Event Recap: April 2016 NY Tech Meetup

This week, the New York Tech Meetup was hosted at NYU’s Skirball Center. As usual, the Lab was in attendance, keeping tabs on the exciting new startups coming out of our city. This month’s event played host to a number of interesting companies offering varied solutions across a wide array of industries.

The first company of note was COSIGN, which offers a very interesting solution for CPG and fashion brands in particular. Their mission is to turn every socially-shared image into a digital storefront. With their app, users can tag products in their pictures to enable annotations that link other users to purchase. The image can then be shared to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or Tumblr. The user that posts and tags the image can earn points, rewards, and even money for the referral.

If your brand has a strong presence in sports, it may be worthwhile to explore Rukkus, a live entertainment marketplace for buying and selling tickets. They are launching a new feature in their app that allows the user to click on a seat and open a 360 image of the view from the seat. They have already mapped over a hundred live music and sports venues. For the smaller places they can’t reach, they are crowd-sourcing panoramic images taken by users.

For those looking to step up their online dating game, Connectidy analyzes your social media using IBM Watson to create a personal profile. The profile includes your personality traits, needs, and values. The messaging platform also offers a “spell check for emotions,” which tells you how your messages are coming off and what to do to optimize them. Once you’ve taken your online romance to the next level and met in person, Connectidy will allow users to rate their date and provide feedback to each other. It also uses IBM’s cognitive computing to refine your profile over time based on all interaction touch points.

A number of other companies introduced their impressive solutions. These included an incredible reverse image search based on a neural network; a gamified productivity app to fight procrastination; a modular, hackable, smart band; and a centralized workflow platform for the hospitality industry. The Lab looks forward to May’s array of entrepreneurs and startups.


Event Recap: Districtpitch – Digital Media and Ad Tech

On March 29th, the Lab attended Districtpitch: Digital Media and Ad Tech. Founders and entrepreneurs faced the crowd and a panel of judges to pitch their early-stage companies. Here is a roundup of companies that presented yesterday.

We have all experienced that empty feeling after finishing a TV series and having no clue what to watch next. Stareable is a content discovery destination that helps you find your next show. It is a community-driven TV guide that links users to where they can watch. Users submit reviews and recommendations that help direct others towards their next favorite obsession. Stareable is ad-supported with standard display ads so there is no cost to the end user.

Slidejoy is an Android app that delivers ads and news to a phone’s lock screen in exchange for rewards. They receive fantastic engagement because the units are the first thing people see when they look at their phone and the audience has opted-in to receive messaging. 80-85% of their users are in the US.

Tinybeans is a social media app for families, essentially an online scrapbook of your kids. They collect metadata on the families in order to help brands market effectively to the parents. They currently have 1.1 million registered users, 80% of which are in the US.

Another social app with children in mind is Skit! Kids. They have gamified storytelling by allowing children to collaborate remotely to create videos. Other users can remix and change existing stories on the platform. Their revenue model includes in-app purchases and product placement that aligns with the environment. Skit! Kids is COPA-compliant and every piece of content created within the app is checked by a human moderator.

Finally, there were two location-based targeting companies that presented as well. Exploreka helps brands deliver contextually relevant messaging to the right consumer at the right time. Notify Nearby is a mobile app that leverages a network of beacons to target shoppers with relevant messaging in a consolidated news feed.

NY Tech Meetup - March 2016

Event Recap: March 2016 NY Tech Meetup

The IPG Media Lab went in to March like a lion by attending the NY Tech Meetup on the first of the month. To kick things off, Code/Interactive introduced teams of local high school students that had participated in their 24-hour hackathon. The prompt for the project was to design a tech product to help your community. First to present was the team behind Lend a Hand, an online platform that allows students to earn compensation towards a college education in exchange for community service. Companies can choose to contribute to students’ 529 College Savings Plans based on the hours they worked. This encourages young people to participate in socially beneficial activities and build their college resume while also providing a valuable PR opportunity to brands.

Due to the high rate of police brutality in the US, the next team, Protect and Swerve, was inspired to build a map that marked all reports of relevant incidents. Their aim is to create awareness around these events in attempt to curb them in the future. The students made it clear that they are not advocating distrust in police, that they respect cops, and only a small minority are responsible for the offenses that we see in the news. The team also built a game that prompts the user to get to school by avoiding pixelated police. The character is able to pick flowers and deliver them to the officers in the game as a peace offering.

Finally, many teenagers struggle to choose a particular field of study and need a spark to inspire them to pick a career path that suits them. The last student team attempted to provide this inspiration with their product, Teen’s Hope, an app that connects students to mentors for career guidance. The two sides are able to communicate through a Facebook API and can schedule shadowing sessions. This particular correspondent wishes he had had this tool at his disposal when deciding on a major (Political Science? Sure, why not?).

Among the other products demoed were a programmable race car toy whose goal was to teach children STEM from a young age, an aesthetically-pleasing accessory that emits a debilitating siren to ward off would-be assailants, and a database that is making the NY State government more transparent. In addition, the crowd was introduced to Ingredient1, a food discovery app that indexes nutritional facts and provides recommendations based on custom flavor or diet profiles. Another useful app on display was Parking Oracle, which deciphers cryptic parking signs to give you a simple “yes” or “no” answer as to whether you can park in a particular spot at that moment. Finally, Atri.me presented their experimental plug-in that captures a user’s dwell time on content as they browse the web and pays the content author based on time spent. It is safe to say that the future of the New York tech community is very bright.


Event Recap: NY MusicTech Meetup February 2016

On Thursday, February 25th, the Media Lab attended the NY MusicTech Meetup. The groovy event was hosted at the Harman store on Madison Avenue where a number of interesting music startups demonstrated their products for the crowd.

The first was CymbalFM, a social music discovery app for iOS. Users post their favorite song of the moment so others can listen and discover new tunes. Users have the ability to like and comment on posts, or explore a friend’s entire history of posts as one playlist. The platform is built on top of Spotify and Soundcloud’s APIs so people can listen directly on the platform. Soon they will be launching a discovery-specific page that surfaces trending hashtags and recommends users that have similar tastes as you.

Next was Cadenza, an app that provides an entire classical orchestra to accompany you while you play your instrument. Through AI and machine learning, the app adapts the tempo to your playing style in real time to create an ensemble performance consisting of one musician. The app is currently being used by young students who are taking music lessons and has a user base of around 40,000. They also have a social component where people can record their sessions and share to Facebook. Cadenza is a very powerful tool for beginning and intermediate musicians and it will be exciting to see how they grow as their tempo matching technology becomes even more robust.

Finally, Feature.fm discussed how they are helping aspiring musicians get discovered on streaming services. Their ad platform allows users to easily create and distribute sponsored songs that play natively during a user’s listening session. The artist can customize their message, a call to action, and their album artwork as well as select which region, genre, and tags they would like to target. The average cost-per-play is around 2 cents. However, there is no cost if the user skips the song before 30 seconds has elapsed. The ad unit is currently integrated into 8Tracks with plans to expand to 3-4 more services during 2016 (although they were not able to share which ones at the time).  There is an opportunity for advertisers to brand the info box that appears with the sponsored tracks or even sponsor the artists’ advertising budgets themselves in order to provide real value to consumers by surfacing new music.

Lots of exciting things are happening in New York’s music tech scene. As audiences become increasingly averse to being served with bland messaging, there are lots of opportunities in this space for brands to provide audience with real value to earn their attention.

Event Recap: February 2016 NY Tech Meetup

On Tuesday, February 9th, the IPG Media Lab attended the NY Tech Meetup at the Skirball Center for Performing Arts. A handpicked selection of New York City’s most promising startups took turns demoing their products to a capacity crowd, representing a wide array of industries from event planning to manufacturing. Below are some snapshots of the exhibitors:

TradeIt is a Fintech company that allows investors to place trades on the sites where they get their news. Let’s say you are reading about Apple’s amazing quarter on The Street. TradeIt powers the button on the article page that allows you to purchase shares of Apple immediately. With a secure API that plugs into financial news sites, TradeIt prompts the user to select their broker to execute the trade. This feature is currently live with 23 partners and available on both desktop and mobile apps.

Perhaps you would like a quick, affordable way to manufacture small goods. VooDoo Manufacturing can help you achieve your goal with their 3D printing warehouse located in Brooklyn. Consumers can upload a 3D model, enter a quantity, and purchase all through their eCommerce site. If they need help with the 3D model, VooDoo’s team of designers can assist with the creation process. Low volume orders of 20 units or less ship next day, while high volume orders of over 10,000 units take up to two weeks.

If you need help planning your next party, it is time to download Funnster, the event planning app. Hosts post events with time, date, location and invite their friends. They also choose favors that they will need for the party so their guests know exactly what to bring. They also have the option to simply share the cost of the party with the host. In order to acquire new users, Funnster is offering $40 towards booze for hosting a party through their app. Keep them in mind for your next soiree!

Rather than staying in and hosting, sometimes it’s more fun to hit the town. With all of the great locations available in New York City, DIDiT NY can help you narrow down the options. Their experience discovery app curates lists based on expert columnists’ advice. For example, you want to visit Beyoncé and Jay Z’s favorite dinner spots. DIDiT crawls through web content and curates mentions of the power couple’s dining habits and surfaces options to you. You can then save the locations and mark once you’ve “DIDiT.”

Now one thing that Beyonce and Jay Z certainly have is a massive social following. Shareablee monitors social conversations to provide insights on content engagement. They pull all interactions (likes, tweets, comments, etc.) across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Google+, and LinkedIn to build user profiles. Marketers can use this platform to measure their social footprint and discover the makeup of their target audience.

Rounding out this month’s Tech Meetup were a career building tool, a site for monitoring the public council in NYC, an educational interactive toy, a 3D sketching platform, and an app that punishes the user for being late. Overall, the meetup showcased a very impressive lineup of innovative and useful tech.

Event Recap: NJ Tech Meetup #68

On Monday, January 11th, the Media Lab attended the 68th New Jersey Tech Meetup. The guest speaker for this first meetup of the year was Mark Gerson, the co-founder and Chairman of the Gerson Lehrman Group and of Thuzio, a service that connects businesses to celebrities for local appearances. He has also founded a number of philanthropic organizations including United Rescue and the African Mission Healthcare Foundation. Mr. Gerson spoke about his early history as an entrepreneur, beginning with a $50 wager over fantasy basketball in grade school. After this early taste of success, Mr. Gerson shared his experience as a founder where he had to pivot and adapt his companies’ missions in order to fit the market and client demand. He also shared a good bit of advice on starting a company, which was to find the dumbest person you know and tell them your idea. If they don’t understand, refine the idea.

Aside from the fireside chat, three entrepreneurs took the stage to introduce the group to their new businesses. Indicative, based in Union Square, provides behavioral analytics for marketers with a focus on clean data visualization for the end user. HYPR is a marketplace that connects brands to relevant social media influencers based on their proprietary grading system. Their three main verticals include political campaigns, app promotion, and CPG. They are active on a variety of social media, including Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Vine.

Last but not least, GrownOcean presented their mobile app for adventure travel planning. The app allows users to create a bucket list of adventures and helps them sort out the logistics by making lodging and travel recommendations, as well as providing a supply checklist for their voyage. Although still in the early stages of growing their user-base, GrownOcean is set up to enable brands to promote content in the form of custom adventures and recommended travel items, with a link to purchase.

The NJ Tech Meetup kicked off 2016 with an impressive array of inspirational entrepreneurs and the Lab is excited to see what else is in store for the new year.


Event Recap: November 2015 NY Tech Meetup

The New York Tech Meetup is the largest meetup group in the world with over 47,000 members from the tech community in NYC. On Tuesday, the Lab attended their monthly event to see some of the city’s most promising startups demo their products live. As always, the ingenuity on display was inspiring. Below are brief summaries of some of the exhibitors:

Venuebook offers an easy way for a user to book a group outing or private event with the Expressbook tool. Available in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington DC, the tool allows you to search for and reserve the perfect space for your party. Venuebook is able to provide real-time venue availability because they are the calendar platform of record for a number of restaurants and event spaces.

For those that are dedicated to eating healthier, Foodstand is building a food community to help foodies find, cook, and eat better food. Users can search posts to see what others have made for inspiration, discover local restaurants, and win prizes for participating in challenges (like their recent food waste reduction challenge). Pictures, recipes, and reviews live on a central news feed. Foodstand also mentioned they have a partnership with Dig Inn.

For consumers that are tired of dealing with cellular providers, Karma is a Wi-Fi hotspot that allows users to purchase cellular data when they need it for $14 per GB. Users can also earn karma points in the form of data by allowing others to connect to their hotspot. There are over a thousand Karma devices currently deployed across the US and a user’s “gas tank” of data can be accessed via any of them. Karma currently operates on Sprint’s 4G LTE network. The founder claimed that he has had his phone on airplane mode for the past three years and has instead been operating entirely on Karma’s network.

In addition to the main exhibitors, students who had participated in HackNY demoed their projects. The first was Roam, for people that may be stranded without data or strong service (often at the end of a long night). The app allows users to get directions, check the weather, and even hail an Uber ride without the use of cellular data. Instead, requests are routed entirely through SMS. Second, Lights, Camera, Location! uses a Google API to search the entire world for the filming locations of any Hollywood movie. It is incredible that both of these solutions were conceived and built in only 24 hours!

Other companies to present included a podcast that drops hints for listeners to piece together to unlock the next episode, an online education platform for web development, and a safe way for sexual assault survivors to report their attacks. Overall, the audience was introduced to some extremely interesting and useful products, and it is clear that the tech community in New York is thriving.

Event Recap: NJ Tech Meetup #65

On October 20th, the Lab attended the 65th New Jersey Tech Meetup in Hoboken, NJ. As is tradition, the event began with three entrepreneurs introducing their startups, followed by a fireside chat with an industry veteran. This month’s speaker was Micah Rosenbloom, Managing Partner of Founder Collective, an early-stage investor fund.

The first entrepreneur to present was Scott from Thrive Commerce. A major friction point in eCommerce occurs when consumers leave a retailer’s site to search for coupons on third party sites like RetailMeNot. Often times, once someone leaves the site, they do not come back to check out. Purchased on a SaaS model, Thrive Commerce is a deal management platform that enables retailers to publish, track, and offer discounts to their products across their owned properties. With the coupons readily available, the consumer is encouraged to stay focused on checking out once they have decided to purchase. The platform also allows brands to optimize language on their site to efficiently compete with these third parties’ SEO campaigns.

Next to the podium was Lisa, Founder and CEO of Savile Row Society (SRS), to discuss her new app, Savil.me. Savile Row Society is an eCommerce platform for men who are in need of fashion advice. The site and app connect consumers to personal stylists who shop for them. Products are delivered through Postmates. Each user can also curate their own ‘Virtual Closet,’ which is composed of items already in a user’s closet and garments they have purchased through SRS. Users can then leverage SRS’s color matching algorithm to receive outfit suggestions.

The last presenter introduced the audience to Paydunk‘s secure checkout service, which solves an issue even further down the funnel than Thrive Commerce. Rather than shopping cart abandonment, Paydunk is looking to solve checkout abandonment. Too often, online shoppers get confused or spooked by having to enter personal information over and over again on different sites in order to purchase online. Pay dunk allows users to have one secure method of checkout that does not save purchase information. A user is prompted to enter a pin number to confirm purchase, then a push notification is sent to their mobile device as a secondary confirmation. This essentially acts as a virtual debit card.

After the presentations concluded, Micah Rosenbloom took the stage to discuss his career as a founder and a funder. He stressed the importance of leaving no stone unturned because inspiration or opportunity may reveal themselves in unlikely places. He also recommended that everyone frequently take a pomodoro to maintain focus and increase productivity at work.


Event Recap: Disctrict CoWork NYC DistrictPitch Event

On October 1st, the Lab attended DistrictPitch, an event organized by District CoWork where select startups pitch their business to a panel of investors. There were a number of interesting companies on display with real marketing implications. Here are some highlights from the event.

The first to present was OKMyOutfit, an on-demand personal shopping service that charges members a monthly subscription. Users receive a consultation from a team of stylists to identify their style preferences and make more informed purchase decisions. OKMyOutfit has a partnership with the Hudson Bay Companies to offer their products and there is certainly an opportunity for other retail brands to get onboard and become providers.

The next company to present was Bluebook Academy, an education service aiming to accurately link training to occupation. As a student works their way through a curriculum, their skills and weaknesses are identified and matched to appropriate career paths. This type of guidance is often lacking in the education industry and could help guide students based on strengths and passions.

Next up to the podium was TOP Docs, a collaboration tool for teams working on a project remotely. Picture how frustrating it is to constantly have to download and save different versions of the same document because some teammates are using Google Docs and others are using Dropbox. TOP Docs allows users who are using different cloud-based storage platforms to perform real-time edits on the same file and automatically saves back to the original platform’s format. It is accessed as a freemium model on mobile and web, iOS and Android.

The following company, CareConnectors, is a health care communication platform for doctors and patients. Too often, patients leave care facilities with limited understanding of their own conditions. The platform provides patients with easy-to-understand diagnoses and prescriptions so they increase their understanding of their own personal health. The platform can also be used for peer-to-peer communications between health care providers so an individual’s treatment is uniform and streamlined.

The second-to-last business to present was eDivv, a secondary market for consumers to buy, sell, and barter beauty products. When someone has extra product that they know they will not use, they can connect to the community to trade or sell. The site includes forums, blogs, and messaging in order to connect its members. From a brand perspective, eDivv is collecting data from their community, while also offering native advertising and branded product trials.

Finally, Measurence took the stage to present their offline analytics platform for brick and mortar retailers. They are able to leverage WiFi, bluetooth, or beacons to connect to a customer’s mobile device in order to track their in-store location, dwell times, and conversion to purchase. They launched in November of 2014 and have a partnership with Square to link purchase behavior. Measurence does not build its own hardware but they are working on an Apple Watch app for the store manager to access an analytics dashboard in real time.

The DistrictPitch event showcased an array of ventures that are tackling solutions across many industries. From retail to healthcare, these entrepreneurs showcased their intelligence and ingenuity.


Event Recap: NJ Tech Meetup #64

On September 16, the Media Lab crossed the Hudson River to attend the 64th NJ Tech Meetup in Hoboken, New Jersey. This month’s meet up featured Kevin Ryan, founder of Gilt, Business Insider, MongoDB, and other tech startups. Mr. Ryan shared his experiences as founder and CEO of multiple companies. He spoke about the tech bubble burst at the turn of the century, during which he was faced with difficult layoffs but somehow maintained his optimism.

Mr. Ryan also shared some interesting statistics about his own ventures. According to him, 34 former employees of Doubleclick have gone on to become CEOs. On another note, Business Insider has never spent a single dollar in advertising, rather counting on audiences to embrace good products when they see them. Mr. Ryan also stated that he considers Jeff Bezos to be the most impressive CEO in the world, (although many former Amazon employees may disagree with his sentiment.)

Other entrepreneurs (vying to be the next Kevin Ryan) pitched their startups during the event. The first was Ceros, a cloud-based software for creating interactive, dynamic content. The studio includes drag-and-drop assets within templates for users to build experiences in HTML5 without needing to code. Once completed, the content is immediately published and can be embedded across the web. Ceros also provides real-time performance data and feedback on which elements of the content consumers are interacting with. This platform has obvious marketing implications as brands can build their own content quickly and without having to hire a specialist.

Next up to the podium was Vognition, a natural language voice control for connected devices. Vognition’s representative informed the audience that it is not a standalone solution rather, a component to be implemented into a complete voice recognition system. Conversational UI is a crowded space, and Vognition seems to be leaning on its ability to recognize normal speech as its differentiator.

The last company to present was Livnlist, a messaging app to help coordinate plans with friends. Although the layout and solution were both interesting and appealing, this platform currently offers limited marketing opportunities.

There continues to be interesting and exciting tech coming out of New Jersey and the NJ Tech meetup represents only a microcosm of the ingenuity that is emerging from the state.


Header image courtesy of NJ Tech Meetup