Thursday, September 27, 2012

Google and the Brand Experience: New Avenues in Digital Marketing

An advertising industry veteran with more than 15 years of leadership experience, Torrence Boone joined Google Inc. in January 2010 to help the tech giant build a stronger relationship with marketing agencies in North America. Based out of New York City, Boone brings an impressive resume to his present post as Google’s Managing Director of Agency Business Development that includes productive tenures at the helm of Digitas Boston and Razorfish (formerly Avenue A/NYC). He began his career as a strategy consultant with Bain & Company after completing an M.B.A. at Harvard Business School. Prior to joining Google’s team, Torrence Boone leveraged his talents as Chief Executive Officer of Enfatico, a now shuttered enterprise that Dell formed in partnership with London’s WPP Group. 

In June 2012, Boone sat down with AdWeek to discuss Google’s annual I/O conference for developers, an event that provided the corporation with the perfect opportunity to spotlight a host of recent innovations. From the unveiling of a Google-designed streaming media device to the announcement that iPad and iPhone owners can now browse the web with Chrome, the Internet giant is catering to agencies in a decidedly bold capacity. With the introduction of platforms Nexus 7 and Nexus Q, as well the Google+ Events tool, the company hopes to provide advertisers and their clients with the technological means to optimally curry consumer interest in a brand. 

Sharing his thoughts on what makes great advertising, Torrence Boone chose to focus on the storytelling aspect of the craft and went on to explain how Google’s expanded toolkit can facilitate interactive storytelling on an advertiser’s behalf. Noting how impressed he is with the creative output generated by today’s digital marketing firms, Boone drove home an important point regarding Google’s future intentions for its scalable advertising endeavors. The Google I/O conference, said Boone, will hopefully aid agencies in their quest to promote user interactivity as a key branding approach of the future. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

LetsLunch and Network

Founded in 2010 by database engineer Syed Shuttari, LetsLunch is a professional matchmaking service that allows you to make the most out of your lunches by meeting other professionals relevant to you. Shuttari developed the idea for LetsLunch after interacting with many “smart, savvy, successful people” during his lunchtimes in Silicon Valley. You can sign up for LetsLunch with your Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn account. After you've identified your interests and your profile has been set up, specify when you're available and how far you can travel. LetsLunch will send you an email two days before telling you who you'll be having lunch with as well as a list of restaurants. Confirm, go to lunch, and network. LetsLunch will ask you to give feedback about the other person later on.

Aside from the United States, LetsLunch is available in Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and most recently, the United Kingdom. The startup also just launched version 3.0 of the service.

Cheek'd: Online Dating, Sort Of

Got more online dating horror stories than you'd like to admit? Not sure how to approach that cutie at the bar without coming across as sleazy? Tired of missed connections that could have become great relationships? Cheek'd may be the answer for all you frustrated singles out there. Launched in May of 2010 by Lori Cheek, the service is like online dating in reverse, encouraging offline interaction first.

If you'd had enough of Facebook stalking, cheesy pickup lines, and awkward stares, Cheek'd can help you land dates and leave your wingman (or wingwoman) at home. Just go to the Cheek'd website and enter some information about yourself. After you've provide your nickname, favorite game, favorite song, favorite place, and email address, you'll get a month of free service and a trial deck of five cards with unique, attention-grabbing lines such as “Act natural. We can get awkward later,” “Eventually you'd ask for this,” and “I saw you checking me out.”

The cards, which also include the URL for the Cheek'd website and a code ID that leads to your profile page, are designed to pique the curiosity of your love interest, who will hopefully send you a message. If you need more cards, a standard deck of 50 costs $20. Decks with Wall Street and dog themes are also available, and you can even create a custom deck in any language if you're feeling particularly clever.

Founder and namesake Lori Cheek, who used to be an architect, got the idea for Cheek'd years ago while having dinner with another architect. Cheek's colleague scribbled “Want to have dinner?” on the back of his business card, which he handed to a woman at a nearby table as they left the restaurant. With Cheek'd, people can introduce themselves to a romantic prospect “when feeling awkward, shy, or simply desiring a new approach.”

Friday, September 21, 2012

Rabbi Leib Tropper: Promoting Jewish Ideals Through Scholarship

An influential figure in the Orthodox Jewish community who undertook much of his formal education at Yeshivas Torah Ore in Jerusalem, Rabbi Leib Tropper is best known as a prolific writer, educator, and speaker whose body of work focuses on the modern-day application of Jewish law and the moral facets of Halachic tradition. Connecting with a broad worldwide audience over the course of the past three decades, Tropper spent many years traveling the globe to lecture on the topics of faith, ethics, and personal character after founding Horizons, and organization he launched to help unaffiliated Jews integrate Talmudic teachings into their everyday lives. Although Rabbi Leib Tropper stepped down from his long held directorship post at Horizons in 2010 to pursue new projects, he continues to share the program’s message and vision by furthering positive religious debate through actionable instruction. 

Rabbi Leib Tropper from Leib Tropper on Vimeo.

Currently channeling much of his attention toward an Israel-based project called Character First, Rabbi Leib Tropper recently traveled to Jerusalem in observation of the first anniversary of his father’s passing. Joined by his wife, siblings, and children, the rabbi also attended a gathering organized by a group of Jewish leaders known as the Gedolei Yisroel. Along with his colleague Rabbi Lipa Yisraelzon, Tropper received a blessing in honor of his spiritual work and gave a speech about how prayer can positively impact our ability to understand and accept death. 

Rabbi Leib Tropper celebrated an important milestone regarding his scholarly writing during his stay in Israel as well. A contributing commentator to the book Taharat Yisroel (Purity of Israel), Tropper was welcomed by a consortium of senior haredi rabbis who voiced support for his educational efforts on behalf of the Orthodox Jewish faith. The rabbi’s other books include a Halachic assessment informed by the decisions of his mentor Maran Harav Chaim Pinchus Scheinberg and a dissertation on the laws of Orthodox Judaism that govern relationship dynamics between men and women. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Learn New Skills Offline With Shareknowledge

Before the Internet, people learned new things through education or experience. And while online learning is wonderful, there are just some skills that can't be acquired by watching video tutorials or reading online articles. Founded by Ankit Sehgal, Shareknowledge is New Zealand's “community marketplace to learn anything from anyone.”

Anybody who wants to share their skills or knowledge with others can add a course on the Shareknowledge website. All classes take place offline and can be held at a coffee shop, conference room, or even the teacher's home. Shareknowledge takes a 5 percent cut of the course fee, while another 2.9 percent goes to PayPal.

Sehgal, who still holds a full-time day job, says he works on Shareknowledge from 6 pm to 1 am. The startup is still in its early stages, and Sehgal hopes that in five years' time, Shareknowledge will become the go-to place for people who want to learn new skills.

FreshPlanet: Fun Games for Smart People

Brothers Mathieu and Romain Nouzareth began their entrepreneurial journeys in their early 20s. In 1995, they founded WebConcept, one of the first e-business consulting companies in their native France. Four years later, WebConcept was acquired by Swedish IconMedialab; today, it is still one of the largest Internet consultancies in the world.

In 2001, the Nouzareths started digital game distribution company, which they eventually sold to France's Nexway in 2008. With operations in more than 30 countries including the United States, China, and Japan, is among the top game distribution platforms worldwide. The brothers also founded, a social casual gaming website.

Currently, Mathieu and Romain are busy leading FreshPlanet in New York, which they established in 2009 after moving to the United States. Backed by SoftTech VC, Kima Ventures, and CapISF, among others, the young company aims to “make fun games for smart people.” Its most popular offering is SongPop, the “name that tune” music trivia game that counts Mark Zuckerberg as a fan. Since launching this past May, SongPop has amassed 25 million unique players around the globe, with 4 million logging on daily. Available on iOS, Android, and Facebook, the free game features thousands of tracks from the '50s to the present day, challenging players' musical knowledge.

When asked about the SongPop phenomenon, Mathieu says, “Honestly, you can't plan for success like this so while we were hoping for it, we tried not to have too many expectations.”

FreshPlanet is also the company behind Dreamland, a social board game inspired by dreams and nightmares, and Spa Life, a “business management” game where players run their own spa company. In 2010, FreshPlanet released the iPad-only children's educational app RedFish. The interactive game, which was a finalist in Appsfire's App Star Awards, invites kids to explore letters, numbers, music, colors, shapes, problem solving, and more.

Monday, September 10, 2012

LAGbook: Africa's Biggest Social Network

Founded in 2010 by twin brothers Chika and Chidi Nwaogu, LAGbook is Africa's largest and fastest-growing social network based in Lagos, Nigeria. Originally created as an exclusive online network for the students of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), LAGbook later opened up to the rest of Nigeria, then Africa, and eventually the world. Following its expansion, the platform stylized its name as LAGbook to mean “Ladies And Gentlemen book.” From 3,000 registered UNILAG students during its second month, LAGbook now boasts over 330,000 members worldwide. According to the Nwaogu brothers, LAGbook is the second most popular social network in its hometown of Yaba, Lagos, right after Facebook. It also has users in Australia, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Israel, Malaysia, Mexico, Pakistan, the Philippines, Romania, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

So what makes LAGbook different from other social networks, especially Facebook? “We're focused on expanding the social experience of our users, and not limiting them to connecting and sharing with the people in their life or the people they already know,” says Chidi. On LAGbook, sending friend requests and private messages to members you don't personally know isn't frowned upon. Rather, LAGbook encourages users to reach out to one another to find new friends or potential business partners. “We're the social network for meeting new people. A social discovery network,” Chidi adds.

LAGbook expects to have 700,000 members by the end of the year, over 1 million by March 2013, and more than 10 million in five years' time. The company makes money through online advertising and has generated over 5 million naira in revenue so far. LAGbook recently concluded an eight-week advertising campaign with Blackberry Nigeria and is currently partnered with Dropbox, which is looking to expand its reach in Africa.

BizeeBee: Membership Management For Small Business Owners

A devoted yogini for the past eight years, Poornima Vijayashanker saw how every yoga studio she visited had the same membership management problems. After consulting with local businesses that were looking to improve their management processes, the software engineer and entrepreneur started BizeeBee.

Based in Palo Alto, California, the company helps membership-based businesses grow through services such as an online store, attendance tracking, automatic reports, and monthly summary emails. Just like a personal assistant but cheaper, BizeeBee is ideal for fitness studios, dance instructors, personal trainers, writing coaches, and music teachers.

BizeeBee currently manages over 30,000 memberships for businesses in 6 countries and is free to try for up to 10 members. Subscription, which is $57 per month, allows users to import member lists, track the frequency of customer visits, monitor staff performance, see which classes are popular and profitable, and send email reminders to customers whose memberships are about to expire.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Minecraft by Mojang: A Game That Builds Neighborhoods

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Based in Stockholm, Sweden, Mojang is an indie game developer studio behind the games Scrolls, Cobalt, and Minecraft. Developed by Markus Persson, Minecraft is a hugely popular building block game played by millions of people. Last year, it was used as the foundation of the Mina Kvarter (My Blocks) project, which was initiated by Svensk ByggtjÀnst (Swedish Building Services). The objective of Mina Kvarter was to restore and modernize the housing projects of the Million Programme, i.e. the one million apartments constructed by the Swedish government from the 1960s to the 1970s in response to the country's fast growing population and housing shortage. With Minecraft, residents of the Million Programme districts were able to help rebuild their neighborhood without any architectural training. Minecraft volunteers first created replicas of the areas to be redesigned, then citizens were invited to add, remove, and modify roads, parks, and other public infrastructure.

Today, Mojang announced its latest project called Block by Block in collaboration with UN-Habitat (the United Nations Human Settlements Programme). The three-year partnership will support UN-Habitat's plans to upgrade 300 public spaces by the year 2016. Similar to Mina Kvarter, Block by Block aims to get the youth involved in urban planning by giving them the opportunity to show decision makers their future vision of their neighborhood. Once again, Minecraft will be utilized to facilitate the process.

Block by Block's pilot project is in the planning phase and will be carried out in Kibera, an informal settlement in Nairobi, Kenya. The builder group FyreUK has already put together a Minecraft version of the area. Mojang will act as the primary financial sponsor for Block by Block and will work closely with the UN throughout the project. The studio is currently creating a website for Block by Block where all future updates will be posted.

A Daily Dose of Fine Art With DailyArt

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No time to visit your local museum? Can't make it all the way to Paris to drop by the Louvre? Thanks to technology, you can still brush up on your art knowledge with the DailyArt app. Developed by Polish tech consulting firm Moiseum, DailyArt invites you to “step into the fascinating world of art, one masterpiece at a time.” Every day, you'll get a push notification with a classic work of art on your iPhone or Android. Information about the piece and its artist is also included, of course.

DailyArt lets you explore the world of fine art for just a few minutes a day, making it ideal for busy professionals or those who have short attention spans. In fact, Appolicious calls DailyArt “a quick 'daily dip' type of app that's unobtrusive and easy to consume.” Should you have extra time to spare, however, you can browse the app's archive and look at the masterpieces that have been featured earlier.