Newbies Share Space with Older Entrepreneurs at NYC Startup Demo Night


The presenters of the evening covered everything from making dating a blend of old and new school, to swapping gift cards for ones from stores you actually like, to cutting medical costs.



About 50 people filled one of the rooms in the Cushman & Wakefield offices, on Sixth Avenue, Wednesday night to hear what some of New York City’s innovators and entrepreneurs were working on. The NYC Tech Startup group hosts demo nights where members can present their projects and receive feedback from the audience.

Lori Cheek started the evening off with Cheek’d, an attempt at taking the prospect of meeting someone out of the digital space. “There are 30,000 missed connections every year,” Cheek said, “… and 71% of Americans believe in love at first sight.” Launched in May 2010 and the winner of the Startup Madness Award in 2011, Cheek’d uses a combination of physical cards and digital codes to bring a little romance into a user’s life. Cheek personally vouched for the success of the idea, since it is how she found her soon-to-be husband.

Once the user creates an account with Cheek’d, he/she orders a deck of 50 cards, for $20, with standard, themed or customizable one-liners on it – “Tag. You’re it”, “My dog and I are free this weekend” and “I’m a good long term investment.” The last two come from the Doggy Deck and The Wall Street Deck, respectively.

After receiving the cards, the user is free to use them as he/she wishes. It could be slipped into someone’s bag or left on someone’s table, or just handed to someone. Apart from the one-liner, on the card is a code linked to the user’s Cheek’d account. If the opposite party is interested, he/she will enter the code on the website and have access to the user’s Cheek’d account. “That way people connect online and then hopefully offline,” Cheek explained. After that it’s all up to the parties involved. The revenue model is based on the $20 card decks and the $9.95/month to keep the code activated to the user’s account.

Cheek’d was followed by Socure, presented by Sunil Madhu, the company’s tech founder and CEO. “We use social biometrics for identity verification,” Madhu explained. The idea is to use legacy identity verification data and social media data to assign a confidence rating to each user, letting a user know whether he/she is real or not. The software is a B2B solutions for verticals such as  financial services and e-commerce. Madhu explained the process with the help of a fake Facebook profile: the software picked up the fact that the person wasn’t real.

In helping prevent cases of identity fraud, Socure is given a lot of private information. But there are no privacy violation fears, as none of the information is permanently stored anywhere. “We’re not in the data selling business,” Madhu said, “In fact, we don’t even store the data to sell it.” The company does not insure the transactions and the business plan hinges on subscription based API calls and the value of the transaction. They are going to soon launch a P2P transaction service.

Up next was Moven, a mobile money management service that wants you to “spend smarter, live better.” Targeting young professionals, the app gives users real time feedback of their expenses on their phones. The company provides its own debit card or an RFID-enabled sticker to register the payments. On screen, transactions are divided into Spend, Save and Live. Recurrent amounts like rent, mortgage, and transport come under Live while dining out and “play money” come under Spend. When a user spends less than the average monthly amount, the balance is filed under Save.

Using data from the previous 90 days, Moven creates an average amount spent and uses the MoneyPulse, a color-coded accelerometer of sorts, to let the user know whether his/her spending so far in “in the green” as compared to the average amount spent by that time of the month, or whether he/she is over the average. The app has also integrated Facebook events that could be money-related, like taking your mom out for her birthday. Upcoming features include P2P payments, an option that allows users to set their own budgets rather than using their financial histories; one click transfers to a user’s actual savings account and possibly even a Debt tab. For now, the company works with CBW Bank and MasterCard but is looking to expand their bank network. We’ve written about this company here before.

Jeffrey Bonar, founder of JumpStart Wireless, then talked about his venture. “We’ve been making mobile apps for enterprises since 2000…Global 1000 companies like Toyota and the Center for Disease Control,” Bonar said. Using patented artificial intelligence technology, which is Bonar’s specialty, JumpStart Wireless can produce specialized apps within hours, at almost 1/10th of the competition’s rates, making it very attractive to enterprises. The company creates the first version of the app as soon as possible so that the client can try it out in the field. As the app is used and more specializations are needed, the JumpStart team develops the app further.

Bonar shared an example of software developed to help a theme park efficiently complete safety checks of their rollercoasters. A different team of engineers and developers would have been needed to create Apple, Android and possibly Blackberry versions of the software, but JumpStart’s technology allowed them to use a small team and create an app that worked on all platforms. The finished product enabled the team at the rollercoaster to enter the data needed, which was then automatically updated in the office records. And the entire thing was made in about four hours.

One of the newer startups then presented was Swap.rs. The idea, said founder Rafi Cohen, to allow users to swap gift cards from stores they didn’t like for ones that they did. The idea came to him when his grandmother gave him a $100 Bed, Bath & Beyond gift card that he left his wallet for two years. He thought about developing something that “instantly exchanges gift cards from one vendor to another” and started working with his team on the idea.

The mobile app, developed for the iPhone and Android, seems quick. The user enters the store name, the card number and the value of the card into the app. Then the user chooses the store where he/she would like to use the card, and after taking a 20% fee, the app displays the amount of the card that will be available for use. If the user agrees, the swap is finalized and the card can be used immediately at the chosen store. Multiple gift cards can be stored on the app. What makes this app different from competitors like GiftCardReserve and CardCash is that those companies charge according to how popular the card is, and take more time to complete the entire transaction, whereas Swap.rs takes under a minute and charges a flat fee. The company is looking to build partnerships with Discover, PayPal, American Express and Diners Club and is also courting angel investors.

The last presenter of the evening was John Novotny, chairman and and CEO of PatientsDB, an operational-cost accounting system. Started in 2009 and privately held, PatientsDB looks to “put awareness of the costs of medical care in front of the caregivers,” Novotny said. He broke down the estimated $2.5 trillion annual US healthcare expenditure into 1/3rd going to hospitals and the balance to nursing homes, doctors visits and the like. Being a doctor himself, Novotny tried to cut down these costs and realized that the simplest way might be to just let the professionals see how much each procedure or additional scrub-in costs the patient.

The app also monitors the information doctors, such as how much a procedure costs under Dr. X as opposed to Dr. Y. This, Novotny said, is a real pull for the professionals who want to see their performance compared to others in their field. Apart from helping cut supply cost, PatiensDB also economizes on labor cost, allowing doctors to decide which staff member needs to be in which surgery. For now the company has 3 hospital clients.

For full coverage of tech events in New York, visit The Watch.

About the author: Kamakshi Ayyar

Kamakshi Ayyar is a freelance journalist based in New York. She studied law at Mumbai University, India and received her Master’s in Journalism from Columbia University. She has written for Business India, Roosevelt Island’s Main Street Wire and The Villager.

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