I attended the New York Tech Meetup for the first time Tuesday night 4/4. This meetup is “show and tell” of new technology for “geeks, investors, entrepreneurs, hackers, anyone that wants to see or show something interesting”. In a nutshell it’s a get together and networking event for tech folks.
I was one of many first-timers there. Given the meetup is limited to 200 people (apparently due to space considerations) the organizer said a lot of regulars were ticked to have been squeezed out.
Anyway, early in the organizer described the presentation format as “Gong Show”. That characterization might be a little strong, but there’s a five minute limit for each presentation (followed by five minutes for questions) and the crowd is definitely critical. I like the format.
There were seven presenters this time. The technologies and products shown were diverse and the presentation approaches varied from from professional and polished to rough and technical.
Here’s my take on each. I’m going totally from memory; next time I will try to take notes so I can provide more (and more accurate) detail. Presentations are listed in the order presented on the meetup agenda, which is not the order in which the presentations actually happened (again, my lack of notes is hampering me).
Andrew Rasiej, FON
FON is a really interesting service. FON provides a technical framework and business model for connecting folks’ individual Wi-Fi hotspots.
The basic idea is everyone opens their Wi-Fi router to everyone else and in exchange for doing that we all get free, ubiquitous Wi-Fi. Those who cannot or will not share their Wi-Fi can connect to the FON network for $2.00 per day (paid by the day, I think), which is a steal, assuming the network has coverage where you are. Even the broadband providers get a cut, which Andrew said has made them FON supporters.
I think this is a really neat concept, but there are a lot of practical, technical, and business hurdles. (Where’s the coverage? Personally, I’m on the fourth floor of an Upper West Side building and I’m within range of 10 access points as I write this–no one here needs my access point. What about EVDO and HSDPA?)
I’m nowhere near an expert on wireless technologies, but I’m a bit skeptical about this approach. Still, it’s pretty interesting, and I’ll look into it more closely before I commit to EVDO or HSDPA.
Jim Coffman, BlogAmp
This service was not presented particularly well. Based on the bread crumbs in the presentation and a later review of the BlogAmp site it appears to be a Flash-based MP3 player that can play files hosted anywhere, including BlogAmp’s hosting service. One value-add is playback statistics, which is useful but of course can be gleaned using standard Web logs.
Given the weakness of the presentation and the fact any reasonably technical person can download and integrate into their site a free Flash-based MP3 player from SourceForge (like I did about six months ago for a project) I don’t find this service particularly compelling. Maybe I’m missing something.
Tom Kane, Commontales
I’m going to cop out and just link to the Commontales FAQ page to describe it. I sorta got it from the presentation and sorta get it now. Apparently it’s a place to post stories and pictures and build upon them. Supposedly the stuff posted will remain there forever.
I like the concept, but I’m not sure yet on the execution, and given it’s a startup I’m skeptical stuff will be there forever. Maybe I’m missing something on this one, too.
At the very least it needs a better sales pitch. I don’t think I was the only skeptical one in the audience.
Patrick Fitzsimmons, ZipApp
The meetup agenda described this as “building a browser based Excel/Access, allows users to turn their spreadsheets or Access DBs into an online web app” and that overview works for me.
The presenter was talking really quickly as he tried to demonstrate every cool feature of the app in five minutes. There were a bunch of features that were definitely cool, though the coolness was largely due to the fact they were implemented in a browser (using AJAX, of course).
The service is interesting, but there were a lot of valid questions about the target market and eventual competitive threats from Microsoft (via Live services and products such as SharePoint) and the like.
The audience applauded and then lightened up a bit when Patrick confessed he’s a college student who wants to turn this into a business when he graduates.
I’m not sure about the service as it currently stands, but Patrick will be a guy to watch.
LingPipe is a natural language processing component implemented in Java. I don’t know much about natural language processing, but my sense from the crowd’s response was this software was not particularly unique. It’s open source and free for non-commercial uses. I didn’t get a clear picture of who the customers were.
Mark Hurst, GooTodo
This is one case where I was much more impressed with the presenter and his presentation than I was with the product.
As presented the product is a simple online to-do list that distinguishes itself by being able to convert email forwarded to it into to-do list items. In my book this is a neat feature, but it’s one that could be easily copied by any of the other to-do list services such as Ta-da Lists. Outlook already does what is effectively the same thing–to convert an email message to a task you just drag it to the tasks folder or shortcut.
He emphasized the popular “less is more” approach to feature implementation in selling the benefits of GoTodo. I agree in principle with minimalism, but I personally consider things such as RSS feeds to be a basic requirement for a lot of services nowadays, including to-do lists. RSS feeds are one of things I like about Ta-da Lists–I keep a copy of my personal to-do list on my personalized Google home page. In general I think the “no features is a feature” argument is being stretched a bit thin at this point and this is a good example.
Definitely an impressive individual and a good salesperson, but I’m not sold on the service.
Some other guy, an apparently interesting virus analysis service with a seemingly solid business case
This presenter and presentation were not listed on the agenda, which is a shame because the service presented seemed very interesting. Maybe the omission was intentional; he may want to stay off the radar for now.
In a nutshell the service supposedly will allow analysts to digitally photograph microscope samples and send them to an Internet service that will analyze them. In my mind this is an automated, Internet-based first-level lab analysis.
My description isn’t doing the service justice. I will try to find out more about this and will post a follow up if I do.
I plan to attend the NY Tech Meetup regularly, at least for the next few months. Though the presentations were mixed the people impressed me and I want to connect with other tech folks in the city, which is something I haven’t done as much as I wished I had in the other cities where I’ve lived. Hopefully there will be room for more than 200 people in the near future, because there’s a lot of interest.