For entrepreneurs, programmers, investors and other tech enthusiasts, meetups are great places to get together with like-minded people, but such gatherings are often limited by infrequency and distance.
To address these concerns, a few members of the NJ Tech Meetup, based at Stevens Institute of Technology, have developed an app to help people connect when, say, it’s too cold to get in a car and drive to Hoboken.
At the group’s January gathering, NJ Tech Meetup organizer Aaron Price presented theMapped.com, which creates a mapped directory of local tech people. NJTechWeekly.com had covered and early version of the app here.
“I get this question a lot, what’s going on with technology in some place,” Price said. Similar to the Digital NYC map here, “TheMapped helps you uncover what is going on in your own backyard.”
Price worked on the project with meetup members Ilya Blay, Gabriela Levit and Corey Stary.
The app, which is free, enables entrepreneurs and others to highlight their business location for others to see. “The idea is you can list yourself if you’re an entrepreneur, a startup, an event, a coworking space or an investor so that people can find you,” Price said.
Within a region, users can join groups and create representative badges similar to the popular “Made in NY”(New York). Another early feature in the current beta stage allows startups to indicate that they are hiring.
Price also introduced a new vetted service-provider partner of the meetup, startup health insurance firm Oscar, which recently raised over $30 million in funding. “We offer affordable health care to the individual, entrepreneur, sole proprietor and a lot of others in New York and New Jersey, and we’re really proud to be here,” a company representative said.
Among its features, Oscar offers more direct communication between patients and doctors, and helps patients manage their health goals. “If any of us were to start a health care company, it would be what Oscar is,” Price vouched. “You’d think health insurance wouldn’t be the sexiest thing in the world, but the way they do it makes it very appealing.”
As always, three startups pitched during the meetup’s competition portion. The first was Thinknum (New York), a website providing tools for financial analysis. “There’s no good way for analysts to monitor the content that they create, and we wanted to solve that problem,” cofounder Justin Zhen said.
Zhen, who used to work for a hedge fund, met his partner, who used to work for Goldman Sachs, when they were classmates at Princeton. He said that Thinknum gets its raw financial data from the SEC and 2,000 other sources, and that it is initially free, with monetized privacy protections. Thinknum raised $1 million in funding last summer.
The second startup pitched a new type of air purifier for homes with central air. “According to EPA studies, indoor air can be five times more polluted than outdoor air,” said Rohith Gowda, cofounder of Heavenly Air (Kendall Park).
Gowda said that Heavenly Air purifiers have no filters or moving parts, while traditional purifiers do, and as a result may be expensive, noisy or unsightly. He said the company plans to sell each unit for $75, with three or four units sufficient to cover a house. The potential market includes the 85 million homes in the U.S. that have central air, and Gowda said that the company also plans to pitch to homebuilders to install the purifiers in new houses.
The startup that won the coveted Audience Choice Award was Picsell (New York), a company that helps users sell items as diverse as smart phones, golf clubs, and textbooks online. Cofounder Ofir Almagor opened by saying that Americans have an estimated average of $3,100 worth of goods that they’d like to sell, but they don’t know how or don’t want to take the time to use a site like eBay. “Most people in the U.S don’t find it easy or fun or enjoyable,” he said.
With Picsell, users can upload pictures of the item they want to sell, and Picsell assesses the item’s market value and posts it to multiple sale sites. The company takes 15% of the sale price, but Almagor said that users benefit from the company’s vetted seller rating, suggesting that users earn more money that way than they would on their own.