Approach your seed round with "professional irreverence": Tej Bhatia - Technical.ly Brooklyn

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Mar. 27, 2014 12:45 pm

Approach your seed round with “professional irreverence”: Tej Bhatia

Three Manhattan-based startups pitched at the March Brooklyn Tech Meetup, including efforts to disrupt the lottery, video messaging and event ticket purchasing.
Tej Bhatia presents Chatwala at the March Brooklyn Techn Meetup at dd:Outpost.

Tej Bhatia presents Chatwala at the March Brooklyn Techn Meetup at dd:Outpost.

(Photo by Brady Dale)

How much runway does a seed round really get you? Just enough to attract more money or fail, it turns out.

Video messaging app Chatwala closed a $625,000 seed round earlier this month, according to VentureBeat, and its Manhattan-based founder, Tej Bhatia, subsequently demonstrated his app at the March Brooklyn Tech Meetup on Tuesday. During the Q&A, one of the attendees asked how much time Bhatia felt like his seed round gave him.

Social sharing tools is a crowded market, he said, and he has every intention of going very big. So at the end of their seed round runway, he expects to have built something so good that other money will follow. But if they haven’t, it’s not worth trying to scramble for a pivot at the end. It will work or nothing. It’s an attitude that he assured the room, perhaps counter-intuitively, works well with investors. He called it “professional irreverence.”

Bhatia may be given a bit more latitude to be irreverent, though, as he has already successfully exited from one company, Kaptur.

Tej Bhatia demos Chatwala

Screenshot from Chatwala, Bhatia messaging with his wife.

With Bhatia’s new product, users can send each other 10 second messages using a very simple, one button interface. Users don’t need to sign up or register. Once they have downloaded the app they are ready to go. When a video is sent, the recipient gets a text message with a link that will open in their copy of Chatwala (or if they don’t have it, they are sent to the Apple Store).

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Bhatia argued that the breakthrough of Chatwala is moving from messaging to conversation.  We didn’t quite see the difference, but they are looking for people to try it out.

Download Chatwala on iTunes and on Android.

Eric Parker, Jackpocket, Brooklyn Tech Meetup

Eric Parker, Director of Operations, Jackpocket.

Jackpocket, also Manhattan based, is the startup doing more legwork than any we’ve heard from for a while. Eric Parker, the Director of Operations, explained that the company wants to give you a way to buy your lottery tickets online (starting with New York State’s), pick your precise numbers or go random (even excluding certain numbers, if you view some as unlucky). They also are working on facilitating new features, such as pools. For now, in order to make this work they print out forms themselves, run them down to various bodegas, buy those tickets on your behalf and scan them into their system once bought.

In the near future, they hope to be approved to act as a vendor themselves, though that will take some regulatory bending. Following that, they hope to plug straight into the lottery’s system and eventually each state lottery system.

“Lotteries are archaic,” Parker said, “With no innovation for years.”

The company charges a 10 percent fee on each lottery transaction.

While there is some interesting tech solutions in their approach, the real business proposition that Jackpocket seems to be making is the willingness to work through miles of red tape, state by state, to be your mobile lottery go to.

Manick Bhan, Founder, Rukkus, Brooklyn Tech Meetup

CEO and Founder, Manick Bhan presented Manhattan-based Rukkus, a sort of Kayak for event tickets.

The service goes out and looks at all the third party ticketing sites and sells all those concert, theater and sports tickets on one app and/or website. The real innovation in Rukkus, though, is that it actually evaluates each ticket for the quality of the seats and only shows you the best tickets at the best prices. So if someone is selling a ticket farther back for more money, you just won’t see it.

The company gets a commission on sales from its partner vendors. Bhan was really focused on his mobile app and the growth it’s had in a few weeks, saying it grew by 1,000 users in seven days and saw $20,000 in revenue in its first six weeks.

Super focused on the app side, we asked if it’s possible to buy tickets on the web as well. It is, but Bhan said the company isn’t at all thinking about the web, because, in Bhan’s words, “The web is dead.” Meaning: the user base isn’t growing there.

Isn’t it not growing because all the Internet users are already there? And when was the last time anyone made the decision to buy a concert ticket while hanging out at the bar or walking to the deli?

That said, the website looks good. Check it out.

All of the companies featured at this meetup are based in Manhattan.

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