The NJ Tech Meetup is the largest tech community in the state, with more than 4,400 members. It meets each month on the campus of Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken.
Jacob Katsof, a serial entrepreneur who founded New York-based AppCow, was first up to pitch. Katsof’s company, spun out of PCS Wireless, has a clever way for developers to acquire app users.
Katsof explained that when an individual buys a mobile phone, he or she receives an AppCow card that contains tokens for downloading apps, discounts for in-app purchases, and other features like discounts on cloud storage. There are two million apps in the app marketplaces and, not surprisingly, users often have trouble finding what they want to download, so this card guides them to particular apps.
Developers who associate themselves with AppCow can lower their costs of customer acquisition, he stated.
“We get paid by app developers,” said Katsof. “They are advertising through us. We share the money we get with the store” that distributes the cards. He added, “It’s a free card for the store to give away. The customer gets a deal. The app developer gets a user and the ability to give them virtual currency that doesn’t cost the app developer anything.” The companies that distribute the cards also get backend tools for tracking revenues.
App developers currently spend money on advertising to acquire customers, and the costs are increasing every year, so much so that some developers have left the market. At the very least, the high cost of advertising to find prospects is eating into developers’ profits. AppCow changes the dynamics, said Katsof. AppCow has been funded with an initial seed round from PCSWireless.
The speaker from eureQa, a Cherry Hill business-to-business startup, was Byron Druss, Chief Revenue Officer. This company provides an easier way to test Web and mobile applications.
The customer base for eureQa consists mainly of software companies and application-development teams, from early-stage startups to large enterprises in such areas as banking, insurance and retail. The eureQa platform speeds up regression testing of software applications in a variety of environments, Druss said.
Speaking to the nondevelopers in the crowd, Druss said, “Continuous testing is important, because when you develop software you have to test everything as you go along. If you don’t, bugs escape. You have to test everything, not only across the entire application each time you add something to the software, but also repeat testing across multiple versions of Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari,” and platforms and devices.
Selenium, an open-source automation engine for testing Web applications, served as the basis for eureQa. “It is a lot of work to use Selenium,” Druss said. He noted that custom test development with Selenium may require an army of developers to handle all the test-creation, management and maintenance requirements, and to build project-management tools.
“We make it very easy to author these tests … so you can, as a non-programmer or a QA tester, as a product owner or business analyst … quickly put the tests together and not need to assign expensive programming resources.” Druss added that eureQa can perform testing with two-thirds less effort, and that even the development department will see a 10 to 20 percent boost in productivity because they’ll understand what they’re building, and will thus be able to build much faster.
The final presenter was Hoboken resident Damien Rottemberg, cofounder of Klassroom, who ended up taking home the audience choice award for that evening.
Rottemberg (who is originally from France) said that he and his Paris-based partner had wanted to create a new social network. Facebook wasn’t working for them anymore.
“I was thinking that the future of social networks should be something that is more segmented and more private,” he told the group. The cofounders created and launched a social network app called “Room” last year.
A few months later, Facebook launched an app of its own called “Rooms.” Rottemberg and his partner realized that it was time to pivot, even though their app had more than 6,500 downloads. When they looked at their use cases, they saw that the app was particularly popular with teachers, who created private rooms to share information about students with parents. The cofounders decided to create an app dedicated to this segment.
Klassroom is a mobile communication platform that operates between teachers and parents of children in preschool to fifth grade. “Our vision is to disrupt the existing communications tools,” which are inadequate, he said. He noted that, in France, communications between teacher and parent is through a notebook that goes home every night, but the teachers have to write down everything in each pupil’s notebook, perhaps writing the same thing 30 times.
With the Klassroom app, teachers create a “class” within the app, and parents join the class. The teacher can post things on a Facebook-like wall, or there can be private communication between the parent and teacher when a child is going to be absent or late, or will need to be picked up for a doctor’s appointment. They also added some social interaction, so parents can chat with each other.
Klassroom has already raised $125,000 from investors, Rottemberg said. Moreover, ten private schools in New York and France have adopted the program, and are helping the cofounders work out the kinks. They will begin selling the app for real in September, he stated.