On the Town
“Mr. Mayor, I know you’re wearing a suit on the outside. But this industry is all about hoodies, and I know based on who you are you’re a hoodie on the inside,” CEO Howard Lerman told Mike Bloomberg, presenting the mayor with his very own honorary pullover–Yext branded, of course.
As he took it, Mayor Bloomberg informed the shaggy entrepreneur that, “My mother would have said you needed a haircut.” A room full of techies held up their smartphones for a digital souvenir of the moment.
Sundancing in the Dark South by Southwest is basically right around the corner, but it seems several techies needed a break before March offers the excuse for a tax-deductible trip to Austin. Investor Scooter Braun is be there (for obvious reasons), as is VHX cofounder Casey Pugh, ABC News’s Maya Baratz, onetime Myspace prez Jason Hirschhorn, and Thrillist cofounder Ben Lerer. Judging from Mr. Lerer’s Instagram, Gary Vaynerchuk is also along for the ride.
Startups are taking advantage of the festival’s halo of hipness. The creatives at Kickstarter have devoted a page to Sundance entrants funded on the platform, and cofounder Yancey Strickler says he’ll be in attendance. Uber will be there–and handing out hot chocolate. “All you have to do is tap the Uber app and we will come wherever you are to deliver sweet salvation from the epic cold,” the company promises. Not to mention helping sooth the pain of Uber’s high fares.
On the Town
You get an iPad! And you get an iPad! BuzzFeed cofounder Jonah Peretti has certainly been in the celebrating mood this week (and for good reason). Emily Fleischaker, editor of BuzzFeed’s Food vertical, tweeted that Mr. Peretti handed out iPad Minis to the whole staff for meeting their traffic goal. (Paging the Betabeat boss!)
BuzzFeed also Instagrammed a photo of Mr. Peretti donning said shirt and drinking what appears to be a beer. YOLO, we suppose.
When Betabeat arrived downtown at a hulking brownstone bathed in red light with a double-digit Fifth Avenue address, there was already a line out the door. We were promptly assigned a pink wristband and told to head downstairs, where we discovered we’d be attending three classes over the course of the evening: Poker, music, and arts and crafts. So educational!
We’d arrived for the launch party of Experiences by GroupMe.* The company got its start with a group messaging service (which it parlayed into an $80 million acquisition by Skype) but recently expanded into the new group purchasing service, which allows numerous people to sign up for suggested events simultaneously and still split the bill.
The venue: the Salmagundi, an arts club founded in the mid-nineteenth century. GroupMe had conspired with event designer Adam Aleksander to send the service into the world in grand style. The suggested dress code was “elegant cocktail attire,” but budget Kardashian would have to do for this reporter.
Made in NYC
A little less than a year after being acquired by Skype for an estimated $80 million, GroupMe’s* founders Jared Hecht and Steve Martocci are still in startup mode. Today the company released “Experiences by GroupMe,” the biggest expansion beyond its core group messaging function.
The service, which was released to select New York users this morning, offers groups of friends a handpicked list of events like, say, a concert, dinner, or UCB improv showcase in Central Park. Each event comes with an “I want to do this” button and lets users create a landing page with a unique URL to recruit friends to sign up. Experiences then lets you split the bill–using standard Visa, Amex, and Mastercard options that won’t charge your card until all the spots have been reserved. Better still, GroupMe builds a group around the event for you to communicate with everyone who’s attending.
“We own the experience end-to-end,” Mr. Hecht told Betabeat over the phone.
GroupMe, the humble startup that went from hackathon to $85 million exit in less than two years, is now officially owned by Microsoft. But they’re still GroupMe from the block! The startup is offering a meet-and-greet through Sidetour, a TechStars startup trying to create a freelancer-powered activity market. “Talk Startups and Play Pinball With GroupMe” will set you back $20, which goes to benefit the HackNY startup internship program.
“We feel fantastic! It’s great. We feel very good about it, it’s a really great thing for us,” GroupMe co-founder Jared Hecht told Betabeat when we reached him this afternoon. Mr. Hecht sounded as polished and level-headed as usual, if not terribly articulate while co-founder Steve Martocci claimed to be recovering from last night’s celebratory karaoke. The pair were in the backseat of a taxi on the way to film an interview about the 16-month old group messaging start-up’s recently many-million dollar acquisition by Skype. “GroupMe and Skype as a whole is just a positive thing.”
When the news broke yesterday evening that Skype acquired hometown start-up GroupMe, New York’s digerati took the party to Twitter. Indeed the acquisition and its hefty price tag, which Betabeat’s sources pegged between $50 million and $100 million, caused such a stir among a certain swath of tech circles that “GroupMe” even made into a New York City Twitter trending topic last night–albeit below penetrating questions plaguing tweeters such as, “Chris Brown OR Justin Bieber.”
The deal was the first major exit for Lerer Ventures, Thrive Capital and BoxGroup’s David Tisch, so much of the tweeting action consisted of ebullient pats on the back. But a few notes of skepticism arose from the din. In case you were too busy watching Libyan rebels end a 40-year dictatorship, here’s what you missed.
Welcome to New Fit City
Betabeat pulled an all-nighter in midtown last night. First a quick roll at the Renzo Gracie’s academy, then back to the office for a dinner of street meat, change into our game face, and off to the Hudson Hotel at West 58th for GroupMe’s one year anniversary party.
The first person we recognized entering the cavernous basement space was GroupMe co-founder Steve Martocci. Happy anniversary, brah.
“Dude, you like Talking Heads?”
“We got this Talking Heads cover band, just finished their first set. They’re amazing.” Never forget, GroupMe was inspired by Martocci’s troubles communicating with his friends and fellow fans who were following the Disco Biscuits around on tour.
The circle widened to reveal two of New York media’s eligible free agents chatting it up. “You want a drink,” offered bachelor # 18, TechCrunch’s Jason Kincaid, the smell of sweet California sun still lingering around the newly-minted New Yorker. “Yes please,” replied bachelorette number #25, Megan McCarthy, who left San Fran a few months before Mr. Kincaid to run MediaGazer.
When GroupMe co-founder Steve Martocci threw out his desk chair for a Bosu ball to lose “the founder fifteen,” we had an inkling it was only the beginning. After all, at least some of those early Fitocracy adopters had to be coming from inside the tech scene. Then we found out Michael Galpert–Aviary’s own, personal self-quantifying fiend–was trying to foster (healthy!) competition in the workplace through a shared employee database measuring weight loss down to the pound.
But ff Venture Captial partner David Teten has really gone and done it. He emailed Betabeat to let us know that that ff’s new ergonomically-optimized 5,000 sq. ft. office space on 6th Avenue can basically tell GroupMe’s single Bosu ball can suck it, although not in so many words.