The Communitech contingent of HYPERDRIVE Cohort 2 companies continued to feel the love from New York City on Wednesday, as they moved about some of the hottest of Manhattan’s tech hot spots.
Blissfully ignorant of the lousy weather back home, they stepped onto sunny sidewalks amid balmy spring breezes and headed down Broadway to General Assembly, a bright space where thinkers become creators through education in tech, business and design.
GA provides space to select Canadian companies through the Canadian Technology Accelerator (CTA) run by the Consulate General of Canada in New York.
After a quick tour, the group headed to to the SoHo offices of Sailthru, whose software measures consumer behaviour online, to hear from Michael Hershfield, the company’s VP of business development.
Hershfield, an expat Canadian, focused his advice on how companies need to adjust their hiring practices as they scale, since the right people for a startup aren’t necessarily the right people to carry a company through growth.
“I’m around for Canada,” Hershfield told the group, offering to provide further advice and make introductions for Canadian startups looking to do business in New York.
Next stop was right across the street at WeWork Labs, a spacious, sunwashed facility (equipped with beer taps) in an old building where more than 250 entrepreneurs work at open desks and in offices of two to nine people.
The first speaker was Dan Sennet, director of operations at casual games maker Arkadium, who studied at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo and worked in Toronto before he followed love to New York in late 2006.
Sennet said he became a mentor for the CTA in 2011 and helped a Toronto-based gaming company make connections in New York, a relationship that also benefited Arkadium in its efforts to make gains in Toronto.
These benefits underscore the importance of tech companies taking advantage of opportunities in other cities, as it invariably helps their home communities to develop expanded networks.
“There are going to be people in this room who will want to raise money, and there’s a network of people I can introduce you to,” Sennet said. “There are people who want to just to hire a group of people really quickly. Same thing; the idea of the CTA relationship is to put you in touch with the right people.”
Sennet said startups’ chances of success are “above average if you work with the CTA, so mine that resource as much as you can while you’re here.”
Jeff Namnum, a social marketer, spoke next, and focused on three main areas: “Bullshit, seduction and paper airplanes.”
The first refers to marketing efforts that focus heavily on data to the exclusion of actual people.
“There’s a lot of data, and without some framework around which to understand that data, the data ends up being as good as having no data at all,” Namnum said. “If you’re not focusing on selling to a human being, in my opinion, your strategy is likely bullshit.”
Moving on to seduction, Namnum stressed the importance of knowing who your target audience is, and of putting in the time necessary to build a relationship.
Likening the process to trying to get close to one’s partner, he said, “If I want an enjoyable evening, I start in the morning,” with a series of words and gestures that lasts throughout the day to win his beloved’s affections at night.
The paper airplanes came in at the end of his talk, after he gave audience members a task involving drawing on paper. The sheets were turned into planes, and the winner was whomever built the one that flew farthest.
The day wrapped up with a presentation from Scott Britton, a young star on the New York tech scene who works in business development for SinglePlatform, which was acquired by Constant Contact for $100 million last year.
Britton shared some highly nuanced tips on how startup entrepreneurs can land meetings with potential investors or clients, by using web networks such as LinkedIn and carefully worded, soft-sell appeals for help from connections.
Their knowledge stores fully recharged after a full day, HYPERDRIVE entrepreneurs continued on to further meetings or to enjoy some downtime. Some took in the New York Rangers-Toronto Maple Leafs game at Madison Square Garden, which the Rangers took in a shootout.