Last month, NY based early stage VC Roger Ehrenberg wrote a compelling blog post about the steps the NYC Venture scene could take to increase its relevance. While I agree with most of his comments, my experiences over the last few weeks at both the NY Angels and the NY Tech Meet Up highlights to me how increasingly vibrant and relevant the NY Tech scene has become.
I hadn’t been to a NY Angel event in six years, but on the urging of internet exec turned angle Geoff Judge, I decided to give it another shot, even though the three hour commitment made me pause. I got there (PWC’s beautiful new building at 42nd and Madison) for coffee at 8am to at least do some networking, and the room was already filled with 25 angels and company execs. I was immediately struck by the buzz in the room. The angels were excited to be there as were the presenting companies. And the people kept streaming in. When I introduced myself to the Executive Director, Paul Sciabica , and described what we were doing at SecondShares, he immediately asked if I knew Barry Silber, CEO of Second Market. I’ve met others at SecondMarket, but had yet to meet Barry. So I walked over and introduced myself and had a nice conversation. For me, even if the rest of the time was a bust, attending the meeting was already time well spent.
By the time the official program started promptly at 8:30a.m., the conference room was overflowing with about 60 people. The crowd included 12 women, which is eleven more than I remember ever attending one of my earlier NY Angel meetings, and a much higher percentage than is represented in traditional VC land. The meeting starts with uber angel, and NY Angel President David Rose asking everyone to introduce themselves. It was an impressive group. Ten minutes down, 170 to go. David than gave an update on the four deals in process of closing financings. That seemed like an impressive number to me and not much different than the total closed by the group in all of 2009. David then highlighted how the NY tech community “has come roaring back out of the recession” and is more active than ever, highlighted by all the tech related events in New York referenced in garysguide. David also spoke of the new angel groups in town, including GoldenSeeds , Keiretsu, OpenAngelForum (Calacanis’s national effort with the NY group run by Charlie Odonnell at First Round Capital). Lastly David mentioned the NYU Business Plan Competition as another indication of the city’s booming start up culture.
Liddy Karter, a VC, who is also active with the aational angel association, the ACA, then discussed the regulatory environment for angel investing. She was happy to tell the group that the Dodd Bill which originally included a number of debilitating new rules for angel investing, was now looking more favorable for angels, with the only negative new rule likely to be the exclusion of one’s house when measuring one’s wealth and thus appropriateness for angel investing.
It was finally time to watch the company presentations, and there were some great ones. Most notable were SeatGeeks which aggregates the sellers in the secondary market for sports and concert tickets (e.g. Stubhub), and provides a comprehensive look at each ticket as well as a forecast of which way the ticket prices for an individual event are headed. It’s Farecast for sports and concert tickets. We’ve got a grainy short Skype SecondShares interview with CEO Jack Groetzinger.
I was also impressed by Spyderlynk which provides brands with interactive logos. Check out their site, they’re getting traction with major brands like Coke and Coors. Bottom line, all five of the presenting companies were interesting, and they all had follow up interest from the participating angels.
The NY Tech Meetup I attended on May 4th was also an eye opener. While the event has been selling out its 700 tickets for some time, the quality of the presenting companies and the announcements made all reflected extraordinarily well on the NY Tech community. Most notable of the announcements was the new partnership between NYU’s Berkley Center For Entrepreneurial Studies and Innovation and NY Tech Meetup. One of Roger Ehrenberg’s ’s points was that the area schools need to get serious about entrepreneurship, and this is a major step in the right direction, as it will create a closer tie between one of the city’s major educational institution and one of NYC’s major start up communities.
Among the impressive companies presenting at NY Tech Meet Up this month was URL shortner Bit.ly, which said they are now shortening 50mm URLs a day, and have passed 2 billion in total. The data business to grow out of that has enormous potential. I was personally blown away by Zoomino which provides semantically relevant video for ay content. I was also intrigued by Stickybits which enables the attachment of digital content to real world objects through bar codes, and GameChnger.io, which provides real time mobile score keeping , and has already registered over 6,500 teams.
The bottom line is that Silicon Alley will never have the same scale of start ups as Silicon Valley, but the city appears well on its way to being one of the major hubs of innovation for the massive social media revolution underway. Now if we could just get one of those chunky IPOs (come on Gilt, Everydayhealth), or one of those $100mm+ buyouts (Foursquare?).