When Startups Collide

What to you get when you take two startup teams working on the same type of mobile messaging service, and put them on stage in front of about 1,000 techno geeks? You get to see each team’s personality come through. That’s what happened at the New York Tech Meetup’s October event on Tuesday.

GroupMe, a service which lets users create group phone numbers for texting and conference calling, was immediately followed by startup group Onebluebrick, whose Fast Society service does pretty much the same thing. The only apparent differentiating factor was that Fast Society’s groups were designed to be temporary.

Meetup organizer Nate Westheimer introduced the pair with some inspirational comments ” People really shouldn’t worry about competition,” he said. “When it comes down to it, the success or failure of your startup is about how you execute your own plan.”

Thanks Nate, that’s the kind of positive talk we like. It can be easy to fall into the trap of worrying about competition instead of worrying about your own startup. Anyway, now that the positivity is over with, bring on the competitors!

GroupMe’s demo was pretty straightforward. Co-founders Jared Hecht and Steve Martocci showed how to create a group number, send messages, and start a conference call. All very slick, very controlled. Lots of applause at the appropriate moments. Then the Fast Society team took the stage, and the one-upmanship began.

Onebluebrick co-founder Matthew Rosenberg threw formality out the window, and started the Fast Society demo by gathering volunteers to perform a live test of the service.

He then took a jab at GroupMe when showed off Fast Society’s user interface. “This is not just hacked together, this is beautiful. We spend time working on this,” he said, referring to the fact that GroupMe

began as part of a day-and-a-half-long hackathon at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in May.

Rosenberg loosed another zinger at Fast Society’s rivals before poor cell phone reception at New York’s Skirball Center derailed his group texting demo. “It’s been done before. Ours is super elegant and pretty much the best ever out there.”

GroupMe and Fast Society are not just two competitors with a similar product. The two side-by-side demos also illustrate how a team’s personality can define it’s offering to peers, investors, and users. GroupMe has the experience and discipline (Hecht is a former business development manager for Tumblr, and Martocci is the former lead engineer for the Gilt Groupe). Meanwhile Fast Society has the love. During his demo, Rosenberg addressed the crowd saying “We’re just like you guys. Three dudes. No one’s funding us, no one’s behind us.”

Video of the event can be found on the New York Tech Meetup’s Livestream page.