Hacks provide comic relief; Floored floors everyone at NYTech Meetup

By Dennis Clemente

In the weekly two-hour long startup presentation at the New York Tech Meetup, there’s a featured hack that provides welcome comic relief. That’s when co-organizer Brandon Diamond momentarily takes over the podium, opening his segment with a tech joke that ends up being funny because it misfires; sometimes it’s the delivery, not the punchline.

Diamond’s earnest self-deprecating humor also rubs off on guest hackers who, for three consecutive months now at the meetup, have been just as funny as Diamond, even unintentionally. Diamond certainly deserves a meetup of his own, one filled with hacks, as he showcases more hacks every month.

Last June 3, for instance, Diamond featured three hacks, flyerpenguin.com, a print-ready flyer-maker from a Facebook event; moteio2048, a multiplayer and mote.io-compatible 2048 game; and 2048 Against Cancer. The two hacks’ take on the immensely popular 2048 game compelled an inspired shout-out, “You could work together to fight cancer.” That;s scaling the fight against the dreaded disease, because multiple players mean more donations.

But you ask, how do they guarantee the money goes to the right person? Sam Agnew of 2048againstcancer.com said he uses venmo.com, a free money transfer service that even “contacted me to verify.”

In the startup presentation, doing some social good as well is Goodnikels, a skill-sharing platform. Volunteering to help organizations with a social cause pays you a goodnikel. It’s by Goodnik, an organization dedicated to helping social entrepreneurs access the resources they need to be successful.

Another skill-sharing startup, Simplist or Get Simplist works like Goodnikels, only on a more permanent basis. Say you’re looking for a co-founder, it helps you search for them on various social networks. It’s easy to put down one startup being no different from another, but wait till they get traction.

The six other presenters included Glimpse. You use the app to send disappearing photo and video messages. Does it sound familiar? You can write captions/text on the image and share right away. CEO Elissa Shevinsky took the opportunity by announcing that Glimpse is mentoring 1,000 women this summer.

Rukkus would be just another ticket-buying app, if not for its best feature. It gives you a photo/view from an actual seat, perhaps not in all seats. And if you’re thinking of buying tickets for a concert but you don’t know the performer, the app gives you access to their music to sample.

However, it was the last presentation by Floored that, well, floored everyone. Suddenly, everybody was quiet and listening attentively, marveling at its 3-D scanning and data visualization tool for real-estate applications.

Other startups at the meetup included a bike-sharing startup called Socialbicycles, a company access-sharing app called Commonkey and an open-source programmable jewelry called Jewliebots for teenage girls. “It takes friendship bracelet to a whole new level,” said host Nate Westheimer.

All-women tech panel talk about customer acquisition and building successful corporate culture

Guest panelists at Orrick meetup at CBS Building
Guest panelists at Orrick meetup at CBS Building

By Dennis Clemente

At the Orrick Total Access meetup last April 30, Joy Marcus, CEO of Bloglovin & venture partner at Gotham Ventures, looked at the panel in admiration. Seeing all were women tech founders, she looked at them proudly before turning to the audience and acknowledging each one of them. She said she relishes the day when she doesn’t need to say the guest list consists of an all-women panel, just a panel.

At the Orrick law offices at the CBS Building that night were women. For the customer acquisition talk, the panelists were Tanya Menendez, co-founder, Maker’s Row; Carly Strife, co-Founder, BarkBox; Kathleen Utecht, angel investor & venture partner; and Danielle Weinblatt, co-founder & CEO, Take the Interview.

For the corporate culture talk after, panelists were Angela Lee, founder of 37 Angels, moderated Mona Bijoor, founder & CEO, of Joor; Kellee Khalil, founder & CEO of Lover.ly; Elissa Shevinsky, co-Founder & CEO, Glimpse Labs of Nina Sodhi, Founder & CEO of Nackina.

In the first talk, Menendez said understanding users is very important. “Do user interviews. Find out if users are obsessed with it (your product), then create products designed for them, making sure you have the right people onboard to tell your story that resonates with the audience, your community and among journalists.”

The other women agreed, but Weinblatt put it in her own way, saying she makes customers “adore us.” How? “Never underestimate the power of ‘polite persistence.’ Not everyone closes doors on your face. Do it over and over again.”

As an investor, Utecht’s comment was right up her alley, “The best way to acquire customers is (by getting into) partnerships.”

Strife, on the other hand, said word of mouth comprises 50 percent of her site’s monthly acquisition with referral as her “most successful channel.” “We pay them real money.”

In terms of measuring success with analytics, the women agreed that SEO, SEM and content creation are crucial, as well as A/B testing everything. Menendez said she should have focused on SEO from Day 1.

The next talk moderated by Angela Lee was tricky, as it tackled something not easy to quantify or measure: culture.

The panel suggested watching out for the following:
1. Ask yourself if you are experiencing something toxic and political?
2. Are you excited to come to work?
3. Are you excited about the product?
4. When something bad happens, who saves the day?
5. Can you bro it out with the guys?
6. Are people buying into the pain points you’re addressing?
7. Do you share the values of the staff and startup?

The panel also shared their hiring choices with Lee the moderator kicking it off. “I don’t do interviews. I ask people to do projects.”

Shevinsky said she finds people overlooked by the industry whereas Khalil said she prefers to test her hires with a 90-day contract.

But how do you become a successful startup? “It’s all about consistency. It’s a marathon,” Bijoor said.