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NY Tech Meetup – January 2008

Even though my first Meetup experience was mediocre, I decided to give another group a shot — NY Tech Meetup. They’d garnered high reviews for their previous events and drew crowds in the hundreds. Plus I really liked their description: “6 people get 5 minutes each to demo something cool to New York’s tech community (geeks, investors, entrepreneurs, hackers, etc).”

Their January event was held at IAC, Barry Diller’s multinational beast of a company. Its New York headquarters, across from Chelsea Piers on the West Side Highway (totally out of the way), has been the talk of the town since it went up a year ago. The building was designed by Frank Gehry, his very first in New York City. Some people say it resembles a stack of ice cubes, with its geometric all-glass façade.

The event was held in the building’s lobby, with 450 people in attendance. The blue glow you see in the photo is a giant projector that during the day displays images of IAC’s 60 brands. During the event it was connected to a laptop at the lectern, with presentations repeated across the length of the room (similar to at Google just a few blocks away).

Overall the event was run exceptionally well. The organizers were nice, knowledgeable and organized (!), and made sure everyone had a good time. They laid out the ground rules at the beginning: six presenters, five minutes each to make their pitch and demonstrate their work. “Talk about the technology, not the business plan. You’re talking to the New York tech community!” The audience was encouraged to cheer for what we liked, and jeer for what we didn’t. It was a sausage fest — not that I minded — so the hoots and hollers were loud. I had a fun time just looking around the room.

So, onto the presentations. I list them for you here with my evaluation of each. I tried not to factor the quality of the presenter into my review, and focused instead on two criteria: idea and implementation.

Company: GoMoBo
Presenter: Noah Glass, Founder & CEO
In one sentence: Order from restaurants online or via text message and skip the take out lines
Notes: Same concept as Delivery.com and SeamlessWeb, but with text messaging and without delivery
Idea: boo-hoo | Implementation: boo-hoo

Company: Tag It On
Presenter: Anthony Norejko, CEO
In one sentence: Upload your address book, and have your friends do the same, making it one-click easy to spam your 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree network
Notes: They’re using the word “tag” to refer to private forums. Sorry guys, the term’s already taken
Idea: boo-hoo | Implementation: boo-hoo

Company: Gilt Groupe
Presenter: Alexis, Founder and Mike, CTO
In one sentence: 24-hour sales of up to 70% off women’s designer apparel and accessories
Notes: Gilt produces video reels for each designer and shoots all of their own photography of the merchandise
Idea: woo-hoo | Implementation: boo-hoo

Company: TableXchange
Presenter: Dwight and Gabriel, co-founders
In one sentence: Buy and sell the most coveted restaurant reservations in NYC, The Hamptons and San Francisco
Notes: Gaming is diminished by limiting sales: up to four reservations per user at any given time and up to three reservations per restaurant per day
Idea: woo-hoo | Implementation: boo-hoo

Company: Blockles/I’m In Like With You
Presenter: Charles Foreman
In one sentence: Casual multi-player games and other time-wasters, spun off from a failed dating site
Notes: Average time spent on the site is 45 minutes per user per day; entire framework build from scratch by two guys in 15 days
Idea: woo-hoo | Implementation: woo-hoo

I only listed five of the six presentations because one of them was kind of off-topic — a non-profit organization called FIRST that “celebrates the achievements of kids working in science and technology.” It was pretty dull.

As you can see, not a lot of good implementation out there. Made me feel warm and fuzzy about having a long and prosperous career. I should have been handing out my business card. I’ll try to work up the nerve next time.

So that’s my wrap-up. I plan on attending every month and reporting back. The reviews online indicate that this month’s line-up wasn’t as compelling as usual, probably because it was just after the holiday. Still, I enjoyed seeing the work of some bona fide NY start-ups and look forward to future events.

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