Alex's Tech Thoughts

Monthly NY Tech Game Of Werewolf

For the past few months I haven’t been very active in the NY Tech scene in terms of networking and meeting new people. I haven’t had the time to work on the BD Meetup, which Eric Batscha and Alex Guttler have taken over (and which is returning in the next 30 days). And since starting SocialRank, I haven’t had the bandwidth to go to other events during the week. Well I’d like to get back at it and I have just the way to start off.

One of the highlights of SXSW this year was the two nights that Ben Huh (Cheezburger founder) hosted a game of Werewolf at the Austin Hilton. Werewolf is a simple game about deceiving your friends. It is similar to the game called Mafia. It’s a party game that is all about the survival of your species (whether you are a werewolf or a villager). We played it Saturday and Sunday night and this was some of the best time I had in Austin. Everyone took it seriously and it was tons of fun.

Anyways, I am going to be hosting a monthly NY Tech game of Werewolf. We are going to have the first event at the awesome office of Work-Bench on March 26th at 7pm.

If you’d like to come, RSVP here.

We’ll be serving snacks and drinks.

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Werewolf NY Tech work-bench
30 Mentionable Non-Founders At Startups In NY Tech

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We have hit peak list-making in the startup world. A lot of these lists are of founders, VC’s, press people. I’ve been on lists before, it feels great to get recognition for hard work. One list I haven’t seen is one of non-founders in the NY tech scene. These are people who usually aren’t mentioned in the press but are busting their asses to make their respective companies successful.

So here we go, 30 mentionable non-founders at startups in NY tech. No slides!

Jake Furst- Director of Monetization Partnerships at Foursquare

Jake runs all monetization partnerships at 4sq and with their big push in monetization, he is a key employee there.

Eric Friedman- Director of Sales and Revenue Operations at Foursquare

Eric is another key employee at 4sq in their big monetization push. Before Eric joined 4sq, he spent time at USV during the heyday of investments in Etsy, Meetup, Kickstarter (and follow ons to Twitter, Zynga, Tumblr, and more).

Ashley Arenson- Free-agent (but not for long)

You can’t really say that Ashley got Obama re-elected, but she was definitely a big piece of it. Ashley was the Director of Innovation and Integration for Obama for America. She will be snatched up pretty soon by a startup in NYC.

Mike Dudas- Sr. Director, Mobile BD at Braintree/Venmo (and PayPal)

A big reason why PayPal bought Braintree was their slick mobile partnerships with Airbnb, Uber and others using Venmo Touch. A big piece of the mobile BD team at Braintree / Venmo was Mr. Dudas. Dudas was previously working in BD for Google Wallet.

Stephanie Bagley- Director of Partnerships at RebelMouse

Stephanie is one of the go-to people in NY tech when it comes to tapping into the power of social media. Before RebelMouse she was VP/ Project Manager at Vayner Media.

Kathleen Barrett- Operations Manager at VHX

Kathleen is a Goldmaner turned startupper. She is awesome and is a big piece of what makes VHX one of the hottest companies in NY (with some recent news with their USV investment).

Eric Batscha- Business Development at Knewton

I know Eric well as he has taking over running the BD Meetup in NYC. Eric recently joined Knewton from Appnexus, and I know they are lucky to have him.  

Amanda Bensol- Operations & Business Development at Karma

Amanda joined Karma when they graduated from TechStars. Amanda was previously at BOA doing tech banking. She is a rising star to watch.

Abigail Besdin- Partnerships and Business Development at Skillshare

Abigail and I go way back (we went to the same elementary school in NYC). She is a key team member at Skillshare. Before joining Skillshare, she was an account executive at Meetup.

Lindsay Kaplan- Director, Marketing at CityMaps

Lindsay is one of the funniest people in NY Tech. She is a social media mastermind and highly capable. She has worked at Chloe + Isabel, Elle, and TIME OUT.

Nam Nguyen- Head of Business Development & Strategy at Aviary

Nam and I worked together at Aviary. We used to call each other Batman and Batman (instead of Batman and Robin). Nam has grown professionally, in the past two years, leading deals like Twitter at Aviary. He is one to watch in NY tech.

Scott Britton- Free-agent (but not for long)

Scott is one of the most impressive Business Development guys in NY. Scott recently left Singleplatform (after they sold for $100M in 2012) to do a little traveling. I’m not sure when he gets back, but when he does he will be a hot commodity.

Libby Brittain- Director of Editorial Development at Branch / Potluck

Libby left Hearst Ventures to join Branch in May 2012 as one of the first hires at NY startup, Branch. While Josh and the founders get most of public praise, Libby has been a huge piece of building and growing Branch and Potluck.

Steve Cheney- Head of Business Development at GroupMe

Steve is one of those rare triple threats in the startup world with a BD, Writer, and Engineer background. Steve also spent some time at Morgan Stanley (in the TMT group), is a contributor to TechCrunch (he has a fabulous blog), and now leads BD at GroupMe.  

Tanuj Parikh- VP of Growth at Mitro

Tanuj recently worked with Steve at GroupMe but left to join the team at Mitro. Tanuj is thoughtful and creative and is definitely a NY tech mentionable.

Jared Cohen- VP Operations & GC at Kickstarter

Jared, a former lawyer, is the guy focused on operations and legal at Kickstarter. I’ve only had good interactions with Jared and he is definitely a force in the NY tech scene.

Kristal Bergfield- Vice President, Business Development at StellaService

Kristal is a good friend since her days at American Express. Besides running BD at StellaService, Kristal runs an awesome BD breakfast in NYC that sells out in minutes every month.

Ben Luban- Head of Business Development & Strategic Partnerships at GrubHub Seamless

Ben runs BD and partnerships at Seamless Web, and they recently merged with GrubHub. Before that Ben worked at AOL and Google. Another awesome person behind the scenes in the NY tech scene.

Andrea Hong- Director of Content at NewsCred

Andrea recently joined NewsCred to lead their content team. I’ve known Andrea for a few years now when she was at Disney ABC Television Group and AOL and have nothing but good things to say about her and her work.

Brian Kil- Business Development and Partnership at Dwolla

Brian works with me in BD/Partnerships at Dwolla. Brian is quickly growing in his role and is even doing things I can’t do (he recently got an intro that I tried and failed to get!). Brian is still in the first few innings of his career but watch out.

Katherine Nannizzi (Friedman)- Director, Business Development at Houzz

Katherine has been in the BD/Partnerships game for a decade at companies like The Knot, Time Inc, Like.com and for the past 3 year, Houzz. She is a big piece behind why Houzz is one of the fastest growing startups in the US.

Maxine (Gisinger) Friedman- Vice President Business Development at Contently

Maxine and I met when she was leading business development and partnerships for Clickable. I put together a panel where she and Kristal spoke about a partnership done by Amex and Clickable. She is real pro in biz dev and is well liked by all.

Jared Grusd- Global Head of Corporate Development and General Counsel at Spotify

Ask anyone about Jared and they will sing his praises. Jared has a deep history doing deals in the tech world, specifically at Google and AOL and is one of the under the radar but biggest players in the tech scene.

Nihar Singhal- EVP Business Development & Strategy at SeatGeek

Nihar was one of the first employees at SeatGeek and is responsible for some of their biggest deals (Hearst, TicketFly, and other music entities). Nihar also gives back, mentoring a few companies in the scene.

Erin Tao- Head of Merchandising Operations

Erin was employee #1 at BarkBox. I got the chance to work with Erin at Aviary and she is awesome, having a do whatever-it-takes attitude that is needed at early stage startups.

Paul Murphy- SVP at Betaworks

Paul moved from Seattle (where he was the chief of staff of the office division at MSFT) to NY two years back to join Aviary (and was my boss). After I left for Dwolla, Paul joined Betaworks to be one of their senior executives. I learned more about BD/Partnerships from Paul in the 6 months we worked together then I’ve learned my entire life.

Daphne Earp- Director of Business Development at Yext

Daphne went straight from Princeton to Yext and has been there for the past 3 years. Yext is one of the fastest growing startups and Daphne is a key employee there.

Megan Towe- Strategic Partnerships at LiveIntent, Inc.

Megan’ story was immortalized in Charlie O’Donnell’s Blog post: "How to get an exciting job at an awesome startup in less than a month." That’s all you need to know to see how awesome Megan is.

Michael Hershfield- GM Monetization at Sailthru

Michael is the lawyer/corp dev/biz guy at Sailthru. Before Sailthru he ran business and legal for Howcast. Michael is another superstar in the NY tech scene.

Kate Huyett- VP of Acquisition, Retention & Revenue at How About We

Kate is another Goldman banker turned startupper. Kate leads user acquisition for How About We, one of the fastest growing dating websites on the web. She also teaches some great classes at GA and on Skillshare about user acquisition and breaking into the tech scene.

I’ve clearly left people off, please help the error of my ways by leaving some missing folks in the comments and I’ll add them!

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NY Tech Startups Lists Top 30
Reality Is Setting In For NY Tech

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There are many good things happening in NY Tech right now. There have been some great exits in the past 12 months. Companies are getting funding and scaling their respective businesses. However, from talking to a lot of friends in the past few weeks, it feels like NY Tech is at a emotional trough.

Reality is setting in and the verdict is that startups are f’ing hard. There will be a fall out of funded companies in the next few months. Companies that just can’t take their business to the next level. I can think of 5 just off the top of my head.

Other companies may have raised funding at a higher than normal valuation over a year ago and are now going out for their next round and looking at a flat or down round. This is somewhat a self-made problem, as they optimized for personal gain and gave themselves unrealistic goals to hit to raise their next round.

Whatever the case is, the stakes for NY Tech are raised (through success of a few companies) and with that comes higher expectations. The rest of the year is not going to be pretty. There will be consolidation via acqui-hires or just closing shop and teams joining co’s. But through this, the scene will get stronger and I am optimistic our brightest days are ahead of us.

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Reality Check acqui-hire NY Tech Startups
NY Tech + Dog Owner Get Together

Anyone who reads this blog or follows me on Twitter knows that I got a dog in February. Raising a puppy is no easy task and it has been one of the reasons I have scaled back on my physical networking.

I was recently thinking about how I could mix my newfound dog ownership with NY tech networking. Behold: the NY Tech + Dog Owner Get Together. The first one is scheduled for July 29th at Madison Square Park in NYC. If you know anyone in the NY tech scene with a dog, pass along the Eventbrite link (found here).

I hope to see you there!

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Dog NY Tech Meetup
Article of The Week IV

This week’s article is actually two articles. Both from NY Tech studs.

The first is from Scott Britton, a certified bro, at Singleplatform. The post is called Business Tactics They Don’t Teach in School and it is awesome.

The second is from Nick Chirls, who runs seed investments at Betaworks. He is also a certified bro. The post is called The Investor Trough of Sorrow and it is also awesome.

I couldn’t choose the article of the week this week- so I didn’t.

Enjoy and have a great weekend!

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article of the week scott britton Nick Chirls Singleplatform betaworks ny tech
Rap Genius is Genius

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If you haven’t seen Andrew Mason’s Groupon farewell memo, then you should check it out here.


After this came out, New York startup Rap Genius added the farewell memo to its site.

Investors, Ben Horowitz and Marc Andreessen, added notes/explanations of what the letter really means. It is pretty epic, and you can read it here.

There are very few startups with no ceiling and Rap Genius is one of them. Annotating the internet is going to be amazing in the next few years. I’m excited to see where Rap Genius goes.

I do think they will need to change their name eventually :D

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Rap Genius Startups NY Tech Marc Andreessen Ben Horowitz
Dwolla + Derby Jackpot Party

As you may have seen on the Dwolla blog this morning, on November 28th, Dwolla is teaming up with Derby Jackpot to throw and awesome event in NYC.

We have rented out a bar, Tavern on Third, and will have a night of horse racing with your favorite people in NY tech. Derby Jackpot is a completely legal and safe way to bet on horses online and we have partnered in way so that you can deposit money from Dwolla into Derby Jackpot to bet on horses.

We’ve also upped the ante, so that anyone that comes with a Dwolla account (you can create one here) and a Derby Jackpot account (you can request it here and they will push you through before the event)- will get a free $10 to bet on horses and drink! 

So in summary- come to Tavern on Third + get free $10 + bet on horses + drink alcohol + hang out with your friends + meet new people in the tech scene = profit! 

You can RSVP here.

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Welcome Nicole Cook To Team Dwolla NYC!

We have added another full-time employee to our team in New York City. It is my pleasure to welcome Nicole Cook to the business development team at Dwolla. She will be based in New York City with Michael and me.

Nicole interned with Dwolla during Summer 2012 in between the first and second year of her MBA at Wharton UPenn. She made a big impression on the team in New York and in Iowa and we knew we couldn’t let her go back to school. Anyone who was involved with eCommerce Hack Day knows what I am talking about. If you were there you would have seen how much she killed it while organizing and running the event. 

Even more interesting, and I think perhaps an upcoming trend in the startup space, is the fact that she is leaving school before finishing her MBA. It takes a lot of guts to do that and I salute her. The only two reasons, I can think of, to actually do an MBA is either if you are looking to switch careers or if you are looking to advance in your corporate position.

In Nicole’s scenario, she was looking to switch careers, having been in banking for five years. Once she found a great startup and something she loved doing, it made sense to jump to it. I think we will be seeing many MBA folk doing exactly this in the next few years as they are looking to switch careers and end up figuring out their passion before they complete their degrees.

Anyway, welcome Nicole Cook to Dwolla. You can find her at @niccook on Twitter.

Lastly, we have two other awesome people, currently Community Builder Interns on team Dwolla NYC: Carleen Pan, and the recent addition of Brian Kil. Welcome Brian!

Dwolla NYC is a-growing…

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The Young And Hungry List: NY Tech People To Watch

I’ve been meaning to make a list of people to watch in the NY tech scene for some time. Well here it is. 

This list is a mix of young founders and people in junior positions in the NY tech space (not all are junior positions, some just don’t have a boss who is over 30 years old :D). They are on this list because they are each doing a great job and people are taking notice.

The startup space is a complete meritocracy and if you do well you can move up quickly. It’s not uncommon to accelerate your career by five years in no time because of the amount of hands-on work you get to experience.

Here are some people who are doing great things:

Scott Britton- Anyone who knows Scott knows that he is an awesome guy. He works in business development at Singleplatform as Kenny Herman’s right-hand man. Scott has a terrific blog called Life-Longlearner that everyone should check out.

Erin Tao- I had the pleasure of working with Erin at Aviary. She has since moved on and has become Employee #1 at BarkBox. Erin puts the whole team on her back with her work ethic and she can beat any guy in the NY tech scene on the dribble (she played basketball at Columbia University).

Will Peng- I think Will is well known in the NY tech scene, but after all he has been involved in sometimes people forget how young he is. Will was working at Hot Potato and Drop.io when they were both acquired by Facebook. He is now an investor at Raptor Ventures. He also is a pretty frickin good writer. Check out his blog here.

Quinten Farmer- Quinten works in business development at Taykey and was previously at Onswipe. He plays a mean basketball and has a solid blog called Startup Geekonomics.

Libby Brittain- Libby works in business and editorial development at Branch. She was previously at Hearst Ventures. Like the other people on this list, she is someone with a very bright future.

Stephen Yang- This young blood is starving. Stephen worked as an apprentice to Mike Karnjanaprakorn (CEO of Skillshare) and then became a product manager at Skillshare. Stephen is super passionate about Skillshare’s mission and a huge asset to their team.

Megan Towe- Megan made headlines a few months back when the story of her landing a job at LiveIntent after sending a hand-written thank you note became public. Getting to know her over the past year I can definitely agree that she is someone to watch in NYC.

Eric Stromberg- Many people recommended that I include Eric in my young and hungry list. I met Eric once, briefly, when he was at Hunch before it was acquired by eBay. Eric has since gone on to start Oyster, which seems like a startup around digital books. Eric has some great blog posts here.

Trevor Owens- Trevor is the founder of Lean Startup Machine so you’ve probably already heard about him. But he definitely belongs on any young and hungry list.

Nicole Cook- I’m a little biased on this one, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I was reporting to Nicole within a year. A student finishing up her MBA at Wharton, Nicole interned in business development at Dwolla this summer. Definitely someone to watch in NY tech.

All in all this is a solid list of people doing great things in the NY tech scene. If people like this list, maybe I’ll do one every year.

Missing anyone? Put them in the comments below.

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How To Win A Hackathon

Dwolla and Etsy organized eCommerce Hack Day yesterday. It was awesome. I’ve written posts about hackathons before, but never about how to win one. After starting and running Photo Hack Day 1 and 2, and being involved in 5-10 more hackathons, I think I now have the experience to point out some do’s and dont’s for hackathon winning.

Do:

  • If you are a good developer, team up with a designer. If you are a good designer, team up with a developer. You need both to be successful at the hackathon. This past week ShopPapaya (a one-click tool that helps you shop smarter) won second place. The team was an awesome developer and designer (that met each other that morning). I would say that the designer is much more needed for those final touches
  • You have typically 2 to 3 minutes to demo. Either show a killer designed and functioning product and let it speak for itself or make sure you have a funny spin to make them laugh (chance to win a people’s choice).
  • Work on something that does one thing really well. Show it off- focus on it for your demo.
  • Tell a story. If you think you are solving a problem (big or small), tell everyone about the problem and how you solved it. People like stories. If you are solving an interesting problem and have a cool/working product you have a high chance of winning something.
  • While you might not win the top place, by focusing your project on a specific API you may come away with the best use of the API. I’ve seen people enter hackathons saying they want to win Face.com or Twilio’s prize (whether an iPad, Kindle, etc) and focus their project entirely in that direction.

Don’t:

  • To be successful at the presentation you need to be able to get through your demo. You can slave away all night working but if you can’t clearly express your project/hack you won’t have a chance of winning anything. Make sure you don’t waste time talking about pieces of the project that aren’t essential to the crowd’s understanding of what you have built.
  • Don’t bet the house on a project/hack joke. They are always seemingly transient and don’t have a high chance of lasting after the weekend, which is traditionally one of the criteria that the judges use when voting. You should make jokes during your presentation, but just be wary of making your entire pitch a joke.

If you follow these do’s and dont’s your chances of winning will definitely increase.

Any other tips? Leave them below.

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hackathons dwolla apis building culture entrepreneurship ny tech startup
When Helping Too Many People Becomes A Problem

Most people in the early-stage tech space have big hearts (at least in my experience in NYC). They want to help. There is a ton of camaraderie. It is all great until you hit a tipping point. This happens when trying to help too many people at the same time. Then it becomes a problem because you become less effective to the people who you want to be helping the most. You also become spread too thin and fall behind on things you need to focus on (like your actual job!).

Many people experience it and change is needed once you feel the onset of TMHPP (too-much-helping-people-problem). I think the best cure for TMHPP is three-fold:

1)   Take fewer meetings and push out ones you have for a month or so.

2)   Give yourself a few hours one day every two weeks for office hours. I try to do this on a Friday every two weeks or so.

3)   And lastly, empower the people needing help to help themselves.

These three are pretty self-explanatory, but I want to talk about the third one for a moment. 

There is a Chinese proverb and it goes: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” 

This applies for people looking for help in this industry. Instead of catching that one fish for them, try to help them understand how to go about catching fish. This could be by pointing them in the direction to the correct readings/thought leaders, events to attend, and people to connect with.

For example, I recommend anyone looking to move into the tech space to read everything written by Marc Andreessen, Ben Horowitz, Fred Wilson, and Chris Dixon. Just read it all and then come back (Fred Wilson’s AVC is probably the hardest to read all, but at least read the last two years of posts). These writings will give you insight on the thought process behind some of most prolific players in the startup space. If you aren’t obsessed with startups after this, then you probably shouldn’t be working in the startup place. 

I try not to tell them what to think, but rather how to think about things. This will help them in the long run and is a repeatable process to help streamline helping for all.

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Consolidation 2012: It Is Coming

December 21st, 2012. The end is near. Just kidding ;)

I remember hanging out with Jon Teo, a general partner at General Catalyst Partners, a few months back and he was telling me that NY tech won’t be a true competitor to SF tech until consolidation of top talent moves to a few thriving startups. Once this happens, those companies will be big winners, the employees will gain more experience, make some money, and go out and create more awesome companies (with their newfound experience/success).

I personally think we are going to see some major consolidation in the next 6 months. Teams of six or lower that have raised in the million range are going to be acqui-hired in increasing rates. These will be small wins for the angel investors (one friend called it “sticker wins/exits”) and a reprieve for the team that was most likely going to go under (Michael Hershfield is doing these at Sailthru, already two this year). 

This is good. There are too many features being built and not enough companies. I welcome the impending end. Or is it just the beginning?

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acqui-hire ny tech SF consolidation
Getting Involved

I currently run three events in NYC and need help with all of them.

Since I’ve joined Dwolla I have not had the time to organize the events I typically run:

BD Meetup, Digital Learning Series and the NYVC Speaker Series.

Even though I only do BD Meetup and DLS every two months, I don’t have the bandwidth to get everything set up for them.

That is why I am writing this post, I would like to find someone to help run these events with me. Megan Towe already helps me with BD Meetup, but because it has become a massive meetup I’m sure even she could use the help.

Here is what I need for each event:

BD Meetup

The event is looking for a new location. We have outgrown Cooley, General Assembly and any other place. We need a place that will seat 200. Megan helps me run the event, but could use help from someone looking to take some initiative with the event. The person would figure out a new venue, help pick the next topic, be involved with choosing the panelists and helping the day of.

Digital Learning Series

This event is held at General Assembly and there are typically five education companies demo’ing. I need someone to help pick those companies and lead correspondence with those chosen. They would talk with GA about setting up the event and making sure everything is ready. This event takes place once every two months.

NYVC Speaker Series

This event is held at Dogpatch Labs and there is one investor who gives a short presentation and fields questions from the audience. The event is once a month (Monday of the last week). The person helping would lead correspondence with the investor who is talking at the event and help set up the day of.

If you are interested in getting involved, this is a great opportunity. Only reach out if you are serious about helping. Email me at Ataub24(at)gmail(dot)com

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hustling networking ny tech startups
Success Stories About People Getting Business Jobs In The Tech World

Here is my latest Forbes piece: http://onforb.es/JsyL6V 

Let me know your thoughts!

Collective Thinking

I was having a sit down with @msg a week or so ago and our conversation landed on how everyone is reading the same things, going to similar events, and generally thinking about the same ideas.

@msg called this collective thinking. 

He posited that anyone who is thinking of building something right now should be aware, that at least a bundle of other people are thinking and planning the exact same thing.

I was talking to a friend this past weekend about a hack off LinkedIN I would love to see/build. One of the most important things on LinkedIN is when your connections change jobs. I want a tool that can track your connections moves and send you an email summary of them.

Well that night I saw Melody Koh from Time Warner Investments tweet this out: http://www.jobchangenotifier.com/

Collective thinking, I like it.

So, if you have a startup or product, get moving, because there are a ton of other people planning the exact same thing.

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Startup Ideas NY Tech