New York Tech Meetup riffs on the state of the local industry
In celebration of Internet Week New York, the monthly geek gathering focuses on some of the city's biggest start-up successes.
NEW YORK--Typically, the monthly New York Tech Meetup is an opportunity for the unpolished founders of brand-new local start-ups to go up onstage, talk about their companies for five minutes, and risk heckling from an audience of 400.
But for the Internet Week New York installment of the gathering on Tuesday evening, host (and Meetup.com founder) Scott Heiferman invited a handful of Gotham tech success stories to talk about the state of their companies. Needless to say, the presentations were a little bit slicker, and the "How're you going to make money?" question, a staple for the green Tech Meetup regulars, was understandably absent.
Heiferman also took a jab atby New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, which kicked off Internet Week. Heiferman noted that the only tech company mentioned three times in Bloomberg's speech had been Google, a company that has a huge presence in the city but originated in the Valley. Bloomberg had added that he'd been on a tour of Google's New York office, to which Heiferman surveyed the techies in the room and asked, "Let's see a show of hands--how many of you have had Mayor Mike come and tour your office?"
Here's what else went down:
Kevin Ryan, co-founder and chairman of AlleyCorp, parent company of a number of properties including Panther Express and the Silicon Alley Insider, said that the company would be raising new venture funding in about the next two months. Ryan, an original founder of DoubleClick, also hailed New York's burgeoning tech culture, estimating that the city has produced about $35 billion in tech assets over the past decade. That makes it second only to the Bay Area.
DailyCandy's Catherine Levene said that the 8-year-old women's e-mail newsletter will be launching seven new localized editions of its DailyCandy Kids lists, capitalizing on the hot online parenting niche. As for longer-term plans, Levene said the company was "never really founded as an e-mail company; it was founded as a content company...We look to our future as beyond e-mail." The site will see more national and international editions, an expanded Web site, and potentially content more than once a day. That'd kind of render the name obsolete, but hey, that's just a triviality.
Rob Kalin, founder of handmade goods marketplace and cult favorite Etsy, said that 15,000 to 20,000 items are sold on the site every day. Etsy, which was founded two-and-a-half years ago in Brooklyn, just hired a COO and is looking forward to more growth. "It's a matter of time before Wal-Mart is just out of business," Kalin said of Etsy's handmade, buy-local mantra in the face of rising fuel costs that may render cheap labor not-so-cheap. "I wish I could be around to see it. He then admitted that Etsy actually shares a board member with Wal-Mart Stores.
Huffington Post CEO Betsy Morgan and co-founder Jonah Peretti dismissed criticisms that the liberal-leaning news aggregation site's traffic could plummet after 2008 election buzz quiets down, saying that over half the site's traffic now comes from its non-politics sections. "We're in six verticals, (and) we're going to many more," Morgan said. The Huffington Post now "employs" 1,600 unpaid bloggers but has fewer than 50 full-time employees, and has seen its traffic triple in the past seven months.
TheLadders founder and CEO Mark Cenedella showed off the white-collar job search site's slick interface, and reminisced about when he showed up at the first-ever New York Tech Meetup. There were eight people at the meetup and 22 on TheLadders' payroll; now there are 400 people at each Meetup (with a waiting list) and 240 TheLadders employees.
The chief technology officer and general product manager from Heiferman's own Meetup showed off an impressive impending relaunch of the site, which is designed to be "simpler and easier to use." Among the updates to Meetup are a location directory (the company is "starting to talk to Yelp" about a possible partnership with the business-reviews site), an integration with Amazon Payments to offer payment options besides PayPal, a "Meetup Alliances" feature to make networks of local groups, and a tweak to require people to pay before they RSVP to an event. There's also an Italian-language launch of the site on the way to reflect its popularity in Italy, and "crowdsourcing" efforts will translate it into more languages.
David Uyttendaele, CTO of print-and-ship on-demand service Mimeo now has an employee count of 550 and prints 2 million to 3 million pages per night. That's huge for a company that many people in the city still haven't heard of, perhaps because it's geared toward enterprise clients. The company also recently launched "Mimeo Marketplace," a way for document manufacturers to sell their creations.
Chris Phenner, vice president of business development at mobile content marketplace Thumbplay, said that there are over 80,000 ringtones, videos, games, and graphics available for download for a $10 monthly fee. The company is also "so very, very close" to letting independent content creators sell their own media through the service.