Thursday, November 29, 2012

ESPN: Sports Entertainment In the Digital Age

A multinational sports entertainment company with a diverse portfolio of assets, ESPN, Inc. launched more than 30 years ago and continues to expand its television, audio, publishing, online, and wireless interests on a global scale. Owned by primary stakeholder ABC, Inc. in partnership with The Hearst Corporation, ESPN maintains eight cable networks in the United States, five of which function on a high-definition simulcast platform. The enterprise’s 48 international networks reach audiences on every continent in tandem with the periodicals and books released in constant stream by a thriving publishing arm. Moreover, ESPN Radio and its Spanish language equivalent ESPN Deportes Radio are currently syndicated in 11 countries around the world and present 9,000 hours of sports-related talk on an annual basis. 

ESPN’s unmatched event coverage has long set an industry standard thanks to the leadership of Senior Vice President and Executive Producer of Event Production Jed Drake. Drake’s influence at ESPN can be seen in nearly all of the network’s major broadcast properties including Major League Baseball, Monday Night Football, NASCAR, FIFA World Cup soccer, Grand Slam tennis, and golf, among others. A network veteran who holds 30-plus years of experience in his field, Jed Drake works in close collaboration with the company’s executive team to ensure that all future event programming endeavors are implemented boldly and strategically, thus surpassing viewer expectations in a time when competition is fierce and innovation occurs rapidly.   

Online specific sites such as and are extremely valuable facets of the corporation’s business holdings as well and provide consumers a wide array of sport-specific content designed for ultimate niche demographic appeal. Dominant in wireless market segments thanks to a number of pioneering initiatives undertaken in recent years, ESPN Mobile Properties offers users access to scores, headlines, video highlights, and more through a seamlessly integrated digital network on the cutting edge of wireless technology. Further information about Jed Drake and ESPN can be found at

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Robot Helps You Lose Weight and Keep It Off

Developed by Intuitive Automata, Autom is a diet robot that acts as a personal weight loss coach. Originally announced in 2007, the petite tabletop golem reminds you to watch what you eat and asks  how much you exercised today, among other health goals. Only about 2 percent of people who diet lose weight and keep it off. Autom aims to help more dieters achieve their ideal body by aiding them in tracking their progress consistently. And despite the name, there's nothing automated about Autom. The more you use her, the more she learns about you and customizes her advice. It's just like having a mini personal coach in your home; no two conversations are the same, and monthly updates ensure that she always has something new to say.

Additionally, it doesn't matter which diet you follow. Choose any diet you want and Autom will provide the support and motivation you need to succeed. According to Cory Kidd, founder of Intuitive Automata and inventor of Autom, tests have shown that Autom is much more effective at helping someone stick with a diet than doing the same thing on a computer, tablet, or phone. Testers have also grown attached to the robot, talking about her like a family member or friend after just a few weeks of having a brief conversation with her daily. “Not only that, nearly everyone named her and many people even dressed her up with things like scarves, hats, or a red feather boa!” says Kidd, who based Autom on his Ph.D. work at the MIT Media Lab. There, he spent years studying the psychology of human-robot interaction and its health-related applications.

Slated to ship in May or June of 2013, Autom is produced in partnership with Chinese manufacturer PCH International. Intuitive Automata is currently running an Indiegogo campaign, where you can get  Autom without a health coach subscription for $199 or with a full year's subscription for $249. More ordering options and information are available on the Indiegogo page.

AppRedeem Offers Win-Win Situation for Advertisers and App Users

Headquartered in San Francisco, California, AppRedeem is the startup behind AppTrailers, an app that rewards users for watching videos about other apps. Founded in 2010, AppRedeem helps advertisers and mobile developers reach and engage new customers via a cost-efficient advertising platform.

With AppTrailers, users get points for watching an app trailer whether they download the app at the end of the video or not. Advertisers are only charged if a user opts to download the app. According to AppRedeem, this provides more value to advertiser because users only download the apps they really want to install. Points can be redeemed for gift cards on iTunes, Amazon, and others. Users also earn bonus points when they refer a friend to AppTrailers.

Available on iPhone, Android, and Kindle Fire, AppTrailers receives 5 million video views per day. The platform has been used by Disney, Expedia, Groupon, Expedia, Gameloft, and more. AppRedeem is backed by BlueRun Ventures and SV Angel, among others.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Voxer, the Walkie Talkie App for Your Smartphone

Founded by Tom Katis in late 2010, Voxer is an app that turns your smartphone into a walkie talkie. Additionally, it's an all-in-one messenger that allows you to send live text, audio, and photo messages to a single friend or a group of friends. Because everything is stored in the cloud, you can view or listen to messages later in case you miss them. Voxer also works with Facebook so you can talk to your Facebook buddies via the app.

Katis got the idea for Voxerwhile he was serving as a special forces communications sergeant for the US Army in Afghanistan. He found communication on the battlefield difficult, especially when he was trying to coordinate reinforcements and the medical team in the middle of an ambush. Available for free for Apple and Android devices, Voxer has been gaining users around the world since its launch and even beat Facebook and Twitter as the most downloaded social networking app in the App Store at one point.

Smart Mobile Shopping With ShopSavvy

The original barcode mobile scanning app and the leader in barcode-powered shopping, ShopSavvy was introduced in late 2008 when it was named one of the 10 winners of the Google Android Developer Challenge. Since then, the app has become one of the most popular shopping apps for Android, iPhone, and Windows, with more than 40 million downloads and 10 million active users performing 50 million scans every month.

A personal shopping companion for smartphone users, ShopSavvy lets shoppers scan the UPC, EAN, or QR barcode of a physical product and instantly discover where the item is sold locally and online, where it is in stock, and which retailer offers the best price. In addition to price comparisons, users can  utilize ShopSavvy to access special promotions, online reviews, and other helpful info as well. By aggregating the product data, ratings, reviews, and deals from retailers, partners, and users, ShopSavvy maintains the most comprehensive database of up-to-date pricing and inventory information for mobile shoppers, covering over 20 million products from more than 40,000 retailers around the world.

ShopSavvy's other features include alerts, which notifies users when a product is on sale or in stock at a particular retailer; wish lists, an easy way to organize products of interest; and history, which the app automatically keeps. This week, ShopSavvy announced the introduction of ShopSavvy 6. The latest version of the app is optimized for the iPad and equipped with some new features such as enhanced keyword search and a deals tab, where users can browse special offers and coupons on a Twitter-like stream.

“The iPad's immense popularity has created a new wave of shoppers: ones who never leave home. This year retailers are pursuing these consumers like never before... That's why we've made ShopSavvy 6 the ideal companion for iPad users,” said co-founder and CEO Alexander Muse in a press release.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Students Make Money With Their Notes on Flashnotes

Studying pays. No really, it does. Founded by David Petruziello, Steven Maggs, and Michael Matousek, Flashnotes is an online marketplace where college students can buy and sell notes. So if you've been a diligent note-taker, this is your chance to earn some extra money with what you already have. You set your own price (the average is about $8 per note) and keep up to 80 percent of every sale. If you haven't been taking notes, Flashnotes may still prove to be a valuable resource for you, as 65 percent of students who have bought materials from the site report seeing an improvement in their GPA.

Flashnotes is currently available in 75 schools across America. Recently, the Boston-based startup closed a seed round that raised $1.8 million from Softbank Capital, Atlas Venture, Michael Lazerow, and other angel investors. The funds will go into further research and rolling out the system nationwide.

Get Off Your Butt With LifeKraze

Dubbed a “Twitter with heart and high-fives” by The Next Web, LifeKraze is an iOS and web app that helps people live a more active life. Founded by three friends who played soccer in college, it asks, “What have you done?” instead of, “What are you doing?” Unlike Facebook and Twitter, LifeKraze focuses on individual, real world actions that make a difference. As team member Jonathan Yagel put it, “We're making the move from sharing experiences to facilitating action.”

Founders Michael Brooks Jr., David Nielson, and Ben Wagner started the Chattanooga-based company right after graduation to give people access to the benefits of teams. As a LifeKraze user, you're encouraged to share your accomplishments, whether big or small, in 160 characters or less, as well as give away 300 daily points to other people who post their achievements. You can award up to 50 points for each accomplishment, depending on how much you were impressed by it. The points you earn on LifeKraze can then be turned into rewards from brands such as prAna and The North Face. You can also use your points to make donations to non-profits.

According to fans, the best part about LifeKraze is the positive community. Users motivate each other with high fives and encouraging comments, and it is this support that keeps them coming back. A lot of users find that they are able to share things on LifeKraze that they wouldn't feel comfortable sharing on other social networks, where people would just laugh at or get annoyed with them. Users have praised LifeKraze for being a unique social network that uplifts the spirit, focuses on positivity, and doesn't have any of the drama found on other sites.

“People are looking for encouragement and we're proud to a place where they can consistently find it,” says Yagel.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Common Craft Explains It All

Founded by Lee LeFever in 2003, Common Craft is a video production company that began as an online community consulting firm. While helping organizations with their online community strategies, he had to explain social concepts to his clients, so Lee wrote a couple of blog posts called “RSS in Plain English” and “Wikis in Plain English.” These posts subsequently became popular and made him realize that he had a knack for explaining complex topics to beginners.

In 2006, Lee had the idea of turning his “In Plain English” posts into videos. He started by standing in front of the camera with a whiteboard behind him but “felt like a complete dork.” His wife Sachi suggested pointing the camera down onto a whiteboard on the floor and using paper cut-outs and other props instead. In April of the following year, the LeFevers published their first video, “RSS in Plain English.” The video blew up, and it wasn't long before companies approached them for custom videos.

After Common Craft made “Google Docs in Plain English” for Google, Lee and Sachi “decided to drop everything and focus on nothing but videos.” Since then, the husband and wife team has created video explanations for Dropbox, Ford, Intel, LEGO, Microsoft, and more. “We recognized that this decision was a risk,” says Lee of the company's pivot. “We had no formal experience in education or video production, but it was the right thing to do. We're big fans of taking risks based on our gut feelings for opportunities.”

Today, in addition to working on custom video projects, Common Craft offers licensable videos that members can embed, download, and use in classrooms and business presentations. The company also has a cut-out library where members can download digital images to create their own Common Craft-style videos.

Over the years, Common Craft has earned a number of awards from the Internet and business communities, including the International Association of Business Communicators' Gold Quill and International Academy of Visual Arts' Communicator Excellence Award.

PlayTell Lets Families Play Together Even When They're Apart

On their weekly “Skype dates,” Semira Rahemtulla and her nephew would try to read together by holding the book up to the camera. Doing so wasn't as easy as reading with each other in person, so Rahemtulla decided to create an app that would let families read and play together while in a video chat. Earlier this year, she and Jason DePerro founded PlayTell, a San Francisco-based startup that aims to help families get more quality time together and connect on a deeper level through technology.

Currently available on the iPad only, the PlayTell app combines video chat with a “playspace” where families can read an ebook or play a video game together. Rahemtulla says PlayTell is useful for grandparents (more than 50 percent live far away from their grandchildren), parents who travel a lot for work, military families, divorcees, and parents who are trying to adopt. Further down the line, PlayTell may expand to the education field and target teachers and tutors as well.