Posts Tagged ‘NC’
Friday, November 16th, 2012
Artist’s rendering of the new Durham @Main Street site for startups, expected to be ready by spring.
Durham, North Carolina is expanding it’s increasingly vibrant startup ecosystem.
The American Underground — located near the Durham Bulls baseball stadium, is expanding to a downtown space custom designed for early stage startups.
The Research Triangle area, long known as a top U.S. technology hub with tenants such as IBM, Cisco, Glaxo Wellcome, RTI and others, has also generated startups that became industry leaders such as SAS, Red Hat, Bandwidth and Quintiles. Not only Durham, but Cary and Raleigh are also evolving strong startup support systems.
The new Durham space, located at 201 West Main Street, the new space is an extension of the award-winning American Tobacco Historic District, home to the original Underground hub as well as many sizable mature companies, and strategically located between Research Triangle Park and world-class universities.
Space for 50 startups
Underground @Main Street, as the expansion hub is known, weighs in at 22,000 square feet with room for about 50 startups (see list below of already-committed companies).
The space — expected to open in the spring — covers two floors and will employ lessons from around the tech world to foster the collaboration, learning, and connections young companies need to thrive.
The City Center building at 201 West Main Street, owned by Self-Help, has a history of hosting entrepreneurial initiatives including the Bull City Startup Stampede and now houses prominent technology companies PathCentral and Blogads.
The new @Main Street site adds to Durham’s growing startup hub, which already boasts close to 100 early stage companies in residence, The Triangle Startup Factory accelerator, and packed networking events.
Partners put muscle in the ecosystem
Underground leaders recruited regional partners, including the Research Triangle Park Foundation. Says CEO Bob Geolas: “We believe in investing in the entrepreneurial community and we are committed to making those investments and partnerships work. RTP is focused on regional entrepreneurship that will create more jobs and educational opportunities for our state.”
NC IDEA — a catalyst for young, high-growth, North Carolina tech companies — will sponsor relevant content for entrepreneurs via events, networking and other programming. University partners include Duke, NC Central, NC State and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. More information on their plans is coming in early 2013.
Bandwidth, a Triangle-born company that has grown into one of the nation’s largest telecommunication providers, and Yealink will equip startups at @Main Street and @American Tobacco with complimentary phone systems.
“Bandwidth and Yealink believe in the revolutionary power of startups,” says Bandwidth marketing chief Noreen Allen. “As they grow and succeed, we want to be right there supporting them.”
Growing Ecosystem Earns Broad Community Support
Duke’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative is another key supporter. The program seeks to coordinate and enhance the university’s capabilities in education, research and translation to enable both commercial and social entrepreneurship.
“American Underground will help us reach an important goal — connecting Duke with the vibrant community of entrepreneurs in Durham,” said Eric Toone, the new director of the university’s Initiative.
Self-Help Vice President Tucker Bartlett noted, “The Underground @Main Street fits well with our 30-year mission of fostering small businesses, and empowering communities to provide broader opportunities for everyone. The redeveloped City Center building has been key in helping revitalize downtown Durham, and we look forward to the birth and growth of more successful ventures here.”
@Main Street’s roster of startups already includes Sqord, Archive Social, StartupSpot, Pluribus Systems, Green Plus, Synchear, Impulsonic, Mint Market, SalesTags, Privateer Digital Media, SongBacker, Thryv, iKlaro, HaitiHub, and PlusDelta Technologies.
Interested companies should visit www.americanunderground.com to apply for space @Main Street.
American Underground infograpic
Video about the Durham entrepreneurial ecosystem
A list of Durham-based startups with Web addresses
Wednesday, November 14th, 2012
Inside Facebook’s Forest City, NC data center, which is cooled with fresh air and a misting system.
Facebook cooled its servers at its Forest City, North Carolina facility using only fresh air even during the Southern summer in which heat reached as high as 102 degrees, the company says. How did they do it?
They allowed temperature to rise to 85 degrees inside the server farm, demonstrating that servers can run in warmer environments.
Facebook pioneered the air-cooled server farm concept at its Prineville, Oregon facility, but wasn’t sure it would work in the South, where the temperature and humidity are much higher in the summer.
In the past, server farms have kept the temperature a cool 68-74 degrees using energy-sucking air conditioning to offset the heat generated by the servers.
In a blog post, Facebook’s Mechanical Engineer wrote that to make the air cooling system work in North Carolina, “We expanded the environmental conditions on the high end.” They increased the upper end of the server temperature range to 85 degrees and allowed humidity to rise to a maximum of 90 percent RH as opposed to 65 percent RH.
Lee said that fortunately, relative humidity was low on record hot days, allowing its misting system to provide all the needed cooling.
Facebook today debuted a video tour exploring the inner-workings of the data center. See the video here.
Facebook’s facilities in Forest City are among the most advanced and energy efficient in the world. At 355,000 sq ft., each of the two data center buildings are the size of three football fields. More than 1,500 people worked on the first building, clocking in more than a million hours.
Those same crews immediately went to work on a second building, to help Facebook — which now counts more than one billion users — keep up with its unprecedented growth. Many of the innovations featured in the data center originate with Facebook’s Open Compute Project.
Facebook will describe its air-cooled center designs at teh Open Computing Summit in Santa Clara, CA, Jan. 16-17.
Monday, November 12th, 2012
artist’s rendering of the American Undergroun at the American Tobacco Campus in Durham, NC
Groundwork Labs, a “no strings attached” technology accelerator located in Durham, NC, has announced a special program in summer of 2013 for a select group of entrepreneurs at five North Carolina universities.
A team from each school will be chosen to participate in the Groundwork Labs program, enabling the student teams to workvalongside the other companies in Groundwork Labs.
The teams will receive mentorship, marketing, legal, financial, and business plan advice from industry experts, and free office space in the entrepreneurial hub of North Carolina, Durham’s American Underground.
Duke University, North Carolina Central University, North Carolina State University, University of North Carolina, and Wake Forest University will select a team from their business plan competitions to join Groundwork Labs.
Bridge from University programs
“Underground Summer is a bridge from the excellent programs that the Universities have established,” said John Austin, Director of Groundwork Labs, “This experience will enable the students to experience the broader entrepreneurial community in the Triangle.”
Groundwork Labs enables technology startups to bootstrap, prepare for grant or angel funding, or apply to an accelerator. The program is similar to other mentor-driven accelerators except Groundwork does not make an investment nor take an equity stake in the company. This is made possible through the sponsorship of NC IDEA and their mission of furthering economic development in North Carolina through helping startups.
Since opening in February, 2012 Groundwork Labs has accelerated 23 startups. Three of these companies have won NC IDEA grants, two have received grants from other sources, one has its first seed investment, and two have been accepted into Triangle Startup Factory.
Student entrepreneurs should contact their respective schools regarding participation
Thursday, November 1st, 2012
Dana Todd will expand on the thoughts expressed here at the Internet Summit in Raleigh, NC, Nov. 6-8.
By Allan Maurer
Nowadays, Chief Marketing Officers “Are some of the most advanced creatures on the planet,” says Dana Todd, senior vice president of marketing and business development for Performics.
Todd, a pioneer of the search marketing industry has 17 years of experience in all forms of digital marketing and is a co-founder of the Search Engine Marketing Professionals Organization.
She’ll be discussing advanced topics in search marketing at the upcoming Internet Summit in Raleigh, NC, Nov. 6-8, joining 120 other thought-leaders, technology mavens, marketing experts and up to 2,000 attendees.
Today’s problems in search marketing “Go way beyond linking strategies and SEO,” says Todd.
A more integrated view of digital marketing needed
“You have to take a more integrated view of digital. Search is still a significant portion, but tactics have to be welded together.”
At Internet Summit, she says, she’ll focus on two major themes: Providing the consumer with a richer customized experience; and helping measure the value around those experiences.
“Talk about engaging consumers and being engaging and it’s all about connecting the dots between all the elements of a campaign,” Todd says.
A richer experience in search means you’re no longer just talking about “tiny lines of text.” Both Google and Yahoo have rolled out much richer ad units, she notes. They allow consumers to view photos and videos inside of search ads.
“Marketers need to find resources to take advantage of those. That means you need more pictures, videos, and a better sense of the inventory going into product listings.”
Blending social into paid search
Social networking is also becoming a necessary and important part of the equation, she adds.
“You’re going to see a lot more blending of social into paid search,” she says. Those connections will drive people to the advertiser’s Twitter and Facebook networks. “So you cover a lot more of the decision journey, not just down the buy funnel.”
Then, when consumers see friends endorsing a company or product, “The social layer becomes a personalization layer.”
But just getting a lot of fans on Facebook or Twitter followers is “last year’s tactic.” Now, the emphasis should be on creating more in depth friendships.”
Don’t ignore Google Plus
Todd also warns advertisers and companies not to ignore Google Plus. “They’re integrating it in search,” she says.
“Think about how Google could potentially connect everything.”
They could do it through a single ID, the way Facebook does with its open graph that allows you to connect to many sites via its login. “Google is trying to get into that,” Todd says. “They can connect your actions with everything tied to your gmail and Google Plus accounts.”
A lot of unfinished business in local
Next year, Todd notes, combined mobile and tablet use is expected to exceed desktop computer use. What does that mean to advertisers? “About 40 percent of queries on a mobile device are tied to a local intent,” she says. “That means marketers need to pay a lot move attention not just to coverage but to accuracy in local and find ways to engage and delight users in that local experience.”
A quarter of all searches next year are likely to be locally focused. “That’s really big,” Todd says.
Google and Yahoo are both rolling out a number of local enhancements.
Coupon opportunity is significant
That means “The coupon opportunity is significant. You can drop an offer right into a cell phone search result and also click-to-call. But think about tracking that and what it means to you, because that’s the connection currency in mobile.”
She also thinks we’ll be seeing a lot more emphasis on remarketing. We’ve certainly noticed that in our own online shopping experiences already. If we look at a product on Tiger Direct (Comp USA) but don’t buy, they hit us again with email offers.
While Todd notes there is a great opportunity in remarketing, “It’s controversial for some advertisers. Some think it’s a little creepy to follow people with messages after they left your site. Other’s find it’s phenomenal.”
The numbers bear that out because doing so leads to a 20 percent recapture.
Advertisers can become even more sophisticated and aggressive about that now, she adds. “You can find people who visited a competitors site.”
Next, marketers have to consider measuring results, attributions, and reporting. See part two: It’s all about the data
Or, you can catch her presentation at the Internet Summit. We can tell you this: she has so much take-away information we could barely keep up with it all.
Wednesday, October 31st, 2012
While some executives may shy away from in-person networking in favor of email these days, according to a new Robert Half survey, “It shouldn’t be a substitute for more traditional approaches,” says Robert Half Management Resources President David King.
“Participating in face-to-face dialogue is still fundamental in developing successful connections, particularly for business development and hiring purposes. In-person meetings build rapport in a way that electronic communication cannot,” King says.
His firm offers these tips on getting the most from your professional networking activities:
1. Strike the right balance. Meeting in person takes more time and effort but can deliver much more value in the long run.
2. Develop relationships through meetings and referrals and then stay in touch online to keep communication lines open.
3. Don’t wait until you need something to reach out or you will weaken your ties to your network. Be visible and stay in touch on a regular basis.
Next week you have a chance to network with top digital media, technology and marketing thought-leaders and up to 2,000 potential clients, partners, or employees, at the Internet Summit in Raleigh, NC, Nov. 6-8.
This year’s event includes several new events: The Startup Summit and numerous opportunities to network one-on-one.
Tuesday, October 30th, 2012
By Allan Maurer
Chad Smith, CIO, 3 Birds Marketing. Smith is on the CIO/CTO panel at the upcoming Internet Summit in Raleigh, NC, Nov. 6-8.
Being a chief information officer (CIO) involves more than guiding a firm’s technology initiatives, says Chad Smith, CIO at Chapel Hill, NC-based interactive marketing company 3 Birds Marketing. “A lot of times, I’m the traffic cop between the business and the technology side of the company,” he says.
Smith obviously has a handle on the CIO position. He was recently named CIO of the year by the North Carolina Technology Association and Triangle Business Journal, and is on the CIO/CTO panel at the upcoming Internet Summit at the Raleigh Convention Center Nov. 6-8. He’ll join thought leaders from top brands such as Google, AOL, IBM, bing, comScore, Klout, Twitter, Mashable, Forrester, and Adobe at the event, which expects up to 2,000 attendees.
The CIO of the year award goes to those who use IT in innovative ways to create a competitive advantage for their firm.
Smith said it was an honor to be chosen, “especially among such distinguished colleagues. The Triangle’s technology community is a vibrant, active one filled with the brightest and best. It’s one of the reasons 3 Birds chose to locate here.”
3 Birds Marketing sells a digital platform that helps clients engage customers across multiple channels, including social media, e-newsletters, blog posts, and also handles 3-campaigns and reputation management. It’s cloud-based products are sold as software-as-a-service, and Smith hastens to add, and “as software with service.”
One of the toughest aspects of being a CIO, Smith says, “Is getting the business requirements for what we want to do and transform that into a product that supports 600 clients. It’s always a challenge as your team and client base start to grow, building an infrastructure to support rapid growth.”
Kristen Judd, president and co-founder of 3 Birds, said, “With the release of the Wire 1.95, our team has created a comprehensive, fully integrated software solution that has robust functionality and an extensive library of content ranging from articles to images to social media posts to campaign creative.”
She added, “Chad has been able to balance the rapid growth of our platform, against the need for functionality enhancements, and he’s done so while managing to create and foster our outstanding development team.
The company, launched in 2009, has grown from five on staff and 10 clients to 45 employees, including 10 developers, and 600 clients. It is focused on the automotive sector because its founders had expertise in that industry, but is looking at expanding services to additional verticals.
Keep the user experience intuitive
Smith says that among the challenges he faces as CIO at 3 Birds Marketing is “Finding talent to come to Chapel Hill from a development perspective. There are over 126 open jobs similar to ones we were looking to fill in the Triangle.”
Others include balancing features in the company’s product. “Making sure that what we roll out maintains the user experience so that it is intuitive. That’s a challenge.”
To meet it, he recommends, “Keep your fundamentals the same to maintain consistency in how users interact with your app so you don’t have to constantly retrain users.”
We’d vote for that attitude. Many of the software products we have used over the years introduce new versions that change so many fundamental aspects re-learning it can be a pain – and that even applies to browsers and operating systems.
But, it can be a “Constant battle,” says Smith. “A lot of times developers who think differently than designers. We take a lot of time to make sure our product is designed with the user experience in mind and challenge developers to meet their needs.”
Smith received a BS/BA in computer business information systems from the University of Arkansas. Before joining 3 Birds, Smith held a position at Transamerica Worksite Marketing where he served as business system application manager.
His past experience includes two years as a principal consultant at Edgewater Technology, as well as eight years with Acxiom Corporation, a global data management and IT consulting firm.
Building apps and making databases, he has worked for Blockbuster, American Express and CitiBank.
Originally from Arkansas, Smith has also lived and worked in the United Kingdom and Japan during his thirteen years in the industry. He relocated to North Carolina to join the 3 Birds team in 2010.
Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012
Entrepreneurs, VCs, Accelerators and Incubators will converge at the Startup Summit on Nov 6-7 in Raleigh. The event will feature 16 showcase demo companies in addition to 8 panels & presentations on the most pressing issues facing startups in 2012. Startup Summit precedes the 5th Annual Internet Summit Conference held Nov 7-8 presented by TechMedia.
You’ll be all fired up and ready to conquer your space after hearing from national, regional and local Research Triangle startup founders, VCs such as Scott Maxwell, founder of OpenView Venture Partners, Laura Witt of ABS Capital, Dayna Grayson with North Bridge Venture Partners, and both Jason Caplain and David Jones of Southern Capital Ventures, among others.
Startup CEOs include Sarah Lacy, founder and editor of tech site, Pando Daily, David Morken, founder and CEO of Bandwidth.com, and Aaron Houghton, co-founder and CEO of Boostsuite, and Robbie Allen, founder and CEO of Automated Insights.
Attend the 2 day event and networking reception for just $95. Confirmed speakers include:
* Angus Davis, Founder & CEO, Swipely
* Paul Singh, Partner & Master of the Hustle, 500Startups
* Sarah Lacy, Founder & Editor-in-Chief, PandoDaily
* Scott Maxwell, Founder, OpenView Venture Partners
* Michael Doernberg, CEO and Co-founder, Reverbnation
* Laura Witt, General Partner, ABS Capital
* Rob Go, Partner, NextView Ventures
* David Morken, Founder & CEO, Bandwidth.com
* Jonathan Perrelli, Founding Partner, Fortify.vc
* Dayna Grayson, Principal, North Bridge Venture Partners
* Neil Kataria, Founder & Chairman, newBrandAnalytics
* Greg Cangialosi, Managing Dir, Nucleus Venture Partners
* Jason Caplain, General Partner, Southern Capital Ventures
* Robbie Allen, Founder & CEO, Automated Insights
* John Burke, Founder and General Partner, True Ventures
* Joe Velk, Contender Capital
* Chris Heivly, Managing Partner, Triangle Startup Factory
* David Jones, Partner, Southern Capital Ventures
* Joe Schmidt, CMO, Cafepress
* Tom Lotrecchiano, Sr Vice President, Cafepress
* Matt Williamson, Founder & CEO, Windsor Circle
* Aaron Houghton, Co-Founder & CEO, BoostSuite
Register here: http://www.internetsummit.com/sus.html
Thursday, October 18th, 2012
By Allan Maurer
Bill Leake, CEO of ApogeeResults, is a veteran of McKinsey & Co. and Dell Computers. He is one of 120 digital marketing thought-leaders participating in the Internet Summit in Raleigh, Nov. 6-8.
Ad agencies may try to sell on the idea of letting them build you an expensive mobile app. That’s fine for some companies, “But others might not need to spend that money,” says Bill Leake, CEO of ApogeeResults.com.
Leake has created one of the 20 largest independent online marketing agencies in the United States. Apogee has been instrumental in building dozens of “Internet Retailer 500” and “Software 500” and venture capital backed companies. It works with top global brands such as Whole Foods, IBM, SAP and Hewlett Packard.
While iPhones and tablets have made mobile much more of a real thing, “There is still a lot of hype about mobile,” says Leake. “It’s more of a real thing, but still not for everyone. Folks don’t do a lot of hard core research or interactivity that takes a lot of typing on a smartphone. You have to keep in mind how everything changes on mobile.”
Leake is one of 120 thought-leaders, game changers and marketing gurus participating in this year’s Internet Summit in Raleigh, NC, Nov. 6-8, which this year includes a Startup Summit sponsored by TechMedia’s 2013 Southeast Venture Conference set for Charlotte, NC in March.
Back to marketing basics
Leake suggests the way to approach mobile is to “Get back to the basics of marketing. Who is your customer and how does he like do things? Do you want a mobile app or just a mobile web site? The Google Places piece of Google Plus offers a free mobile web site and probably 50 percent of businesses would do just fine with setting up a Google Places profile.”
“People are getting snookered with mobile apps instead of microsites. Sometimes a mobile app is a game changer, but many get lost in the Apple store. The world is littered with mobile apps no one can find.”
Instead of spending $100,000 on a mobile app, he suggests, “Spend $20,000 on the app and $80,000 on media so people find it.”
You need to be in the mobile pool, he adds, “But it may not be time to dive in from the 50-foot high board. Stay in the shallow end unless you have the budget top learn and fail.”
Get your ground game down
Putting it another way, he says, “Get your ground game down before doing trick plays. Really complicated apps are trick plays with a high failure rate.”
One of the best approaches to a mobile strategy, he says, is to “Let it be an extension of what works well in other places. It’s going from beach volleyball to indoor. It’s not a new game. The form factor just changes a little.
Too many ad agencies tend to view their clients as their artistic patrons, Leake says. “I’ve run into so many creative types who believe the client lives to support their art.”
When a client asks how much they need to spend on a web site, the agency says, “How much was your SBA grant? That’s how much you need to spend.”
They use expensive, slow-loading flash art work. “It’s the height of arrogance,” says Leake. “Flash can be good if embedded in a humble way that downloads a quick bit of HTML saying we have this other thing to show you, but you can bypass it if you want to. But just waiting 20 seconds with no explanation? It’s like the news networks telling you what to believe every night.”
They will judge you on speed
Similar arrogance leads to overdone mobile projects. “A lot of times,” Leake says, “you just need a first level mobile app. People on mobile will judge you on speed. Have things far less graphic with fewer functions.”
All of which, he notes, “Flies in the face of what the typical creative agency wants. They can’t build as much with text as they can with moving pictures.”
Focus, he says, “On what you are trying to do and what your clients are doing. It doesn’t need to be award-winning; it needs to be good enough.”
Think about building something “reasonably” stable that doesn’t need to be replaced every six months, he suggests.
Consider such elements as how to minimize data input challenges. “Thumbs are a pain in the rear,” he says. You have to realize that typing is not the same as on a regular keyboard.
Bring hyper local to the fore
Right now a lot of retailers should be thinking about how to use mobile to defend against the Amazons of the world. So a mobile app or web site should let users know, can they get a certain product? Is it in the store? Will they match lower prices?
“What we’re not seeing enough of is sending mobile ads to someone sitting in a coffee shop within walking distance of a store.”
Also, he says, “Mobile should not be viewed as an isolated silo. It needs to integrate into a full marketing strategy. It’s mission critical for some, but in a lot of cases it’s not. You’re not going to choose what car to buy on a smartphone.”
Marketers also need separate strategies for smartphones and tablets, he adds. “People toss around the word “mobile” casually and apply it to both.”
Wednesday, October 17th, 2012
The Southeast Venture Conference is headed to Charlotte, NC, in March 2013.
The seventh annual Southeast Venture Conference, a major event for investors and entrepreneurs, is headed to Charlotte, NC, March 13-14 at the Riz-Carlton.
The conference features presentations by 60 of the region’s high growth investment opportunities.
They will include both early and later stage companies from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington DC.
The conference offers an unparalleled opportunity to Network with hundreds of the region’s leading Entrepreneurs and High Growth Company Executives, National Venture Capitalists and Private Equity Professionals, M&A facilitators and other leading professionals serving the technology community.
We’ve covered many startup and later stage firms that presented at previous SEVC’s and later landed multiple financing rounds.
SEVC is also teaming with the Internet Summit in Raleigh Nov. 6-8 this year to present the two-day Startup Summit focused on entrepreneurs.
ttendees and speakers include leading incubators, venture capital firms, and innovative companies. We’ll feature 16 presenting startups that will showcase their companies and concepts. You’ll have the opportunity to meet them one-on-one in our demo pit.
Speakers at the Startup Summit include influential entrepreneurs and leaders from the investment community:
- Angus Davis, Founder & CEO, Swipely
- Paul Singh, Partner & Master of the Hustle, 500Startups
- Sarah Lacy, Founder & Editor-in-Chief, PandoDaily
- Scott Maxwell, Founder, OpenView Venture Partners
- Michael Doernberg, CEO and Co-founder, Reverbnation
- Laura Witt, General Partner, ABS Capital
- Rob Go, Partner, NextView Ventures
- David Morken, Founder & CEO, Bandwidth.com
- Jonathan Perrelli, Founding Partner, Fortify.vc
- Dayna Grayson, North Bridge Venture Partners
- Neil Kataria, Founder & Chairman, newBrandAnalytics
- Greg Cangialosi, Managing Dir, Nucleus Venture Partners
- Jason Caplain, General Partner, Southern Capital Ventures
- Robbie Allen, Founder & CEO, Automated Insights
- John Burke, Founder and General Partner, True Ventures
- Joe Velk, Contender Capital
- Chris Heivly, Managing Partner, Triangle Startup Factory
- David Jones, Partner, Southern Capital Ventures
- Joe Schmidt, CMO, Cafepress
- Tom Lotrecchiano, Sr Vice President, Cafepress
- Matt Williamson, Founder & CEO, Windsor Circle
Monday, October 15th, 2012
By Allan Maurer
Mobile may be hot, says Vince Baskerville, co-founder and VP of production for Atlanta-based Trip Lingo, but “It’s like the wild west, or the old days of the Web in the 1990s when no one knew how to track anything. ”
Now, he notes, you can track everything on the web. But that is just not so with mobile.
With mobile, Baskerville says, “There are no click events, no below the fold.” Mobile is different. So, he suggests, “Mobile is a different and evolving market.”
One of 120 Internet Summit speakers
Baskerville is one of 120 thought-leaders who will participate in the upcoming Internet Summit in Raleigh, NC, Nov. 6-8. The event boasts the most outstanding lineup of digital gurus, marketing mavens and technology experts in its history.
So, what can you measure on mobile, we asked?
“Engagement is the biggest thing,” he says. “Are visitors using feature sets? Do they then drill down to actionable items? If you have a new address book feature, how long are they in that view?”
He preaches engagement
If you spend nine months developing a new feature for your mobile app and only 2 percent use it, you did something wrong. Engagement is what I preach,” Baskerville says.
You need to understand that collecting data from mobile is also different from collecting it from the web. “It’s impossible to get real time data from a phone that’s not always on or in range of a cell tower,” Baskervilles says.
“You have to understand the tricks: how to store that data and get it back to you.”
Another element of mobile that differs from the web is that a mobile app user has to drill down multiple levels to get to certain things. So funneling people down those levels to take an action is important.
Even with free apps that offer paid features, you have to figure out how to engage users so they drill down to the paid feature. Then, “How do you make them want it?” Baskerville adds.
Two measurement tools
At the Internet Summit, Baskerville plans to discuss two tools that help with measuring mobile. One, Mix Panel, is aimed at Enterprises, while the other, Flurry, is more “startup friendly.” Baskerville’s Trip Lingo uses Flurry.
Flurry, says Baskerville, “Offers a very good solid foundation and it’s reliable.”
Mix Panel does the same things, but it’s more aimed at larger firms.
Trip Lingo, which we profiled on the TechJournal, is revamping its mobile app and applying some of the things it learned from measuring use.
One new development for the traveler’s language companion, is a slide navigation system that’s rather unique. “I haven’t seen anything else like it,” Baskerville says.
It’s meant to make it much easier for people to navigate within the app, going forward or back as they choose.
They’re also adding a new voice feature that will provide translations for phrases user speak into the phone when it’s connected. Speed improvements are also planned.
Thursday, September 27th, 2012
Smart Online’s Robert Hancock will discuss six best practices for building mobile apps at Digital East and the Internet Summit.
By Allan Maurer
Even large companies with tons of marketing experience and money can go wrong with mobile promotions if they don’t think them through. Burger King, for instance, wanted to get a mobile app out, so it created a game in which people create a burger with their choices of the many condiments it offers.
The company spent $35,000 creating the app and realized that people interacted with it less than five minutes then deleted it.
But that’s not the only thing wrong with it.
“It has a week business case,” says Robert Hancock, vice president of sales and marketing for SmartOnline, which reinvented itself about two years ago to focus on a mobile app development product.
What is the sticky factor?
Regarding the Burger King mobile game app, he says, “What is the sticky factor in that burger game? How does it increase sales?” A better idea, he suggests, might have been if the fast food firm created a brand app with store locations and used a game as a secondary element.
They could post photos of themselves eating the crazy burger they designed in a gallery and on their Facebook page with a Burger of the Month winner getting two free sandwiches. “That uses something real,” Hancock explains. Instead of just creating a photo of a burger, they become actual customers.
Hancock has over 15 years of experience building, developing, and managing marketing and sales organizations of technology companies including mobile based organizations. Prior to joining Smart Online Robert served as VP of Sales, and then Co-CEO of Prometheus Group, a leading provider of technology solutions for the SAP marketplace
Six best mobile app development practices
Hancock will discuss six best practices for developing a mobile strategy at the upcoming Digital East conference in Herndon, VA, Oct. 2-3. He’ll join thought-leaders from brands that include AOL, Mashable, Google, The Ladders, IBM, PBS, McAfee, comScore and the Travel Channel, among many others. The TechJournal interviewed a number of speakers participating in the event and you can find links to those stories here.
Hancock will also speak at The Internet Summit in Raleigh, NC, Nov. 6-8, which boasts an equally impressive lineup of top thought-leaders.
Burger King failed with its app in two ways. The idea was not particularly good and it didn’t have a clear return-on-investment strategy.
Of the top six mobile app development processes, the first should be identifying your target audience, Hancock says, echoing many other mobile experts we’ve interviewed.
“You want to reach prospects,” not everyone, he says. “Identify your audience in segments,” he suggests. “Focus and understand the needs of each one.”
Different strokes for different folks
One of the firms Smart Online works with is Southern States Farm Supply. For them, Smart Online defined two primary groups of customers and prospects. First, typical farmers and second, hobby farmers – people who have a chicken coop in the backyard.
“If you tried to build a mobile app for both row crop farmers and hobby farmers, it wouldn’t be effective for either,” he says. “If you build it for the guy who has a chicken coop in the back yars, the corporate farmer thinks that’s a joke. On the other hand, the hobby farmer won’t care when the next shipment of soy bean seeds come in – which is a big deal to the crop farmer who plans around it.”
So, says Hancock, “When you identify a target audience, access the individual needs of each audience. Ask, should I approach each with a separate mobile property? Most people try to do it too broadly. You need to microfocus.”
Don’t ignore ROI and ROE
After identifying your audiences, you should think about return on investment (ROI) and return on engagement (ROE) from the app. “Too many people skip or ignore that step,” Hancock warns.
“What are you hoping to gain? Sales? Expanding your business? A brand connection?”
Hancock notes that you also have to consider that most people use mobile phones for information snacking and don’t really use it as a business tool other than for calls. “When you’re really getting to them is when they’re sitting in a dentist’s office or waiting for their kids after school or sitting at a stop light. Those are the types of times and opportunities available.”
That means you need to give them information that means something to them that can be consumer in mobile snacking time and that they will share with others so it gets into social networking feeds.
Hyper target, microfocus
“You need to have all this in your head” as you develop a mobile app, he says. “You have to be hyper targeted and microfocused. Have an idea about a small thing, not a large thing. You need true sticky ideas that cause the app to stay on their phone.”
Smart Online recommends “Thinking about multiple apps with a limited lifecycle. It doesn’t need to be on a phone for years – but for two or three months when a situation if relevant to you.”
A beer maker, for instance, might want to skip doing a brand app and instead do one about summer stock pushing micro brews to people going to beer festivals and other summer events.
Then you might want another app out there for people who buy beer all year long.
Hancock will discuss three other elements of building a successful mobile app at both Digital East and The Internet Summit.
Thursday, September 6th, 2012
By Joe Procopio
What do you get when you put 100 geeks in a room with computers and tell them to create whatever they want? I’d go with a Weird Science reference, but today’s geek hadn’t been born when that movie hit the theaters.
Durham startups Adzerk and Shoeboxed have joined forces with the American Underground startup hub and the Durham Chamber of Commerce to put on Epic Hack Day, a full day of no-rules creative coding with no stated goal other than to build something cool.
It’s Saturday, September 8th in the American Underground, and will run from 10:00 a.m. until early the next morning. All the essential fuel will be provided, including beer from local startup-friendly brewery Fullsteam.
This Needs to Happen
The lead organizer is Adzerk founder and CEO James Avery, who has been an entrepreneur-fixture in the booming Durham startup ecosystem over the last few years. Participating in almost every value-add event in the Triangle (and some non-value-add, I mean, the guy has a life) from Tech Jobs Under the Big Top to Southern Capitol Venture’s eSeries, Avery decided this event needed to happen, and quickly put the foundation together.
The concept of the company Hackathon is not new. You’ll find it everywhere from local startups — Automated Insights and Shoeboxed were two that got some mention — to Fortune 500 corporations looking to gain a technical and creative edge by letting their employees improvise and innovate and then rewarding the best concept.
But this is a first for the Triangle. Epic Hack Day is not limited to a single entity like a company hackathon, it’s not centralized around a specific language like a user-group hackathon, nor is the ultimate goal to create a viable company like a Startup Weekend.
“The idea is simple,” says Avery. “Let’s get 100 coders and designers together for 12 hours of work on fun and interesting projects. Think of it like a Startup Weekend but without any of the structure or pressure to ‘create a company.’”
All of the Tech, Twice the Fun
I know Avery, and I know he likes to push the edges of a concept enough to make it fun. At the aforementioned Tech Jobs under the Big Top, his recruiting video was the only other one I considered funnier that our own, and at the second version, he went with a straightforward approach that combined technology with showmanship.
He also delivered one of the best lines of advice at eSeries when he told an entrepreneur who had been banging her head against the wall trying to find affordable tech talent to get online and learn enough code to get through her prototype.
He knows why it’s fun to be a startup employee, why it’s cool to be a coder, and why it’s important to embrace technology beyond the standard development lifecycle.
For Coders By Coders
Shoeboxed is also a player in the startup ecosystem, contributing to and being a part of several of the local community-building events. Their last hackathon was a multi-company affair, and they plan on staging another in the not-too-distant future.
Make no mistake, though, this is technology-based. Everyone will be there to get their hands dirty – well, as dirty as you can get on a keyboard. There will be snacks, so there you go.
If this sounds like your kind of thing and you have Saturday free, you can register for Epic Hack Day here. I’ll be super curious to see what comes out of this, how it can be used, and who will run with it.
Joe Procopio (@jproco) heads up product engineering for automated content startup Automated Insights, which is also StatSheet. He also founded and runs startup network ExitEvent,. You can read him at http://joeprocopio.com.