NY Tech Day Brings Together Startups and Potential Investors

4/20/12Follow @jpruth

New York is teeming with events to showcase startups, but Thursday’s NY Tech Day presented a lineup of up-and-comers who, in some cases, drew more attention than big-name exhibitors such as tumblr.

In its debut event, NY Tech Day brought out some 160 tech companies to the 69th Regiment Armory in New York’s Flatiron District. Many of the startups were there to get the word out about themselves to the more than 3,000 visitors at the all-day expo, and also to talk up potential investors, including Lerer Ventures, Spark Capital, and other firms that attended. NY Tech Day was co-founded by John Petersen and Alec Hartman, who are also the co-founders of direct mail service Mail Canvassing.

The event drew some high-profile speakers, as well. David Tisch, managing director of TechStars NYC, spoke at the closing ceremony about how the local technology scene continues to evolve. “Big companies are opening engineering offices in New York,” he said at the event. “Facebook, Twitter, eBay, Microsoft through the acquisition of GroupMe.” Such companies, he said, have more resources than startups to draw new talent to the city, which may be essential to nurturing the New York innovation market. “Over time, those engineers are going to flood down into the startup ecosystem,” Tisch said.

Charlie O’Donnell, partner at Brooklyn Bridge Ventures, presented ideas for keeping the New York tech community thriving. He encouraged attendees to learn with each startup they develop, and to plan on long-term careers as entrepreneurs. However, he also cautioned against simply trying to follow the success of others. “Build what’s right for your company, not necessarily what [venture capitalist bloggers] say you should do,” he said during his keynote speech.

The exhibitors at NY Tech Day included familiar names such as Uber, Boxee, and SecondMarket, which shared the show floor with newer faces from Unroll.me, Songza, Pearescope, Social Passport, and Producteev. Companies sought new hires among the crowd and cozied up to the investors who dropped by.

Brian Shields, co-founder of exhibitor IncubateNYC, reached out to the startups at the event to pique their interest in becoming residents of a tech incubator his group plans to establish in Harlem. “This is the midtown and downtown crowd we want to be involved,” he said in an interview with Xconomy. “At the end of the day, Harlem is New York.” Shields said IncubateNYC recently met with Columbia University to establish a collaborative relationship with the school’s engineering and entrepreneurship departments.

IncubateNYC is among the applicants for a contract with Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration to establish a technology incubator in the vicinity of 125th Street. Though the contract has yet to be awarded, Shields said IncubateNYC is proceeding with its plans regardless and expects to open space, in conjunction with supporters Google and the Abyssinian Development Corp., sometime in the fall.

Other exhibitors showed off the latest iterations of their ideas. Pearescope, for example, unveiled an updated version of its iPhone app that now uses Facebook’s location-based API to introduce users in the real world to their respective friends-of-friends. The app points out these connections when users are in physical proximity to each other and allows them to choose who they contact.

The use of Facebook’s location API, said Pearescope co-founder Evan Walther in an interview with Xconomy, helped give the app an immediate population of potential users. However, he said, Pearescope tries to avoid the concerns raised by some other apps that display users’ locations to people they have no mutual connections with at all. “We are not taking information that people make public and broadcasting it to everybody,” he said.

It is too soon to say what is in store for possible future NY Tech Days, but this first outing seemed to prove a strong demand among local tech startups for such forums to show off what they have to offer. “Being a part of this environment is really important,” Shields said.

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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