Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Zendesk Helps Businesses All Over the World Keep Their Customers Happy

As an IT consultant in Copenhagen, Denmark, Mikkel Svane saw how expensive and inconvenient it was for many businesses to acquire and install on-premise customer support software. He knew a Web-based product would be a better option, so he recruited Morten Primdahl and Alexander Aghassipour to help create an online customer service solution. As a result, Zendesk was born in 2007.

After receiving positive feedback from their first few customers, one of which was msnbc.com, Svane left his job to become Zendesk's CEO and first full-time employee. In 2009, the company secured funding from Charles River Ventures and Benchmark Capital and moved to San Francisco. Zendesk also reached the 1,000-customer mark that year.

Currently, Zendesk has 20,000 customers, including Tumblr, Box, Sears, Groupon, and Yammer. The on-demand help desk and customer support portal runs on the latest Web 2.0 technologies such as Ruby on Rails. With a clean, elegant design, Zendesk includes ticket management, analytics, and discussion forums, among other features. It's also accessible through various channels, from email to social networks to Android to iOS, allowing businesses to connect with their customers anytime, anywhere.

Today, Zendesk announced a new feature that will prove to be especially useful to its international clients. The company has put out 11 entirely localized versions of its product, in English, Chinese (simplified and traditional), French, German, Japanese, Dutch, Spanish, Brazilian-Portuguese, Italian, and Korean. While businesses using Zendesk were able provide support in 40 languages before, the admin interface was only available in English, until now.

“For companies that want to be global, we're making it easy for them to deliver that service in a global fashion,” said COO Zack Urlocker.

Zendesk's business customers offer support to 70 million consumers in 140 countries. The new localized feature, which can automatically detect the language of requests, lets companies in non-English-speaking countries better serve their customers.

Zite: A Digital Magazine That Knows What You Like

The result of six years of product development, Zite is a personalized magazine for iPhone, iPad, HP Touchpad, and Android phones. Zite helps people stay connected to the Zeitgeist, or the spirit of the times, without getting overwhelmed by all the information available out there today. Zite allows its users to cut through the noise and receive only the stories that they're interested in – their “personal slice of the Zeitgeist”.

Unlike other news readers that are set up using one-time manual customization, Zite pays attention to the user's activities in order to deliver a better personalized experience over time. Every day, Zite evaluates millions of new stories, and displays only those that are relevant to each particular user, based on their Google Reader and Twitter histories, as well as their interactions with previously read articles.

Zite was acquired by CNN last year and may become available on other platforms in the future.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Suzzanne Uhland, the Typical O’Melveny & Myers Partner

Typical Partner material for visionary global law firm O’Melveny & Myers LLP by virtue of her unique and atypical talents, communication and litigation skills, and experience, Suzzanne Uhland has thrived at the firm. She focuses on such practice areas as bankruptcy law, distressed acquisitions and mergers, business restructuring, and credit-financing transactions. O’Melveny & Myers, recognized for its expertise across a wide spectrum of areas and industries, attracts the best attorneys, such as Suzzanne Uhland and former top government officials, including former United States Secretary of State Warren Christopher, now deceased. The firm includes approximately 800 lawyers in 15 offices in Asia, Europe, and the United States.

Sharing their depth of knowledge with each other, O’Melveny & Myers attorneys provide added value to their clients. Suzzanne Uhland, for instance, often works with the firm’s transactional attorneys in structuring transactions and bankruptcy cases. She also can share her experience in health care financings, real estate, retail, and technology. The firm’s dozens of litigation areas range from tax controversies and antitrust to energy, entertainment, insurance, and labor and employment. Transactional cases cover mergers and acquisitions, corporate finance, international trade, investment funds, and numerous other areas.

O’Melveny & Myers provides a good fit for Suzzanne Uhland and other top attorneys who value diversity, community support, and environmental responsibility. Five years ago, the law firm established the Women’s Initiative and Women’s Leadership Academy to enable women to discuss issues important to them and voice opinions within the firm and the profession. O’Melveny & Myers provides considerable pro bono services, including more than 83,000 hours valued at US$40 million in 2010 alone. The Green Office Initiative concentrates on reducing the company’s impact on the global environment. The National Legal Aid & Defender Association recognized O’Melveny & Myers in 2011 with the Beacon of Justice Award.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Hank’s Fine Furniture: Focusing on Customer Service

When Hank Browne founded Arkansas-based Hanks Fine Furniture in 1975, he grounded the family business on the concept that the customer came first. Thirty-seven years later, the philosophy remains intact, and at Hank’s Fine Furniture, the service does not stop just because a sale is consummated. The company provides a one-year warranty against manufacturers’ defects from the date of purchase and a limited lifetime frame warranty. On the premium bedding lines, the firm also instituted a 30-day Bedding Comfort Guarantee with certain conditions met. The Double the Difference guarantee applies to identical products in the local market area by a competitor, with customers receiving twice the difference if another store advertises a lower price.

Offering fine furniture, bedding, and accessories at considerable savings, the company recognizes its success depends on people walking through the door and their experience in the store. The staff’s devotion to providing exemplary service includes treating customers with utmost courtesy while supplying intelligent advice. The pleasant shopping experience would not matter, of course if Hank’s did not also offer quality items at value pricing. Maintaining one of the industry’s highest percentages of repeat customers, the business consistently earns people’s choice and “best of the best” awards.

Since its opening, Hank’s Fine Furniture has grown to 16 stores in five states. The company’s Hank’s & More Fine Furniture showrooms include gallery collections from top manufacturers, such as Henredon, Lexington Home Brands, Thomasville, and Hooker Furniture. The firm’s Home Place showroom in Pensacola, Florida, also houses the prestigious collections, which came about as a result of customer requests, another indication that Hank Browne’s original vision is alive and well. By taking customer service to the next level, he has ensured happy consumers and future expansion.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Garage Sales Go Mobile With Rumgr

Founded by three Zappos alums, Rumgr is an app that takes the garage sale experience to the mobile space. You can take photos of your unwanted things and post them to the location-based marketplace, and you don't even have to write a description. Moreover, there's a public chat where interested parties can ask you questions, as well as a private chat where you can iron out the payment and pickup details with your buyer. Rumgr also has an “Inside Your Garage” feature that lets you track your sales, items, and other people's items you're watching.

Earlier this year, the Las Vegas-based startup raised a $500,000 seed round from a group of investors, including Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, Resort Gaming Group CEO Andrew Donner, and Fred Mossler. The new funding will go into Rumgr's expansion and product development efforts. The app only works on iPhone for now, but an Android version is set to follow.

Mingly Makes Online Mingling Fast and Easy

Social networks are intended to help us stay connected with others, but a lot of us end up struggling to keep up with all those contacts, updates, and messages. Entrepreneur and engineer Tyler Koblasa noticed how modern communication was becoming scattered across different channels. While he was working on a non-profit project, he had to use a spreadsheet to track all his relationships. Needless to say, it quickly became a difficult process.

In 2010, Koblasa launched Mingly, a lightweight relationship management tool that allows people to stay better connected, right in their Gmail inbox. The Mingly browser extension aggregates all contacts from Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn into a single address book that can be searched and filtered. It also displays a feed of important updates, such as birthdays, job changes, and relocations, without all those cat pictures and gag images that many of our contacts love to share.

If you'd like to greet someone a happy birthday or congratulate them on their recent promotion, you can shoot them a message via the social network of your choice, all without leaving the Mingly dashboard. Furthermore, Mingly gives you a snapshot of each contact, so you can review their details with just a glance. And because it focuses on enhancing personal relationships, Mingly also lets users set weekly, monthly, or quarterly reminders to reach out to the people who matter – definitely a useful feature in today's busy, fast-paced times.

Earlier this year, Koblasa and company introduced two new products – Mingly for Web and MyPeople. Mingly for Web is like Mingly for Gmail, except it's accessed from a browser. Meanwhile, MyPeople is a customized email digest that briefs users on their new connections, contacts' updates, and reminders to reach out, all in an easy-to-read email.

At present, Mingly tracks about 3 million social network profiles, 10 million contacts, and 100 million interactions. Recently, it was named one of Entrepreneur Magazine's 100 Brilliant Companies for 2012.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Inalink's Personalized Member Relations Building Solutions

Putting person-to-person relationships to work for associations, Inalink focuses on retaining existing members, recovering lapsed members, and building core brand value. Inalink’s communication professionals contact members by telephone, communicating in a friendly manner that fosters engagement and understanding. The bottom-line result is increased conference participation, website traffic spikes, and enhanced awareness of the services and resources the association provides. Engineered for outsized results, Inalink’s member relationship management services typically deliver an ROI of between 100 to 300 percent.

Lapsed memberships are a very real concern for many associations, with information increasingly accessed for free on the Internet and professionals burdened by higher workloads that allow little time for participation. Inalink engages on a personal level in renewing contact with lapsed members. This high-touch, client appropriate approach typically generates reengagement rates of between 30 to 70 percent of contacted members. Value-added reports are generated analyzing reasons for non-renewal, as well as aspects of the association that former members most appreciate.

Inalink has an intimate knowledge of the membership renewal dynamic, emphasizing that retention efforts should never begin with the sending of a renewal notice. Through Keep-in-Touch and Member Welcome programs, Inalink offers a friendly, proactive, and tailored approach to member relations. A particularly vulnerably point is the first few years of any association membership, when college members graduate, job transfers are frequent, and connection with the group tentative. For these younger members, Inalink collaborates with association partners in scheduling touch points in a targeted manner, underlining the value of the organization as an essential professional resource. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Make 360-Degree Animations on Your Smartphone With YouSpin

In 2008, Norwegian entrepreneur Erlend Bakke started 3sixty, a company that offers 360-degree animation services to help businesses communicate their products in a more engaging manner. Last year, Bakke brought the technology to the everyday user by introducing YouSpin, an app that lets anybody create a 360-degree animation using a smartphone, laptop, or regular camera.

“You know when you're online, you always get static images? So what we've done is we've created the world's most simple 360 product photography application,” Bakke said in a recent interview at SXSW.

“When something's interactive and you have to touch it online, that increases the chance of you selling it and you stay longer on the website. It's just all in all a better experience,” he added.

YouSpin already has more than 200,000 users. Some use the app to sell stuff, while others make 360-degree animations just for fun, as can be seen on the YouSpin website's Explore section.

Read a Book in 12 Minutes With Readitfor.me

No time for books? Let Readitfor.me read them for you.

The brainchild of Steve Cunningham, Readitfor.me summarizes the bestselling business and personal development books and presents the key points in engaging videos, workbooks, and other materials that can be viewed anywhere, anytime. Cunningham, who serves as president and CEO of Ontario, Canada-based digital marketing agency Polar Unlimited, got the idea after seeing how little time busy professionals had to read books.

“I was constantly in corporate meetings. In most offices there would be a shelf of business books,” he says. “Since, I am constantly reading to learn I would always ask questions about advice from the books. Almost every time the response would be, 'That sounds great, I haven't read them yet.'”

Cunningham thought, “Why wouldn't I make content with the information from my favorite business books, but speed it up and make it visual?”

Thus, he and his team created the first Readitfor.me video in 2009. At that time, however, Readitfor.me wasn't founded as a business yet. The video was meant to be a piece of social media content for Polar Unlimited; the agency was to use it to start a conversation and interact with its audience. But the response was more than what Cunningham and company had expected – emails for more videos as well as partnership proposals poured in.

So late last year, Readitfor.me officially launched. The freemium service releases one book summary per week. At present, its library includes titles such as The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferris, Start With Why by Simon Sinek, and The Flinch by Julien Smith. Cunningham's goal with Readitfor.me isn't just to help people “read” books faster; he also wants them to apply what they've learned in their own business and life.

Readitfor.me already has thousands of subscribers in 55 countries around the world. Fans include Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh and New York Times bestselling author Daniel Pink.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Dr. Gustavo Stringel and the Westchester Medical Center’s Pediatric Surgery Program

Holding a Doctor of Medicine form the University of Mexico Medical School (UNAM), Dr. Gustavo Stringel joined the Westchester Medical Center in 1994 after a productive tenure as the Director of Pediatric Surgery for Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital. Widely published in numerous scholarly journals, Dr. Stringel possesses more than 40 years of experience as a clinician, researcher, and educator, a background that he mines on a daily basis in his work as Surgeon in Chief and Director of Pediatric Surgery and Minimally Invasive Surgery at Westchester Medical Center’s Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital (MFCH).

Dr. Gustavo Stringel has led a vast array of efforts solidify the hospital’s reputation as a world-class treatment center over the course of his career at the helm of MFCH’s pediatric surgical program. To this end, he formed a 30-member Multidisciplinary Pediatric Surgery Group, an organization he currently oversees as President, actively participated in vital administrative decisions during the construction of MFCH’s new facilities, and developed a host of key upper management performance indicators with a focus on reducing patient turnover times, bolstering error prevention, and increasing operating room efficiency.

Credited with founding the institution’s Division of Minimally Invasive Surgery, Dr. Gustavo Stringel remains deeply involved with everyday surgical activity and ongoing workflow streamlining. Thanks to his singled-minded dedication and innovative managerial approach, Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital continues to garner high accolades for the treatment services it provides, taking on an ever-expanding number of complex pediatric surgical cases from across the country. With patient volume rising dramatically in the past eight years, MFCH consistently sets itself apart as one of the region’s best pediatric healthcare centers, earning Consumer Choice Awards in 2008 and 2009 from the National Research Corporation, distinctions that aptly compliment the 2009 Mission Triangle Award bestowed on MFCH by the March of Dimes.

Aside from his duties supervising pediatric surgery at Westchester Medical Center, Dr. Gustavo Stringel maintains tenure at New York Medical College where he acts as a Professor of Surgery and Pediatrics. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Partners Steven Bangerter and Kenneth Sheppard Combine the Latest Technologies with Superior Legal Services at Bangerter Sheppard, PC

Listed on the Martindale-Hubbell Registry of Preeminent Lawyers, Bangerter Sheppard, PC, maintains offices in Oakland and Los Angeles, California, and St. George, Utah. Committed to an ethical and efficient approach, the firm’s attorneys hold licenses to practice in California, Utah, Idaho, and Nevada, utilizing advanced technologies to cut costs. Founded when Kenneth Sheppard joined StevenBangerter in 2009, Bangerter Sheppard provides legal counseling and services in more than a dozen practice areas, including corporations, partnerships, business law, and employment; insurance coverage and defense; non-profit organizations; and church-related law. The firm also handles risk management, catastrophic personal injury, real estate, and professional-malpractice cases.

Managing Partner Steven Bangerter began his career as a radiation therapist, focusing on intraoperative radiation oncology before deciding to direct his talents toward the legal profession. He joined Cooksey, Toolen, Gage, Duffy & Woog as an Associate Attorney, becoming a Partner in five years before striking out on his own. Kenneth Sheppard served as an Associate Attorney and later as a Partner at LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae LLP (now Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP), based in New York City, and acted as Vice President and General Counsel of Melaleuca Inc., which sells consumer products globally. He also practiced at Durham Jones & Pinegar, with offices in Utah and Nevada, before combining forces at Bangerter Sheppard.

The attorneys and their colleagues have earned significant recognition for their skills and accomplishments. The Partners both hold the prestigious AV rating with Martindale-Hubbell, and Mr. Bangerter, a life member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, has garnered a listing in the A.M. Best Company, Inc., Directory of Recommended Insurance Attorneys. Mr. Sheppard earned recognition in Utah Business magazine as one of Utah’s Legal Elite in real estate. With medical and corporate experience beyond their legal expertise, the Bangerter Sheppard team provides clients added value, which explains the growth of the firm’s reputation through client referrals.

Monday, June 4, 2012

3D Modeling Is Now on the Cloud

Launched last month at TechCrunch Disrupt New York, Sunglass is a new web-based app that brings 3D modeling to the browser. Developed by a team from MIT led by Kaustuv DeBiswas, Sunglass was built with HTML5 and WebGL and supports more than 40 file formats.

Though it's aimed at professional designers and architects, Sunglass is not meant to replace 3D modeling software completely. DeBiswas says regular people without computer-aided design (CAD) training can tinker with it as well. According to him, “[It] is a product that's fluid enough that everyone from a kid doing a Marker Bot to a professional firm can use it.”

Sunglass also has some social features, which were included to attract new customers. Multiple users can collaborate on a project by simultaneously accessing a 3D model and making comments with a sketch tool or text or voice chat. Designers can embed their creations on their website, too. Backed by investors such as General Catalyst and Maynard Webb, Sunglass is free to use with paid add-ons.

HighScore House Makes Kids Love Chores

Kids and chores usually don't mesh well together. One startup is aiming to change that, however. Founded by Kyle Seaman and Theo Ephraim, HighScore House helps parents motivate their kids to complete their household responsibilities by turning boring chores into a fun game. The company wants to “reclaim games for good” and be part of the new movement that uses games to improve the real world.

On the HighScore House website and iPad app, parents and children can set their own household challenges and rewards, which is based on a star economy so the kids can get either privilege or material rewards. The site offers task and reward suggestions as well. According to Seaman, the most popular prizes are those that make the child feel special, such as riding shotgun in the car or having ice cream for breakfast.

HighScore House wasn't built to replace parenting, but rather to serve as a tool to assist busy moms and dads. By incentivizing household tasks, parents get to save time and track chores easily while kids learn to become more responsible and work for long-term goals.

A Parent Tested Parent Approved award-winning product, HighScore House has raised an angel round from investors such as Dan Martell and Jason Bailey. The service is free to use, with some premium features on the way, like digital goods that kids can use to decorate their virtual rooms. Though currently in beta mode, HighScore House has already received positive reviews from moms and dads whose children are now enjoying their chores.

As one happy parent said, “My kids are falling all over themselves trying to figure out what they can do to earn points.” Another commented, “[HighScore House] helps organize everyday chores and makes the children more responsible.”

Seaman says he and his team want to do what Zynga did for social networks and gaming, only for families.