I would run out of fingers if I tried to count the New York Tech Meetups I’ve attended but last night’s event was a little different. For one thing, I sat for the first time at a simulcast at New Work City, a co-working space, rather than the main event at the NYU Skirball Center. Secondly, they started the night by bringing to the stage some tried and true New York startups.
For those that haven’t been before, the New York Tech Meetup (NYTM) usually runs to a pretty standard format – two hours of on-stage demos from startups. No Powerpoint, no conceptual ideas, just things that entrepreneurs have actually made and launched (some products just that day). Among them: apps, websites, software products and robots. Rarely do you see big, established brands with polished performances. It’s scrappy, and that’s what makes it so cool.
Having said that, it was very cool to see the more refined “demos” from three established New York-based startups as they returned to the same stage some of them originally launched on. Here’s my quick overview of what How About We, Shelby.tv and Catchafire.org are up to now…
How About We: Co-CEOs Brian and Aaron launched How About We two and a half years ago at the NYTM. They now employ 45 people in their Brooklyn HQ with the shared goal of helping people fall in love by taking online dating offline.
They used last night’s forum not just to give an update, but to announce the next rendition of How About We which also caters to dating couples. The 1,000 couples already playing with it during the beta period have been exposed to discounts, date gifting and a concierge service to help keep their romance spark alive and now it’s live for everyone to use.
How About We is a fabulous New York startup success story and it’s great to see this outfit grow. The company has found a niche in a cluttered dating marketplace with a well-defined brand and they certainly used PR to help them along. I remember reading about them just after they launched and they’ve stayed well on my radar since, through regular appearances in earned media.
Shelby.tv: Another darling of the New York tech community, Shelby.tv, got its start not just through NYTM exposure, but also through their earlier selection as team HomeField in the NY TechStars incubator program; a program that is featured on BloombergTV.
Full disclosure: I’m not a big consumer of online video and Shelby has stayed on my radar mainly due to their presence in earned media and an impressive brand tone consistency. I read some articles in July last year about the difficult decision Shelby made to shut down their service to allow them to rebuild. Not only was the decision bold (and their CEO Reece Pacheco was publicly praised for this) but the company’s use of PR was gutsy too.
They used earned media to amplify their reasoning and from last night’s display, it certainly seems like it worked. Reece and his team’s tenacity and enthusiasm are bang-on brand for Shelby and it has consistently shined through in their press, their social channels and in this case a web TV show, right from day one. Big props.
Catchafire: Self-proclaimed “How About We for volunteering,” what’s not to love about Catchafire? Not all of us are made for food distribution and we can’t all attend volunteer efforts in-person. Catchafire helps non-profits define what they need and identify who they need to make it happen and that’s where the matchmaking comes in.
Catchafire members detail their skills – be it coding, web design or copywriting – and the site algorithm matches them to prospective non-profits that need those specific skills. It’s inspiring to see these guys up on stage so passionate about what they’re accomplishing.
In the leadup to SXSWi where the nation’s hottest startups, agencies and brands congregate in Austin, what strikes me about these three startups in particular is the dedication they have to building their respective brands. Not only do they believe in what they’re doing, but they appreciate that staying power can be found through engaging their community and working with earned media, alongside solid product innovation.
The NYTM is streamed live (and taped). You can check it out the recording here: February 2013 New York Tech Meetup.