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.
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.
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