hackNY Summer Lecture Series: Barry Silbert

Barry Silbert talks to the fellows
In this post 2011 hackNY Fellow Sameen Jalal describes the hackNY Summer Series lecture by Barry Silbert.

On July 27th, Barry Silbert, the founder and CEO of Second Market, spoke to us. Silbert was a previous investment banker at Houlihan Lokey and a graduate of the Goizueta Business School of Emory University.

All the hackNY fellows are technically strong but not many of us had business expertise, well at least I didn’t. As Silbert got into the nitty gritty details of the business world, I found myself engaged with not only keep up with the terminology but with how much I was learning!

He told us about the humble beginnings of the now not-so-small company; Going from start-up to successful company in such harsh times made an incredible story. The most valuable part of the experience was the new perspective I gained and the motivation I received to create my own story. I am definitely inspired to further delve into the start-up world!

hackNY Summer Lecture Series: Union Square Ventures

In this post 2011 hackNY Fellow Akarshan Kumar describes the hackNY Summer Series lecture by the partners at Union Square Ventures.

On Monday, July 25, 2011, the hackNY fellows were hosted by Union Square Ventures in their swank new office on Broadway. We got a chance to speak to three of the firm’s partners, Brad Burnham, Fred Wilson and Albert Wenger, and also spoke to Gary and Christina about their experiences working with USV. With investments in companies like Twitter, Foursquare, Zynga and Etsy, Union Square Ventures is one of the best VC firms in the country – we were excited to be there.

The partners spoke on a variety of topics – like what the firm looked for in prospective investments, the importance of a good team (as opposed to just a good idea), and what, according to them, were the characteristics of a good pitch (“A pitch is like a party” – Wilson).

Gary and Christina hung out with us later, and it was nice to hear their take too. Gary, having worked in a number of different environments, shared his perspective – “You should follow what you genuinely love doing… If someone doesn’t like what you are doing, it’s their problem, not yours.” Christina talked about her career-path post college and how (and more important, why) she left the Boston Consulting Group to come work for USV.

It was inspiring to see the entire team up close, and it was the perfect talk to begin our final week of hacking in New York.

hackNY Summer Lecture Series: Steven Baglio

In this post 2011 hackNY Fellow Cole Diamond describes the hackNY Summer Series lecture by Steven Baglio.

Steven Baglio brought an interesting perspective to the Summer Series Lectures with his legal acumen and wealth of experience. Although lectures from venture capitalists in the realm of start-up fund-raising provide crucial information for the fiscal survival of a fledgling company, legal statutes governing the start-up community are just as – if not more – pertinent. Take Napster, for example. Although Napster created a file-sharing revolution and drew millions of users to its platform, Napster eventually disintegrated because Sean Parker et al. flagrantly overlooked the glaring legal limitations. Clearly, legal restraints have a pivotal place in the world of start-ups. To that end, Baglio pointed out remedies for some of the most common legal dangers that often arise in the early stages of start-up fund-raising. One such common pitfall Baglio described is the non-committal co-founder. To illustrate this problem area, let’s say three starry-eyed Zuckerberg hopefuls sign paperwork issuing a three-way split of their new private company stock. One of the co-founders bails six months later because he found a better opportunity at a different company. Should he still have a 33% equity cut in the company? Of course not. Baglio described that a vesting strategy in which equity is doled out over a period of time can be used to counteract the risks of premature co-founder departure.

Perhaps the most heated topic covered during the lecture was the infamous “Non-disclosure agreement.” Any and every technologist caught in the frenzied mob of “entrepreneurs” and business-types gunning to implement their ideas has had experience with the dreaded document. Since technical co-founders can be hard to come-by but seemingly everyone has an idea for “the next facebook,” engineers and tech-savvy folk are needlessly swamped with proposals to work on such grandiose ideas in exchange for equity in non-existent companies. Due to the fact that the product itself can only be implemented through the talent of the developer and not the proposer, the visionaries are essentially helpless. What is to stop the engineer from stealing the idea, implementing it him or herself and then solely reaping all the rewards? When it comes to idea theft, the NDA comes to the rescue of the computer illiterate. Although a not entirely foolproof method, the NDA legally binds the developer from neither disclosing nor stealing an idea presented in confidence. However, this notion too sparked a debate amongst the fellows because it is often the implementation and execution of an idea rather than the idea itself that composes the true value of a start-up.

As per usual with the HackNY Summer Series lectures, Baglio concluded his lecture in answering open-ended questions posed by the fellows. All in all, Baglio provided an interesting and different perspective into the oft-overlooked but incredibly salient sphere of start-up law.

hackNY DemoFest 2011

In this post 2011 hackNY Fellow Kelsey Lee describes the hackNY DemoFest

At the hackNY fellows DemoFest, the fellows were invited to present the work they did at their startups or on their own time in front of hackNY and its many supporters. From the Kinect Fluid Dynamics demo to the interactive game play of OMGPop’s Dudez to the examinations of site and user analytics, a broad range of topics and skills were featured. Although the fellows were initially focused on showcasing their most innovative work, the DemoFest ended up becoming an opportunity for the students to support their peers. These presentations are the perfect platform for audience members to become inspired to pursue new ideas, collaborations, and projects.

The hackNY Fellows are truly the next generation of hackers. As a hackNY alumna I can’t thank hackNY enough for everything I learned over the course of these 10 weeks from working at a groundbreaking startup, hearing from an amazing group of speakers, and interacting with 34 new friends. DemoFest attempts to capture everything that is special about hackNY within a 2.5 hour block of time, and what can’t be articulated in that time hopefully shines through in this video that the class of 2011 came together to make:

hackNY Fellows Workshop: Fluid Dynamics and Gmail Productivity

In this post, 2011 hackNY Fellow Aaron Marks describes the lastest student workshop, in which Fellows teach each other tips, tricks and skills they know and are learning through their internships. 

This past week a group of the 2011 hackNY fellows gathered for the fourth hackNY workshop, a series of events organized by the Fellows to teach each other skills, technical or otherwise, which they are qualified to give short talks on. This week’s workshop saw Fellow Grant Kot give an introduction to the world of HTML5 animation. Using the Javascript library Gee.js, Grant got the fellows up and running in minutes, animating basic spinning circles and Pacman-like figures with HTML5’s Canvas support. Fellows were quick to play around with and hack the basic commands Grant introduced, producing interesting animations to everyone’s delight.

Following Grant’s presentation, Aaron Marks (your humble author) gave a talk on a less technical matter: Email productivity hacks. Specifically, instruction was given on how to be a Gmail power user, taking advantage of keyboard navigation, email address hacking, and filters. Hopefully the fellows will combine both skills from the workshop and use their newly freed up time to code some neat animated HTML5 websites using canvas!