Gaming and Music Take Center Stage at Startup Weekend NYC

5/7/12Follow @jpruth

With the likes of Zynga championing social games, it is no surprise that startups are in a rush to capture their share of this sector. But what is surprising is the rise of New York innovators who are diving into this market. Gaming played a major part of this past weekend’s first ever gaming- and music-focused Startup Weekend NYC. Some 110 engineers, designers, developers, and others formed teams at the General Assembly campus to create disruptive music and game-themed software.

Although the ideas developed during the 54-hour event were very early-stage, they offered a glimpse of what local talent is pursuing in these rapidly growing industries. Music has long been a fixture in New York, with a wealth of record labels based here, however gaming is growing rapidly on the local landscape. The teams at Startup Weekend NYC gave a taste of what is brewing in the city.

Arie Abecassis, one of the judges and a venture partner with Dreamit Ventures, said first prize winner, Type That, chose an idea with a potentially large audience to exploit. Type That is a text-based game app where friends compete to see how fast and accurately they can type. “Just about everybody uses text,” Abecassis said. “[The game] has this social and viral element to it that gives it an opportunity to spread pretty quickly.”

Dreamit Ventures is a Philadelphia-based accelerator program that also operates in New York. Abecassis said Type That did not seem to require a deep capital investment to get started and the team’s idea is “clever enough to generate organic interest.” The first-place prize package includes a $1,000 hosting plan with cloud service Digital Ocean as well as classes at General Assembly to help the winning team maintain their momentum.

Second place team Jam Session created a platform that helps musicians connect with each other and find places to practice together. Third place went to Startup Trail, a game that simulates the trials and tribulations of creating a startup company.

Chieh Huang, a coach during the competition and a director with Zynga Mobile New York, said he was surprised by the volume of engineers on the teams, which may reflect the ongoing changes in the market. “I’m going to guess some of them were in enterprise technology and now they are branching out to consumer-facing startups,” he said.

Huang was co-founder of social games studio Astro Ape in New York, which Zynga acquired last August. He believes gaming is gaining firm footing locally, as evidenced by Zynga snatching up New York’s OMGPOP in March. “With the ripple effects of OMGPOP, it will be interesting to see in the next year how that changes gaming in New York,” he said. “You had the talent and creativity here, but we never really blew up as a city in terms of gaming.”

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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