Startup City

The Metropolitan Pavilion underwent a decidedly digital makeover at the Internet Week kickoff party on Monday night. Between 7:30 and 11p.m., the upscale space more befitting an art gallery than an expo hall played webhost to dozens of startups, networks, and organizations, all with one overarching mission: Advance the way we use the Internet.

Scores of well-dressed webbies crawled their way over to two well-stocked open bars, casually arranged sofas, the crowdpleasing Google+ “Make-Your-Own-GIF” booth, and a spacious dance floor fronted by two flatscreens and flanked by fluted columns. But, most importantly, the savvy users clicked their feet to nearly a dozen exhibitors, a modest gathering that suggested an event aimed at promoting a handful of quality services over a Google search result’s worth of possibilities.  

Exhibitors included Aquent, promoting their Vitamin T digital staffing services, AT&T Adworks’ new venture, Blueprint, enabling less arbitrary Internet ads through insight-driven audience targeting, and MXM (Meredith Xcelerated Marketing), which offered free MXM gum, pens, and some Red Bull inspired canned beverage that proved to be a hit.

HITSA live set by electro-rockers HITS proved to be a welcome interlude as I shuffled away from “Startup City,” toting a much-needed Tanqueray and Tonic. The band’s beats were both catchy and kitschy, owing in part to their talented lead guitarist and their hipster frontman, donning both the requisite skinny-jeans and a voice reminiscent of such Brit new-wavers as Modern English. 

Amidst the frenzy of DJ-spun house, iPads, logo-laden HD flatscreens, and quippy marketing companies, I was able to have a quick live chat (in-person!) with Madison, Wisconsin-based Bendyworks founder Stephen Anderson.  

Bendyworks, a web development company Anderson founded in 2009, has turned the ideas of many an entrepreneur into a browsable reality. Bendyworks was at the helm of Murfie.com, an online music marketplace now serving thousands of members who can buy and trade CD’s and vinyl without braving the musty back aisles of divey shops, or the inevitable greasy, ripped-jeaned workers attending them. Anderson takes pride in Bendyworks’ methodology, utilizing pair programming to ensure quality and consistency during the development process, as well as offering clients flexible inancing options that ‘fixed-bid’ developers will not. 

Before navigating away, I found myself entranced by a side room within the space dedicated to the non-profit EYEBEAM, whose mission to bridge technology and art has forged such projects as the Graffiti Research Lab and an ongoing study of Computational Fashion. One wall of particular interest displayed artistic renderings of online sex profiles, both through hand-painted ‘screenshots’ and looping video installations. By contextualizing these Internet-based sex seekers within an art installation, the viewer’s experience can be heightened beyond pure voyeurism to an aesthetic appreciation of such representations. 

With its tech-savvy crowd and diverse offerings, the opening party was a fitting launch for Internet Week here in NY. And while I may still shy away from words like ‘Optimization’ and ‘Analytics,’ I can say with certainty that this event was a rare opportunity to surf the Internet in person. 

Internet Week NY (www.internetweekny.com) continues through May 27, 2013.