Startups’ Testimonials from hackNY 2010

We’ll be announcing the next class of Fellows very soon, and ask that applicants keep an eye on their inboxes. In the meantime, our first class of fellows told us their thoughts on the hackNY experience earlier this week, and now we wanted to share reactions we received from the startups they worked with. We’re thrilled to learn it’s been a great experience for them as well!

Aprizi was honored to take part in the 2010 hackNY internship program. Our own experience with Julie Dinerman was fabulous — her work ethic and acceleration up the learning curve was quite impressive, and we have components of her code running on our website today. However, our views of hackNY transcend the literal and direct contribution of the students. We feel that hackNY plays an incredibly important part in growing the nascent entrepreneurial scene in New York. This year’s program was not about just 12 students. It was about giving a talented group of kids an in-the-trenches window into the reality of startups and innovation, which they can take back to their classmates. On the East Coast, where we lack the mythology of Silicon Valley, students are wooed by the big budgets and brands of banks and consulting firms. hackNY is helping to crack open the door by demystifying what entrepreneurship is about, making it accessible and real, but also elevating startups in the minds of these kids as a valid and exciting path worth considering.

– Giff Constable, CEO of Aprizi

Designer Pages was lucky enough to have Max Stoller as our hackNY fellow for the summer of 2010. Max is an undergraduate student at NYU with a passion for technology and startups. hackNY seems to be a perfect fit for students like Max by providing them with the opportunity to exercise their talents in a real world environment. Max was able to contribute to Designer Pages and even took the lead on a Twitter visualization we built complete with real time mood and trend analysis. hackNY is a great organization that is helping bridge the gap between academia and business, to the benefit of all. It was an honor and a privilege to be involved.

– Avi Flombaum, co-Founder of Designer Pages

hackNY was a fantastic program and we at Aviary are grateful that we were chosen to be a part of the initial program. hackNY gave us the opportunity to work with Tal Safran. Tal was a more then capable student with a great personality who helped us look at the projects we were working on with new fresh eyes. He was well versed in Linux which made him a valuable resource for us Windows folks when we started a Linux based project. He also shoots a mean game of pool and got us into the WSJ ūüôā

We look forward to working with hackNY students in the future and enabling them with new opportunities in the NY startup community.

– Michael Galpert, co-founder of Aviary

I wanted to take the time to thank you for putting together a great internship program. Today was Chris’ last day at the 10gen office — as I might have mentioned, we decided to keep him on for the rest of the summer. He made some great contributions to the MongoDB project and the team was impressed with his work, especially given that he is only going to be a junior! We’re looking forward to seeing hackNY grow in the coming years, and hope to continue participating.

– Meghan Gill, 10gen, Inc.

The hackNY program was a tremendous benefit to Business Insider this year. First, simply by identifying a qualified pool of applicants it provided a major service to us. By providing housing to the interns it provided an invaluable service to them, ensuring that students of all means could participate.

Our intern, Nolan Filter, did a great job on his key project: incorporating our video provider’s API into our site. You can see the finished work live here: It was an ideal project for an intern being largely self-contained and Nolan did a great job. He also learned about our CMS, which is built in PHP using MongoDB. In addition, Nolan helped out on miscellaneous tech tasks ranging from QA during peak release cycles, hardware setup, and evaluating and fine-tuning our API. His contributions to the site will live on long past the internship.We think hackNY is an important new part of NYC’s emerging start-up ecosystem. We will gladly participate in the program again.

– Julie Hansen, COO & Publisher, Business Insider

As an early-stage, cash-strapped startup, we didn’t have a lot of resources to spend on a formal, technical internship program. ¬†We focused on keeping our burn rate to a minimum (less than $3000/mo) to ensure enough runway to reach significant revenue or a financing round. We knew, though, that the highest-quality technical interns request some compensation to offset the opportunity cost of passing other, lavish internship programs that offer perks and high pay (think finance). ¬†Unfortunately, this left us with a pool of applicants that just didn’t meet the caliber we expected.

Luckily, hackNY started its inaugural program last year, and we jumped at the opportunity. ¬†Not only could we find top-notch, self-motivated technologists that were interested in startups, but we wouldn’t have to break the bank to bring them on board. Further, the combination of mentoring, cohabitation with other like-minded technologists, and special events/programs for the interns made hackNY a really great experience for all participants.

Still, while compensation for a hackNY intern was cheap, it was a bit out of the range of what our startup could afford. We discussed our issue with the hackNY organizers, and they were able to provide subsidy to help us front the cost. It was simply amazing — we landed a top-tier intern, increased output, and maintained our runway.

Our recent financing round for included a pitch around some of the work that our hackNY intern did over this past summer. We were impressed by the quality and dedication of our intern, and couldn’t be happier with hackNY.

– Sachin Kamdar, co-founder and CEO,

This past summer, had the distinct pleasure of participating in the hackNY summer internship program. In placing students from area universities with local technology startups, hackNY provides a valuable service by solving the matching problem between bright young talent and innovative early stage startups. Typically, the organizational resources and extended time horizons required by these internship programs stretch the forecasting abilities of young companies, and require the assumption of excessive risk and faith on the part of the intern, as arrangements made in the fall could result in an opportunity at a company that no longer exists by the end of the spring semester. hackNY serves as an intermediate layer, assuming/eliminating risk, sourcing/vetting startups, and finding talented students, providing a framework that allows for a reduction in uncertainty, and a vastly increased likelihood for positive outcomes.

Nowhere was this more exemplified than with our personal experience over the summer. Our intern, Ian Jennings, came to us via Rutgers University. A talented, creative, independent worker, Ian immediately stepped into a productive role and made substantial contributions to a new product under heavy development. Without hackNY, however, Ian never would have made his mark at hackNY adroitly matched us with Ian, and provided free university housing in Manhattan, a service which rendered the internship logistically feasible.¬† Furthermore, given the plethora of value-added hackNY benefits (mentorship, interviews, talks, and social events), I’m certain Ian’s experience exceeded that of the typical summer internship. We couldn’t be more satisfied with the outcome of the inaugural hackNY summer internship program, and are looking forward to continued involvement with the organization.

– Todd Levy, Co-founder and Director of Engineering and Product,

hackNY matched us with a tremendously talented student named Tengchao Zhou. We brought him in, showed him the ropes, gave him some projects, and he was off. He did fantastic work, took great pride in what he was working on, and formed lasting bonds with his coworkers — we will be eyeing his graduation date! As a small tech focused business, we always need help on the engineering side and it is often very trying to get reliable interns. The hackNY program does a tremendous job of vetting both students and startups. The program is a critical resource for encouraging the otherwise unorganized talent pool of budding NYC technologists. As more and more startups are founded in NYC, we need better recruiting and placement of students into innovative and exciting companies, to compete with the talent suck from big finance. New York small business needs hackNY.

– Nihal Mehta, CEO and co-founder, Buzzd, Inc.

Knewton Inc., had the pleasure of hosting an intern through the hackNY summer program. Stuart, the intern matched with us, was incredibly bright and immediately began work improving our internal tools. Stuart then worked on customer-facing software that allowed Knewton to support customers who wished to purchase more than one course. We were so pleased with Stuart’s performance that we continued his internship at our own expense.

I can say first-hand how difficult it can be to find talent as a small company. Every effort to create awareness between students and New York’s growing tech community makes it possible for start-ups like Knewton to grow. hackNY helps start-ups establish a presence on campus that larger companies enjoy but start-ups lack the time or funds to create. HackNY gave us an intern we would not have found otherwise; one who made a demonstrable contribution to Knewton’s health and profitability. I look forward to next year’s crop of motivated and talented interns.

– Ashley Miller, Software Engineer, Knewton

hackNY brought Anil Raj and OkCupid together this summer, and the results were stupendously awesome for everyone involved. OkCupid is an innovative free dating site that uses answers to user-generated questions to match people from all walks of life based on who they want to meet. The core of this system is the question answering process, and this summer Anil laid the groundwork to customize the questions we show a user during the process based their personality traits. The project was a difficult one, inspiring Anil to learn new statistical techniques on the bleeding edge of research. We believe his work will have a significant effect on the quality of matches we show users. The impact is this: millions of users will have relationships that are even more successful, for free. We would never have taken on a project this ambitious in terms of research nor found an expert as experienced as Anil without the help of hackNY.

– Tom Quisel, software engineer, OkCupid

hackNY did an incredible job matching us with a candidate, and we benefited greatly from the relationship. What hackNY did particularly well was find someone who was smart, motivated, reliable and a good fit for our environment, which can be pretty unstructured at times and needs someone who will fully take charge of their tasks.¬† Andres made lasting contributions and improved some workflow tasks that had ripple effects throughout our cost structure, allowing us to grow much more efficiently this summer than would have been possible otherwise. I’d say that we disproportionately benefited, but I know Andres appreciated being able to dig into a variety of tasks, have some autonomy with just enough support, and was especially pleased that the work he did was put to use immediately and proved to be very valuable to our business.

– David Steinberger, CEO, Comixology

BuzzFeed, Inc was a participating company in the hackNY fellows program for the summer of 2010. I, in particular, worked directly with hackNY, and managed a fellow from the program for the summer as a software developer for our team.

Our experience with the program was overwhelmingly positive. The candidate hackNY paired with our company was both smart and enthusiastic. He quickly became an active, contributing part of our team for the summer.

At the end of the summer we made a full time offer to our fellow, and he has since accepted a position as a software developer at BuzzFeed, Inc.

We couldn’t be happier with our experience working with hackNY and the fellow they provided. The experience was nothing but positive, and we are excited at the prospect of becoming a participating company in the hackNY program again next year.

– Mark Wilkie, Lead Developer, BuzzFeed, Inc.