The View from Hoboken

I’m liking the Hoboken Tech Meetup experience. As I remarked in my last HTM post, there are advantages with smaller groups and a limited roster of speakers. The pace is less hurried, the demos more leisurely, the speakers can make extended points, and the Q&As have more educational value.

Obviously, I hope that HTM grows and prospers, but I would recommend NYCers take the Path or ferry and try this more intimate tech gathering. And the views of the NYC skyline from the Babbio Center are quite stunning.

Kudos to Aaron Price and his staff.

I’ll confess that I come to these meetups just for the demos, but at last night’s Hoboken Tech Meetup I arrived earlier and stayed later to listen to the speakers.  To my surprise, I was able to understand some of the inner legal and financial aspects of the startup world, which were the subject of two of the talks.

Bigger surprise: I enjoyed  it.Continue reading

And the winner last night was …

At New York Tech Meetup’s election day event, a bunch of young college-age upstarts stole the show from some of the slightly older incumbents.  I’m referring to student projects and hackathon winners who were up on stage at Skirball demoing their software efforts.

The evening’s theme was set by host Evan Korth, assistant professor of computer science at NYU and one of the co-founders of HackNY. Korth laid out his vision of New York City as an East Coast tech hub with NYU, Columbia, Parsons, and Rutgers acting as an educational seedbed for startup activity in this area—i.e., the Stanford University model.

And based on the demos I saw and the various entrepreneurial opportunities and programs around town, I’m becoming more of a believer.

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Tech Meeting Across the River (Hoboken Tech Meetup)

Hoboken Tech Meetup is a nice counterpoint to the goings on across the Hudson. Though I enjoy the big-city excitement of the NYC version, the Hoboken Meetup I went to last night at Stevens Institute’s Babbio Center also had its share of fun, Jersey style.

I loved when Michael Streko of Knowem (Belmar), social media trademark protection firm, said he sucked at Powerpoints before he launched into his speedy presentation, which had maybe two slides. I get it: we’re not fluff-meisters, we got products that sell and make money.

On this point, Streko stated that his site was profitable within an hour two hours after launch.

Take that NYC startups!Continue reading

Bantam Live: A Look at Small Business CRM

I just finished writing and posting my five favorite small business apps and then some underutilized neurons kicked in with the following thought:“wasn’t there a contact and project management tool that I had seen a few months back that looked promising?”

I searched through The Technoverse Blog’s Up Starts database to jog my memory and came across Bantam Live. It was slowly coming back to me.

I decided to gave this cloud-based social CRM app a closer look. My snap judgment after trialing it for under an hour:Bantam Live is a capable contact relationship management tool with the usual sales gears.

The social part comes about through Bantam’s ability to display a Twitter stream within the app and then allowing its users to import Twitter ids into the contact database. It’s a nice touch, and it will no doubt get used by sales folks scouring Twitter and Facebook for leads.Continue reading

Five of Our Favorite Small Business Apps

It is hard to keep track of all the startups that are emerging daily from apartments, hackathons, and incubators. And from within the ranks of unemployed workers, many are cranking out business plans and working out sales projections at their neighborhood Starbucks.

We are definitely in a new era of entrepreneurship. One factor that makes starting your own less of a dream and more of a practical reality is that the costs of IT infrastructure have dropped significantly in recent years. It’s just cheaper than ever to buy a phone system, establish a web presence, and build out administrative functions for sales and marketing.

I’ve come up with five web-based apps that bring IT for little or no cost to IT-less companies.Continue reading

Introspectr: Organizing Ambient Infomacy

I’m in a neologistic, word-coining mood this morning.  Like you, I have one eye on my Tweetdeck, half-consciously absorbing facts, information, memes, and other synaptic nourishment that’s flowing around me. At some point in my day, I’m inevitably walking an idea back to its source, which involves unproductively scrolling through streams of posts.

Tipping my cap to early descriptions of Twitter and microblogging, I’m calling this phenomenon ambient infomacy. Well …  maybe this new word won’t happen, but you get the idea.

This is all to explain why introspectr, which demoed their Twitter and Facebook search tool at New York Tech Meetup on Tuesday, received my complete attention.

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Open Gov in NYC Gets a Big Boost

I couldn’t make last night’s New York Tech Meetup in person, so I grabbed my laptop, settled into my sofa chair (after removing the cat), and watched the Livestream broadcast.  Besides liking introspectr (more on them in a later post), for me the most significant part of the evening’s entertainment was the official launch of NYC BigApps 2.0 contest.

As with last year’s first-ever competition, developers work with New York City’s open-gov data sets to create applications. The “most creative, best implemented, and impactful applications”, as judged by a panel of industry experts and leaders, will compete for $20,000  in prizes. The submission period ends January 12.

So what data sets are available to developers?
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Kodingen: Free, Easy Web Development Environment

I missed this month’s New York Tech Meetup due to a previous engagement that was scheduled over 5000 years ago. By the way, Matt Merriam has a nice summary of September’s NYTM demos. One of the startups, Kodingen, caught my attention. It is a free web development environment that encourages a community to provide support and cheering. I filed this away.

I was intrigued by the recent release of the FCC’s open APIs for accessing competitive ISP data. I had already hacked out—I am not a developer by any means— tools for graphically displaying the FCC’s “477” data on Google Maps (see references below). Could I somehow combine this all into a single project and perhaps use the amazing Google Maps Data infrastructure for sharing my results?

A tall order.  That’s when I brought Kodingen back to the head of my to-do list, and so I registered on the site to see what I’d be up against.  In fact, this is a delightfully simple open-source environment to work in.

Nothing against my current hosting service, Bluehost, but I was able to start working almost immediately in Kodingen without any of the usual obstacles and annoyances.Continue reading

Frontal: Flash for Free

I was looking for a no-sweat way to introduce Flash presentations into my blog for all the usual reasons: richer interactions without web server intervention, more space efficient way to present photos and videos, and just the plain fun of embedding multi-media into my text-centric blog. When I saw Frontal’s presentation at New York Tech Meetup last month,  I was inclined to be very receptive to a free development environment, simple scripting language, and easy deployment scenario (also, free) for creating and rendering SWFs. Did I mention the whole thing is free?

There are other shareware Flash tools out there, and  so I wanted to take a quick peek at the competition before making my commitment to Frontal.  It didn’t take long during my survey to realize Frontal’s advantages.  Most of my issues with the likes of MiniBuilder, FlashDevelop, and a few others involved having to learn Adobe’s ActionScript, deal with compilers, or overcome my severe allergic reaction to integrated development environments.

I was sold.  On page two you can see an embedded Frontal photo slideshow I put together in under 15 minutes.Continue reading

NYTM 8/3/10: Shirky Rebutted, Social Shopping, and Semantic Web

My ears are still ringing from a rant by Sam Lessin, founder, as he went about trying to disprove intrinsic altruism and trust, and reclaim the commanding heights with neo-classical economics. More on this later, but it is a curious position for a tech entrepreneur whose site is based on people uploading and sharing content for a cost of bupkis.

A few of the high points for me at last night’s New York Tech Meetup: TurnTo, which lets online shoppers find out what friends have purchased; Twilio (which I’ve written about before) had a nice telephony demo for this data-centric audience, and Indaba is a great site for helping musicians monetize their craft.

Oh, and there was a startup, I think called Microsoft, showing off their Bink, or maybe it’s Bing(?) search engine. And Willow Garage, a robotics startup, gave us a glimpse into a future where we stay at home and let our mechanical avatars roam the corridors and aisles of faraway office suites.Continue reading

Android: The Evil Side of Openness

Fred Wilson, managing partner of Union Square Ventures (Foursquare), recently called Apple an evil company. The reason?  “They believe they know what is best for you and me. And I think that is evil.”

It’s a definition of evil I think most of us would not agree with. On the other side of Wilson’s argument, you’ll find a few light-weight thinkers such as Socrates (see Plato’s Republic).  So … doctors are evil because they claim to know what’s best for us. Add to the list accountants, plumbers, carpenters, and architects.

I think Wilson has a different gripe with Apple. Apple has successfully shown that the America consumer has an appetite for quality products, even though they’re based on walled-off hardware and software.  While passing Wilson’s test for goodness, Google’s open-source Android platform is not necessarily a path to quality and may actually do some evil.Continue reading

Building Castles in the Virtual Air with Atmosphir

It’s been a slow Friday afternoon at the end of a four day heatwave—it’s now a chilly 84° in NJ.  When my beta invitation to Atmosphir, the do-it-yourself virtual world startup, appeared in my mailbox, I decided to take the bait and escape reality for an hour or two

I’m not really that interested in multi-player games, but after seeing what a 12-year-old boy  did with Amosphir during a what-kids-are-doing-with-the-Internet interlude at a recent New York Tech Meetup, I was impressed. At his age I was making paper-mache volcanoes.

What’s unique about Atmosphir is that it gives users a well-developed tool kit to create their own multi-level games on a 100×100 grid.   While it looked easy when demoed by that tech-savvy child, this adult was having his share of design challenges.

As Groucho said, “it’s so easy a four-year old could do it, quick someone get me a four-year old.”

After the jump, you can see a few virtual worlds built by members of the Atmosphir community.Continue reading

Summer in the City: Shirky, Kind Strangers, and Neat Startups

Last night was my fourth NYC Tech Meetup, and I think the first time I’ve been in Manhattan in recent memory during a major heat wave. Thankfully, the electro-mechanical HVAC at Skirball worked flawlessly, far better than this new venue’s Internet access.

One of the highpoints for me was listening to Clay Shirky talk about his new book, Cognitive Surplus. Shirky is a gifted narrator and explainer, and the TED videos I’ve seen of him only hint at the powerful thought waves he radiates during a live presentation.

He is an optimist, a true believer on the Internet’s ability to beneficially channel otherwise wasted human CPU cycles devoted to legacy TV watching into crowdsourced content creation: Wikipedia, Amazon book reviews, Aardvark experts on tap, tweets, and as you’ll see after the jump, food photography.Continue reading

Kikin: Hole Filling Is Not a Business Model

Kikin is a NYC startup that, as their web copy says, “brings you more relevant posts, tweets, videos, and other cool stuff from popular sites,” by automatically displaying interesting links on your browser page.  Its proposition is that you trust your social network, so the Kikin software trolls your Twitter and Facebook streams for relevant content that has been contributed by friends, family, and co-workers.

This idea is especially powerful when making purchasing decisions, less so for knowledge areas  involving, say, the new FCC policy on cable set-top boxes.

This small company garnered some good press about a year ago.

Since then Google has been busy filling in a few of its holes, a platform tweak that will ultimately force  niche players to, well, find a new niche in the ecosystem.  Of course, Google has also been expanding the pond with products such as  Google Wave, Google Buzz,  and Google Predict.Continue reading

And now there's a database

I had been meaning to set up a database containing all the startup companies that I’ve been following in this blog.  Finally, with enough entries and notes  in my spreadsheets, and some spare time that opened up this week and last, I was able to put something together.  You can peruse the results  of my efforts under this blog’s Up Starts category.

A word about my selection criteria:  it is not meant to  generate a list of all-the-usual well funded NYC start-up suspects (but we’ll have some of those as well).  It’s teeny start-ups, private betas, open source efforts, contest winners, or perhaps an interesting idea  that a few enterprising folks have swarmed around. Hence,  the “Up Start” label.

It will be an ongoing effort to keep this up to date. If you have a tip, email me at

Finale: Startup Weekend NYC

I was able to catch most of the Startup Weekend NYC closing presentations, which were held this year at New York University’s Courant Institute. It was my first time as an attendee, and though I’m sorry I missed Mantrophy’s pitch, after about ten or so presentations, I definitely got a feel for the energy, industry, and the sheer fun of hatching a business.

If the rest of the events of Internet Week NY could be considered watching the early careers of startups, Startup Weekend NYC was a front row seat to witnessing the first big break for a future Foursquare or Etsy— American Idol for the tech set.

The whirlwind began on Friday evening when developers, marketers, designers, and business managers paired up to launch their plans. By Sunday, there were software mock-ups, sales projection spreadsheets, marketing roadmaps, and elevator pitches. Considering the limited time, the final PowerPoints and closing remarks were compelling enough, I believe, for most of these startups to continue with their efforts.

There were a few I liked.Continue reading