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NYTM: Shouting, Exercising, Event Curation and the Innovating CTO of the United States

NYTM: Shouting, Exercising, Event Curation and the Innovating CTO of the United States (#NYTM)
Guest Post By Lauren Keyson

The CTO of the United States, Todd Park, was the surprise speaker at Monday’s October NY Tech Meetup.  Addressing the hundreds of members in the packed Skirball Center at NYU, he talked about five startup projects initiated during his tenure including: The Open Data Initiatives Program, which liberates data; Blue Button for America, which seeks to spread the capability for the adoption of the ability for patients to get their own medical records; and RFPEZ, which solves the problem of accessing tech solutions from startups. He was also passionate about  Better Than Cash, which seeks to catalyze moving the developing world from cash based systems to mobile payments and  MyGov, a new platform that organizes government around the people’s needs .

“This reimagines and reconnects citizens to their government,” he explained. “Now we are asking for your help –we’re asking any innovators from across the country, NYC, anywhere – to scrub in on these projects and add your thoughts and your ideas to the mix by going to Whitehouse.gov.”

Park’s energy spread through the audience, and when the demonstrations by 11 innovative founders began, the audience enthusiastically applauded each one.  Vantageous was unique in that it streamlines the process of making videos that cut from one vantage point to another.  It allows users to make multi-angle videos using iPhones or Androids as video cameras. “It’s disruptive because currently, to make a multi-angle video of a wedding or a first dance, you need expensive devices,” explained CEO Tim Novikoff.  “Typically you’re hiring a videographer; or if you are doing it by yourself, you need expensive software like Final Cut Pro and hours to do it.  But with Vantageous you can do it with a few iPods, iPhones from your friends, and a few dollars.”

Novikoff talked about some of the challenges of creating this startup. He talked about one recent example that happened right before the Meetup.   Just as the team’s services were being deployed, their developer’s connection in Honduras went down.  Fortunately, the developer was able to deploy through a hot spot on his Android. “You’ve just got to stay cool. Entrepreneurship is about giant ups and giant downs and after you go through a bunch of them, you just start weathering each storm as it comes.”

VenueBook, a frontend marketing site with a complete catering and event management system on the backend, just launched a few weeks ago. The team aims to get tight integration, similar to OpenTable. “We think this integration is our secret sauce,” said founder & CEO Kelsey Recht.   “But when you are building a product you never feel like you’re done. At some point, you do have to freeze and show it to the world. The best thing you can do is get feedback, but because it’s your baby, you feel like it’s never perfect.  And it never is going to be perfect.”

The CTO Joanthan Katz said he knows how to scale a product. “You have to know all the moving parts in the event world, because events are inherently complicated.  There is no definitive -- everyone has a different menu and requirements.  So by really understanding the data behind the event process, I was able to build the appropriate data model and everything just fell in around that.”

FlavorPill GEL is an open platform for events. It brings together events from all different categories and allows the users to be the curators.  “It allows people to experience more amazing events  in the cities they are in by creating this open platform for discovering and sharing,” said co-founder Mark Mangan.  It’s getting personalized event information based on what you’re interested in.”
Rick Martinez, the lead developer, said that his biggest challenge was having expertise in the domain.  “It’s amazing, especially for me -- the tech person -- to be around so many people that are already so into culture here in the city and the respective cities we’re in. They are the ones who provide the guidance.”

Matthew Klinman, a very funny comedy writer, teamed up with some developers to make the website ShoutRoulette.com -- an easy and fast way to shout at other people online about anything.  It was created in one day during the Comedy Hackathon.  How it works is that users pick topics they want to shout about – like Climate Change or Women’s Rights – then go onto the site and are automatically matched up with people who have opposing views.  Then you can immediately start shouting at each other through a video chat through the website.

“Let’s say you are watching a politician and they say something that gets you so angry – you know that feeling – and you have no one around you to shout at,” he said.  “Our site finally allows you to shout at someone who disagrees with you right in that moment, when you need it the most.” It’s live; it’s about connecting with someone in the world and shouting directly in their face.”  The demonstration included a shout match between Klinman and one of his developers on the topic, “Chipotle Burritos Are Bullshit.” He raged about how the chains burritos had rice and beans added because the meat wasn’t good. “Comedy comes from truth,” he added.

Temboo, a library of 1500+  choreos, helps users build well-crafted apps in less time.  “It’s changing the way people can build apps,” said Trisala Chandaria.  “It allows the developers to focus on the creative work, and it already gives them the low level work so that they don’t have to worry about that. The backend is hugely scalable. Often in a startup you have the feeling of doubt, but also the feeling that your pulse is on something is constantly there.”

Keya Dannenbaum, founder & CEO, ElectNext, a civic engagement startup, “We want to help people connect to politicians, political events and the issues that they care about in the way that’s meaningful to them every day. We are at a place that we can be an incredibly useful tool to people for this November’s election.”

Honest Buildings helps professionals find buildings for their commercial real estate needs. “We are like a Google for finding information about buildings – you type in an address and pull up a profile about anything about a building,” said Josh Boltuch.  “We are similar to LinkedIn, in that as a professional you can connect with the buildings and post projects that they’ve done. It connects the real estate world so people can find the projects and companies they need to make their buildings better.”

CEO Riggs Kubiak talked about how his team put together such a massive database.  “The challenge was trying to do too much.  So just keep a laser focus and hone in on what you’re really trying to do and don’t get distracted by details.”

Other innovations of note included Seeds, a for-profit social gaming for mobile micro lending; Candor.fm, a real-time test for presidential debates; Thunderclap, a crowdspeaking platform for large groups; and Sportaneous, a way to discover fitness. “Everyone wants to work out more than they do,” said Omar Haroun.

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