September 11th, 2012 NY Enterprise Technology Meetup

On Tuesday, September 11, 2012, OLC attended NY Enterprise Technology Meetup hosted by Cooley LLP. The presentations were smart and the panel, enthusiastic and humorous. Demos from Digital Reasoning and Smartling warmed the room up to translation services and big data, and Steve Rosenbush, Deputy Editor of CIO Journal, moderated the panel.

Digital Reasoning and Smartling were given about an hour to explain and answer questions about their new products.

Smartling, a web and mobile translation management platform—like Google Translate—impressed the audience by showcasing its cloud-based platform. The platform simplified the localization process through lowering cost, but improved translations. This gives the translator better and consistent results, according to Smartling. When asked about how the company became what it is today, Smartling explained that they first began with creating applications and rapid release products before moving on to linguistics-based platforms, such as their big data translation management platform.

Digital Reasoning takes unstructured data and transforms them into enterprise language. Their Synthesys platform—which took 10 years to build—converts unstructured data into an app. Digital Reasoning also explained that Synthesys is key to linguists for translation. "The ability to structure unstructured data now allows us to go through them 100 times faster," Digital Reasoning said. "The Synthesys platform automates the unstructured and structured and enables a new class of enterprise applications."

After a brief intermission, the five panelists took their seats at the table: David Aronoff of Flybridge Capital Partners, Matt Turck of Bloomberg Ventures, Jeanne M. Sullivan of StarVest Partners, Raji Rishi of Sigma Partners, and Mark Birch, an Angel Investor.

The discussion started off with an agreement started off by David Aronoff that "big idea" is what investors look for. A majority of the panel focused on investors—something crucial to start ups for funding. "The right investor," according to Raji Rishi, "will want to engage with you as fast as possible." Later in the discussion, however, Jeanne M. Sullivan raised the point that chemistry between founders and investors are absolutely crucial when making a deal. "You're going to crawl into bed with them for a long time," she said. "If you feel bad about going into it and you do it anyway, you're going to be hurting for a long time," which drew a lot of laughs from the audience. Sullivan was asked what entrepreneurs should look for in investors and she listed three points: "1) Make sure they are a VC or an investor—know your stage and subject matter in mind. 2) Understand 'the life of the fund.' 3) Know who to approach. Don't go in the coal." Aronoff added that the balance of power between investors and founders shift constantly, but it is currently in the founder's favor.

The moderator asked about the trends that have most speeded up tech. Mark Birch was the first to answer. "IT isn't the most innovative," he said. "Facebook had enormous impact on how enterprises view things. Web 2.0—user experiences—really questioned enterprises." He went on to say that "brands are at the forefront of Web 2.0 technology." Matt Turck saw it differently. He believed that "the trend now is an increasing massive production of open-source platforms."

The night wrapped up with Rosenbush asking the panel, "Which incubator is hottest?" Birch said that if they told the audience now, then it would be obsolete next quarter, as the landscape is constantly changing. "So don't build your product based off our answers," he joked. Aronoff said cloud and open source, industrial-strength mobile platforms and developer-driven models were the hottest today. Turck believed it to be network visualization and storage visualization. Sullivan and Rishi voiced a partial complaint about the lack of East Coast entrepreneurs in the tech field. According to them, entrepreneurs need other entrepreneurs to start up ventures. These entrepreneurs help one another and grow to mentor each other, and the East Coast, they believe, needs more of these kinds of ventures.