AlleyWatch, the largest organization focused on NYC Tech, celebrates the work of these 50 individuals that serve as a catalyst for innovation within the NYC Tech ecosystem.
MEET THE 2019 NYC TECH INFLUENCERS
NYC is a town built on industry and the enterprise. And the major catalysts for the enterprise ecosystem has no doubt been Work-Bench and Jessica Lin. Lin, a Harvard graduate and Cisco alum, co-founded Work-Bench in 2014 with past Alleywatch NYC Tech Influencers honoree, Jonathan Lehr. Under Lin's leadership, Work-Bench serves as the connective tissue between Fortune 500 technologists and entrepreneurs, hosting over 200+ events a year. The Flatiron-based firm invests in companies that are redefining the future of work, the future of teams, and the innovators that are applying analytics, security, machine learning, and AI to enterprise solutions.
Currently investing out of Fund II, which closed at $47M in 2018 (Fund I was $10M), Work-Bench with Lin at the helm has made investments in over twenty-five companies including six exits ñ True Office, Ravel, CoreOS, Versive, Kensho, and Oration.
Passionate about workforce development, diversity, and education, Lin launched Work-Bench's Navigate Women in Enterprise Tech Summit and the Founder of Enterprise Startups (Who are Women) Database. She is also an advisor to the New Media Tech program at LaGuardia Community College and has served as a longtime GED Instructor.
There's a proven link between effective leadership and getting enough sleep and Dr. Assaf Glazer, the cofounder and CEO of Nanit, is on a mission to solve the mystery of sleep, starting with your kids. Nanit uses computer vision and machine learning in its sophisticated baby monitor to better understand and analyze your baby's behavior throughout the night. On average, parents lose 44 days worth of sleep in the first year of a baby's life.
Glazer, a native of Israel, previously worked with defense systems and image classification in the semiconductor industry before pursuing his Ph.D. He launched Nanit while completing his Postdoctorate as a part of the Jacob Institute Runaway Program at Cornell Tech, in one of its first programs. Nanit has gone on to raise slightly under $30M in funding over three rounds and is backed by prominent investors that include RRE Ventures, Upfront Ventures, and 645 Ventures.
While Nanit may be now be focused on improving sleep for babies and accordingly, their parents, the deep technology stack is powerful enough that one day the same technology can be applied to adults. For now, every sleep-deprived founder in New York with kids could use a Nanit.
Eating healthier requires a commitment and more often than not we end up sacrificing maintaining our diets for convenience and in the interest of time. Our demanding schedules just do not allow for us to dedicate the time to meal prep, recipe plan, and cook with any sort of regularity. Rachel Drori, the founder of Daily Harvest, has solved this problem through the startup's frozen, nutritious, and organic meal service.
Started out of her own personal need, Drori would spend Sundays freezing and bagging vegetables and fruits so that she'd be ready to make healthy smoothies on the go during the work week. Seeing that this need existed for others she took up space in a commercial kitchen in Long Island City and began delivering the product herself to customers in the early days of Daily Harvest.
With a background in consumer-centric brands in hospitality (Jetsetter, Gilt Groupe) and marketing (American Express), Drori has successfully expanded Daily Harvest's offering and customer base. The subscription service now has over 100K customers and now offers smoothies, bowls, soups, and lattes. All of Daily Harvest's meals are now designed by certified nutritionists and Michelin-trained chefs. Every ingredient that's used is sourced from an organic farm and frozen at its ripest stage, locking in nutrients. All the meals are gluten-free and vegan; most are paleo-friendly.
The company closed $43M in funding in late 2017 and backers that include Lightspeed Venture Partners, chef Bobby Flay, Olympian Shaun White, M13, Rubicon Venture Capital, and Collaborative Fund. Through Daily Harvest's unique offering, Drori has successfully changed the way we view frozen food, which used to mean something unhealthy that came in a box that's been sitting on a freezer shelf for months.
If you've registered for an event recently, you've probably used Splash, the venture-backed event marketing automation platform cofounded by Ben Hindman in 2012. On the front end, its CMS platform allows event producers and brands to provide modern, crisp event landing pages and registration sites with a few clicks with a focus on UI driven by Hindman's self-admitted obsession with experience. But behind the hood is where the magic happens.
In an increasingly digital world, brands find that hosting events to form in person connections still has a place within their marketing mix but traditionally have had a problem measuring attribution and ROI. Splash changes that by allowing brands to go from blindly hosting and sponsoring events to utilizing an end-to-end events management platform that allows them to automate, measure, and track their event marketing efforts across multiple touchpoints. With Hindman at the helm, the platform has powered more than 700,000 events and the Chelsea-based startup has worked with half of the Fortune 500 on events.
Through his work at Splash, Hindman is a recognized thought leader in the event marketing technology world. A graduate of Vanderbilt University, he started his career running events for Thrillist.
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NYC is one of the most diverse places on the planet but you wouldn't always know that by taking a look at the tech scene. Jukay Hsu and his team at Pursuit, which was previously known as the Coalition for Queens (the company's focus has expanded beyond Queens), are ensuring that the tech workforce in the city is reflective of the city's residents. Pursuit operates a four-year intensive workforce development program to get underrepresented groups positions at leading employers within the city including BuzzFeed, Managed by Q, Uber, IBM, Kickstarter, JP Morgan Chase, and BlackRock. Since 2011, graduates of the programs have seen their incomes increase on average to $85,000 from $18,000.
Hsu, an immigrant from Taiwan, Iraqi War veteran, and Harvard graduate, designed the program initially to have no costs to the student, rather relying on corporate support. The model has now transitioned into an income sharing agreement where the student will pay back 12% of their salary for a period of three years if their incomes exceed $60K per year. This stream is packaged and sold to investors in the form of a Pursuit Bond.
Pursuit will graduate in 216 engineers in 2019 alone and the company is just getting started. While a non-profit, Pursuit under Hsu's leadership is operating with the ambition and traction of the most prolific for-profit startups.
A longtime resident of Queens, Hsu is extremely active in the community and has served as Board of Directors of Stuyvesant High School, a Trustee for the Queens Library, on the Mayor's Transition Team, and on the Board of Directors of NYC & Company. Currently, he sits on the Jobs for New Yorkers Task Force, serves as the Vice Chair of the Board of Directors of the Friends of Brooklyn Queens Connector, and on the Board of Directors of the NYC Water Board.
Beth Ferreira is both an experienced operator and investor who started her venture career alongside NYC Tech Influencers Past Honoree Fred Wilson and Jerry Colonna. But not at the firm you are thinking of ñ Union Square Ventures. Before Union Square Ventures, Wilson and Colonna were investing out of a firm called Flatiron Partners where Ferreira had a first-row seat into both the dot com boom and subsequent crash. She left venture for business school at Wharton, followed by a stint in management consulting at BCG.
Ferreira knew she wanted to return to the world of investing but thought it would be helpful to gain some operating experience. She joined Etsy in its earliest days, and while she was there the business really began to pick up steam, giving Ferreira exposure to many key facets of scaling a business. Post Etsy, she joined Fab, in its days of infancy, leading it to a similar growth trajectory. After Fab, she returned to her venture roots, by joining and helping to formally launch WME Ventures, a $50M fund that's unlike a traditional CVC, as it accepts outside LPs.
While at WME, Ferreira led the firm's investments in recognizable NYC startups like Glossier, Warby Parker, Viyet, and Daily Harvest. She jumped ship and joined Firstmark Capital, one of the preeminent NYC VC firms, in 2017 to focus on nextgen commerce, consumer tech, and the enterprise. At Firstmark, she has already led the firm's investment in Justworks and Tommy John.
Outside of her professional responsibilities, Ferreira has served an advisor to several NYC startups (Birchbox, JOOR, Nestio) and is active with Parity Partners' P3 program. Her breadth of experience both as an operating and investors makes her one of the most connected people in New York Tech.
Access to computer science education means access to the future. No one knows this better than Maurya Couvares, the cofounder and CEO of Code Nation. CodeNation is a non-profit that is focused on providing access to computer education to under-resourced high school. Couvares began her career as a middle school educator in Philadelphia and then spent six years working to establish partnerships in pro bono law with high schools. When she needed to learn how to code for work, she was inspired to start Code Nation.
Launched in 2012, Code Nation now provides tuition-free computer science courses to high school students. In 2018, the company trained more than 1200+ students, preparing them for a career in tech. The courses are taught by volunteer software developers from some of the most prominent technology companies including Google, Etsy, and Salesforce. The company also facilitates paid internships at these companies for the students. Since its launch, Couvares has been able to ink partnerships with over two hundred companies.
CodeNation has scaled to expand its offering outside of New York and now operates in the Bay Area, supported by a team of thirty-five with plans to expand to Chicago in 2019. Couvares has built Code Nation to be extremely data-driven, unlike most non-profits, and the data is showing the power of the platform. 74% of reported alumni who completed two or more years of Code Nation programs are currently majoring or employed in a STEM field. 63% are studying or working in Computer Science.
As we move into a world where access to computer science will become a prerequisite rather than a nice-to-have, Maurya Couvares is ensuring that students in under-resourced communities are not left behind.
Rich Fulop is the cofounder and CEO of Brooklinen, the Brooklyn-based direct-to-consumer bedding startup. Fulop, the son of Romanian immigrants, launched Brooklinen with his wife Vicki in 2012 after a trip to Vegas, where the couple was mesmerized by the bedding during their stay at the Wynn. They sought out to purchase the same sheets but were dismayed at the expense. They saw an opportunity and spent the greater portion of a year learning everything they could about the industry and manufacturing.
Launching on Kickstarter in 2014 while Fulop was pursuing his MBA at NYU, Brooklinen raised ~$237K, blowing pasts its $50K goal. The company bootstrapped the business, built a brand that was extremely customer-focused, and waited until 2017 to raise its first institutional round led by FirstMark.
Today, Brooklinen has become synonymous with luxury bedding at a reasonable price point and its ads are seen all over the city including in the subway. The company is reported to have done over $50M in revenue in 2018.
New York has been heralded as one of the best places for women to start a business and the percentage of NYC women founders raising capital has increased significantly over the last few years. One of the main driving forces for this is Sutian Dong and Female Founders Fund (F3).
Dong joined Female Founders Fund in 2014 after spending five years at Firstmark Capital, one of the preeminent venture funds in the city. While at Firstmark, the firm invested in Shopify, Pinterest, NewsCred, Tapad, and InVision. She started her career in marketing in fashion and finance. A graduate of NYU and native of Texas, Dong and her partner at F3, Anu Duggal, have invested in over thirty-five female-founded companies including investments in Maven, Sawyer, Billie, Rent the Runway, Viyet, Thrive Global, WayUp, Zola, and Eloquii.
Female Founders Fund is the largest institutional female-focused venture capital in New York, now managing in excess of $30M across two funds. Many of the firm's latest fund's backers include the most prominent women in tech including Melinda Gates, Reshma Saujani, Whitney Wolfe Herd, Hayley Barna, Jenny Fleiss, and Katrina Lake. This network has also been instrumental in supporting female founders through the 40-50 events a year F3 hosts for portfolio founders, bringing together notable leaders in tech and industry with the next generation of female tech leaders.
New York Startup Lab empowers entrepreneurs and startups with the technology and expertise needed to get their businesses to prototype level and beyond. The knowledge-based teams at NYSL offer a value proposition far beyond coding.LEARN MORE