Last Monday, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend November’s NY Tech Meetup, a monthly gathering for like-minded techies who are curious about the zeitgeist in the world of digital. Held in NYU’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, situated at the corner of LaGuardia Place and Washington Square in Manhattan, it was an easy walk from our Centric Digital headquarters.

It was my first time attending this event and, after my positive experience, will certainly not be the last. After entering the building, two of my coworkers and I boldly journeyed down the stairs in a Three Musketeers-esque fashion only to realize we were slightly lost. The venue is rather large, after all. We quickly corrected course, navigated to the main auditorium, and found our seats. The show was about to begin.

Pomp and circumstance notwithstanding, the majority of the event takes place sitting down and listening to guest speakers from various startup companies take the stage, present a demonstration of their product or service, and answer questions from the audience. Despite the monotony commonly encountered at similar events, this one was quite different. The emcee of the evening, Executive Director Jessica Lawrence, did a fantastic job of engaging the audience, as did the guest speakers.

There was one point during the event where we were asked to take an “intermission” and shake hands with the people sitting next to us. Encouraging this type of interpersonal networking, while sitting down in a seat, is a great representation of their “member-driven” values that they strive to promote. Having been raised Catholic and forced to attend Sunday mass every week when I was younger, this was similar to the all-too-familiar “sign of peace” where strangers shake hands. However, this was different. Despite the fact that we were shaking hands with strangers, in a way they were not complete strangers; we know that they came to the NYTM because of a love and passion for technology, something I can personally identify with in my career at Centric Digital.

Keezy was my favorite demo during the course of the night. It was the very first “non-spoken” presentation at NYTM; there was simply no need for words. The presenter demonstrated two of his company’s music-making apps and created a live “iPhone symphony” in front of the entire crowd. He demonstrated how easy it is
to make music using their apps and how sometimes, simplicity is the ultimate form of engagement. During the after party, I got to chat with him a little bit and was able to play with the apps myself. Donning headphones and a promotional iPhone, I enjoyed taking the apps for a test drive. This presentation was definitely the most engaging and other presenters should take note from this.

Parcel while not an original idea per se, is a very solid execution of an existing concept. It provides a simple solution to the never-ending problem that many NYC residents without doormen face: who will sign for my packages? Parcel provides a simple service that allows online deliveries to be shipped to their fulfillment centers where they sign for your packages on your behalf and redeliver them at a date and time you specify. And the fee is quite nominal! I was one of the lucky audience members who were called on to ask questions. The question I asked the Parcel presenter was, “How do you differentiate yourselves from other companies that provide a similar service and where does yours add unique value?” His response was confident and simple: “We guarantee our service and at a cheaper rate than our competitors.” It’s this guarantee of reliability that makes using them preferable to, say, UPS’ own My Choice premium product. Parcel’s intuitive interface also makes it super simple to sign up and use their service.

OfferpopSquarespace, and Dweet.io were unique in their own regards. Unfortunately, I was not impressed with Offerpop’s presentation. Their showcase left a very bland and unmemorable aftertaste. They have a solid offering which can be extremely valuable for marketers but their team did a poor job at explaining exactly what they do, how it can add marginal benefit, and they failed to give any useful specifics. Unfortunately, the vagueness of their presentation left the audience members uninterested and it’s quite a shame. Many others shared this opinion, too. Dweet.io, on the other hand, offers a purposefully open-ended service and yet the presenter explained the technology, example applications, and benefits quite well. I was very impressed at his live demonstration. He asked a girl from the audience to navigate to a URL on her phone, tell him a codename, and then he displayed positional data from her phone in real time on the large projection screen in front of everyone. Needless to say, it was a pretty cool demo. Squarespace, while not as much of a fledgling company as the others, did an excellent job at showcasing their website and did a great job of answering questions. My favorite moment was when the founder asked if there were any customers in the audience and I was pleasantly shocked to see about a dozen hands go up.

Before the event started, we were told to refrain from asking any questions related to the presenters’ business-model. That request was largely ignored and was eventually rescinded as the audience became increasingly engaged and excited to learn more about some of the basic business operNew York Tech Meetupations. It was quite educational. The after party also offered a great opportunity to meet some of the presenters. Other non-presenting companies, such as HBO, attended the after party to spread the word on some new products and services.

Overall, the NYTM was is great place to see some of the latest technology and website offerings that are just emerging or have yet to hit the market. It was a great, community-centric gathering and with the undisputed gender gap in the STEM fields being discussed more and more these days, it was very refreshing to see an increasingly-large number of female participants. This was an experience that I must recommend to anyone interested in learning about technology or anyone who just has an avid appreciation for innovation in general, regardless of industry.

And lesson-learned: ALWAYS carry extra business cards. I was lucky that this woman with whom I was networking appreciated my makeshift business card. Thank God for nametags!