Tech stocks may be plummeting, but aspiring entrepreneurs have not been deterred. Three of them showcased their newest developments Tuesday to an audience of digital enthusiasts at the monthly Tech Breakfast Expo at the Microsoft building in Times Square.
Around a hundred budding technologists and potential investors gathered for an hour and a half to exchange ideas and give feedback. The free event, which included breakfast and was open to the public, was sponsored by several companies and law firms, including DLA Piper and Eisenberg.
One presenter, Daniela Kirsch, the CEO of NameFace, a website that uses a face recognition algorithm to help photographers identify celebrities in pictures, is optimistic about the industry’s resilience. The “very best products will always rise to the top,” she said.
Kirsch hopes NameFace will be one of them. The service compares images uploaded by photographers to a database of stored content. It generates a list of names, ranks the probability that they are a match and cross checks through a search of Google images. Steve Eichner, a cofounder of the company and former nightlife photographer, claimed the technology solves a problem “photographers have been talking about for years.”
JingJing Tian, founder of HeyU, presented a new dating app that marries elements of popular platforms like Snapchat and Vine with a geographic matching system to connect singles. The app allows users to upload videos of up to fifteen seconds to show off their quirks and personalities. “Our target market is the inner nerd who just wants to be accepted for who they are,” said Tian. “We want to bring a sense of surprise and interest to online dating and remove the anonymity, which dictates online behavior.”
Pressed by host Ron Schmelzer, Tian did concede that currently the app cannot monitor the content submitted by users and relies on a peer-notification system to flag obscenities. But she expressed a hope that the finished product would include some kind of facial recognition system to make sure “there is a face in the video versus something else.”
Despite the networking opportunities, barely a third of the three hundred slots available online were filled. The economic climate may be one factor for the lean turnout, given the tech industry’s anxiety about the prospect of a crash similar to the dot-com collapse of 2000. Last week, the value of business networking site LinkedIn fell by more than $9 billion, which created a negative ripple effect on the stock exchange with share prices of Amazon, Twitter and Facebook all taking a dive.
Still, the entrepreneurs who demonstrated their products at the event believe that the best technology will always generate value.
Payam Safa, CEO of BellHop, closed the event with a demonstration of Bellhop, a concierge app geared towards Airbnb customers. The location-based app allows travelers to book restaurants, entertainment, hotels and transportation on the same platform. Safa aims to make BellHop work identically in all countries where it is used. The app, which has partnered with Uber, Viator, Resy and other companies, earns a percentage of the fee paid to local service providers. “The problem we’re solving is that as a foreigner you’re just inherently unfamiliar,” with a particular destination, said Safa. “We’re taking the concierge service you would normally get in a hotel and making that available to anybody.”
The formal program concluded with prospective employers announcing they were hiring, which made the applause at the end much louder than in the beginning.