#NJTech Meetup 44 with Vinnie Bharara

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Pizza, beer, startups, guest speakers. Hmm. what’s not to like?

Welcome to 2014 and the first NJ Tech Meetup of the year. I’ve written before that this meetup is a personal favorite and the Thursday 1/9/14 gathering lived up to the usual high standard. Startups included Mommies 247, Stantt and Pijon Box. The evening’s guest speaker was Vinnie Bharara, co-founder of Quidsi.

Aaron Price

Aaron Price laying down the law. A ripple of fear runs through the crowd

The founder, organizer and ringleader for the meetup is Aaron Price. The man is a huge cheerleader for tech in Hoboken and New Jersey. He runs this group like a machine which is probably why it is always awesome and sold out. After his opening comments and quick pitches and requests from the crowd it was time to hear some startup presentations.

Mommies taking over the world

Mommies taking over the world

First up was Mommies 24/7. They started as Hoboken Mommies as a way to get moms together online and in real life. “What if Facebook and Meetup had a baby?” is how they position themselves. They’re currently reaching beyond the borders of Hoboken and have a plan for mommy content world domination.

Say goodbye to small, medium and large

Say goodbye to small, medium and large

Next up, Stantt has a serious goal of ridding the globe of small, medium and large (please be gentle with extra large). They make custom fit clothing for men using data and technology. They boast of over 50 size combinations guaranteeing you a perfect fit. While they import the fabric, their clothing is made right here in the USA.

Please don't feed the Pijon, the Pijon feeds you

Please don’t feed the Pijon, the Pijon feeds you

Finally, Pijon Box aims to dominate the college care package industry with their monthly subscription boxes of goodies. These boxes are specifically designed and curated with college students in mind. You can customize for men or women. Plus, there is a social good component and Pijon gives back with every box sold.

Now on to the main event. Vinnie Bharara is the co-founder of Quidsi, an e-commerce company and parent of diapers.com, soap.com, wag.com and more. They sold to Amazon a couple of years back for $545 million. He recently stepped away from Quidsi and is currently plotting his next move.

Powerpoint? We don't need no stinkin' powerpoint!

Powerpoint? We don’t need no stinkin’ powerpoint!

Rather than the usual powerpoint typical of the guest speakers, Vinnie just talked without visual aid. He spoke about entrepreneurship, bootstrapping, company culture, customer service, kindness and rigorously standing by your organization’s core values. He quoted Maya Angelou to prove his point about Quidsi’s mission “to inspire passion in our customers.”

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou

What impressed me was how deeply he seemed to hold the company’s values and truly live them personally and professionally. Having made a recent purchase at diapers.com, I was incredibly impressed with the price, ease of purchase and overall service. It was obvious his passion for excellent customer service and belief in the core tenets were integral to Quidsi’s success.

The final highlight of the evening was the telephone vote for best startup presentation. After using their mobiles to answer questions about the startups and earn points, the crowd cast their ballots. All three companies gave smart pitches. All had compelling stories. Who would win? Both the glory of victory and a beat up hand-me-down trophy hung in the balance.

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The Pijon Box crew revels in the glory of victory. (photo by Dominic Rivera)

And the winner was…Pijon Box. Congratulations!

Next month’s meetup is the daylong NJ Spark Summit on Tuesday, February 25th. You can find the details here.

PSFK Goes Home to the Future

It seems oddly fitting that I am writing about the home of tomorrow from a home of the past. Roughly 50 miles from PSFK’s Future of Home Living Experience, I am spending a few nights in a tent pondering the home of the future as well as the massive transformations that have shaped the home of the present. The 100 degree temperature, soupy humidity and bloodthirsty mosquitoes have me yearning (possibly begging) for the basics we take for granted – windows, indoor plumbing, air conditioning and electricity.

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PSFK has taken on the challenge of defining the trends in furniture, gadgets, electronics, apps and design that will shape and define The Future of Home Living. In an airy 5,000 square foot space at the corner of Sixth Avenue and 15th Street in New York, PSFK has created an interactive exhibit showcasing dozens of remarkable products and experiences.

I had an opportunity to attend a preview walk though in the space. While they were still putting the final touches on the exhibit (which opens on Monday 7/23 and runs through Friday 8/16), the space is bright, open and inviting. It is loosely divided into areas dedicated to each part of an apartment or house. Living room, kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and more, showcasing the interconnected, environmentally friendly, super-convenient house of the future. PSFK’s founder Piers Fawkes and Director of Consulting Scott Lachut gave an energetic in-depth tour and thoughtfully answered questions about the gleaming products on display.

The three broad themes running throughout the exhibit are Adaptive, On-Demand and Equilibrium.

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The Thin Bike solves bike storage for the apartment dweller

Adaptive focuses on customizable solutions for multiple uses in small spaces. The Thin Bike, Peg Furniture System and ZIG Sofa are three examples of products that can work in tighter living spaces providing maximum flexibility.

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WunWun crowdsources personal tasks and odd jobs

On-Demand centers on the networked home and the ability to outsource chores and errands. GetUpArt Service, WunWun and Hello Fresh Delivery are ultra-convenient services that maximize leisure time.

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Aquafarm brings fish and fresh herbs to your countertop

Equilibrium is all about balance in a chaotic world. The Dezibel Floor Screen, Aquafarm and HAPIfork are all products that help us lead a quieter, more environmentally-friendly and healthier life.

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Oru Kayak folds up for the urban kayaker

From the hydroponic plant system in the window to the folding kayak and wireless/3D everything, the exhibit only disappoints in its focus on gadgets rather than the big-picture thinking for which PSFK is known. Their report on The Future of Work was revelatory. It showed how we will communicate, collaborate and innovate in the future. PSFK provided not only a blueprint for the the workspace of the future, but a clear road map for how we will get there.

I wanted the same depth and immersive thought applied to the hows and whys of home living in the future. What will be the transformative technologies and forces that redefine our living spaces? However, the Future of Home Living Experience is still a fascinating look at some incredible technology and services that will make our lives better, healthier and more balanced.

If you are interested you can sign up for the exhibit here. And please, let me know what you think.