Commentary on The Media/Marketing Community and the Tech Community

Reposted from “This is going to be BIG!”

YouTube. Yahoo! Google. Technology companies or media & advertising companies?

Very quickly being in tech on the web, unless you’re building hardware or web-based application software, it’s becoming pretty much the same thing.

That’s why I’m excited to be in New York…. because there are so many media and advertising folks here, it’s only going to make NYC’s potential to have a major impact on the web that much bigger.

But yet, despite a lot of noise, nextNY doesn’t seem to be adding many digital media or interactive advertising people to its ranks… still very tech heavy. I feel like a lot of people on the other side of the table feel like they’re just not in the same community as we are, which is a little strange to me.

This is completely generalizing, unscientific and anecdotal, but I feel like the tech community is actually that, a community. Tech people are just used to collaborating more. There’s more freelancing going on and so they’re used to working with people from many companies, often at the same time. Plus, anyone who has ever coded or designed anything has often depending on their network of knowledgable friends to help them out with a line or two or a rounded box here and there.

Could you imagine agency folks e-mailing a listserv saying, “Hey, what’s funnier? A talking monkey or a talking fish? I need to get the answer to this for a 10AM presentation to a client… can someone help me out?”

They might reach out to their friends about that… but other professionals? Just doesn’t seem like there’s that kind of dynamic.

And on the media side, when CondeNast folks get together with their counterparts at NewsCorp, do you think their first thought is, “Hey, how can we work together?” It’s just a very competitive industry that has a zero sum approach to collaboration.

I hope I’m wrong about this… and in the coming months, you’ll see some nextNY events that attempt to bring agency and media people into the fold… to talk about the future of those industries as they relate to the disruption caused by technology. If you’re in the agency or media biz, you should definitely check out nextNY. We’re not just tech people… we’re digital builders, consumers, enablers, financiers, etc… and unless we realize that we’re all in this together, not a lot is going to get done.

Charlie O’Donnell is the Director of Consumer Products at Oddcast, a New York City venture backed startup whose avatar platform is used for interactive advertising and personal expression. He was formerly an Analyst at Union Square Ventures.

Contact Charlie at or view more articles at

Posted on Sunday, March 18, 2007 at 10:54AM by Registered CommenterCharlie O'Donnell in | CommentsPost a Comment

Silicon Alley 2.0: Its Emerging Shape, Impact and Future Directions

Silicon Alley 2.0: Its Emerging Shape, Impact and Future Directions


*Here is outline of what happen at the event early this week hosted by PolyTech University. If you want to read a 5 bullet summary, look to the bottom.

EDC (NYC’s Economic Development Corporation) Introductory Comments:

* Urges the audience to keep talented people from our educational system in NYC
* Suggest that the city is doing a lot of attract and retain talent within in NYC and is working with university to make that happen.
* The economy in NYC has never been better and the unemployment rate is very low.
* NYC is still one of the top choices for graduates to want to look to enter the workplace.
* They are here to help make the process or straiting, locating, or expanding businesses within NYC easier. (for Tech. Contact Saul Shaporo).
* tech stats
    o Leading Hub for domestic and broadband networks
    o Twice the Internet capacity v. next city on the list (balitmore/D.C.)
    o More Fiber Optic infrastructure than anywhere else in the U.S.
    o Financial Services spent over 80 Billion Dollars last year on Technology services.

There was a speech given by Jerry Huiltin, President of Polytechnic University emphasizing that we are back. That Silicon Alley is alive and well in NYC. A funny quote in the middle of the rant that everything is well is that he would get phone calls everyday where people would say things like “Jerry, I got a 100 Million Dollars, tell me what you got that I could invest in. Jerry, I got 3 Billion Dollars, Find something I could buy.” I don’t know if this is true or not but I seem a bit skeptical that there is that much money going around here in NYC, ready to be taken by the Web 2.0 startups.

Nina D. Ziv, Academic Director for PolyTech was the moderator for the panel. She did an ok job in asking poignant questions and left the rest to the crowd. She spent a few minutes talking about the history of Silicon Alley and how the money was flowing and everything was great in the Alley until the bust occurred. She says through her discussions with various entrepreneurs, that most of the people who were active in the Hay day’s of the late 90’s just went underground for a few years and reemerged with new companies within the last 2-3 years. A lot of the questions being asked by the crowd on a variety of topics which I will go through next:


Steven Spencer CEO, Upoc Networks
Alejandro Crawford CEO, Nolej Studios
Charlie Federman Managing Partner, Crossbar Capital
Kenneth Bronfin President, Hearst Interactive Media
Jason Rapp Senior VP, Mergers and Acquisitons InterActiveCorp

Nina pointed the first question at Charlie about the VC viewpoint if anything is different now than in the 90’s in NYC, and are VC investing more in NYC now v. West Coast.


* He started right off the bat by saying New York is still unproven. It hasn’t generated a consistent success of forming software companies like other parts of the country.
* He wonders if a Youtube could have happen in NY with no revenue model, and if the NY VC’s and management would have let it grow its “audience” when bandwidth costs alone would have been 2 million a year.
* He says that California VCs will take the risk at growing equity value while East Coast VCs will seek to grow businesses.

Nina talked to Ken about why is a big company like Hearst in this space?


* talked about how Hearst invested in 50 ventures in the last 12 years.
* He suggest that corporations have a lot of benefit from investing in the space and that Hearst tries to act like other VC firms when offering hands on help in their ventures.

Nina then opened up the floor to the crowd and the first question asked by Donold Swurtz from ImageLink was about the commitment of investors/corporations to investing in unproven technology ventures. Specifically Donold cited NYU’s attempt to create an interactive media program that tried to commercialize the projects. The funding by the corporation/investors of that program was cut after a short while.


* Hearst since it is a corporation is risk averse, and the mentality isn’t the same as the west coast. They want to see the plan and the revenue model.


* pointed out that in 1999 there were 2 dozen venture firms in NYC. Now there are only a hand full at best in the region.
* There are more angel investors but it still not as much as needed even though there are at least 3000 Internet companies in NYC.


* talked about the scrapiness of NYC entrepreneurs and the ability of us to be fiscally responsibly and creative to find a way to keep the company going.

Jason from IAC talked about the tension of shareholders of a public company wanting results v. the long term commitment to new innovative companies. He suggest they are doing that at IAC.

Question from the crowd: One Person said he has raised millions of dollars over the last 10 years for companies in this space and relates a story that he has never taken money from a NY VC since other VC’s have outbid them every time. He questions the aggressiveness of NY VC’s.


* doubts youtube would have happen in NYC either. Companies like Youtube and Skype took time to grow their user base which would not have happen if they were put through a filter of fiscal responsibility.
* Steve’s companies also have worked in the same way.
* Steve says that he sees a lot of companies within Silicon Valley that will make great complimentary partners with bigger companies that will take the vision of the startup and push it to its next objective.
* NY is so diversified that everything is under the covers (Many startups work in lofts or apartments and its more decentralized V. Silicon Valley).


* throws in his theory on how this is the age of creativity and long tail markets. There may not be another blockbuster company like Google because of the environment.

Question from the Floor: Bill Sobo from NY media information Exchange Group says by running his group that there is a difference between East and West Coast mentalities. He wanted to propose creating a game plan on how we can use what makes NY unique and start having meeting with people in Silicon Valley, LA, Seattle, Atlanta.

No response from the panel.

Howard G. from Social Media Club says that getting everyone together is hard. There are at least 5 organizations in this space in NY and they all don’t communicate with each other. How do get all the great entrepreneurs and investors together then?


* responses by saying he is optimistic about NY’s future. In the bubble days, there was only 1 metric used: CPM (Cost per Million). A lot of startups were capital intensive and the U.S. had a majority of connected Users on the Internet. All those things have now changed.
* There are niche companies in every space in NY. He believes that successful companies will attract capital.

Nina then starts a new topic. She asked Steve about his challenges in attracting talent, and running his business in NY?


* Its hard attracting the right type of talent. It is hard to find financial capital but even more is the amount of time and money it takes to find new talent in NYC.
* He wants Universities and the city to step up in helping lower the cost of acquiring the human capital necessary to run great companies.
* Space also is really expensive. Everyone wants to be in the city even though logistically you could move to NJ or elsewhere, no one wants to go there.
* His company has moved their offices many times due to the feel of committing to long term leases.
* There is a challenge to losing talent to the big corporations.


* thinks the biggest challenge is getting people from bigger companies to go to his type of company because it is cool. He suggest that there needs to be an atmosphere to be creative and to be connected together throughout the company.

Question from the Floor: There is an incredible population established corporations in NYC and there are not enough big companies having conversations with entrepreneurs to find synergies between the two communities.


* There are big corporations at the meetups. All the big media companies are trying to find their way into the web.


* There are bridges in place but they need to be stronger.

Question from the Floor: There hasn’t been any mention of media or Madison avenue from the panel. At what point does Media/Advertising companies enter the question in this space?


* Madison avenue will pay apart of that. The indicator for the potential of media in this space is the time spent in media v. the advertising spent on this medium.
* There is a lot of competition for talent in these big media companies to find people who can lead them into this space.


* This is just the beginning of a sea change. Media properties will be collapsing and becoming more integrated.
* NY is great because the entrepreneurs are scrappy. You might be able to do what some of the West Coast but there is still great stuff happening here.


* My companies work with media companies in the mobile space. We’d like to sell/buy adverting but traditional media companies don’t know what to do with it on the web.


* There are programs in place in Big media companies to buy and invest in startups.


* Its hard to innovate in a space you don’t know. thats why the bigs will buy new properties to help them innovate. We grow different types of companies, so we can’t do exactly what is done in the west coast.

Question from the Floor: I believe that the Ad agency/Media companies are the biggest obstacle to the flourishing of small startups since they are not organized to take advantage of the collaboration that the should have with startups. Everyone is in Silos. How do the Media companies need to change?


* In my company, Screaming media, when it got acquired by CBS (2003), we asked a bunch of people in Viacom if they were aware that we were a new property in their corporation, they didn’t know… They were all in Silos.
* But now they have an executive who is in charge to fixing that type of problem.


* We are silo-ed. Just approach me and I’ll try to help bring the introduction to the right type of company that might need your services.

In Conclusion.

NY has

* A lot of money in Corporations, Media/Ad companies, Finance, publishing that all need technology/innovation from the NY tech. community.
* The Tech community is decentralized and doesn’t communicate well with the government, universities and this also creates a barrier for Corporations to find talented startups to work for.
* There is a lot less VC/Angel money here V. West Coast.
* A lot of complaining about how hard things are and only fragmented leadership in different areas to fix it.
* There is a need to attract/keep the talent within NY and let them know that there is a startup community here.

Personal Comments: I think NY needs to stop having this delusion of trying to be like Silicon Alley. There is a different infrastructure here which makes it challenging to do the same things in the west coast. There also isn’t communication among all the small startup communities and its a pain for people outside of the space to know what is happening and what events are happening. I hope in the future that there will be more transparency of the community, so there is more awareness in the general public on what is happening.



Posted on Thursday, March 1, 2007 at 02:42PM by Registered CommenterHiren Patel in | Comments1 Comment

nextNYers give "Focus and Feedback" to Sportsvite and 30elm

On Saturday, nextNY (now 600 strong) went small, gathering at the offices of Sportsvite to provide some feedback to two growing NYC internet startups. About 20 nextNY members broke into two groups to bounce ideas and constructive commentary back to Sportsvite, a team sports utility and social network, who had the home field advantage, and 30elm, a recently lauched site in the home design space.



The sessions will hopefully be the first of many opportunities for startups to get feedback from peers who are both tech savvy and interested in their particular spaces. There were certainly plenty of techy football, softball and dodgeball players among the Sportsvite group that I participated in.

Anyone can host a “Focus and Feedback” session, so if you have a company or application whose tires you’d like to get kicked, all you need to do is to find a space. Sportsvite was kind enough to buy us lunch, but, for me personally, it’s always great to be able to sit down with the creators of a product to give direct feedback and know that at least one of my 15 bad ideas might accidently make its way into the product.

So, if you want to organize or host a session, just hit up our listserv and post a new page on the wiki.

Posted on Wednesday, February 28, 2007 at 11:38AM by Registered CommenterCharlie O'Donnell in | Comments5 Comments | References2 References

Appleseeds And NYC Startup Culture




A conversation about New York City’s startup culture, or lack thereof, has repeatedly bubbled up on the nextNY listserv over the past few months. Specifically, the focus returns again and again to the difficulties in attracting NYC tech/developer talent willing to work long hours on pipedream visions for non-existent-to-laughable wages, plus equity.

The challenge peculiar to the five boroughs is the same challenge faced in any profitable organization, be it a single corporation or a complex socio-economic organism, aka the New York Metro Area GDP. That challenge is how to siphon resources from the cash cow, in this case Wall Street, and use them to create Question Marks (aka startups) that will become the thought and business leaders of the future.

Here’s my reply, verbatim from the discussion, and taking my own advice, a concrete proposal that I believe would positively impact the “culture” for web2.0 entrepreneurs in New York City:

Starting and growing successful businesses is hard, full stop.

If we were having this conversation in the Valley, chances are some of us (okay, me) would be “wondering aloud” whether GOOG would’ve bought our company if one of our founding partner’s wives was the daughter of one of the region’s premier VCs…  Any entrenched social hierarchy carries its own baggage, whether it’s aligned with entrepreneurship or not.

If you’re a web2.0 entrepreneur with “a big idea”, and furthermore a first-time/unproven entrepreneur with limited access to capital, and you can’t put together a demo/alpha/beta with a team (and the pooled capital) of 2-4 committed individuals who sign up based on nothing more than worthless equity and buy-in on your vision, then may I suggest this post and a re-examination of your plans.

If you’re an operational startup starved for developers and committed to growing your business in NYC, you need to look elsewhere for near term talent. For empirical evidence see Fred Wilson’s review of the USV portfolio. Also, “think outside the box” to bring people in over the long term.  Princeton, Brown, Harvard, Penn, MIT! — and I’m sure a few others I’m forgetting — all have top-tier CS programs and are within a day’s drive… they all have career services offices and they all have student bodies who are >50% on facebook… plugin, logon and blow some rising senior’s mind (too late to get the recent crop of grads) with your roadmap to web2.0 world domination.

As long as 280K of our friends on Wall Street continue to average >$5,000 per week while sitting atop $90B in gold, startups will never be the principal route to wealth for the NYC community, and resources will continue to be dear. How about a conversation that accepts that as the operating reality and looks to brainstorming on opportunities or sharing notes on what works. Focusing on “the culture” is putting the cart before the horse…

Business incubators came out of bubblicious web1.0 somewhat tarnished. But, as smart people have already observed, the economics for the first three years of a viable startup have changed, with the most dramatic change in the first year of operation, and in that first year, the cost of a startup’s first three months has fallen into the range of effectively anyone (or at least the pooled resources of 2-4 anyones). The cost of building most web applications is now on par with the capital any committed hobbyist, say an audiophile or an integrated circuit enthusiast ca. 1980, devotes to their moonlight-and-weekends obsession. And it is in these earliest periods of affordable access to new tools (think Jobs and Wozniak) that world-changing (and stupendous wealth-generating) ideas can take flight.

Web1.0 incubators lacked this low-cost environment for development, and further lacked any foundation of successful business models to key off of, and so their portfolio “diversity” was more a reflection of the sector’s massive overcapitalization than a systematic approach for generating wealth.

But web2.0 gives us scalable and non-stigmatized (eg. non-pornographic) ways to make money online, and an abundance of free-to-cheap platform technologies to build on. In response, business incubators are springing up which employ true portfolio theory — microcapital investments spread across a diverse array of web applications — as well as ancillary support in the form of “startup bootcamps,” which seek to transfer knowledge and values correlating highly with startup success to selected entrepreneurs. The bootcamps are roughly modeled on the two “knowledge economies” which have had the greatest impact on tech startups in the US, the universities of Stanford and MIT and their tech-tranfer/startup ecologies. Big surprise then, that these are also (roughly) where the premier example, Y Combinator, hosts its two bootcamps each year (I believe the east coast session uses resources from both Harvard and MIT). Now TechStars, with backing from successful web entrepreneur Jared Polis and VC digeratus Brad Feld, has copied the formula and transplanted it to Boulder, CO. Their About page lays out a simple mission: “TechStars was founded by a collective of Colorado-based entrepreneurs as a way of promoting entrepreneurial activity in their home state.”

large_seeds.jpgAll of this is to say “Why not here? Why not now?” We, the membership of nextNY, have access to resources at NYU, Columbia, Fordham and Cooper Union, as well as the NYC offices of numerous tech and net colossi. Further, we have contacts, if not members, involved in the New York Angels organization and the city’s prominent A-round VC firms: Union Square Ventures and First Round Capital. It’s likely too late for summer 2007, but how about assembling a leadership team for AppleSeeds 2008? I’ll wager the amount of money involved (My guess? $225K investment capital using the TechStars model, plus the ~$100K or so for accommodations and StartupCamp overhead) would not prove to be the chief obstacle in making this happen. If this was to demonstrate traction, there are more than enough funds and/or individuals for whom a 1/10th or 1/12th share in a venture of this sort would be a rounding error. Companies and financiers contribute to Chambers of Commerce and other business-oriented civic institutions every year, the AppleSeeds StartupCamp could be yet another recursive investment for the NYC business community, and go miles towards building and evangelizing a “startup culture” born and bred in the Big Apple.

So, call to action, who likes the idea? Who wants to talk about it some more? Who has alternative proposals? Sign up for nextNY’s Feb 28 Community Conversation and let’s help make this happen!



PS - If you’re not a part of the above-mentioned nextNY discussion group, then you need to be. You’re missing out on the smartest conversations being had right now about entrepreneurship and best-in-class tactics and strategies for making a startup happen in NYC.

Jonah Keegan is an entrepreneur with a business, a blog and a few other things.


Posted on Sunday, January 28, 2007 at 05:27PM by Registered CommenterJonah Keegan | Comments4 Comments

NYC's Freelancers Union issues web design contest

This just in the inbox and RSS reader:

Freelancers Union is issuing an open call for new designs for our homepage. The entries will be voted on by our members, with the designer of the winning submission receiving a contract to redesign our site. For more details, visit the competition page.

 The Freelancers Union has been on the discussion boards of nextNY recently, as members discuss and recommend different options in the City for getting cheap health insurance. Now nextNYers (or any web desiger in the NYC area) can compete for a contract to completely overhaul the Union’s site.

 More information can be found at the Freelancers Union blog and contest page.

 Who’s betting on a nextNY member winning this?

Nate Westheimer es el jefe de Lower East Side-based BricaBox, LLC — soon launching — and blogs at

Posted on Wednesday, January 17, 2007 at 06:54PM by Registered Commenterinnonate in | Comments3 Comments | References1 Reference
Page | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | Next 5 Entries