Stream Web and Infomous stand out in startup demos at Columbia Business School

By Dennis Clemente

New York’s tech startup scene has nightly hour-long meetups that serves as both entertainment and fund-raising ventures, but Columbia Business School’s Startup Demo Night #23 (media and entertainment) last April 17 took it to another level.

For four hours starting at 6 p.m., 11 startups in the entertainment and media space presented to six investors who then provided feedback. With limited time, presenters could only talk about some features of their startup ideas.

Like Stream Web which was, along with Infomous, the two standouts of the night, not only in terms of what they have to show for but how the other presenters could learn a thing or two about how to present properly, snark-free. I guess when you are confident about your startup, confidence comes naturally.

Stream Web is a web browser app for iOS packed with great features like dual browsing but founder Paul Canetti only had time to show the Stream. Instead of a URL link to share, you copy and paste an image as a URL. The clip itself is a link.

It’s simple to use. You cut out anything on the screen with two fingers and paste to share on your social networks, email, SMS or save for later.

“URLS are ugly and outdated. We’ve created a new modern standard that utilizes the essentials of the mobile experience: Visual, social, gesture-based,” Canetti said.

Infomous turns text into an interactive visualization that gives users an instant snapshot of what is trending. Founder and CEO Paolo Gaudiano presented again after being a favorite at innovator evening weeks ago.

Lori Cheek of Cheekd, who appeared on ABC 7’s Shark Tank recently but did not get funding from any of the show’s sharks, is not one to be easily discouraged. In about 10 weeks, she said she will have an app version.

What’s Well, if approaching the opposite sex intimidates you, Cheeks offers a “covert: solution: old-school calling cards with clever pick-up lines.

Like what Cheek said on Shark Tank, she is determined to make her business work. It clearly shows in her presentation where others who face setbacks can’t put up a brave front, unless they know deep down how, three years into their startups, the challenges have become costly problems and they are not going to go away anytime soon.

The other startup presenters were Metodi Filipov, co-founder of Flipps Media; Nathaniel Casey, co-founder and CEO of Blaztrak; Waywire’s Javier Soto and David Larkin, founder and CEO of GoWatchIt.

David Larkin, CEO and founder of GoWatchIt
David Larkin, CEO and founder of GoWatchIt

The second leg of the presentations consisted of John Weinstein, founder and CEO of YouAreTV, Jeb Balise, CEO of Puzzle Social and Michael Jaschke, co-founder and CEO at 48Bricks Inc. Katerina Vorotova presented Try the World.

The investors who came in to provide feedback and advice were Neil Chheda, angel investor & managing partner at Romuls Capital; Jeff Pulver, angel investor & co-founder & chairman at Zula; Giordano Bruno Contestabile, angel investor & VP of product management and revenue at Tilting Point, Claude Zdanow, angel investor and founder and CEO of Stadiumred and lawyer Jonathan Maisel.

Jeff Pulver talks about Zula, Vonage and his life less than 80 pounds

Jeff Pulver with Brian Park
Jeff Pulver with Brian Park

By Dennis Clemente

“I don’t want to hear about What’s App,” said Jeff Pulver, the Vonage co-founder considered a pioneer in VoIP telephony. Pulver was at the Startup Grind at AOL last February 19 to present his latest venture, Zula. What’s App was acquired by Facebook for $19 bilion this week.

People heeded his plea. Besides, the comparisons have to stop sometime soon. Its site has this to say: Whatsapp focuses on social interaction, while Zula provides a central stream of conversation that gives users access to shared files, shared events, polling and one-touch group calling.

The talk was beyond Zula, it was about Pulver who didn’t mind talking freely and openly about his early years, Vonage and his successful weight loss of some 80 or so pounds. He is now 51.

On how he discovered VoIP (voice-over internet protocol): “I was very lonely growing up,” said Pulver who grew up in Kings Point, New York. “I didn’t have any friends.” The word “lonely” escaped his mouth more than five times, but he didn’t mind talking about the past he remembers fondly.

Not having any strong connection with the people around him, Pulver communicated with people using ham radio when he was very young. He earned his license by the time he turned 12. “I listened, connected, shared and engaged with them. “I never met them, but I knew their personality.”

He recounts how he made his family miserable with his obsession over ham radio, even on vacations. “When we were in Barbados, I was on the radio eight(sic) straight days.” In his teen years, he turned to disc jockeying to be able to get close to the girls.

Pulver was always trying to earn extra money. He created a consulting company at 16, even set up 3 companies along the way. Because he was earning so much money, “college didn’t matter.” But he became a “trained accountant.”

In figuring out VoIP, he knew back then he could make use of two modems–one for dial-up internet; one for telephony. In 1995, he launched Free World Dial-up, the first international voice calling. That lay the groundwork four Min-X which became Vonage in 2001.

“Getting fired saved my life,” he said. Today, Pulver describes himself as a futurist, serial entrepreneur and long-time evangelist for VoIP technologies. He founded the VON Coaltion in 1996 which helped keep VoIP unregulated in America for 9 years and paved the way for Skype and Google Voice.

On how Zula will gain more acceptance, he recounts how in presentations, he see how people can get online faster than him setting up the projector. “Independence from my laptop is everything.”

On how to solve the high cost of phone plans nowadays, he said, “We need more competition.”
On how he lost weight more than 80 pounds, he said it was important for him to avoid wheat and sugar, which he said has given him more energy and made him more productive. Before when people told him to exercise, he would say, “Exercise judgment.”

Now he exercises regularly. He said it’s important for him to point this out to everyone, because he thinks it affects how we can all work more effectively.

Brian Park hosted the talk.