December 06, 2012
Paris: Absorbing the Many Sides & Moods of Her
Paris has a funny way about her and yes, I'm sure she's a her. She's all the things a her can be: beautiful, moody, complex, dynamic, essential, turbulent, pensive, fashionable, delicious and vivacious.
I've been meandering through her alleys, eating her crepes and sipping her coffee every December for years now. I've never shied away from her nor have I ever rejected her....she has that way about her of pulling you in like gravity, the force of which is so powerful you find yourself agreeing with her even if she toys with your patience from time-to-time.
This year, as I thought about her brittle wet days and nights, as she is every December, I realized I was hesitant to go. She wasn't egging me on and part of me feared: Am I done with Paris? Is she done with me? I contemplated the thought but only briefly as I realized my dismissal of her was only because I was so preoccupied with the year 2012 and seeing it come to an end.
Far too many heady reflective messages this year....the ones that call you to challenge things you once believed were crystal clear only to discover they were muddier and murkier than a pond on Detroit's south side during a lightening storm.
It's not as if I needed a 'soulful' place to visit...not that Paris doesn't have its fair share of soul. More than a soulful city however, Paris is an invigorating one, one which re-ignites lost creativity and inspires the artist within. Who doesn't need a creative light and inspiration regardless of what stage in life they're in I thought? And yet, I reflected on one insightful early December night before I boarded the plane, I want silence, not noise, warm balmy nights, not icy windy ones, clear blue skies that hurt my eyes from their brightness, not gray cloudy ones, and warm brothy soups, not sizzling duck with a glass of Bordeaux.
But then I remembered all the drizzly rainy cold days and nights with Paris below my feet and how many of them I spent with her alone. Ahhh yes, Paris alone. Most people don't think about her that way - they head there when they want to propose to a loved one, take in a romantic weekend away, surprise someone with an anniversary present, or simply to experience the allure of her magnificence, the allure Hemingway and other greats have written novels about since anyone could.
Alone is when Paris really shines, I thought to myself and I've more often had her to myself than not, so why would this year be any different? She'll surprise me in a different way like she always does, I told myself. It will rain since she's rarely given me sunshine and I will hover under some broken umbrella on a corner somewhere savoring a piece of dark chocolate that was beautifully wrapped in 3 colored foil with a golden blue ribbon.
I knew the shop, the many shops I could go to for such a delight and marvel in its decadence the moment I stepped back out onto the wet pavement. I knew Paris would be good for that or for a plate of mussels near Saint Germain des Pres. Or for her lights. Her beauty. Her mystery. Her endless cafes where you could sit for hours over a dark roasted coffee in a cup the size of a thumb nail or one large enough to be a soup cup.
I wondered about the latest boot and shoe fashion and what St. Paul's window displays would bring me, or the beer I'd have with a journalist friend who always insists on meeting near the Republique and I always say yes even though I'd take grapes over hops any day. I considered a couple business colleagues who would roll their eyes when I pleaded for old world charm when they simply wanted to take in a modern brasserie or cafe. Then, there is my friend who has lived there for nearly thirty years, who remains as enthusiastic and endearing about life itself as he was when I first met him on that Eastern African island where we were stuck for weeks because there was no boat, rig or plane that could bring us back to the mainland.
I remembered one year where I had more time than most and walked ten miles of her wet cold streets every day for two weeks. At the end of each day after I had killed two or three of those $5 umbrellas because the wind blew them apart, I'd trek back to the apartment where I was staying, which had an unobstructed view of the Eiffel Tower from its kitchen. Every night, the Tower was magnificent and looked like it was close enough to touch from my balcony, the vibrancy of its lights rightfully overpowering anything else near it. Waiting for me was either a graceful or complex Bordeaux (I never knew which one I'd get) and some dark chocolate.
On the way, I'd stop at a corner near La Motte Picquet Grenelle's metro station and order a crepe with ham and mushrooms and because I was there so often, I didn't have to explain daily why I didn't want cheese, something that confuses anyone who lives in Paris, French or not. I wondered if the same man was there, the same man who'd smile every time I ordered the same thing night after night.
"Poivre?" he asked the first time. "Beaucoup, beaucoup," I responded. As he was about to fold the crepe from the piping hot skillet and scoop into a paper plate, I stopped him and said, "plus de poivre s'il vous plait." He looked at me in disbelief as if to say that any more pepper atop his perfectly crafted crepe would destroy the flavors inside. Perhaps he thought, "damn yank, she doesn't have a clue," on that one cold December night, the first time I bought a crepe from him. Over time, the smiles increased and he even helped me navigate a very long walking route one day on my crumpled damp paper map and although he kept reinforcing that it was too far to walk and why wouldn't I take the metro, he gave me advice anyway. And, we never had to talk about "poivre" again for he sprinkled the perfect amount on my ham and mushroom crepe with no cheese every day until I left.
Why was I fighting her I thought? Reflection time aside, doesn't Paris always take me in whether I am in a state of chaos, glory, beauty or solitude? Doesn't she always give back even if there are some cuts and bruises along the way? You know, the side that many foreigners complain about. The French "attitude," they receive because they aren't sophisticated enough, cultured enough, educated enough, polished enough, fashionable enough, French enough or French at all.
We've all been there and yet, a variation of it exists in many cultures, albeit more common in cosmopolitan cities. Yet, with the exception of Buenos Aires and Tokyo, I've been to all the other major cities around the world and truth be told, Paris does have more attitude. It's France's New York, posing the same directness and attitude but with more charm unless of course if you happen to be British or American.
New Yorkers feel the same way about their city, as if there is no other city greater in the world and why would you go anywhere else, even for a weekend for crying out loud?
I was no longer worried about why I brushed Paris aside this year. Once my flight was booked, the hesitation went away and even after looking at the 70% rain weather report, I moved forward packing warm socks, waterproof boots, mittens, hats and scarves and one of those many mini $5 umbrellas I was due to destroy in the coming days ahead. I wondered as I thought about the cloudy gray skies that would meet my gaze when I landed at Charles De Gaulle, what she had in store for me at the end of this very long year.
August 06, 2012
The Geek 'Fashion' Culture of Silicon Valley Hurts My Eyes
When I first moved to Silicon Valley, I found myself overdressed most of the time, and my New England meets Europe and New York style of dressing just didn't float well with the very youthful techies who showed up to parties in torn jeans, t-shirts and sneakers.
While I fought it at first, I have always taken a 'become your target audience' approach to marketing and PR and since that's my biz, I turned geek for awhile.
After a year or so, I found myself dressing down nearly all the time, even at industry events. I'd wear sleeveless shirts, jeans and sweater wraps which was probably a tad too young for me but then again I was surrounded by engineers who were barely out of puberty. It was about as 'down' as I could dress and still look at myself in the mirror.
Dressing 'down' may have made me assimilate a bit better into geek culture, which was a culture I needed to wrap my head around, but it never made me 'feel good.' I always felt that 'dressing down' was 'dumbing down' who I was even though we only have to look at how many of the geek powerhouses dress who are running fat multi-million companies to know that they don't go hand-in-hand.
That said, dressing 'up' makes me feel 'up', behave 'up' and think 'up,' most of the time. It doesn't mean that I don't get brilliant ideas at 3 in the morning when I'm at my computer in shorts and a t-shirt, because that happens often. Or in the shower, like it does for most of us, when our brain has a few moments to get away from the always-on overcharged place it has been operating for hours at a time.
Those who are close to me know that the fashion sense or lack thereof in Silicon Valley makes me crazy and is one of the things I hate about living here. I miss the fashion sense and energy of New York and most of Europe. And, even though Boston was far too conservative for my taste, at least women wore dresses, jackets and jewelry that you marveled at from time-to-time or wanted to touch. New England men may not win any top prizes for fashion, but they know how to throw on a well-cut jacket and the right shoes for an occasion when they need to.
Many women are tactile, we love touching and that doesn't just mean our significant other, it means materials too. The first thing I do when I'm in a shop and see something I like is walk up to it to 'feel' the material so I'd know immediately whether I'd 'feel' great wearing it.
I remember being at an opera once with my ex and we were in the second row. He was an opera guru and could never understand why I had to sit so close to the front of the stage. When the lead opera star came out wearing a vibrant eggplant Asian silk dress with a mustard and turquoise sash that was so decadently beautiful I nearly cried, I informed him that I was close enough to nearly feel what it was must have felt like on. You don't get that from the balcony or even from the 20th row.
When I first started blogging and was part of the early blogging trendsetters, there weren't many women in the scene, so the fashion culture of those RSS-education days was sadly lacking. In the early BlogHer years, when it was all bloggers and no brands, the style was eclectic and all over the map, but one thing that was consistent was the use of vibrant colors. See my photo blog post from 2005 that showed some of the styles of women bloggers at the time and my 2007 post when Project Runway designer Chloe Dao inspired female bloggers to cut up materials and create their own designer t-shirt in a variety of bright, fun colors.
That 'offering' couldn't have been more enticing for someone like me who craves a whole lotta art, fashion, style, craft and creativity in my life. I don't get enough of great art, design and fashion in the start-up world although frankly if there were more women founders, then perhaps we'd have more creative 'offerings' for the world to play with and the UIs would look like a mixture of Vogue and Apple rather than Evernote and Delicious.
The New York Times just ran a piece entitled "Techies Break a Fashion Taboo" and with a title like that, how can you not be drawn in? As they rightfully point out, "Silicon Valley has long been known for semiconductors and social networks, not stilettos and socialites. But in a place where the most highly prized style is to appear to ignore style altogether and the hottest accessory is the newest phone, a growing group of women is bucking convention not only by being women in a male-dominated industry, but also by unabashedly embracing fashion."
Ahhh, beautiful MUSIC TO MY EARS. I'm thinking, breathing and saying all at the same time: GO GIRLS! How can I help?
I had an idea awhile back about throwing a Geek Fashion Show, a bit in 'New York runway' format in someone's home. The idea is that geeks would be forced into fabulous designer clothes, women would whistle and ooh and ahh, and perhaps a little female attention might turn things around.
Somehow I think that if the woman didn't have a device dangling from her body he could play with, she may not be that interesting to him. Okay, I'm being harsh here, but as someone who has been in the Bay Area for 7 years now, I feel less feminine in San Francisco and Silicon Valley than I've felt anywhere else I've lived (and that's 10 countries and 5 states folks).
This energy comes from increased polarity between sexes (or masculine and feminine energies if the same sex). The stronger the polarity, the stronger the chemistry. Polarity is when a woman assumes her femininity in a relationship and a man assumes his masculinity. Since I moved west, I feel as if everyone and everything is equal, everyone and everything is a community, everything and everyone are partners and there's no difference in energy when I'm talking to a man or a woman. There are plenty of people who will disagree with me but I wonder if those who will have ever lived in South America, Italy, the South, Paris or the Caribbean. And god no, I'm not advocating for a return to a 1940s housewife culture, and if you think I am, then you're missing the point.
Polarity plays into dress and fashion too. What I find attractive in a man (clothing, walk, voice) is not necessarily what three of my closest girlfriends will find attractive, but when we dig into attraction at its deepest level in our conversations, what rises to the surface is that "Je ne sais quoi" that creates that feeling of 'want and desire' -- a polar opposite reaction if you like, the trigger that makes a woman feel like a woman around him. When that reaction is the strongest, it is when he's tapped into his (or her) masculine side, whatever that happens to be.
So I guess its no secret by now that I find a man who knows how to dress attractive. And, while I'm heterosexual, I'm drawn to women who know how to dress well too. Sure, dressing well is a matter of personal taste, but regardless of what your taste is, one thing is certain: when a woman dresses well, there's 'care and thought' into matching clothes, shoes, accessories and colors into a creation of sorts she feels best represents her personality. To me, that's powerful, confident and sexy. The same applies to men, at least for this East Coast-born chica who has spent many years living in Europe.
This photo from geeksdreamgirl.com in a post called Geek Fashion Does it Matter reminded me of how I often feel in Silicon Valley.
She writes: "geeks are made up of all kinds, but a frat-looking dude in an Abercrombie or Ed Hardy shirt is going to look more out of place at a con than a chick dressed as Hermoine after she drank the cat Polyjuice Potion."
Outside of Silicon Valley, it all looks out of place, yet geek 'fashion' has hit parts of Europe and just when I was about to guess they were from Silicon Valley, a Dutch, Irish, German or Israeli accent came out of his mouth. Frightening.
Take this photo found on Laughing Squid, where Bill Nye the Science Guy Teaches Chris Hardwick How To Tie a Bowtie. They both look like the whole process is just a tad too painful.
Even if nerdy checked shirts aren't to your liking, it's a helluva lot better than this:
Photo credit: Randy Stewart
The above shot of Ben Huh is more along the lines of the every day fashion I deal with everyday living in Silicon Valley and it hurts. I've been so reluctant of saying so this publicly for so many years because of the backlash that I've kept my moans to close circles. But for crying out loud, it hurts all of my senses and I can no longer not say so.
Says GQ of the the Ben shot: "we can tell you just rolled out of your 1,000-thread count bed sheets and picked out the nearest T-shirt in or around the laundry basket." What's really sad is that most of these guys are actually proud of a statement like that.
Then there's this eyesore. An invitation to the White House and this is the best that Faceook's Mark Zuckerberg can pull together?
Something tells me this was a PR decision or a defiance "this is who I am so f-you" attitude decision. Above photo taken from Hollywood Reporter in an article entitled Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg Named Worst Dressed in Silicon Valley. Just attend any of the countless events on the geek events list and you'll definitely find worst nearly any night of the week.
Or dare I suggest crossing the bridge and hanging out in Berkeley for awhile. (Apologies to all of my Berkeley friends who will never speak to me after that comment, but c'mon aready - can't we just call a spade a spade? Just because you're not great at fashion, it doesn't mean you don't ace a million other things in life).
Foursquare's Dennis Crowley just made #5th worst dressed men of Silicon Valley by GQ (although he actually lives in New York, but just dresses like he lives on the other coast).
Photo credit: Getty Images
They're a little harsh in their write-up especially since I personally adore Dennis, but I have to admit, its incredibly accurate: "Unless Crowley is making a social statement about the threat of student loan debt, it's time to graduate past the junior section."
I feel that way about 90% of the men who can't make an effort to graduate past high school.
Remember the way Bill Gates used to dress? Even if you think this shot looks like he's graduated to the Connecticut suburbs and the colors so don't work with his skin tone, you have to admit, he's at least graduated past high school. Enfin!!
Photo credit: Matthew Staver/Bloomberg
I'm surprised that GQ put Craig Newmark on the list, who I also personally adore. Here's the thing: Craig makes an effort whether you think its fashion perfect or not. He's not in a t-shirt he grabbed from his laundry basket, he gets the 'shoe' thing (the man is never seen wearing tacky neon sneakers that don't match anything else), he wears great scarves and the hat just suits him. Of all the men they could have chosen in Silicon Valley, really? I can give you 50 other men who should have made the GQ list. Personally, I think "it" works for him, wrinkled shirt and all. How many men do you know who have wrinkled shirts who aren't geeks?
Photo credit: Getty Images.
From a post in Blog.stylert.com, they ask: "Are you a real geek? Are you proud of being a geek? You can be cute (or sexy), yet embrace your geeky style. Geek fashion refers to the embracing of stereotypically unpopular “geek” characteristics such as glasses. They dress almost identical to hipsters but verge more towards being into comic books, pop culture, technology, etc. rather than hipsters who are more into poetry, brooding, and generally being pretentious.
The definition: Well, basically, you take key pieces of a typically geeky wardrobe and wear them with purpose and aplomb, to make a point. Not because you’re clueless and out of the fashion loop, not because you can’t afford Ralph Lauren — because you want to. Think thick black glasses, pinstriped suits with skinny ties, sweater vests, and pocket protectors — a hipster vibe with a nerdy edge."
This doesn't mean a TechCrunch t-shirt with jeans and sneakers. They write: "many elements that arguably define “geekiness”, such as varying degrees of social awkwardness, mathematical ability, strong interest in science and/or science fiction and fantasy, and varying degrees of disinterest in one’s personal appearance, remain unfashionable."
The point? Get creative. Care at least a little. Mix geek with other styles. For example:
Photo credit: Blog.stylert.com
Says the NY Times piece, "despite the geek stereotypes of hoodie sweatshirts, flip-flops and thick glasses, it makes perfect sense, these women say, for people interested in technology to be intrigued by fashion. They quote Marissa Mayer pictured above left, who said in February: “Like components of software,” she said, “fashion designers learned how to do this shoulder, put pleats on the skirt that way.” Apparently she once paid $60,000 at an auction for lunch with Oscar de la Renta. I wonder if she'll use her elevated salary at Yahoo for luxury wanna-haves like this one?
Thinking like 'software components,' she asked Naeem Khan to make the dress for her wedding to Zachary Bogue, a financier, in 2009. "She gave the designer a spec (a set of requirements that engineers write for new products) for the gown, including scalloped trim, an A-line skirt and lace, preferably with snowflakes." Too funny, but if its the way her brain works, it's the way her brain works.
Compare the above set of four men to the below set of three women. What draws you in more regardless of your sex? Great style is great style is it not?
From left: Theresia Gouw Ranzetta, an investor at Accel Partners in Palo Alto, Calif., Sukhinder Singh Cassidy runs the video shopping site Joyus in San Francisco; Ruzwana Bashir is a founder of Peek, a Web travel start-up in San Francisco.
Well done ladies and don't ever stop wearing great color and great design regardless of how much push back you get.
Keep the trend going so we can add just a little bit of sex appeal to the Bay Area. Silicon Valley is starving for and in need of a whole lot more sex (appeal :-) and while the geeks may not admit it, if they go there, and get the benefits and rewards that it might bring, they may just never look back.
Photo Credits: above triage photo: Heidi Schumann for NY Times, Marissa Mayer, left, head of Yahoo, with the jewelry designer Monique Pean in 2010): Jemel Countless Getty Images and photo upper right: Peter DaSilva for The New York Times.
July 20, 2012
Flipboard's 2nd Anniversary: The Team Celebrates in Palo Alto
Flipboard is turning two years old this weekend and celebrated its anniversary this past week in its Palo Alto CA parking lot with friends, family, employees, investors and Silicon Valley influencers.
For those of you who don't know what Flipboard is, you're missing out on a beautiful online experience. Pegged as a 'social magazine', Flipboard is an app for the iPad, iPod and Android which allows you to view content in a way that is stunningly delicious, where photos and simplicity rule.
Part aggregator and part stunning UI for content you already consume, it was listed in the 50 Best Inventions in 2010 by Time Magazine and they describe the experience: "Flipboard ends the chaos by grabbing updates, photos and links from your friends and other interesting people, then reformatting everything in a wonderfully browsable, magazine-like format." Well said and it's spot on.
The team is headed by former Tellme head Mike McCue, who is a natural "marketing machine," precisely because he "isn't one."
Mike one of the most genuine, down-to-earth understated entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, with a heart and brain that are equally matched.
So, when the team said c'mon down and celebrate with us, how could I refuse?
They have attracted great talent who want to make a difference in the way we consume content today.
In a world where we're constantly barraged by irrelevant stuff, whether its from social media or websites and blogs, Flipboard lets you dictate what you want to see in a gorgeous format.
The casual outside party held a number of surprises, such as the photo booth where you could get your photograph taken in front of magazine cover, like Rolling Stone. You could also feel ten years old again, while you fished for a miniature teddy bear wearing a Flipboard T-shirt from a machine. And, they had a buffet of pork, beef and chicken barbecue as well as a variety of salads, beer, soda and wine.
Below Flipboard CEO Mike McCue and Klout's COO Emil Michael
We all know that Scobleizer aka Robert Scoble is a huge fan of the app :-)
Back to the local touch. Sinister Dexter who has an awesome sound, played blues, rock and hopping jazz for several hours and sadly by the time I wanted to kick off my shoes and swing dance to a number, they were starting to pack away their instruments.
Kudos to the Flipboard team for all of their successes to-date. I, for one, am a fan, and no I sadly don't have any stock or work for them.
Photo credits: team show in car and Emil/Mike shot from Eric Alexander of Flipboard, other photos by Renee Blodgett.
July 09, 2012
Is Social Media Turning You Into a Low Self Esteem Anxiety-Rich Freak?
Roughly half of the survey’s nearly 300 participants, reported that their use of social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and others reduces the quality of their lives.
Confidence is affected, they say, self esteem is lower they say and two-thirds claim they find it difficult to relax or sleep after spending time on social networks.
This isn't rocket science. Ask anyone you know who spends a lot of time in front of a screen, glued to online games, social networks, management platforms like Hootsuite or sites where they're engaging in any way.
Roughly a quarter cited work or relationship difficulties due to online confrontations and more than half of the participants say they feel “worried or uncomfortable” at times they are unable to access their Facebook or email accounts. I have seen anxiety arise around me when people can't access their worlds online, including something as small as a Foursquare check-in.
Spend more time in an always on digital world and of course you're anxiety will increase. This isn't rocket science. But people are so hooked into the notion that it connects us 'more' that they don't look for the obvious negative side effects.
Sure, I can meet new people across the globe if I am constantly glued to my Hootsuite stream, and given that I run a travel blog, there's a lot of pluses to that, but bottom line, it takes us away from real human connections - there's only so many hours in a day.
It doesn't help that tools like Klout, Kred, PeerIndex and others assign us grades on a daily basis that encourage high school "who's the popular kid of the day" behavior. Offline for a day or a week and your Klout score goes down.
The tools are so one dimensional and dare I say "unheathily addictive" that it keeps you drawn into a social media online game you can never win, particularly if you want to have healthy relationships offline. Nicholas Carr's book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains doesn't lie. Not a new book, but the behavior shift is real whether or not you agree with everything in the book. Also see my post from last year on multiple digital personas.
I find it ironic that a post entitled: How Social Media Makes Romantic Relationship Thrive is immediately above a post entitled: Social Media Fuels Low Self Esteem & Anxiety on Mashable, where I originally learned about the study. Here's a link to a video reporting some of the results.
People I talk to seem to be fighting to get quality time with their other halves and the main culprit in the way? Mobile Devices and their PCs. Enuf said.
July 9, 2012 in America The Free, Europe, On Geo-Location, On Mobile & Wireless, On Technology, On the Future, Reflections, Social Media, TravelingGeeks, United Kingdom, 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
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.