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It’s a great time to be an entrepreneur, Atlanta VC says

Friday, April 25th, 2014
Tom Hawkins

Tom Hawkins, founder, Forte Ventures.

Why did software companies snag a bigger chunk of the venture pie than at any time since the year 2000 in the latest Pricewaterhouse Coopers, NVCA quarterly report? Because it’s now much cheaper to start a software company, says Forte Ventures Tom Hawkins.

“You get a capital efficiency with software that leverages cloud economics such as Amazon’s Web Services, and that lowers the cost of developing innovative software solutions. It’s a much better way to develop a company and that’s why there’s a big spike there,” says Hawkins.

Will be at Southeast Venture Conference in Atlanta

Hawkins, who launched Forte Ventures in Atlanta in 2012, is among hundreds of private equity investors and venture capital firm representatives on panels and evaluating the 50 presenting start-ups at the upcoming Southeast Venture Conference in Atlanta, May 6 and 7.

Hawkins has 24 years of venture capital, entrepreneurial and operational experience. Prior to Forté Ventures, Tom co-founded the Venture Capital line of business at Arcapita Bank in 2005 and raised a $200 million growth stage venture capital fund in 2006. Tom managed investment activity in the IT, communications, energy and industrial technology sectors.

Prior to Arcapita, Tom was an Investment Partner with the Corporate Fund of Siemens Venture Capital, the $850 million venture capital arm of Siemens AG (NYSE: SI), where he managed investment activity in IT, communications and industrial automation & control.

A red-hot investment space

He says one of the current red-hot investment spaces is marketing automation and its sub categories such as digital marketing asset management and sales enablement. “We’ve done a number of investments in that space,” he notes.

“Our strategy is to offer our network of constituents in the venture capital ecosystem a compelling reason to work with Forté Ventures,” Hawkins says.

“We do this by leveraging our strong relationships and differentiating ourselves with a “privileged access” theme.

LPs get previleged access

The company website further explains, “Our limited partners seek privileged access to venture grade financial returns through a portfolio of risk-mitigated investment opportunities on a national basis that are validated by corporate strategic partners.

We strive to provide our limited partners with a smarter approach to gaining portfolio exposure to the Venture Capital asset class and help them avoid the adverse selection problem associated with local and/or regional investment strategies.”

The company also has an office in Silicon Valley. “It’s important to keep your thumb on the pulse of the dealflow there,” Hawkins says.

Hawkins thinks we’re “largely out of the economic downturn. People made a lot of money in the stock market the last two years. I think in 2014 we’ll have good stability and reasonable growth, but it has to slow down a little bit.”

Still, he adds, it’s not like the Internet boom at the start of the century. “That was all in one sector,” he explains. “We’re in a much more diversified economic base and all the indicators, retail, housing, are looking good.”

From a venture standpoint, Hawkins says, “Venture money is certainly flowing. Valuations are going up. It’s a good time to be an entrepreneur.”

Start-ups presenting at Southeast Venture Conference hail from DC to Florida

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

sevc 2014 logoOn May 6-7th at the Ritz-Carlton Atlanta the Eighth Annual Southeast Venture Conference will present national and regional venture capitalists with over 50 of the most dynamic high-growth investment opportunities in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic Regions.The first round of presenting companies offer a dynamic picture of the Southeast’s vibrant start-up scene from DC to Miami, Florida.

In addition to market-relevant panel topics and extensive executive and investor networking, this year those who attend will also hear keynotes from Marcus Lemonis from CNBC’s The Profit, Lending Tree founder & CEO Doug Lebda and Cvent founder & CEO Reggie Aggarwal.

Several executive panels will provide additional insight for both venture capitalists and founders on topics ranging from Limited Partner viewpoints, M&A, fundraising strategies, entrepreneurial roundtables and venture investment trends among many others.

A list of venture firms committed to attending so far follows the presenting companies.

The first round of announced presenting companies include:

9Lenses | Sterling, VA
Advanced Animal Diagnostics
| Durham, NC
Aloe – Atlanta, GA
Ambition | Chattanooga, Tennessee
| Washington D.C.

Axial Exchange | Raleigh, NC
Brickstream | Norcross, GA
Campus Bubble | Atlanta, GA
ChartSpan | Greenville, SC
Checkd.In | Nashville, TN

Cinegif | Austin, TX
CircleBackLending | Boca Raton, FL
DecisionLink | Atlanta, GA
Digital Reasoning| Nashville, TN
EarlyShares| Miami, FL
Evermind | Nashville, TN
Heyo | Blacksburg, VA

INRFOOD | Durham, NC
Kanga | Atlanta, GA
Kleo | Miami, FL
LinguaSys | Boca Raton, FL
M2SYS Technology | Atlanta, GA
Monsieur | Atlanta, GA
Passport Parking | Charlotte, NC
Patientco | Atlanta, GA
PatientFocus | Nashville, TN
Paymetric | Alpharetta, GA
PhishMe | Chantilly, VA

Quad Learning | Washington D.C. 
Royalty Exchange | Raleigh, NC
Screwpulp | Memphis, TN
Solicore | Lakeland, FL

Springbot | Atlanta, GA
uKnow | Arlington, VA
Uruut | Atlanta, GA
Variable | Chattanooga, Tennessee

Voterheads |  Columbia, SC
Voxa | Atlanta, GA
Windsor Circle – Durham, NC

ZeroFOX | Baltimore, MD

Venture capital firms that will attend include:

• ABS Capital
• Advanced Technology Ventures
• Alerion Capital
• Atlanta Technology Angels
• Atlanta Ventures
• Ballast Point Ventures
• Berwind Private Equity
• Bonaventure Capital
• Bull City Venture Partners
• Catalyst Investors
• Centurion Venture Group
• CNF Investments
• Contender Capital
• Core Capital Partners
• Delta Electronics Capital
• Draper Fischer Jurvetson
• Duart Mull
• ff Venture Capital
• Fifth Street Partners
• Florida Growth Fund
• Flybridge Capital Partners
• Forte Ventures
• Frontier Capital
• Fulcrum Equity Partners
• FuturePerfect Ventures
• G20 Ventures
• Grotech Ventures
• Hamilton Lane
• Harbert Venture Partners
• HarbourVest Partners
• Horizon Technology Finance
• IDEA Fund Partners
• In-Q-Tel
• Intel Capital
• Kinetic Ventures
• Landmark Angels
• LLR Partners
• Morgan Creek Capital Management
• Mosley Ventures
• Multiplier Capital
• Noro-Moseley Partners
• North Bridge Venture Partners
• Polaris Partners
• Revolution Ventures
• River Cities Capital Funds
• Safeguard Scientifics
• SoftBank Capital
• Southern Capitol Ventures
• Spectrum Equity
• Spring Capital Partners
• SSM Partners
• Staley Capital
• Stonehenge Growth Equity
• Stonewall Capital
• SunBridge Partners
• Susquehanna Growth Equity
• TA Associates
• Tech Square Ventures
• Timberline Investment Company
• Volition Capital
• Vulcan Capital

Up to date registration and information at

Heartbleed: is it really that bad? Does this have to keep happening?

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

By Allan Maurer

UPDATsecurityED!  ATLANTA – If you haven’t heard about the nasty Internet bug dubbed “Heartbleed” by now, you should immediately find out about it because you probably need to take action. So do IT administrators, likely in a time-consuming job that has to be done by hand, says , Adam Allred of the Georgia Tech Information Security Center (GTISC) in Atlanta.

In brief, a major security flaw in the way many web sites – including Gmail, Yahoo, Tumblr, and many others means hackers potentially had or have access to users personal information – which may include credit card numbers, log-in passwords, and more.

It also means you’ll probably have to change some passwords to be safe. Experts say change Yahoo right away, as well as gmail, although both have since patched the problem.

Amazon, Evernote, Microsoft, and others were not affected. Mashable published this “Heartbleed Hit List” of which sites were affected and which passwords you may need to change.

Reports this morning (Friday, 4/11/2014) say the bug is also in Cisco and Juniper Network routers, firewalls and networking equipment used by many businesses. The necessary fixes could be long and one source says, “A trip to the trash can and Best Buy.”

Allred says the question he’s been asked most today as a computer security expert is “How important is it really? Is it really that bad?” What makes it so important?

We’ve gotten used to these security breaches cropping up almost daily, but this one really is different, Allred tells the TechJournal. Why?

“Because,” he says, “It’s logistically difficult. People have to do more work by hand to get the problem solved, patching alone is not enough.”

Also, and probably the scary part, is that the flaw in the Open SSL security allows the theft of private keys, Allred says. They can be exposed anonymously with the user none the wiser until consequences show up. They can do this via just this one ezploit, which makes it worse, he adds.

“On many servers that used Open SSL today, if you can obtain the private key, you can use it to decrypt any information every encrypted on that server.” Yikes!

Does this have to keep going on? These terrible security breaches affecting not just millions of people but in this case, almost anyone using the Internet. There is security process that would prevent this particular sort of problem.

That’s “Perfect Forward Secrecy.” It uses a temporary set of keys for each user session. A hacker might conceivably obtain one key, but it wouldn’t work on every thing ever encrypted and would only affect one person, not everyone who came along in the past.

“It’s already found in many modern browsers. Firefox, Chrome and Explorer all have the capability. It’s relatively new in encryption and requires changes on the server side. But there are already concepts and ideas that would help. We just have to turn it on everywhere.”

In general, though, coming up with a “forever solution, and whoever is able to write that solution will be a very popular and rich person.”

Forbes had this to say on Heartbleed. “Avoiding Heartbleed Hype.”

If you want to avoid hype and hear the real deal from digital thought-leaders from brands including Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Huffington Post, but also tech icons such as Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, check out the Digital Summit Atlanta, May 20-21.

Relevance is key to social marketing of IHG’s hotels

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014
Nick Ayres

Nick Ayres

By Allan Maurer

Relevance is a key element in digital content from the International Hotel Group (IHG). So says IHG’s Director of Social Marketing, Nick Ayres.

One of the world’s leading hotel companies, with 161 million guests nights per year, 687,000 rooms in over 4,600 hotels in nearly 100 countries and territories around the world.

Ayres is among more than 100 thought-leaders, executives, and technology icons participating in the Digital Summit Atlanta May 20-21.

IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group) [LON:IHG, NYSE:IHG (ADRs)] is a global organization with a broad portfolio of nine hotel brands, including InterContinental® Hotels & Resorts, Hotel Indigo®, Crowne Plaza® Hotels & Resorts, Holiday Inn® Hotels and Resorts, Holiday Inn Express®, Staybridge Suites®, Candlewood Suites®, EVEN™ Hotels and HUALUXE™ Hotels & Resorts.

The first consideration

In its social media marketing efforts, Ayres says, “As we focus on content creation and curation, our first consideration is guest relevance.” Sometimes, he adds, that means “Walking a fine line between what’s important to us as a brand and what our guests find interesting. We look for that sweet spot where the two overlap.”

So, they’re not prone to posting a lot of crazy cat pictures, he notes. Instead, they post items about destinations or tidbits about our brand that might not be front and center.”

In general, he says, as most marketers have found, “Visual is more engaging than text. The photos we share on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram perform way better than text.”


The historic Intercontinental Willard in DC.

Not surprisingly, people love posts about beautiful beach destinations. In other cases, the company’s landmark hotels, such as the Intercontinental Willard in Washington, DC, have historical and cultural relevance that make interesting material for posts.

Don’t be company centric

He advises that social media marketers avoid being “company centric.” “Work with your partners to find interesting content.” IHG’s Crown Plaza, for instance, has a partnership with the PGA  that leads to good content.

They also look for unusual elements of their properties – several of their hotel groups are pet friendly, for instance, while some of their Holiday Express hotels have pancake makers. “We found a way to discuss the pancake maker,” Ayres says. “Little nuggets of content can add personality and flare to the brand.”

He says they also target geographically, aiming content at the demographics as well as the psychographics of their customers.”






Three tips on starting a successful loyalty program

Monday, April 7th, 2014

Loyalty program word cloudSo, you’re thinking about boosting your business through a loyalty program. How do you establish a successful one?

Randal McCoy, CEO of Atlanta’s GetOneRewards offered Yahoo Small Business these tips:

First: Consider what rewards you will offer. Instead of just giving away freebies, make shoppers work for their reward by giving up information, buying something or visiting a store.

Second: Start with a basic, the punch card. Most of us have carried punch cards from one business or another around with us (I have one from a second hand bookstore and another from a Subway shop). They have drawbacks (a customer has to have the card with them, but if the incentives are good enough, they’ll hold on to them).

Third: Make employees and customers aware of the awards you’re offering. Make sure your employees know how your program works and what they must do to make it work. Also make sure your customers know about it.

For more about GetOne Rewards, see our previous story: Atlanta’s GetOne Rewards takes loyalty programs digital

For insights and instant take-aways on digital marketing, SEO, design and much more from thought-leaders, executives, and entrepreneurs from top brands such as Google, Bing, the Huffington Post, and many others – including Apple co-founder and Mac inventor Steve Woziak, consider attending TechMedia’s Digital Summit Atlanta May 20-21. It’s the largest such gathering in the region and features more than 100 speakers.



Atlanta’s GetOne Rewards take loyalty programs digital

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

By Allan Maurer

Justin Michela

Justin Michela

How can brands and stores get more people to sign up for loyalty programs? One say, Atlanta start-up GetOne Rewards, thinks, is to make the process faster and easier.

The company, which has raised about $3 million through two rounds, sells a cloud-based digital rewards program. It’s system lets customers type their phone number into a store terminal or smartphone, then tracks their purchases, assigning points that can be redeemed for rewards.

Justin Michela, CTO and co-founder of GetOne Rewards tells us the company already has about 500 to 600 clients in Atlanta and Charlotte as well as other locations up and down the East Coast from Florida to North New York. It also has locations in Colorado and California.

Quick and easy from the beginning

“From the beginning, we went with a phone entry model,” says Michela. “You type in your number in the store in under ten seconds.” While the system “Has all the bells and whistles,” Michela adds, “We built it from the ground up not to require those things.”

Those things, which the customer can do if he or she wishes once signed up, include claiming rewards, filling out information, creating a marketing connection, and providing email to get extra points.

Loyalty programs are a big deal. A friend of ours is a travel writer and she scores some excellent perks, from the loyalty rewards programs she signs on to. The 2013 COLLOQUY Loyalty Census shows more than 25 percent growth in such programs over the last two years.

With digital technology, a company such as GetOne Rewards can help merchants capitalize on the real-time and geo-targeting capabilities of rewards programs.

Like their competitors, GetOne Rewards has visit based programs and customers get a point for each visit. But, as an alternative Michela says GetOne’s competitors don’t offer, they get one point for every $4 (or other amount) they spend.

A big selling point

That, Michela explains, lets a merchant give more rewards to the customer who comes in a couple times a day vs. someone who visits once a month. “That’s a big selling point with us,” Michela says.

But the company’s main differentiator, he says, “Is that we create a painless process for store owners.” They don’t need to understand the technology they’re using to get full value from it.

“You have to admire a lot of these store owners,” Michela says. “They’re the embodiment of the American Dream. I know this guy who quite a six-figure job to open a pizza shop. He says, ‘I don’t know how to do marketing. I just want to make pizza.’ We try to work with them to create a really good marketing program for them that makes sense.”

Michela explains, “Once it’s plugged in, it’s automated. It classifies customer automatically, knows when it’s their birthday so you can send them a gift coupon, knows when Jim hasn’t been there in a while, so you can send him an offer to entice him to come back.”

The Woz coming to Atlanta

You can meet other innovative start-ups, national and regional venture capitalists, and entrepreneurial thought-leaders at the Eighth Annual Southeast Venture Conference in Atlanta May 6-7.

Later in the moth, TechMedia presents Digital Summit Atlanta, where you can hear tech icon and creator of the Apple computer, Steve Wozniak, as well as thought-leaders from brands including Yahoo, Google, Bing, Razorfish, The Huffington Post and many others.

New format adds zest to CED Venture event this month

Monday, September 9th, 2013
Mike Elliot of Noro-Moseley Partners

Mike Elliot of Noro-Moseley Partners

RESEARCH TRIANGLE, NC – The CED’s annual Tech Venture Conference has acquired new energy with a format that speeds about 50 young startup companies through lightening demo rounds, says Noro-Moseley’s Mike Elliott, a managing partner in the Atlanta venture firm.

“You spin through a number of presentations and never have a chance to get bored,” he says of the three-minute rounds. “They leave you wanting just a bit more.” For a startup, that’s a good way to initiate contact with an investor: leave them wanting more.

Set for September 17-18 at the Raleigh Convention Center, the annual event draws some of its new energy from the vibrant and growing early startup hubs in the Triangle’s three cities.

Bustling startup hubs in the RTP

“Today, especially in downtown Durham, but also all over Raleigh and Chapel Hill we’re seeing tremendous activity from early-stage startups,” says Elliott. That fact has shaped this year’s focus, as well, he adds.

“What both the startups and investors need is to take companies to the next level and we tried to theme the conference in that direction this year,” says Elliott. “You’re up and running, how do you kick it into growth,” he adds.

To bolster that theme, the event features “A number of CEOs who began life at very early stage companies and were able to find the right switches to hit and push them into high growth mode.”

Those include Mike Cote, chairman and CEO of Atlanta-based SecureWorks, which was acquired by Dell in 2011; David Morken, co-founder and CEO of Triangle-based Bandwidth; and Mark Norman, president of Zipcar.

Elliot, however, points out that the entrepreneurs and investors will also hear from top corporate development people from Red Hat, Google and other firms, to “Get a clear picture of the characteristics they’re looking for in partners or acquisitions and how you can set your company up to grow inside a company like theirs.”



Angel groups going beyond backyard investing for better deals

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

By Allan Maurer

Michael Cain

Michael Cain

Historically, angel investors and angel groups have invested close to where they live, where they have contacts and knowledge of a business. So they looked for businesses they could reach with no more than a two-hour drive. That’s changing.

As we’ve noted in several recent stories on the TechJournal, angel investor groups are moving out of their comfort zone to invest in bigger deals more widely dispersed geographically. “I tell my group and others that I managed, we’re not economic developers,” says Michael Cain, head of the Wilmington Investor Network in the beach city, Wilmington, NC.

While we quoted Cain in earlier stories, we thought what he had to say deserves fuller reporting.

“The two-hour drive doesn’t work for a place like Wilmington or in many others,” he says. “You have to network your deals.” The Wilmington group has done deals in Boston, DC and Raleigh over the last three years.

Beyond backyard deals

“If you only do deals in your backyard, you don’t get good deal flow,” agrees William Podd, founder, president and CEO of Landmark Capital, and the Landmark Angels.“If you don’t see the best deals and don’t invest in the best deals,” you shouldn’t expect much success, he adds.

These larger syndicate deals can help fill the much-discussed early-stage funding gap that grew worse as venture capital firms moved toward later deals with less risk and the venture field itself contracted. “You have half as many VCs now as you did five years ago,” Cain says.

“And they realized that what we used to call the California deal – throw a lot of money at it – didn’t work. What we wound up with is the late-stage VCs and no middle market.”

“There are fewer than 100 active venture capital funds making investments today,” notes Podd, down from 1,100 years ago.

Advantages to investors

Cain says the more widely networked and syndicated angel deals have several advantages for the investors. “The more minds you have around the table, the better to put your money to work and hopefully, get to an exit after a couple of angel and early venture capital rounds.”

Angel investors can do fine if a company exits for $25 to $50 million if the pre-money valuations were right, Cain says. Exits at that level seldom interest the larger venture capital funds.

“Everyone is kind of getting religion in looking for quicker exits,” Cain says. One way of doing that, he suggests, is to focus on ideas that can make it on two rounds of angel investment. You look for the “rifle shot,” he says. “You support something that needs a moderate amount of capital, maybe $3 million or $4 million.”

The deal might involve a medical device that investors know a large company needs so a buyer can be “fluffed up,” and “You work on that as soon as you close,” Cain says.

Podd agrees. “How do you evaluate the likelihood of an exit? A pre-existing relationship with a potential acquirer is significant.”

Cain, who chairs the Angel Capital Foundation, a research and education organization that spun out of the Kauffman Foundation, says it will start tracking angel group syndication deals. It currently produces the quarterly Halo report with Silicon Valley Bank.

Even though a number of regional angel groups are coming around to the idea of investing with other groups outside their normal geographic range, “They’re relatively few,” says Cain. “The active angel groups that will participate outside their area are relatively few.”

That includes, he says, the Atlanta Technology Angels, who recently made their first out-of-Georgia investment in a Texas startup along with a syndicate of other angel groups.

There are other reasons the trend toward larger, more widely dispersed angel syndicates can be a good thing, Cain says. “We’re the engine of growth for early stage businesses and employment. A VC on five to seven boards doesn’t have the bandwidth of an angel on two who knows the vertical.”


Angel Investors spreading their wings

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

By Allan Maurer

Entrepreneurs, listen up: if you’re stuck in that early-stage funding gap and need more than seed money expand, you may want to save some room on your venture dance card for angel investor groups.

Matt Dunbar, managing director of the Greenville, SC-based Upstate Carolina Angel Network and a new board member on the national Angel Capital Association, (ACA) says the trend of geographically dispersed angel groups forming syndicates to do larger deals – often out of their backyards – is emerging and likely to “pick up steam.”

Dunbar is on the ACA’s Collaboration Committee, sees “healthy syndication within regions in Texas and the Northeast and restarting in the Southeast, but also on broader terms.”

While we’ve heard about this trend at TechMedia events such as the Southeast Venture Conference and digital summits – always a good place to tap into the leading edge of technology and venture funding trends – we saw a specific example of it this week as the Atlanta Technology Angels joined a syndicate of other angel groups to fund Austin-based Wisegate.

We talked to ATA member Jamie Lewis about the larger scope that deal portends.

Another deal expected to close in July, for instance, has investors from the Carolinas, Pennsylvania, California and possibly Boston, among other regions, he says. “Groups all over the country are in the final stages of due diligence” on the deal, he notes.

Idea makes sense

“This idea of pulling capital together around a larger geography is an approach that makes sense and is needed,” Dunbar says. It is not without challenges, he adds. Processes for crafting the larger deals are “evolving and maturing,” he says, because every angel investor group has “its own culture and norms.” But, he adds, “The more we do this, the better the processes will be.”

Dunbar says that while many angel groups and angel investors are biased toward local deals and want to support those in their backyard, “They also want the best deals they can find.”

Michael Cain, who heads the Wilimington, North Carolina angel investor network,  says, “I tell my people we are not economic developers. That idea of the two-hour drive doesn’t work in Wilmington and many other places, so you have to network your deals.”

Over the last three years, the Wilmington Investor Network has done deals in Boston, DC and Raleigh, he notes. Cain, who is chair of the Angel Resource Institute, a research and education organization, says the ARI is going to start tracking syndication deals. In cooperation with Silicon Valley Bank, it does the quarterly Halo report that tracks angel investing activity nationally and by region.

Dunbar points out that technology itself is playing a role, since it makes it easier for entrepreneurs anywhere to find angel lists and groups and for angels to find deals.

“The idea of pulling capital together around a dispersed geography is in the air and emerging in the marketplace, and will only continue,” he says, and even increased if crowdfunding legislation ever gets written.

Angel investment groups eye larger deals, national scope

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

By Allan Maurer

Jamie Lewis

Jamie Lewis

Atlanta Technology Angels (ATA) decision to join other angel groups in financing Austin-based Wisegate, was significant in more ways than one, says ATA and Wisegate board member Jamie Lewis.

Lewis, formerly CEO of  The Burton Group, like Wisegate, an IT research and advisory firm that sold to Gartner for $56 million in 2009, tells the TechJournal the ATA/Wisegate deal “Is largely a reflection of how significantly the capital markets have changed in the last five years or so.”

National, not just regional deals sought

A member of ATA for about a year, Lewis notes there is a move afoot in the Angel investor space to create a national syndication network so deals can happen nationally rather than just regionally.

The ATA itself says the decision to invest in a company outside of Georgia represents its own desire to expand its footprint throughout the Southeast and possibly beyond.

Reasons for the change

“There is a lot of interest in deals occurring as widely as possible, even though it’s natural for most to occur regionally,” Lewis says.

A primary reason for this change in angel investing strategy, says Lewis, is that many venture capital firms have altered their own strategies.

“Back ten or 15 years ago,” says Lewis, “the typical VC was doing lots of early stage deals, including companies with a little seed funding, not a lot, and maybe some revenue, but not profits.”

VCs more like private equity firms

Not so much any more, he says. “Most VCs now act more like private equity firms,” he says. “They like later stage deals, investing in companies that have proven themselves in the markeplace and are well beyond the seed stage.”

That creates a much talked about early stage funding gap.

Why? “It’s by choice,” says Lewis. “They don’t want the risk.” He adds that it also has to do with the risk profile of their limited partners (those who invest in the venture funds). They’re taking money from institutional investors and pension funds. Those have a much different risk profile than the typical angel investors.:

Many angel investors are themselves former or current entrepreneurs who are more accustomed to risk, he notes.

The change opens the field for angel groups to step up. The syndicate that invested $3 million in Wisegate included Texas, New York, and Georgia angel groups. By investing together, the groups can structure larger deals the size of many Series A rounds.

Not your typical IT service firm

“That’s how Wisegate sees this,” says Lewis, “as a Series A raise. It’s interesting that a syndicate of angel networks can pull together that kind of money and fund a company at that level. ”

Wisegate, he says, “Is not your typical IT service company.” Right now it is focused on what Lewis calls “One of the biggest issues worldwide – the whole concept of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD).” That is causing security problems for many companies.

Wisegate brings -by invitation only – IT experts together to discuss best practices, what works, what doesn’t, which tools are effective, which not, and so on, to provide clients with IT advice from people in the know.

For more about Jamie Lewis, see “Be What You Aspire to Be.” In it, an interview about commitment, determination, and passion in business and life, he quotes Randolph Bourne who said, “He who mounts a wild elephant, goes where the elephant goes.”

Atlanta becoming a digital media “super hub”

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

Atlanta skylineA workforce trends report, issued today by the Metro Atlanta Chamber (MAC), shows that the city is becoming a “digital media super hub,” with nearly twice the digital media job openings per capita as the rest of the nation. It is also strong in mobile technology, healthcare IT, and logistics.

The Chamber says overall online job postings in metro Atlanta have grown 4.5 times faster than postings nationally in the areas of supply chain and logistics, technology and bioscience.

“The report gives us confirmation of where the jobs are, and the growth of metro Atlanta’s key industries,” said Phil Martens, CEO of Novelis, Inc., and chair of MAC’s Workforce Council. “MAC has its finger on the pulse of job activity in metro Atlanta.”

MAC’s Workforce Council commissioned Burning Glass International, a labor data firm, to review all advertised job openings in key strategic industries from May 2012-May 2013 in the 28-county metro Atlanta statistical area.

Digital media super hub

Metro Atlanta is establishing itself as a digital media super hub with almost twice as many digital media job postings per capita as the rest of the nation. There were more than 28,000 digital media job postings in the last 12 months, which represents 48 percent growth in advertised positions over the last two years.

Supply chain/logistics/distribution job postings grew nationally at a rate of 36 percent from 2010 – 2012. However, in metro Atlanta that growth rate was 115 percent over the same period.

mobile devicesThere were also large spikes in recruitment in other MAC targeted industries. There was a 202% increase in the number of advertised positions in the mobility sector from 2010 – 2012. And as the nation’s health IT capital, Atlanta continues to surge with 167% growth in health IT-related job postings over the same period.

Martens added, “The goal of this report was to assess the demand for talent, and then determine the skills needed to fill the positions.”

“One of the most significant findings of the report showed that in 2010, there were 247,283 total jobs posted in metro Atlanta in all sectors.  In 2012, there were 410,571, a 60 percent increase,” said Sam A. Williams, MAC president. “The increase demonstrates that metro Atlanta continues to be a thriving hub for business, especially in key industry sectors.”

Workforce database available

In tandem with the Workforce Trends Report, MAC also launched a workforce database. The site is geared toward the CEO, CIO, HR professional or other senior staffer involved in hiring and staffing, but casual browsers are also welcomed.

This inventory is the largest and most comprehensive listing of those resources for several of the fastest-growing industry sectors in the region. These include: digital media and gaming, financial transactions processing, healthcare IT, internet security, logistics/distribution, software development, supply chain software and wireless/mobility.

“Between the report and the database, we now know where the growing jobs are and the skills needed to fill those positions,” saidScott Burton, managing director at Whitaker-Taylor, and MAC’s Workforce Council co-chair. “Our goal with the database is to link employers to tools that can help fill job openings with talented, capable employees. The exact talent we need to grow our company.”

The database was developed by MAC’s Workforce Council, in partnership with the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Workforce Solutions team, and can be accessed at:

An average of 12 percent of CIOs plan increased IT hiring

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

Robert HalfIf Robert Half’s Technology and IT hiring forecast bears out, Raleigh, Charlotte and Atlanta should see significant hiring during the third quarter of 2013.

The just-released Robert Half Technology IT Hiring Forecast and Local Trend Report for Raleigh, N.C., shows that fourteen percent of Raleigh-area chief information officers (CIOs) surveyed recently plan to expand their teams.

This is up 4 points from the previous quarter’s projections. Another 54 percent plan to hire to fill open IT roles, 27 percent plan to put hiring plans on hold, and 5 percent expect to reduce their IT staff in the third quarter.

The Charlotte report shows that 11 percent of Charlotte-area chief information officers (CIOs) surveyed recently plan to expand their teams in the coming quarter. This is up 1 point from the previous quarter’s projections. Another 51 percent plan to hire to fill open IT roles, 31 percent plan to put hiring plans on hold, and 6 percent expect to reduce their IT staff in the third quarter.

Ten percent of Atlanta-area technology executives surveyed recently expect to expand their IT teams in the third quarter of 2013, a figure unchanged from the previous quarter.

In addition, 55 percent plan to hire to fill open IT roles in the upcoming quarter, 29 percent plan to put hiring plans on hold, and 6 percent expect to reduce their IT staff in the third quarter.

These regional figures are consistent with CIO plans in other areas, with most of those planning IT hiring in the 10 to 13 percent range. Nationally, the average is 12 percent.

Here are some other area figures:

  • 13 percent of Boston CIOs expect to hire in the quarter.
  • 13 percent of New York CIOS say the same
  • 13 percent in Denver say they will hire
  • 10 percent of the CIOS in Seattle and Los Angeles plan hiring
  • Salt Lake City is exceptional, where 17 percent of CIOS plan IT hiring

Recruiting Challenges
In terms of recruiting, 69 percent of CIOs said it’s somewhat or very challenging to find skilled IT professionals today. It is most difficult to find skilled talent in the functional areas of networking (18 percent), data/database management (14 percent) and help desk/technical support (13 percent).

Confidence in Business Growth and IT Investments
The survey results suggest that CIOs are optimistic about their companies’ growth and IT investments: Eighty-five percent reported being somewhat or very confident in their companies’ prospects for growth in the third quarter of 2013.

Sixty-three percent of CIOs also said they were somewhat or very confident that their firms would invest in IT projects in the third quarter of 2013.

Skills in Demand
Among the technology executives surveyed, 55 percent said that network administration and database management were the skill sets in greatest demand within their IT department. Desktop support followed closely, with 54 percent of the response.

The IT Hiring Forecast and Local Trend Report survey was developed by Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of information technology professionals on a project and full-time basis, and conducted by an independent research firm.

Get the inside story on Bitcoin and Aereo at Atlanta Digital Summit

Monday, May 13th, 2013
Digital Summit

The Digital Summit is the largest event of its kind in the Southeast.

Only a handful of seats remain available for the largest digital conference in the Southeast, the Digital Summit, Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, tomorrow, May 13 and Wednesday, May 14.

This year, in addition to the more than 100 leading digital thought leaders set to present the latest digital strategies and trends at the summit, you’ll get the inside story on two hot topics: the Internet currency Bitcoin and the company disrupting cable and satellite TV delivery models, Aereo.

Chet Kanojia, CEO and founder of Aereo, which grabs over-the-air TV broadcasts and offers them to consumers via Internet connected devices, will talk about his starup’s disruptive technology.

Kanojia says The consumer proposition is what’s important.



Stephen Pair, co-founder and CTO of BitPay, the leading processor for bitcoin, will provide an overview of the somewhat controversial Internet currency. He talked to the TechJournal about What will make bitcoin succeed or fail,” in advance of his appearance at the Summit.

Speakers will also share the latest best practices and strategies in topics such as social media, email marketing, search, mobile, e-commerce, usability, analytics & measurement, online video, social TV and digital advertising/branding among many others.

A capacity crowd of 1,500 digital marketers, Internet executives, web strategists, entrepreneurs and other digital professionals will connect in Atlanta for two full days of content and networking.

social televisionSpeakers represent leading brands such as Google, Twitter, reddit, Mashable, Porsche, Turner, TMZ, Coca-Cola, HootSuite, NASCAR, The Weather Channel, Aereo, Dell, Rovi, HGTV, Forrester, StumbleUpon, Salesforce and Adobe to name a few.

The Digital Summit conference features a keynote from the co-founder of reddit, Alexis Ohanian, and over 80 strategy presentations and discussions, musical acts, the Startup Showcase, preconference workshops, leading digital vendors and hours of attendee networking.

Here at the TechJournal we’ve interviewed a handful of the digital gurus who will participate. It’s only a sample:

Among those you’ll hear are:

Microsoft/Bing’s Matt Wallaert says Behavioral Science is helping build a better tech future and why people prefer Bing to Google in tests.

Mike Perla, director of conversion optimization and creative at Fathom will fill you in on how to Show your client ROI from usability testing.

Aaron Schildkrout, co-founder of the unique online dating site, How About We, talks about a data driven company

Brian DAmato

Brian DAmato

Brian DAmato, SVP of Analytics at Moxie discusses How to get ROI from digital channels.

Tim Clark, director of optimization for NASCAR, talks about how NASCAR listens to its fans to increase digital channel engagement.

Erik Muendel, CEO and creative director of Alexandria, VA-based Brightline Interactive offers three tips for grabbing attention via digital channels and keeping it.

Social media and marketing consultant Jeff Sheehan explains how Linkedin offers a billboard to 200 million users.

SEO expert Josh McCoy says you should use competitive analysis and enticing content to fire up your SEO.

Erica McClenny

Erica McClenny

Erica McClenny, vice president of client services withExpion, urges you to break down walls to pop the social media bubble.

Michael Marshall, CEO of Internet Marketing Analysts tells you how to do those backlinks right.

Brian Wong

Brian Wong

Brian Wong, founder and CEO of Kiip, one of the top four online ad companies according to Forbes, offers insight into the mobile ad secret sauce – capturing moments of achievement.

Jacques Panis of Shinola, talks about bringing jobs and manufacturing back to the US in Good timing, making watches in Detroit.


Good timing: Shinola making watches in Detroit

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

By Allan Maurer

Jacques Panis

Jacques Panis

As startups go, Shinola has a story that’s right on time. The company, founded in 2011, is making watches in a 35,000 square-foot facility in Detroit. No one has manufactured watches in the U.S. in 50 years,” notes Jacques Panis, director of strategic partnerships for the firm.

Shinola also diversified and now makes bicycles (in Wisconsin) and stationary products. But in an era when many people use smartphones or other digital devices to keep track of the time, we asked Panis, why watches?

“People are starting to wear watches more and more. It’s a trend,” says Panis. “People look at watches as part of their style or persona. A watch is a fashion piece in a lot of cases. People make a statement with a watch, especially in urban environments and among fashion forward trend-setters.”

Experience spans marketing, branding and sales

Panis has over 10 years of experience spanning marketing, branding and sales. He founded Webosaurs in 2007, an online brand created to educate children globally on the history and diversity of our planet. He collaborated with animation studio Reel FX to expand the Webosaurs project while running the Reel FX interactive division. Panis joinedShinola in 2010 to oversee product development and strategic direction for the company.

He’s among more than 100 digital and marketing thought-leaders participating in the Atlanta Digital Summit next week (May 14-15). The event includes speakers from brands such as Google, Twitter, AOL, Adobe, the Wall Street Journal, AT&T, and many others. Fewer than 100 seats remained for the event, the largest in the Southeast, as of Wednesday (May 8). About 1,500 people are expected to attend.

We’re story-tellers

Panis, who is on an engagement panel, tells the TechJournal, “We’re story tellers at the end of the day and digital channels and social are a big part of our marketing effort.” Shinola tells its story on product specific blogs (dedicated to bikes or watches, for instance) and others. It sold a 2,500 limited edition watches online supported by traditional ads in major newspapers.

So far, however, most of the company’s marketing has been “organic,” Panis says. It does have a good story – bringing manufacturing and jobs back to the United States.

Digital Summit

The Digital Summit is the largest event of its kind in the Southeast.

People who attend TechMedia’s events such as the Digital Summit often go not only for the programming – whether as participants or audience – but also to find partners, customers, and scope the lay of the digital landscape.

“We’ll be at the show (the Digital Summit) looking for a digital marketers who can help us drive traffic to our site and help us move watches,” he says.

The company isn’t looking for just anyone, though.

“We want a Triple A kind of guy or gal,” Panis says. “We want to shake up how people shop for watches and driving people to our site is critical to how we’re going to run this business. If we can find people to help us drive traffic and refine our funnel, it will be fascinating to see how the rest of the watch industry responds.”

Panis says he’s also looking forward to hearing more about what marketers are up to and how consumers are shopping online.


Fewer than 100 seats left for Atlanta Digital Summit

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

Atlanta skylineFewer than 100 seats remain for the Digital Summit in Atlanta which is only a week away. One of the largest digital marketing events in the Southeast, the Digital Summit features more than 80 presentations from marketing and technology thought-leaders.

Speakers from brands including Twitter, Google, Mashable, Porsche, Reddit, Adobe, TMZ, Bing, Nascar, Coca-Cola, Salesforce, AOL and many more will discuss the latest trends and insights into all things digital.

More than 1,500 are expected to attend.

Hours of networking

People network in groups large and small at SEVC.

People networking at a previous TechMedia event.

In addition to learning the latest digital trends and best practices with actionable takeaways from over 100 world class speakers, you’ll get hours of networking opportunities at two open bar receptions, day one’s gala reception with heavy appetizers, breakfast  & lunch on day two, cool giveaways, opportunities to check out the latest digital technologies and startups, a concert from a grammy nominated artist and a lasting experience.

Digital Summit will take place at the Georgia World Congress Center in downtown Atlanta.  The conference is readily accessible with a direct flight from most major US cities. The World Congress Center is a just short hop on Atlanta’s mass transit system from the airport.

Chaitanya 'Chet' Kanojia, CEO, founder, AEReO

Chaitanya ‘Chet’ Kanojia, CEO, founder of AEReO, will participate in the upcoming Digital Summit in Atlanta.

AEREO CEO participating

Among other top speakers, the CEO and found of AEREO, which has been much in the news lately with its technology for capturing over-the-air broadcasts and delivering them to customers via Internet connected devices, will be on hand.

For more about the event and links to interviews the TechJournal has done with a number of participating speakers, see: More than 100 digital thought-leaders headed to Atlanta.

Confirmed speakers include: 

  • Alexis Ohanian, Co-Founder, reddit
  • Baratunde Thurston, Technology-Loving Comedian
  • Frederick Townes, Sr Technical Advisor, Mashable
  • Matt Wallaert, Behavioral Scientist, Bing/Microsoft
  • Brent Herd, Dir Southeast, Twitter
  • Brian Wong, CEO, Kiip
  • Joshua Fruhlinger, Head of Digital, TMZ
  • Kelly Deen, Dir Consumer Marketing, Turner/Cartoon Network
  • Lizzy Nephew, Social Media & Emerging Technology Specialist, Porsche
  • Tom Daly, Group Director, Global Connections, Coca-Cola
  • Maureen Schumacher Cole, Head of Financial Services, Google
  • Steven Tedjamulia, Dir of Digital Strategy & Innovation, Dell
  • Michael Tippett, Dir of New Products, HootSuite
  • Steve Robinson, Dir of Online Analytics & Business Intel, The Home Depot
  • Michael Rodriguez, Product Manager of Digital News, The Weather Channel
  • Scott Carlis, VP Digital & Social, AEG Digital
  • Chet Kanojia, CEO & Founder, Aereo
  • Bert DuMars, VP & Principle Analyst, Forrester
  • Randall Lloyd, Dir of Social Ad Sales, Salesforce
  • Mallory Colliflower, Community Manager, HGTV
  • Tim Clark, Dir of Optimization, NASCAR
  • Mandar Shinde, Sr Dir Mobile Monetization, AOL
  • Jeff Siegel, SVP Worldwide Advertising, Rovi
  • Loni Stark, Director of Product Solution & Industry Marketing, Adobe
  • Lance Broumand, CEO, UrbanDaddy
  • Anthony Napalitano, Dir Global Partnerships, StumbleUpon
  • Brian D’Amato, SVP Analytics, Moxie
  • Matt Kaplan, VP Sales, Mail Online
  • Jason Hartley, Group Media Dir, 360i
  • Jeff Dennes, SVP – Head of Digital, SunTrust
  • Nick Ayers, Mgr, Social Marketing, Intercontinental Hotel Group
  • David Favero, Southeast Sales Dir, Shoutlet
  • Justin Carll, Digital Strategist, PureRED
  • Rory Felton, VP of Business Development, Music & Entertainment, Chirpify
  • Brian Ford, Sr Dir of NA Sales & Service, 3DSystems
  • Gretchen Fox, Social Architect, grtchnfx
  • Bob Gilbreath, CEO, Pingage
  • Laurie Hood, VP of Product Marketing, Silverpop
  • Kami Huyse, CEO, Zoetica Media
  • Simms Jenkins, CEO, BrightWave
  • Manny Ju, Dir of Product Management, Blue Hornet
  • Lawrence Kimmel, Executive Director, Hawekeye
  • Mike King, Dir of Inbound Marketing, iAcquire
  • Topher Kohan, Assc Dir of Search Strategy, Rockfish
  • Chris Korbey, Creative Director, Emma
  • Yoel Leinwand, Account Executive, YouTube
  • Rebecca Lieb, Industry Analyst, Altimeter Group
  • Michael Marshall, CEO, Internet Marketing Analysts
  • Erica McClenny, SVP Client Services, Expion
  • Josh McCoy, Lead Strategist, Vizion Interactive
  • Mark Miller, SVP/CRM Practice Lead, Digitas
  • Howard Morton, CEO & Managing Partner, Boardwalk International Advisors
  • Erik Muendel, CEO, Brightline
  • Dave Mundo, VP, Analytics Director, BKV
  • Stephen Pair, CTO & Co-Founder, BitPay
  • Jacques Panis, Dir of Strategic Partnerships, Shinola
  • Mike Pearla, Dir of Conversion Optimization, Fathom
  • Claudia Perlich, Chief Scientist, Media6Degrees
  • Steven Roe, Dir of Business Development & Marketing, Response Media
  • Lindy Roux, Principal Content Strategist, Siteworx
  • Nigel Sanctuary, VP Cloud Propositions, Kognitio
  • Joey Sargent, Principle, Brandsprout
  • Becky Scheel, Graphics/Website/Exhibit Designer, ZooAtlanta
  • Aaron Schildkrout, Co-Founder & Co-CEO, How About We
  • Jenny Schmidt, Principle, CloudSpark
  • Jeff Sheehan, CEO, Sheehan Marketing Strategies
  • Rob Sanders, Founder, RSO Consulting
  • Patrick Toland, CRO, Optimal Social
  • Stefan Tornquist, VP Research (US), Econsultancy
  • Chad White, Principle of Marketing Research, ExactTarget
  • Scott Williford, Fouder & CEO, vLink Solutions
  • Luke Barton, Technical Director, Siteworx
  • Trevor Sumner, President, LocalVox
  • Yakka Murphy, Art Director, Digital Experience, The Weather Channel
  • Cara Citino, Dir of Digital Services, R2integrated
  • Jeff Ferguson, CEO, Fang Digital Marketing
  • Victor Wong, CEO, PaperG
  • Ade Adeosun, Sr Dir Digital Business Analytic, comScore
  • Kelley Mitchell Price, Chief Experince Officer, PocketFirm
  • Annalise Kaylor, Dir of Social Media, Intrapromote
  • Trish Nettleship, Dir of Social Media & Influence, UCB
  • Danny Davis, CEO & Founder, Proving Ground
  • Thomas Cornelius, President of Adility, InComm
  • Adam Harrell, President, Nebo Agency
  • Nikhi Deshpande, Director, GeorgiaGov Interactive
  • Peter Lee, Editorial Director, GeorgiaGov Interactive
  • Alankar Tayal, Optimization, Usability, Testing & Analytic Expert

Use competitive analysis, enticing content for better SEO

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

By Allan Maurer

Josh McCoy.

Josh McCoy.

Search engine optimization now has to deal with up to 500 updates to search engine algorithms every year. “It used to be easy to position key words in the past, but no more,” says SEO expert Josh McCoy.

Lead stratagist at Vizion Interactive, McCoy is a monthly columnist for the leading search engine marketing news site Search Engine Watch, a speaking contributor for the Search Engine Strategies conference series and the ClickZ Training Academy and  manages the Kansas City Search Engine Marketing Association.

He’s one of dozens of digital thought-leaders, top executives from digital brands such as Google, Twitter, AOL,, AT&T, Adobe, MailOnline, Porche, and the Wall Street Journal, among many others, participating in the Atlanta Digital Summit May 14-15.

With a major update to the Google Penguin algorithm scheduled to hit soon, McCoy notes that Google rolled out an update in March that he’s still examining.

Rankings go all over the place

“Every time they update rankings go all over the place, then they ease up a bit,” he says. Sites that took a hit because of the March update may have seen some traffic coming back by April.

“I’m still tracking what they actually did with the algorithm,” McCoy says. But he did pinpoint two parts of it.

First, it hits “Over optimization of key words on pages, title elements, and headings or copy.”

Second, it looks at the bounce rate of key words on landing pages. “They’re cleaning up the algorithm so that if people are bouncing out when coming to the site through search, those pages perhaps should not be ranking,” he explains.

What content works?

The changes in the way the search engines rank sites mean content now needs to “Be enticing,useful, and informative.” That means that aggregation and curated content do not rank so well any longer. “They rely more on the quality of back links and the social buzz you get,” McCoy notes.

At the Digital Summit, McCoy will discuss using competitive analysis for organic search optimization. Competitive analysis, he says, “Is a foundational starting point you have to reivsit every quarter. It’s not a one and done kind of thing.”

You start, he says, with key word research, which terms are important to your site and the mission of your company. “Look at the where, the who and the how,” he says.

Look at your competitive landscape

Begin by addressing your competitive landscape, he suggests. “A mistake some companies make is that if they have physical locations they may think the store across the street is the competition – but it may not be online.”

Identify who your competitors really are. “I go after two or three,” McCoy says. “It’s best done with a few. You have to find your true direct competitors and then your key word competitors.”

To find out who your competitors really are, you examine the key word landscape. “Who is ranking for which key words? Who’s doing paid search for them? What types of universal results show up (video? images?).”

You have to write content for those key words and you may need to include video and/or images.

McCoy recommends using a number of tools to discover what the value of specific key words are to your competitors. Those tools can provide informations such as the search volume, the estimated number of clicks they get, the traffic and how much it would cost to buy that traffic.

You want to find out what is working for them.

Tools McCoy suggests include: SEMrush; Spyfu; linkdex; opensiteexporer; and MajesticSEO.

After who and the where, you look at how your competitors do things: how they build their site, the type of content they have allowing them to rank.

Also, says McCoy, “Look at other things offsite: what types of links are they getting, do they have high trust for their domain?”

Then, look at social. “Look at what your competitors are doing socially. Look at their audience. What types of content are people grabbing onto? See what works for them socially.”

Michael Marshall, another speaker at the upcoming Digital Summit in Atlanta, has some advice for getting your backlinks right.


Combined digital and traditional marketing work best

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

By Allan Maurer

Joellyn "Joey" Sargent

Joellyn “Joey” Sargent.

One mistake brands sometimes make today is that with digital and social media so prevalent, they sometimes think “We don’t need print, TV or traditional marketing anymore.”

That’s usually not the case, says Joellyn “Joey” Sargent, a principal at strategic marketing and management consulting firm BrandSprout. “People don’t live in their computers,” she says. “They drive, watch TV. Looking at your customers’ lifestyles and figuring out how to reach them in all kinds of places is critical.”

An avid fan of technology and innovation, Sargent’s approach merges new media with traditional marketing. Before founding BrandSprout, she spent 20 years leading marketing strategy for businesses ranging from start-ups to the Fortune 500, including UPS and BellSouth (now AT&T).

As a senior marketing executive, she had global responsibility for branding, marketing strategy, communications and product management functions. Sargent has been quoted in Fox Business, Huffington Post and Social Media Today. She holds an MBA from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Read her blog at

Participating in the Atlanta Digital Summit

Sargent is among the digital marketers, web strategists, senior Internet executives, thought-leaders, and entrepreneurs participating in the upcoming Digital Summit in Atlanta May 14-15. She also appeared at the event last year and you can read our interview preceding her presentation, “In the Age of Social Media, Companies don’t fully control the brand” here.

“It doesn’t make sense to try to reach customers from only one angle,” Sargent says. “You should start with a strong understanding of your target market and what they enjoy doing, what’s appropriate for them, where they are hanging out, what they’re reading and where they’re interacting.”

Sargent notes that while you could spend a lot of money on hard core research, you could also find out much of this information by “Talking to your customers in the field. Observe their behavior. Drill down on how they found out about you, who else they looked at, options they considered, and why they chose you. You’ll find good ways to get in front of them.”

Look for the most effective approaches

You will really want to look at the most effective approaches, she adds. “You might get in front of them 10 ways, but some are going to be better than others.”

Just as a quick example she says, “Someone waiting in a bus shelter will see a sign there, but if you’re in traffic, you might not notice a sign on a bus going by.”

You have to think about not only where you’ll get their attention, but also, where can they potentially take action?

Don’t do too much

One mistake marketers make, she says, “Is trying to do too much and cover the waterfront, be on every social network. That’s not productive because you spread yourself too thinly. Find the right places to connect with your customers.”

Even then, you have to think about what is appropriate for each social network. Photos of a company bowling team might work well on Facebook, but not on LinkedIn.

On a website your customers frequent, you might choose to have a pop up offer a newsletter if it offers a gateway to content they are interested in, she suggests.

“At the same time,” she warns, “You don’t want to jump in front of them if it’s not relevant to them. Find those opportunities where it is appropriate to get in front of them and they can make mental connections as to why you are there.”

Merge online and offline efforts

One thing that is particularly important – which she will discuss in more detail and with examples at the Digital Summit, is the need to merge offline and online marketing efforts.

“You have to be careful not to seem creepy,” she says, “such as when you download a brochure and the next thing you know your phone is ringing.”

Instead, she says, “If someone is engaged on a website, take it further. Can we give you something in hard copy? An invitation to an event we’re hosting? A workshop? Those are great for the more complex sale.”

For retail, offer a coupon, get them in the store. “For someone without a history with the brand, getting them to come in is a big deal.”

It’s a time-consuming process, but it’s not the kind of thing you can do and say you’re done, she notes.

A continuum, not set it and forget it

“It’s a continuum. The market changes. There are new opportunities for connecting with your customers. You need to be more nimble than ever.”

Once upon a time companies could do an annual marketing plan and that was it. “Now you have to do it every month,” she says. “People who go through the set it and forget it process end up spending more money than they need to by not optimizing their program.”

Finally, Sargent says, “Make sure you know how your digital marketing affects your overall corporate goals. It’s not about having 10,000 leads, it’s about having leads that bring you customers to help you grow over time.”


Major new media brands coming to Atlanta Digital Summit

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

GoogleWhat do these brands have in common: Twitter, Google, Mashable, Bing, reddit, YouTube, StumbleUpon, TMZ, Dell, Home Depot, HGTV, Salesforce, CNN, AOL, Forester, Urban Daddy and The Weather Channel?

They’re all represented at the upcoming Digital Summit 2013 May 14-15 in Atlanta, the region’s largest digital marketing and web innovation strategies conference.

The event draws a sell-out crowd of 1,500 or more digital marketers, web strategists, senior Internet executives, thought-leaders, and entrepreneurs to Atlanta.

Brian Wong, founder and CEO of Kiip, is participating in the Atlanta Digital Summit May 14-15.

Brian Wong, founder and CEO of Kiip, is participating in the Atlanta Digital Summit May 14-15.

We’ll be interviewing some of the featured speakers and panel participants as we head toward the event (TechJournal is a TechMedia division). We spoke to Kiip CEO and founder Brian Wong this week. Wong, the youngest person who ever received venture funding, describes how connecting mobile ads to “moments of achievement and delight” can make those ads welcome rather than an annoyance. See: Mobile ad secret sauce.

Register now to reserve your seat. TechMedia’s last event in Charlotte, NC, had to close registration a week ahead of the event and had a long waiting list, so do it early.


Atlanta-based Kabbage nabs $75M credit facility

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

KabbageKabbage Inc., an online provider of small businesses financing, has closed a $75 million credit facility, its largest financing transaction to date.

Victory Park Capital (VPC) led the debt financing, while existing equity investor Thomvest Ventures also contributed a significant amount. The debt facility will fund advances for the company’s rapidly-growing customer base and allow it to expand its reach to new customer segments and markets.

“We have followed Kabbage since its inception and have been exceedingly impressed by the power of its innovative real-time data platform and the team’s ability to scale over the last two years,” said Tom Affolter, Principal at Victory Park Capital.

Fills a market void

“There is a clear void in the market as traditional financing sources remain reluctant to lend. As a firm, we are excited to provide financing to Kabbage as it is uniquely positioned to deploy this capital to meet the demand for funding from small businesses.”

Kabbage Chair Marc Gorlin tells the TechJournal, “This debt facility will turbo charge the amount of growth Kabbage can support for small businesses of every shape and size.  We’re proud every day to be supporting the businesses that are the backbone of this country.”

Kabbage’s Data Context Engine uses persistent data connections to understand the true health of a small business throughout the account lifecycle.

Won six industry awards

The company employs real-time data connections to the sources that small businesses use every day such as shipping, accounting, social media, ecommerce, payments and others.

The company and its executives have presented at TechMedia’s Southeast Venture Conference and often participate in its digital summit events (the next is the Digital Summit in Atlanta, May 14-15).

Kabbage has won six major industry awards for innovation leadership in the last nine months, including first place in VentureBeat’s Innovation Showdown, and Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Financial Services from Fast Company.

“Kabbage’s underwriting platform and ease of use has positioned it as the leading online provider of credit solutions to small businesses,” said Peter J. Thomson, chairman of Thomvest and director of Thomson Reuters Corporation.

Growing at breakneck pace

Since launching two years ago, Kabbage has grown at a breakneck pace to become the industry leader in small business financing, delivering more advances than anyone in the industry.

Kabbage has extended more than 60,000 advances and expects to provide more than 100,000 in 2013 alone. Kabbage advances by volume have grown 298 percent on a year-over-year basis, while overall loan volume to small businesses declined during the same time period according to the Small Business Administration.

“This facility represents an enormous vote of confidence from the institutional investment community in the Kabbage model and a significant milestone in our company’s history” said Rob Frohwein, Kabbage Co-Founder and CEO.

“We have developed a new asset class that allows institutional investors to invest in funding the growth of the small businesses that are the backbone of our economy. You’ll see Kabbage continue to expand our funding platform in innovative ways both to both investors and small businesses, as we redefine what it means to deliver funding to businesses – making the process even more simple, fast and user-friendly.”


Peak 10 CEO offers 4 tips for entrepreneurs

Monday, March 4th, 2013

By Allan Maurer

David Jones

David Jones, President & CEO, Peak 10.

Even though Peak 10, the Charlotte-based data center and managed services provider now has 350 employees, CEO David Jones says the company still tries to foster an entrepreneurial spirit.

“We don’t make all our decisions centrally,” says Jones.

Jones co-founded Peak 10 in March of 2000 and has led the company to a top market position as a leading independent data center, managed services, and cloud computing solutions provider in the United States, with facilities in Charlotte, Atlanta, Jacksonville, Cincinnati, Louisville, Nashville, Tampa, South Florida, Raleigh, and Richmond.

Participating in the Southeast Venture Conference

Jones, who speaks often to entrepreneurial groups and is a past chair and still a director of the North Carolina Technology Association, is one of dozens of thought-leaders, venture capitalists, angel investors and entrepreneurs participating in the Southeast Venture Conference in Charlotte, NC, March 13-14.

“I think it’s going to be a great event for Charlotte,” Jones says. “It has an informative agenda, not the same old stuff you usually see at conferences. It’s going to bring a lot of faces into Charlotte who don’t normally spend time here.”


The Southeast Venture Conference is headed to Charlotte, NC, in March 2013. The event offers firms a chance to present to top national venture capitalists and angel investors.

Specifically, that includes speakers and panelists from national and regional venture capital firms and 50 innovative presenting companies from the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. Last we heard, there were only a handful of seats left for the event, so it’s a good idea to reserve yours now if you plan on attending.

Part of the Peak 10 entrepreneurial culture derives from its growing an average of about 25 percent a year and regularly opening new facilities to meet demand in the areas it serves.

Four pieces of advice for entrepreneurs

We asked Jones what advice he thinks is most important to starting a company.

First, he says, “Stay focused. We’ve all heard stories of companies that try to do too many things at once and don’t do any of them well.”

But even more important, he says, “Hire the best people you can. Don’t be complacent about that.” In the end, “That will make you successful or not.”

Get the right financial leadership

Next, he says, “Make sure you have the right financial leadership. A lot of startups fly by the seat of their pants. You need to know your operating costs.  I’ve always tried to find the best financial officer I could. If nothing else, have a financial advisor who can help you strategize where you are and the things you’ll need.”

Doing that can prevent you from “Hitting a brick wall when you find you didn’t plan for what you need on the development side.”

Finally, he adds, “Make sure you have a plan that can get funded. Great ideas go nowhere unless you have a plan to get there. Keep it simple. The more complex you make it, the harder it will be to get to where you want to be.”

In general, Jones says, “We’re in challenging times, but there are still a lot of opportunities out there.”