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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.”

Brands rushing to mobile apps without plans or tracking

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

mobile devicesWhile consumers continue to rely heavily on their mobile devices, businesses are still not prepared to put mobile first, according to a new study from Kontagent, a leader in providing mobile customer intelligence.

The study, released today in conjunction with Econsultancy, found that more than two-thirds of companies did not have a defined way to determine if mobile experiences were truly effective and only a third actually track and report specific performance of their must-have apps.

Companies have responded to the growth in mobile with ad-hoc development instead of a considered strategy. In most cases, it is not a symptom of experimentation and failing fast but a rush to go live.

Building apps without plans

Approximately 65 percent of respondents plan to increase spending in 2013, yet they also acknowledged that they are building apps without a plan or have any idea how to integrate the data they’ve collected into mobile app experiences that keep audiences coming back.

The study also cites that only 25 percent of brands have a well-defined mobile strategy and less than half have thought beyond the calendar year.

Digital thought-leaders who attend TechMedia events have told the TechJournal in interviews that companies need to seriously consider their real needs before rushing into mobile (the next TechMedia event is the Digital Summit 2013 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia on May 14th-15th, 2013. http://www.digitalsummit.com).

We’ve also reported on studies showing that many firms know they’re providing only so-so digital experiences.

Here are four tips on building a successful mobile strategy.

The Kontegent report also provided additional findings including:

  • Mobile-First vs. Mobile Mainstream: Mobile-first vs. mobile mainstream businesses continues to widen as mobile-first companies are two to three times more likely to have a long-term well-defined strategies (64 percent for mobile-first vs. 25 percent for mobile mainstream), while 71 percent of mobile-first companies have current mobile tactics tied to a strategy versus 25 percent for mobile mainstream businesses. And 64 percent of mobile-first businesses track key performances as opposed to 28 percent for mobile mainstream businesses.
  • Gaming and Retail Lead: In terms of mobile sophistication, gaming companies lead the pack. Game developers have mastered the free-to-play model by leveraging in-app user data to optimize user experiences. Retailers rank next. Travel companies are quickly catching up with the leaders while financial services firms, with some notable exceptions, are still behind the pack.
  • Who’s the Boss: For companies that are deemed mobile-first companies, senior management or product teams drive mobile strategies while mainstream companies still rely on marketing.
  • Apps or Dot.com: 69 percent of mobile-first brands believe that their efforts need to focus on apps as opposed to mobile optimized Web sites, while only 32 percent of mainstream brands see apps as the future.

Mobile outpacing any other adoption trend

“Many companies fall into the trap that they believe they need a consistent mobile presence, but fall short of taking the proper steps to ensure the experience is effective,” said Jeff Tseng , CEO and co-founder of Kontagent.

“Mobile adoption is outpacing any historical adoption trend. Businesses that will succeed on this next wave need to understand how to not only build outstanding experiences on mobile platforms, but also leverage user data rigorously in order to best measure and improve their mobile offerings.”

Kontagent recently unveiled its Mobile Customer Intelligence (MCI) framework to address these problems. It says MCI helps brands optimize mobile customer lifetime value through a comprehensive solution.

The executive brief is available for download here.

50 high growth companies presenting at Southeast Venture Conference

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

SEVC 2013You can make connections with 50 high growth technology companies from the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic as they present to hundreds of executives from the region’s innovation, entrepreneurial and venture communities at the Southeast Venture Conference March 13-14th at the Ritz-Carlton Charlotte, North Carolina.

In addition to presenting companies and hours of executive networking – the conference will feature a speaker line up inlcuding SAP CEO Bill McDermott, dozens of leading venture capital investors from groups like Advanced Technology Ventures, Intel Capital and Edison Ventures; industry  insiders like Forbes publisher Rich Karlgaard and policy makers such as North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory.

This year’s confirmed presenting company line-up includes:

SEVC

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.

In addition to the showcase presenters and hours of networking – SEVC 2013 will feature current market relevant panel and presentation topics for investors and executive entrepreneurs. These events sell out, so register now if you plan on going.

Panel & Presentation topics include:

  • State of Venture Capital
  • Early Stage Fundraising
  • Value Creation: Company/Investor Relationship
  • Growth Stage Funding
  • M&A Outlook and Strategies
  • LP Viewpoint
  • SaaS Investment Trends
  • Getting to Market
  • IPO & Secondary Market Outlook
  • Entrepreneur’s Roundtable
  • International Health Care Trends

What can advertisers learn from the flu?

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

MaxPointEven though this year’s flu virus is infecting people throughout the nation and New York and Boston even declared citywide health emergencies – you might not guess that Huntsville, Alabama is the city most concerned about it.

MaxPoint, a company that helps retailers and brands drive local in-store sales with its Digital Zip technology, announced its latest Interest Index, which reveals the cities most interested in flu-related remedies.

While that may or may not concern your company or your advertising clients specifically, MaxPoint notes that it is crucial for advertisers to dive deep into neighborhood and audience data when building campaigns.

For instance, New York and Boston did not even make the top ten list of cities most concerned about the flu this year.

By analyzing billions of in-store purchases and online data points, MaxPoint found that the 10 cities most interested in all things flu-related are the following:

1. Huntsville, AL
2. Knoxville, TN
3. Greensboro, NC
4. Greenville, SC
5. Des Moines, IA
6. Rochester, NY
7. Birmingham, AL
8. Boise, ID
9. Augusta, GA
10. Milwaukee, WI

nterest Data in Action

Using the data from this Interest Index, MaxPoint ran several digital advertising campaigns, including the following:

  • A global pharmaceutical company with a diverse healthcare portfolio — including pharmaceuticals, eye care products and vaccines — wanted to drive adults over the age of 65 to select pharmacy locations to receive flu shots. Using MaxPoint’s hyperlocal advertising approach, the company achieved 164 percent lift in awareness of its flu vaccine at participating pharmacies.
  • A manufacturer of analgesics wanted to increase brand awareness and drive sales of its products. By running digital ads with MaxPoint, the manufacturer achieved 3 percent sales lift in mass merchandise stores.

Cvent names the top 100 meeting hotels in the U.S.

Monday, April 23rd, 2012
Peabody Orlando

Interior of the Peabody Hotel in Orlando, Florida, the number one meeting hotel in the U.S., according to Cvent

Cvent, the world’s largest cloud-based provider of event management and venue selection solutions, has named the top 100 hotels for meetings in the United States, according to meeting and event planners in the Cvent Supplier Network.

The Cvent Supplier Network is a free online marketplace that connects meeting planners with over 200,000 venues worldwide; it generated $4 billion in business for hotels in 2011 and projects more than $5.5 billion to be generated in 2012.

In addition, over 100,000 meetings were booked on the Cvent Supplier Network in 2011 alone.

The list of hotels was compiled from a pool of 80,000 hotels in the U.S. on the Cvent Supplier Network. The ranking was then determined by a set of qualifying criteria, some of which included:

  • The number of electronic request-for-proposals (RFPs) the property received from the Cvent Supplier Network in 2011;
  • The hotel’s average response rate to the RFPs sent through the marketplace;
  • The number of meeting rooms available;
  • The total square footage of meeting space offered at the hotel; and
  • The amount of business the property was awarded in 2011 by meeting planners through the Cvent Supplier Network.

The list is comprised of venues from a variety of locales, spanning 17 states and the District of Columbia. Florida represents the largest number of meeting hotels in the top 100, taking nearly one-fifth of the list at a total of 19 properties.

Nevada comes in second with 14 properties, and the state of Texas takes third place with a total of 13 hotels on the list.

Top 10 Meeting Hotels in the U.S.

1. The Peabody Orlando, Orlando, Florida

2. Gaylord Opryland Hotel & Convention Center, Nashville, Tennessee

3. Hyatt Regency Atlanta, Atlanta, Georgia

4. Rosen Shingle Creek, Orlando, Florida

5. The Venetian and Palazzo Resort, Hotel & Casinos, Las Vegas, Nevada

6. Gaylord National Hotel & Convention Center, National Harbor, Maryland

7. Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin, Lake Buena Vista, Florida

8. The Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, Georgia

9. ARIA Resort & Casino at CityCenter, Las Vegas, Nevada

10. MGM Grand Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada

For the complete list of Cvent’s Top 100 Meeting Hotels in the U.S. visit http://www.cvent.com/top100hotelsus.

Digital Summit bringing top brands to Atlanta’s largest Digital media & marketing event

Friday, March 30th, 2012

Digital Summit 2012ATLANTA – Nearly 1,500 interactive marketers, digital and new media strategists, entrepreneurs and technology professionals will connect at the Cobb Galleria Centre in Atlanta, May 9-10. More than 75 speakers will deliver over 50 presentations and panel discussions about today’s hottest digital business and marketing trends.

Speakers from Google, Twitter, Mashable, Klout, The Onion, The Huffington Post, Pandora, Google and StumbleUpon will provide insights, techniques and tools you can use as soon as you get back to the office.

Topics include social media, mobile applications, e-commerce, SEO & paid search, Internet usability, analytics & measurement, streaming & interactive video, cloud computing and online advertising/branding.

Co-founder of the innovative online shopping destination Gilt Groupe, Alexis Maybank will deliver the keynote presentation that promises to be enlightening, inspiring and engaging.

The Digital Summit conference opens Wednesday, May 9th at 1pm with Maybank’s keynote launching the event. Attendees have more than 50 educational and thought provoking presentations and panels to choose from. Conference goers will also get a glimpse into some of the industry’s newest Internet entrepreneurial products and tools featured in the Demo Showcase and Startup Lounge.

Doors open day two at 7 a.m. for a power networking breakfast, and the day kicks off as featured thought leaders Joel Lunenfeld, VP of Brand Strategy for Twitter and Michael Greer, Chief Product Officer of The Onion share their insights. Later, the keynote panel discussion: The Future of Digital Media & Marketing will feature executives from Twitter,Mashable and Klout.

To register for what is expected to be a sold out event and get the latest about Digital Summit 2012, visit www.digitalsummit.com

Early bird rate for Digital Summit available until March 16

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

TechMedia’s Digital Summit 2012, slated for May 9-10 at the Cobb Galleria Centre in Atlanta, is offering an Early Bird rate until March 16.

Digital Summit 2012More than  50 expert panels and presentations by thought leaders will cover topics such as Customer Engagement, SEO, Analytics, Usability & Design, Paid Search, Email Marketing, Ecommerce, Online Video, Facebook & Twitter Marketing and many more.

This year you can also sign up for a pre-conference event that offers a dozen more sessions covering social media from fundamentals to advanced features and usability & design. The 5-hour long workshops are designed to provide take-aways you can put to work as soon as you get back to your office.

TechMedia events sell-out, so it’s always a good idea to register early. Do so by March 16 and get the Early Bird rate of $245.

From March 17 to April 13, registration will be $295, and after April 14 rises to $345.

Best schools to study video game design from California to the New York Highlands

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

The Princeton ReviewThe University of Southern California at Los Angeles and M.I.T. are the top two schools for studying video game design.

So says The Princeton Review (www.princetonreview.com) — one of the nation’s best-known education services companies, which today reported its third annual list naming the schools with the best programs to study video game design.

The new list, “Top Schools to Study Video Game Design for 2012,” recommends 50 schools in all.  It names 10 undergraduate and 10 graduate schools in rank order to its respective “top 10″ lists and 22 undergraduate and 8 graduate schools as Honorable Mentions.  The Company’s full report on the 2012 list is accessible now at http://www.princetonreview.com/game-design.aspx.

The Princeton Review chose the schools based on a comprehensive survey it conducted in the 2011-2012 academic year of administrators at 150 institutions offering video game design coursework and/or degrees in the United States and Canada.

The survey, which included more than 50 questions, covered a wide range of topics from academics and faculty credentials to graduates’ employment and career achievements.

Criteria for The Princeton Review’s school selections covered the quality of the curriculum, faculty, facilities and infrastructure.  The Company also factored in data it collected from the schools on their scholarships, financial aid and career opportunities.

The Princeton Review’s top 10 undergraduate schools to study video game design for 2012 are:

  1. University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA)
  2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA)
  3. University of Utah (Salt Lake City, UT)
  4. DigiPen Institute of Technology (Redmond, WA)
  5. The Art Institute of Vancouver (Vancouver, BC)
  6. Rochester Institute of Technology (Rochester, NY)
  7. Shawnee State University (Portsmouth, OH)
  8. Savannah College of Art and Design (Savannah, GA)
  9. University of New Mexico (Albuquerque, NM)
  10. Becker College (Worcester, MA)

The Princeton Review’s top 10 graduate schools to study video game design for 2012 are:

  1. University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA)
  2. Rochester Institute of Technology (Rochester, NY)
  3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA)
  4. University of Central Florida (Orlando, FL)
  5. Southern Methodist University (SMU) (Plano, TX)
  6. Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, PA)
  7. Savannah College of Art and Design (Savannah, GA)
  8. DigiPen Institute of Technology (Redmond, WA)
  9. Univ. of California, Santa Cruz (Santa Cruz, CA)
  10. Drexel University (Philadelphia, PA)

Honorable Mentions– Undergraduate Schools (alpha order):

Bradley University (Peoria, IL)
Champlain College (Burlington, VT)
Columbia College Chicago (Chicago, IL)
DePaul University (Chicago, IL)
Drexel University (Philadelphia, PA)
Ferris State University (Grand Rapids, MI)
Full Sail University (Winter Park, FL)
Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, GA)
Miami University (Oxford, OH)
Michigan State University (East Lansing, MI)
New Jersey Institute of Technology (Newark, NJ)
New York University/NYU POLY (New York, NY)
North Carolina State University (Raleigh, NC)
Northeastern University (Boston, MA)
Ohio University (Athens, OH)
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, NY)
University of Advancing Technology (Tempe, AZ)
University of California, Santa Cruz (Santa Cruz, CA)
University of Maryland, Baltimore County (Baltimore, MD)
The University of Texas at Dallas (Richardson, TX)
Vancouver Film School (Vancouver, BC)
Worcester Polytechnic Institute (Worcester, MA)

Honorable Mentions – Graduate Schools (alpha order):

DePaul University (Chicago, IL)
Full Sail University (Winter Park, FL)
Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, GA)
New York University/NYU Poly (New York, NY)
Parsons - The New School for Design (New York, NY)
Sacred Heart University (Fairfield, CT)
The University of Texas at Dallas (Richardson, TX)
University of Utah (Salt Lake City, UT)

Visitors to the Princeton Review website area on this list http://www.princetonreview.com/game-design.aspx can access additional information about the schools’ programs and click on links to the schools’ websites.

“Academic and professional programs in video game design studies – from very specialized college majors to highly concentrated graduate degrees – have evolved tremendously over the past 10 years,” said Robert Franek, Princeton Review’s Senior VP/Publisher.  “We salute the schools on our list this year for their commitment to this burgeoning field and the innovative programs they offer. For students aspiring to work in this more than $10.5 billion industry and for the companies that will need their creative talents and skills, we hope this project will serve as a catalyst for many rewarding connections.”

The Princeton Review is also known for its annual rankings of colleges, law schools and business schools in dozens of categories which it reports on its website and in its books including The Best 376 Colleges and the recently published book,The Best Value Colleges.

The Princeton Review is not affiliated with Princeton University and it is not a magazine.

Open Table names 100 U.S. restaurants providing best service

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

OpenTableBusiness travelers frequently need restaurants that have great food, but also good service, since they’re often on the run. If you’re looking for U.S. restaurants with top notch service, here’s some help from Open Table.

OpenTable, Inc. (NASDAQ: OPEN), a  provider of free, real-time online restaurant reservations for diners and reservation and guest management solutions for restaurants, has disclosed the 2012 Diners’ Choice Award winners for the 100 restaurants in the United States providing the best service.

Open Table founder Chuck Templeton is among the top speakers at the Southeast Venture Conference which started this morning in Tysons Corner, VA, and runs through tomorrow.  Templeton created and defined the restaurant reservation space after founding OpenTable in 1998, after his wife spent a frustrating evening one night trying to make dinner reservations for his visiting in-laws one night in San Francisco.

OpenTable’s successful IPO in 2009 was a milestone that helped to reopen the public market for tech companies.

Awards reflect millions of opinions

These awards reflect the combined opinions of nearly 5 million reviews submitted by verified OpenTable diners for more than 12,000 restaurants in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Regionally, the honorees span 29 states and Washington, D.C. The South reinforces the notion of southern hospitality, with 22 restaurants in the region being singled out for best service. The Northeast boasts 15 winning restaurants, including 10 in New York alone.

The Pacific region accounts for 14 winners, 10 of which are in California, as does the Mid-Atlantic, with six restaurants in Virginia claiming spots. Eleven winners come from the Great Lakes Region, four of which are in the Twin Citiesarea.

The Pacific Northwest and the Southwest follow with seven honorees apiece. The Rocky Mountain States count five winners, while the Central Plains has four, three of which are in Missouri. One restaurant in Hawaii also earned a nod.

American food restaurants rack up 40 winners

Superior service can be found across a number of cuisines. Restaurants serving American food, however, account for 40 winners. French restaurants earned 25 places on the list.

Steakhouses followed with 17 spots. Seven Italian restaurants are among the winners. Other cuisines include continental, global international, Japanese, seafood, and sushi.

“The most memorable part of a meal may not be just what’s on your plate, but also, that exceptional staffer who goes the extra step to ensure an enjoyable dining experience,” says Caroline Potter, OpenTable’s Chief Dining Officer.

“These winning restaurants understand this concept and have consciously created a culture of hospitality that is embraced by both front and back of house professionals. Whether it’s a grand gesture, such as a tour of the kitchen, or a simple one, like a warm smile from an attentive server, diners are coming away from these restaurants feeling special.”

The Diners’ Choice Awards for the top 100 restaurants providing the best service are generated from nearly 5 million reviews collected from verified OpenTable diners between February 2011 and January 2012. All restaurants with a minimum number of qualifying reviews were included for consideration. Qualifying restaurants were then scored and sorted according to the highest average rating in the service category.

Based on this methodology, the following restaurants, listed in alphabetical order, comprise the top 100 restaurants with the best service in the U.S. according to OpenTable diners.

The complete list may also be viewed athttp://www.opentable.com/bestservice.

2012 Diners’ Choice Award Winners for Restaurants in the U.S. with the Best Service

Acqua Restaurant & Wine Bar – White Bear Lake, Minnesota

Acquerello – San Francisco, California

Addison at The Grand Del Mar – San Diego, California

Bacchanalia – Atlanta, Georgia

Bibou – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Binkley’s Restaurant – Cave Creek, Arizona

Bistro L’Hermitage – Woodbridge, Virginia

Blue Hill at Stone Barns – Pocantico Hills, New York

Bluestem – Kansas City, Missouri

Bones – Atlanta, Georgia

Cafe Renaissance – Vienna, Virginia

Canlis – Seattle, Washington

Capital Grille – Minneapolis, Minnesota

Castagna – Portland, Oregon

Chama Gaucha Brazilian Steakhouse – Downers Grove, Illinois

Charleston – Baltimore, Maryland

Charleston Grill – Charleston, South Carolina

Chez Francois – Vermilion, Ohio

Chez Nous French Restaurant – Humble, Texas

CityZen – Washington, D.C.

Congress – Austin, Texas

The Copper Door – Hayesville, North Carolina

Corbett’s Fine Dining – Louisville, Kentucky

Cyrus – Healdsburg, California

Daniel – New York, New York

Daniel-Lounge Seating – New York, New York

Del Posto – New York, New York

Dewz – Modesto, California

The Dining Room-Biltmore Estate – Asheville, North Carolina

Eleven Madison Park – New York, New York

Elizabeth on 37th – Savannah, Georgia

Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant – Forestville, California

Fat Canary – Williamsburg, Virginia

Fearrington House Restaurant – Pittsboro, North Carolina

Fig Tree – Charlotte, North Carolina

Forage – Salt Lake City, Utah

Fountain Restaurant – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Frasca Food and Wine – Boulder, Colorado

The French Room – Dallas, Texas

Genoa Restaurant – Portland, Oregon

Gordon Ramsay at the London – New York, New York

The Grill-The Ritz Carlton – Naples, Florida

Grouse Mountain Grill – Avon, Colorado

Halls Chophouse – Charleston, South Carolina

Hannas Prime Steak – Rancho Santa Margarita, California

Herons – Cary, North Carolina

Highlands Bar & Grill – Birmingham, Alabama

The Hobbit – Orange, California

joan’s in the Park – St. Paul, Minnesota

Kai-Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort – Chandler, Arizona

Killen’s Steakhouse – Pearland, Texas

The Kitchen Restaurant – Sacramento, California

La Belle Vie – Minneapolis, Minnesota

La Grenouille – New York, New York

La Mer at Halekulani – Honolulu, Hawaii

L’Auberge Chez Francois – Great Falls, Virginia

Le Bernardin – New York, New York

Les Nomades – Chicago, Illinois

L’Etoile Restaurant – Madison, Wisconsin

Madrona Manor – Healdsburg, California

Mahogany Prime Omaha – Omaha, Nebraska

Marcel’s – Washington, D.C.

The Melting Pot – Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Menton – Boston, Massachusetts

Michael’s-South Point Casino – Las Vegas, Nevada

Mitchell’s Ocean Club – Columbus, Ohio

Morton’s The Steakhouse – Portland, Oregon

New York Prime – Myrtle Beach, Florida

Niche – St. Louis, Missouri

Nicholas – Red Bank, New Jersey

o ya – Boston, Massachusetts

Opus 9 Steakhouse – Williamsburg, Virginia

Orchids at Palm Court – Cincinnati, Ohio

The Painted Lady – Newberg, Oregon

Palace Arms at the Brown Palace – Denver, Colorado

Peninsula Grill – Charleston, South Carolina

Pepper Tree Restaurant – Colorado Springs, Colorado

Per Se – New York, New York

Plume at the Jefferson Hotel – Washington, D.C.

Rafain Brazilian Steakhouse – Dallas, Texas

The Restaurant at Meadowood – Saint Helena, California

Restaurant Iris – Memphis, Tennessee

Rover’s – Seattle, Washington

Rudy & Paco’s Restaurant & Bar – Galveston, Texas

Russell’s Steaks, Chops, and More – Williamsville, New York

Ruth’s Chris Steak House – Jacksonville, Florida

Saint Jacques French Cuisine – Raleigh, North Carolina

Sedgley Place – Greene, Maine

Sonoma – Princeton, Massachusetts

St. John’s Restaurant – Chattanooga, Tennessee

The Steak House at Silver Reef – Ferndale, Washington

Tony’s – St. Louis, Missouri

TRU – Chicago, Illinois

Uchi – Austin, Texas

Uchiko – Austin, Texas

Vetri – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Vic & Anthony’s Steakhouse – Las Vegas, Nevada

Vintage Tavern – Suffolk, Virginia

White Barn Inn – Kennebunk, Maine

Woodfire Grill – Atlanta, Georgia

Diners can also read more about the Diners’ Choice Awards for the Best Service restaurants in the U.S. by visiting OpenTable Chief Dining Officer Caroline Potter’s “Dining Check” blog.

Smartphone app market to hit $15B in a year

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

smartphonesBy 2013, the smart phone applications market is expected to surpass $15 billion, up from $1.94 billion in 2009, according to research2guidance. The surge will be attributed to the dramatic increase in the amount of smart phone users, which should top 1 billion in 2013.

Plenty of companies are benefiting from this increase in attention, like Glu Mobile makers of original games like Beat It! And Brain Genius toNetSuite who gears its applications towards financial and customer management needs.

The smartphone/tablet app market is easier to break into for startups and provides a quicker route to revenue than many other tech opportunities. We reported on the Atlanta startup, Khush, which has a smartphone app that adds music to your voice when you sing a tune.

Khush CEO Prerna Gupta is among 120 top digital gurus presenting at the upcoming Internet Summit in Raleigh, NC, Nov. 15-16.

There are also niche markets emerging, Vringo, Inc (NYSE Amex: VRNG) recently unveiled its Facetones application via Verizon V CAST Apps. This application creates an automated video slideshow using friends’ photos from social media websites and photo sites and then plays this video slideshow as the phone rings.

Applications are making their way into traditional areas of business as well, The Allstate Corp., which operates in most facets of insurance allows users of their applications to do everything from get policy and claim information to pay their bill and receive accident support.

According to a semi-annual survey, CTIA found that there are 327.6 million wireless subscriber connections, an increase of 9 percent from mid-year 2010, when that number was at 292.8 million. Of that number, 95.8 million are smart phones and wireless enabled PDAs. For the first time, the number of wireless subscriber connections has surpassed the U.S. population.

 

Telework is working in Georgia

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

By Mike Williams,

Employer Services Director at The Clean Air Campaign

ATLANTA – Demand on roads in American cities has never been higher, and in many parts of the country, the supply is struggling to keep up. According to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, traffic on the nation’s interstate highways grew by 150 percent from 1980 to 2006, but interstate capacity grew by just 15 percent.

With tax revenues decreasing and government budgets shrinking, the state of Georgia is focusing on a strategy that reduces traffic demands while benefitting local employers: telework.

This week Georgia Governor Nathan Deal and The Clean Air Campaign are calling on all Georgia employers and commuters to support the second annual Georgia Telework Week, Sept. 12-16.

Despite a decline in telework on a national level—as we saw in the most recent World at Work survey—Georgia is actually seeing an increase in both the number of teleworkers and the frequency with which they telework.

Number of teleworkers growing

The 2010 Metro Atlanta Regional Commuter Survey, commissioned by the Georgia Department of Transportation, revealed that the number of teleworkers grew 20 percent between 2007 and 2010, meaning more than  600,000 metro Atlantans currently telework on at least an occasional basis. That equates to 21 million miles of vehicle travel eliminated from our roads each year if everyone among this group teleworked just once.

The Clean Air Campaign works with hundreds of employers throughout the state, starting or expanding telework programs at their worksites.  These employers are leading the way because they understand that telework is a smart business strategy: improving recruitment and retention, boosting productivity and morale. Many also benefit from lower real estate costs, reduced absenteeism, and the ability to remain productive when Mother Nature interferes with the ability to get to work.

Although there is strong support for telework, there is still tremendous opportunity for growth. Currently, 245,000 employees in the Atlanta region who do not have permission from their employer to telework but believe their job functions would allow them to do so. That is nearly 430 million vehicles miles that we could eliminate from our highways annually if everyone in this group teleworked once a week, not to mention all the money these commuters and businesses could be saving.

We invite commuters and employers to log on to www.cleanaircampaign.org/teleworkto show their support for telework. Last year, close to 150 employers across the state—including half of Georgia’s Fortune 500 companies—pledged their support during the inaugural Georgia Telework Week. On September 15, we will also be hosting our first Telework Summit which will to provide real-world strategies for telework success.

I’ll leave you with this. Right now in metro Atlanta, the typical solo commuter is spending $4,000 a year on commute costs alone, which equates to roughly $16 per day. That means a typical drive-alone commuter has to work about an hour each day just to pay off that day’s round-trip commute costs. For the year, it would take a full month of workdays just to pay for their annual commute costs. Think about how much money you could save if you were working from home.

The Clean Air Campaign is a Georgia-based non-profit working with the Georgia Department of Transportation and other partners to assist more than 1,600 employers and thousands of commuters with clean commuting options – such as carpooling, transit and telework – that lead to less traffic congestion and cleaner air.

EDA makes $100K grant to support Georgia entrepreneurs

Friday, September 9th, 2011

Atlanta skylineATLANTA – The U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Adminstration is providing a $100,000 grant to the Technology Association of Georgia (TAG) of Atlanta, Ga., to help expand an Economic Gardening Pilot Program that provides technical assistance to growth-oriented entrepreneurs.

“Creating local jobs is President Obama’s top priority and he has taken significant steps to support entrepreneurs and small businesses, which are the backbone of our economy and the cornerstone of our communities,” said U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development John Fernandez.  “This EDA grant will help to create new jobs by providing critical technical support to the region’s budding entrepreneurs.”

“Economic Gardening will enhance and accelerate the maturity of early-stage tech and tech-enabled companies by leveraging existing regional strengths along with new, innovative business support services,” said Melanie Brandt, Chief Operating Officer, of Technology Association of Georgia of Atlanta. “Georgia is the national leader in entrepreneurial activity, so it is natural and imperative that, as a state, we support the companies and people driving Georgia’s—and the nation’s—economic recovery.”

The project will allow TAG’s Economic Gardening program to expand its service delivery area beyond the 11-county area it currently serves.  TAG’s economic gardening program supports small, emerging technology-based firms, specifically companies in Stage I and Stage II of the business cycle, with research and marketing assistance.

U.S. Economic Development Administration

Using new SOC 2 reports to help access cloud computing security risk

Thursday, September 1st, 2011
Milton Petersen

Milton L. Petersen

By Milton L. Petersen

Customers or users of outsourcing and cloud computing services are often, and justifiably, concerned about the risks associated their service providers, especially security-related risks. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) has recently established a structure of Service Organization Control (SOC) reports to replace SAS 70 reports (i.e., reports produced pursuant to Statement on Auditing Standards (SAS) No. 70 issued by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)), which have been used for years, often for purposes beyond their intended focus on financial reporting and controls.

The type of SOC reports that could be particularly useful in assessing security risks in outsourcing or cloud computing relationships are known as SOC 2 reports. SOC 2 reports can provide detailed information on a service provider’s controls that affect the security, availability, and processing integrity of the service provider’s systems, as well as the confidentiality and privacy of the customer’s information that is processed by those systems.

These five attributes (i.e., security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy) are referred to as the “trust services principles,” and SOC 2 reports may be required to address any or all of them. Obtaining information and assurances regarding the trust services principles can be especially important in heavily regulated industries such as health care and financial services, where stringent requirements to maintain the confidentiality and security of personal information apply

As with SAS 70 reports, SOC 2 reports may be either Type 1 or Type 2. Type 1 reports describe the controls used by the service provider, while Type 2 reports also involve a test of the design and effectiveness of those controls and describe the associated test results.

Thus, SOC 2 Type 2 reports can provide much more (and more useful) information to a customer and are generally the type of SOC reports that should be required in outsourcing or cloud computing contracts. SOC 2 reports are produced under the AICPA’s attestation standards, specifically, AT Section 101, Attest Engagements.

SOC 2 reports are generally “restricted use” reports that not only describe and test the service provider’s relevant controls, but also address how the service provider’s controls interface or interact with complimentary controls and procedures of the customer’s organization. SOC 2 reports may therefore help a customer understand or assess whether there are gaps or weaknesses at the boundaries where its systems and the service provider’s interact.

The service provider’s controls that are evaluated in creating a SOC 2 report are those relating to the service provider’s systems and the service that it provides to the customer. These controls address system components like the service provider’s infrastructure (facilities, equipment, networks), software (systems, applications, and utilities), people (developers, operators, users, managers), procedures (automated and manual), and data (files, databases, data flows). Thus, a SOC 2 Type 2 report can be very comprehensive and provide the customer with a wealth of information to help assess the associated risks.

Contracting norms have not yet emerged

SOC reports are very new and contracting norms with respect to them have not yet emerged. While a customer’s initial negotiating position should probably be to require the service provider to pay the costs of periodically producing SOC 2 Type 2 reports, it may be fair for the customer to bear some portion of the costs, to the extent the reports are specifically tailored to the customer’s organization.

It will probably take some time for the new Service Organization Control reports to become better understood and accepted. However, they certainly offer the potential to be very useful in understanding the risks associated with cloud computing and outsourcing relationships

Milton L. Petersenis an attorney whose practice focuses exclusively on information technology-related transactions and issues.  He is a partner in the Information Technology Practice Group at the law firm of with HunterMaclean in Savannah, Georgia and may be reached at 912-238-2629 or mpetersen@huntermaclean.com

Are the people in your city among the most curious?

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

Just AnswerSAN FRANCISCO – JustAnswer,  a paid Q&A website, has listed its Top Five Most Curious Cities in the U.S. While New York, NY – the nation’s most populous city with over nine million residents – ranked number one in total questions asked, it isn’t anywhere near the top. That distinction goes to Naples, FL, whose total number of questions asked represented 12.01% of the city’s total population of 21,653, making it nearly 38 times more curious than The Big Apple, which came in at .32%.*

Rounding out the Top Five Most Curious Cities (based on percentage of population) in the U.S.:

2. Littleton, CO: 8.41%

3. Spring, TX: 6.68%

4. Sarasota, FL: 5.31%

5. Marietta, GA: 4.62%

“Since the Experts on JustAnswer began answering questions in 2003, we’ve always been intrigued by where the pockets of curiosity are around the country. While we’re not surprised to discover that the nation’s largest urban cities asked the most total questions, we’re very intrigued by the online engagement of smaller cities, such as Littleton, CO and Spring, TX,” said Andy Kurtzig, Founder and CEO of JustAnswer.

How Major U.S. Cities Stack Up in the Curiosity Department

Among U.S. cities with populations of over 400,000, Atlanta, GA topped the rankings with questions asked representing 2.44% of its population, followed by:

2. Miami, FL: 2.16%

3. Minneapolis, MN: 1.87%

4. Las Vegas, NV: 1.55%

5. Denver, CO: 1.44%

A Tale of Two Cities: What’s In a Name?

When it comes to asking questions, two cities can share a name, but not necessarily their curiosity quotient. While Naples, FL topped the JustAnswer ranking of most curious cities, Naples, NC accounted for only two questions.

Similarly, Portland, OR (47th), Philadelphia, PA, (96th) and Memphis, TN (97th) far outdistanced their namesakes, Portland, MO, Philadelphia, MO and Memphis, IN, which combined for a total of just four questions asked.

*Rankings are based on an estimate of user location according to the IP address of the computer used to visit the JustAnswer website between June 2010 and June 2011. Population figures are from the United States Census Bureau. JustAnswer does not identify or record actual locations or addresses of its users.


Georgia-based Metago nabs $550K funding for Android file management app

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

MetagoMARIETTA, GA – Metago, creator of ASTRO, a file management application with over 12 million users worldwide, has closed $550,000 in Series A financing from Kii Capital, a Silicon Valley-based venture fund. The capital will support the expansion of the ASTRO product line including a new cloud-based product, enhancements to ASTRO File Manager and continued investment in their OEM channel.

“ASTRO File Manager is recognized as a leading app in the Android ecosystem with millions of loyal users worldwide, and we are excited about the new opportunities this funding will support,” said Kevin Payne, founder and chief executive officer of Metago. “We are using this capital to drive exciting features and new products which will be available shortly. We are confident this will accelerate the growth of our user base and help create a raving fan base of customers.”

ASTRO allows users to manage files easily, similar to Windows Explorer on a PC. Users perform tasks like cut, copy, paste and can backup files or apps to an SD card.

ASTRO not only manages your pictures, music, documents, videos and more, it also has several other built-in tools like a task killer where users can manage processes that eat up devices processing power or battery life, SD card usage monitor and more. ASTRO combines these core functions so users do not need multiple apps.

Christof Wittig, managing director of Kii Capital said, “The ASTRO brand is well-known, well-reputed and powerful, because its products solve a real problem that real users have daily — managing content. We have evaluated many alternatives and it was ASTRO which convinced us, based on over 12 million downloads and its top 10 ranking in the Android Marketplace, that it is in a position to be a real and sustainable market leader in smart phone utility apps.”

ASTRO File Manager has received dozens of awards including Best Tool App by Android Awards, a 5-star rating from CNET and Best All-Purpose Utility Android App by PC Magazine. ASTRO has a free ad-supported version as well as a Pro Version which is currently $3.99. www.metago.net.

PAETEC plans new data centers in Charlotte, Atlanta, Tampa, McLean

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

PaetecNEW YORK – PAETEC Holding Corp. (NASDAQ GS: PAET), a nationwide provider of comprehensive communications solutions, today announced the launch of an expanded portfolio of cloud-based products and the planned deployment of new data centers coast-to-coast. The move comes on the heels of a national study that says the majority of U.S. data centers are running out of space.

As part of its overall cloud and data center strategy and leveraging its breadth and depth of experience in the cloud and data center space, PAETEC plans to add 13 data centers coast-to-coast by the end of 2012 to its current set of seven centers which will result in the company operating 20 centers nationwide.

“With the advent of high-speed networks and continued migration of network intelligence into the cloud, the need for these network-based services has increased dramatically and we see that trend continuing into the future,” said Arunas Chesonis, chairman and CEO of PAETEC.

ETEC currently has data centers in Andover, Mass., Bethlehem and Conshohocken, Pa., Richmond, Va., Milwaukee, Wis., Houston, Tex., and Phoenix, Ariz.

In 2011, the company has plans to expand to McLean, Va., Tampa, Fla., Columbus, Ohio, Detroit, Mich., and Charlotte, N.C. In 2012, data centers are also planned for Dallas, Tex., Chicago, Ill., Northern California, Rochester, N.Y., Pittsburgh, Pa., Denver, Co., Atlanta, Ga. and a location in the Pacific Northwest.

Best states for business: NC at No. 2, Florida, 3, Tennsessee 4, Georgia 5

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

Best Worst StatesFor the seventh year in a row, CEOs rate Texas as the #1 state in which to do business and California as the worst. North Carolina maintained its #2 rank, while Florida rose three positions to the #3 spot. Tennessee fell one slot from last year to #4 while Georgia climbed two positions to claim the #5 rank.

Chief Executive magazine’s annual “Best & Worst States” survey takes the pulse of CEOs on business conditions around the nation. For the 2011 survey, 550 CEOs from across the country evaluated the states on a broad range of issues, including regulations, tax policies, workforce quality, education resources, quality of living and infrastructure.

“A handful of states have made business-friendly policies a priority,” says J.P. Donlon, Editor-in-Chief ofChief Executive magazine and ChiefExecutive.net. “These forward-thinking states are the exception rather than the rule and include Utah, Arizona, Florida, Tennessee, Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma.”

CEOs voted California as the worst state in 2011, with New York, Illinois, New Jersey and Michiganrounding out the bottom five.

“ABC — Anywhere But California,” said T.J. Rodgers, CEO of Cypress Semiconductor, a $668 million chip maker headquartered in San Jose, California, and with plants in 10 countries. “It’s expensive, it’s hostile to business, and environmental regulations are more of a drag on business than protecting the environment.” Cypress Semiconductor’s headcount in California peaked at 1,500. It’s now down to about 600.

With finances in shambles due to the weak economy, many states have been increasing tax rates.

“Today’s ‘soak the rich’ mentality hits business leaders especially hard,” says Marshall Cooper, CEO ofChief Executive magazine and ChiefExecutive.net. “CEOs and entrepreneurs vote with their feet — and also pack up jobs and investment with them when they leave.”

It’s interesting that North Carolina, which has one of the highest tax rates in the Southeast, maintains its number two position, largely due to the talent available through its eduction system and its quality of life. It’s education system is about to take a huge cut as the state wrestles with the same type of budget deficit that plagues other states.

TechJournal South is a TechMedia company. TechMedia presents the annual conferences:

SoutheastVentureConference: www.seventure.org

Internet Summit: www.internetsummit.com

Digital East: www.digitaleast.com

Digital Summit: www.digitalsummit.com

Georgia’s rise is also interesting. Another recent report noted that Georgia is right at the top when it comes to startup activitity, with more than 500 businesses a month launching.

mBlast blows in $12.9M for web-based influencer marketing tool

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

mBlastKENNESAW, GA - MBlast, an applications provider helping marketing professionals better understand and influence their markets, has raised $12.91 million of a targeted $20.4 million offering, according to a regulatory filing.

The company sells a web-based tool named mPACT, which it says finds and scores influence and offers comprehensive media monitoring, competitive tracking, and opportunity monitoring via an interactive, user-friendly dashboard and robust, graphical reports.

The cloud-based application helps marketers identify and interact with influencers importan to their markets.

The company says that mPACT is built on the idea that influence does not equal popularity. Justin Bieber may have more than 6 million followers on Twitter, but his voice offers little authoritative weight in the automobile or hi-tech markets.

Likewise, a particular blogger may have an impressive generic ‘influence score’ through some other influencer measuring packages in the market, but may also have the wrong focus to ever influence the market a marketing professional cares about (i.e. Automotive Engines instead of the iPhone market).

According to the company, mPACT bases influence scoring first and foremost on topical relevancy. Upon signing up, users enter a set of keywords or areas of interest.

For example, an iPhone app developer could enter their company name, product name(s), competitor names, “iPhone”, “application”, “Apple”, or any other relevant phrases. mPACT then mines terabytes of web-based data in real-time — including blogs, social sites, online publications, and journals — to identify who’s writing about that specific topic.

mPACT applies an advanced, influence algorithm which considers what an Influencer has written across online media (articles, blogs and social media), how frequently they’ve been sourced, how often they are quoted, the number of followers/readers they have, and much more.

mPACT users can see the top Influencers for any given market with granular nuance for a particular product or area of interest.

Built-in competitive intelligence tracks competitors across online publications and the social web in real-time, so marketing professionals can see which Influencers are talking about competing products, what they’re saying, and how often.

The application continually searches for opportunities that can enhance a company’s marketing efforts, including awards, editorial opportunities, buyer’s guides and directories. For example, mPACT users are alerted whenever a competitor appears in a buyer’s guide or a relevant topic pops up in a publication’s editorial calendar.

Per-user pricing ranges from $495/year to $2,995/year, based on the number of companies and markets tracked.

 

For a chance to meet and interact personally with influencers in the digital media space, including top executives, innovative entrepreneurs, domain experts, venture capitalists and others, check out TechMedia’s Digital Summit May 16-17 at the Cobb Galleria in Atlanta.

TechJournal South is a TechMedia company. TechMedia presents the annual conferences:

SoutheastVentureConference: www.seventure.org

Internet Summit: www.internetsummit.com

Digital East: www.digitaleast.com

Digital Summit: www.digitalsummit.com

 

Atlanta’s EnerTech Environmental raises $523K toward $2.25M offering

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

EnertechATLANTA – EnerTech Environmental Inc. has raised $523,227  a $2.25 million equity offering, according to a regulatory filing. The company develops and commercializes clean energy technologies for biosolids such as sewage sludge and otehr organic waste materials.

EnerTech’s says its patented Slurry Carb process cleanly and economically converts high-moisture wastes into a high-grade renewable fuel, with significant cost savings over alternative options. The company currently holds multiple U.S. and international patents for a number of combustion and high pressure technologies.

Kevin Bolin founded the company in 1992.

Directors cited in the filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission disclosing the raise include Alex O’Cinnaide, of hte Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company; Bolin; CEO Jay Troger; COO and General Counsel Clifford Gould; and Howard Sanders.

TechJournal South is a TechMedia company. TechMedia presents the annual conferences:

SoutheastVentureConference: www.seventure.org

Internet Summit: www.internetsummit.com

Digital East: www.digitaleast.com

Digital Summit: www.digitalsummit.com

Georgia-based CoalTek shovels in $2M for “clean” coal

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

CoalTekTUCKER, GA – CoalTek, which transforms low-grade goal into “clean coal,” has raised $2 million of a mixed securities round targeted at $3 million, according to a regulatory filing.

CoalTek, which presented at TechJournal South’s first annual Southeast Venture Conference in 2007, has raised more than $53 million in venture backing from investors who inlcude LIghtspeed Venture Partners, Warburg Pincus, Element Partners, Braemar Energy Partners, and Draper Fisher Jurvetson.

The CoalTek process converts low grade, “dirty” coal into high grade “clean coal” at a cost competitive with the highest quality raw coals.

The technology uses electromagnetic energy to reduce the moisture, ash, sulfur and mercury in coal and to make it burn more efficiently and cleanly.

The process was developed, tested, and proven over eight years by Dr. Jerry Weinberg, the company’s co-founder, along with chief geologist Neil Ginther.

Weinberg, an astrophysicist with achievement awards from NASA, used independent laboratories to confirm his findings. CoalTek Inc. owns and has patent-protected all the intellectual property for its technology.

CoalTek opened its first commercial processing facility in Calvert City, Kentucky in 2006.

TechJournal South is a TechMedia company. TechMedia presents the annual conferences:

SoutheastVentureConference: www.seventure.org

Internet Summit: www.internetsummit.com

Digital East: www.digitaleast.com

Digital Summit: www.digitalsummit.com