Event: Social Embarrassment Models and 16 Dogs

Woman working on digital board

Despite the snow, sleet, and rain, presenters at the Disruptive Technologists NYC Meetup had a packed house at NY Institute of Technology Jan 28, 2013. The theme: wacky and unusual companies, apps and the processes entrepreneurs went through conceiving them.

Four panelists had different and funny takes on their startups; a dating service for dogs; a service company without a phone or website; a VC’s new startup that other funders don’t get; and an app that lets women know if the guy she is talking to is, well, creepy.

Panelist Andres F. Campanella is a computer science and mathematics student at NYU. He created LoCreep, an app that wards off creepy men. Called the “LoJack for creeps,” the smartphone app gives out fake phone numbers instead of the actual one when undesirables request it.

He created it at hackNY’s Fall Hackathon. He also created MugShot.js. It’s a sort of trading card that captures users in compromising positions and places, created to shame the users from doing things like that again. “It was something I really felt that I needed,” he said. Another invention, Doach, the Dating Coach, is a smartphone app that listens in on users’ dates. It offers tips such as, “You are standing too close to her.”  He also came up with the app Breathalizer Pong, which is just what it sounds like.

Campanella talked about other startups—in addition to his own—that use social embarrassment as part of their model.   This works with fitness, too. “There are fitness apps that you share with your friends, and it’s an embarrassment if you don’t lose that weight.”

VC and entrepreneur J. Skyler Fernandes said social embarrassment works with finances, too.  “There is an interesting company that just got funded called Lenddo.  It’s for folks who don’t have enough credit history in order to get a loan,” he said.

“You can enter into a social network–a mini group of your friends–and you agree that you are going to share your own credit score online. What happens is that if you are late on your payments, a note is sent to your friends telling them that you are late in your payments and if you don’t make your payments, your credit score can be affected.”

VC and entrepreneur J. Skyler Fernandes said social embarrassment works with fitness, too. “There are fitness apps that you share with your friends, and it’s an embarrassment if you don’t lose that weight.” He likes unique ideas– even if they’re not realistic.

“Every VC loves it when they get a ‘perpetual motion’ pitch. There are a lot of people actually pitching those things and they try really hard to get you to believe their perpetual motion machine is it. They now have infinite access to energy! And the conversation is still happening today in forums. I think that’s the only thing that’s perpetual today.”

Fernandes pitched his startup, CareBooker.com, by saying, “It’s the Expedia.com for booking family care services online. We started pitching to investors who tend to be guys typically 30 to 40 years old. But our demographic tends to be women who book things for the family.  Our startup isn’t sexy to your typical male investor, but moms love it!”

Michael Chiang, founder of MatchPuppy.com, talked about the how their site previously included only dogs and their photos, not the owners. “We look at ourselves as an OKCupid for dog play dates so they can meet new friends locally.” Each dog gets a profile page. One Long Island user has all 16 of her dogs signed up, each with their own account. “We get some pretty wild and crazy profiles. One thing we learned was people loved sharing descriptions of how awesome their dogs are. Some users put up YouTube tricks like a Golden Retriever is baking behind a cake.”

Dr. Justin Bazan of Park Slope Eye knew from day one that he would have a word-of-mouth ophthalmology practice. In an unusual spin on modern technology, he thinks businesses don’t need phones or websites–just Facebook. “I pioneered the use of social media as a marketing tool,” he said. He doesn’t know of any other office without a phone. “Lately I have been getting bashed for not having a phone, but does anyone here love the phone? I think talking to anyone over the phone is the least favorite way of communicating.”

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