June 08, 2012
Learning About the Magic of Lighting with Rick Friedman
If you have never done a photo workshop, and are remotely interested in photography, then you should figure out what you want or need to learn and set aside some time for a few workshops and classes. Why do one if you're not a pro or planning to be one?
Easy...workshops give you access to the best photographers in the world (aka the instructors) and people who are the most passionate about photography you'll likely run across (aka the attendees).
Rick Friedman is a well known photographer based in Boston who I met and worked with about 15 years ago. Although I've known of and respected his work for a long time, I've never done one of his workshops and the timing couldn't have been better. Rick's magic sauce? Among other things, lighting.
Lighting isn't an easy thing to master. If anything, I find the thought of dealing with flash more stressful than actually dealing with it. While mastering the art of lighting takes time and understanding it can be complex, once you dive in, you realize that you can get up to speed fairly quickly with the basics and Rick is an excellent instructor to get you there.
He did a series of workshops on the west coast recently: San Francisco, Los Angeles and the San Diego area.
While Rick is primarily a Nikon shooter, we had plenty of equipment and toys that worked on both Nikons and Canons and as most people know, I'm a huge Canon fan and am never far from my trusty Canon 7D.
His workshops are designed for wedding photographers, portrait photographers, photojournalists and serious amateurs who want to improve their knowledge of lighting. He started with a single light and a single piece of advice: "Look for the element you can't control and set your exposure for that unknown element," which btw, is often the sky. Read the ambian light first and proceed from there.
The strobe gets set to TTL because if you shoot on shutter priority, then you'll always be shooting wide open. You want to use a strobe to fill in the shadows on someone's face even if there's a lot of light. You can see this again and again with so many failed portrait shots we've all done in our lives.
We then moved onto Infrared remote controls which apparently don't work as well in bright sunlight and pocket wizards, which gives you a lot more flexibility. If money isn't an issue, go for the Pocket Wizards TT5s, because they can be used as both a transmitter and a receiver. (here's the one for Canon and here's the one for Nikon).
We tested out different light modifiers, using grip equipment, adding colors to images using Rogue's photographic gels and something they also make called a Rogue Grid Set. Frankly, next to the Rogue Flashbenders (they come in small and large sizes), I thought the Grid set was the coolest thing I used all day.
The Grid set also reduces light or rather diffuses it. It features stacking honeycomb grids that provide 16 degree, 25 degree, and 45 degree spot lighting control.
This means that photographers can choose among three different size grid spots using this small, lightweight system. Love love love it.
Since I didn't have much time with the product during the seminar, what I'm most eager to try in more depth is the use of the color gels inside the grid and testing them out in both indoor and outdoor settings (notice the purple one inside the grid in the photo -- more after I have had a chance to try it out).
Remember that I travel a lot, so bags need to get packed and moved frequently from place to place, so it's important for me that my equipment is flexible, small and lightweight. It also has to solve a problem I have often when I shoot.
Bringing along a flash isn't a high priority at the best of times, since I often end up with additional glare, shiny foreheads and harsh effects on people's faces. Flashbenders diffuse the harshness in a similar way that photo softboxes do however they're smaller in size and faster to set up. (this is key for me). And, while I may have the time to set up a reflector (California Sunbounce model is a decent one), more often than not, I won't have time to fuss. That said, I do have a reflector (the Calumet model), since they're useful to have on hand for a studio shoot and when you have more time.
If you have the space, the money and the time to fuss, then you'd probably want a Dynalite in your collection, but know that it takes a little training to use them effectively and they're over $1K to purchase. If you're going to do more studio shooting on a regular basis however, then I'd encourage you to check them out. (we got some pretty fabulous results using one in the Calumet studio, which is where the workshop was held).
Of course if you're Rick, you're used to carrying things around and sometimes in this business, a reflector just becomes a natural extension of you from time-to-time.
Matte Black Cinefoil is essentially nothing more than a matte black aluminum material that virtually soaks up light. It is ideal for masking light leaks and/or eliminating unwanted reflections and can also be molded to form barndoors, flags and other configurations.
You can of course overdue it with the colored gels but a girl has gotta play until she figures out exactly what kind of effect she ultimately wants to end up with...
I love Sepia, antique black and white and every variation in between, but if you're going to go dreamy and soft, you may as well add a tint of color.
Photo walk anyone? Our days were perfect.
Below is our team photo, the one we created on the fly after a little imagination and modification. Since we were in San Francisco's Mission district, adding a l'il graffiti backdrop seemed like the right thing to do which means that we required a lot less time to get the lighting perfect than the "Vermont" class who chose the inside of a New England barn for their shot.
If it doesn't look like we're having fun, then look again!
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
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.
March 19, 2012
Austin's Scene & #SXSW in a Nutshell: My Summary of Sorts...
SXSW aka South-by-Southwest, the event that takes a week of my time every year in Austin, Texas, seems to get bigger and bigger every March, not to mention more global.
Refer to my blog write-up on its international diversity here.
For example, Ireland had the most number of start-ups they've ever had at SXSW (30 in total representing film and interactive).
Also in my international blog post, I covered the sheer volume of brands who had tents (Nokia, Microsoft and others), threw parties (HP, Pepsico and others...I lost track) or carted folks around town (Chevy).
On the interactive side, there was so much activity between the dozens and dozens of panels to the after parties, all of which I couldn't keep up with despite my social media apps buzzing me every ten seconds to tell me what was happening and where. Foursquare remained a popular app for check-ins and to see where your buds were - that said, the private parties were off the grid and frankly, had to be, for the intimacy of the "old SXSW" to prevail, a necessary for those of us who have been going for a decade (or more).
Speaking of Foursquare, they had a private bash where the security was so intense that a friend of mine got 'bounced' before he even made it up the stairs despite the fact that he was buds with 80% of the attendees. "Kids" (early 20-something year old geeks, marketers and wanna-bes) seemed to be clamoring to get elbow time with Dennis Crowley and get into events like this all over town and frankly, it was just not worth the fight, even the ones where I was on the VIP list, because VIP list or not, the lines and wall-to-wall rooms were still maddening.
Some late nights, I retreated to The Driskell which has become a little too crowded as well, but at the very least, you're likely to run into some industry buds who are more in the mood for a quiet drink amidst moose and deer on the wall and antiquated brass and iron statues that mesh the culture of Texas with England somewhere along the way.
The below was taken on my iPhone at some random 3 am hour in the Driskell lobby.
Other nights, after the official invitations of music, film and interactive wore me out, taking in a dive bar where you could take in some off-the-beaten path music was the way to go.
TED decided to have a 'showing' at SXSW this year (aka TED@SXSW) and blocked off a couple of hours two evenings in a row for speakers in a private room at The Driskell. The line-up included folks like TED Fellow Jose Gomez-Marquez, JP Rangaswami, Ayah Bdeir, Paul D. Miller (DJ Spooky), Ping Fu, Baratunde Thurston (who always has me in stiches), Steve Daniels and others.
Film...so many great ones! I wrote about a number of them earlier in the week, which you can scroll through in the Arts/Austin section here. So many worth listing but since I tend to cover things from a global and international perspective, a few call-outs worth noting include: Sunset Strip, The Taiwan Oyster, Bay of All Saints, Eden, The Black Balloon, Trash Dance, Wonder Women and a handful of others. (see the list of winners for 2012 here). Also see our Scottish Films overview here and Israel at SXSW here.
Songster from Mowgli, the first music-creation social fame on Facebook launched at SXSW this year. CEO Marshall Seese, Jr. came to the table with a recording artist background and says their design is with "everyone’s inner rockstar in mind."
Players follow the compelling storyline of a fledging musician working their way up through the ranks of the music industry. From playing gigs at frat houses and proms, to launching a worldwide arena tour, players can make great music, while allowing their creativity to take them through all levels of the game.
I tweeted up a storm about the on-stage love for Google+ with Vic Gundotra, which was more of an informercial than it was a fireside chat. If he used the word "amazing" one more time, I thought, even the newbies who are eating this up, would have to see through Google's sugar coating. Hey, I'm a Google+ user, not a prolific one, but I'm on the system and giving them tons of my data and creative energy just like I am to Facebook without a whole lotta benefit (yet).
I'm not saying what they're trying to do isn't useful or great online canvas for photographers to share their work or industry celebs like Guy Kawasaki and Robert Scoble to up their social status without even trying to, but for mainstream folks, it's just not there yet. (not in this cats humble opinion anyway). Just saying - I had enuf with "amazing this and amazing that" after the first 15 minutes.
Kelly Carlin performed again in a breakout room in the main convention hall and although I've seen her before and like her energy (I totally resonated with the 1970s family TV and dysfunctional family of the 1960s jokes), there was something that put me off slightly about her stint and I couldn't figure it out until near the end.
For those of you who don't know the Carlin name, she's the daughter of iconoclastic comedian George Carlin. As a one woman show, she uses storytelling, classic video footage, and family memorabilia, to chronicle over forty years of her life with her famous father.
While she's amusing and gives us countless insights into George, it f-g feels like its all about George. I'm thinking as someone who's only slightly younger than Kelly and had a lot of the same reference points, what about YOU? I'd love to hear more about YOU!
I walked away still not knowing and it was the second time I saw her perform. I just felt that using her dad as a vehicle for her 'show' and 'persona' may have perhaps run its course and what I really wanted to hear was her voice without Dad in the background (or at the very least so prevalent) so I could better learn who SHE was as an artist and more importantly, as a person.
Who didn't have an event? On the music front, B and C listers were all there, Bruce was there, Gary Vee called all wine afficiandos to a so called 'private' venue immediately next to another so called 'private' party I was at and the line was ten miles long by the time I walked outside. Really? Is that really the way to engage with folks? A great way to get SXSW publicity so from that perspective, stints like that really work, but they're far from "real" or intimate. I just wanted to say 'hey' without a thousand pushes and shoves. For the record.
The XPrize folks also held an event and it was invite only and really felt like "invite only." Not a publicity 'stunt' in any way, everyone I met was top notch and showed up because they had a vested interest or cared about the kinds of things they cared about. Quality conversations where people weren't looking at their watch or Foursquare check-ins to see where the coolest cats were hanging next next. A welcome relief.
If you're not famliar with their work, go here: their mission is to bring about radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity. Below, an XPrize team shot: (I love these guys and btw, Peter Diamandis has a new book out entitled Abundance).
My favorite part of SXSW of course is the randomness of meetings at film and music more than interactive, for at the former, there still seems to be more spontenaity, largely I think because of mutual passions rather than a race for check-ins or being 'seen' at the right party and telling the whole world about it on Foursquare, Facebook, Google+, Twitter, yadda yadda yadda.
I'm not saying that politics and social klout doesn't run rampant in the film and music world, but passion for the 'art' still stands tall.....maybe not dominant in Hollywood, but at SXSW.
As for the social bit...of course I tweet at these events. I'm in the biz - who doesn't, but the feeds at SXSW are so much about where I'm at and who I'm hanging out with than providing value. It's hard to tell the difference anymore, and sometimes I even get confused by why I do what I do on social media even when my intensions are pure. The addictive nature of it all just 'ain't all that healthy' in my opinion. I have talked about this before but can't emphasize it enough.
The blogger lounge is on the top floor where it always is, around the corner from the press lounge, which had massages this year. The blogger lounge has occasional 'acts' and social media gurus of sorts popping in and out. (a little red badge gets you into it if you're a blogger).
This was more of a 'center' in previous years, but today, less so. It doesn't mean you can't still show up and meet up with old buds, converse with folks in the biz you haven't seen in awhile or folks you still haven't met, but things are so spread out and there's so much 'more' grabbing our attention that "hanging out" in the blogger lounge seem to be few and far between.
Below: Renee Blodgett, Angel Djambazov, Liz Strauss, Hugh MacLeod
Then there are a hundred or so other folks I'll keep under the radar, except for of course Jeff Pulver & crew who co-hosted a great 140Conf party (if you haven't been to their events, check 'em out), with the textPlus folks. (never enuf time Mademoiselle Heather Meeker).
Below is a snap from the Nokia Innovation Lab, a massive tent set up a few blocks from the convention center, that housed more than fake snow as you entered.
While travel wasn't a big representation at SXSW and I was struggling to find serious foodies, some of the usual suspects were hanging about. American Airlines had a down-to-earth event with fabulous peeps (closer to town or IN town next time PLEASE :-).
To the left (lighting wasn't great) is American's head of Mobile products Phil Easter talking about their latest and demoing some nifty stuff on an iPad that we can't quite talk about yet. Exciting stuff! Other call-outs worth mentioning are Stacey Frantz (corp comm), Dawn Turner (Entertainment Marketing), and Jonathan Pierce & Jon Bird (social media & video), among a handful of others.
The photo to the right has a combination of woven yarn, paint, and wire among other materials.
While the booth was creative and the Canadians fed us French toast, strawberries and homemade maple syrup, the Irish shamrock tattoos that Enterprise Ireland dished out had to be my favorite giveaway. (Sure, I'm biased but it's the truth). A lot more fun than pens, pads, stickers, drives and balloons.
The Cool Sculping guys who were parading around town for days, tried to demonstrate that 'getting naked' can be a positive thing if you own one of their "suits."
The below very 'blurry" image of pianist Eric Lewis, a favorite 'musical' experience by TEDsters who saw him perform a few years back in Long Beach, was taken at a Mashery Party at Sandra Bullock's Austin restaurant. The "blurr" gives you an idea of his energy and personality, therefore is untouched. It's "Eric" in every way. The party was of the classier events held at SXSW this year. Well done Oren!
As always, Blumberg Capital held an incredible meet-up for their start-up companies & friends. Flow, drinks, conversation, networking was top notch. Well done to David and his team.
The below is a l'il local bar and street scene music action, albeit blurry...blurry is in some ways more 'suitable' for SXSW, despite the fact that I had my Canon 7D and 2 good lenses with me.
Two fun 'street scenes' very late at night. Or morning. Or whatever.
There was also an interesting demo on the show floor of Vinyl Recorder T-560 -- analog stereo recording on 5", 7", 10" and 12". A pricey option but for serious audiofiles, an option? The 7-560 starter set includes a stereo clutterhead fuse, heated diamond stylus, 19" main unit with RIAA encoder, groove controller and stylus heating regulation mono microscope, a lamp and all cables and adapters. The price? E3,200 (yes, that's Euros).
The week can be a bit exhausting (okay, very) even when you're not trying to race from event to event. Below is a taste of just a day and a half and a few of these bands fell off. And, all the film stuff was equally thick hanging around my neck.
As a complete aside and for kicks, refer to my insanely hard-to-follow post on "how to stay healthy" in Austin during SXSW if you have the strength to avoid all the free beer and Texas ribs.
March 19, 2012 in America The Free, Arts & Creative Stuff, Books, Client Announcements, Conference Highlights, Events, On Blogging, On Innovation, On People & Life, On Science, On Spirituality, On Technology, Reflections, Social Media, WBTW, Web 2.0 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
March 09, 2012
30 Irish Start-Ups to Make Splash at #SXSW This Year: #IrelandSXSW
Representatives from 30 Irish companies unite in Austin Texas to participate in South by Southwest (SXSW), the world’s premier film, music and interactive conference.
With the Irish delegation is Ireland’s Minister for Innovation, Mr. Sean Sherlock. The delegation is supported by Enterprise Ireland (EI), the government agency responsible for the growth and development of Irish companies in international markets. Collectively, the Irish will stage their presence at booth #1307 in Exhibit Hall 4 at the Austin Convention Center. Enterprise Ireland is joined at SXSW this year again by IDA Ireland and the Irish Film Board.
Ireland’s web, gaming, digital media and film ingenuity will shine in myriad ways throughout the event. For Storyful which uses social networks to create an authentic and socially useful journalism, SXSW is the latest stop on its US market roll-out campaign. This week the company named Erica Berger, who previously reported for The Economist, as head of its new Americas operation. At Storyful, she will manage relationships with publications like the New York Times and The Economist, and tech companies like Google and YouTube. Also this week, the new Storyful Direct app landed in Apple’s App store, which helps citizens connect their content with news organizations.
Other Irish standouts at the show include:
- Relevenz which will launch its plan-sharing social app for the Android smart phone.
- VendorShop, a provider of Facebook shopping cart solutions recently scored a seed round which it will use to expand its presence beyond the 15 countries where it’s currently entrenched. With the VendorShop solution, merchants can promote and sell products from their Facebook page without redirecting customers to another website.
- Volta makes its first foray to SXSW. The provider of video-on-demand services specializes in Irish and international indie films. The company is collaborating with its European partners on a feature that will enable users to watch and share films from their Facebook accounts. For producers and distributors, this broadens the market for their films and facilitates social interaction with a wider audience.
- OnePageCRM is launching their Version 2.0, a simple sales management tool for small businesses. They also boosted their global sales team by partnering with a New England-based reseller.
- Zartis hit a 2000 WordPress installation milestone for its user-friendly recruitment software and signed a partnership with SiliconRepublic, Ireland’s leading tech industry news site. The company just added a feature that enables firms to launch employee referral programs with a unique social media integration flavor.
Ireland’s presence will also be felt in film. Five Irish movies are slated for screening with several marking their North American debut at SXSW. They include feature films “Citadel” and “Dollhouse”, and the documentary, “Dreams of a Life”. Two short films, “Foxes” and “Joy” complete the Irish line-up.
Take a meander over to their site to see a list of Irish companies attending SXSW.
October 02, 2011
VatorSplash's Start-Up Innovators: From Education & Games to Money Transfer & eCommerce
Vator (short for innovator) is one of the largest business networks dedicated to entrepreneurship in the U.S. Founded and run by industry veteran, Bambi Francisco (am a fan of her work), VatorSplash is an off-shoot within the Vator umbrella, which are evening events held in San Francisco highlighting start-ups and early adopter inovators.
The latest one was in late September and as always, it was held at the very cool and hip Cafe du Nord on Market Street, a small and eclectic space with character in San Francisco's Castro District.
In addition to the VatorSplash events, Vator consists of Vator.tv, a leading platform for entrepreneurs and innovators to connect and learn from one another. Vator.tv has more than 75,000 members and high-tech companies, using the service to effectively communicate with their partners, investors, media and customers.
Below is a shot of the Glancee team, yes...another social network. Their pitch? Remember the feeling of talking to someone new, realizing that you have a dear friend in common and that you both love that artist only you know about? Glancee helps you discover these hidden connections and meet with people important to you. Using their app, you can explore the profiles of people nearby and be notified when somebody has common friends or mutual interests.
Below is Webdoc co-founder Vincent Borel doing a demo of their social platform, which is designed to empower people to express themselves and interact with others online quickly and easily. Imagine mixing any kind of media you want (videos, photos (inc slides shows), applications, text, and more onto a white blank canvas simply by dragging and dropping. Then, once you have your "creation", you can simply embed it anywhere - your blog, website, as a Facebook landing page and more. What's so slick about it is that its so easy to use and quick to create.
VatorSplash' top ten finalists include: MindGames, an app which builds trivia and knowledge-based games for fans of sports, music, politics and more. Fans compete with others fans and against their archrivals for pride, prizes and fun.
Nooche is a peer-to-peer money transfer system, which allows you to easily and quickly send money to friends. Nooch enables payments through your smartphone, whether its to settle a bet or just send a birthday gift in a matter of seconds.
BuildingLayer is an intuitive mapping and way-finding solution for indoor spaces. Social Annex helps eCommerce sites monetize social media through engagement, so influential visitors can drive additional referral sales from their friends/followers.
Capseo uses crowdsourcing to deliver on-performance Web marketing through its community of influencers. Capeseo's algorithms authomatically analyze a website, building a list of tasks in order to find the best skills available to improve its influence.
Lastly, StUdill.com (talk about a complicated spelling and name to remember - c'mon guys), is attempting to establish itself as the first nationwide on-line college textbook exchange service. They transform the college textbook trading paradigm by offering a resolution to the historically high cost of college textbooks. (website is currently password protected but should be opening up soon).
Speakers and judges included David Blumberg, Russell Bertuccelli, Laura Bushnell, Noah Doyle, Josh Felser, Mark Goines, David Hornik, Richard Hsu, Brian Jacobs, Joe Kraus, Woody Marshall, Eghosa Omoigui, Cindy Padnos, Andrew Ross, Adam Smith, Alex Rosen, Bill Tai, Rob Theis, and Geoff Yang among others.