I thought my days of going to the library at 7 p.m. on a Tuesday were over when I graduated. But at least last night when I left the packed Martin Luther King Jr. Library in Chinatown, I could truthfully say I enjoyed my time there. That, of course, is because I was one of 600-plus attending the 24th rendition of DC Tech Meetup.
Featuring the demos of 12 innovative startups in the D.C. hub – some just starting to crawl with great ideas and others sprinting away with revenue-backed viable products – the meetup gave entrepreneurs an open forum to lure in potential customers, network with others in the tech field and sell their vision to investors. More importantly, though, DC Tech Meetup #24 was a showcase of ingenuity and mental brawn in our strengthening tech hub.
Each of the dozen companies had a fantastic demo – from an online platform for socially trading and selling rare sneakers to a Duolingo rival, all of the startups from last night are worth checking out. But like in any group of anything, certain ones will stand out more than others. Such was the case with the demo night meetup.
You’ve probably already heard of Optoro, the startup that focuses on providing software to assist retailers in increasing revenue by liquidating overstocked and returned merchandise. Lately they’ve been absolutely killing it, and last night co-founder Adam Vitarello and CTO Josh Szmajda wooed the crowd without trying very hard. After ironically listing off various convoluted tech jargony terms, Vitarello joked, “Just kidding. We’re in real world solutions… in the sexy reverse logistics space.” This kind of lighthearted, sarcastic and disinterested humor continued as the Optoro crew explained how their software saves huge retailers tons of money keeping items that get lost in the middle from going to waste. While Optoro helps companies do so through their own platforms, the startup has its own proprietary website – blinq.com – for selling damaged or returned goods. Their next step is to make Blinq like the Carmax of this secondary market.
This next one, you just had to see – or hear – in person. Playing off the flashmob fad, SpeakerBlast uses a website to broadcast the same audio across multiple devices at the same exact time. “It’s basically an alarm clock,” founder Ryan Spahn said as he created a link for audience members to access that would begin playing Beethoven’s 5th Symphony at precisely 8:15 p.m. While waiting for that time to come, an audience member asked how he came up with the idea? “I was watching the Harlem Shake and people were dancing to nothing,” he answered. Moments later, phones began jingling: dun-dun-dun-duh! Throughout the room the classical music played like surround sound assembled from iPhones. That, though, is SpeakerBlast’s only downfall: currently it only works on iPhone and on the web.
We’ve written about D.C.’s future of the timepiece before. And it’s hard not to get behind it. With such a well-thought-out pitch and product, Eone (meant as a play on the word “everyone”) founder Hyungsoo Kim’s Bradley wristwatch is not only nice too look at, but also revolutionary for those who can’t. That’s right: it’s a timepiece – not a “watch” – for the blind that everyone else likes to wear. As the company’s slogan goes: “Because telling time shouldn’t require sight.” Named after ex-Naval Officer Brad Snyder who lost his vision in Afghanistan in 2011 before going on to become a 2012 Paralympic champion, the Bradley uses ball bearings and hour-based notches that can both be felt and seen in order to tell time. So even if you have 20-20 vision, it might be rude to look at your watch during a meeting; but with the Bradley, you can casually feel what time it is.
Again, these are just a few of the dozen great companies that made DC Tech Meetup #24 such a great time. Make sure you give them all a solid look and keep on supporting the DC Tech community.
[image via DC Tech Meetup]