NYTM: Hackers & Coders Revival

Moderator Nate Westheimer at March 2011 New York Tech Meetup

I hadn’t been to a New York Tech Meetup in several months, but there I was Tuesday evening down in NYU country opposite the still fenced-in Washington Square Park at the Skirball Center for Performing Arts (named for filmmaker and real estate developer Jack Skirball). And perform, those artists of hack and code did!

Unlike some past NY Tech Meetups I’ve attended, moderator Nate Westheimer reinforced the mission of the evening by saying this gathering is less about business models, revenue streams or marketing plans. It’s about cool technologies and their application, pure and simple. More on that below.

Nate clearly has sharpened his moderating skills over the last couple of years, not to mention his sense of humor, which manifested following his own presentation of a mentoring application he developed called OHours (as in Office Hours). Ohours lets anyone avail himself to others seeking free advice in short time increments. When someone in audience asked about the dangers of some psycho lying in wait at such a meeting, Nate encouraged the crowd to meet-up with the questioner following the event.


This particular meet-up featured ten presentations with names like ToutApp (email), Ohours (schedule- a mentor), Clothia (augmented fashion reality), Dinevore (Yelp meets Twitter), Chart.io (graphic-minded analytics), Crowdtap (pay-to-play crowd-sourced market research and marketing), RadBox.me (Instapaper for videos bookmarklet), Aviary (online creation tools), SecondMarket (alternative investment site), and a couple of others. (Video here.)

NYHacker.com’s “Hack-of-the-Month,” and a clear audience favorite, came from Tim Soo, a musically inclined UPenn medical student who one-upped Microsoft Kinect and Wii in terms of virtuality and virtuosity. See video below. The best question from the audience: Why are you in medical school?

Between presentations, the audience learned of a number of cool programs to help them up their game. One was TechStars NYC Summer 2011 for which Brad Feld flew in from Boulder to promote. Another, NYC SeedStart Summer Program, offered start-ups up to $20K to get out of the ground.

And then there was the NYC Economic Development’s March 11 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) workshop to inform SBs and start-ups about the availability of monies from a $2.5 billion federal fund to spur innovation. Finally, there was an announcement about an summer NYU program I believe that will focus exclusively on digital advertising, media and marketing. (After all NYC is the capital of such things, right?) It’s clear NYC is pulling out all the stops for its hackers and coders.

Clothia Augmented

Of all the oohs and ahhs, few elicited more than the young woman who demonstrated Clothia. I always thought digitally designed custom shoes from Nike were cool. Now imagine using augmented reality (and a webcam) to picture yourself in the clothes from your closet or a catalogue. Hard to describe.

Yet, in spite of the palpable energy in the SRO auditorium, I couldn’t help but feel a little melancholy. Sure, the purpose of the #NYTM is to showcase cool new technologies. And it was clear that the VCs and seed funding companies were on hand ready to shower dollars on the most promising of these.

Still, I felt that a great many ideas would be left on the cutting room floor (not unlike many at the turn of the millennium). It’s not for their lack of mind-blowing innovation nor their practical utility, but more for the competitive challenges they all face in building awareness and user traction.

Gone are the days when a great story in AllThingsD or TechCrunch can unilaterally set a start-up on its way. There are no silver media bullets. The process of engaging bandwidth-challenged influencers to build buzz requires constant and intelligent application over time in our radically fragmented and increasingly ephemeral media landscape.

I hope to do my part by signing up for Ohours and using ToutApp in my influencer engagement outreach efforts. But for the PR/marketing/social media pros reading this, I’d suggest getting yourselves to the April NYTM. You might also consider UltraLight Start-Ups on March 10. You clearly are needed.

Photos & Video: Peter Himler, Canon Powershot SX20 IS


  1. Great article! Given the title, though, I figured you might have mentioned nyhacker.org, the organization that presents the Hack of the Month. We’d certainly appreciate the feedback!

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