Startupalooza/iBreakfast.com is the monthly gathering of Digital Media Executives, Entrepreneurs, Investors and Media.
We meet with industry Rock Stars, dine on Big Ideas and help Start-Ups raise Millions. In New York, New Jersey, DC, Boston and Los Angeles.
Need to raise a million? The iBreakfast/iEvening series has helped Start-Ups raise over $40 million. This powerful iBreakfast/iEvening quarterly meeting of entrepreneurs, VCs and seasoned execs enables start-ups to find their "Power Pitch™" while offering a unique opportunity to raise capital.
VC Panel lead by: John Ason, Angel Investor • Heather Gilchrist, RAK Tech Fund • Allan Grafman, All Media Ventures • David Teten, ff Venture Capital • Moderated by Alan Brody
Nikhil Paul, CEO Nfoshare & Alan Brody, Moderator, iEvening
The Report: A Teachable Moment
Every Entrepreneur iEvening seems to have its own theme. We don’t plan for it but it somehow works out that way. Last time it was medical plans.
This time it was education.
Not only was our winner, Andrew Cohen’s Brainscape, an educational product (popular multimedia flash card apps) but so were the runners up.
Even your humble host of the workshop was invited to put the collected wisdom of the Entrepreneur Power Pitch panels into an educational format. (More about this blog and eBook later).
Our panel of investors included Heather Gilchrist of RAK Tech Fund who had succeed with an educational product. John Ason, the Angel Investor who gets to write his own checks has some educational investment but Allan Grafman of All Media Ventures and David Teten of ff Venture Capital are not generally there. But they voted for it anyway.
Maybe it is just the current mood. No one seems to understand the economy, what to spend our money on or even what to manufacture - so why not get an education? And hasn’t the cost of education outpaced the economy. So there it is - an overpriced enterprise ready to be taken apart by technology: reducing analog dollars into digital pennies by turning pedantry into personal pedagogy.
BrainScape came out of Columbia and seems to include a little of a very hot commodity according to number of our judges, “gamification”. It is not just learning with your own flash cards, or borrowing from others who have been there before but you can have some fun doing so too.
The runner up was Rami Cohen, MD whose Tel-Aviv start-up, Telesofia comes with a special pedigree, he worked with ICQ founder and Israel Start-Up guru, Yossi Vardi. Telesofia, is a platform for creating personalized video communications between doctors and patients. A form of education, you might say.
Another runner-up was Nfoshare, a website that allows college students to tap the collective wisdom of their class by tying the professors, tutors and students into an ongoing forum. It spares the professors from endless of questions and lets the slow kids tap the knowledge of the smart kids.
Afiniate's IntentEngine™ software, produced by Ram Singh, the winner of our DC event, educates banks on the needs of their customers and feeds them offers they are likely to be interested in.
Firmcontour educates you on how to lose weight. After getting your personal profile it delivers a customized menu for your weight loss or dietary needs for just $12.95 a month.
ZeroIn Media educates banks customers on whatever the banks deems worthwhile -on flat screen TVs as they wait in line.
Finally, Candid Capture, educates employers about the candidates they are looking to hire by allowing them to capture structured video interviews for perusal on their own time.
PowerPitch workshop - once again we used the power of our panelists to help the Entrepreneurs shape their plans and calibrate their messages for various kinds of investors. It also raised so many issues that Entrepreneur asked us to begin the eBook below.
A special thanks to our sponsors Herrick Feinstein for hosting a marvelous event with great refreshment and food & wine breaks.
Due to popular demand and as part of the iEvening Education theme, we will be releasing a compilation of our PowerPitch Workshop’s book of wisdom.
POWER PITCH™ - TAPPING THE HIDDEN RULES OF START-UPS
The heart of this workshop is focusing on the pitch - that 10 or 15 second elevator shpiel. It sounds simple and doing some kind of pitch is simple. But doing the right pitch is incredibly because it makes you focus on the essential, communicable element of your plan.
We stumbled upon this through two sources. One of our investors told us that the lives for 3 phone calls he gets every morning that rave about this new start-up or Entrepreneur. Then Bloomberg TV approached us to do a show about our startups and they asked, so what do these companies do?”
It turned out to be almost impossible to explain and so we recognized the challenge:
How do we get entrepreneurs to reduce their idea, management, specific experience, technology and marketing plan into a bite-sized chunk? How to make it relevant to a potential investor? How to turn it all into a meme so that angel investors can pass it around to their colleagues like a chit in the favor bank?
How do you get your idea to become remarkable to investors? How do you make it go viral for the checkwriters?
We came up with the idea of using their colleagues. We found out that the best way to do it is to make a group of your peers give you the feedback you need. After all, they are most like you: the VCs can be dumb, your loved one may never understand you but if your peers don’t get you then you know you have work to do.
That’s the essence of the PowerPitch Workshop. But in order to manage it you have to know a lot about the mindset of Angel VCs: what they are looking for, how they handicap you and how they get into their own kinds of buying frenzies. That is the essence of this book, gleaned from years of listening to the VCs after you’ve left the room.
They have their own ideas, their own rules of thumb which they generally don’t share with you. Much of the time they don’t really articulate it because it’s a given.
But not to you.
You also need to understand whether you are investible - how to improve your chances or how to find more accessible and far cheaper sources of capital.
Many of these points are on the blog and this outline will direct you to some of the points already written and all the rest waiting to come.
Are You Fundable? An outline of our coming eBook
Are you investible? Understand what investors are looking for before you pitch. In our blog.
How do Investors rank you? Eskimos have 57 words to describe snow and the Bedouin have 100 for a camel. What do Investors have for entrepreneurs?
mHealthcon opened to a full house at Rutgers, NJ. We are providing a full report below with numerous published articles about the conference - including a week-long series in NJ Tech.
With close to 300 delegates assembled at the heart of the pharmaceutical industry, this event saw the confluence of medical and pharma stakeholders, seasoned digital entrepreneurs and savvy early stage investors.
MHealthcon sprang from the ongoing mass adoption of powerful mobile devices - phones and tablets backed by global connectedness and the "data cloud". With health reform driving the digitization of patient records as providers and payers demand improved outcomes and cost efficiencies, there is a surge of innovation in medicine. Seasoned entrepreneurs and investors are exploring new channels to collect and distribute medical information, manage patient care and streamline payments. Tom Wheeler, Chairman of the mHealth Alliance Partnership laid out the roadmap of adoption, proliferation and global opportunity.
The event attracted delegates throughout the U.S. and Canada and from as far away as Germany and Israel.
Tel Aviv's Dr. Rami Cohen won the Start-Up Award with TeleSofia, a personalized doctor-to-patient instruction video platform. His runners up were Atlanta's Dr. Nicholas' DocPons and one of the most seasoned start-ups we have seen, Sandford Roth's Medsonics.
Successful entrepreneurs like Anand Iyer from companies like WellDocs, Dr. Gopal K. Chopra from pingmd and Serge Loncar from CareSpeak discussed the adoption and growth process - with some surprising conclusions. Sonny Vu, the founder of Agamatrix gave a spellbound presentation of the growth of his Diabetes product from his college dorm room to a multimillion dollar sale. David Shrier of Ernst & Young surprised the audience with the revelation that his company had consulted for Google from the time they were just "5 people in a garage" and were similarly interested in dealing such early stage companies today.
A significant number of dotcom entrepreneurs made the trip from New York's Silicon Alley to attend the conference - including such execs and the confounder of About.com that went public at $1.5 million in just 3 years.
As one investor and MD, Brad Weinberg said: "Great event. Engaging people and intimate enough to really meet people."
What Happened at the OWS Town Hall Meeting? Social Media Insiders Explain the Real Significance of Open Source Thinking and Self-Managed Groups
Headless Body Seeks Topless Rule
If it weren’t for the fight that broke out in the second hour of this Town Hall Meeting it would have been merely interesting. Social Media has gone from a dating, teen popularity management and marketing phenomenon to a revolutionary movement thanks to Occupy Wall Street, the Arab Spring, Spanish indignados and so on.
When a Wall Streeter at the meeting objected to being photographed after making an impassioned statement about how hard he worked and how much he deserved the American Dream, the clash of cultures became apparent.
Any netizen would accept being photographed in a public setting as simple transparency but his group saw it as a violation of privacy. Social Media, when applied to organizations that only know top-down management of the opaque kind is an existential threat. Keeping out of the news is a big deal. Showing your face is asking for trouble.
That generational divide is evident at many levels. Even the founder of Social Media and our lead speaker, Andrew Weinreich, who created the prototypical social media site, sixdgrees.com back in the 90’s, had doubts about the power of this movement because the numbers, he noted, are still small. Only a few thousand show up at Zucotti Park vs. millions in the Arab World, Spain or for that matter, Israel. Even the money it has raised, is a mere $500,000. Obama will raise $1 billion for his next campaign.
He would not be alone - industry types often underestimate its power because they saw this as a consumer business and not a battleground for the politically disenchanted who would be so inspired as to put themselves in harm’s way. Nevertheless, most of the public seems to get the potential. They are well aware that just one police strike generated 953 Occupy movements in 84 countries within days.
Headless Group Seeks a Topless Government.
The recurring complaint is that Occupy Wall Street has too many messages. Perhaps. Yet anytime they focus on one, it can be devastating. The numbers on the ground may small but the numbers at home or on their smartphones are immense. Americans may like to do their protesting from their couches but as long as a symbolic number are willing to take to the streets, the power of Social Media seems to hold.
What we are really witnessing is the battle testing of open source thinking vs. the old hierarchies. Like the civil war, where the bullets were more powerful than the military strategies of the day, there may be large and unexpected casualties. This may be more powerful than its creators imagined and harder for people in power to resolve than they know.
Thanks to our meeting, we have generated a few ideas - but they won’t be easy.
Legless and Headless
The courts may be the next testing ground. Yetta Kurland, is a legal activist and TV host who helps represent a Law society observer at an OWS protest who was run down by a police motorcycle. The police use these vehicles to control crowds and in the past, if an innocent person got in the way that was just too bad. They will arrest them, make up a story and bring them before the courts which would generally assume that the police are telling the truth. In this case there are widely distributed videos showing that the police mowed down this innocent observer, trapped him under the wheels of the vehicle and then beat and cuffed him as he writhed in pain. He now has to defend himself in court against some type of obstruction of justice charge. This charade continues even though the video is common knowledge thanks to YouTube and numerous cable TV news shows. One would imagine that the charges will be dropped but the issue will probably wind up costing the city dearly when it goes to Civil Court. The biggest cost to the NYPD, however, will be their credibility. Somewhere, heads will roll and a new management will have to rethink their practices in a world where everyone is watching.
Greg Galant, the founder of the Shorty Awards, arguably the “Oscars of the Twitterverse” talked about its impact on media. Journalists are now using Social Media tools like Storify, Klout and Hootsuite to keep tabs on the movement. Equally significant is the reshuffling of the media ecosystem – the blogosphere is generating stories that feeds the mainstream coverage while doing its own coverage of the traditional media’s reporting. Now that Google+ is adding journalists’ bios to the net, there is a channel for readers to communicate with them, thereby making the conversation interactive in all media. Besides, as Kurland pointed out, the mayors and police chiefs are using Social Media to discuss the issues among themselves too - Social Media’s influence has become inescapable.
What Color is Your Social Media Parachute?
John Havens, the author “Tactical Transparency” cites Facebook’s 900 million users and $21Bn in ad sales as the transformational issue in the business world. If CEOs haven’t already been alerted by those numbers, then the Occupy movement is surely their ultimate wake up call – and the Social Media industry’s single greatest advertisement. Companies need a crisis protocol for Social Media. More importantly, CMO’s must know that the brand doesn’t entirely belong to them although they bear ultimate responsibility for it. Jet Blue still seems to be the poster child for this type of approach, with CEO David Neeleman responding to customer issues with a heartfelt and slightly ruffled apology on YouTube. Admission of responsibility and promises to change seem to be the mantra. To keep the promise, JetBlue now has a team of people with the power to respond to Twitter complaints on the spot. The last storm showed that the problem could sill recur, yet so far the response has been relatively tepid.
Damn You – I’m Good
Stuart Tracte, who runs his own geek talk show “Beer Diplomacy” notes that Apple has no Social Media effort to speak of. Steve Jobs put out occasional text statements when he hurt his faithful and almost none of their products are actually made in the US. He just makes a “damned good product and you want it.” From Stuart’s perspective, OWS is not a Social Media movement as much as a human movement: people don’t want business in their government. They want to end that unless, of course, that business is as good as Apple’s.
Topple the Banks
Co-host, TJ Walker of Worldwide Media Training noted that the movement lacked the kind of single message that animated the anti-Vietnam War and Civil Rights movements. He announced his own eBook “Bust up the Big Banks” as an antidote to this, since the banks in his opinion, are the real issue. Then again, as he noted, thanks to Social Media he is now competing with 40 books on the topic of Occupy Wall Street.
Too Promotional to Fail
So where’s this all going? The city believes that winter will put OWS out of business but I doubt that. What better advertisement for a hip new camping company than supplying them with thermal tents and sleeping bags? Ski clothing is so good these days that freezing temperatures are just a fun fact. The movement only needs a few hundred people to keep their foothold – any number of interchangeable volunteers who can do this in shifts seem to be endlessly available thanks to the 10% unemployment figures.
Going Public About Being Public
Generally, the powerful will try to co-opt the groups they can’t crush. But OWS is a leaderless group. There are key influencers but they could be anywhere and if co-opted they could be replaced at any time by another influencer. Over time, it is quite possible that the group will dig in. If they raise enough money, they can buy the protest property they want or, in the ultimate irony of ironies – they could go public. They generate income, so why not sell stock? In theory, they could wind up acquiring the companies they oppose – the first publicly traded anti-Wall street company on a hostile takeover frenzy. When you consider that the NASDAQ OTC has not one but two technically illegal medical marijuana companies, MJNA and CANA, the idea is not so far-fetched.
Headless vs Bodyless: The End of Two Party Democracies
The real issue is this clash of civilizations: what happens when an amorphous, open source group organizes synchronously and multinationally against the World Order? Anyone who has grown up with Wikipedia knows that it works. Anyone who grew up with a set of Encyclopedia Britannicas still can’t accept that it’s for real. Democracies are really based a binary system – its either Democrats or Republicans, Labor or Management with a revocable dictatorship granted to the majority. Over time, the power concentrates near the top where it is open to manipulation by the highest bidder. That might have been fine when there were majorities but today we are more diverse and the ruling party is really the one with the best plurality of constituents of which most are not really served.
As Ross Perot and Jack Nader proved, we can’t handle a third or fourth or fifth party but in an open source environment, you can sustain a plurality of voices without affecting the core functioning of the system. Most governments, when not unduly influenced by special interests, can function quite well in a transparent, self-organizing, user-operated fashion. That would lower costs and doom a lot of bureaucratic guilds whose first priority are self-protection and poliferation.
On the other hand, leaders can try to learn from Apple: become a cool cult while providing incredibly good and inventive programs.
The public may stand to benefit either way.
Warning: to be a cult you must have somehow died and come back to life. On the other hand, if you are incredibly good and inventive in politics, your opponents will help you with the former.
NOTE: This event is being streamed, starting at 6pm EST on Nov. 3
How did a web medium that was designed to help lonely people find dates or teenagers improve their social lives become what may be the most powerful medium of organized public resistance we have ever experienced?
To paraphrase Hemingway our a social writer in his own right – it happened to ways: gradually and then suddenly.
It probably incubated in Iran where Twitter feeds gave the world a blow-by-blow report of an oppress people trying to shake off a vicious regime.
Then it swept the Arab world with the speed and force of a desert storm. Out of nowhere – this time organized and chronicled though Facebook – it took down one dictatorship after another. This is a revolution that no amount of diplomacy, editorializing, letter writing or armed resistance has been unable to do in decades.
Then Europe – especially Spain – experienced the organization of los indignantes – angry young people who organized tent cities in dozens of cities in Spain.
We watched and thought – that’s over there. Never happen here…..
In Spain, the organizers wrote a manifesto that seemed to make perfect sense to anyone with a smartphone, a Facebook page, a twitter and blog account and no job prospects, that they could join a cause – a flash mob that grew virally and actually had a purpose.
And then it came here.
In our rational, issue driven world the idea of Occupying Wall Street seem quaintly absurd. Laughable. It looked like it was going nowhere. As Ben Stein famously said, how can banging a drum change Wall Street? When millions of people do it together, they can. Anyone remember the story of Jericho?
It only took one police lieutenant to get videoed pepper spraying 4 helpless women. The Video went viral on Youtube and within days, 953 Occupy sites had sprung up in 84 countries.
If you run a control and command, authoritarian system – then this has to be your worst nightmare. The people can bite back.
So what does this mean to business, government and the administration of society?
Can you still tell people what do to do? When everyone has a cell pone videocam and a YouTube account you no longer own the narrative – that has he legal consequences, as we will see.
When citizens can reach millions directly with their stories, the news media is no longer the information gatekeeper.
What about business, does the Fed and Wall Street still control the value of currency when we know that troubled cities in Greece have created their own barter systems using open source software.
What about crowdfunding – so far the SEC opposes it and leave financing to the good people on Wall Street. If enough people band their drums, Congress will have to pass laws enabling it.
Should the government own policing? Or will whistleblower laws and public surveillance change that. In South Korea citizens make a living by using their video cams to act as bounty hunters against crime and corruption everywhere. Their whistleblower laws already make that possible – the social technology makes that a certainly.
What about the political process? We live in a binary system – its either Republicans or Democrats. Labor vs. management but the world is no longer binary. We no longer have simple majorities – demographically the US is now a country of pluralities. Most jobs come from small, independent businesses not from mega-corporations and the Spanish manifesto makes it clear that unions are not welcome.
Crowd politics – well organized - may in fact be the future of our politics and the only way we can truly accommodate diversity. Maybe what looks unfocused to us is really the fuzzy, fractal logic of the new politics. We have already seen a microfinanced president.
Why not a politician who wins because he amasses more Facebook likes than anyone else or parties that are formed and reformed around issues that people care about and not about party lines.
Can bureaucracy exist when the Internet has shown it can eliminate inefficiency and the middlemen? Why is medicine run by insurance aggregators and medical unions or even education, which has only resulted in higher costs no matte how good or bad the marketplace.
What we will learn tonight is that we are witnessing the birth of a parallel system of government, decisionmaking and administration. All empowered by the Internet, mobile and social media. It looks messy and ridiculous to outsiders – as do all births – but it is the future and societies will never work quite the same way again.
Finally the Digital Media Industry has been put on the front page and it is already producing new products, ideas and opportunities.
iEvening’s Power Pitch session took on a new twist when we invited noted pitch consultant, Laura Allen to join our workshop. This gave entrepreneurs a chance to test their pitches, have the group break them down and let Laura help them build it back up again according to her proven 15 second pitch formula.
They key to pitches is that you really have understand everything about you and your plan and then ruthlessly cut it down to the absolute essentials. They also have to be the ones that matter to the appropriate investors. Most important – you have to establish your credibility as the person to deliver and execute the plan. You also need to know how to read an investor so as to calibrate your pitch and then give them the right call to action.
SWING IT – DON’T WING IT
In the real world, this is harder than mastering a golf swing. Sure, some people just get it but everyone else has to really work at it. That’s why we have a standing room only workshop!
What takes the Power Pitch workshop to another level and delivers a steady stream of rave reviews is unique is that we take you to the next level and introduce you to the really big picture: how do investors actually perceive a pitch? We call this the symbolic dimension and it is distilled form our experience of listening to investors after thousands of entrepreneurs “have left the room. “
What investors come up with is not necessarily what you think. This is especially true in the Start-Up world where business ideas change so much that it really is more about who you are rather than what you pitch. Or as they say, it’s the jockey not the horse they’re betting on. So investors have ways of figuring out who you really are that having nothing to do with the text of your pitch. That is why I have seen a barefoot engineer in his 20’s from Palo Alto get funding while a savvy exec in a suit got a pass. One look credible for his space while the other didn’t.
The symbolic dimension is simply the way in which investors scan you for the information that matters to them. And they all have their little rules of thumb. If you figure that out you will get funding, or supporters, followers and everything else you need to succeed.
In other words, investors see your pitch as a coded enactment of their future business relationship with you. How you present yourself, whether you ramble, whether you are too sure and so on, tells them the following:
1.Are you coachable?
(Ever wonder why some really bad pitches get funded. Ever wonder why Apple’s management actually fired Steve Jobs? Being a great entrepreneur can mean less than their ability to take guidance.)
2.Are you specially qualified to do this?
You don’t have to be the expert – in fact, that can work against you because then you wouldn’t be coachable. The issue is whether you have the ability to execute - so your track record in any related way, really matters.
3.Will your respond to the marketplace? Every idea is great until the market gets to see. Mostly they ignore it or hate it and so you have to adjust or “pivot” – but in a way that doesn’t lose the essence of the idea. Most entrepreneurs believe they are right and the market is wrong. Investors generally avoid those kinds of entrepreneurs.
4.Will you be on budget? Fiscal discipline, without going overboard is a big plus. So, for example don’t invite the investor to a fancy restaurant – share a sandwich. If you own a BMW don’t drive it to your meetings unless you want them to think you don’t need the money. Talk big but act frugal.
5.Can you survive the inevitable draught? All stat-ups will face times of low cash and no sales. It’s the ones who can overcome that who matter. Most investors can sniff out a survivor but what they really want is a winner. Someone who can turn adversity into a plus. Find an example in your past that illustrates this.
6.If there is a known objection to your plan – start with your response to it. For example – you are a me-too company in a crowded space. You have a big liability risk. The market is not growing. Investors will find this weakness in a heartbeat but if you confront it by describing your solution – you can win them over.
THE PITCHERS & THE VCs
As if on cue, on of the iEvening’s Investors, David Beatty of Goldenseeds took measure of how long the speakers went over their 4 minute limit and predicted how much they would go over budget. Yet very presenters adjusted to their pitches in response to that.
There was number of medically related pitches since this is a growing marketplace. This is a perfect storm: an aging nation that lives longer with meds meets digital solutions and a relaxed approach by the FDA.
The iEvening’s winner was AgSquared – an arguably unlikely winner since New York investors are not known for their interest in farming. But in this case, by tapping into the locavore and health consciousness movement and adding the Pitch Panel insight about mentioning mobile data collection and delivery - the idea of providing big time farm ERM software as a freemium sevice for small farmers struck a chord.
The crowd choice was Gift Side Story, a site that helps people, particularly men, buy gifts for their loved ones with a kind of online concierge.
The other presenters were:
Brouha which provides an RFID-based customer tracking system for retailers.
Ross Medical offers a low cost alternate ER patient management system for low-risk chest pain patients
Medsonics US, Inc. is handheld dvice that scan scan for stress fractures
RF Telematics is a HIPA compliant secure wireless network for Medical data transmission
Eco-Auger is a high efficiency, low impact, water motion power generator.
Additional pitches on the program were:
Lessonwriter – an online service lesson capture and development for teachers.
BP Wiz (Book Publishing Wiz) an online gateway for book proposals to publishers.
The Athlete’s Network: a system that brings high school athletes to the attention of college coaches.
FreezeCrowd, Inc: a college social network that interactivelyconnects people through group photos with their friends
Dec. 1: The First Health Conference on Mobile Apps
Attend the first conference on the convergence of Digital Media and Healthcare - a demographic perfect storm - on Dec 1.
The Mobile Health field is exploding! By 2015 mHealth will become a $23 billion market with over 500 million doctors, patients and users of apps to help diagnose disease, manage healthcare, fitness and exercise.
That's why you can't afford to miss this important one-day conference hosted by New Jersey's Rutgers University in the heart of "pharma alley" dedicated to the hottest innovations in mobile healthcare today. Hear from top innovators and mHealth gurus as you network with opinion leaders and the investors entering with hundreds of millions in new investments. Visit mHealthcon for more details.
Slated Speakers include:
Al Shar, CIO, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Tom Wheeler, Chair, mHealth Alliance Partnership
Mayor Cory Booker of Newark
Jayant Parthasarathy, SVP, Mobile United Healthcare Group
Ryan Sysko, CEO, WellDoc
Richard Glassberg, COO, MedHelp
Dr. Edward Zuckerberg - "The Father of Facebook"
Serge Loncar, CEO, Carespeak and many more!
Sign up today at the early bird price of only $125 and get:
2 Keynotes! * 4 Workshops! * Network with 200+ startups, investors, pharma execs and stakeholders.
Meet the innovators breaking new groundCheck out more than 20 exhibits and demos of the mhealth apps gaining traction.
Hear from the investors ready to fund.
Occupy Wall Street Turns 1984 Upside Down - Thanks to Social Media
We always knew that Social Media was the enabler of the "Occupy Wall Street" movement - that's what got the word out in the first place. We just didn't know what direction it would take: what could possibly be the Wall Street version of the Arab Spring?
The answer may involve a tectonic shift in government.
When the first punch was thrown by police white shirts - management - you knew whose bull was really being gored. It wasn't Wall Street that was threatened as much as the administrators traditional power relationships. That's why the police brass instinctively brought out the pepper sprays and clubs then made the rank and file follow suit.
On their own, the regular cops spent little time worrying about the protestors. Most of the time they did what protestors did - stand around checking their iPhones and 'Droids.
Police management may have been taking heat from Wall Street execs just a few blocks from 1 Police Plaza - but this is more that territorial. It could be the first time hierarchical order has had to confront social media managed organized chaos - and they instinctively hate it.
Social Media has turned the traditional patrol relationship upside down. It is now the world watching the cops and not the other way round. It is enough to make George Orwell rise up and wonder!
You'd think Police Management would have known that the first act of violence would go international. Yet they clearly didn't understand the force they were confronting or they would have been better off house all those protesters at the downtown Marriott. No overtime, no brutality no worldwide public sympathy.
Wall Street is good for 25% of the State's economy and it likes to hire ex-offers for their own extensive security needs. But once the NYPD leadership lashed out they turned what looked like a joke into an International Phenomenon. Now they have attracted a level of attention to Wall Street and government that will change how they operate forever. It will cost them more than money - it will cost them their way of life.
We still haven't taken stock of the fact that government used our money to save the banks and yet, did almost nothing to save the public with mortgage relief. Now the banks are foreclosing those houses and you can probably forget about getting loan. I recently served on federal jury duty where a small time mortgage hustler was indicted by the FBI for a few thousand dollars while the bank that made millions by enabling him - got to testify against him. And boy, were they outraged.
When the crowd is the watchdog and they are empowered that kind of think is not likely to happen - at least not without a fight. This is the battle that has been waiting to happen.
Like Hemingway said, things change gradually and then suddenly.
Crowds have already been taking control in gradual ways. Ask Microsoft what they think about open source - as they lose market everywhere. Ask McCain or Hilary Clinton what they think about the people who microfinanced Obama's election. They haven't exactly gone away.
3 years later, mobile has accelerated the social media that bought "change" and now everyone with a smartphone is probably using it. "Occupy Wall Street" and the opposition it engendered only seems to amplify it's reach. It is already teaching people how to take charge of the political system in entirely new ways.
In countries like Greece, with severly troubled economies people are already taking control of their banks and their currency. In South Korea, they are even taking on some of the police enforcement burden.
How long before we vote by cellphone? Or "buy" politicians with Facebook Likes. Policing is already subject to who has the cell phone video. Almost everyone has one and now they are posting them on on the web taking the presumed authority away from those in charge. Political and business watchdogs are popping up in South Korea which now relies on citizens with cameras and videos for a large part of its prosecutions of corrupt businessmen and politicians.
As Wall Street loses it ability to generate jobs we might wind up doing what the Greeks are did, start using barter with homegrown markets and local currency. With mobile internet and open source software, the tools are available for the taking, free of charge. When governments print worthless money or taxes become unsustainable, smart communication may be a better way to store value. Many Africans now put more value in their cell phone minutes than their local currencies. Ask any Zimbabwean with a $100 billion note.
The triumph for the "Occupy Wall Street" movement is simply to stay on long enough - as they attract eyeballs all of the above cascades down naturally. It was just waiting to happen. Control has begun to shift to the aggregators of social media-connected communities - essentially, the new political parties.
It just needed a nudge, the NYPD brass gave it and the media fanned it. For this, they should probably be thanked.
The iBreakfast NY and Smart TLDs hosted the first conference on ICANN’s gTLD program since it's passing at ICANN Singapore a month prior. New gTLDs will enable brands, orgs and trade groups to escape the dot and own a TLD in their own name.
While most of the speakers, following ICANN SVP Kurt Pritz's keynote were enthusiastic supporters of the program, Esther Dyson, a former Chair of ICANN, livestreamed her objections from a remote location. Noting that she couldn’t see much value in new gTLD’s and that ICANN's near $200,000 price was too much, she went on to make the point, “I wouldn’t want to be a cheesemaker if Kraft owned .cheese."
Paradoxically, Dyson’s neo-traditionalist objections seemed to heighten the value proposition for key players and conference attendees. While Dyson's point is that cocacola.com is just fine at the cost of a few dollars versus .cocacola at $185K which appears to offer nothing more. Unless, that is you see value in the very exclusivity and prospect of category ownership – which has made it seem so enticing for Fortune 1000 companies. [Dyson's audio transcript below]
As former Kodak CMO, Jeffrey Hayzlett made clear, brands would be foolish if they don’t get on board now. How would you look if your competitor has say, .pepsi and you soft dring company hasn’t even applied yet, he asked. This would be even worse if you were locked out of this application window and the next one is delayed for years.
The technical providers Verisign, Afilias and Neustar, as well as speakers from DotBrand Solutions, Aus Registry and Donuts, Inc., gave insight as to what the application process entails and why you need a partner to manage your TLDs once approved. The application is highly managed with about 80,000 words of explanation and procedural steps. Barry Werbin, a partner at host, Herrick, Feinstein LLP, showed a flowchart of the application process thatt was clearly daunting. This is not a path to be taken alone and will probably warrant legal help all along.
Importantly, there is a limited window for the gTLDS – applications begin in January, 2012, and if granted, they will require a major financial and technological investment to maintain.
ICANN's SVP of Stakeholder Relations, Kurt Pritz, outlined the process and made it clear that his organization has always looked for a transparent and non-combative process. The TLDs are meant to be given out judiciously, with trademark protections and without favoring individual groups over trade organizations and it offers an elaborate dispute resolution resource as well as an open auction process.
Despite the seeming lack of awareness and words of dissent, the early interest in gTLDs is potent – declarations of interest have already been raised for over 1,000 applications, indicating a possible market of close to $200 million at the starting gate.
Some of the more intriguing plans were DotGreen which would organize and essentially brand enviro-friendly companies. Likwise .gay would create a lifestyle brand and .Asia, already an established regional TLD, welcomes the changes in the web with new gTLDs, cityTLDs, as well as IDNs, to better organize and enable pan-asian expression.
The undisputed aspect of the gTLDs is that ability for non -oman character users – the so-called next billion online users – to reach sites without using the .com by way of Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs).
The Master of Your Domain conference was produced by iBreakfast and Smart TLDs, and moderated by Paul Farkas, Esq., of Smart TLDs. It was sponsored by Afilias, Neustar, Verisign, Dot Green, Definition 6, and Herrick, Feinstein LLP.
This is a death plan for vindictive people going after shady companies. A case study you won’t find at Harvard and whose names and precise mechanisms have been shaded for obvious reasons. The story however, is quite devastating - an amazing intersection of SEO and crisis PR.
First, for those of you who are not quite sure what I do when I am not arranging iBreakfasts and iEvenings or helping start-ups to shape their plans and raise money – I am a marketing consultant. Back in the day, I wrote the first marketing column about Apple for MacWEEK (my mantra was: forget corporate, go creative as in “ad industry”) as well as ADWEEK and Advertising Age’s various publications.
While I advise many companies and execs on digital marketing, the assignments are often influenced by the topics of the iBreakfast. If we do mobile, I’ll get calls about mobile. When we do Social TV and I’ll be involved in media. So when Google’s new search algorithm became an iBreakfast topic, I got called about a ranking issue which was really, crisis PR expressed online.
A client was referred to me because a disgruntled webmaster had targeted his former employer for revenge and had more less put them on the road to destruction. By the time they contacted me, he had already forced them to change their name and reincorporate. But rather than evading him, he just went after their new company. His technique was so simple that it was laughable - but it also put the power of Google behind him. This wouldn’t work on Coca-Cola but for a small company or any company with credibility issues: bingo.
The company is in Multi-Level Marketing – not my favorite area – and they sell a product that protects you, let’s say, from environmental problems. We’ll call them ENVIRO-Y. There really is no way you can prove or disprove ENVIRO-Y’s efficacy. The problems they claim to solve are looming and obvious. Their supporting studies sound good but their sources are second rate if not dubious. So the entire sell depends on the credibility of their reps as well as the overall appearance of the company.
When they fired their webmaster with what looks like unreasonable prejudice, he decided to get even. Yes, ENVIRO-Y had reason to fire him but the cause (taking jobs on the side) seemed a little out of touch and in any case should have at least been done with a cordial but solid exit package.
So the ex-webmaster set up a vile website that slandered every aspect of the company, its founders and its operations. It used four letter words. It was an affront to any website anywhere. It literally stunk up the Internet with toilet language. It was anonymous.
However, it also came up first in search rankings relating to the ENVIRO-Y.
For about 6 months, ENVIRO-Y did nothing, thinking that the vileness of the site would be self-evident and be dismissed. But new clients whose credibility must be won, were easily spooked.
So ENVIRO-Y tried to flood the web with multiple relevant metatags and page variants drawn from their own website. Even then, savvy new customers were probably a little spooked when they saw repetitive websites pop in the search. Still, it seemed to work OK until the Farmer and Panda updates came along penalizing websites with “fake” or low quality pages. That also made the el stinko site rise to the top again. Genuine content!
In the meantime, the crisis sparked a fight between the founders who then split up and the company was reformed under a new name.
The ex-webmaster just incorporated ENVIRO-Y’s new name into his website and its tags and he went about his business I would imagine, with a laugh.
Now this is where it gets interesting because you are probably wondering why they didn’t try to shut him down via ICANN or his host or whatever.
The answer is that he didn’t rely on any of those institutions. He had used Google’s blogsite to set up the attack site and Google is a very firm believer in the First Amendment. They will only take down that site when presented with a libel judgment from the court in Santa Clara. Lawyers will know more about this than I, but I am guessing this takes time – even though this webmaster is highly unlikely to show up at the courthouse. Then again, he might show up with something on ENVIRO-Y that they really don’t want to air in court. Either way, he had Google on his side and they were in effect, paying for his attack site.
So ENVIRO-Y flooded the web with more sites – this time using their sales consultants to do the work but now they ran into three other issues.
1.Social Media sites like Yahoo Answers had already begun fielding questions about the company and the attack on them. These are essentially unerasable and rank high in searches. The company, lacking a PR strategy and hoping to drown out the bad site never bothered to respond – leaving he questions hanging and in some case answered by people with their own agendas.
2.The well-meaning consultants trying to help ENVIRO-Y were, shall we say, less than subtle and so they created sites along the lines of“what lying, no-good company are they talking about – not us? Look how much money we’re making. Look what nice people we are. We can’t be bad. We’re not liar.” This seems to be right out of Richard Nixon’s playbook and worked just as badly. However, since they didn’t get the lesson, I’ll repeat it: in corporate PR you rarely fight fire with fire. If customers want to see a fight they’ll buy tickets to an ice hockey game. The IFC. Or they’ll just watch, but they won’t be customers.
3.Google steps in again with their “Suggested Search” feature. Anytime you pop ENVIRO-Y into a search panel, the negative searches are suggested to you! And people look. How can they not? It looks more interesting than the company itself! So, once again they drive up the attack site’s ranking. To make matters worse, other companies that sell lead generation and other services to MultiLevel Marketers use these key words to boost their rankings and thereby reinforce the attack site’s rankings.
You are hearing this story because the story shows how delicate your image on the web can be. Obviously, if ENVIRO-Y were squeaky clean they would use this opportunity to take this whole issue head on - risky as that can be. I say that not only because they probably don’t have any honest answers, but even if they did - every new customer would feel obliged to cross-examine their consultants whenever they asked for business. That’s not fun. Net result - the company is seeing its salespeople run out on them and are facing a corporate tailspin from which they can't recover.
The moral of this story is be good and clean. If you can’t be – and here’s a shout out to Seth Godin – be careful how you treat your linchpins which, I might add, is a much more precarious job position than Seth would have you believe. Management has a much more conflicted view of linchpins in their midst and tend to resent their power. What usually happens is the Type A execs feel the need to throw their weight around from time to time, forgetting that disgruntled linchpins sure know how to make things fall apart when they’re not around.
As for consultants like myself who are hired to mop things up - the solution here is simple: hire us early, pay us well and listen up!
As for the 30 clicks - that's about how many keystrokes it takes to set up a Blogger account and start your own attack site.