Archive for the 'Tech' Category

DEMOfall09: Six Picks

The other day I blogged about some of the really passionate entrepreneurs I met at DEMOfall09 and I referenced the products that caught my eye. While I did not get to dig into all 70 or so companies while I was there, here are a few that I found worth noting:

Waze – This is a way cool, and I think much-needed, application that brings real-time traffic intelligence/information to the masses via the masses (crowd sourcing). The app works on GPS-enabled Smartphones and sends back GPS points as you drive.  The idea is that through the Waze community, traffic, road changes and other information is collected automatically and anonymously. Drivers can also take a more active role by reporting on new situations from their mobile device.   I need this for my suddenly hellish morning commutes and can’t wait to find out when it will work on my Windows Smartphone (they’ve promised Symbian and Win support as of this week). It also supports iPhone and Android.

WhoDoYouKnowAt, LLC – Think of this enterprise app as LinkedIn on Steroids or perhaps more aptly, LinkedIn With Security Layer.  It is a free and private (note: NOT social networking) networking application that allows you to leverage relationships for personal, business or civic gain in a confidential and tiered manner. CEO Lee Blaylock is a guy I’d bet on or want with me in a foxhole.  He developed the application after years working at Oracle, and I think he’s onto something. After all, how many introductions have you ever made or been asked to make via LinkedIn? What makes this app different is a “Levels of Trust” system that allows your online relationships to more accurately reflect those in the real world. With each connection, you can set their “Level of Trust” to reflect your real-life relationship. For example, when sharing a contact’s information with certain contacts, you can choose to remain anonymous. With your more trusted relationships, however, you can choose to share all of your network information.

Traackr – This is a Web 2.0 application for brand marketers, PR and marketing firms and in-house communications professionals. It allows users to harness the gold mine of information in social networks, blogs and Twitter. The application is called “A-list” or “Authority List,” and it helps you identify the people with the most clout so that you can target and track them. The company claims it can provide you a list of the most influential people online for any given subject as measured by the three “Rs” – reach, relevance and resonance. I plan to check it out in more detail soon.

MoLo Rewards, Inc. – This company has developed a wireless coupon application that allows users – via a cell phone – to scan items at the point of sale to instantly redeem coupons or loyalty rewards using either Near Field Communication (NFC) or RFID. MoLo Rewards also will allow consumers to link and join participating retail loyalty programs and earn points for every purchase by simply waving their cell phone in front of the cash register at the time of purchase.  These guys need to lock up some of the top pharmacy chains and then try to tackle the grocery giants. If they succeed, the coupon book goes the way of the daily paper or weekly shopper. CEO Robert Sprogis brought his “A” game to the DEMO stage, which further impressed me.

 

Enthusem – Can direct mail make a comeback? Enthusem is betting it can with a little Web 2.0 assistance. The company has set up an elegant approach to sending very high quality, personalized post cards through an online greeting card site that lets users send personal printed greeting cards that include a URL and a pickup code, which the recipient can type in online to see a custom video, read an extended note, or listen to an mp3 that you uploaded. This is CEO Steve Tingiris’ third company and maybe it will be the charm.

POWR – Believe it or not, these guys are bringing a new hardware solution to market. POWR (Point of Wealth Register) is a kiosk with an ATM-like interface that helps “unbanked” or hourly employees like bartenders, waiters, blackjack dealers, etc. make fast and easy deposits to personal accounts (think 401K or 529)or to make money transfers, pay bills, etc. These guys had a lot of spunk. CEO Doug Lindstrom is a veteran bartender so you know what his “light bulb” moment for his company must have been – many a morning waking up wondering where all of his tips went.  If POWR doesn’t end up getting bought by CoinStar or Western Union, I think they just might succeed on their own.

DotSyntax’s Digsby – If you have not tried it out (I have been using it for about a year), Digsby is an easy-to-use desktop application that helps people save time by managing their IM, email and social network accounts all from one location. DotSyntax unveiled the latest version of its social-media management tool at DEMO, and the new version is geared specifically towards helping solve the Twitter clutter and chaos problem. One of the key new features is a reversal from the Twitter client standard, in which tweet streams are displayed newest first. Digsby shows the oldest first with the logic being that it is easier to read threads from the beginning. I am not sure I agree, and I have yet to check out the new features yet. That’s what weekends are for …

— Posted by Tim Hurley

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Innovate, Communicate, Collaborate… Don’t Hibernate

Scott Kirsner would make a heckuva marketer or PR person (or history teacher too but that is another matter) if he ever gives up his current gig as a freelance journalist and writer.  For the past several years – both before he relocated to California and upon his return to Boston – he has written blogged and spoken passionately about two things, among many others:

1)      the role the Boston area has played in serving as the “minor leagues” to Silicon Valley by cultivating and growing young talent as well as great small and medium sized technology and Internet companies only to see them get gobbled up by the Big Boys from Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, San Jose, etc.

2)      and the need for New England, Boston and more specifically, Route 128’s academic, technology and venture capital communities to dig deep to try to restore some of the luster we’ve lost to Silicon Valley and other tech hot spots over the years.

Scott’s latest big idea was offered up in his most recent Sunday Boston Globe Innovation Economy column in which he designates June as Innovation Month in New England.  He writes, “We can do a better job of connecting executives who’ve built big, influential businesses with entrepreneurs who are just starting out. We can do a better job helping shaky start-ups find the funding they need to succeed. We can do a better job ensuring that every student who comes to New England to earn a degree has at least some exposure to some of the innovative companies based here, whether through an internship, a company visit, or a classroom presentation from the founder.”

Scott is onto something and he is starting with some really attainable goals. He’s passionately encouraging people to start small – converse, connect, communicate and collaborate.  He’s pushing events, conferences and tweetups as the vehicles for driving more innovation, more idea sharing and more energy around innovation. He is also encouraging people to post their ideas (or links to innovation-related initiatives more people should know about) on the Innovation Economy blog at www.innoeco.com/neinno.

As Massachusetts entrepreneurs, business owners, investors, residents, etc. we all have a vested interest in fostering more innovation. Enough with the complacency fear and uncertainty that goes with the current down economy. As Scott and others quoted in that column, get out, get over the “depressions” and do your part to improve our chances at recovery.  Let’s just keep this party going into July, the rest of the summer and the rest of the year.

— Posted by Tim Hurley

60 seconds or less…

Breaking down hot topics in technology, media and marketing for your reading pleasure… in 60 seconds or less.

  • File under, “Really?!”  A charity auction for an internship at the Huffington Post has collected bids as high as $13,000. What’s worse…college grads so desperate for a job that they’ll pay five figures for one, or media companies trying to make their margins by selling internships?
  • Entrepreneurs, fear not! After meeting with more than a dozen Boston-area VCs, Tech Journal South reports that venture funds have available cash to invest, are actively looking for new deals and don’t expect the rest of the year to be as bad as the first quarter.  
  • The Wall Street Journal issues “Social Media Rules of Conduct” for its staffers. Among the rules? Editor approval is required before “friending” sources in Facebook or twitter.  Check out the entire list here.
  • What did you do by the time you were 25? Did you start a company that has generated 200 million users? Were you named one of the The World’s Most Influential People by Time Magazine? Were you ranked one of the richest people in America by Forbes, with a net worth of $1.5 billion? Had you made $240 million off of Microsoft? Well Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who turned 25 yesterday, has checked all those times of his list. I know, it hurts.

— Posted by Melissa Coyle

60 seconds or less…

A new weekly feature breaking down technology, b2b and general marketing news for your reading pleasure… in 60 seconds or less.

  • Twitter has rolled out a new update to its website that includes real-time search, trending topics and a slightly improved user interface. Will Twitter 2.0 be less buggy than the original? Magic 8 Ball says, “Reply hazy, try again.”  
  • According to a recent study, personality may be a more effective prediction tool for media usage than demographics. For instance, sarcastic folks who balk at rules are 60% more likely to be high consumers of media. Can’t wait to see those direct mail/email lists – “Sarcasm & Rule Breaker List, $425 CPM”.
  • Hot or not? Forecasts for mobile ad growth have been reduced, thanks to the current economic climate. But it’s still one of the faster growing ad segments, expected to grow 36% year over year.
  • A slew of recent surveys indicate that the slump’s not as bad as we might think in the tech sector. Among the data, Mass High Tech says 44% off the nearly 700 New England tech companies surveyed  have no plans for staffing changes (up from 35.4% in Q4).
  • First, TheFunded shook up the VC world with its blatantly honest reviews of firms. Now it’s changing the model for start-up incubators with TheFunded Founder Institute, free from on-site meetings and alternative stock compensation plans.
  • Looks like we’re safe, at least for one more Sunday. Does anyone else find it ridiculous that the Boston Globe union was so unwilling to compromise on the lifetime job guarantee issue? Talk about an antiquated mentality.

— Posted by Melissa Coyle

Vacations: Unplugged or Plugged In?

With vacation season in full swing this headline from Tech Dirt about the “stupidity” of taking a laptop while on vacation caught my eye. It includes a link to a story out of the UK where a top psychologist warns that the whole laptop on vacation trend is going to spell doomsday for relationships among spouses, families and friends. Also, a Harris Survey poll revealed that about a third of Americans lug the hardware with them while on vacation.

I often waffle on the great laptop dilemma the day before we leave for vacation on what is worse: angering my wife for a few hours for bringing the laptop along or feeling out of touch with my clients or co-workers for five or more days. As a business owner and “boss” I feel the need to be connected, but never expect my employees to do the same. I know I’d hate to have a boss looking over my shoulder when he or she was supposed to be on the slopes, the beach or the cruise ship so I certainly take that into consideration each and every time I pack up the gear for a week of R&R. For me, a few minutes of email every day or so while enjoying my morning coffee or a late afternoon cocktail gives me peace of mind for an entire day or two. I also like the idea of knocking down emails a few at a time instead of coming back to a clogged inbox the “Monday After” which is enough to make one forget a vacation really quickly.

Last month we spent a week on the beach on Cape Cod and the laptop came with us (and so did the smart phone but that is obviously so less obtrusive). I rationalized this in two ways: 1) my kids want to entertain themselves on YouTube and other sites so it wasn’t all about Dad working away the vacation. The laptop has become a “family” accessory and was used to look up movie reviews, view and send pictures, get directions and the like as much as it was to read emails or spreadsheets.

2) I purposely left the power cord at home, ensuring that we’d only spend five hours out of the whole seven days checking email, surfing the Web, etc. Guess what? It worked fabulously. Everyone felt slightly connected but no one felt ignored, alienated, overworked, underappreciated or trapped by technology.

What are your plans for summer vacation – laptop or no laptop? I suppose the Blackberry, iPhone, PDA or smart phone might render that question a bit moot. But how do you unplug? Is it getting harder? Are we really that important? Did your spouse threaten to leave you because you packed your iMac along with the sun block and beach towels? If you take the laptop do you feel trapped by your job and find yourself in need of a “vacation” when you get back? Are you sneaking off to check email in the middle of the night? Do you agree with Professor Cooper’s findings?

Goodbye ROI, and Other Marketing Lessons

I took a rare day off from client work yesterday to attend Tech Target’s Annual Online ROI Summit for technology marketers. Overall the event was a great one, and I thought I’d share the “top lessons” I took away from the various panels and sessions.

  • Goodbye ROI. There is a move away from thinking about marketing as it relates to return on investment. Instead, marketing efforts should be measured based on ROMO, or return on marketing objectives. This may mean did the campaign meet lead goals, pipeline goals, conversions of leads to opportunities, etc.
  • The death of the marketing blitz. Gone are the days of big to-do’s around product launches and huge campaigns. Instead, marketers should think of – and measure – campaigns in terms of long-term, long tail approaches. Remember the 20/80 rule: 20% of your response will happen immediately, while the other 80% will happen over the long term.
  • Bloggers are the influencers. More and more, IT buyers are depending on blogs as resources instead of traditional media, and advertising on blogs is now out-performing traditional online advertising.
  • Key phrases, not words. Increasingly, IT buyers are using long phrases in order to narrow down search results and get more specific, relevant results. Effective search strategies will now focus on 3+ word phrases and negatives, instead of key words. Think “server consolation in an all-Linux environment and not Windows” instead of just “server consolidation.” Also, companies should think of paid search as a way to fill in the gap and complement their organic search efforts.
  • Match the sales process. Think about lead generation in terms of different stages of the buying cycle. Your content type and topic should target the buyer at each stage. At the “awareness” stage, your best bet is a whitepaper that addresses a problem and provides an overview of the landscape. At the “interest” stage, editorial content pulls best (with a 2x higher CTR over vendor-produced content), so focus on editorial Webcasts or podcasts. The “decision” stage is the time to introduce trials, demos and specific solution assets. Another interesting tidbit: existing prospects are more likely to be pulled in by a vendor asset, while new leads are likely to be pulled in by editorial content.
  • CIOs are busy. OK, so that’s not a new concept, but what may be somewhat surprising is that they admittedly aren’t doing any of the research themselves when it comes to evaluating new technologies and vendors. They rely on their staff to do the research and present the relevant info and short-list of vendors to them, so make sure you’re marketing to the lower-level IT staff! And, when you are marketing to the CIO, make sure your content is short enough that they can read it or listen to it during their commute.
  • Don’t over market! Clean up your database frequently to remove inactive prospects and distinguish between folks that are further down the pipeline. Don’t be afraid of “do not market” lists and segment your lists so that you’re not over marketing!

I’ll end with my favorite quote of the day: “If you can’t measure it and you can’t repeat it, then it probably shouldn’t have been done in the first place!” My second favorite? “Sales is the consumer of marketing’s leads, so work closely with them!”

2008: B-to-B Marketing Preview

It comes as no surprise that b-to-b marketers plan to increase their spending online and decrease print advertising in 2008. What may surprise folks, however, is that spend on direct mail and events is forecasted to rise in 2008.

We’re finding this to hold true with our own clients, too. I think this is because, in our technology-driven lives, we welcome a chance to re-connect with folks in a tangible, one-to-one way. Whereas maybe three years ago direct mail effectiveness was on the decline, folks are so overwhelmed now with email and online banter that they are starting to glaze over those and once again pay attention to what’s coming in the mail, especially if the creative is eye-catching and the offer relevant. And as great as virtual tradeshows are, you can’t beat the chance to pitch your product or service face-to-face at an event. Besides, we wouldn’t want to put the tchotchkes vendors out of business. 😉

In other forecasting news, the same study found that two-thirds of b-to-b marketers plan on increasing their overall marketing budgets – largely because they also plan on embarking on new campaigns. And, in terms of what online areas marketers will invest in, Website, Webcasts, email, search and video leads the pack. Finally, despite all of 2007’s hype around social media, only 20% of marketers are currently using it as part of their strategy and 69% are not planning to increase spend in this area.


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