Based it on your milestones
We (investors) don’t even need to see the idea; we don’t even need to see the product—(we look at) the team and the market, because they are easier to identify
Your Idea must match startups with investors

Healthcare and automotive sectors will grow

Create your own story. Engagement is key

As an entrepreneur, he is confident it will succeed but there’s always “my awkward Jewish nervous self.”

Editonthefly is crowd-pleaser at NY Tech Meetup

nytm photo-oct6

By Dennis Clemente

How can you tell if your startup is going to be the crowd-pleaser at the NY Tech Meetup? Every month, almost like clockwork, the last presenter gets the most applause. Of course, it doesn’t mean your startup is the best or the most promising among all the usual nine startup demonstrations.

Last October 6, Fly Labs presented last but came first on top of people’s minds at the after party, as people talked about its iPhone app Editonthefly, which lived up to its name as a fast way to edit videos, literally on the fly. It’s only available on the iPhone (not available on Android yet), because the team focused on “perfecting” its cool features.

The demo showed how it keeps cuts interesting. Each cut stimulates the viewer with a change of perspective or a change of scenery. You just tap to cut. For dissolves, you make the videos dreamy, nostalgic or magical just by swiping. By tapping two videos at once, you get a split screen that allows you to compare them. You can add music and voiceover, too.

The other presenters were Emozia, which is developing technology that enables machines and software to understand and respond to human emotion. It can reportedly tell which “zipcode is really feeling (something).”

Still want another dating app? There’s Glimpse. It matches you with another person via your Instagram photos. Yes, photos, not likes or dislikes but just photos.

“Have you used the product personally?” a woman asked, which prompted a crowd-pleaser of a response, “I use it all the time.”

KuaiBoard turns your keyboard into your clipboard as you type text quicker.

Mondevices introduced Monbaby for monitoring babies. It’s a wearable baby monitor in a smart button that tracks your child’s breathing, movement and sleep patterns on an iPhone/Android app.

This could actually work for everyone, not just babies.

Two other presenters were Partake, which claims to be the easiest way for couples to share expenses as well as PowerToFly, a social platform that connects women in tech to great jobs at high-growth companies.

The latter’s mission is to give women more jobs. The site has a staff of 22 remote locations in 7 countries for faster work cycle.

Shyp, for its part, claims it is the easiest way to send anything, anywhere. It can reportedly lower your shipping cost, because it has a machine that allows packaging items to the precise size of the item. It delivers around Manhattan up to 96th St and in Brooklyn. What? No Queens again.

That same night, IBM selected the Scaffold to compete against other startups.

The site aims to help you discover your leadership style. You take a short quiz and a virtual coach generates customized insights and suggestion how you can become a great leader. Its virtual coach will also send personalized advice, weekly tips and helpful resources to guide you.

A background in organizational psychology helped the team answer questions about the site’s legitimacy.

The hack of the month came from Yin Aphinyanaphongs who showed the results of alcohol intake using Twitter for a specific period of time. It’s not scientific but it clearly showed some interesting insights that can help in terms of monitoring policy changes and the behavioral effect of alcohol.

Yin’s study considered the text categorization, labeled tweets and learning algorithm. His next step is to prove his study over time periods, especially on weekends. Yin wrote about 400 lines of code using R and Python.

Challenges in e-commerce content; big companies investing in startups

orrick  at fulton

By Dennis Clemente

If you have not noticed, big companies have joined the tech investing bandwagon. If you have not noticed, the tech meetups are also adding more topics in one meetup night.

Last September 17, Orrick moved its meetup at WeWork at Fulton Center from the CBS Building to discuss three hot issues.

• The astounding differences on both sides of the buy button by Scott Kumit, founder and CEO of Keep Holdings

• What’s hot in ecommerce? New business models, new markets with content marketing becoming instead the most talked about part of this sector.

• Structuring a partnership with established companies

The e-commerce panel consisted of Adam Kalamchi, founder & CEO of Brilliant Bicycles; Philip Krim, co-founder & CEO, Casper; Matt Krna, partner of SoftBank Capital; Spencer Lazar, principal, General Catalyst Partners, and Amit Mukherjee, associate, NEA. It was moderated by David Concannon, partner at Orrick.

The second panel consisted of Melissa Gonzalez, founder & CEO, The Lion’esque Group; Liza Kindred, founder & CEO, Third Wave Fashion; Seona Skwara, group marketing manager, digital marketing of Nestlé Waters North America and Kim Grennan, innovation strategist, Global Strategy Group of Verizon Communications. It was moderated by Kelly Hoey, chief marketing officer of Cuurio.

With the e-commerce panel, Warby Parker was considered the standard for success in its content marketing.

Because there is so much noise out there, an honest brand persona goes a long way, said one of the panelists. The product has to reflect its reality.
As for the e-commerce model, many of them agreed that you can test at shopify before you invest in your concept.

One observed how more unique goods have proven to be great sellers. If you’re a small brand, this is good to know. “Consumers now are taking risks.”

When talk moved to pop-up stores as a way to promote e-commerce sites, it begged the question if it’s more of a showroom or an inexpensive way to test.

The other discussion about partnerships with big companies provoked a question from the audience, “How can a startup trust a big company to support them?”

Before the actual responses came, the panelists said they don’t sign non-disclosure agreements, just like any other investor. They assured the audience that an idea still requires execution, which companies can’t reportedly be bothered to do, because of their other vested interests.

One panelist said $15 million revenue may not push the needle if the company is already earning $130 billion.

That may also indicate if a company is going to steal your idea or not.