Brooklyn Law School lends hand to tech revolution

By Alex O'Sullivan Pierce

May 4, 2013 For Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Once a month, innovators from all corners of the city gather at the Brooklyn Tech Meetup to enjoy networking, product demos, and the panoramic views from the 22nd floor of Brooklyn Law School’s Fiel Hall. 

Here, as in any typical tech meetup, techies and entrepreneurs rendezvous with students and others to share experiences, talents and, of course, refreshments. Since January, Brooklyn Law has played host to this growing heard of startup enthusiasts, lending their event space to accommodate a membership base which currently boasts over 1,300 “creators” – and counting.

But it’s not just the fancy new digs that enticed the organizers of the popular meetup to make BLS their home. Serving as an example of innovation recognizing innovation, the Brooklyn Tech Meetup was lured to the law school by the presence of the BLIP Clinic and the program’s vociferous director, Professor Jonathan Askin. BLIP, short for the Brooklyn Law Incubator and Policy, is a clinic that provides pro bono legal support to emerging startups around the city.   

In a deliberate effort for visibility within the startup community, Professor Askin and his team of law students, also called “BLIPicians,” are regular fixtures at tech events around the city.  Manhattan has long been recognized for its flourishing startup scene, but as local events like the Brooklyn Tech Meetup have grown in popularity, Askin has made a habit of touting Brooklyn as an unrivaled nucleus of innovation.

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Waxing poetic on the virtues of his home borough, the professor opined on the Brooklyn’s history of revolution – past and present. With no small degree of pride, Askin asserted, “Brooklyn has emerged as the place where good ideas come from, and where great ventures blossom.  There might be no other place on the planet with Brooklyn’s collective critical mass of creators, innovators, entrepreneurs, service providers, infrastructure, and cultural diversity — all the ingredients needed to lead technological revolutions.  

“Brooklyn, once the home of the industrial revolution, has converted its assets — historic and new — to emerge as the home of the digital industrial revolution.  I’m glad that Brooklyn’s own law school can play a vital role in hosting, supporting, and providing thought leadership and guidance to the pioneers of the tech revolution.”

As evidence of the Brooklyn Tech Meetup’s emergence, April’s installment of this lively event featured three interactive presentations from three very different companies. First up to demo was Feely, an app that records and shares emotional data.  Drawing chuckles from the crowd with an impressive display of original emoticons, the presenter shared what was at once the product’s most simple and most poignant feature: a graph that tracks how a user is feeling over a period of time.  Audience members suggested that Feely’s use could extend beyond the frivolous (i.e. Shake Shack = Awesome) to help those struggling with issues of mental health.  

Next up was Montaj, a free IOS mobile app that enables users to seamlessly weave together video clips and music stored on an iPhone into compelling music video collages.  To display the ease with which a user can create original videos, the rep from Montaj shot, edited and screened a piece featuring minutes-old clips of the audience members and presenters that was brilliantly sound tracked by pop music. The app’s impressive polish combined with its effortless navigation prompted numerous murmurs dubbing Montaj the “Instagram of video.”
Headlining the evening was Buzzfeed, the well-known viral media hub that was recently mentioned by in a quip by President Obama at the White House Correspondence Dinner. While the site is known for creating and distributing popular internet memes including edgy and often off-color material, their demo was relatively short on snark and long on sophisticated analytics, as the two impressively credentialed presenters discussed business nuances such as how something “goes viral.”

On the growing popularity of the monthly meetup, and the event’s increasing ability to draw big name guests like Buzzfeed, the event’s co-founder, Jason Struhl, noted, “As BKTM continues to grow and evolve, we’ve found it pivotal to be aggressively reactionary. We aim to provide something that the community wants and needs which is inherently dynamic.  The overarching goal we focus on is to give the Brooklyn community a space to collaborate and co-create.”

John D. Rockefeller, a man who knew a thing or two about business, once said, “A friendship founded on business is a better than a business founded on friendship.” While this adage was certainly intended for a bygone era of commerce, the truth in the saying endures as growing numbers of people flock to events like the Brooklyn Tech Meetup.   

Alex O’Sullivan-Pierce is a 3L at Brooklyn Law School and a member of the BLIP Clinic, providing pro bono legal support to local startups. You can follow him on Twitter @al_op or email questions/comments to [email protected]

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