April 29, 2012
TEDxSummit in Qatar's Doha Brings Together Nearly 100 Cultures to Accelerate Change & Meaning
I recently came back from Doha Qatar, where I attended a week-long event exclusively for TEDx organizers.
The first TEDxSummit was hosted by the Doha Film Institute at the Katara Cultural Center aka the Katara Valley of Cultures. The "village" is a bit like a sprawling outdoor convention center that houses an ampitheatre, tents and domes where you can see live concerts and events.
Katara was born out of a long held vision to position the State of Qatar as a cultural lighthouse of art if you will, highlighting the best of theatre, literature, music and visual art in the Middle East. It sits along the water, so you can watch boats sail by and a sunrise in the early evening off in the distance while you take in your event, whether it be performing arts or meetings, or in our case, a mishmash of both.
Before arriving, I wasn't sure what to expect, from the kinds of content they'd choose to why Qatar and what is Qatar? Refer to my numerous posts on Qatar including a write-up on the Arab Museum of Modern Art, images of the impressive Museum of Islamic Art, a display of work from renowned Chinese artist Cai Guo Qiang and the over-the-top Murakami Ego exhibit.
What is Qatar is probably the most mind blowing takeaway from the event as you'll see from my write-ups. At first, it didn't make sense why we were having an event in such a remote place, a country barely known to so many and yet, after returning from the Summit, the location makes perfect sense.
Given that the Summit attracted TEDsters from nearly a hundred countries around the world, it is in fact a fairly central location, though obviously a longer haul for those of us on the American west coast. And, given the diversity of the attendees, Qatar, which rather than having hundreds of years of history and cultural references, really only started to make its marks a few decades ago.
In other words, its a country in search of an identity as demonstrated by the volume of new immigrants pouring in to tap into Qatar's exploding economic growth...less a land of local Qataris and more a land of transplants from Jordan, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Lebanon, the list goes on.
And, let's not forget other stats: 75% of those living in Doha and surrounding area are expats/foreign nationals. Doha is preparing for its growing global interest; the city is about as modern as it gets with highrises going up faster than Las Vegas hotels in its prime.
The other reason Qatar makes sense as a location, is that so few of us in the west know "enough" about the Middle East, particularly the complexities of Islam and the culture that goes along with it. Understanding Qatar helps you understand the rest of the region.
Through greater understanding comes compassion, empathy, tolerance, gratitude and a willingness to not just expand your horizons and knowledge base, but reach out and help in whatever way makes sense. This, by the way, is integral to what TED at its core is about.
And so, we all embarked on soil that is new, yet old, to discuss ways we can help each other, sharing best practices, what works and what doesn't.
Some of the sessions included: How to Write About Your Speakers, Sponsorships, Keeping Your Event Sustainable, Social Media Strategies, Building Salons, Blogging, Making Change with Corporate Events, Capturing Great Photo Content, Planning, Stage & Production Tips, Branding, Livestreaming, Working with Tight Budgets and more.
Clearly it made sense for teams from specific regions to pow-wow with each other. Wwe had breakout sessions in large tents in the middle of the desert broken out by parts of the world, i.e., Eastern Europe, Australia, Central America and in the states, it was broken down even further (northern California, Midwest and so on).
Below are ketchnotes of one of the TEDxSummit sessions from C. Todd Lombardo, organizer of TEDxSomerville in the greater Boston area.
While meeting by region helps each group share resources, and even space for meetings, its amazing how much you can learn from organizers in parts of the world that have nothing in common with your own. This is separate of course from what you learned from locals who happened to be hanging out or 'working the event' -- in the middle of the desert.
For example, storytelling on stage is very different at a small event in West Africa, yet what is so natural in a village is often missing from a large TEDx stage that may resort to Powerpoint and a speaker's 20 years of experience and knowledge. The opposite applies too of course; there are clearly things from larger events that small towns can use to expand their presence and brand awareness. In other words: borrow from the formal for the informal and take the informal into the formal and make magic happen by blending the best of both together.
The other surprise for me was the whole concept of "you don't know what you don't know and you don't know who you don't know." I didn't even know all the organizers in my own region (greater Bay Area), nor did I know the depth of where TEDx events had spread.
For example, while the events are largely by geography, there are a few that are connected to brands/companies, universities and other institutions. Did you know that there's a TEDxHouses of Parliament? This isn't just fascinating data - this is revolutionary. Consider the kinds of conversations they have already had and will evolve as a result of this kind of "new" organization and collaboration.
Bringing everyone together to share, collaborate and execute on ideas around the world is brilliant. Let's not forget the 'healing' and compassion that comes as a result of greater understanding, which inevitably comes from bringing such a global audience together in one place.
Well done and hats off to Bruno Giussani, Chris Anderson, Lara Stein, and the NY & Doha teams for turning another great idea into a reality.
Some of the Speaker and Presentation Highlights include:
- 'The Human Arabesque' opening night video sourced inspiration from Doha's Museum of Islamic Art. The team researched traditional arabesque patterns in a quest to incorporate regional culture to create a moving, human sculpture representing the transformative power of x.
- Futurist Juan Enriquez has always been a long time favorite of mine. He contends that science and technology are leading us rapidly towards the next "human species." See excelvm.com.
- Vinay Venkatraman, who is a founding partner at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design, has developed an alternative vision to creating a more inclusive world through a design concept he refers to as 'Frugal Digital.'
- TED Senior Fellow Cesar Harada demonstrated a bold new design for a sailing craft with a flexible rudder -- on both ends. Called 'Protei,' the robot is designed to sense and clean up oceans.
- I loved Shereen El Fedi's talk on how bad laws fuel and good laws fight HIV. Chart after chart, example after example, she demonstrated her point. Check out their work at HIV Law Commission.
- Amit Sood wowed the crowd with an incredibly impressive demo of the Google Art Project. They have collected and curated the world's greatest art, from museums and beyond, onto the web, making it as easy to access your favorite piece of work or view art you've never heard of or are likely never to see in person. You can even search by sub-category, by typing in for example, red and Picasso for everything that Picasso did in red. There are other filters as well that could keep you glued to this site for hours if not days.
- Rives, who many of us know as a renowned poet, has given awe-inspiring performances on the TED stage before. In Doha, he took us a journey of factoids using his poetic tongue. Bouncing from site to site, we learned about some of the most trivial and not so trivial knowledge on the web, ranging from culture and politics to insects and sex.
- With passion and energy, Indian artist Raghava KK argued why everyone should have a 200-year plan.
- Rare book scholar William Noel fascinated the audience with his research. Using a particle accelerator to read ancient works, he took us on a journey from start to finish. He's a huge believer in open-source and open-data and he and his team are making their work open to others (aka the web of ancient manuscripts).
- Comedian Maz Jobrani intertwined humor with local culture and events. You have depth as a comedian when you can stand on a stage in Qatar and have Americans, Lebanese, Saudi Arabians, Qataris, Scandinavians, Japanese and Aussies all laughing at the same time. He's known for his work on the 'Axis of Evil Comedy Tour,' which traveled around the world, including the Middle East.
- National Food Security Programme chairman Fahad Bin Mohammed Al-Attiya educated me most about where Qatar was a hundred years ago versus where it is today and where's its heading. They're working on a Master Plan, using Qatar, which only has two days of water supply, as a model for sustainable, environmentally friendly agriculture in arid regions.
- Yahay Alabdeli who curates TEDxBaghdad created a lot of teary eyed attendees with his story about how he traveled back to Iraq after 34 years to create an event that pulled not just locals but others who had left Iraq but returned specifically for his event. As you can imagine, it was much more than a reunion. He went through a number of obstacles to make it happen, so it seems perfect that his event theme was: "Making the Impossible Possible."
- One of my old time favorites Hans Rosling returned to the TED stage, bringing humor to sex, religion and data once again. What was even more fascinating was having his global trends in health and economics from every country in the world presented in a place where we had representation by nearly every region in the world. All of his talks exude one of his sweetest talents - his dry humor and quirkiness. Beyond the quirkiness he shows in his professional life, which adds to the power of his talks, let's not forget that the man swallows swords for kicks in his spare time. What's not to adore about Hans? (see a video interview with Hans at the Summit here - he uses legos, rocks and humor that reveals deep insight in typical Hans-style).
Because the event was an International Summit where best practices and learning beyond "talks" were a big part of the agenda, the highlights that will inevitably be glued to people's minds and hearts include the experiencial activities.
Below is a brainstorming session in a tent set up in the desert dunes, roughly an hour and a half south of Doha.
There was dune bashing, also in the south of the country.
And, kayacking among mangroves in the north, after which we were guests in the home of a local man, who fed us well and shared some of his photos and life experiences:
A visit to the Al-Zubara Fort:
A boat tour along the water:
The incredibly breathtaking Islam Museum of Art:
Education City has representation from some of the top schools, including Carnegie Mellon University, Cornell University’s Weill Cornell Medical College, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, Northwestern University, and others, with a goal to grow Qatar's knowledge base, making it an attractive place to visit and work in the future.
Below, Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar Weill Cornell.
Below is a shot taken at one of the cafes in the Souq Waqif one night (we ended up in the Souq several evenings). Despite the fact that the Souq doesn't serve alcohol, it was a great place to hang out, socialize, shop, drink coffee and eat fabulous local food.
Desert Day in the South. Of course, it wouldn't be desert day without an opportunity to catch a ride on a camel:
A casual shot of TEDx organizers in the desert...
Then there was the late afternoon drumming session, which frankly, I can never get 'enough of...'.
A music jam session in one of the main tents - small but intimate and full of great TEDx talent:
18-year old Jordanian pianist Sima Sirriyeh, who composes her own pieces played for us on the main stage.
Opening night, they danced and sang. And then, danced and sang some more.
We took in the best of the local culture and greater Doha through visits to Souq Faqif, the Arab Museum of Modern Art, and the Cai Guo Qiang and Murakami Ego exhibitions. Also check out Doha's Centre for Media Freedom.Late nights were spent in the hotel bars where we stayed: The W and Kempinski Hotels.
- Katara Village, Fort, Boat, Landscape City Shots, Brainstorm session, Hands, Anderson, Dunes, TedxStage Shot1: Javier Junes
- Yahay Alabdeli, Cesar Harada, Inside Museum of Islamic Art: Duncan Davidson
- Group shot in dunes: taken on my camera by a TEDx-er
- North site visit for lunch, middle of desert scene, Hans sword shot from a previous event, casual desert day shot, camel close up, Souq, Maz Jobrani, opening night, drumming circle, jam session in tent after hours, Sima Sirriyeh: Renee Blodgett
- Education City Weill Cornell University shot - website.
April 29, 2012 in Arts & Creative Stuff, Books, Events, On Africa, On Education, On Health, On India, On Innovation, On People & Life, On Robotics, On Science, On Technology, On the Future, Travel, WBTW, Web 2.0 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
April 12, 2012
Relevenz: Your Mobile Calendar Marries Relevant & Hyper Local Promos
Finding things that matter to you amidst the clutter (bring on smart and interesting curators please) is like finding a needle in a haystack. And truth be told, while the content needs to be interesting, it also needs to be relevant.
Relevenz is banking on the fact that people are starving for more and more relevance in a world where so much of what comes our way either doesn't spark our interest or has nothing to do with who we are or what we care about.
Relevenz is a downloadable app (they're starting with iPhone and Android with other mobile support coming later this year) that focuses on relevance within your social calendar. The idea is simple: share relevant plans with people who matter to you (Plancast has demonstrated that sharing events with friends is something people will spend their time doing), and within the parameters of that shared information, you can be informed of local offers, products and services that are most relevant to your world.
Additionally, you can make requests for products and services you want. Who would want to use this? Says co-founder Stephen Oman, "we're targeting people who have extremely busy schedules, such as husband wife teams with children who have a hard time synching up their schedules."
Obviously small business owners and consultants make logical targets as well. If you're a retailer or a vendor, you could use Relevenz to reach your customers in a very targeted way, get notified what your customers might be looking for and with the knowledge, allow you to make useful decisions to best bid for their business.
If you're a business, you can create targeted hyper-local offers in a simple self-service mode.
They have integrated with Google apps to give content "context." For example, if you put Austin Texas in your calendar, Relevenz knows your location so it can push relevant information to you within a few miles of your current destination.
When the merchant wants to throw up a specific offer, that offer will show up under a special "offers" tab to ensure your inbox or calendar doesn't get cluttered with promotions...yet, it's there under a customized tab if you're interested in exploring. Obviously the offer is hyper local adding to the relevancy. The vendor gets charged not the consumer - it's almost like a reverse Groupon.
As far as expansion and business model? They plan to open up their API so developers can build once there's more data. Check out their site for more information as well as links to download their app.
April 10, 2012
LocalSocial: The Bridge Between Mobile, Proximity Marketing & Great Deals
LocalSocial is all about the bridge between mobile and proximity marketing. Targeting business owners, retailers, merchants and venue owners, they're trying to make it easy to create offers and loyalty points rewards that can only be unlocked on the premises.
The goal of course is to drive footfall, repeat visits, and provides deep insight and social context for new and existing existing visitors. It turns anonymous walk-ins in to real people, enabling merchants to better engage with your customers in a way that's convenient and fun for them.
What they're doing is not new, but it is relevant and it is tapping into a massive market, one which a ton of players are banking on the fact that the power of proximity and location mapped with interests and culture will be a goldmine for brands.
LocalSocial's proximity framework uses Bluetooth and other technologies to detect physical proximity to other people and devices to enrich user experiences using multi-player games and marketing apps, presumably useful ones that will provide value to consumers not detract.
Here's How it Works:
Say you run a pizza takeout restaurant, a hair salon, coffee shop, pub or convenience store, LocalSocial allows you to create custom special marketing offers, ads and deals customers can 'grab' on their phones in real-time, so you can better engage with new and existing customers nearby.
The business model is pretty simple and makes sense. There's obviously inherent value in customer data, particularly data on a customer when they're close to your shop. Data this 'targeted' and 'relevant' can increase your customer base and turn existing ones into extremely loyal and "sticky" fans.
Essentially, businesses pay a monthly fee to participate in the network and a little extra for premium analytics.
Brands and Advertisers are already paying for this kind of data and analytics yet may not have the most accurate "proximity" and "behavior" figures. LocalSocial has a compelling "GridView" so you can see deals arranged by shop. What's most useful here however is that "proximity" is flagged, so that as a user, you know which shops are “right here, right now” and have offers of interest and value to you precisely at the time you're nearby.
If you're a retailer or small business, the service seems like a no brainer to check out, particularly if you have locations in various regions. are simply trying to drive more traffic to one of them or your only one.
If you're a Foursquare user or a "social media app" addict, it seems like you could just get hooked. After all, deals just might be more interesting and lucrative than what is being offered in the "fluff" pipeline today. If you're not an early adopter but just thrive on a good deal, it's also an interesting concept.
Remember that the company is still small and hasn't yet expanded to global cities, so give them time to expand their network before you get frustrated that they're not yet available in your country or city yet. The idea however holds a great deal of promise so keep an eye out for their updates and 'new market announcements.' LocalSocial is a very promising start-up with a mobile solution that offers something of value to both customers and small business.
April 10, 2012 in America The Free, Client Announcements, Europe, On Branding, On Geo-Location, On Mobile & Wireless, On Technology, PR & Marketing, Social Media, WBTW, Web 2.0 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Meet Volta, Home of Irish & Worldwide Independent Cinema Online
Volta is the home of Irish and worldwide independent cinema online.
A little history and background is in order for how it got 'its' name. Volta was the name given to the first cinema in Ireland opened by James Joyce in 1909. Over 100 years later, the Volta name remains synonymous with the best of independent Irish and International film.
Today, for anyone interested in independent film and creativity, Volta is a great companion (a non-subscription companion that is) where you can rent or buy top independent titles and interesting and intelligent articles. They are developing the market for "on-demand" film in Ireland.
Obstacles for getting this to expand as fast as they'd like include the obvious ones that nearly every country faces: broadband proliferation outside Dublin and another major cities. That said, there's a huge appetite for cinema in Ireland according to Tom Lawlor who heads up their marketing efforts. He says, "on a per capita basis, the Irish go to the cinema more often than any other European country. There's a hunger, especially for Irish theatre."
Since they're not subscription based, they don't compete with the likes of Netflix, a service albeit useful and popular, releases films a year later or more. Volta is focusing their efforts on "on-demand" independent film. As for how fast they'll grow and whether they'll expand beyond Ireland?
Right now, they're focusing their energy on the Irish market. "We don't see ourselves as a start-up because we're part of a large film company," says Tom. Volta has been developed for the Irish market by Element Pictures as part of the Universcine network.
The goal in the next few years is to increase the number of devices where people can access content, i.e., Android, iPads, connected TVs and so on.
They're also exploring the "social movie watching" concept, i.e., a social channel where people can watch films together and share comments in real time or after viewing. Coming soon is a Facebook player where you'll be able to choose a film, making notes while you're watching it if you choose or later on, if you want to "gift it" it share it with others. Social content is obviously a driver of traffic so it's only logical given the "engagement" aspect of it.
How Volta Now Works:
Simply go to their site and choose a film, which you can do a number of different ways: by genre, by director, by year, by actor, by keyword, by title and even by country if you want to explore. My first "gut" inclination was to search by keyword, but perhaps that's because I live amongst social media geeks in Silicon Valley. My guess is that my sister would search by genre. If you're local and familar with the players, it makes sense that you'd want to search by actor or director.
Once you've made your selection, you simply click on “Rent” (to rent the film for 48 hours) or “Buy” (to download the film to own).I chose "Dance" in my selection since I love everything related to dance and had a choice of how I wanted to view a 'dance' film called Red Satin (great name, non?)
If you go the "rental" option, you have two ways to watch your rented film – by streaming or by download. A film can be streamed by both Mac and PC users but the download option is only available to PC users for now. When you purchase a film to own, you must fully download the film to your computer.
Another thing I love about their site is the ability to read up on various films and updates about the film world. The UI is easy-to-use and quick-to-access; headlines are chunked in boxes on one page, much simpler than many of the newer but quirky and creative blog formats. This section combines a "blogging format" with a catelogue style of viewing, which makes it useful for quick access and catch-ups.
Lastly, and this is something I learned through a little research and a conversation with Tom and a few others. Ever hear of Section 481? Unless you're Irish or perhaps European and in the world of Film and Television, there's no reason why you would have.
Section 481 is the Irish tax incentive for Film and Television made in Ireland. Projects can derive benefit of up to 28% of their qualifying expenditure and this incentive is guaranteed to folks in this space until December 2015. There is a ceiling on each project of money that can be raised (E50m), but for independent film makers, that is a pretty healthy incentive.
If you're a foreign producer and many people who will stumble upon this blog post will likely be from outside the country, you can tap into some of these benefits by teaming up with a local Irish co-producer. More information can be found on the Irish Film Board site and more information on how to discover new "Irish" cinema and talent, check out Volta to learn more.
April 09, 2012
UCLA's Social Media Business Course on April 27-28
There's a fascinating social media "business" course coming up in LA April 27-28, 2012 at UCLA. Entitled the UCLA Social Business Course, the course is designed for executives and professionals who want to go beyond the basics and learn how to apply social media to get concrete business results.
Led by industry veteran Dr. Natalie Petouhoff, she'll explore real-world examples using case studies and explore how social media affects each functional department (PR, marketing, customer service, product development, etc.). The course will also dive into ways to calculate the return on investment (ROI) for each.
Social media monitoring will be part of the curriculum, along with an assessment to benchmark the "as is" state of your social media initiatives and compare them to "could be" via best practices geared toward social media and digital programs with higher monetizations of social media investments.
With this insight, business leaders can assess their next steps; create executable strategies and tactical plans that make sense to traditional organizations (even those not familiar with social media); and make the approval process for initiatives and implementation simpler, more efficient, and effective because they are grounded in business fundamentals that maximize the ROI in social media.
If interested, you can find out more and register here.
Kavaleer: A FORCE Behind Animation, Short Films, TV Series, Design & Interactive
I first met Andrew Kavanagh during a trip to Dublin a couple of years ago. Introduced to me as someone "interesting to know and meet" because I expressed an interest in arts and culture and write about it regularly, I was pleasantly surprised to discover an expansive world of expertise which unfolded as a result of a one-time "pub" meeting.
He drew an impressive animation sketch for me in some Irish pub way back when and so it comes to pass that Andrew is a huge creative force behind Kavaleer Productions, a well known, savvy and talented studio group, who have created a top notch reputation in the film, design, interactive, animation and television space around the globe.
We had the fortune of spending time together in Austin recently so I could learn about their latest updates. While most known for their creation of award–winning film and television projects, Kavaleer also creates animation, interactive and design services. Aside from creating their own TV shows, where they have been twice nominated for an Irish Film and Television Award and a British Animation Award, their film work has been selected by over 100 international festivals over the past ten years. Impressive, non?
Interactive has been increasingly playing a major role which is no surprise given what is having on the investment front in Silicon Valley, LA, London and beyond. Kavaleer is also a seasoned provider of interactive content and apps for the e-learning and games sector; no surprise given what's happening in the games industry recently.
In 2009 alone, Interactive services accounted for half of their turnover, so much so that they started developing their own apps in 2011. They have also developed a reputation for their e-learning work, a portfolio of apps that range from Sesame Street workshops (Elmo ABCs) to Disney and the e-entertainment world.
While these guys may be based in Ireland, their work is known globally. They continue to work closely with HMH on their Destination Math, Fusion Science and Texas Language Arts programs and have been providing San Francisco-based Playfirst Games with content for their hit iPhone /iPad based‘DASH’ games for the past year.
They're not shy about short film production either. Some of their latest results include the following "shorts."
In addition to film "shorts" and the fact that they're known for their work with Sesame Street on the TV side, they're also behind other TV series including: Bed Heads, theAbadas! (the adventures of Hari the Hippo, Seren the Bat and Ela the Fox), Garth & Bev (time-traveling siblings Garth and Bev live in harmony with nature in a village), Lifeboat Luke, which is set in and around the small seaside community of Donaghadoo, and So Mortified.
They've been around for ten years yet because their creative work is "so behind the scenes," many not be aware of their studio name or their incredible work. While Kavaleer has awards behind their name and a global reputation, Ireland has no shortage of talent in this space.
While many know Ireland to be a country of storytellers, I wonder how many realize its rich history in cinema, television, mobile, games and film. Ireland's animation and digital media sectors are growing both in size and reputation around the globe. For example, Brown Bag Films animated short, Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty, and Cartoon Saloon's animated feature film, The Secret of Kells, both secured Oscar-nominations in 2010. For more on Kavaleer, check out their work and blog. For more on Irish screen producers, take a meander here and for general information on the Irish Film Board, visit their site for more details.
April 9, 2012 in America The Free, Arts & Creative Stuff, Client Announcements, Entertainment/Media, Europe, Events, On People & Life, On Technology, WBTW, Web 2.0 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Billfaster Makes it Easy & Fast to Manage Money, Invoices & Your Business
I come across new start-ups on a weekly basis if not a daily one and when you are introduced to as many as I am, its easy to glaze over the details because so many of the pitches sound the same and are in similar categories trying to do the same thing.
I met with the founders of Billfaster recently who are working on a solution for real businesses with real problems around invoicing, accounting and money.
It is not a widget. It's not a social media or analytics tool and it's not some web app or vertical search engine that is likely to get crushed by Microsoft or Google.
Billfaster is essentially online accounting software as a service that targets small businesses, startups, freelancers and professional service contractors.
They offer a quick, easy and fast way to keep track of and manage money, as well as handle businesses and individual's accounting. You could say pieces of what they provide compete with QuickBooks yet it cleverly does things a little differently and the interface seems to be incredibly simple, at least from what I could tell from an in-depth demo in Austin last month.
Take a look at an overview of Invoice transactions from their system and you'll see what I mean:
Below is a screenshot of how you enter an expense with Billfaster and note the tax bracket piece that you can customize with a drop down menu:
For people on the go with busy schedules (that'd be me), they provide 7 second invoicing, 3 second expense tracking and automated accounting to enable users to be up and running quickly. (It made me think of the fast food ads from ten years ago - if you're not out in 10 minutes, the meal is on us). This is a compelling pitch and offer for those who struggle with complicated user interfaces that require skills of both an accountant and an engineer to figure out how to use.
They offer a free version that includes unlimited invoicing and clients, with premium versions providing more robust features such as reporting, CRM and inventory management.
Said CEO Rod Condell in an interview, "over 25% of our client base is in the U.S., with the UK, Canada, South Africa and Ireland next in line."
How did they succeed globally so quickly? Co-founder Chantel de Paor says that rather than customize tax forms and processes for each individual country, they have a generic tax form so it can be used anywhere.
Although they have a free version, their paid versions are reasonably priced. For $4.95 a month, you can customize forms by uploading your own logo. You also have access to tax reports, expense reports, cash in and out, and pending invoices. Below is what their cash management page looks like where you can view accurate daily, weekly, and monthly cash, sales, and expense reports.
For $9.95 a month, a mini-CRM system is integrated if you want to keep track of customers and customize invoices. It also includes simple Paypal integration which is useful for small businesses, particularly those doing business in multiple locations and who have a lot of online transactions.
Their top of the line is the Gold Edition, which is only $14.95 a month. Here, you get Accounting Journals, support for multi-users, cash planning, order processing, the ability to add and customize categories, and more. And what's also great is the added benefit of free support. Check out this page for more about their features and pricing plans.
It was refreshing to meet a startup focused on solving real problems and with a business model that makes sense. They actually charge monthly fees yet their fee structure is inexpensive...and, the math makes sense, especially given the fact that they have made it easy to go after global customers.
Entrepreneurs: Look Outside Silicon Valley for Innovation, Talent & Money
In the states, Denver, Boston, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Portland and Seattle are all making strides.
Just this week, I was informed of a few start-ups out of Montana which just closed small rounds.
Outside the states, many entreprenuers and VCs alike know about the flood of activity coming out of Israel, the UK and mobile apps from developers in Eastern Europe, Asia and South Africa (Memeburn is a growing social media and start-up blog for the developing world and a hot new Cape Town-based start-up conference is unveiling in the fourth quarter).
Paris-based LeWeb is one of the hottest start-up and technology conferences around and given its growth and diversity, it's not just focused on Europe anymore. In the last six months alone, I've met 6 French entrepreneurs who are moving from Paris to the Bay Area to increase their likelihood of getting funded and hiring the "right" names. Canada, the Netherlands, Belgium, Singapore too are all sprouting up new initiatives and innovations.
I talked to the Singapore folks at SXSW who fed me fabulous chicken wings at their booth. They have a presence in Silicon Valley and are hoping to grow it in the coming months and years, as is Ireland with Enterprise Ireland, who is responsible for the funding, development and international growth of start-up companies in Ireland.
The popularity of the Dublin Web Summit and the F.ounders conference are both strong indicators that the number of entrepreneurs and smart ideas coming out of Dublin and other pockets of the country is on the rise.
Ireland also had a strong presence at SXSW with 30 companies on-site under the Enterprise Ireland umbrella. Part of their pitch to the social media and technology world was not just of their own talent, but to encourage others to bring their businesses to Ireland.
Ireland has a E10 million fund for international start-ups. While it may not be brand new, many may not be aware of it. Why Ireland, besides the natural reasons of it being a gorgeous country with landscape to die for and a country loaded with smart, witty storytellers?
What many may not realize is that Ireland has the most business friendly tax regime of any country in Europe or the Americas, which is pretty attractive when your budgets are small and you're trying to raise early capital.
It is obviously English-speaking as well, which makes it easy for Canadians and Americans to migrate east and Ireland's geographic position and EU membership provides easy access to money flow on the continent. The World Bank's 'Doing Business' report rates Ireland as the easiest EU location to start a business. And, the Irish Government has an assertive pro-business economic policy, offering a 12.5% corporate tax rate and 25% R&D tax credit.
For those soley focused in Silicon Valley, perhaps it's time to think a little more global. With more expansive thinking will come additional resources, capital and creativity not to mention interesting culture, social benefits and economic development outside of what northern California has to offer.
April 03, 2012
Zartis Leverages Social Media & Existing Employees to Mine the Best Talent
There are still plenty of opportunities to create a lucrative business in the "job" and "talent" market. Not only was LinkedIn's entry into the public market a hit last year (its IPO brought the company $352.8 million), but this BusinessWeek article (a GigaOm re-post) from last May touts numerous potential acquisition targets that might complement their business. Among those targets include Hashable, Socialware, Yammer, Indeed and BranchOut.
Sprouting from Ireland, Zartis is a new player in this space, who see the growing difficulty in hiring, particularly technical talent. Jobs boards aren’t returning great or even relevant candidates and recruitment agencies are expensive and can be time consuming.
Unemployment and economic recession issues aside, the growth of new technologies, mergers and acquisitions and start-ups with great ideas around the globe, offer tremendous new employment opportunities, but finding the right person for a position is often like finding a needle in a haystack, a very high and dense haystack.
Zartis, which is part of Enterprise Ireland, who had a major presence at SXSW last month, is an online service designed to help companies with between 5 and 500 employees to “look within” to find the talent they need through employee referrals.
They have taken a clever angle to recruit people, giving perks and incentives to those within an organization who can tap into their own networks to bring fresh new talent to the pool. The service allows a company to add a job, allocate a reward and invite its employees to promote the role to their contacts.
What's very cool about their offering is that an employee can actually tap into their personal social networks by publishing the "vacant" role to their Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook timeline. And, then they in turn get rewarded for successful outcomes.
How Employees Win:
When an employee logs into Zartis, they see the positions available and the rewards that are connected to the position. They can select a job and with one click have the message broadcast to their LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook connections.
They can also make recommendations within LinkedIn for a role based on keyword matching. The employee can then send their contact a private message telling them about the job.
When a job is distributed by an employee there is always a unique code embedded in the message which allows the company to track a job applicant back to the employee. This ensures that the referral reward is always paid to the employee.
Referral hires ensure that people work with people they like. Letting employees source new hires ensures they only recommend people that they actually like to work with which equates to longer term satisfaction for the employee and the "mate" they've brought into the company.
How Companies Win:
According to historical stats, companies already generate roughly 20% of new hires from existing employees, which is pretty good considering how much effort goes into finding new talent who isn't just a fit from a skillset perspective, but from a cultural perspective as well. Referrals from employees only increases the number of like-minded candidates, which is also a win-win from a corporate perspective.
Using Zartis, companies could actually get that employee referral number up to above 50%, which any good headhunter or HR exec will tell you, is significant. Bottom line, great people know other great people. Reliable. Honest. Ethical. Sustainable. And, existing employees are more likely to recruit others with like-minded in thinking, which means that they're more likely to be aligned with the corporate culture. Just look at how great Zappos is at recruiting and keeping people who fit within their corporate culture.
Zartis is designed to work within organizations but it also taps into the power of social media and sites that already do recruitment magic, such as LinkedIn. With the growth of employees using social media inside and outside the organization, it makes it that much easier to get a message out quickly to a wide audience.
If employees are already using social media in some capacity, throwing an incentive their way to go the extra mile to help fill positions only makes logical sense.
A company with 300 employees has theoretically 45,000 first degree connections. There will be overlap in these connections but even if you halved that number, imagine the leverage and power of all of these combined networks from all of your employees.
Another great feature from Zartis is their ability to help companies create their own careers site with a list of all their job openings and a professional application process that even works from a mobile phone. Says CEO John Dennehy, "with no knowledge of HTML, you can have an instant web page with all of your job listings. We also have it set up for mobile optimization."
Job seekers can submit their resume or LinkedIn profile which is sent to the company that is hiring. The careers site can be embedded in any website, WordPress site, or Facebook page.
Jobs can also be pushed to free job boards like Indeed.com and Twitter with one click. It's very simple to get up and running (no programming required) and they're obviously thinking about opportunities worldwide, as it can already be automatically translated into any of 11 languages.
When somebody applies for a job the hiring manager logs in to their secure site and can review all of the candidates in one place. They can add notes, send template rejection or call to interview emails, and share interview notes with colleagues.
Getting Started & Pricing:
If you want to "taste" the power of what Zartis can do, you can test it out for free. (one job posting is free and you can also get a month for free with all of their existing plans). For companies wanting more horsepower, their service is still incredibly reasonable.
To publish up to three job postings, it's only $9.95 a month and for 10 a month, it's $29.95 a month. For high growth enterprise companies with ongoing recruitment needs, it's a one time fee of $499.95 a year. When you consider what you pay a professional headhunter and other online services (often upwards of 15% of an annual salary), it's a very cost effective way to recruit new talent. Employee referrals are charged separately based on the number of employees added to the system.
Investors include AIB Seed Capital, Enterprise Ireland and SOS Ventures. Clients are global; companies using their service are based as far away as Cape Town and Kuala Lumpur, in Europe (Dublin and London) and in the U.S. with more and more customers being added every month. You can find out more about their service on their site and follow them on Twitter @zartis.