New York Throws Down Silicon Gauntlet at Boston’s Feet at Tech Meetup

8/3/11Follow @jpruth

A bit of chest-thumping kicked off last night’s NY Tech Meetup, a large gathering of startups grown in New York. Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert K. Steel took the stage with Seth Pinsky, president of the New York Economic Development Corp., at the onset to push Applied Sciences NYC—a plan to build up the ranks of local technology talent in order to outdo other cities with burgeoning startup communities.

New York seems to think it can snatch the thunder from hubs such as Boston by creating more local technology education opportunities. Steel said after the economic crisis exploded in 2008, the city asked local leaders in academia and venture capital what was needed to better prepare New York for future economic growth. “The resounding voice back was that we were deficient in strong skills in science and engineering,” he said.

Steel said the city wants to leverage its post-secondary schools—including universities, commuter and community colleges—to grow a larger crop of technology professionals to fill that void. “When people talk about college towns, they talk about Ann Arbor or Cambridge or Boston. The facts are New York City has more college students than Boston has people,” he said. “So I think it’s very clear when we call out the bragging rights on where we’re going to have innovation happen, that New York’s going to be the place.”

Steel said responses to a request for proposals are due this fall for the Applied Sciences NYC plan to expand or build an applied sciences and engineering campus in the city. He said the initiative is open to local as well as out-of-town post-secondary schools.

Pinsky said New York is gaining on its rival hubs as a place for private investment in new technology, but more work needs to be done. “In the last couple of years, for the first time in our history, we surpassed the Boston area as the Number Two recipient in the country of venture capital funding for technology businesses,” he said.

New York faces some challenges, Pinsky said, in making technology employment a larger percentage of the local economy when compared with its competitor cities such as Boston and San Francisco. “We have a lot of activity going on here, but relative to the size of our economy it’s just not as strong as it should be,” he said. “Building our technology sector is crucial for the city’s future.”

Pinsky said that last December, Mayor Bloomberg’s administration said it would provide land and capital to the post-secondary school that expands or locates the engineering and applied sciences campus in the city. He said a school would be chosen by the end of calendar year 2011.

After the pitch from local government last night, the presenting startups took over, showing off ideas that ranged from a mobile app that lets users share their personal cravings to a work in progress that would help users retain the memory of an iconic part of the city. Here is a roundup:

Brom.ly: An event recommendation engine reminiscent of Hotlist. This mobile app from QLabs offers personal recommendations for local events such as concerts or deals on nearby wine-tasting cruises. Users log in through Facebook, which lets the app curate events that may be of interest based on Likes and previously attended events.

Voyurl: Tapping personal analytics based on prior Web browsing, Voyurl recommends content that may interest the user based on his or her own activity. Voyurl works through Web browsers and can also compare personal traffic to the user base such as how much time was spent using social networks during the week.

StockTouch: With a colorful multi-touch layout, this iPad app lets users follow and search for publicly traded stocks to follow trends in the market. Presented as a grid of tiles, users can see winners presented in green and losers depicted in varying degrees of red as the stock markets change.

Dibsie:  A shopping site designed to help find deals that appeal to users’ interests with a self-serve deal uploading service retailers can use.

Seth Pinsky talked up the city government's plans to bolster the local technology community.

Want!: A mobile app that lets users share photos of objects they see that they desire to possess. Others can comment on these wants, similar to Liking status updates.

KnowAboutIt: For those who want to keep track of content that refreshes rapidly, such as Twitter streams, KnowAboutIt collects personally relevant topics they missed into a dashboard that can be read later.

Zaarly: A web and mobile platform that lets users buy and offer to sell products and services—even hugs, as demonstrated at the event—to others nearby.

Idea Flight: Cooked up by a team from Condé Nast, this app lets the users share presentations across a local network to others following along on iPads in the room. That way everyone is literally on the same page as the meeting progresses.

110 Stories: A work in progress strictly for users who are local to New York, but for a poignant reason. This augmented reality app (still in development) will orient users who are within 50 miles of the former North and South Towers at the World Trade Center and insert a restored image of the now-destroyed building into the camera view. Users will be able to write notes that are shared as points on a map that others can read as well.

João-Pierre S. Ruth is the editor of Xconomy New York. He can be reached at jpruth@xconomy.com and followed on Twitter @jpruth. Follow @jpruth

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