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Startup meet:  blatant favoritism
By Shalini Singh

New York Meetups in USA is one of the highlights of the local tech community.  New York Meetups started in 2004 and has organized about 50 meets where individuals and startups get an opportunity to pitch to the affluent, savvy tech community.  This is a wonderful chance for startups to pitch for funds and alliances. It seems some people are favored over others.

How does it work?  New York Meetups hires a venue as well as 5-7 individuals/startups that get on stage for 5 minutes to pitch their ideas.  Because these events are quite popular, even the 400 hundred people who attend pay $10 each.  New York Meetups is a good idea and is profitable for the organizers as well.

In theory,  any individual/startup who wants an opportunity to pitch leaves a business plan on the New York Meetups message board which is then evaluated for selection (or not).  This is where things get a bit fuzzy.

In reality, a few friends and sponsors get preferential treatment

New York blogger and consultant Allen Stern has just written an article about how the latest NY Tech Meetup had no open, transparent way of selecting startups which eventually presented on stage.  NY Tech Meetup has an associated 'Friends of Meetup' which seems to have an edge of other applicants.

At the meeting this week, New York Meetups CEO Scott Heiferman made a cryptic announcement that he has a relationship with two of the companies who were presenting namely 'Iminlikewithyou' and 'Familybuilder'.

Journalist Allen Stern then lists personal and professional equations between the organizers of New York Meetups and a number of presenters who got preferential treatment. Some of the presenters did not even bother to list their business on the New York Meetups message board, but got a chance to present on stage anyway.  In at least one case, one of the organizers worked in another company which was allowed to demo their product.

As our experience in Indian politics, business and other field’s shows, any personal equations and resulting preferential treatment are detrimental to the entire startup industry.  Merit should be the only criterion.  In saying that, one has to commend most Indian startup meets as they are relatively unbiased.  The jurors are eminent people in the Indian business and startup world and their details are published in the website.

It would be interesting to see if the organizers of New York Meetups invite blogger Allen Stern again to report on their event.  Sometimes truth is unpalatable.


(10/9/2008)
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