Twelve unique startups, many of them content-oriented, demoed their technologies at Wednesday’s NY Tech Meetup in front of a sold-out crowd at NYU’s 850-capacity Skirball Center. One of these was Atavist, the recently launched site set up so that users can read long form fiction stories on their mobile devices. Another presenter, MeeGenius creates digitally enhanced children’s books faster and cheaper with a wide distribution channel, while Corkboard.me is a sharable, personal computer corkboard.
Andrew Cohen, founder of Brainscape, described his platform as a personalized flash card stream for web or mobile. “It helps you learn almost anything faster. I came up with this when I was teaching myself French when living in Martinique, and I wrote an Excel macro to automate stuff for me. I realized I’d stumbled upon a new type of learning methodology and I made this my entire focus of my master’s project, and started recruiting people.” The startup launched about two months ago and already has 110,000 users. They had 10,000 downloads the day before the Meetup.
NY Tech Meetup’s new managing director, Jessica Lawrence, said that she was particularly interested in watching the demo by Readability which she described as “an application you can apply to a site that basically makes everything but the stuff that you are reading sort of disappear away, so that you feel like you can really concentrate and not get distracted by all the other stuff on the sidebars.” The site’s tag line is “Read in Peace, Everywhere.”
She was also looking forward to watching Adieu, which she came across at South by Southwest (SXSW) in March where participants launched their new startups and then pitched them to investors. Adieu is an app that connects social networks with people you meet on the fly. “It’s a really easy way when you’re meeting somebody to add them and all of their social media information and get that connection instantly.”
Several of the startups had a social component. One example of this was MessageParty, which just launched the day of the Meetup. It’s a geo-blogging service where users can post rich content — links, stories, quips and photos to specific locations and the content then lives at that place. ImUp4 intelligently tells users when their friends want to do the same thing around the same time so that they can start doing more things together, while Ask Local is a communication-by-location platform using geo-constrained messages that can only be seen and replied to within an area specified by the sender.
runens.com has a mission to make running – usually a lone activity — more social. Its founder Marcio Cyrillo explained, “I’m a runner and I felt that all the running apps that are currently available are not providing social features. It’s all about making this sport less solitary and more social. I know running is intrinsically solitary, but if you know what people are doing at what base camp, you can get excited to do that yourself. So people are motivating other people all the time.”
Ex.FM is a social music platform that makes it easy to gather music across the web, organize it into a library and share it with friends — legally. “Right now there is an absolute explosion of free and legal music on the web,” said Dan Kantor, founder and CEO who has been building music apps for the last five years. “It’s coming from music blogs, from artists’ sites, from music sites like BandCamp and SoundCloud. Our browser extension makes it so that anywhere you browse that has music will automatically pull it in and organize it into a library you can easily browse.”
Then there was Lemonade Stand, the Hack of the Month at the Meetup. It’s a commerce platform that enables people to buy and sell goods quickly and painlessly within their community. Users can list something for sale, and receive an instant response from a buyer. The company was built on the Startup Bus, which was a 60 hour hack-a-thon on a bus trip that took place from NYC to Austin, Texas last month for SXSW. How hard is it to build something on a bus? “There is awful internet, cramped spaces, it smells and it’s very shaky so you can’t type very well,” said Jonathan Gottfried, co-founder. “But it was easier than I expected.” Co-founder David Kay is determined to do it again, “I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”