Dispatches

Letters from Jersey: The Hoboken Tech Meetup

The Hoboken Tech Meetup features printed name tags, sandwiches and soft drinks, public humiliation for anyone who RSVPs but doesn’t show, and a more-or-less prompt start time of 6:30 (there’s only so much discipline that can be imposed on people, and we have to get to Hoboken). On Monday, the featured speaker was Craig Kanarick.

Mr. Kanarick was once one of the Silicon Alley dot-com kings; he co-founded Razorfish, one of the first large agencies to make websites for major brands. Razorfish grew from two employees to more than 2,000 and its share price doubled on the day it IPO’ed. Two years later, the company’s value had dropped from $4 billion to $8 million and Mr. Kanarick started working as a prep cook.

“When the business was failing, and all we were talking about was who we were going to fire tomorrow, I would look across the street and see the chefs in their toques taking a cigarette break,” he said. “I thought, I should be over there learning how to make soup instead of decided who I was going to make cry today.” He interned at the Institute Babbo across from his former office for nine months.

It would have been interesting to go to the 1999 equivalent of the Hoboken Tech Meetup. The members are dedicated–no wantrepreneurs here–and leader Aaron Price, a spectacled and fastidious self-starter punctuated by a pair of plaid TOMS, curates a careful lineup of speakers and demos to talk in the lecture room at Stevens Institute of Technology. This was the tenth such Meetup. The internet is slow and the start-ups represented by the audience are a little 2008. Most businesses Betabeat encountered were web-based, not mobile, and there was no location-based anything!

But that may not be a bad thing, because it means the Jersey entrepreneurs are well outside the Union Square groupthink. All the presenting companies chosen by Mr. Price had precise business models, none of which relied on advertising. The New York City start-ups Honestly Now relies on referrals to small business professionals. City-based Dealery is a daily deal curator that also does its own daily deals and Jersey-based Takeoff, a collaborative video editing service, will be a paid service.

The outpost gathering is also more intimate than its city counterpart. “New York Tech Meetup is just too huge,” one attendee said.

Mr. Kanarick’s Powerpoint was not actually about his own dot-com hell. He talked about the history of marketing and the state of tech today (it’s Global, Social, Mobile, Digital, Live, Immersive and Integrated) with some inspirational aphorisms for entrepreneurs thrown in. “Who picked out their outfit this morning?” he asked the audience of 70 or so. We all raised our hands. “You’re all designers. You all designed an interface.” He indicated his dark grey blazer and jeans. He recommended we read Delivering Happiness by Zappo’s CEO Tony Hsieh.

Afterward, the Jersey entrepreneurs repaired to a nearby pub where we discussed Foursquare and whether it would be possible or enjoyable to live without a cell phone for a year. Mr. Price told Betabeat about an encounter with New York City entrepreneurs. “I capitalize on the fact that you guys ignore New Jersey,” he said.

Follow Adrianne Jeffries on Twitter or via RSS. ajeffries@observer.com

Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Re: the Hoboken tech scene in 1999, people forget that Jersey City was pretty much the world capital of online brokerage in the 90s, thanks to Pershing/DLJ, Checkfree and a handful of startups.

  2. Mike Howard says:

    Great article. Man your vocabulary is killer (but not overly so…lol)

    re: “not mobile, and no location-based anything” –
    – how about the mobile based voting that blew the socks off our speaker Craig (and me)
    – Or all the people that checked in to the event via FourSquare – http://4sq.com/gbX5jI
    – but i agree, we could use some more mobile startups….they have presented at a few previous meet ups though….make sure you come to the next one :)

    just bustin chops. great read Ms. Jeffries

  3. Mark Birch says:

    One of the best meetups organized anywhere in NYC. Though I could not attend this one, I have been a big supporter of HTM and in particular Aaron Price. It is awesome to see NJ getting into the game with a real start-up tech scene.