NJ Tech and Entrepreneur Community Growing Rapidly
NJ Tech Meetup, January 17, 2012
Almost 160 people attended the 20th NJ Tech Meetup monthly gathering last Monday, more than there were seats available inside the Babbio Center on the Stevens Institute of Technology Hoboken campus. Some 50 people stood to the side or in the back. “It seems I let a few more people in this time,” group founder and organizer Aaron Price joked.
Price opened the meeting by announcing the group had just surpassed 1,450 members, which, according to him, makes it the fastest-growing technology-related social group in the state. He also unveiled the group’s new motto, changed from “Meet someone, learn something” to “Sparking connections, inspiring ideas.” When asked for a show of hands, over half the attendees said this was their first time going to a meeting. Over three-fourths of the group labeled themselves entrepreneurs and more than half that number said they were working full-time for their own business.
Every NJ Tech Meetup gathering features a competition involving startup pitches from three entrepreneurs. The first company to pitch, Tutorspree (New York), matches tutors with clients. “We want to find everyone who wants to learn something the best possible person to teach them that thing,” said Tutorspree cofounder Aaron Harris.
The next pitch came from Darren Levy, founder of DinnerDateDeal (Jersey City), which combines online dating with the coupon concept behind sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial. Users start by finding deals for highly rated restaurants, then search profiles of potential date partners interested in eating at the same establishments.
The final pitch came from Kohort (New York) which organizes group information in a central location and streamlines aspects like membership directories, member profiles and group dues.“We’re in more groups than we think about,” said Kohort cofounder Mark Davis. “But all these groups are difficult to manage.”
After the startup pitch portion of the evening, keynote speaker Joy Marcus presented to the audience. Currently a partner with DFJ Gotham Ventures (New York), Marcus was previously vice president of international business development at MTV and senior vice president of global marketing at Time Warner.
Marcus, who was also the American head of the Paris-based video website Dailymotion, shared her experience leading the company against the much larger competitor YouTube in a presentation titled “Fighting Giants: Thriving in the Shadow of an 800-Pound Gorilla.” Though YouTube dwarfed Dailymotion in both investment and viewership at the dawn of the Internet video age in 2006, Marcus helped the company survive and distinguish itself by offering exclusive content from popular media companies not found on YouTube. Eventually the site was sold to French telecom conglomerate Orange for over $200 million, according to Marcus, and continues to this day as the second largest video site in the world.
Marcus suggested the entrepreneurs in the audience, who may themselves be competing against giants like Google and Facebook, fight corporate gorillas by using guerrilla tactics. She listed five tips for the entrepreneurs. The first and most important, she said, was to “be in a market worth fighting for.” Marcus said she knew the Internet video market would get big enough to accommodate both a behemoth like YouTube and crafty competitors like Dailymotion.
Her next tip was to be bold but also do the right thing. Marcus shared an anecdote about Dailymotion deciding, ambitiously, to target its most loyal demographic—young, city-dwelling men with disposable income—with enticing content, such as material from the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition, but to curtail access to pornography and unauthorized copyrighted material. The third tactic Marcus advised was making sure everyone involved with the project is “on the bus. … Your team is incredibly important. You have to have believers in the room.”
Marcus advised startups to “make friends with the gorilla’s enemies.” For example, after Viacom sued YouTube, Dailymotion offered it a lucrative deal giving Dailymotion exclusive access to Viacom’s content. The last tip Marcus offered was to “know your customers and delight them.” Here she reiterated how Dailymotion catered to its most loyal customers with the sort of music and independent films they liked. “We turned them into advocates for our site,” she concluded.