Posts from NYC BigApps

NYC BigApps 3.0

I've been involved with NYC BigApps since its creation three years ago. It's a great program. NYC opens up some of its data sources to developers who use the data to build new mobile and web apps. The judges vote on them (I'm one of the judges) and there are prizes awareded which total $50,000. A number of startups have come out of this program and I've met quite a few great developers through this effort.

The submissions for year three are in and they are solicting public opinion on them here. There are 96 apps this year to be considered so that's a lot of product to review. You don't have to review all of them (I do) so just go take a look and let the organizers know which ones you think are the best. There are nine days left in the voting phase. There are two popular choice awards that will be given based on the public voting.

All the winners will be announced at the annual BigApps event in late March.


Financing Options: Contests/Prizes/Accelerator Programs

This is the second in a series of posts about financing options for startups. By "financing" I mean obtaining cash to fund your business. There are all sorts of strategies to avoid needing funding, but this series is not about them.

I did not have this option in my original list but it was suggested so many times in the comments that I added it. This is an option that has become a lot more available to entrepreneurs in recent years. There are so many programs out there that target entrepreneurs where the winner(s) is/are awarded cash prizes or small equity investments.

The accelerator programs are probably best known to this audience. TechStars, Seedcamp, DreamIT, Startl, SeedStart, ER Accelerator, and the Fintech program are all active in NYC. Y Combinator is the pioneer of this kind of program. And there are similar programs all over the country now. These programs will require you and your founding team to relocate to a set location for around three months and participate in a program. The equity investment varies but is generally in the range of $25,000 to $30,000. The equity you will give up for this cash is usually in the range of 5-6%.

I believe the accelerator programs are excellent for teams that are just getting started and that have not had a lot of startup experience. The money is usually sufficient to fund the founding team for the three month program and often can last a bit longer. But the biggest value comes from the mentoring and the opportunity to pitch to a large group of angel investors on the last day of the program.

Contests and prizes have been around for a lot longer but there has also been an explosion of them in recent years. One of my favorite is the NYC Big Apps contest where developers compete to build the best app that uses data from the NYC open data project. The winning team gets a prize of $10,000 with no equity dilution (total prizes are $40,000). The winners of NYC Big Apps the past two years have gone on to create real businesses with funding and user traction.

The company that coordinates NYC Big Apps is called ChallengePost. They coordinate many of these contest/prize programs. When I visited ChallengePost just now, I learned that Lollapalooza is running a contest to create apps for concerts. There are $5000 of prizes available.  There is stuff like this going on all the time.

I just participated in the judging of the Disrupt NYC contest. The winner Getaround recieved a check for $50,000. Again there is no equity dilution for that cash.

You are not likely to fund your business all the way to cash flow breakeven on the money you get from an accelerator program or winning a contest (although I'm sure someone has done it). Funding startups is like climbing the stairs. You have to go up the first stair to get to the second one. These kinds of events/programs can be a great first or second stair for an entrepreneur. It can give you the money (and connections) you need to get going and get somewhere and set yourself up for the next funding source. And we will continue next week with the next post in this series.

#MBA Mondays

NYC Big Apps Version 2.0

Last year NYC ran a mobile and web app developer contest called NYC Big Apps. I posted about it and was one of a number of judges. The city and the participating developers thought it was a successful effort and so NYC Big Apps is back for a second time.

Software developers will compete for $20,000 in cash prizes. The details are here. The application deadline is a month away on January 26th.

I'm hoping to see more mobile apps and especially more android apps. I'd also love to see mobile developers build apps that combine public data from the datamine and commercial APIs like those from our portfolio companies Foursquare,, and Twilio (and many others in and out of our portfolio like this one from Hunch).

In the past year, we've seen a lot happen in mobile apps and the open government movement. It will be interesting to see how all of these developments impact the apps that are submitted for judging next month. I'll post about this again once I see all the apps.


NYC BigApps Winners Announced

2010-02-04 20.07.36 I've posted about the NYC BigApps contest a few times here. And you all helped me with my chore of judging all 85 apps. Thank you for that.

Last night I walked up The Highline to IAC Headquarters to attend an event where the winners were announced. 

I also manned the "Investors Bar" where a number of fellow venture and angel investors sat and talked to the entrepreneurs in attendance. Kind of like the genius bar, but the geniuses were on the other side lining up to talk to us.

The winners were (cutting and pasting from the NY Times here):


WayFinder NYC: An application designed for smartphones powered by Google’s Android operating system allows users to find the closest subway entrance. It uses an approach known as augmented reality, overlaying subway line symbols on a live view through the phone’s camera.

Taxihack: Like Yelp for cabs, this Web tool allows people to post comments on individual taxis and their drivers via e-mail or Twitter.

Big Apple Ed: This Web-based guide offers detailed profiles, reviews and information about the city’s network of public schools.

NYC Way that offers a range of information for city residents and visitors, took home the “Popular Choice” award, determined by an online vote.


I use Wayfinder on my Google phone. It is a very cool app that combines mapping and augmented reality to get you to the nearest subway. I also really like Taxihack. You can email or twitter about your cab driver right from the cab.

Two other "apps" that I liked very much which got honorable mentions but no awards were Actuatr and Push Pin Web. These are both developer tools which make the often messy data from government agencies much easier to develop apps with. Better tools will lead to better apps.

I got to meet the teams behind ParkShark, PrimoSpot, Taxihack, NYC Way, UpNext, NYCPRO, HistoryBus, NYCSamosa, SpokesNYC, and a few more that I can't recall. It was a bit crazy at the Investor Bar last night.

I also came home with my android phone stocked full of mobile apps like PrimoSpot and Always Prompt, both of which I bought last night and am looking forward to using to help me with the daily grind.

Finally, I'd like to say that it was a thrill to see the mayor up there on stage with NYC entrepreneurs. He's the most successful tech entrepreneur in NYC but we don't see him very much in the tech scene. We need more role models, as I talked about here, and he's the best we've got in NYC. I hope he spends more time with us this term.

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#VC & Technology