Event Recap: Districtpitch – Digital Media and Ad Tech

On March 29th, the Lab attended Districtpitch: Digital Media and Ad Tech. Founders and entrepreneurs faced the crowd and a panel of judges to pitch their early-stage companies. Here is a roundup of companies that presented yesterday.

We have all experienced that empty feeling after finishing a TV series and having no clue what to watch next. Stareable is a content discovery destination that helps you find your next show. It is a community-driven TV guide that links users to where they can watch. Users submit reviews and recommendations that help direct others towards their next favorite obsession. Stareable is ad-supported with standard display ads so there is no cost to the end user.

Slidejoy is an Android app that delivers ads and news to a phone’s lock screen in exchange for rewards. They receive fantastic engagement because the units are the first thing people see when they look at their phone and the audience has opted-in to receive messaging. 80-85% of their users are in the US.

Tinybeans is a social media app for families, essentially an online scrapbook of your kids. They collect metadata on the families in order to help brands market effectively to the parents. They currently have 1.1 million registered users, 80% of which are in the US.

Another social app with children in mind is Skit! Kids. They have gamified storytelling by allowing children to collaborate remotely to create videos. Other users can remix and change existing stories on the platform. Their revenue model includes in-app purchases and product placement that aligns with the environment. Skit! Kids is COPA-compliant and every piece of content created within the app is checked by a human moderator.

Finally, there were two location-based targeting companies that presented as well. Exploreka helps brands deliver contextually relevant messaging to the right consumer at the right time. Notify Nearby is a mobile app that leverages a network of beacons to target shoppers with relevant messaging in a consolidated news feed.

Event Recap: NJ Tech Meetup #68

On Monday, January 11th, the Media Lab attended the 68th New Jersey Tech Meetup. The guest speaker for this first meetup of the year was Mark Gerson, the co-founder and Chairman of the Gerson Lehrman Group and of Thuzio, a service that connects businesses to celebrities for local appearances. He has also founded a number of philanthropic organizations including United Rescue and the African Mission Healthcare Foundation. Mr. Gerson spoke about his early history as an entrepreneur, beginning with a $50 wager over fantasy basketball in grade school. After this early taste of success, Mr. Gerson shared his experience as a founder where he had to pivot and adapt his companies’ missions in order to fit the market and client demand. He also shared a good bit of advice on starting a company, which was to find the dumbest person you know and tell them your idea. If they don’t understand, refine the idea.

Aside from the fireside chat, three entrepreneurs took the stage to introduce the group to their new businesses. Indicative, based in Union Square, provides behavioral analytics for marketers with a focus on clean data visualization for the end user. HYPR is a marketplace that connects brands to relevant social media influencers based on their proprietary grading system. Their three main verticals include political campaigns, app promotion, and CPG. They are active on a variety of social media, including Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Vine.

Last but not least, GrownOcean presented their mobile app for adventure travel planning. The app allows users to create a bucket list of adventures and helps them sort out the logistics by making lodging and travel recommendations, as well as providing a supply checklist for their voyage. Although still in the early stages of growing their user-base, GrownOcean is set up to enable brands to promote content in the form of custom adventures and recommended travel items, with a link to purchase.

The NJ Tech Meetup kicked off 2016 with an impressive array of inspirational entrepreneurs and the Lab is excited to see what else is in store for the new year.


Event Recap: November 2015 NY Tech Meetup

The New York Tech Meetup is the largest meetup group in the world with over 47,000 members from the tech community in NYC. On Tuesday, the Lab attended their monthly event to see some of the city’s most promising startups demo their products live. As always, the ingenuity on display was inspiring. Below are brief summaries of some of the exhibitors:

Venuebook offers an easy way for a user to book a group outing or private event with the Expressbook tool. Available in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington DC, the tool allows you to search for and reserve the perfect space for your party. Venuebook is able to provide real-time venue availability because they are the calendar platform of record for a number of restaurants and event spaces.

For those that are dedicated to eating healthier, Foodstand is building a food community to help foodies find, cook, and eat better food. Users can search posts to see what others have made for inspiration, discover local restaurants, and win prizes for participating in challenges (like their recent food waste reduction challenge). Pictures, recipes, and reviews live on a central news feed. Foodstand also mentioned they have a partnership with Dig Inn.

For consumers that are tired of dealing with cellular providers, Karma is a Wi-Fi hotspot that allows users to purchase cellular data when they need it for $14 per GB. Users can also earn karma points in the form of data by allowing others to connect to their hotspot. There are over a thousand Karma devices currently deployed across the US and a user’s “gas tank” of data can be accessed via any of them. Karma currently operates on Sprint’s 4G LTE network. The founder claimed that he has had his phone on airplane mode for the past three years and has instead been operating entirely on Karma’s network.

In addition to the main exhibitors, students who had participated in HackNY demoed their projects. The first was Roam, for people that may be stranded without data or strong service (often at the end of a long night). The app allows users to get directions, check the weather, and even hail an Uber ride without the use of cellular data. Instead, requests are routed entirely through SMS. Second, Lights, Camera, Location! uses a Google API to search the entire world for the filming locations of any Hollywood movie. It is incredible that both of these solutions were conceived and built in only 24 hours!

Other companies to present included a podcast that drops hints for listeners to piece together to unlock the next episode, an online education platform for web development, and a safe way for sexual assault survivors to report their attacks. Overall, the audience was introduced to some extremely interesting and useful products, and it is clear that the tech community in New York is thriving.

Event Recap: Disctrict CoWork NYC DistrictPitch Event

On October 1st, the Lab attended DistrictPitch, an event organized by District CoWork where select startups pitch their business to a panel of investors. There were a number of interesting companies on display with real marketing implications. Here are some highlights from the event.

The first to present was OKMyOutfit, an on-demand personal shopping service that charges members a monthly subscription. Users receive a consultation from a team of stylists to identify their style preferences and make more informed purchase decisions. OKMyOutfit has a partnership with the Hudson Bay Companies to offer their products and there is certainly an opportunity for other retail brands to get onboard and become providers.

The next company to present was Bluebook Academy, an education service aiming to accurately link training to occupation. As a student works their way through a curriculum, their skills and weaknesses are identified and matched to appropriate career paths. This type of guidance is often lacking in the education industry and could help guide students based on strengths and passions.

Next up to the podium was TOP Docs, a collaboration tool for teams working on a project remotely. Picture how frustrating it is to constantly have to download and save different versions of the same document because some teammates are using Google Docs and others are using Dropbox. TOP Docs allows users who are using different cloud-based storage platforms to perform real-time edits on the same file and automatically saves back to the original platform’s format. It is accessed as a freemium model on mobile and web, iOS and Android.

The following company, CareConnectors, is a health care communication platform for doctors and patients. Too often, patients leave care facilities with limited understanding of their own conditions. The platform provides patients with easy-to-understand diagnoses and prescriptions so they increase their understanding of their own personal health. The platform can also be used for peer-to-peer communications between health care providers so an individual’s treatment is uniform and streamlined.

The second-to-last business to present was eDivv, a secondary market for consumers to buy, sell, and barter beauty products. When someone has extra product that they know they will not use, they can connect to the community to trade or sell. The site includes forums, blogs, and messaging in order to connect its members. From a brand perspective, eDivv is collecting data from their community, while also offering native advertising and branded product trials.

Finally, Measurence took the stage to present their offline analytics platform for brick and mortar retailers. They are able to leverage WiFi, bluetooth, or beacons to connect to a customer’s mobile device in order to track their in-store location, dwell times, and conversion to purchase. They launched in November of 2014 and have a partnership with Square to link purchase behavior. Measurence does not build its own hardware but they are working on an Apple Watch app for the store manager to access an analytics dashboard in real time.

The DistrictPitch event showcased an array of ventures that are tackling solutions across many industries. From retail to healthcare, these entrepreneurs showcased their intelligence and ingenuity.


Event Recap: NJ Tech Meetup #63

On Wednesday, August 12th, the Media Lab attended the New Jersey Tech Meetup at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken. This monthly event is organized as a way for entrepreneurs from New Jersey to network and inspire each other.

A handful of startups were chosen to present their business ideas to the attendees. First to the stage was Fusar, a company that creates wearable hardware for action-sports enthusiasts. Their products include clip-on trackers that fit on helmets, handlebar controls, and an “Eyes up”-display helmet. Because the primary function of this equipment is safety, it seems unlikely that Fusar will incorporate an open-source app store that brands can leverage, as this may be seen as a distraction to someone driving a motorcycle. Next to present was Cosmic, a company that powers the pipes that enable native eCommerce. This technology allows vendors to seamlessly offer products across the web for purchase without having to drive consumers to a separate site to buy. Finally, Gravy presented their solution for an easier way for businesses to purchase and send gifts to clients and employees. The winner of the night was Cosmic, as selected by the audience.

The main event of the night was a fireside chat with Gary Vaynerchuk. Mr. Vaynerchuk covered a wide range of topics including how he makes business decisions, his general outlook on life, and his life goal of buying the New York Jets. Mr. Vaynerchuk has created a massive brand for himself as an entrepreneur, investor, author, and Internet personality. He grew his parents liquor store from an annual revenue of $3MM to $45MM business in six years, and then in 2006, leveraged a little site called YouTube to become a public figure among the tech community. He has since launched VaynerMedia and VaynerRSE, the latter of which he is in the midst of raising a $150MM round for 10-20 investments. When asked if he had any regrets, he promptly responded no, before relenting that he probably should not have passed twice on Uber’s angel round. Mr. Vaynerchuk’s chat was inspirational and the Media Lab wishes him good fortune in purchasing the Jets from Woody Johnson.

Amazon Cozies Up To Startups With Launchpad

What Happened
Earlier this week, Amazon unveiled Launchpad, a specialty store on its main website that aims to help startups, specifically those with innovative, consumer-facing hardware and physical goods, “launch, market, and distribute” new products. Similar to existing platforms like Product Hunt or Shopify, Launchpad marks Amazon’s first big move to pursue a symbiotic partnership with new product companies, in which the startups gain a strong marketer and distributor for their products, while Amazon gets a share of the innovative sheen, and, of course, the profits.

What Brands Should Do
Brands in the innovation space, especially those that are seeking scale, should consider this new platform offered by the ecommerce giant. Meanwhile, consumer gadget retailers like Best Buy and Brookstone need to take relevant measures to address the potential threats Launchpad could introduce to the market.


Source: TechCrunch

Head image taken from Amazon Launchpad webpage

Lab’s Take On Cannes Lions Festival 2015

Last week, selected members of the Lab descended into Cannes, France to attend the ad industry’s annual Mediterranean celebration. More so than the years past, we felt a strong presence of tech startups and ad technology. Much like how brands are flocking to Austin every year and co-opting the SXSW festivals, more and more ad tech companies are now travelling to Cannes to get in direct contact with the numerous brands in attendance.

The same observation was echoed by Philip Thomas, CEO of Lions Festivals, in his interview with AdAge. “Startups have not been to Cannes before in any numbers,” he commented, “The early adopters are here and I think they’ll go back and spread the word.”

The increasing presence of tech startups was most evident near the Palais, where, for the first time in Cannes history, festival organizers set up a designated “yacht row” for tech startups and established digital media agencies to rent out yachts for client entertainment and meetings. In some cases, the costs of renting the yachts were shared among multiple startups within similar product categories, which made the tech scene in Cannes less adjunct and more organized this year, according to the observation of a Lab member.

Moreover, the ad tech companies did not just come to shake hands with clients. This year, their involvement also seems more legitimate by working with known consulting groups, as well as some big-name brands. Unilever, for example, hosted a two-day Lions Innovation event where 50 top-notch tech startups were selected to meet and demo their business to brands and agencies, which includes the Lab. Bank of America also inked a deal with Pinterest to promote its brand-sponsored Vice videos on its social platform to reach the campaign’s target audience of millennials.

All in all, the Cannes festival has evolved into a full-fledge industry event where all players come together, be it brands, agencies, or tech startups. From what the Lab members experienced first-hand, technology is undeniably at the center of conversation this year, which the New York Times seconded with a report titled Cannes Lions Festival Shifts Focus Toward Ad Technology”. It seems safe to conclude that Cannes is quickly becoming the SXSW for ad tech, and all players in this space need to be aware.



3 Reasons Why Startups Are Succeeding In Online Retail

Read the original story on: TechCrunch

E-commerce startups like Bonobos, Warby Parker and Birchbox have been thriving in online retail—some have even made their way back to brick-and-mortal stores—but some traditional retailers have struggled with the transfer. Kit Hickey, co-founder of online menswear store Ministry of Supply, sums up the three key reasons behind such the contrast:

  1. E-commerce startups are tapping into flexible and unique spaces such as vacant storefronts, with short-term leases.
  2. E-commerce startups have centralized inventory, which leads to significant savings on storage cost and shipping.
  3. E-commerce startups have a better understanding of their customers thru purchase data and customer profile.

All of these factors are hugely beneficial to e-commerce companies as they continue to scale both online and offline.


Partner Spotlight: Roximity

Roximity is a leader in the emerging space of “hyperlocal retail”: using its state-of-the-art beacon technology, the company aims to understand consumer behavior and advertising effectiveness at shelf. In the past two weeks, Roximity has released a new generation of beacon hardware with greater range, battery life, and security, in addition to partnering with shopping app giant Ibotta, which will use Roximity tech to send proximity-enabled offers on nearby products. The platform has been featured in the New York TimesUSA Today and more, and has secured partnerships with everyone from Ford to the Brooklyn Nets.

How does “hyperlocal” retail work? Will people have to “check in” at every store aisle? 

Myriad hardware and software solutions are trying to maximize the relationship between brands on the shelf and the humans that buy them. “Beacon” technology—of which Apple’s’ iBeacon is the best known—uses Bluetooth to track the location and patterns of shoppers within the aisles. This level of tracking means that retailers can learn valuable data about their shoppers, and consumers can receive messages and offers based on where they are in a store.

How does Roximity’s technology work for advertisers?

For Alex Finkel, head of partnerships at Roximity, beacons close the attribution loop. ”Groupon might have an offer to your local restaurant, but your phone won’t know you actually went there. Beacons will be an integral tool for small businesses to have insight into their customers [that] they’ve never had before.” Roximity’s beacons link up with a consumer’s mobile device to send messages, deals, or calls to action at the shelf level. Retailers can understand the effects of their advertising campaign through Roximity’s platform as it tracks user activity within a store.

What advantages does Roximity hold for consumers?

Roximity sees hyperlocal technology as a return to a more intimate relationship between consumers and retailers. In big cities, Finkel says, “all the scale and density make it impossible to know your customers in the ideal version of the local small-town store we picture. That’s the relationship we strive for, but the urban economics make it difficult.” Beacons give retailers more information and more avenues to communicate with shoppers. It’s a futuristic version of the friendly handshake from decades past. For Roximity, beacons are “a step toward the personalization that used to exist.”

With beacons, consumers can make informed decisions at the shelf level. “If it’s contextual and meaningful,” says Finkel, “it’s not an advertisement for free pizza. It becomes a meaningful way to get lunch. That’s what I think of the broad vision and promise for beacons.”

Event Recap: WeWork Startupalooza & Global Innovator Demo Night

Two of the events the IPG Lab visited this week, WeWork Startupalooza and the Global Innovator Demo Night, perfectly illustrated New York’s diverse and dynamic startup ecosystem.

Startupalooza was a combination of speed dating and a rumble.  Twenty-plus early stage startups, from a wide range of industries, were stationed around the WeWork co-working space and were given the opportunity to pitch VCs from NY Angels, GrowthCap, IEA, Inspired Startup, Vendrome Capital, Joshua Capital, and The Nessa Group.  Two startups in particular caught our eye:

  • Canvs: An interactive visual project management platform.
  • Boston Biomotion: A rehabilitation and strengthening machine that tracks, records, plots, and displays human movement in visual 3D.

The Global Innovator Demo Night was a “Shark Tank”-style event that featured five post-seed startups that were looking to expand into the U.S.  The “sharks” were VCs from Comcast Ventures, Greycroft, FirstMark Capital, and BOLDstart Ventures.  In classic fashion, the sharks were relentless, firing questions to learn more about their growth strategy, business model, past metrics, and current challenges.  When the dust, settled two companies came out victorious, both receiving 35% of the audience votes:

  • convertiFIRE: An integration free optimization platform for landing pages.
  • AIMEE: A commerce focused platform that automatically creates several variations of a homepage, then delivers the most relevant homepage variation to each visitor type.

Even though startup investments and acquisitions are at a high right now, it’s still challenging to get in front of a VC, let alone a group of VCs.  At the two events, it was good to see that these young startups brought their “A” game.