Web 2.0 Expo, Startup Showcase

Last spring I was asked to be one of the judges for the Startup Showcase at the Web 2.0 Expo held this past week in NYC.  They also asked me if there was anyone who I would like to do this with and my first answer was Mo Koyfman.  In completely transparency going to mid-town or even a conference is something I rarely do but I was really delighted to be asked. 

Mo and I got on stage and told a little bit about ourselves including what type of investments we were seeing or liked.  Then we went over to a large room where 23 companies each had a table, and of course their computer or iPad, to show us as well as the attendees what their company was all about.

I had done my diligence and checked out each companies website before the day.  I had zeroed in on two that really interested me prior to the event but open to being swayed in another direction as entrepreneurs had the opportunity to talk to both Mo and I for a few minutes about what they were doing.  In the end we both liked the same two, Freshocracy and Elect Next.

Here are all the companies that presented:




I was familiar already with Freshocracy and am a fan.  Christina has taken the CSA to the next level and one that certainly works in an urban area like NYC.   A subscription based model to receive 3 meals every other week to prepare at home and the ingredients come directly from the farm.  Each ingredient is proportioned out based on the recipe that is included that week.  I like this for several reasons.   I love that fresh food is delivered to your home from local farms.  I also like that their delivery comes only for a few times over the course of two weeks because NYers tend to go out more than stay home so Freshocracy is manageable.  Most CSA’s are weekly and you are given random food that is picked that week and many times people look in their bags and wonder what they are going to do with lets say four pounds of beets.  Freshocracy is promoting home cooked meals from the farm to your table and giving specific instructions that are helpful to many people who want to cook but aren’t sure how.  A win win across the board.  How big can this scale?  Not sure but even if Christina and her partner can grow to be in the boroughs of NY only they are creating a business model that works for them, in essence a lifestyle business where they can make enough money to enjoy the fruits of being an entrepreneur.

The other business we liked was Elect Next.  You go to their website, plug in your zip code and then begin answering questions pertaining to issues and what side you stand on from taxes, healthcare, foreign policy, etc.   Once enough data is provided Elect Next tells you what candidates you should be voting for including local congressman, judges, etc.  Many people react to who they are voting for based on media, advertising, etc and this poll basically steers you in the direction to vote for people who represent your beliefs.  I am not so sure that everyone votes for candidates based on that and if everyone did, I believe the results would prove to be beneficial.  The other part I like is that many times when I get into the voting booth although I know the top candidates I do not know who the judges are and I’d like to choose one based on what I stand on not just based on my party of choice particularly when there are multiple options.

Social Passport was chosen by the attendees as the winner with Freshocracy coming in at a close second.  Social Passport is an aggregation of all your social media in one tool so Four Square, Twitter, Facebook and Group-on all rolled up into one.   Merchants sign up to give the users discounts too.  I’m all for competition but not so sure I believe in the model they have created.  Time will tell.  

Best part was is seeing so many passionate entrepreneurs in one place hoping to get funding, customers and exposure.  Whether they succeed or not they have all tried to start something different with the hope that they will have created that something that scales.  That is exciting and as the technology revolution continues to grow and move forward these start-ups are creating new businesses regardless of being small or big and that is exactly what our economy needs. 



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Comments (Archived):

  1. Rohan

    I really like Freshocracy’s concept. We definitely need more passionate entrepreneurs taking ownership of healthy food.

    1. Gotham Gal

      yes we do. it is a difficult business to scale and make money but healthy food is a growing business, good for all of us.

      1. Rohan

        Yup. Very true.Also very very seasonal and dependent on macro-economic factors. Especially if it is good quality (and hence, slightly higher priced food). Seen that first hand with my uncle’s experience as well.The issue is that the moment there is a bad period – food is the easiest place to cut back on. Easy != Right.

  2. Viktor Ovurmind

    What is frightening when I went through the showcased companies is the bench strength and depth of talent within many of the start-ups profiled here, and the one thing that underlined that for me was the consistent use of the word “co-founder”.Another consistency is the rise of what Stephen Baker calls the “Numerati” and that is evident when one culls the talent brain-trust on display here.  The three companies that caught my eye purely on terms of bench strength are listed below, and I took the liberty of focusing on individuals that caught my eye, though that has much to do with my intuition, than a judgement about caliber.  ML State/Opa : Henri-Binsztok : http://www.openworldforum.o…EnergyHub : Seth Frader-Thompson : https://twitter.com/#!/fraderTBest Vendor : Magnus von Koeller https://twitter.com/#!/magn…  Just on a pure numerati scale – ML State do stand out, and more so because they also compliment their brain-trust with a showcase of their advisers.  Since I am not a venture capitalist, my focus isn’t about the business idea or business model that stands out as a “long-term winner” – but in terms of pure plays, I agree that Freshocracy and Elect Next to stand out – for they contain the kernel of a much bigger idea and therefore can weave more out of capital consciousness i.e. they are both names that have greater recall.At the end of the day, the benefit I personally get from a quick study or review of the brain-trust behind a startup, gives me a momentary opportunity to see a few things from another person’s eyes, particularly if those individuals are in the cut and thrust of start-up mode.  A key for me in studying a start-up is always the realization and display of monumental talent.  The reality of start-up life is that the mortality rate is high whether the talent is incredible or not – but if I am at all aim at raising the bar on my own thinking, it is the appreciation of the nucleus that fuels those start-ups, which is worth my time. The last thing I ever want is anyone asking me what my opinion is, I am too busy being surprised when I open the door to ever more transparent thoughtspaces, and what catches my eye merely lets me know where my head is at, and certainly not a value judgement.I enjoyed going through the list, since there is plenty to see and find, especially whenever we find the time, inclination or perspective to open our imaginations to appreciate a glimpse of a legion of really smart people.[v.o.M.]

    1. Gotham Gal

      Opa was the only other company that was remotely interesting. But a brand new code is a big ball game and in the short time I spent with the entrepreneurs I have no idea if they have the ability to pull that off. That would need lots of diligence.

      1. Viktor Ovurmind

        I welcome your perspective.  In the information rich – data abundant age we live in, one of the great challenges today isn’t how we see different parts of the information elephant but how we go about meeting the challenge of seeing the information animal.  The key to this type of challenge IMHO is that it is self-directed, since this does not fit the scarcity age where we challenging each others points of view, which made a lot of sense, because such challenge enabled one to fill in the bits of data we did not have.Today the information we are presented with is a mosaic.  Mastering that mosaic becomes itself a lifetime activity and thus why I think the calls about “life long learning” are highly relevant.   This is where the rise of trusted perspective becomes more important than the primacy of the thought leader.  I am trying to figure out how to overlay a thought patchwork that becomes more whole, so when I look at this as a sample of NYC startups, the real value I draw upon is seeking and not just learning to see diverse thinking in action.So it isn’t so much how we each describe the elephant from our close up perspectives, but whether we even know what type of animal we are looking at.  This is why I found the journey of following the links you provided personally richly rewarding.  Then the patchwork isn’t just the search strategy but encompasses an empathy about the perspectives that inform what is an emerging whole.  Since I was never taught to do that, I must find out the how of it, or at least in the way it most broadens my perspective.   That is the value I am drawing upon in thinking about what you have put forth.  My views should hold no resonance here because this mosaic is fresh, it is new, that for me to give rise to a conclusion would get in the way of my own discovery and learning.  I just want to thank you for writing this particular blog because it is well worth my exploration.Thank You Gotham Gal.[v.o.M.]

        1. Gotham Gal

          much appreciated…

  3. Freshocracy

    So glad you captured a shot of our purple graffiti cauliflower next to all those ipads and computers! We loved sharing our story how we are trying to make it easy for people to reconnect with their unused pots and pans, regardless of how busy they are. I’m confident we can also be part of solving the regional food distribution challenges and improve access to local foods as we scale our business. We are honored that you and Mo both selected us — thanks for the great write-up.

  4. Mgav

    I see why Elect Next is quite useful, but how they will generate revenue and how profitable do you expect it to be?

    1. Gotham Gal

      I actually see it more as a public service

  5. Andy Ellis

    I couldn’t agree more about the two companies you found most exciting. I am always looking for ways to connect with passionate farmers and Freshocracy is literally my ideal. I don’t necessarily have time to thoughtfully grocery shop with planned meals, nor am I often creative enough to prepare things on a whim.  Having structured, fresh and variable meal options sounds like the perfect situation.I just had the opportunity to spend some time on ElectNext.com and it’s the sort of thing I wish everyone did before they cast a ballot.  There are certainly intangibles that I think people should look for in a leader, but only if they can identify with similar core beliefs.  I have seen a lot of examples of the electorate voting for the most charismatic candidate rather than one who represents their values. In any event, I answered all of the questions and my results weren’t surprising; I think my highest match was 63% (I don’t really toe any party line). It’s really cool to see it broken down analytically beyond general sorts of opinions and in an intuitive and appealing interface.I hope both of these projects succeed and it’s great that you’re raising awareness.

    1. Gotham Gal

      that is great you were able to meet with them. it would be amazing if everybody took that test just as they were getting into the voting booth vs being swayed by the millions on advertising spent right before that moment.