They may be less socially awkward and more abrasive than their Silicon Valley counterparts, but New York’s tech community, often lost in the shuffle with hipsters, bankers and Midwestern tourists, is alive and well.
At the monthly NY Tech Meetup last week, entrepreneurs ran through a show-and-tell. Here are three that drew our attention:
MushyGushy – Remember OfficeMax’s Elf Yourself last year? Along those lines, MushyGushy lets you cut out your head from a photo and put it in any number of animated E-cards, or GushyGrams as they call them. They don’t discriminate (you can have gay-themed GushyGrams!) and they even have a skin tone-matching feature, correcting online what Band-Aid has done wrong for so many decades. You can save your head collection (yours, Paris’, etc) in a Head Case for future e-card use.
To set some context in a humorous and varied space: ZingFu is an e-card service like MushyGushy, but their e-cards are unanimated and edgier. Voki and Meez are widget services that let you create animated avatars and push them out to the web (IM, blogs, social networks; Voki has mobile on the horizon). Gizmoz (covered here in May) is also a widget service, but with more realistic avatars and more sophisticated social networking functionality (including an answering machine widget).
MushyGushy launched in May and intends to pitch itself as a brand marketing tool if it manages to scale.
Styky – A mobile social community trying to spice up one of the most central and unimaginative aspects of your cell phone: the address book. They make it easier to share notes, photos and contacts between friends or groups of friends. Styky has four parts: Faces (contacts), Snaps (photos), Notes and Steals (coupons). The UI looks like they’re aiming for the under-25 crowd.
Styky works on phones with internet access, and with most carriers. The Java app was just over 200kb on my Blackberry Pearl and easy to install. I started by synching my contacts, which took longer than I would have liked, but hey, I have a lot of contacts.
Their move to marry contacts with photos (Faces and Snaps) makes a lot of functional sense. Unfortunately you have to email your cell photos to Styky to get them in your Snaps folder, whereas a better execution would be for Styky to let you opt to automatically sync Snaps with your device memory.
Their revenue model is around delivering targeted coupons to users based on their Styky profile information, and they want to partner with existing couponers (eg Coupons.com) as a distribution arm. The Steals section is more conceptual than anything else for now, judging by the half dozen coupons I saw for restaurants three states over from me.
What’s keeping Facebook Mobile, MySpace Mobile or any number of web-based social networks from rendering Styky irrelevant? Two possible reasons. Web-based social networks do not map one-to-one to cell phone address books; there are Facebook friends I will never want to call, and address book contacts I will never want on Facebook. Second, Styky wants to serve as the mobile extension for social networks without a mobile extension. Whether or not Styky sticks, they are positioned in an area of opportunity, as the mobile address book still feels like a Thomas Guide in a Google Maps world.
NewsGroper – a parody news site written by (fake) celebrities and politicians from Bill Gates to the American Idol Judges. This is the site that tricked MSNBC into quoting a fake Al Sharpton analogizing dolphin-fighting to the Michael Vick case. To the extent that they are clearly a parody site (is “NewsGroper” not obvious enough?) co-founder Greg Galant says they should be in safe legal waters. NewsGroper launched in July and has plans to expand beyond their current roster of seventy plus (fake) contributors. Site traffic is inconsequential so far but on the rise, by Alexa’s measure.
[Disclosure: Julie Ruvolo runs ad sales and strategy for Stage6.com, part of DivX, Inc.]