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Highlights from Disrupt NY 2016

TechCrunch TechCrunch 14/05/2016 Anna Escher

The doors to TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2016 opened May 9 at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal. The three-day conference hosted 2,300 attendees and hundreds of thousands more tuning in online. Indeed, Disrupt NY 2016 was the first media conference to stream on Facebook Live in full, making it one of our most watched events ever.

In the much-anticipated Startup Battlefield, 22 competitors pitched to a panel of judges in hopes of winning the Disrupt Cup and the $50,000 Grand Prize. TechCrunch editors pored over the judges’ notes and, after hours of deliberations, narrowed the list down to six finalists: online kid safety service Bark, interactive Twitch alternative Beam, Blockchain credit startup for emerging countries BitPagos, daily vitamin maker Ritual, underwater drone SeaDrone and ultra-affordable water filtration system WaterO.

Beam took home the grand prize for its platform that ties in with the growing world of e-sports to offer a low-latency chat platform for live streamed games. Beyond that, Beam lets viewers actually interact with the games by measuring the general intent of all the comments to play along with the live streaming gamer. You can think of it as a Twitch WePlay that actually works. WaterO was the runner-up.

Before the conference kicked off, 1,000 hackers stayed up all night to pump out apps, sites and hardware in the Disrupt Hackathon. Each group had one minute to present to a panel of judges on stage. The winning hack was AlexaSite, which lets designers update websites using their voice. This tech lets you make small adjustments to a site on the go without having to dive into your CSS sheets. AlexaSite uses Amazon’s Alexa API and works with Squarespace websites. The two runners-up were Bumperz and Hungry Host.

Day 1

On Day 1, a number of esteemed speakers from the tech landscape took the stage to discuss the latest in the world of tech. Alex Chung of Giphy hinted at ways to turn GIFs into revenue streams. Nate Cardozo (EFF) and Marten Mickos (HackerOne) warned that the Internet of Things is a security nightmare. TheSkimm founders Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin talked about building an obsessive audience. A venture capital panel saw a discussion about how LPs are feeling the pressure of startups not finding exits. Till Faida of AdBlock Plus said that the software has closed in on a billion downloads. Meanwhile, IAB CEO Randall Rothberg argued that AdBlock Plus is an extortion-based business.

We saw the first demo of Viv, the next-gen AI assistant from Siri creator Dag Kittlaus.

We held a panel on fixing tech’s culture problem with Erica Baker (Slack), Danielle Mastrangel Brown (Intel) and Carissa Romero (Paradigm). We learned that Parrot’s CEO Henri Seydoux is building a t-shirt. We checked in with Dennis Crowley and Jeff Glueck (Foursquare) and discussed how the company plans to hit profitability. B.J. Novak and Dev Flaherty announced the rebranding of their list app, and discussed how they plan to app-ify lists. Finally, we sat down with Dave Cole (NextVR) and Shanna Tellerman (Modsy) for a VR-focused panel.

Day 2

Day 2 started off with a conversation with Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures, in which he asserted that the future of tech investing remains strong. Afterwards, Talmon Marco (Juno) talked about taking on Uber. Amazon Echo VP Mike George talked about Alexa security and simplifying speech. Blue Apron, Maple and Sweetgreen founders talked about how to grow a food startup. Facebook Messenger’s head of product Stan Chudnovsky revealed on stage that more than 10,000 developers are building chatbots and analytics are coming.

We caught up with Casey Neistat and talked about his app Beme and how to inspire others using video, and went live on Facebook with him backstage. We talked startup studios in a panel with John Borthwick (Betaworks), Heather Hartnett (Human Ventures Capital) and Naveen Selvadurai (Expa). Vlad Tenev (Robinhood) and Jon Stein (Betterment) clashed on how to disrupt investing. Sridhar Ramaswamy, Google’s head of advertising, talked ad blocking, mobile and micropayments. YouNow’s Adi Sideman talked about how to make money in live streaming. Tim Armstrong (Aol) and Fred Wilson discussed New York’s tech growth.

Chris Milk of Vrse talked about entering the age of VR storytelling.

David Plouffe of Uber (and former White House advisor) talked about background checks, the Austin Uber ban and tipping.

Day 3

On the final day of Disrupt NY, Sallie Krawcheck (Ellevest) talked about the investing gender gap. Soledad O’Brien discussed her new sequel documentary about being black in Silicon Valley. Alfred Lin (Sequoia Capital) and Tony Xu (DoorDash) spoke about how DoorDash must strike a balance between profitability and growth.

Jessica Alba and Chris Thorne got transparent about the lawsuits facing The Honest Company. Robyn Exton (Her), Dawoon Kang (Coffee Meets Bagel) and Whitney Wolfe (Bumble) talked about monetization, churn and standing out in the mobile dating spaceCarmelo Anthony and Stuart Goldfarb (Melo7 Tech Partners) talked about Anthony’s foray into the VC world. Ted Livingston of Kik revealed that Kik has more than 6,000 bots reaching 300 million registered users. Andras Forgacs (Modern Meadow) and Dan Widmaier (Bolt Threads) spoke on a fashion panel.

Former Director of the NSA and the CIA General Michael Hayden closed out our speaker panels with a discussion about the state of surveillance in America. 

Thank you to everyone who attended and tuned in to Disrupt NY 2016, and we hope to see you at Disrupt SF on September 12-14 and Disrupt London on December 5-6. Applications to apply for SF’s Startup Battlefield competition will begin soon. You can find more photos from the event on our Flickr feed, and read more coverage in our Disrupt Flipboard magazine.

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