Israeli Startups Join Axis Innovation at NYSE

Posted by on June 27, 2016 with 0 Comments

I had the great pleasure of attending an event hosted by Axis Innovation this IMG_2843morning at the NYSE.  It featured presentations from nine hot Israeli startups and culminated in a visit to the floor of the exchange, where we watched the opening bell ceremony.

Axis is an advisory firm that connects investors and corporations with tech startups. The event was part of a road show to investors, and one of many that Axis hosts in  cities around the world.  The company is based in Tel Aviv, and also operates in NYC.

According to their website, the NYSE session front-ended a  two day event that includes “leading Israeli series A tech startups and US VCs, angels, and corporate investors… to develop business opportunities and ultimately make deals.”

Below I share highlights of each presenting company.

Datomia

They redefine how data is stored and transferred in the cloud, to maximize security and throughput.

Eco-Fusion

Eco-Fusion’s app personalizes digital medicine to assist in preventing and managing chronic diseases.

Fringefy

They’re developing the next generation of visual search for mobile and connected devices with advanced computer vision tech.

Medivizor

They are an antidote to our tendency to consult “Dr. Google” – Medivizor tailors personal health info and updates, based on the specific of each medical situation in an easily understandable and actionable way.

Optibus

Optibus enables a better public transportation system through efficient and real-time scheduling and control.  It dovetails nicely with trends like urbanization and self-driving vehicles.

Pocket Cause

Pocket Cause makes it easy to donate from your mobile device, and integrates with charitable websites. They are seeking to disrupt and improve the $26B online donation industry.

PrivatEquity.biz

It’s a global online platform where investors can access the securities of pre-IPO companies from employees, former employees, founders and other shareholders.

ScanTask

They have developed a field-proven Saas agronomic platform that mitigates agricultural risks and improves farmer profits while giving corporations, governments and FIs ways to track and benchmark remote growers.

SecBI

Unsupervised machine learning tech that outwits the hackers and mimics an expert cybersecurity analyst. SecBI reduces breach response time and optimizes mitigation.

The Catholic Charities rang the opening bell; in a bit of gallows humor, one person wondered aloud whether last rites or a sermon might be more appropriate, given the concerns about the markets’ continued reaction to the Brexit vote.

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Fusion’s Favorite Mobile Apps of 2014

Posted by on May 16, 2016 with 0 Comments

We surveyed our team about their mobile app use, asking everyone to pick their top three (intentionally excluding client apps from consideration).

It was a fun exercise, as there was much variety in the answers (no one picked the same ones, in fact there was very little overlap) and I learned about a few new apps in the process.

I also learned about new uses for existing apps, and more about the interests of some of our team members. Some were surprising – I did not know that Nicole is a sports nut, Annie loves podcasts, and Mark wakes up with a different ring tone every day!

Here are a few takeaways:

  • Several listed WhatsApp
  • Unsurprisingly, some of the L.A. team’s choices relate to auto navigation (Waze, Google Maps)
  • Other apps were for navigating issues in daily life, e.g. a restaurant/bar tab splitter, food delivery app and Bible verses
  • Quite a few related to media: e.g. Flipboard, Spotify (who knew that you can use it to learn a new language?), Zedge, SoundHound, and Shazam.
  • Many of the apps were for communications, social media and food/entertainment/travel

Please see below for the responses from some of the team members:

Annie

  • Waze is my lifeline for getting through tricky L.A. traffic during rush hour
  • Stitcher has all of my favorite podcasts to keep me entertained (and sane) while maneuvering through LA traffic
  • Postmates, a great food delivery app

Sara

  • Flipboard is my go-to news source
  • Tab is a great to help with splitting the bill between friends
  • Spotify stores my favorite albums, artists and songs plus you can learn a new language or choose a playlist depending on your mood.

Mark

  • Zedge lets me download a ton of ringtones so I can wake up to a different song every day
  • Timehop shows me what I posted on Facebook on this date for the past five years. It’s fun to revisit my recent past
  • Soundhound and Shazam – when I hear a song that interests me, I open one of these apps and hold my phone up in the air… ten seconds later, I know what song it is, who it’s by – and sometimes even how bad the lyrics are.

Fehmida

  • Google Maps: Probably the one and only app I would be completely lost without
  • Snapchat: a fun and easy way for me to stay in touch with friends and family… it also helps perfect my caption and finger drawing skills.
  • WhatsApp: I use this app exclusively for group conversations; it is a great platform when making plans.

Nicole

  • The Bible app provides a daily verse, it is a great, positive way to start my day and gets some motivation going
  • Bleacher Report notifies me whenever there’s news about all the sports teams I follow and my favorite players… it incorporates social media buzz about topics related to these teams and players as well.
  • Echofon is a lot better than the Twitter app for Droid… It syncs with the Echofon app for Mac

Laura

  • Waze: I’m not sure I could handle Los Angeles driving without this app that I use at least twice a day every single day.
  • Yelp: Since I moved to a new city, I haven’t had a bad meal or service experience, and it’s all because of this app!
  • Mobile Banking Apps: I can deposit checks, transfer money, and pay my bills from wherever I am

Bob

  • Facebook, Twitter and then a tie between LinkedIn and Evernote (the latter for note taking).
  • Buffer App for scheduling Tweets

Chris

  • Google Wallet
  • White Noise – Perfect for travelers
  • Google Voice

Ross

  • Spotify
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Fantasy Football (5 months out of the year)

Nirav

  • Instagram
  • Newsstand – WSJ App
  • WhatsApp
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Secret to Creativity? Ditch the Phone! Get Bored!

Posted by on May 16, 2016 with 0 Comments

Cell phones have been blamed for everything from frying our brains, to shortening attention spans and making us stupid. But new research shows that the biggest threat may be to our creativity.  It should especially be of interest to people in creative and info-driven fields like marketing, journalism and PR.

The NY Times Op Ed Smartphones Don’t Make us Dumb challenges conventional wisdom:

“…there’s little evidence that attention spans are shrinking…  a significant deterioration would require a retrofitting of other cognitive functions. Mental reorganization at that scale happens over evolutionary time, not because you got a smartphone.”

However, that doesn’t mean the devices can’t pose other challenges – here’s another excerpt:

“Over the last decade, neuroscientists distinguished two systems of attention and associated thought. One is directed outward, as when you scroll through your email or play Candy Crush. The other is directed inward, as when you daydream, plan what you’ll do tomorrow, or reflect on the past. Clearly, most digital activities call for outwardly directed attention. These two modes of attention work like a toggle switch; when one is on, the other is off.”

The article notes the important role of daydreaming in creativity (although there can be downsides, like negative thoughts and distraction).

Similar ground is now being covered in WNYC’s Bored and Brilliant project.  The station’s New Tech City podcaster Manoush Zomorodi began her January 12th show, The Case for Boredom, by pondering:

“Since 2008, when I first got a smartphone – I have never had to be bored. The phone has invaded every moment of my life.  Am I missing out on something by not being bored anymore?”

Over fifteen minutes, she interviews researchers in fields of mind wandering and boredom (who knew there were such specialties?!!). One said “creativity and daydreaming are peas in a pod,” and another complained that the phone is “like an annoying detachable limb.”

The WNYC project challenges us to rethink the relationship with our phones and get more creative.  You can participate by signing up here, and downloading an app that helps you track the time you spend on your phone.

 

 

 

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Find and Fill Open Spaces to Connect with Customers

Posted by on May 16, 2016 with 0 Comments

While watching my kids play soccer years ago, I often heard the coach yell “Open Spaces! Pass to space!”

The instructions might not make sense, but on the playing field they were obvious: the coach was imploring the team to pass the ball to an area that was unoccupied by defenders.

Marketers of today can learn a thing or two from this philosophy. For as long as I can remember, companies have been told that they need to find ways to “break through the clutter” and “rise above the noise.” This generally involved brute force – “talking” louder, or more persistently – ideally in combination with clever campaigns.

But today’s hyper-noisy world demands new metaphors and strategies. In a crowded field, it is much better to find an area where there are no defenders. Said another way, instead of trying to compete with the din, and punch your way through, why not find and fill an open space?

There are many practical ways to market to open spaces. The beauty is that you can use these tactics individually, or combine them for even better results.

Please see below for the first tip, and I will share others in my next post.

Communicate Clearly when others are Confusing

Most industries have their own language. Using the acronyms, buzzwords and slang identifies you as a member of the club, an insider who is smart about the business.  It can serve as shorthand and streamline communications. However, jargon run amuck – when used by marketers, who have no actual experience with the product or industry – can be confusing.

For example, the tech world is famous for geek-speak. Just try reading press releases in B2B and IT tech and you will see what I mean – it can be tough to understand what the products actually do, and who benefits, even if you are a techie. This dense landscape of impenetrable prose leaves an open space for those who can relate more clearly and powerfully.

How can you fill the space? Replace all those “purpose builts”, “scale outs”, “seamlesses” and “end-to-ends” with words that actually mean something – and sentences and phrases that connect with the intended audiences.

It may sound easy but it isn’t – doing this right means knowing what you’re talking about, either from first-hand experience, or by tapping the knowledge of someone who is close to a space and ideally has been a user or implementer of similar solutions.

Do it well and you will not only hit the bulls eye when it comes to getting on the radars of prospects – you will also likely reach a wider audience via approachable language.  My Words that Work in Tech PR series goes into more detail about this tactic.

To learn more about how you can market to open spaces, please visit this page.

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Confessions of A Foreign PR Student

Posted by on May 16, 2016 with 0 Comments

By Carmen Ren

We all know that in order to communicate effectively, PR practitioners need to understand the public well. In the multi-cultural context, this can be several times more challenging. (To me, it is also fascinating!) The efforts to understand our stakeholders from a foreign culture go way beyond overcoming language issues.

As a PR student who came to the United States for the first time 14 months ago, I was daunted by the challenge of using English to listen, express, learn, think, and “try to be a New Yorker”. I was overwhelmed by obstacles on various levels –

  • Both verbal and written communications are basic and indispensable parts of PR practices. It was challenging for me to write in English and ensure its quality;
  • Public Relations practices (or simply communication) will not work without context. It was VERY challenging for me to catch up with the social and cultural context so that I could at least join the conversation without looking clueless. (e.g. I didn’t know what the terms Stop-and-Frisk, and Cyber Monday, among others, were.)
  • Public Relations governance (and again, communication as well) will not succeed without understanding and aligning different values of various constituents. As a foreigner, it is absolutely challenging for me to grasp the essence of American thinking and therefore make sense of their judgments and behaviors.

Understanding and aligning different values is the biggest obstacle, for me and, I believe, for most PR professionals who have the ambition to operate in a different culture.

Here is an anecdote: a friend from Philly once asked me when comparing Philly to New York City, “How do your Chinese friends conceive Philadelphia? Say, more left and more right?” I didn’t know how to answer, since I don’t usually use “left or right” to describe a city. In fact, the whole dimension of “left and right” does not exist in the way we view our cities. “The Philadelphia question” reminds me of how political culture is deeply rooted in an American mindset.

In contrast to the American politically-rooted mindset, in modern China, we are raised in a culture where civic engagement is not encouraged and political discussion is alien to the mass. The reasons for it are plenty and complex. To me, the most obvious ones are lack of incentives and empowerment — When you know what you say will not matter and will not change anything [1], why bother to devote your efforts? When schools don’t educate students to challenge the authority, and to think critically, how can they be equipped to participate in civic engagements?

In this specific case, what does this “weak muscle” of critical thinking in China mean to communicators or PR pros? To name some, will the public be more vulnerable to rumors and smear campaigns because they are not used to making efforts to find the truth? Will this further influence their information gathering habits and problem solving approaches regarding rumors, or even information at large?

These issues are critical for PR pros because they are a part of the “listening process (public audit)”. This “listening process” is labor-intensive and complex indeed, especially when the context of our stakeholders never stops changing. For a leader who has ambition to set foot in another country, this task cannot be accomplished by simply reading a few books about another country, at least not enough for PR pros. A good multicultural PR pro should be a lifelong “anthropologist”, who diligently listens, observes, and therefore is able to impersonate and communicate [2]. (Silver lining: we have big data to support the continuous listening process.)

I’d like to wrap it up with an analogy– Practicing PR in a foreign land is no less challenging than being in a relationship with a foreigner. First you should be able to communicate in his/her language. And then you make better sense by understanding his/her background and personal history in factual details. But not until you understand “the significant other” on a psychological and even metaphysical level, will you win his/her heart and soul– in PR, this translates to trust, intimacy and a sustainable relationship.

———

[1] Professor James E. Grunig developed a Situational Theory of Publics to explain and predict why some publics are active and others are passive. To explore this subject further, see http://2012books.lardbucket.org/books/public-relations/s08-02-the-situational-theory-of-publ.html
[2] For more discussion about “generic principles and specific applications in public relations” (Falconi), see http://www.prconversations.com/index.php/2013/04/generic-principles-and-specific-applications-in-public-relations/

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Hannah and Her Sister Disrupt PR with Babbler

Posted by on May 12, 2016 with 0 Comments

We started getting calls and emails from an interesting French startup called Babbler a couple of months ago. I agreed to meet with CEO Hannah Oiknine to learn more, as we like to be on top of the latest developments  here at Fusion PR.

She explained the system, which turns the traditional model of media relations on its 20160502183906-hannah-oiknine-sarah-azanhead. Rather than assume that media are the quarry, to be hounded by PR, Babbler envisions that press will gladly opt in and connect with brand content online.

It seemed like a bold bet. But I was taken by Hannah’s enthusiasm, and the demo was impressive. They’re funded, have built a solid team, and a growing user base in Europe. Babbler now has their eyes on the US market, and recently opened a New York office.

I agreed to take a closer look but got caught up in other priorities. Then, I saw the following headline just the other week: “2 Sisters Raise $2M to disrupt PR Industry.”  The news was about more funding for Babbler. It reminded me of the meeting and the inspiration for the system, which sprang from the experiences of Hannah’s sister Sarah Azan (the one on the left), who comes from a PR background. It prompted me to revisit Babbler and gave me the idea for the title of the post, based on the Woody Allen movie.

So I got back in touch with Hannah and conducted the following email interview.

What is Babbler?

Babbler rethinks the way companies interact with the press to help them be more successful. We created the only opt-in social media network that lets media and PR pros instantly share news, content and messages in a single platform.  We have a matchmaking algorithm that connects brands with the most relevant reporters.

Babbler is focused on providing the best engagement tool in the world. By moving PR out of the inbox and into a conversation-driven platform, we are helping journalists and PR professionals connect and engage in a meaningful way.

We back this up with powerful reports and analytics, giving your brand the actionable insight to improve your PR Strategy.

Thinking “out of the inbox” does sound interesting, but can you really say that the service disrupts PR?

Today, the only channel of daily interactions between PR pros and influencers is emails of reporters turned public and accessible by anyone who pays for a media database service. The consequences are that:

  • Reporters receive hundreds of email pitches / day, and 90% of them don’t match their interests or coverage areas.
  • It is hard to engage them, and they answer only 1% of what they receive.
  • PR pros spend hours filtering lists and updating them, time that could be used to create engaging stories.
  • PR pros are seen as pushy rather than effective sources.
  • It’s way too impersonal and mostly irrelevant!

By getting out of the inbox, we simplify interaction, provide a sourcing tool for reporters and the best distribution and engagement tool for PR pros that allow them to create, entertain and engage media communities in a single place.

Also, by knowing what engages media communities, PR pros can focus on creating relevant stories for each one they target. Because media don’t all want to same content or to be pitched the same way.

Why will journalists opt in? Don’t they already have access to lots of content, and PR connections ?

Reporters love Babbler for several reasons. Existing channels don’t solve the problem; emails are not opened or targeted, B2C social networks are not dedicated to PR / media pros and don’t allow you to build conversations exclusively with the press, exchange files or measure the press engagement.

With Babbler, the press can choose to follow PR pros/ brands/ agencies they are interested in, ONLY. For free, 24/7.

But they can also request information, download files they need or directly chat if they have questions. We built dedicated features for both communications and media pros to help them communicate in a smarter way. For example, reporters can post a PR request or book an interview in just one click!

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Social Tools Summit Cheat Sheet

Posted by on April 18, 2016 with 0 Comments

Seven sessions. Two trender chats. A great keynote, product speed case, and best of all the STSummit16.jpg largechance to meet and learn from very smart social media consultants, practitioners and technology innovators.

There simply is no substitute for being at Social Tools Summit (well, accessing the live stream was the next best thing).  You could search the #SocialTools16 hash tag and read through the thousands of tweets – I suggest that you do, if you didn’t attend or see the live stream.  The tweets feature tons of great advice, links to resources, running commentary on the day’s activities – and of course lots of social tools talk.

If you are pressed for time, you could just read this post.  I have attempted to capture the highlights, by curating top tweets under each session, and sharing other details.

Check out the Storify wrap, below.  I also want to thank Neal Schaffer and Brian Mahony for inviting me back this year, and to their stellar team for organizing the event (you could call them the A team, as most of the names starts with A, including two Andreas; and let’s face, it they are an A team).

Also, I thank the great panel that assisted with my influencer marketing session: Lina Roque, CA Technologies (congrats for winning a Social Guru award!), Chandra Carson, Lindt & Sprungli, Eric Dahan, InstaBrand, Ryan Connors, Century Bank, Wayne Kurtzman, Pitney Bowes and Jannette Pazer, DragonSearch.

Awards

Keynote on Scaling Innovation

Here is a link to Christopher Penn’s keynote on scaling innovation.

Other Summaries

SoTrender has a nice wrap of the event.  Paul Gillin mentioned it in his Silicon Angle piece about social selling.  Also, see Red Javelin’s 8 Social media Takeaways from the Social Tools Summit 2016 – Boston.

 

 

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See You at Social Tools Summit Next Week

Posted by on April 7, 2016 with 0 Comments

I am very much looking forward to Social Tools Summit (#SocialTools16) in Boston next STsummitTuesday, where I will be moderating a panel on influencer marketing.

Neal Schaffer and Brian Mahony invited me back following last year’s Boston event, which was a blast (see my blog wrap), and I jumped at the opportunity. It looks like it will be another great event. The day will be packed with informative sessions, tech demos, and a nice range of speakers and panels. You should really check it out if you work in social media, and are trying to get your arms around the state-of-the-technology.

The panel I’m on has good mix of of vendors, consultants and client side practitioners:

If you haven’t registered, it isn’t too late. Thanks! Hope to see you in Boston.

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See You at Social Tools Summit Boston in 2 Weeks

Posted by on March 28, 2016 with 0 Comments

I am very much looking forward to Social Tools Summit (#SocialTools16) in Boston on STsummitTuesday April 12, where I will be speaking about influencer marketing.

Neal Schaffer and Brian Mahony invited me back following last year’s Boston event, which was a blast (see my blog wrap), and I jumped at the opportunity. It looks like it is shaping up to be another great event. The day will be packed with informative sessions, tech demos, and a nice range of speakers and panels.  You should really check it out if you work in social media, and are trying to get your arms around the state-of-the-technology.

PPC expert Larry Kim will be keynoting.  The panel I’m on has good mix of consultants and client side practitioners:

If you haven’t registered, it isn’t too late. I can offer blog visitors a discount code; just send me a note or put in a request via comments below.

Thanks! Hope to see you in Boston.

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Raising Seed Capital: Top Tips from NYETM

Posted by on March 16, 2016 with 0 Comments

There is another great NY Enterprise Tech meet up tonight, on recruiting tech talent for magnet-1189869_1280startups.  Clearly I am late in blogging about February’s, which was about how to raise seed capital – so I am taking care of that now, with this post.

The topic is paramount for anyone who has a great idea, but needs potentially game changing funding.  February’s NYETM featured a panel that offered some very helpful tips. Work-bench Associate Vipin Chamakkla guided the conversation, to help attendees get answers to questions about seed investor “appetites”, pitching preferences, etc.

The panel included Karin Klein, Partner at Bloomberg Beta, Eliot Durbin, General Partner at Boldstart Ventures, Mike Brown Jr., General Partner at Bowery Capital and Brad Svrluga, General Partner at Primary Venture Partners.

As you will see, each has their own approach, yet a few common threads emerged. It helps to have connections.  Be smart when approaching investors: do your homework and make sure that there is a match.  Every venture and market space is different; there’s no single formula for evaluating startups.

The demo portion is an important part of every NYETM, and I should mention that were some very cool demos before the panel took the stage – see the end of this post for further details.

Please feel free to chime in via comments, or e-mail me if you think I’ve missed anything.

Describe your focus, portfolio examples and average funding check

Eliot Durbin said that Boldstart invests in enterprise tech, smart data, big data, and the Googlization of IT. Their checks are in the $750K range. A portfolio example is Replicated, which was on the evening’s demo roster (see the end of this post).

Bloomberg Beta invests in companies that make work better, in the $200K-1M range, said Karin Klein.  The technologies range from security to HR, and include analytics, bots, and machine intelligence. They were in early on Pathgather, an online learning solution.

Mike Brown of Bowery Capital tracks ventures that relate to Internet natives and their influence on IT spend.  They like to lead or co-lead investment rounds, in the $500K range.  ActionIQ, a marketing tech play, is in their portfolio.

Brad Svrluga said PVP invests $250-700K and likes SaaS, enterprise mobile, and vertical industry solutions, including fintech. They funded Alloy, an API to Know Your Customer (KYC).

When is right time to approach seed investors?

Eliot: “We want to be the first check.”  The timing can vary, for example in Replicated’s case it worked out well, as they saw and solved a huge pain point.

Karin said that earlier is better, in general – but this depends on who you are.   A founder with a track record can afford to wait longer.

The prototype stage is a good milestone.  But this can vary, e.g. Pluralsight bootstrapped for nine years before seeking funding.

If a venture is pre-product, what else does it need to have?

Mike said there are some non-obvious factors.  In enterprise tech, it is good to see that the founder appreciates implications of the long sales cycles involved.  They should have an ideal customer profile in mind and factor in sales velocity equations.  Could the founder sell him the pen sitting on his desk?

Brad likes founders who are solving a problem they’ve lived through, and to see that they have a real understanding and passion; as opposed to business school projects.

What KPIs do you evaluate when vetting startups?

Eliot: “It’s got to have magic.”

Karin said that it is a highly contextual, and hard to generalize.  E.g., with HR tech you want to see easy end user adoption – Pluralisght hit upon a pricing model that was very attractive.

What is the best way to pitch seed investors?

Karin loves to see demos; use a pitch deck if it helps tell the story.

Brad likes a good Genesis story.  He really cares how they’re pitched, because it’s the “single best data point for how founders pitch customers and employee candidates.”  A pet peeve is unrealistic market size numbers.  Coming in through another founder in their portfolio is the best way. Sending a cold email suggests that you are not being strategic.

Eliot: When pitching, walk in with a good sense of what they are looking for and what you want.

Mike likes those who are very good at selling software.

Audience Questions: One bootstrapped to $40K monthly revenue, and was wondering if they should go to seed or A round funding.

One of the panel members said “Skip us if you can – you will retain more equity.”

Why take your money?

Elliot said that Boldstart can help get customers.

Karin offered that Bloomberg Beta can help fill in gaps in the venture’s team.

Brad talked about PVP’s expert network, which saves search fees for portfolio companies.

What percentage are repeat vs. first-time entrepreneurs?

“Both are nice.”

“This depends on the bias of portfolio.”

“For the very first time, there’s not as good a chance”

Brad said that about half are first timers.

Before the panel, two vendors showed their wares.  Replicated is a container-centric platform that enables software companies to manage and distribute an enterprise-grade, installable version of their product behind the firewall and into their customers’ private data centers or private clouds.  HYPR   decentralizes the storage of biometric data to enable secure password-less authentication across mobile, desktop and IoT systems.

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