Obama’s CTO Attends NY Tech Meetup
The Chief Technology Officer of the United States, Todd Park, was the surprise speaker at the October NY Tech Meetup on Oct. 8, when 11 business founders presented their new products. Park, appointed by President Barack Obama in March, is the second person to serve in this office.
Addressing the hundreds of members in the packed Skirball Center at NYU, Park talked about five projects initiated during his tenure, including: The Open Data Initiatives Program, which liberates data; Blue Button for America, which seeks to spread the capability for the adoption of the ability for patients to get their own medical records; and RFP-EZ, which solves the problem of accessing tech solutions from start-ups. He was also passionate about Better Than Cash, which seeks to catalyze moving the developing world from cash-based systems to mobile payments and MyGov, a new platform that organizes government around the people’s needs.
“This [MyGov] reimagines and reconnects citizens to their government,” he explained.
—Keya Dannenbaum, founder of ElectNext
Park’s energy spread through the audience, which gave enthusiastic applause at the start of each company demonstration.
Vantageous was unique in that it streamlines the process of making videos that cut from one vantage point to another. It allows users to make multi-angle videos using iPhones or Androids as video cameras.
“It’s disruptive because currently, to make a multi-angle video of a wedding or a first dance, you need expensive devices,” explained CEO Tim Novikoff. “Typically you’re hiring a videographer; or if you are doing it by yourself, you need expensive software like Final Cut Pro and hours to do it. But with Vantageous you can do it with a few iPods, iPhones from your friends, and a few dollars.”
VenueBook, a frontend marketing site with a complete catering and event management system on the backend, just launched a few weeks ago. The team aims to get tight integration, similar to OpenTable.
“We think this integration is our secret sauce,” said founder and CEO Kelsey Recht. “But when you are building a product you never feel like you’re done. At some point, you do have to freeze and show it to the world. The best thing you can do is get feedback, but because it’s your baby, you feel like it’s never perfect. And it never is going to be perfect.”
The CTO Joanthan Katz said he knows how to scale a product. “You have to know all the moving parts in the event world, because events are inherently complicated. There is no definitive — everyone has a different menu and requirements. So by really understanding the data behind the event process, I was able to build the appropriate data model and everything just fell in around that.”
FlavorPill GEL is an open platform for events. It brings together events from all different categories and allows the users to be the curators.
“It allows people to experience more amazing events in the cities they are in by creating this open platform for discovering and sharing,” said co-founder Mark Mangan. It’s getting personalized event information based on what you’re interested in.”
Rick Martinez, the lead developer, said that his biggest challenge was having expertise in the domain. “It’s amazing, especially for me — the tech person — to be around so many people that are already so into culture here in the city and the respective cities we’re in. They are the ones who provide the guidance.”
Matthew Klinman, a very funny comedy writer, teamed up with some developers to make the website ShoutRoulette.com — an easy and fast way to “shout” at other people online about anything. It was created in one day during the Comedy Hackathon. Users pick topics they feel strongly about – like climate change or women’s rights – then go onto the site and are automatically matched up with people who have opposing views. They can immediately start shouting at each other through the site’s video chat function.
“Let’s say you are watching a politician and they say something that gets you so angry – you know that feeling – and you have no one around you to shout at,” he said. “Our site finally allows you to shout at someone who disagrees with you right in that moment, when you need it the most.” It’s live; it’s about connecting with someone in the world and shouting directly in their face.” The demonstration included a shout match between Klinman and one of his developers on the topic of Chipotle burritos.
Temboo, a library of 1500+ choreos, helps users build well-crafted apps in less time.
“It’s changing the way people can build apps,” said Trisala Chandaria. “It allows the developers to focus on the creative work, and it already gives them the low level work so that they don’t have to worry about that. The backend is hugely scalable.”
Keya Dannenbaum, founder and CEO of ElectNext, a civic engagement start-up, said “We want to help people connect to politicians, political events and the issues that they care about in the way that’s meaningful to them every day. We are at a place that we can be an incredibly useful tool to people for this November’s election.”
Honest Buildings helps professionals find buildings for their commercial real estate needs. “We are like a Google for finding information about buildings – you type in an address and pull up a profile about anything about a building,” said Josh Boltuch. “We are similar to LinkedIn, in that as a professional you can connect with the buildings and post projects that they’ve done. It connects the real estate world so people can find the projects and companies they need to make their buildings better.”
Other innovations of note included Seeds, a for-profit social gaming app that allows micro lending; Canor.fm, a real-time test for presidential debates; Thunderclap, a crowdspeaking platform for large groups; and Sportaneous, a way to discover fitness.