NEW YORK — Valentine’s Day isn’t for another few days, but love of all sorts was on display at the stage at NY Tech Meetup’s February gathering Wednesday night: Romantic love, familial love, love for country, and most of all, love from and for the growing scene of tech entrepreneurs and investors in the Big Apple.
The event, held at NYU’s Skirball Center, kicked off with love from two homegrown heavyweight financial institutions, NASDAQ and Bloomberg, both of which announced new partnerships with NY Tech Meetup, an increasingly formal nonprofit group made up of 21,000 of the city’s tech workers.
A big chunk of them meet monthly to hear startup company pitches and offer questions, advice and yes, connections with investors. NY Tech Meetup (NYTM) was launched in 2004 on the website Meetup.com, where the monthly events are still coordinated.
Bloomberg announced it would join a list of the group’s sponsors that already includes such tech giants as Google, Microsoft and Tumblr, while NASDAQ announced it would be taking an even greater role in the proceedings, collaborating with NYTM on a video series, a “Women in Tech” series of talks, and a PSA “highlighting New York as the ideal place to build and nurture a technology company.”
However, that love from NASDAQ isn’t exactly unconditional. After a reported fracas between NASDAQ and the New York Stock Exchange over which one would get the coveted privilege of listing Facebook’s public shares (still unresolved), NASDAQ has designs on making sure all new New York City startups that go public list on it, as Beatbeat pointed out.
Still, cynicism aside, it didn’t hurt that on Wednesday, the first among those presenting startup products before a crowd of over 800 investors, entrepreneurs, programmers and journalists was the “youngest demoer ever,” 4-and-a-half-year-old Madeline Snyder, who took to the stage to show off Everything Butt Art, a novel iPad app based around the concept that just about anything can be drawn from a “butt shape,” a rounded lower case “w.”
Who wouldn’t love a presentation like that?
Meanwhile, for those looking for more adult romance, the founders of a new dating website called MyMatchmaker took to the stage second to demo their website’s novel approach of filtering singles hunting for love online through actual professional matchmakers.
They even demoed an actual “matchmaking” experience on stage, bringing together MyMatchmaker’s community manager Jen Penk, her “match” Greg, and her pro matchmaker, Jackie, with Greg asking Jen out on a date (She said yes!)
“As you can see, MyMatchmaker is about real people, real communities and real connections,” said the site’s co-founder Josef Feldman, “We already have a network for our personal lives and for our professional lives. MyMatchmaker is building the network for our dating lives.”
On the flip side, there was also a good helping of hate at the Meetup, too: Hate for the stalled anti-piracy bills the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), the prospective passage of which galvanized 2,000 members of the NY Tech Meetup group into a physical protest outside the offices of New York Democratic Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand on January 18.
“The New York tech community did something on that day which really needed to happen, said NY Tech Meetup board chair Andrew Rasiej during his recap of the protests, “We put a human face on a protest that was happening around the world,” he said, referring to the January 18 mass online blackouts of Wikipedia, Reddit and numerous other websites in protest of the bills, which have since been all but killed in Congress as a result of the demonstrations.
“Since our protest both Senators Gillibrand and Schumer have called various members of our community and have started a new conversation,” explained Rasiej, “They have assured us that they may not have been listening before, but they are listening now. We’ll see…”
Wednesday’s event also marked the first time that NY Tech Meetup was forced to offer satellite events due to overwhelming demand. Tickets for the monthly events are released ahead of time on Meetup.com, for $10 a-pop, but for the past few Meetup events, they’ve sold out within seconds. The group attempted to offer a livestream of the February gathering on projector screens at two local venues, but was beset by numerous technical glitches, an irony that didn’t go unnoticed by observers and the event’s coordinators, who apologized numerous times throughout.
Check out the full list of startups that presented at Meetup.com and below. Is the next Facebook among them?
Everything Butt Art
Brian Snyder, a former IBM client manager, left the company to create Everything Butt Art, an iPad drawing app for children, which just launched Thursday after being previewed at the TechCrunch Disrupt festival in New York in May 2011. Brian was also on the stage to present his app, though it should be noted that daughter Madeline did all the drawing.
This dating website launched in early 2012 as a kind of hybrid real-world/virtual dating service, offering singles the convenience of online dating with the added bonus of real world matchmakers filtering out prospective matches.
The website has more women on it than men at this point, according to its community manager, Jen Penk, an anomaly for most dating sites. All messages between singles go through pro-matchmakers first, and each single is paired with a matchmaker based on his or her dating demographics. Singles can even request matchmakers to make the introductions for them. With the recent news that computer-guided dating websites are no better at finding a match than the tried and true method of heading to a bar, the website seems like it stands a chance.
A “what you see is what you get” (WSIWYG) website editor, which allows users to design their own websites by simple drag-and-drop manipulation of different design elements, no experience required. The product is in beta right now, but it offers support for existing WordPress websites. See the demo video of it in action below:
A multimedia entertainment company founded in 2010 seemingly based around the studies showing that our gadget obsessed society enjoys using smartphones and tablets while watching TV. The first product, the free Umami iPad app, launched in November 2011, “automatically recognizes live or time-shifted programming across dozens of channels using proprietary audio fingerprinting technology,” serving up related information and commentary online, including from your social network friends and advertising tie-ins.
“Most Valuable Follower,” a startup founded on the simple idea that Twitter users want to and should be able to know who their most valuable follower is — not necessarily the one with the most followers or the one who retweets them the most, but some combination of those attributes and others. The service uses a proprietary algorithm. Creator Alex Taub hacked together a live “Facebook Connect” integration feature during the course of Wednesday’s presentation, allowing users to see their most valuable Facebook followers.
A web company founded in mid-2011 on the idea that there’s no good single resource where companies, namely small businesses, can visit to find business-specific software recommendations, reviews and discussion. BestVendor aims to be this resource, eventually expanding to all sorts of business products. For now the company is concentrating on “software and apps.” As founder Ben Zhuk said during his presentation, “We want to be the Wikipedia for business products and the Klout for product reviews.”
A website founded in January 2011 that purports to be the “world’s first credit scoring service that uses your online social network to assess credit.” Users register with Lenddo and then import their social media contacts lists from Facebook, Twitter, Gmail and other web services. Lenddo analyses the contacts to determine the user’s identity and trustworthiness and then assigns them a Lenddo score, which can then be used to obtain institutional capital from Lenddo’s third party partner financial institutions. The website is apparently a big hit in the Philippines.
A Web company founded by Alison Anthoine to streamline the complex process of drafting, issuing, signing and collecting legal documents en mass — from non-disclosure agreements to other contracts. Paperlex offers all of this online, including a digital signature process. It’s running in beta right now, but Anthoine confirmed to the audience on Wednesday that Fast Company was its latest client.
A new, custom map-making and “geospatial database” that allows users to upload map data from a variety of sources — the NYC.gov website was used as an example in the presentation — and then manipulate and store it in the cloud. The platform, a spinoff of the company Vizzuality, already counts NASA among its clients. Over the course of just two or three minutes, the company’s presenter showed off how data from NYC.gov on the city’s public WiFi hotspots could also be overlaid with the city’s parks to show which parks had free WiFi. Turns out not many, sadly.