Tag Archives: foursquare

If you can make it to Fred Wilson’s ear, can you make it anywhere?

By Dennis Clemente

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If you can make it to Fred Wilson’s ear, you can make it anywhere.

That’s what people like to think when they see the Union Square Venture principal, the man who has helped build, if not backed up startups like Foursquare, Kickstarter, Twitter, Tumblr and Zynga.

Observing how people swarm to him like bees after each talk cues you into how he has become a rock star in the New York tech startup scene. It was like this at the Columbia Engineering’s demo night last December 13 at Time Warner Center. Columbia Engineering dean Mary C. Boyce moderated the discussion.

One attendee followed Wilson’s every move, dragging me along with him. I met Fred Wilson before, so I was not as excited as he was. But I understand. I just feel bad for other guests when he’s around; this time, Tech and the City author Alessandro Piol and Shutterstock founder Jon Oringer.

Wilson minces no words. There’s no hesitancy, even when he replies to a most pointed question. Some may call it candidness where others may see rebelliousness, even recklessness. I think he has answered these questions before and he just decided to peel the layers of half-truths to tell you what it’s really like out there.

This perspective may come from seeing failed startups. The failure rate, as most publications will tell you, is about 75 percent. For those in the industry, it’s 90 percent.

Wilson said he embraces failure, but he is quick to qualify it. He doesn’t mean lifelong failure but failure that toughens you up, because in the fickle tech world, even the most successful ones fail. So he is suggesting that as long “as you learn the tough lessons of failure,” he is willing to overlook it and take a chance on you. “Making a mistake should not be a Scarlet letter, as long as you realize the mistake.”

But to rewind a bit from the talk he gave along with Piol and Oringer, the Columbia Engineering’s talk was centered on New York’s beginnings in the tech scene and perspective on critical opportunities and roadblocks facing innovators and startups in the future.

Where Oringer credited outgoing Mayor Bloomberg for the thriving tech scene, Wilson was quick to counter that it was Google and the hundreds of engineers it brought to the city that was the catalyst for New York’s emergence as the Silicon Valley of the East.

“Bloomberg was friendly, but it (the tech scene) would have happened even without Bloomberg.”

“The biggest thing that happened in New York was when Google’s software and engineering team came to New York. Google is a gift to New York,” he added. Ex-Googlers these days have their own startups in New York.

Still, Oringer pointed out how multilingual New York also made it easier for startups to take their products or business model on a global scale.

Tech and the City author Piol was more specific, saying the turning point was 2008 when the financial meltdown made many people switch to the tech startup scene.
Wilson wrote the foreword in Piol’s book.

At the time New York-born and -raised Jon Oringer was already running Shutterstock. Today, the stock photo company is earning $200 million.

Wilson answered more questions.

Asked how low-income countries with software development capabilities can compete against the United States, Wilson said, “There’s no culture of entrepreneurship in those low-income countries, because there is no capital.”

Asked about 3D printing’s future in New York, he said the city has the talent for it but stopped short of predicting New York is going to be the center of 3D printing.

After the talk, people were led to the startup demos of students and alumni of Columbia University in an open reception. The startups were Urban Compass, Trek Medics, eBrevia, KeyMe, and Meal Logger

Urban Compass offers a technology platform that enables customers to manage their entire apartment search in one place. It has a team of agents for good measure.

Since August 2012, Trek Medics’ dedicated full-time staff has been working to complete beta-testing for their SMS-based emergency dispatching software, Beacon, with efforts currently focused on the southern coast of Haiti. Beacon addresses response gap by allowing community paramedics to quickly locate, treat, and transport emergency victims from the scene to the hospital.

Another startup, eBrevia was created to assist corporate attorneys, in-house counsel and business executives perform tasks more efficiently.

KeyMe is a cloud-based “keychain” that stores key’s cutting instructions, while Meal Logger is a photo food journal designed to empower people to improve their lifestyle.

What does Wilson look for in a startup founder? “You have to be charismatic,” he said, adding that it’s an important quality to have if you are asking people to fund you.

“I like someone who has a vision who can “get to an opportunity from ‘0 to 60’.”

And if you’re a founder, he said the first five people in a startup is the most critical.

But if having Fred Wilson’s ear is going to help you, well, it depends on what you have to offer him, of course.

Dennis Clemente with Fred Wilson back in November
Dennis Clemente with Fred Wilson back in November

9 app presenters? It’s March Madness at NYTech Meetup

By Dennis Clemente

What if the NY Tech Meetup last March 19 was really about how apps are imitating life. Think of how Ontodia’s pediacities.com is SIM City overlord, helping digital cities of our future through big, linked, open city data, as iRescU.com hovers as an app that leverages social media and crowdsourcing to save lives—your life would be a good start. Imagine locating the nearest defibrillator, for instance, with the flick of the iRescU app.

Schools are multilingual as we know it in the world of clarity.com; teachers communicate with students’ parents in their language through instant real-time translation. What are the parents saying? They’re moving to another house nearby using moveline.com, a simple way to get organized, compare prices and hire movers you can trust. And because you don’t want the movers to get lost, you take photos and post on yext.com, which synchronizes your contact info in every site you have.

Since the main feature of the mobile phone is the camera, you find yourself taking more photos than usual, because you’re marveling at shutterstock.com’s new color search—and you’re thinking of making an extra dough. Cool, right? Not until you use aviary.com did you realize you can take photos for the moveline movers to know where your monument to Daenerys Targayen should be glorified in your shoebox of a room.

When you arrive in your new abode, you plunk down on the sofa, checking your emails on your tablet on birdseyemail.com. Ah, how stimulating to see your email in gmail—in gorgeous, multi-dimensional folders that suit your very organized, meticulous, app-driven life; have an “appy” life now, okay.

So as you’re sitting down and thinking of unwinding, you check out where your new buddies are on your foursquare.com account. We’re talking pediacities’ Joel Natividad and co-founder Sami Baig; RescU’s Nadine Levick, Nicholas Skipitaris, Stellah Deville; Clarity’s Liang Shi, Volkam Unsal; Moveline’s Kelly Eidson, Frederick Cook; Birdseye’s Adam Salcitt-Gucwa and HJ Kwon; Yext’s Howard Lerman and his spacey shoes, Rich Hong; Shutterstock’s Wyatt Jenkins, Eric Smiling, Josh Black; Aviary’s Chevon Christie, Avi Muchnick; and Foursquare’s Dennis Crowley who just took us back in time four years ago when his company was founded, and how his app has already garnered 3 billion check-ins to this day.

It’s good to know they are all within app reach, but there are a billion more people to reach, more apps to report and remain unpublished. Crowley claims local search is broken, so is searching for publications to publish this piece. Try to solve that. Yes, I know it’s quite a tall order.

You could say an app a day takes you worlds away, but the NYTech certainly takes the cake for having nine presenters in one night, more than any I’ve attended since the beginning of the year and probably enough for Mayor Bloomberg to check if he should impose a sensory limit.

This is March madness!
(Apologies to everyone, this blogger has seasonal colds.)