NYC tech's 35 people to watch in 2016

Taylor Majewski

As a land filled with opportunity, New York is known to attract a talented, savvy and scrappy set of people, all hoping to make it in one of the world’s most influential and competitive cities.

As such, the concrete jungle’s thriving tech community is filled with talented and accomplished individuals who are innovating in untapped markets, disrupting age-old industries and exceeding the bounds of entrepreneurship. 

But who is behind New York’s burgeoning tech capital? Built In NYC has carefully selected 35 individuals that are making waves in the city, and shaping the local tech scene in their wake.

 

Elizabeth Aris, Founder and CEO, MOSH

Elizabeth Aris is an Australian entrepreneur who moved to New York to create MOSH, a platform that’s reinventing how brands, artists and causes engage with their audiences. Aris has over 25 years of experience in senior marketing and strategy roles at Fortune 500 companies, and is currently focused on shaking up the way the tech industry uses and thinks about digital platforms. Although still in beta, MOSH was recognized as one of the top 10 startups at Cannes Lions last summer.

 

Charlie Bonello and Matt Harrigan, Co-founders, Grand Central Tech

Charlie Bonello and Matt Harrigan originally co-founded Grand Central Tech (GCT) to alleviate the stress around space, community and infrastructure that startup founders face. In contrast to traditional accelerators, GCT provides its cohorts with free office space for a year, with a zero equity fee to participate.

 

The company is turning the incubator concept on its head and is being recognized as a highly innovative program in the New York tech community. In February, the program announced it had received a $2.5 million grant from the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) to build a premier community of tech companies specifically focused on the challenges of urban living. With this award, GCT will continue to function as an accelerator, develop out an additional 40,000-square-foot coworking facility called 'Build' and operate a new floor of flexible office space.

 

Alex Blumberg and Matt Lieber, Co-founders, Gimlet Media

Alex Blumberg is the host of the hit podcast StartUp, CEO and cofounder of Gimlet Media and an award-winning radio journalist. Prior to creating Gimlet, Blumberg was a producer for This American Life and the co-founder of Planet Money. Bolstered by a $6 million Seres A raised back in December, Gimlet is turning audio journalism on its head, and is currently using its funding to expand its lineup of podcasts.

Before co-founding Gimlet with Blumberg, Matt Lieber produced radio shows and podcasts. He also worked as a management consultant at The Boston Consulting Group, where he focused on media and digital business. He now works as the company's president. 

 

 

 

Harley Courts, Founder and CEO, Nooklyn

Back in 2012, Harley Courts founded Nooklyn, a tech-powered real estate platform that aims to help young people between 18 and 24 find apartments to rent or buy. While traditional real estate firms are relationship-driven and slow to integrate technology into their brokerage models, Nooklyn prioritizes experience and design, as 85 percent of Nooklyn’s users are millennials. While the process of finding an apartment may be unfamiliar and difficult to navigate for this group, the technology is not.

 

Anu Duggal, Founding Partner, Female Founders Fund

Anu Duggal is a founding partner of the Female Founders Fund (F Cubed), an early-stage investment fund focused on female-founded tech companies. Prior to launching F Cubed, Duggal was CEO of Doonya, a Bollywood dance and fitness company. A serial entrepreneur, Duggal also founded Exclusively.In, a private sale e-commerce site, and The Tasting Room, India’s first luxury wine bar.

 

Marissa Evans, Co-founder and CEO, Sawyer

Sawyer, a Brooklyn-based startup that wants to be the OpenTable of kids activities, is only eight months old, but is already gaining serious traction. The company raised a $1.5 million round in April, and Marissa Evans is leading the charge. Prior to launching Sawyer, Evans founded Go Try It On, a social network for style, and held positions at Rent the Runway and Digitas.

 

Brian Frumberg, Founder, VentureOut

Throughout his career, Brian Frumberg held sales, business development and product management roles in finance, technology, startups and venture. In 2012, while working at Gotham Ventures, Frumberg founded VentureOut to help founders from all over the world launch their companies in NYC. The organization currently operates as a one-week program that aims to connect startups with New York’s top investors and community leaders.

 

Bruno Haid, Co-founder, Roam

After starting several ventures in the tech space, Bruno Haid is looking to provide global coliving options to today’s digital nomads. Roam was founded in 2015 as an international network of interchangeable, design-led communal living spaces. The company allows users to pay for just one lease, but to live in fully equipped and immaculately designed communal residences around the world. Roam raised a $3.4 million round this month.

 

Matthew Hartman, Director of Seed Investments, betaworks

Matthew Hartman manages seed investing at the leading startup studio Betaworks. Previously, he founded ReferBoost, a profitable b2b company in the real estate and social media space, and JustBecause, an app used by Uber, Birchbox and JackThreads for customer acquisition. Throughout his career, he also worked for Hot Potato (acquired by Facebook) and Trammell Crow Company (acquired by CBRE).

 

Ben Hindman, Co-founder and CEO, Splash

Ben Hindman is putting a major dent in the event management industry. After graduating college, Hindman co-founded DC by Foot, a tour company that became popular among tourists. He went on to become a founding member of the Summit Series, a retreat organization for young entrepreneurs, and later worked as the national events manager for Thrillist.com. Hindman co-founded OneClipboard.com, an online event management software company, in 2010. In 2012, OneClipboard.com introduced Splash, a service that allows users to create a custom webpage for their events. The company has now raised $7.5 million over four rounds.

 

Naomi Hirabayashi and Marah Lidey, Co-founders, Shine

Shine is a new SMS-based service that provides daily tips for self-fulfillment, sent to users every morning. The company was founded by Naomi Hirabayashi and Marah Lidey, two former DoSomething.org employees and close friends. The pair realized the power of messaging while at their former employer, one of the largest organizations for social change that attracts young people in droves. It was there they helped roll out the organization’s pivot toward a member-driven model, which heavily utilized SMS. Hirabayashi and Lidey found there was a need for a friend-like service that boosts confidence and productivity in young people, especially in women. Subsequently, Shine was born to help millennials achieve their work and life goals through actionable content.

 

Jared Hecht, Co-founder and CEO, Fundera

Jared Hecht sold his first company, GroupMe, for $80 million just over a year after it launched. He was 26. Hecht then went on to create Fundera, which helps small businesses get loans. To date the company has raised $14.9 million over three rounds.

 

 

 

Jeremy Johnson, Co-founder and CEO, Andela

Jeremy Johnson is a serial entrepreneur who most recently founded Andela, a company that finds top African software developers and places them with U.S. tech companies as full-time, distributed team members. With a six percent acceptance rate, Andela is the most selective tech training program in Africa. Prior to Andela, Jeremy co-founded 2U, which went public in 2014 and continues to transform higher education by delivering the world’s best online degree programs with top tier universities. Johnson is a recognized innovator in the ed-tech space and was named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list in both 2013 and 2014.

 

Dennis Mortensen and Alex Poon, Co-founders, x.ai

In the spring of 2013, Dennis Mortensen’s predictive analytics company, Visual Revenue, was acquired by Outbrain. With time on his hands and an entrepreneurial itch, Mortensen decided to count how many meetings he had scheduled over the past year. His tally reached 1,019, with 672 rescheduled meetings. Factoring in email ping pong, Mortensen figured that it takes about 17 minutes to schedule a meeting — which adds up to about nine hours per week. So, he created x.ai to provide professionals with virtual assistants powered by artificial intelligence. The company has raised $34.3 million over three rounds to date.

Alex Poon has over fifteen years of experience in data analytics, software development and product management. He was VP of Engineering at Outbrain after it acquired the company he previously co-founded with Mortensen, Visual Revenue. Poon now runs all of x.ai’s operations.

 

 

Jessica Peltz-Zatulove, Partner, KBS Ventures 

KBS Ventures is the corporate venture arm of the global advertising agency KBS, which is part of MDC Partners. Peltz-Zatulove focuses on early stage investments in startups looking to transform the media and advertising industry. She is also a mentor at Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator, an early-stage fund and technology accelerator.

 

 

Kelly Peeler, Founder and CEO, NextGenVest

Kelly is the Founder & CEO of NextGenVest.com, a free text message service that helps students navigate the financial aid and student loan process. NextGenVest’s free SMS service helps students complete financial aid applications, interpret award packages and prepare for college expenses through text message reminders and on-demand guidance.

 

 

Tiffany Pham, Founder and CEO, Mogul, Inc. 

In 2014, Tiffany Pham founded Mogul, a technology platform that enables women across the world to share ideas, solicit advice and access content based on their personal interests. Reaching 18 million women per week, Mogul is visited by people in more than 196 countries and 30,470 cities worldwide. Pham designed and coded the first version of Mogul herself. Before founding the company, Pham graduated from Harvard Business School, was the Director of partnerships and strategic initiatives at CBS and wrote a book on business strategy and information technology.

 

John Reynolds and Kevin Flammia, Co-founders, RFM Clothing

While earning their MBAs from Harvard Business School in 2014, John Reynolds and Kevin Flammia set out to disrupt men’s clothing sizes. The result was RFM, one of the first menswear companies to use non-linear sizing. 

 

 

The company has already received requests from professional athletes who want to test out RFM’s innovative sizing solution, including players from the NFL and NBA. While RFM is currently only outfitting men above six feet tall, the brand plans to eventually expand to shorter markets.

 

 

Jason Saltzman, Co-founder and CEO, Alley NYC

Jason Saltzman is a serial entrepreneur who has worked with hundreds of startups throughout his career. His latest endeavor is leading Alley, a coworking space in New York that provides a collaborative workspace for the city’s entrepreneurial community.

 
 

 

Julie Samuels, Executive Director, Tech:NYC

Julie Samuels was recently tapped to lead Tech:NYC, a lobbyist organization founded by venture capitalist, Fred Wilson and AOL CEO, Tim Armstrong.The member-based organization wants New York to become the best place in the world to start and grow a tech company. As such, it will increase civic engagement by leaders of the local tech community and advocate for policies that will attract tech talent, jobs and opportunities to New York.

 

Angel Say and Russell Varriele, Co-founders, InsiteVR

Angel Say and Russell Varriele cofounded InsiteVR, a virtual reality company that came out of Y Combinator’s Winter 2015 cohort.

 

 

 

 

They created the company after launching Vrban, a company  that allows users to explore urban environments using the Oculus Rift, and winning first place at TechCrunch Disrupt NY’s 2014 Hackathon.

 

 

 

Shane Scranton and Nate Beatty, Co-founders, IrisVR

Since graduating college in 2013, Shane Scranton founded Lightwell, a visualization, web design, and branding studio. He then went on to create IrisVR, a virtual reality company that creates immersive walkthroughs for architects, engineers and designers.

 

 

Nate Beatty leads the technical side of things at Iris VR as the company's CTO. The company’s first product is an application that enables anyone with a SketchUp, Revit, or Rhino model to quickly view, share and iterate on designs in virtual reality.

 

 
 

Jessica Singleton, Chief Digital Officer, City of New York

As the Chief Digital Officer for the City of New York (a position she has held since 2014), Singleton works to support the city’s tech ecosystem and ensure that the city government is at the fingertips of every New Yorker. Prior to working at City Hall, Singleton served as the Digital Director on Bill de Blasio’s mayoral campaign and worked on the digital team for Barack Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign.

 

Alicia Thomas, Founder and CEO, Dibs Technology

Dibs is a fitness booking startup looking to reinvent fitness pricing. The service prices workout classes in real time, giving users quick and easy access to real-time pricing for boutique fitness. Alicia Thomas founded the company in 2015 after founding KiwiSweat, a startup that helped customers connect with fitness instructors. Dibs raised a $1 million seed round in January. 

 

Matthew Tumbleson, Founder and CEO, Teckst

Matthew Tumbleson left his job at Seamless in 2014 and founded Teckst. Teckst is text messaging for businesses. The platform enables business to converse with their customers for the ultimate customer service experience. The company raised a $1.66 million venture round in April.

 

 

Kat Vorotova and David Foult, Co-founders, TryTheWorld

Try the World, a subscription box service that delivers food from around the world to your door, was founded in 2013 by Columbia graduates, Kat Vorotova and David Foult.

 

 

 

The pair grew the company out of an incubator in Google’s NYC office. To date, the company has raised $3 million over two rounds of funding and has seen exponential growth.

 

 

 

 

Noah Weiss, Head of the Search, Learning, & Intelligence group, Slack

Noah Weiss is building out Slack in NYC. In this role, Weiss will lead Slack’s new Search, Learning and Intelligence Group. The goal of this group is to make people feel less overwhelmed by Slack’s information overload and give users the ability to find fast answers — whether from their coworkers, search or bots. Previously, Noah was senior vice president of product management at Foursquare, where he oversaw product management and analyst teams across consumer features and monetization. Before that, Noah was a product manager at Google.

 

Know of a company or founder that deserves coverage? Let us know or tweet us @builtinnewyork

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An inside look at NYC's tech neighborhoods and scene

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