Photo from TechCrunch article - How Do You Get Kids To Learn? Have Them Draw Butts On The iPad
In February, after months of locking myself to a desk while collaborating with my fantastic Co-founders Dave Markle (@DaveMarkle) and Alexis Moniello (@AlexisFaye) I felt like I was finally in position to get out and meet people in New York’s thriving tech/startup scene (which was completely foreign to me). If I had it to do over again I would have started sooner – but no regrets.
After some digging I came across the New York Tech Meetup (NYTM). As I understand it, the largest of all Meetups hosted through www.meetup.com. Around the same time I finally signed up for Twitter (@briansny). The February 8th NYTM was my first. I was floored by the energy in NYU’s Skirball Center that evening. I met great people and left more motivated than ever before. In particular, I was impressed by demeanor and energy with which Nate Westheimer (@innonate) facilitated the meeting. Naturally, I asked myself “I wonder what the deal is with this dude?”
Using the internet J I learned all about Nate. What fascinated me most was a project he was tackling using his newly-learned coding chops called ohours.org. Ohours enables one to share “Open Hours with Interesting People.” That is quite an understatement based on my experience as an Ohours power-user. I’ve met outstanding people. One such person is Reece Pacheco (@reecepacheco). I met him at Ohours on February 27th. We hit it off immediately (both being from MA didn’t hurt the situation). He understands what we are trying to accomplish with Everything Butt Art. Reece and I have stayed in touch since. He has made valuable intros and shared lots of startup wisdom.
Reece also gave me a window into TechStars. TechStars is arguably the most well-regarded startup accelerator in the world. The program culminates with Demo Day in front of friends, family, and lots of potential investors. Given that Reece and his team were going to be presenting their startup, Shelby.tv, (social, individualized TV channels) to the world I definitely wanted to attend.
Turns out, one of my best buds from grad school, Eric Carlstrom (@EverTrueEric), and his team had recently been accepted into the Boston TechStars program with their startup EverTrue (mobile tech enabling alumni relations). Eric offered to get me a ticket to the Webster Hall event.
TechStars Demo Day was flawlessly executed and inspiring. That night, Aol Ventures hosted an after-party. As the party came to a close I found myself looking for the exit with TechCrunch Co-Editor, Erick Schonfeld (@erickschonfeld). I hadn’t met him previously but recognized him. We left the party and chatted about our favorite startups of the day. I’m not one to force my startup story on someone but if asked I’m more than happy to share. As we were about to part ways, Erick asked “so, what do you do?” I briefly explained Everything Butt Art. He asked if I had applied to Disrupt. When I told him I hadn’t because I didn’t think we fit the mold of a traditional tech startup he replied that I should apply for exactly that reason – we didn’t fit the mold. We set up a meeting at Aol Headquarters for the following day. Erick said “I just hope you don’t show up tomorrow with a bunch of stuff you drew.” I laughed and assured him that wouldn’t be the case.
The next day I showed Erick our iPad app and first book, “Everything Butt Art at the ZOO.” He was into it. After talking for 20 minutes or so he said “I’m going to introduce you to our CEO, Heather.” I went through the pitch with Heather, demoed the app, and sent her home with a book. She told me later the idea that resonated most with her was that through our platform we’re merging print and digital by digitizing children’s art from the physical world and combining it with digital art via our iPad app - creating a lifetime repository for a child’s creativity.
Heather similarly encouraged me to apply to Disrupt. They both understood it’s not really about butts.
The Wednesday after my meeting I received a midnight email from Erick with the subject line “Look at what you’ve done.” I had given him a copy of the book and his email said “My 6 year old is already drawing butt art.” The drawing he sent was silly to say the least but importantly, Erick witnessed first-hand how Everything Butt Art immediately engages children. In my humble opinion, engagement is everything when it comes to education.
I submitted our application and shortly thereafter we were informed that we had been selected as a Battlefield Finalist.
Luck found us… and we do feel lucky to have been part of TechCrunch Disrupt, meeting and being among amazing people. We weren’t seeking Disrupt but by building something creative and unique with an important mission behind it, we put ourselves in a position to make strong connections that led to our inclusion.
Before attending that fateful New York Tech Meetup I may have had one or two friends in the startup world. Now, four months later, I couldn’t feel more at home in this community. Go New York tech!