People in the startup world are obsessed with appearing idealistic, warm, and fuzzy. Caring about money is bad, and viewing other companies in your industry as competitors is downright awful.
So we were very surprised when we saw that the schedule for last night’s NY Tech Meetup, the biggest regular startup event in the city, had two extremely similar rivals demoing their products back-to-back.
The result was not warm or fuzzy.
GroupMe, a service that lets you quickly create joint phone numbers to text or conference call a group of friends all at once, is one of the most buzzed about startups in New York right now, and recently secured funding from an A-list group of angels and super angels, including Ron Conway’s SV Angel.
An older New York startup called Onebluebrick recently launched Fast Society, an extremely similar product that hasn’t received nearly as much attention.
The two services aren’t identical. The most obvious difference is that groups in Fast Society are built with an expiration date of anywhere between a few hours and a few days. The idea is that this is for going out with friends: since you probably meet up with a different subset of your friends on any given night, you won’t want to reuse the same group number.
Nonetheless, the two startups are obviously in very direct competition with each other. So much so that before the two company’s started their demos, MC Nate Westheimer took a minute to remind the audience that “people shouldn’t worry about competition.” After all, he uses and loves both products, so why shouldn’t they all be friends?
That didn’t work out so well.
GroupMe came out first, and did what you would expect: they demoed their product and made no mention of their competitor. They also showed off some of the advantages of their high-profile, well backed status, announcing a special promotion in which randomly selected groups will receive conference calls from MC Hammer today.
Then Fast Society came out throwing punches. “We’re just like you,” cofounder Matt Rosenberg told the crowd. “No one’s funding us, no one’s behind us. We’re doing this because we love it.”
Later, in the midst of his demo, Matt pointed out how “beautiful” the interface was, and added “this isn’t just hacked together. We spent time on this.” GroupMe’s founders have publicized the fact that they put their core product together over the course of a hackathon.
Check it out here. The video is extremely long (there are some other great demos in there) but the showdown starts at 49:00: