NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg believes NYC’s start-up center “Silicon Alley,” is superior to California’s Silicon Valley in a number of ways; everything from IT and advertising to fashion and culture as he’s touted numerous times at conferences over the past several months.
And it’s true (although I may be slightly biased). This is not the kind of city you come to and kick your feet up. Creativity is far from scarce and the competition is fierce. We’ve all heard about the big name start-ups like Foursquare, Tumblr, Bit.ly, Etsy and MeetUp but here are a few NYC based start-ups you may not know yet– but you should.
1) Kickstarter, a funding platform for artists, designers, filmmakers, musicians, journalists, inventors, explorers and other creative types is one of those incredible start-ups that has the ability to spawn other start-ups. Founded in April 2009 by Perry Chen, Yancey Strickler, and Charles Adler, the site is undoubtedly one of the coolest growing businesses in New York City. Artists create videos to outline their projects, set fundraising goals and users come to the site to pledge money in exchange for rewards like small tokens of art, CDs, concert tickets, etc. instead of equity. The trick is, no one is charged and no one gets any money unless the full goal is met. If the goal is met, Kickstarter takes a 5% cut of all successful funding drives. Projects funded on Kickstarter so far include Diaspora, which received over $200,000 to fund a “privacy aware, personally controlled, do-it-all, open source social network” and read our article on The Glif, an iPhone 4 tripod mount which raised $137,417 for production.
2) Hunch, a start up co-founded by Caterina Fake of Flickr.com (who announced today that she is leaving Hunch), wants to “personalizes the internet by getting to know you,” essentially by asking you an endless number of questions such as “Do you generally prefer your sandwiches to be cut vertically or diagonally?” By combining algorithmic machine learning with user-generated content, Hunch bets it can make smart recommendations about what you might like. The site’s mission is to build a “taste graph” of the entire web and by teaming up with third party sites, it could conceivably become the de-facto personalisation layer of the web. Definitely vertically.
3) Xtify: is the first geo-notification ASP that powers “persistent location,” a feature that CEO Josh Rochlin believes will beat out Foursquare-like active “check-ins.” Persistent location allows a user’s location to be extracted from a mobile device on a periodic and continuous basis. Comcast, DailyCandy, Sam’s Club, Marc Ecko, Club Droid all use Xtify for push notifications and location-based marketing alerts.
4) MeetMoi, founded by Andrew Weinreich, is a dating service that uses Xtify’s persistent location to “revolutionize the online dating industry.” The meetMoi NOW app runs in the background of your mobile, processing your location while pairing you up with nearby singles that match your profile preferences. Whenever two users with matching preferences are near one another, meetMoi NOW notifies them both, allowing them to begin a conversation. To encourage face-to-face meetings when people are near one another, connections made through the service expire after 60 minutes.
5) Yipit: “The daily deal space is going completely crazy with more than 200 deal sites in the U.S.,” says Jim Moran, the co-founder of Yipit, a daily deals aggregator that tracks 1,000 deals a day and streamlines curated offers (only the ones you want) into your inbox. When Yipit launched in February 2010 they had 2,000 users. Now, they boast a growing 65,000 in 19 U.S. cities with two more launching per week. Their 5-person company is growing with a network of nation-wide curators. This summer Yipit raised $1.3 million from Ron Conway, RRE and DFJ Gotham. Founders Vinicius Vacanti and Jim Moran were recently listed on the SAI 100.
6) Gilt Group: Most people (particularly the shopping addicted) have heard of Gilt Group. Each day at noon, Gilt offers its members a curated selection of merchandise, including apparel, accessories and lifestyle items across the women’s, men’s and children’s categories. But you may not have heard of their two newest ventures, Jetsetter and Gilt City. Jetsetter is a travel site that offers its members insider discounts on luxury properties around the world. Like a sample sale, the hotel discounts that Jetsetter offers last only as long as the inventory does, and shoppers are treated on a first come, first serve basis. Finally Gilt City, “a luxury GroupOn” offers users deals like spa packages, free jet rides and discounted gourmet dinners. According to Gilt, City is their fastest growing vertical.
7) Hirelite is “speed dating for hiring,” specifically for software engineers. Hirelite screens job seekers by asking them to participate in 20 5-minute long interviews by video chat. Hirelite then matches users and interested companies. Their main point of disruption? Hirelite wants to put sleazy headhunters out of business, which saves companies from paying potentially enormous fees. For example, most headhunters charge 20-30% of what the candidate will make in their first year at the company. For an experienced software engineer making $100k per year, a recruiter’s fee would be $20k-$30k depending on their agreement with the hiring company. The video-based interviewing service is especially useful for out-of-towners aiming to jump into the NYC start up scene.
8) HowMutch: While still in the relatively early stages and completely self-funded, this NYC start-up wants to become a platform to help brands, small businesses and startups figure out the optimal price for new products and services. It’s about time supply and demand got a 2.0 upgrade. CEO Ari J. Greenberg has worked on a number of NYC startups including Magnify.net, theU.com and MrYouth and Director Gabriel Baldinucci was the former VP of Virgin Group, Sir Richard Branson’s Venture Arm.
9) Solvemedia: This is perhaps the most brilliant advertising idea since the age of the Internet. Solvemedia is reinventing the annoying CAPTCHA by replacing random text and numbers with relevant branded messages. A less time-consuming type-in for consumers and a certain win for advertisers and publishers. CEO Ari Jacoby and his other co-founders are ex-Googlers who previously founded VoiceStar, which was acquired in Sept 2007 by Marchex for $28 million.
10) Lot18: Like a Gilt Group for the wine industry. It is “a membership by invitation website for wine and epicurean products from coveted producers at attractive discounts.” Lot18 members have access to fine wines and specialty foods at discounted prices. Founder and CEO Kevin Fortuna was formerly the CEO of Quigo, an advertising technology company that was sold to AOL Time Warner for $360 million in November 2007.
11) Foodspotting: If Flickr and Foursquare went out on a date, ate too many oysters and drank too much champagne, the result 9 months later would look very much like Foodspotting, a service that allows foodies with cameraphones to share their finds with those who may be searching for food around them. Using the mobile app, Foodspotting’s 400,000 users can snap a photo of a dish, tag it and share it with friends on Foodspotting or via Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, etc. Ryan Charles, Head of Zagat Survey Mobile recognized Foodspotting to be an app with potential very early on, which is why he decided to launch as their first partner. Foodspotting has since partnered with a number of companies including Thrillist, a popular nationwide events site. If you need a reason to kick your appetite up a notch, check it out.
12) ExtensionFM: is a music collecting extension for Google’s Chrome browser. Ever hear a song on a blog you like and then forget where and what the song is? Once you’ve landed on a page with available MP3s, the ExtensionFM icon shows a little blue number count of the total available MP3s. The extension then swiftly pulls all available free MP3s into a drop down menu in the top right corner of the browser. Dan Kantor, the founder and CEO of ExtensionFM previously founded Streampad, a social music service that was acquired by AOL in 2008. ExtensionFM is backed by Boston based Spark Capital (Tumblr, Twitter), New York’s Betaworks (bit.ly, tweetdeck), Founder Collective (Hunch, Hot Potato) and Dave Morgan.
13) Snipshot. The site allows people to edit images, audio files and other media online. Co-founder Michael Galpert says the site “enables anyone to be creative without having to pay $1,000 for traditional desktop software.” It is currently the #2 installed app in the Google Apps marketplace. Aviary is free, but you can also pay for a private account so that the rest of the Aviary community won’t be able to access your creations too. Their new Facebook app lets you turn any photo into an Etch-a-Sketch.
15) Rent the Runway, like a “Netflix for dresses,” is an NYC start-up founded by two Harvard Business School graduates, Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Carter Fleiss. The site allows women to rent dresses from notable fashion designers like Diane Von Furstenberg, Hervé Léger and Proenza Schouler for about one-tenth of what they would cost to buy in a retail store. Dry cleaning is included in the price and damage insurance costs $5. The renter is responsible for the full retail price in case the dress is completely destroyed. While their long-term business plan hasn’t been laid out yet, NYC fashion consultant Felicia Tumaneng envisions the brand opening up outlet stores to sell dresses that have gone out of season.
16) SquareSpace makes elegant publishing software. The company began in a dorm room at the University of Maryland in 2004 but has since moved to Soho, New York City. Their publishing platform powers tens of thousands of websites for businesses, bloggers, and professionals worldwide and currently serves billions of hits per month. SquareSpace is killing it with a small team, boasting a 713% 3-year revenue growth. In July of this year, they raised $38.5 million from Index Ventures and Accel Partners, representing the first outside capital the company raised to date.
17) Carbonmade is a simple tool for photographers, illustrators, graphic designers, animators, film makers, models, fashion designers and more to easily manage an online portfolio. The site offers a variety of tools that allow you to change how you display your work online, keeping your images or videos at the forefront. Users can choose from one of two plans: “Meh.” (free) or “Whoo!” ($12 per month). The site currently has nearly 300,000 portfolios. Carbonmade was founded by Spencer Fry, Dave Gorum, and Jason Nelson. Post your portfolio in the comments below for a chance to win a Whoo! upgrade!
18) Village Vines is a membership only site which provides access to a small selection of handpicked restaurants in New York City like Soho’s Kittichai, Public in NoLita and West Harlem’s Dinosaur BBQ. The site launched in New York City in late May and now has nearly 500,000 members. Think of it as a more exclusive, curated version of GroupOn. Diners make reservations through Village Vines, paying $10 in advance to secure exclusive pricing which is usually about 30% off at restaurants. The site recently launched in Washington, D.C. (the founders are Georgetown grads), San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago. Boston, Philadelphia and Las Vegas are next on the menu.
19) SinglePlatform recently graced the pages of TNW. This New York City start-up wants to ease restaurants into the next course of internet marketing and social media. Restaurants provide SinglePlatform with their information like menus, photos, events and specials through an easy-to-use portal and SinglePlatform updates it across their hundreds of publishing partners including hotels, city guides, restaurant review sites and application developers. Founder Wiley Cerilli is an established entrepreneur in the restaurant scene. His previous venture SeamlessWeb practically pioneered online food delivery in the early 2000s.
20) VYou is like a combination of Formspring, YouTube, and Twitter and Justin.TV and Quora. It’s received a hefty amount of buzz around the NYC start-up scene this week, mostly due in part to its notable list of users including writer Chuck Klosterman, ESPN poker show host Laura Lane, musician Chester French and Alex Blagg of BajillionHits. Founder Steve Spurgat told me last night that he wants VYou to be like a time capsule on the Internet. So get your Grandma on board and ask her every question you’ve ever wanted to know and it will be there until the end of the Internets. Read our story on the launch here.