Blog at Demo Day

By David Carroll, Co-Founder/CEO of and Associate Professor at Parsons

We’ve been living a “Made in NY” story since the summer of 2013 when we were matched up with the Hearst Corporation as a small team of faculty and graduate students in the very first batch of NYC Media Lab Open Seed projects. There we were, deeply embedded in one of NYC’s classiest and most-enlightened media companies for an intensive three-week sprint to identify pain-points of the magazine publishing industry as they continue to grapple with a transition to digital. Charged with innovating around the immense value of Hearst’s digital content library using its new API, we came up with the idea of a visual and relational media exploration toolkit, first as a paper prototype and quickly wired up a highly functional web prototype delivering a first glimpse into a freeform visual content discovery platform. The response was so positive presenting to C-level executives at Hearst and shortly thereafter for the NYC Media Lab membership at the Annual Summit, we quickly realized our side-project was turning into a startup whether we were ready for it or not.

Fast forward to the following summer when The New School conferred MFA Design and Technology degrees from Parsons to the would-be co-founders of, Justin Charles, Jorge Proaño, and Alex Samuel. Finally able to spin off our research into a commercial endeavor (as poaching graduate students from one’s own graduate program might be the ultimate academic entrepreneuring faux pas), we incorporated and went shopping for a co-working incubator to get serious and go full-throttle on rebuilding our crazy idea into a real product. Choosing the Made in NY Media Center by IFP was easy for us, not only because it felt like a natural extension of our origination at the NYC Media Lab (both the Lab and Center are NYCEDC initiatives), but also because the diverse community of the NY Media Center evoked a parallel community at The New School and Parsons, our alma mater. The mix of media makers, non-profits, and tech entrepreneurs, all with a unifying spirit of storytelling and social change meant that we didn’t have to give up our core values and join a homogenous startup factory where the diversity of people and ideas is frustratingly limited.

Fortuitously we were eligible to apply for the NY Media Center’s Demo Day program and benefit from an opportunity to work with mentors and hone our pitch to a VIP audience. Matched up with founder and CEO of Red Antler, JB Osborne, the degrees of separation were coming into focus as his firm was behind the splendid branding of the NYC Media Lab, spotlighting how his agency is geared toward fledgling entities asserting an aspirational identity. He invited us to present our very early concepts and wireframes for our next generation product to members of his stellar team. We gained insights and feedback from Red Antler that helped shape our early thinking into how to rebuild our platform from the ground-up toward the robust and engaging user experience it needs to become. The NY Media Center also matched us with attorneys from KG Law, Andrew Gerber and Jordan Fletcher, to mentor us on how to grapple with the focus and message of our pitch, thanks to their experience working with early stage tech startups here in New York City.

After losing track of the iteration count on our pitch deck revisions, and making quantum leap progress on our all-new beta platform, we were ready for the big day in the NY Media Center theater to unveil our big-picture strategy and our big-idea platform to a packed house of investors and industry heavyweights. It was an early test of entrepreneurial tenacity but we made it to Demo Day because we’re made in NY.