The Village View

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The August NY Tech Meetup

Went to the NY Tech Meetup tonight. This was my second time. Given that it took place at Columbia it was a bit of a hike for most folks (not for me, 10 blocks away) made worse by the heat and delays on the 2/3 subway line. Good turnout. My overriding thought is that the presentations were more technology, and less business, oriented compared to July's Meetup. Anyway, here are some of the things I found interesting about the companies that presented:

From what I understood, they are trying to solve the problem of having an easily accessible, searchable directory of software. Using a new, more structured type of wiki. Using Semantic Web ideas to solve the problems of the previous generations of wikis. Uses RDF which presenter assured is compatible with RSS (RSS 1.2 he mentioned). They created their own wiki engine for the Iterating product and use a PostgreSQL backend. The revenue model (I asked the question) is advertising and "services." I really wish I understood Iterating better, but I feel the presenter spent a lot of time explaining why it was needed and thus didn't get to share as much about the actual product.

Described as a "revolution in online dating" essentially it takes the idea to your cell phone. Founder and, evidently inventor of Social Networking, Andrew Weinrich talked us through it and ran a demo program. According to Weinrich the problem with "traditional" online dating is that it's asynchronous. MeetMoi allows you to do real time proximity searches and chat (or text) back and forth with a prospective date on your mobile device. Once you register on the site you can set your status as "available" and text your location to MeetMoi. The service will put you in touch with others near you. It hides your true phone number and email. An important question was asked: can I get a picture. Answer: as long as your phone has MMS capability, yep. That would be a dealbreaker if you couldn't in my opinion.

We've Met
Claim to fill the 2nd part of the dating equation (MeetMoi being the 1st). Essentially want to solve the problem of re-connecting with someone you met at a social gathering and would like to get back in touch with. Old way was "missed connections" in the personal section of the newspaper. We've Met has a "3 pronged approach:" 1) Parties - if an event is organized thru the site, afterwards a person can see a list of attendees. If you are interested you can click and put the person on your "wish list," if they also put you on their wish list, both of you can see each other's profile; 2) Hot Spot - Add yourself to a location that you hang out at a lot. E.g., you hang out at the Starbucks on 102nd & Broadway, you add that to your Hot Spots and folks can see you profile by location, 3) Your Network - creates a list based on the Parties and Hot Spots. Indicated they were focused on the Party element currently. Howard Greenstein asked about non-dating situations; answer was that they have decided to focus on the romantic angle for the moment. Currently, the service is free, with the idea of "ultimately" having advertising, possibly subscriptions as well as fees to industrial users e.g., Starbucks.


Seemed a lot of folks had already heard of these guys before. I hadn't. Essentially, the CEO Mark Cenedella gave a very short spiel and turned it over to a couple of developers. Mark's main point as I understood it was that et al are too hard and slow for recruiters to use. So his developers have put together a very AJAXy looking, slick UI which they explained in a granular level of detail. I tuned out at the stage of what was happening on the client vs the server. Someone yelled out the valid point that what we were being shown was a feature, not a business. The update on the business was given: Largest 100K+ job website, Free to recruiters, job seeker pays $30/month or $180/year, 80 employees, $10M in revenue, 890K jobs, 30K being added every month, 20k recruiters.

Described as a "platform for developing real-time applications" this was the most interesting presentation to me personally. A real time application has "exploding" volumes of data that aren't written to the disk, e.g., algorithmic trading or analyzing communications traffic. Employs StreamSQL which was described as "SQL on steroids" that gets around the problems of ordered data by Rob Macneill who did the presentation. He showed the visual programming interface used to build the apps. My sense is that what was demoed was essentially a development environment. I think we only saw a bit of what Streambase offers and I'd like to set up a follow up meeting with Rob. Revenue is generated by software license sales which were described as starting in the "low six figures." In response to a question, they haven't run into TIBCO BusinessWorks in a competitive deal. The company is 6 years old, based in Lexington, MA with offices in New York, DC and London.

Presenter/Founder John Engstrom(?) described this as a web-based personal finance and budgeting software. He gave an entertaining demo including doing an initial set up of accounts, expenses etc. Essentially this struck me as a simplified, AJAXy version of Quicken or Microsoft money. When asked how it differs from Quicken et al John mentioned the ability to see multiple persons' accounts together or separate (e.g., husband can see what he has alone or combined with his wife's accounts). BudgetSnap does not reconcile with any online banks, not wanting to become a portal for identity theft. (My sense is that this may be a limitation to adoption moving forward). During the Q&A John explained that this was a "weekend project" and that he is employed during the week; managing websites around publishing I believe. The site has been growing organically since a July launch with over 1000 users to date. 10-15 new ones sign up every day. Revenue model is subscription although you can get a free 3 month trial currently.

Panther Express

A Contenet Delivery Network who claim it will distribute your data for "the cost of centralized bandwidth." (Find more here). Presenters claimed that the market needed a commodity priced, easy-to-use CDN and one "not just for big companies." CTO claims no 3rd party proprietary software being used; everything either developed in house or used with an open source license. He then proceeded to go into detail on the technology powering Panther Express: 90% written in Java, commodity hardware etc. When asked how they (with 29 POPs) hoped to compete with the bigger boys who have thousands, the presenters answered that they were "very cheap." Additionally, there are not monthly minimum minutes and minimum commitments (start and stop using when you want). Panther Express recently closed a $6 million round of venture funding with investors including Greylock. Claim 25 customers.


For a different spin, Susan Crawford spoke to us about a day rather than a start up. (Susan introduced herself as being on the board of ICANN and as a professor at Cardozo Law School). From what I gathered, this day (September 22, 2006) will be set aside to celebrate the web. Here in New York it will be held during lunch time (a question was asked about free food) in Bryant Park.


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