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Silicon Alley 500

I was friday night and I received an invitation to the SA500 in New York. I think I read about the event on Twitter and I filled the forms. “Well, I have no plans for this Saturdays… I could go to New York take a look on the protests in Wall Street and go to this SA500 and maybe meet some developers from the companies I love”. So I took the first flight I could and left Washington DC.

One thing that I didn’t initially realize was that the event has going to be held inside the New York Stock Exchange in Wall Street. The same day a global protest was erupting from the Liberty Square in Manhattan’s financial district at the Occupy Wall Street camping. The city was in turmoil. Paradoxically (or not), in the center of all this a group of 50 selected creative startups and 500 students and IT graduates were gathering to know more about each other.

I could talk with several CEOs and developers and here are some impressions I had.

Language agnostic environment

Almost all companies I talked have a very plural and multicultural language agnostic environment. When you have a problem that can be better solved in Ruby, you do it in Ruby. When you have a problem better solved in Java, you do it in Java, and so on. The efforts to integrate different technologies are by far eclipsed with the benefits of having a broad range of solutions. It is the good and old  “don’t put all one’s eggs in one basket” that sometimes companies try to forget.

Of course that not all companies uses all languages available but the normal I could see was about 3 or 4 languages platforms in every company.

Python Rocks

If you look into my blog maybe you realize that despite I program in some languages I have a favorite. At SA500 I saw that Python is much more stronger in the startups than I could imagine. The majority of companies use some Python on the front-end or back-end and a lot of them use Django.

For a while I thought that Python did not have a good market share for me in the market I’m looking for but I saw that I was fortunately wrong.

Small is Bigger

Looking some of the products that those companies created you may think that there is a huge development team working on them. Actually, no.

Mostly of the companies have a small team of motivated engineers with the right methodologies and tools in hands. Most of those companies have from 5 to 15 developers only. Is not rate to the CEO himself be also a developer, developed the initial product and still be coding.

Context Aware Content

Many of the products from the 50 startups at the SA500 were  context aware applications. They gather information about the user preferences and geolocation to delivery a more specific and rich content to the user. For example, knowing that the user is in a restaurant and it is a sunny day show him that there is an event in a park one block from there. And it is not just about geolocation, many of those applications even when without an user profile can retrieve meaningful content based on his last searches or browsing.

It is not a new idea but now with more powerful smartphones is much more applicable one. Despite been a very simple concept it is full of challenges and possibilities.

The “Netflix business model”

Rent something through a powerful yet simple web interface, quickly delivered in your door. At Renttherunway.com you can rent luxury designer dresses! At Artsicle.com you can rent pieces of art!

I can see this “Netflix” model been expanded and mixed  with so many others.

Through the Open Source. To the Open Source

Of course all those companies use many Open and Free Source. They are lean. Nowadays this is the commonplace in software development. But also, many of them go beyond and create open source products and  a vibrant community around. Just to cite some examples, 10gen create MongoDB, my favorite NoSQL database and used by a lot of the companies at SA500. Long Tail Video have the JW Player that I already used here in the blog and so did so many others.

Videos are hot. Ads are hot.

Wow. So many companies working on products related to video or advertisement and sometimes even both. There is a race out there and I wonder what will come out.


I love gits!

And now I don’t have to buy new t-shirts for awhile. :3

SA500 was amazing. I could talk with people that created products I love and use everyday as Venmo and Meetup. In fact, thank you for all, specially nextjump.com, for organizing this event.

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