Fashion and technology meet on the runway

November 17th, 2011 by Caroline Scheinfeld View Comments

Tonight, stilettos will dig their heels into the Silicon Alley scene at the Raise Cache fashion show presented by Rapture Ventures. The brainchild of Rebecca Zhou and Kane Sarhan, Raise Cache is a celebration of the existing/growing camaraderie in the NY Tech/fashion Startup Scene. The benefit fashion show aims to stimulate NYC entrepreneurship as well as encourage the next generation of innovators to stay in the big apple. Over 75 companies including tech startups, large corporations and venture firms (Zelkova), have joined forces in hopes to raise $100,000 for HackNY. A program organized by NYU and Columbia University faculty, HackNY strives to promote student technologists in NYC. In other words, HackNY promotes the NY tech scene as it aims to federate the next generation of hackers for the New York innovation community.

Rebecca and Kane might forgo sleep this week, which will result in an undoubtedly successful fashion show consisting of an open bar, dj, gift bags, raffles and prizes! The models and stylish garb strutting down the runway illustrate the merge between fashion and technology in NYC. Models gallivanting are mostly part of the tech scene, wearing garments lent by popular fashion sites such as Rent the Runway and Lux72. Cross your fingers I will not pull a Carrie Bradshaw and be labeled fashion road kill.

I interviewed Brian Malkerson, a member of Raise Cache’s Planning Committee, who exemplified the importance of Raise Cache. Brian reinstated the value proposition New York has over other cities: fashion and technology/innovation. He elucidated this point saying, “When the CFDA decided to launch an incubator program they chose NYC, not Silicon Valley, because all of the fashion/tech talent that NYC has to offer. With proceeds from the show, Brian illustrated HackNY’s potential ability to expand the pool of technical talent that is interested in startups in NYC.

Please come celebrate creativity, brains and entrepreneurship today at the NYS Armory (Entrance on Lexington Avenue, between 25th and 26th Street). To learn more about Raise Cache or to purchase tickets, click here:


TechStars NYC Demo Day Recap

October 18th, 2011 by Caroline Scheinfeld View Comments

On a bleak Tuesday morning, Silicon Alley investors and entrepreneurs, threw back caffeine and prepared themselves for the TechStars NYC Summer 2011 class pitches. Ironically, a song from “foster the people,” played, re-emphasizing the core of Techstars. The TechStars incubator is all about supporting, executing and inspiring peoples’ ideas.

A special guest, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, charismatically shared his support for Techstars as well as petitioned for NYC to be a hub for startups.

With initial roots in Boulder, CO, Techstars is a “mentorship-driven seed stage accelerator program,” which lasts three months and boasts admission to be harder than Harvard.

The TechStars team, which includes Dave Tisch and Adam Rothenberg, did  another phenomenal job mentoring the companies.  Each entrepreneur elucidated his or her ideas with humor, poise and grace. As TechStars co-founder Brad Feld said, “entrepreneurs can struggle with presenting what they do, why it matters and why people should care” but today “the presentation dynamic and caliber were off the track across the board.” Here is a quick preview of the 12 companies who presented at Demo Day.

Contently enables brands/companies to become publishers without having to hire any in-house employees. Freelance writers set up profiles on the site where they can showcase their writing and be paired with the brands they are qualified to write for. has taken the fragmented local industry of online food delivery and created an open national platform. It is a restaurant platform that connects any restaurants with any clients.

Urtak is a question and answer tool, which can be added to any piece of content in order to increase audience engagement. With yes, no or I don’t care, Urtak strives to replace comments with their Q and A’s, which in turn organizes the world’s opinion.

mobintent make it easier for businesses to manage and create mobile ad campaigns. Through their technology, mobintent breaks down the barriers for advertisers enabling them successfully and smoothly run mobile campaigns.

Spontaneously is a mobile service for sharing and finding out plans based on peoples’ availability. It is the evolution of the calendar, showing you what you can do and what your friends are currently engaging in.

Piictu is a visual network where interactions happen through the exchange of pictures. Piictu is building the first mobile platform for collaborative self-expression in a generation where pictures are no longer objects of memory but of interaction.

Sidetour is a peer-to-peer marketplace for experiences. Authentic experiences are sold to real people who can experience and discover explorative activities locally.

Ambassador is a social referral platform where brands can turn customers into their own brand ambassadors. It is a social customer acquisition platform for e-commerce.

ChatID is a SAS product that retailers, brands and publishers can use to connect with their consumers all over the web. Through one API, chatID is a universal chat platform enabling businesses to communicate with any customer on any device.

Wantworthy is a shopping utility that bridges the gap between browsing and buying. It enables women to save items they like and provides them with a neutral place to make purchase decisions.

Dispatch enables users to see and manage their cloud in one place. It also makes cloud file sharing simple.

Coursekit reshapes education for the Internet age with a social network for education. Classes, homework help and other channels of distribution are available for students all in one place.

Mayor Bloomberg further fueled my passion for Silicon Alley with his growing support for NYC as a place for startups. As an entrepreneur himself, he understands the emotions associated with creating one’s own job. He claims “being an entrepreneur was the most exciting time…the first year you are enthusiastic and you don’t listen to your friends and family…the last year you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, the light wasn’t a train but it was the end of the tunnel.” One of Bloomberg’s aspirations is “when people talk about startups. I want them to talk about New York.”

After hearing the 12 companies pitch at Demo Day, I think Bloomberg’s dreams for New York are closer to reality than he may believe.


Never too old to Play in the Sandbox?

August 19th, 2011 by Caroline Scheinfeld View Comments

On August 17, the Syracuse Sandbox, a startup incubator, held their demo day, which was broadcasted live. The sandbox is an ecosystem overflowing with creativity, 71 mentors and 21 teams of entrepreneurs ages 18 to 54. Currently, 9 schools participate in the program but the Sandbox hopes to extend their sponsorship to a myriad of others such as Cornell and RIT. The 12 week long journey prides itself on developing creative ideas by providing applicants with the correct set of tools through coaching, mentoring, access to professionals and investors as well as educational programs.

The Sandbox proves to students, they don’t attend school to obtain a job but to acquire the skills necessary to create their own. With a greater admiration for entrepreneurs, the sexiness of startups was elucidated with a great quote, with a good idea, everybody says they will be the next Mark Zuckerberg. While the startup community is often associated with youth, the sandbox is not just for kids. Men and women of all ages can grab a shovel and brainstorm on the next .com success. The 17 of the 21 teams that pitched were judged by 3 judges.

Here is an overview of the 17 companies that pitched at demo day:


  • A concert booking media company, which strives to revolutionize the music fan experiences by makings fans no longer hostages at live events.
  • Fans and musicians gain value through interactive communication between one another prior to and post concerts

  • An online gallery for college artists of all forms varying from music to photography
  • Portfolios can be viewed, managed and submitted to professors.


  • A new social layer, which enables users to have discussions while browsing, shopping or researching on the web
  • People can engage in real time conversations creating a more interactive twitter-like conversation in their browser sidebar.


  • Users can customize the content of their contact card based on whether they met someone at a bar or at a work event. The person’s contacts are integrated into your phonebook and updated based on any contact change.


  • A platform for users to create social agendas where they potential plans can be uploaded and categorized as going out, staying in or studying. People can decide their course for the evening on one platform versus communicating individually with multiple people.


  • Venuespy provide users with a sneak peak at a venue before attending an event.
  • The service is free, viral an enables venues to have their own promotional channels, which they can manage to their likings.


  • Cansforcause builds solutions to empower users to re-cycle.
  • Depositing incentives aim to perpetuate recycling efforts.

The Front

  • The Front aims to transform abandoned stores in the Syracuse area.
  • Students who wish to put their scholarship into action through revitalizing their community can do so with the Front.


  • A place where agents and all the other tools necessary to achieve celebrity status can be managed.
  • OnePlace can be considered a virtual talent agency.


  • Stampede.It attempts to conquer Groupon issues and powerfully combines group buying and daily deals of digital goods such as e-books and software.
  • The concept lowers companies risks and increases users buying power.


  • AnimAnalysis attempts to improve users personal physiology, athletic performance and leads to a healthier lifestyle.
  • Each user is identified with a specific animal in hopes to better understand the human body.


  • Verve solves a transportation issue with a pre-paid door-to-door 24-hour taxi service.
  • Verve provides students with an alternative to expensive taxis and modes of transportation, which can be deemed unsafe at night. Sharing sites with friends just got easier.


  • Users can highlight, draw and select parts of websites, which they wish to share.
  • Multiple aspects of the site can be simply shared without having to copy and paste URL links in a separate browser.

Proactive Computer Services

  • Proactive Computer Services, provides a variety of services all in one place.
  • The services include: web design, security and project management as well as computer consulting.


  • DownUpDesign is a mobile app and web development company, which constantly has cool projects and even created apps for some of the sites in the sandbox.
  • A few of their projects include: Car Safe, which helps solve the texting while driving issue by setting the airplane mode in phones when driving 15miles/hr or more. Users incentives include accruing points, which lower your car insurance when using the ap. Kickspinner, is a shared photo gallery, which can be synched among multiple devices. Their last project CampusSnaps, lets students know what’s going on at their school.

Helios Medical Technologies

  • Helios Medical Technologies designed a medical device, which concentrates on sterilization in hospitals.
  • The patent pending technology S1 sterilization system prevents cross contamination of door handles using motion sensors.


  • IGetMoreFit syncs iPhones or iPod touches with four wireless fitness sensors (weight scales, heart rate monitors, foot pods and ANT+ multi-sport GPS.
  • People who crave healthy lifestyles can now transform their iPhone or iPod into the ultimate all-in-one fitness computer.

Tweets of the Week – 8/12/11

August 12th, 2011 by Jay Levy View Comments

Here are a few of the top tweets this week from the Zelkova portfolio. Follow us on twitter @zelkovavc for more great tweeting.


Interview with Jason Calcanis on This Week in Startups

July 29th, 2011 by Jay Levy View Comments

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While on a trip to New York, Jason got seasoned VC Jay Levy of Zelkova Ventures for a man-on-the-street talk about the state of the market, why NYC is a great place for startups and how Jay knew not to pass on Klout.


About Jay Levy

Jay Levy

Jay Levy is a co-founder and principal of Zelkova Ventures. Jay focuses most of his time in working with the current portfolio company and looking at new investments in the software-as-a-service, internet media and green tech space. More »


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