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.

NYTech demos showcase Artiphon, Skillfeed, Touchcast

By Dennis Clemente

Every month the NY Tech Meetup presents an evening of tech demos that look like the presenters are going to burst into song ala Broadway musical, if only because the magnificence of its venue–the Skirball Theater and its wide and luxurious space–transforms the most stoic presenter into a giddy presenter. It might just happen someday for all you know. You could call it NY Tech The Musical.

Last December 4, eight companies presented their startups and products. These are still too many demos judging by the antsy reactions from the audience by the fifth or sixth presentation. But it’s how they have formatted this show-and-tell for the longest time. It doesn’t hurt that the theater makes for comfortable seating.

Before the demonstrations, Senator Charles Schumer took to the stage reminding everyone about why he is for immigration reform (to bring or keep much-needed IT talent here) and patent reform (to protect startups). Keeping it convivial to suit the buoyant atmosphere, the senator said he was part of the demo. He should joke around more often.

The eight demonstrations proceeded accordingly with the audience mesmerized the most by Artihpon‘s Artiphon Instrument 1, a guitar hybrid of sorts — one that can play guitar, piano, violin, drum machine and more, as it uses Apple’s Garage Band app. It’s powered by iPhone in its belly. The demo made people hush down – and listen intently. Like I said, it felt like I was in a musical.

Another interesting demonstratation came from General Assemb.ly’s Skillfeed with its project-based narrative-led approach to learning web and app development from comprehensive video lessons and snack-bite videos.

General Assemb.ly founder Brad Hargreaves showed two nifty features–a checkpoint, which works to help learners make sure they are on the right track and another, a split screen that shows how your app design looks like as its rendered on a smartphone.

The other presenters of the night have been at some smaller show-and-tell meetups before, like Canopy Apps. Funded by the National Institutes of Health, it aims to facilitate healthcare coordination with patients who do not speak English. I like to think it’s an emergency interpretation app–with ready-made responses and a direct line to interpreters from all over.

It’s interesting how a different type of audience reacts to one product over another. Touchcast got oohs and ahhs when it presented to the NY Video group at Columbia University; they can certainly appreciate what Touchcast has achieved here. But here’s the solid on this: What the Touchcast team likes to call the video web may be the future of broadcasting.

Touchcast’s Erick Schonfeld, a former tech journalist, launched the desktop version at the venue, showing how it works when broadcasting a show.

He said it’s a way for us to get rid of the second screen, because you can have the Internet on your Touchcast screen as you capture everything around you on video. Multimedia journalists should love it.

Touchcast certainly deserved more than five minutes on that NY Tech meetup stage. Erick, you might as well do a musical with the Touchcast. That could go viral.

Other presenters included Hitlist, an alert system for getting affordable flights to your dream destinations using skyscanner for data; Nextdoor, a private social network for your neighborhood; and Priori Legal, which connects businesses to a network of trusted and vetted lawyers at below-market and fixed rates.

The last presenter and not in the schedule was Free the slaves, which demonstrated how it works to help law enforcement catch prostitution rings. Data is mostly mined from — guess where? — Craigslist.

Being a serious advocacy, we expected the night’s mood to shift to glum seriousness, but even the presenter hummed along as he showed code after code on the giant screen. He was the most musical of all.

It’s great how the NY Tech meetup gives startups their opportunity to present, but with its growing audience, it wouldn’t hurt to take the format to the next level. As it is, it’s like any other tech meetup in the city with its big venue as the only difference. It could be the TED Talks of startup demos if it wants to keep things interesting.

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.)