A Sliver of the New York Startup Scene

A Sliver of the New York Startup Scene

Toby Daniels, founder and executive director of Social Media Week, said the startups were chosen to show the mix of innovation being developed in New York.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

With One Button Push

With One Button Push

Button co-founder Chris Maddern talked about his company's software, which lets different apps work together---such as requesting a pickup by Uber from within the Foursquare app.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

Podcasting the True Startup Life

Podcasting the True Startup Life

Matt Lieber, co-founder and president of Gimlet Media, talked about the podcasts his company produces---including frank discussions on the challenges they faced.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

Getting Stuff Done with a Digital Assistant

Getting Stuff Done with a Digital Assistant

GoButler founder and CEO Navid Hadzaad said his company's service helps take care of common tasks to free up the users' time.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

Another Way to Care for Seniors

Another Way to Care for Seniors

Josh Bruno, founder and CEO, said Hometeam is a provider of in-home care that lets seniors stay in their own residences and uses software that runs on an iPad to keep family members up to date.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

Coding, Wearables, and Friendship

Coding, Wearables, and Friendship

Jewelbots, a graduate of the latest Techstars NYC class, sent its head of hardware Scott Davison, vice president of hardware engineering, to talk up its wearables that girls can customize to interact with their friends.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

Is the Sky Falling?

Is the Sky Falling?

Tim Devane, principal with seed fund NextView Ventures, said founders who have strong ideas will keep innovating regardless of tough times.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

Young Minds Create a Way to Stop Brutality

Young Minds Create a Way to Stop Brutality

A team made up of students from the Bronx Academy for Software Engineering demoed Protect & Swerve, an app they developed at a hackathon run by Code/Interactive. Their idea is to educate the public on the subject of police brutality. Protect & Swerve lets users upload video and geotag incidents, letting others see these actions and comment on what happened.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

Virtual VIP Seats

Virtual VIP Seats

Andre Lorenceau, founder and CEO of LiveLike (another alum of Techstars), said his virtual reality sports watching app simulates the view from a VIP suite at the game.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

Helping Kids Improve Their Reading Skills

Helping Kids Improve Their Reading Skills

CEO Matthew Gross, said Newsela's software brings instruction and dynamic content to classrooms by using daily news, rewritten at different reading levels, to help kids become better readers.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

Connected by Smart Jewelry

Connected by Smart Jewelry

Ringly Logan Munro, co-founder and head of engineering, talked about the company's fashionable smart rings that alert the wearer to messages coming to their smartphones.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

Making Slicker-Looking Events Sites

Making Slicker-Looking Events Sites

Splash Ben Hindman CEO said his company offers white label software that lets designers create websites for their events, which can drive marketing for the event host.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

Digital Scheduler

Digital Scheduler

X.ai developed personal assistant software for scheduling meetings, said CEO Dennis Mortensen, to automate and cut down the tedium of keeping events sorted.

photo by João-Pierre S. Ruth

Even if hard times are ahead, founders will continue to crank out ideas and chase funding.

That was the sentiment of Tim Devane, principal with New York- and Boston-based seed fund NextView Ventures. He spoke late last week during the Startups to Watch session of the Social Media Week conference in New York, where ten local startups, including some Techstars alums, and a team of students from nonprofit organization Code/Interactive demoed and discussed their creations (see slideshow).

In the midst of the presentations, Devane shared his thoughts on where the startup and investing scene is going, given talk of valuations getting too high and looming end times (for the latest economic cycle at least).

Even if things do take a sour turn, he said New York has a few things going for it that will help in the long run. For instance, consumer demand for brands they want and convenience has led to something he called the “Warby Parker effect.”

Prescription eyewear seller Warby Parker, which lets people try glasses on at home, has been shaking up a monopolistic, incumbent market, Devane said. The growth of Warby Parker also spurred the emergence of companies, such as FlyCleaners, which adopted similar on-demand models for other products and services.

“That has manifested now in the past two years, in over $155 million seed-stage, brand-first, convenience-first companies all founded here in New York,” Devane said. They have been comparatively small rounds of about $2 million each. The point, he said, is these startups are trying to cover every type of task or need that arises during the day, such as on-demand prescription drugs. But it does raise a question about how much room there is for companies that adopt a Warby Parker-style business model.

Food and meal delivery with Seamless, Caviar, Maple, and other such services has become increasingly familiar to consumers. “Ordering food has shifted dramatically over the past five years, from the telephone and offline to the Internet,” Devane said.

That trend, with even Domino’s seeing more and more people use its app to place orders, has led to more startups going after this space, he said, and investors have followed. There are challenges in the food ordering sector, Devane said. The popularity of such services in New York does not always translate to other parts of the country—even in other major cities. “There’s simply not as many people stacked on top of each other the way they are in New York,” he said.

There is more to New York than ordering eyeglasses or food with an app. Devane sees ongoing investment opportunities in this city in the media and publishing sectors. However, there are some who think the bloom is already off the rose. “A lot of people would claim BuzzFeed has succeeded and is the winner, and now there is a bit of a nuclear winter in new voices and startups,” he said.

The funding environment, Devane said, as well as the rise of more startups such as Gimlet Media defy such notions. “Almost $1 billion was invested over the past four years in this sector, in early stage,” he said. That was divvied up in deals of less than $50 million each, Devane said, not just mega funding rounds into BuzzFeed or Vice Media.

Finance is another native New York industry that has been embracing innovation such as cryptocurrency. “You can actually pay for yellow cab with Bitcoin; the Taxi & Limousine Commission has approved that,” Devane said. The state of New York has also issued guidelines for regulating Bitcoin firms. However, there is still a ways to go in the maturity and development for this type of fintech, he said.

(It must be noted that this niche is shaky; last year Bitcoin mining company CoinTerra, based in Austin, TX, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, for example.)

Devane tried to further allay some of the doomsayers who profess we are headed into another downturn and difficult times. “There is no end to entrepreneurship,” he said. “There’s no end to innovation; there’s no end to ideas. A contraction is perhaps necessary.”

Billion-dollar valuations for “unicorns” that have yet to prove themselves do raise real concerns, but Devane said this does not mean a bubble is bursting. Entrepreneurs will continue to be scrappy and try to build up their ideas. If they stick with it, he said, they will get funding regardless of the changing winds. “Venture capital is not going out of business; entrepreneurship is not going out of business,” Devane said.