Today, we talk with Elissa Shevinsky, Founder and CEO of MakeOut Labs, a startup building online dating and social networking software.
I grew up in Queens, so I’m thrilled to see so many cool startups coming out of NYC. Foursquare has done so much to establish NYC as a great place to build a social startup. I really love music curation startup Songza, and am such a big fan of RapGenius and Buzzfeed.
At this point I’m bicoastal – I have a place in NYC and my cofounder has a warehouse in San Francisco. This is perfect because I can do ad deals and run into journalists at parties one week, and the next week have beer with hardware hackers and EFF activists in San Francisco.
It’s interesting that there isn’t one central startup hub. Sure, there’s a lot happening in the flatiron and by Union Square, but the early stage startups are everywhere from Dumbo to Long Island City.
What do you see happening over the next 3-5 years?
Right now there’s an openness and warmth to the tech community in New York. Anyone can get a meeting with NYTM Executive Director Nate Westheimer just by signing up on Ohours. Many of the most interesting events are open to the public, and can be found by reading newsletters like Gary’s Guide.
As the scene matures, there will be more NYC companies like GroupMe and OMGPop that have fantastic exits – creating a generation of entrepreneurs that can mentor and invest in new startups. So that’s exciting. There will also be (significantly more) entrepreneurs who will become battle hardened from failure. I’m looking forward to seeing that too actually, because it means there will be more people with serious startup experience.
The City has recently revamped the “Made in NY” initiative to include digital. What are your thoughts on this new campaign?
I love the Made in NY campaign. The videos have been so cool. I’ve been meaning to put the logo on my company’s footer, because most of our code was written in NY.
Mayor Bloomberg has been a fantastic partner for the tech community. I’d like to see this trickle down to the more local politics – for example, I’m hoping Ben Kallos (and any other technologist candidates – he’s the only one I’m aware of) – will win the upcoming city council election. It makes such a difference to have city officials working closely with the technologists and tech activists here in NYC.
Where does your company fit in the ecosystem?
MakeOut Labs just launched a Jewish dating site – Jspot – which features the first spam filter and the first sexuality slider in online dating. Of course we launched JSpot in NYC! Next up we’re going to launch a site for dating in Brooklyn.