This post is by Abe Stanway, a 2011 hackNY Fellow from Rutgers University.
The powers that be scored us some super-awesome New York Tech Meetup tickets Tuesday night, and we were all too happy to take them up on the offer. We definitely appreciated the hackNY love coming from all corners in the Skirball Center (although I might add we got a bit too much love from the headhunters sitting behind us!)
The meetup was a good time, though – we saw some pretty great demos, including my personal favorite, HowAboutWe, which lets users list potential dates for others to accept. Yes, I signed up, and no, I haven’t been asked out yet.
After the meetup, we got burgers at Stand 4. Much meat was eaten, to the dismay of the nice fedora-ed waiter. Conversation topics included Evan’s unusual path to an academic career, the role of mobile sharing in a location-based world, and exactly who ordered the peanut butter cup milkshake.
hackNY’s Summer Series launched Wednesday June 1 with Ann Miura-Ko, co-founding partner of Floodgate Ventures. She discussed her life, unique career path, and how venture capital fits into tech startups. Ann led the fellows through her career, beginning with her time as an electrical engineering undergraduate at Yale. Fortuitously offered the opportunity to shadow Lew Platt, CEO of Hewlett-Packard at the time, she developed a taste for business and switched gears to jobs outside of engineering.
Ann spent a summer as an intern at Goldman Sachs, then several years as a management consultant at McKinsey. After McKinsey, she moved on to work in venture capital at Charles River Ventures. Investing in the economy-low of 2001-2003 proved slow, however, and after two years, Ann felt it was time to return to school for her PhD at Stanford. She returned to venture capital in 2008, co-founding a new fund named Floodgate Ventures.
Ann explained VC funds, including where they receive funding, how they function, and what part they play in the growth of a startup. Having taught numerous classes on startups and business model generation at Stanford, Ann deftly explained startup economics. The lecture became more of a dialogue, as the fellows had some great questions about VC funds, investing, and startups in general. For many, this was a first exposure to the intricacies of startup finance and funding.
Ann was sure to indicate the obligations that came with bringing an investor on board, and that obtaining investors is not necessarily the best choice for every startup. “If you’d sell your company now if you could,” she pointed out, “don’t raise money.” Venture capitalists expect growth and a significant return on their investment to support their obligations to their own investors. It was apparent in the fellows’ questions, however, that Ann helped demystify how startups interact with investors and achieve subsequent growth.
Imagined and led by the class of 2011 hackNY Fellows, the weekly hackNY workshops exist for Fellows to teach each other skills ranging from advanced Python techniques to jujitsu and juggling. Last week’s inaugural meeting started with a tutorial on git and gitHub, presented by Aaron Marks and Michael Bartnett. “There’s more to git than just the basic commit, push, and pull commands,” Aaron began, and continued on a speedy but thorough intro to git version control. Resident hackNY rocket scientistRandall Hunt followed up with a presentation on advanced Python techniques, explaining the intricacies of the Python and how it compares to other widely used languages.
These workshops, given by and for Fellows, provide the presenters with an opportunity to share skills and knowledge they’ve built on their own while giving others the opportunity to broaden their own skill-sets. The sessions are particularly interesting because the pace is set by the Fellows’ own understanding of the material. As all the Fellows are coders, programming workshops, particularly, can go beyond being simple introductions and get into more complex issues much faster than typical talks.
We had a little reunion with many of the 2010 hackNY Fellows Tuesday night over hamburgers and shakes.
The grub was delicious and the company was even better — our Fellows continue to impress us! Here are some highlights of what they’re up to now:
At the 2010 hackNY Fall Hackathon Tal and Max launched Foursqwhere, which captures Foursquare checkins by university students to determine who is the mayor of each school.
Max recently launched Don’t Eat At, which alerts you via text when you check into a restaurant that’s in danger of being closed for health code violations. He’ll be presenting it during February’s New York Tech Meetup.
Tal is working as a HackStar helping the talented team of startups selected for the New York TechStars accelerator program.
Clement continues to work at Buzzfeed. He was hired on after his hackNY internship ended and continues to enjoy his work and team.
Stuart was accepted into grad school at Columbia and is excited to dive into his new coursework.
Nolan had a great time in London
Ian is building out the Twilio alarm clock tool he created during the Fall Hackathon.
It was great to catch up with the alumni, and this won’t be the last time we’ll be seeing them — they’re excited to stay involved to mentor this year’s class of hackNY Fellows and share their advice, expertise and insider’s perspectives. 2011 hackNY Fellows will be lucky to have last year’s alumni showing them the ropes of the NYC startup scene!
He emphasized how projects must be organized to preserve the conceptual integrity of the design. His presentation was full of hilarious anecdotes and memorable phrases, such as “Many hands make light work: often, and more work: always.”
He also had great stories from his time at IBM and other Big Corporations about how hierarchies, like one finds in a large company, can lead to disconnect between the committee that designed the project and the people actually implementing it, who know what the real problems are.
Fred also discussed the role of telecollaboration, which can be a big part of life for some startups. He emphasized that it was important to have face to face meetings first, and telecollaborate later, a point also raised last week in the post Is Silicon Valley Dead? by Dave Troy:
Real creativity … has to happen face to face. This is where the magic occurs. If you don’t spend time with people you can’t create.
New-technology tools can help with execution, but only after the team dynamics are in place…
Love your place. Find the other like minded souls who love your place and start companies with those people. The creativity you unleash in your own backyard is the most important competitive differentiator you have.
Fred also took time to sign books and chat with the audience.
Afterwards Fellows got to chat with some other members of NYC’s startup ecosystem. Here’s Tal with Benjamin Gleitzman of Hunch.com, also cofounder of NextStep Tech!
Last week in the Wall Street Journal, Tal was quoted as saying “Compared to a traditional job, start-up life is different.” Etsy proved them right when, after the talk, they busted out the DJ + the disco ball: