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  • feedwordpress 17:43:38 on 2015/12/09 Permalink
    Tags: , , , eddie lou, employees, employers, employment, employment website, Expert Series, freelancers, hourly workers, , job postings, jobs, labor, minimum wage, networking, oca ventures, private equity, shiftgig, startup, Startup Innovation, , , VC,   

    Innovation Expert Series: Shiftgig 


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    Innovation Expert Series: Shiftgig

    In this week’s Innovation Expert Series interview, we’re speaking with the CEO of ShiftGig, a professional networking and employment website platform that makes it easy for restaurants, hotels and retailers to post short-term hourly gigs and equally as easy for qualified and skilled workers to claim them. Shiftgig is changing the way people work.

    Every other week, RE:INVENTION’s Innovation Expert Series features interviews with key executives at small to middle market companies that are transforming and innovating their respective industries or markets.

    Shiftgig Company LogoLet’s set the stage for our interview with disruptive Chicago startup Shiftgig. The U.S. economy has dramatically changed. The majority of workers in the U.S. are hourly workers rather than full-time employees or independent freelancers. Shiftgig is leading this trend, connecting employers with locally available and previously vetted hourly workers.

    In November, Chicago-based startup Shiftgig successfully raised $22 million in venture capital bringing the company’s total capital raised to date to $35 million. Shiftgig venture and private equity investors include: Chicago Ventures, DRW Venture Capital, GGV Capital, Garland Capital Group, KGC Capital, Pritzker Group, Wicklow Capital, Renren Inc. and numerous individual investors. Shiftgig CEO, Eddie Lou, is a former OCA Ventures venture capitalist who advised numerous technology startups prior to co-founding industry disruptor Shiftgig.

    ************************************************************************

    RE: For those folks who aren’t yet aware of your startup company, can you give us a brief background about yourself and Shiftgig?

    Lou: My name is Eddie Lou. I am a co-founder and the CEO of Shiftgig. At Shiftgig, we connect people to business shifts on their mobile devices, and provide them with the flexibility to work where, when and for which businesses they like. For businesses, our platform solves the challenges of filling and managing short term job assignments, which traditionally has been expensive and difficult to manage.

    RE: Where did you get the original inspiration for your idea? Do you recall the initial idea spark™?

    Lou: In Q3 2013, we decided to begin monetizing our business. Prior to that, our business was completely free. We talked to about 20 business customers about what they would spend money on. Many of them asked for two things: 1) qualified, vetted workers and 2) workers for short term gigs ranging from a day to 90 days. At the same time, we email surveyed our members, who were applying for full-time and part-time jobs on our site. Many of them expressed interest in making money via additional gigs. We decided to take this feedback and allow the connection on a mobile device.

    RE: It’s tough to get from initial idea spark to implementable idea™. Did you utilize any specific “lean startup” techniques to develop/test/launch Wrapify? If yes, how? If not, why not?

    Lou: Yes, MVP and continuous deployment; both allow us to test and iterate quickly
    We felt our best strategy was to test our idea in one market. We opened in Chicago in early 2014 and within a few months we knew we were on to something. By December of that year, we opened our second location in New York City. In 2015, we really got on a roll. We launched in Dallas in March, Atlanta in July, Houston in September, Memphis in October, and Miami in November.

    RE: Did you utilize any “design thinking” techniques? If yes, how? If not, why not?

    Lou: While our founders believe in design thinking, web/mobile design and usability, we are not experts in design thinking. We think it is important and hired our Creative Director, who heads up UX, beginning of Q2 2015.

    Shiftgig's Team in Action

    Shiftgig’s Team in Action

    RE: Describe your company’s biggest challenge to date. How did you deal with it? What did you learn from it?

    Lou: Our biggest challenge to date has been learning how to scale quickly. We have been very successful, but it took a few bumps and bruises on the way to get there. It is very important for entrepreneurs to know when to get out of their own way. We did this by making several critical hires of experienced managers who had successfully scaled other startups in the past and knew what they were doing. We’ve got a great team right now, and we’re still growing.

    RE: How does your team promote internal and external innovation?

    Lou: First and foremost, we are a technology company. Many of the businesses we compete with to provide short-term labor are not technology companies. This distinction is why so many businesses give us a try and ultimately stay Shiftgig clients. Everyone from our systems infrastructure developers to our front line sales reps know this and communicate about Shiftgig in this way.

    RE: Have you found yourself having to pivot or reinvent aspects of your business since you started? How have you done so — and managed change?

    Lou: We re-invented the business at the end of 2013. Shiftgig began as a web based social network and job board focused on providing full-time and part-time job opportunities to the hospitality vertical. Today, we are a mobile marketplace that provides short-term gigs in the hospitality, marketing and retail verticals.

    RE: If you were forced to choose, which do you think is MOST important for a company’s long run success in your industry: great product, great people, or great execution?

    Lou: Great people — with great people, the company will launch great products and execute!

    RE: What do you think is most important for your company to do in order to keep up with the rapid changes in technology?

    Lou: Our plan is to stay on the forefront of the gig economy. We are the leaders in our space and have every intention of staying there by listening, adapting, and bringing in the best talent we can to keep our company moving forward.

    RE: So…what’s next for Shiftgig?

    Lou: Millions of shifts for millions of people!

    Shifting forward, that concludes RE:INVENTION’s Innovation Expert Series interview with Shiftgig. Many thanks to Shiftgig CEO Eddie Lou for sharing his insights. Look for our next Expert interview in two weeks time, right here on RE:INVENTION’s Everyday Inventive Blog.

     
  • feedwordpress 00:09:02 on 2015/11/18 Permalink
    Tags: brand advertising, digital marketing, , entrepreneur, evonexus, Expert Series, , innovation expert series, , , lyft, mark bowles, mobile advertising, mobile apps, on-vehicle advertising, , , , sharing economy, , , wrapify   

    Innovation Expert Series: Wrapify 


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    Innovation Expert Series: Wrapify

    In this week’s Innovation Expert Series interview, we’re getting up close and personal with the CEO and Co-Founder of Wrapify, James Heller.

    New to RE:INVENTION’s blog? Our biweekly Innovation Expert Series features interviews with key executives at small to midsize companies, like Wrapify, that are notably disrupting, transforming, and innovating within their respective industries or markets.

    Wrapify LogoWrapify is building a disruptive Internet of Things (IoT) crowdsourced advertising platform that connects drivers and brands to create powerful on-vehicle advertising. The company pays drivers $400 to $600 a month to temporarily “wrap” their cars with mobile ads while providing meaningful metrics to brand advertisers via their app.

    Wrapify’s business model, which has been compared to Uber and Lyft, capitalizes on the “sharing economy” (aka the “sweat your assets” economy). Wrapify graduated early from San Diego tech startup incubator EvoNexus and the team has relocated to San Francisco. The company is in-part funded by Mark Bowles, a well-noted San Diego serial entrepreneur.

    ************************************************************************

    RE: For those folks who aren’t yet aware of your startup, can you give us a brief background about yourself and Wrapify?

    Heller: I have a heavy background in B2B Digital Marketing and I have a passion for speed. Out of Home advertising has always fascinated me and I think the sharing/crowdsourced economy needed a market leader to pave the way for individuals to earn extra cash by advertising on their car.

    Wrapify is a disruptive advertising platform connecting drivers and brands to create powerful on-vehicle advertising. Through its proprietary mobile application and technology, Wrapify gives drivers an easy source of extra income, plus the power to choose the marketer and “look”: full, partial or panel advertising. Brands receive the security of control and benefit of trackable results. Ironclad controls ensure Wrapify’s powerful and intuitive platform protects both drivers and brands, while every member of the Wrapify Network ecosystem passes certification before they touch and transform a vehicle. Wrapify is the easiest way to make money on the road short of finding it in the street.

    RE: Where did you get the original inspiration for your idea? Do you recall the initial idea spark™?

    Heller: I assumed this concept already exists, but I later found out that many have tried and failed. We believe we have the missing component that this basic concept needs to be socially viable while also providing brands with the feedback loop they need to entrust that this is a positive way to get brand impressions in real life.

    RE: It’s tough to get from initial spark to implementable idea. Did you utilize any specific “lean startup” techniques to develop/test/launch Wrapify? If yes, how? If not, why not?

    Heller: Yes, I believe we subscribed to the lean startup methodology. We created an MVP (minimum viable product) and tested our hypothesis before we closed out our seed round. We were bootstrapped for many months before we raised a single dime.

    RE: Did you utilize any “design thinking” techniques? If yes, how? If not, why not?

    Heller: I am a big believer in less is more. Simplistic, minimalistic design is a core component to more than just the way Wrapify looks on the surface, we take it into the supply chain of our business and even many of the processes that power the lifeline of the business.

    Wrapify Team Members in Action

    Wrapify Team Members in Action

    RE: Describe your company’s biggest challenge to date. How did you deal with it? What did you learn from it?

    Heller: So far, getting big, national advertisers to leverage our platform and realize actual value and brand lift has been our #1 focus. Petco, Quest Nutrition, TriNet and Harrah’s Resorts have all experienced the power of our platform and are coming back for more.

    RE: How does your team promote internal and external innovation?

    Heller: If you are touting your breakthrough technology, internal and external innovation is not a choice, it’s a necessity. We are constantly looking for new ways to empower our drivers and provide value to our advertisers via innovative technologies added to the platform. Internally, we are constantly questioning why an age old practices are still used. Comically, we do everything we can to be a fax free, paper free company. Ha!

    RE: Have you found yourself having to pivot or reinvent aspects of your business since you started? How have you done so — and managed change?

    Heller: We are constantly making small pivots to achieve product/market fit. We monitor how our drivers leverage features within our app and the requests we get from advertisers quite regularly. One of my rules is, if three different people complain about or raise awareness to an issue with a feature, that’s enough to take action to make a change. Don’t wait for dozens or even hundreds of people to tell you your product sucks. Listen close to the early signals and make a change.

    RE: If you were forced to choose, which do you think is MOST important for a company’s long run success in your industry: great product, great people, or great execution?

    Heller: All three are critical but if I were to order them from most to least important; I would put execution first, people second and product third. It’s near impossible to execute if you don’t have the latter two.

    RE: What do you think is most important for your company to do in order to keep up with the rapid changes in technology?

    Heller: Don’t get so immersed in the microcosm that is your business to not notice the innovation and new technologies emerging outside your business.

    RE: So…what’s next for Wrapify?

    Heller: Stay tuned to find out!

    That’s a wrap on RE:INVENTION’s Innovation Expert Series interview with Wrapify. Many thanks to James Heller for sharing his insights. Look for our next Expert interview in two weeks time, right here on RE:INVENTION’s Everyday Inventive Blog.

     
  • feedwordpress 05:30:46 on 2015/10/28 Permalink
    Tags: community-run business model, Crowdfunding, , expert interviews, Expert Series, , , , international startups, , , Kickstarter, LoRaWAN, Playstation, , , smart cities, smart city, Sony, , The Things Network,   

    Innovation Expert Series: The Things Network 


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    Innovation Expert Series: The Things Network

    RE:INVENTION’s Innovation Expert Series features interviews with key executives at small to midsize companies that are notably disrupting, transforming, and innovating within their respective industries or markets.

    The Things NetworkIn this week’s Innovation Expert Series interview, we’re getting up close and personal with Wienke Giezeman, the passionately disruptive co-founder of The Things Network.

    The Things Network, an Amsterdam-based startup on a mission to build a global community-led Internet of Things (IoT) data network, could create abundant data connectivity and turn “smart cities” from an idealistic dream into a reality. The ambitious startup successfully crowdsourced a city-wide Internet of Things data network in Amsterdam earlier this summer. Now they are on a mission to connect cities across the world with the help of their new Kickstarter campaign.

    ************************************************************************

    RE: For those folks who aren’t yet aware of your startup, can you give us a brief background about The Things Network?

    Wienke: We are building a global free and open Internet of Things data network. We managed to cover the city of Amsterdam with this network in six weeks. Four weeks later, we had inspired cities around the world.

    We used 10 LoRaWAN gateways for €1200($1325) each, funded by the people of Amsterdam to cover the entirety of the city.

    Based on our feedback from other cities, we realized that the cost for a single gateway was still too high for this to truly scale so we went and designed a gateway that cost only €200($220) per gateway.

    RE: The Internet is buzzing about how The Things Network is poised to spur Smart City landscapes. Can you explain what a SMART CITY is for our readers? In your opinion, what makes a city SMART?

    Wienke: Smart city is a fancy term for a city that is digitally connected and has a lot of components connected to the Internet and each other. Our lives get better if we get a better understanding of what the state of the city is. Is the air clean here? Is the light broken there? Is this trash can full? The quality of urban living can be increased significantly if we get a better understanding of what the state of a city is and when we can make better decisions based on that information. Our network can act as the glue to connect the information to the smart decision makers.

    RE: Where did you get the original inspiration for your idea? Do you recall the initial idea spark™?

    Wienke: The initial spark was when I saw LoRaWAN, the technology that is used by this network. It has 10KM reach, can connect up to 10,000 devices and the devices have very low power consumption so they can be placed anywhere just running on a battery. I first saw the technology at the IoT Meetup in Amsterdam and was immediately struck by it’s capabilities. In general, it looked like one of the first true solutions for all the promises people had put on what the Internet of Things should be able to deliver.

    The Things Network Co-Founders in Action

    [THE THINGS NETWORK CO-FOUNDERS IN ACTION]

    RE: It’s tough to get from initial spark to implementable idea. Did you utilize any specific “lean startup” techniques to develop/test/launch The Things Network? If yes, how? If not, why not?

    Wienke: No, we just went for it. We were not “lean” at all. Initially we (me and Johan) were just two people who wanted to create a proof of concept, too small to consciously apply any process to it. You just do, learn and then you are there. Then working with the ten volunteers from our local meetup, when we covered Amsterdam with gateways, that went so fast, everyone fairly naturally found their role. You could call it “lean” in terms of the fast and fairly efficient way we turned it around, at the same time, I wouldn’t think of it as a consciously lean process. I believe real breakthroughs are rarely the result of applying process first. They tend to be chaotic, however you need to be the right type of person to be comfortable with the creative chaos and speed in such a project.

    RE: So you instinctively, but not purposefully, used a little bit of “lean” in terms of operational efficiencies. Did you utilize any “design thinking” techniques? If yes, how? If not, why not?

    Wienke: No, at the moment we work on the technology push. The only design we apply is for the hardware devices we produced in beta before the Kickstarter. They are very first stage proof-of-concepts. They work well, but are not necessarily pretty. That’s not our focus at this stage.

    We have the strong belief that if we provide abundant data connectivity good things will come from that. So a rigid and sustainable network comes first.

    It is obviously very hard and distracting to work on a network with so many possibilities. The amount of awesome ideas and use cases coming our way are unbelievable and inspiring. The Internet of things has been suffering from a chicken and egg problem for a while, with the applications on one end and the infrastructure on the other. We decided to first build the chicken.

    RE: The Things Network seems to be a rare example of the combination of having both a highly impactful product and amazing execution. Which do you think is more important for long run success: product or execution? Or both?

    Wienke: Both. A car needs a motor and it needs fuel. For now execution is really key. We need to tell the world our story because we need people all around the globe to understand the potential of this vision. The product is at the center of this. It needs to be compelling. Ease of distribution is another element, this is where Kickstarter is such an amazing tool and it is playing its role very well for all of us at the moment. The third aspect is community of course. This is who we are doing this with and they are playing the most important role in this. Look at Google, Facebook, Uber — big ideas that need to scale are so dependent on how they can scale through people and how useful they become for them.

    RE: You’ve chosen to utilize a community-run business model for The Things Network. Why so? Do you think a community-run business model will impact your ability to scale or make money in the long run?

    Wienke: It is fairly easy to scale an open community-run model. There are no contracts and you can copy our code. The community members all personally benefit from what each are doing and help out each other as well. Isn’t that just awesome! It has way less managerial overhead. Think about it — everyone has a phone, but no one has to update their operating systems themselves. Our modern systems have become so automated, that managing communities is heavily automated and runs in the background, as much as it is personalized. We see it as a benefit for the hardware distribution and scale. In the long-run is another discussion and business models tend to circulate around the software, not the hardware. For example, Sony made huge losses on their Playstation 4 disk drives. The model was not to make money on the hardware. They still run a very successful gaming platform.

    RE: It seems like LoRaWAN technology coupled with your community-run business model have the potential to disrupt the entire telco industry. How do you think telcos will cope with this new disruptive idea of building networks?

    Wienke: For now it is not a threat to the high-bandwidth networks. But if we follow Moore’s Law we can predict that it will just be a matter of time, before it is true competition. In terms of speed of deployment and scalability we did probably scare them a bit with this social experiment we call The Things Network.

    RE: You reached 75% of your Kickstarter campaign goal within the first 100 hours – and it looks like you are ticking towards 100% today. Congratulations! Why did you choose to launch a Kickstarter campaign now? Any big “A-has!” or surprises?

    Wienke: Because everybody knows Kickstarter and not everybody knows The Things Network. Our initial target audience is highly represented there and it is their number one preferred platform. We are doing very well. At the moment of writing, we’ve reached 93% funding and we were featured on Kickstarter today. We have picked up more cities around the world and are adding new communities daily.

    As it is our first Kickstarter, we are learning every day. The shipping costs were an issue but we had very understanding feedback from the backers and worked very hard in the first 24 hrs to find a better solution that would make everybody happy. We proposed giving everybody who orders a gateway a free UNO. It was great, to be able to have an actual conversation with the backers and we are happy we found a solution quickly. We are trying to be as communicative as we can despite being a small team managing the campaign, conference talks, our developers forum and supporting our global communities, whilst working on the backend software doing all of this as best we can. Big learning process, but the communication tools that didn’t exist 10 years ago are an amazing help managing a project as ambitious as this.

    RE: So…what’s next for The Things Network?

    Wienke: Covering the world to help see IoT truly take off the way it is supposed to. The next step is to make sure we are represented in every large city in the world.

    We’ve had an amazing start so far. We haven’t even seen how big the Kickstarter campaign could be in 20 days. There are many things to do already, with the communities growing so fast. If everything goes well, in about 20 days we will be producing all the wonderful devices we raised money for — and that’s when the real work begins. If you want to take the lead in campaigning for your city, we can set you up with a page LIKE THIS. We are recruiting local initiators. SIGN UP HERE and we will get back to you shortly.

    Many thanks to Wienke Giezeman (and his co-founder, Johan Stokking) for sharing insights during this week’s Expert Series. Look for our next Expert interview in two weeks time, right here on RE:INVENTION’s Everyday Inventive Blog.

     
  • feedwordpress 22:43:56 on 2013/12/05 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , Expert Series, , ,   

    Expert Series: Sperry Van Ness 


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    Expert Series: Sperry Van Ness

    RE:INVENTION’s Expert Series presents an interview with a major player at a company that is notable as progressive, transformative and/or innovative within its industry.

    In an industry primarily dominated by traditional approaches to business operations, innovative practices and thinking outside of the box can make all the difference. Sperry Van Ness International Corporation, a transformative commercial real estate brokerage and property management franchisor, was recently awarded as one of the most recognizable brands in commercial real estate in 2013 by the Lipsey Survey.

    This week’s Expert Series features five questions with Diane Danielson, the Chief Platform Officer of Sperry Van Ness.

    ************************************************************************

    RE: First, can you give us a brief background of yourself and of Sperry Van Ness as a company?

    Diane: Sperry Van Ness International Corporation is a franchisor. Our day job is selling franchises to commercial real estate firms. They brought me in as the Chief Platform Officer, which is kind of a weird title, but I like to say it’s a combination of COO, marketing, technology and sales, with a focus on growing the bottom line. We have 175 franchise offices in 38 states across the United States and we’re expanding into Canada and Europe.

    As for me, I have been in and out of commercial real estate for past 20 years. I started out as a real estate attorney but then joined real estate companies and worked as the vice-president of business development and marketing at various large commercial real estate firms in the Boston area. Then I took some time off from the commercial real estate industry and got involved in a career where I built a company called the Downtown Women’s Club, which was a national women’s network that launched the first social network for businesswomen in the United States back in 2005. After that I ended up consulting with companies on technology and how to use technology most efficiently to meet your marketing and business development goals. And that led to Sperry Van Ness calling me and saying they had a perfect job for me, because I had all of the different categories, including commercial real estate and a legal degree, and everything they were looking for on the marketing and technology side.

    RE: What has been your biggest challenge for you at Sperry Van Ness and how did you deal with it? What did you learn from it?

    Diane: One of the biggest challenges we have is an innovative business model in a very traditional industry. Commercial real estate is very resistant to change… and 80% male, with the average age of a commercial real estate broker these days around 57 years old. Trying to change an industry is very tough; but the company I’ve been with has been doing things differently for about 35 years. We actually believe in the open sharing and co-listing of our sales properties; we’ve been doing that for years but it is very in-tune with the direction all industries are going these days. And also, we’re very big on technology. We’ve developed and partnered with software platforms so that our franchisees are not tied to their desks. They can use the cloud platform for all our tools, and they can work anywhere because sales are done on the road a lot of the time.

    RE: How did your team start building a culture of innovation or transformation?

    Diane: Well, it helps to have a CEO and President who is in his early 40s, who’s very visionary. Kevin Maggiacomo is a big believer in not doing business in the same way, because if you do, eventually somebody’s going to put you out of business. So, following his vision, it’s from the top-down. He has brought on people, others and myself, who are rewarded for trying different solutions. With a franchise business model, while some people may think it’s a very old-fashioned model, I find it very innovative, as it’s a way to have a smaller independent team that can use the tools and resources of a large shop. We’re able to be more nimble, because we’re smaller in a sense as a franchisor, and having local franchises allows us to test with them on a small scale. Collaboration is also something that we really stress in the Core Covenants of our company.

    RE: Have you found yourself having to transform your business methodology since you started? How have you done so?

    Diane: We had a series of changes that started before I got there, one of which was back in 2007 when we started moving towards a franchise business model. That was a big change and it helped us survive the economic downturn in 2009, and we actually came through that profitably, which was extremely rare for our industry.

    About two or three years ago, we signed on with Google apps. Taking everything into the cloud was a big transformation because it allowed us to work virtually and our franchisees were able to do the same. Then we helped customize another tool that our brokers use for marketing properties and listings. And since it’s cloud based, they’re able to access that virtually. So they’re able to streamline their overhead costs. The next phase, what we’re doing now and in 2014, is focused on increasing our franchisees’ productivity. It’s not just handing them tools and resources, it’s delivering training and helping them focus on their business so that they can increase productivity. That’s where we’re testing out some innovative tools. We are also bringing out and dusting off old resources that worked in past years and are still applicable today.

    It’s also learning from outside the industry. We are looking at what tech companies are doing, what other B2B businesses are doing and what franchises are doing. We were on the Inc. 5000 list this year so we went down there to learn from other companies that were not in our industry. I even hired somebody to lead our marketing team from the retail industry.

    RE: What do you think is most important for your company to do in order to keep up with the rapid changes in technology?

    Diane: Looking outside the industry. We need to learn from other industries; see what’s working for them and figure out how to apply it to our industry. We can’t just sit here and say nobody else is doing this in commercial real estate so we won’t either; we need to be proactive about thinking of new ways to change the way we do business and keep up with technological changes.

    We also have something called the “SVN Difference”. For me, that’s whenever we put the right people with the right process and the right platform. That together creates a system that allows people to maximize productivity.

    Many thanks to Diane Danielson for sharing insights during this week’s Expert Series. Look for our next Expert in two weeks time, right here on RE:INVENTION’s Everyday Inventive Blog.

     
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