Web2.0 Expo Says: “Start Up in Silicon Alley”

Joel Smernoff (Paltalk), Karin Klein (??), Kevin Ryan (AlleyCorp), Me, Nate Westheimer (BricaBox/RoseTech)

Joel Smernoff (Paltalk), Karin Klein (Softbank Capital), Kevin Ryan (DoubleClick/AlleyCorp), Me, and Nate Westheimer (BricaBox/RoseTech)

Web2.0 Expo took place at the Javits Center September 16th-19th and came off as a great success for many of the attendees – myself included! One of the most valuable sessions took place on Thursday: “Starting Up in Silcon Alley”. I only registered for the Expo Hall, but was lucky enough to find my way in using some of my usual event tactics (hint: involves a scanner and photoshop).

The topic covered an important question for VC’s and Tech Entrepenuer’s alike: Where to start up? For the vast majority of the online world, when you hear Silicon Valley you think the heart of everything tech in the US all located in Northern California. But lately entreprenuers, VC’s and tech-startups are beginning to find value in areas outside of NoCal. One Silcon in particalur, Silicon Alley, “is a nickname for an area with a concentration of Internet and new media companies in Manhattan, New York City. Originally, the term referred to the cluster of such companies extending from the Flatiron District down to SoHo and TriBeCa, but as the location of these companies spread out, it became a general term referring to the dot com industry in New York City as a whole” (Wikipedia). And many VC’s and entreprenuer’s alike are beginning to see a lot of value in New York City. This was the topic of discussion for the panel which consisted of….

Nate, Kevin, Karin and David argue it out!

Nate, Kevin, Karin and David argue it out!

It was a legitimate topic as there are many successful start ups in NYC Silicon Alley. “A couple of years after the internet bust, Silicon Alley began making its comeback with the help of NY Tech meetup and NextNY. Since 2003 Silicon Alley has seen a steady growth in the number of start-ups. As of 2007 Google’s second largest office is located in New York as well as major online advertising and media companies such as Eyeblaster, DoubleClick, Roo and meetup.com” (Wikipedia).

Nate moderated the event and for about a 1/2 hour, conducting a Q&A style panel allowing the audience to ask questions as well (as you’ll see). To best cover this event, here’s a taste of what went on…

Nate: What does it mean to start up in Silicon Alley?

  • Kevin: “Great management talent in NY, […] We still have an undeveloped VC infrastructure…a real lagger in terms of development. […] I’m extremely Bullish! 10 years from now we’ll stil be smaller than Silicon Valley, but the gap is closing in day by day!”
  • Karin: “We are finding many compelling startups in NY. We have the building blocks key resources in NY – customers, partners and financiers. […] 3 examples of success: BuddyMedia, Thumbplay and Paltalk.”
  • David: “This is a very good time to start a company in NYC. The world is changing…what we don’t understand is how rapidly it is changing! The cost of a startup keep decreasing – In 1988 $20million to $2million to $200,000 during Nuclear Winter to now $20,000! You now have the resources!”

Nate: Do you have an “only in New York” story?

  • Kevin: “Being near the advertising community was an enormous advantage. So you have to be here!”

Nate: Do/would you ever request anyone that you invested in to come to New York?

  • Karin: Associated Content was based in Colorado, and they needed to be closer to advertisers. Also, retention of teams is easier.”
  • David: “Angel investors offer more than just $$money$$. We offer our offices, incites, and much much more. So it’s a benefit for them to be here.”
  • Kevin: “Staffing opportunity is definitely a plus. Also, to say Real Estate here is more expensive makes no sense. We determined our costs were $5,000 per person per year at DoubleClick and compared to other cities that cost only $1,000 less, that’s not so significant.”

Nate: Where do you see things going in Silicon Alley?

  • Kevin: “Rate of growth is going to slow down. It doesn’t have to do with the economy. It’s just that the rate-of-change is slowing down”
  • David: “I challenge that…the rate-of-change is accelerating. Anyone who says they know where the world is going is FULL OF SH*T!”
  • Karin: “The entrepreneur’s now are really committed and have strong conviction. I’d much rather back someone in this environment.”
  • Kevin: “Here’s some great advice for the future: Start when the wave starts! […] If you want to start video now, it might be a little late.”
  • David: “248 Venture Backed IPOs in ’99…0 Venture-Backed IPOs in Q2 2008?.” <-[A statistic I heard just a week earlier at the E-Marketing Breakfast at the Harvard Club NYC, found in the article “The Future of Search” over a bagel ‘n cream cheese!]

…at this point Adeo Ressi, Founding Member and CEO for TheFunded.com challenged the panel. With a smile on his face, he walked up to the audience mic and,  quoting him as accurately as possible, he said…

  • Adeo Ressi: “Silicon Valley kicks New York’s BUTT! There is 10x everything in the Valley!”

Adeo was an early pioneer in the growth of the World Wide Web and has been a successful entrepenuer over and over (GameTrust Inc, Total New York, etc.) He started his company, TheFunded.com started in NYC, but he moved it to Silicon Valley and off of that he made many good points. To further support him, “despite the development of other high-tech economic centers throughout the United States, Silicon Valley continues to be the leading high-tech hub because of its large number of engineers and venture capitalists” (Wikipedia) It definitely stirred up the panel and it was all in good fun, but at the same a reality check. David obviously was the first to challenge him and the audience definitely enjoyed the panels overal reaction.

David, Kevin, Nate & Karin respond to my question enthusiasticly...

David, Kevin, Nate & Karin respond to my question "what's the next wave? big thing?" enthusiastically!

After the conference, I took my picture with the panel (as seen at the beginning of this blog-most), then everyone made their way upstairs for a Lunch Session headed up by David Rose. It was very personable and David really pumped up the audience in terms of all the stages of starting up (concepts, funding, etc). A lot of individuals there wanted to pitch David which is why he continuously made this point over and over: “Only 1.32% of all Companies that pitch VC’s get funding.” I’m not sure if he was referring to here in NYC, or in the US, but either way that is a statistic you should NOT ignore as an entrepreneur.

David instructed entrepreneurs to create a working product, get users/consumers, show some profitability and then come to the VC’s! He also made another great point saying that “The most important person in the management team is the entrepreneur. We’d rather bet on a jockey than the horse!”

Afterward, there was another chance for Q&A and I had the chance to pop out my question…

Red: Kevin, you mentioned a great tip: Start when the wave starts! What do you see as the next big wave?

The whole team responded, but it was hard to pinpoint a single response. Kevin said once again that things were slowing down and there’s no wave at this moment. He also mentioned “mobile” but he was a skeptic with the iPhone. David obviously challenged him saying this space was “accelerating, but at a granule level.” Karin jumped in to point out that for “Video & Social Media, there was still good money to be made. [People just need to start] innovating these areas.”

Either way, they spent a good 10 minutes covering that topic before moving on. It’s good to see David and Kevin go head to head. I don’t know about the rest of the audience, but I was really fired up to be in the same room as 4 successful entrepreneurs and to actually engage in a discussion with them.

Web2.0 Expo was a success ! Keep on top of my calendar because there are still a few good events ahead in Q4 of 2008. And remember…Keep an eye for the “Red-Hair” at future events!

To end off here is a fun fact for you: For a list of other places with the “Silicon” name: Click Here.

Posted under Events

This post was written by Joshua Russak on September 25, 2008

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Online Marketing “SWAG” (Stuff We All Get)

It’s a fact, I am “obsessed” with Online Marketing Expo/Conference SWAG. Some are ashamed, other makes fun, but quoting Tech Crunch Article, TechCrunch50 swag bag: Room for improvement “there’s nothing wrong with a good tchotchke,  and this stuff is kind of fun to give out to kids, and useful if you need clothes for changing the oil or painting a room”. 

Now for all of you who do not know what SWAG is let me inform you. Not to be confused with a  “cheap purchase during your high-school days” SWAG, as defined by UrbanDictionary.com: “Stuff/Sh*t We All Get – Relating to the trade show convention industry, where exhibitors hand out “free stuff” to visitors. Most of the time these items are purely promotional materials, and are fairly worthless. ie. pencils, mugs, and mouse pads. […] SWAG always has the company name, logo, slogan, product, service, and contact information clearly printed somewhere on the item/s. Some convention goers have made a hobby of collecting as much swag as possible, and compete with others at the show.”

As Used in Conversation…

  •  “The online gaming booth is handing out swag demo disks.” 
  •  “That beats my swag bag of stationary!” 
Now, I’m that guy who likes to collect as much SWAG as possible. It’s only right that I spend time researching a little bit in this matter. With a little bit of probing I was startled to discover that “Stuff We All Get” was not the original term, as discovered on NetLingo.com: “SWAG: This acronym originally stood for “SoftWare And Giveaways” and was used extensively throughout computer companies (such as Microsoft) to refer to tchotchkes, until the marketing industry later adopted it.” 
I also learned that there are in fact 8 different types of SWAG as best defined in the article on MaineToday.com, “What is SWAG? The ABC’s of Promotional Marketing“:

Awards: Recognition merchandise given to acclaim superior performance or service. Awards should be gifted in a way that publicly acknowledges the achievement.

Business Gifts: Merchandise given by a company to its employees, customers or any person with whom it wants to enhance a relationship. Business gifts are given in goodwill without obligation to or from the recipient.

Commemoratives: Merchandise used to mark a ceremony, anniversary, event or milestone.

Incentives and Premiums: Something the recipient can’t buy at any price, but must take some specific action to obtain: such as making a purchase, exceeding a sales quota or accomplishing specific company goals. Popular examples are: Safety Incentives, Wellness Incentives, Dealer Incentives, Direct Premiums, Referral Premiums and Sales Incentives. Incentive programs typically involve gifts given in sequence to keep people interested and involved in the program.

Lumpy Mail: Also known as a dimensional mail, lumpy mail is a promotional product sent via direct mail. Lumpy mail should be creatively designed to cut through the clutter and deliver a specific marketing message to a specific target audience.

Prizes: Reward given to winner in a contest, sweepstakes or lottery. Prizes may be used as bait to generate leads, opt-ins for future communication or answers to a survey. Technology gifts are popular prizes.

Promotional Giveaway: Direct premium given free of charge or obligation to generate awareness and/or goodwill. For maximum effectiveness the item should be useful or meaningful to the recipient and also tie in with the goals and objectives of the advertiser.

Traffic Builder: A promotional product designed to boost traffic at a retail store or booth at a trade show/job fair. Items should have lasting value to the recipient so the message is carried long after the event is over.

So now you can say you learned something today! Stay tuned, b/c I’m going to start a “SWAG” rating page and hopefully get all my readers involved in voting on the best-of-the-best! 
…now if you’ll excuse me, I’m headed to Mixx Expo/Conference for some goodies.

Posted under Events

This post was written by Joshua Russak on September 23, 2008

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“The Future of Search” over a bagel ‘n cream cheese!

Kevin Ryan & Me

Kevin Ryan & Me

Gotham Media Ventures recently hosted “Digital Media, Advertising: The E-Marketing Breakfast“, sponsored by Gridley and Company LLC, one event of a series of breakfasts that will take place over the next few weeks/months. The topic of this breakfast was laoded one – Searching for Dollars: The Future of Search Opportunities and Investment. The venue – Harvard Club of NY….

…at this point it becomes clear: Not a casual event! Unfortunately I didn’t think to wear a suit. I came expecting marketing executives and ended up finding a mixed, well-dressed crowd of VC’s, AE’s, CEO’s and SEM Guru’s. I was just happy I didn’t go with the Pink Polo. Either way, it was definitely a step up from the casual networking and entrepreneur events I’m used to attending. And I’m happy to say the panel was exceptional.

Moderating the event was Stan Sandberg, Principal at Gridley & Company LLC, the events sponsor. The panelists were as follows:

  • Adam Heimlich, Director of Search Marketing, Avenue A | Razorfish
  • Sarah Hofstetter, VP/Emerging Media & Client Strategy, 360i
  • Aimee Reker, SVP/Gobal Director of Search, MRM Worldwide
  • Kevin Ryan, CEO of Motivity Marketing & Global Content Director, SearchEngineWatch.com
  • Kevin Ryan Comments on Google

    Kevin Ryan Comments on Google

    Stan began his introduction with a lengthy happy birthday wish to search giant Google, though I’m not sure today was the right day as I discussed in my previous article  Google’s 10th Birthday! (But what day?). He mentioned 3 solid facts: Internet Marketing is growing fast (22.8%), Search is the biggest and fastest growing sector, and most shockingly in “99 was thr cup of the .com boom…99 was the breakout year.  248 IPOs in 99…0 Venture-Backed IPOs in Q2 2008”, (a point continuously repeated during Web2.0 Expo Panel “Starting up in Silicon Alley”, which I will blog about tomorrow).

    On that note, the panel began. There were many great points made covering a number of important areas in Online Marketing. To get them all out, I will format the rest in Q&A form:

    Stan: Your thoughts on the future of Search & Search Budgets?

    • Aimee: “Much longer investments in strategic planning.”
    • Adam: “A lot of growth in analytics in order to create value.”
    • Sarah: “There will always be more money in search because it is measurable.”
    • Kevin: “Data-mining is absolutely mission critical.”

    Stan: Role of the Search Agency today?

    • Aimee: “There is a change in process of how agencies are approaching companies.”
    • Adam: “Definitely interested in brand building with companies that have offline” (mentioning the possibility of partnering up with the offline agency the company chooses.
    • Sarah: “A lot more contingent on the marketer and collaborative efforts…collective brainstorming.”
    • Kevin: “The reality is – it is driven by the client. Agencies are driven by the P&L in the end of the day…the client has to drive it.”

    Stan: What are you seeing in terms of keyword trends and ROI?

    • Kevin: “Two issues -> Minimum click costs continue to increase & media channels are deciding whether or not your site is worthy and that is a BIG problem.

    Stan: Google = Better Results…your thoughts?

    • Kevin: “70% of search in the US is Google…90% in Western Europe”. Keep in mind geo-location.
    • Aimee: “Be aware of the other search engines and how they work. […] Google drives volume, but other sites can drive better conversions.”
    • Adam: “The volume is on Google. It has been a disappointing competition to watch…I am hoping somebody can compete with Google.”
    • Kevin: “Google Properties will eventual equal Government Intervention.” In reference to Chrome, “Google terms & conditions are crap”, but he finished off by saying “…maybe we would be better of joining Google.”

    Stan: Innovation – Where will it come from?

    • Kevin: “Cuil was the worst piece of sh*t search engine. What we saw at the end of that was VCs are now questioning ex-google employees. The press is second guessing the ex-googlers as well. […] The same journalists who said Cuil was big, also say Yahoo is going down”
    • Aimee: “Digital out of home is going to be huge…mobile, video online…also marketing tools”
    • Adam: “We need to use 3rd party analytics companies in order to make sense of it all”.
    • Sarah: “Google – they got the eyeballs”

    Random Quotes…

    • Sarah: “There are cases where search makes no-sense!
    • Aimee: “1+1=3”
    • Kevin: “We have to be careful how we use the word Study today” (referring to stats and case-studies).
    • Adam: The trend and timelines is as follows “Offline -> Website -> Mobile & E-mail”.

    The conference ended on a great note, and overall I feel the crowd was pleased.

    Me, Aimee Reker & Adam Heimlich

    Me, Aimee Reker & Adam Heimlich

    Posted under Events

    This post was written by Joshua Russak on September 22, 2008

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    How Web2.0 Expo Effected Your Business?

    Web2.0 Expo was fully packed with good swag, give aways and presentations…ALL FOR THE SAKE OF LEAD-GEN! Each booth would trade SWAG for a simple bar-code scan so they could follow up with you after the show. I particularly enjoyed Axiom Software Inc’s approach to lead-gen. Their booth offered a Flip video camera if you entered your contact info and explained “How has Web2.0 Expo effected your business?”

    Here’s AC Lions very own Managing Director, Dan Goldsmith, offering his opinion….

    Posted under Events

    This post was written by Joshua Russak on September 21, 2008

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    Web2.0 Expo Badges Copy Pulver Breakfast!

    Jeff Pulver & Joshua Russak

    Jeff Pulver & Joshua Russak

    I recently attended Pulver Breakfast and I’m about to give them a big-shout-out for “innovation”. But first, for those of you unfamiliar with Web2.0 Expo, just check it out here. I have my badge, but haven’t had the chance to do my rounds there (excited for SWAG!!). As for Jeff Pulver, I wrote an article a while back about the last time I attended his breakfast meetup, Omma Social and Pulver Breakfast: Success!. To find more information, check out the facebook group Breakfast with Jeff Pulver.

    Me, Brett Petersel, and Chaim Haas

    Me, Brett Petersel, and Chaim Haas

    I have to admit it, the second time around, was great. I think the highlight this time around was when I met Brett Petersel, Events Director at Mashable and New York-based Social Media Consultant. He is a great example of why I attend events like these. Referrals, career advice and good-to-know’s! On the left is Chaim Haas, VP of Kaplow PR (they represent Skype and Target)…also a great source of knowledge! All in all a successfull event.

    Now…This may be a long shot, but I had to get this off my chest… I am finding extreme similarities between Jeff Pulver’s Personal Social Networking Toolkit and Web2.0 Expo badges. I have no yet had a chance to upload my pictures of the badges, but note these similarities: Jeff Pulver’s badges have Your Name and Title and then an area for you to either write a TAG-Line or be TAGGED by others. You’re basically a walking billboard for yourself.

    It also “just-so-happens” that the Web2.0 Expo badges have a nicer higher-end version of this, with cloth stickies that say “Blogger”, “We’re Hiring”, “Hire Me”, etc. making it easier for you to know what you’re getting into before approaching an individual. I give Jeff FULL-CREDIT for this concept and only hope he takes pleasure in knowing that they copied him.

    Posted under Events

    This post was written by Joshua Russak on September 17, 2008