Archive for September 2011
Here’s a link to a story I did this morning for ChicagoBusiness.com on MelonCard, a Chicago startup that helps consumers remove their information from sites that collect and sell data. Co-founders Robert Leshner and Geoff Hayes just started working on the business last month, and already they’ve launched and secured a venture-capital investment. The VC money comes from Dave McClure’s accelerator 500 Startups, which means that Robert and Geoff are moving to Mountain View, California.
For more on accelerators, here’s a recent post on Chicago’s Excelerate.
This week’s Silicon City post on Chicago tech features Justin Jarvinen, the founder of VerveLife, discussing his latest venture, BCKSTGR—a marketing company that will launch in January and run branded campaigns that offer fans the chance to see star entertainers up close.
Here’s a link to the post.
From the vault. And then links to a couple of other entertainment-business related Silicon City entries from 2011:
I wrote a bullet-point profile of Greg Cameron, COO of Window to the World Communications, for this week’s print edition of Crain’s. WWCI is the parent company of classical radio station WFMT and public television station WTTW.
Here’s a link to the story. (It’s from the print edition, so it will slip behind a paywall at some point.)
From the cutting-room floor. For all I know, my favorite quote that didn’t make the article is a fundraising cliche. Either way, I liked it: “One of most fun things for me is asking people [to support WWCI], because if you don’t ask, then people can’t say yes. All too often, we don’t ask.”
From the vault. This is my fifth ‘Spotlight’ for Crain’s. Here are the others:
- YouSwoop’s Michael Redisch (3/14/11)
- Deloitte’s Alison Kenney Paul (9/13/10)
- The Salvation Army’s Ralph Bukiewicz (8/16/10)
- The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Marianne Markowitz (10/19/09)
This week’s Silicon City Q&A for Crain’s features Rightpoint, a Chicago-based consultancy that made this year’s Inc. 500 bills and itself as more than IT consulting—it adds strategy and marketing function as well. My favorite bit that didn’t make the Q&A was a case study. I asked co-founders Ross Freedman and Brad Schneider how Rightpoint differs from a pure software-development firm, and for an example. Here’s what Ross said:
From the cutting-room floor. Ross Freedman: “A project developer is constantly looking at technology as the whole solution, but we’re looking at the business as well. As consultant, our goal is to understand the business problem first, then work with the development team to solve that business problem using technology. For example, one client came to us and they had re-branded a business unity. They said, ‘We’d like you to take what we’ve come up with and build us a website around this new brand we’ve established.’ But as we looked at what they were asking us to do, we saw that their infrastructure was five or six years old and getting outdated. So we said, ‘[With some more fundamental changes], we can maybe drive a more efficient, less expensive infrastructure for you moving forward.’ So in addition to building thema really nice website, we also built a more efficient back-end structure that helped them save money.”
Also, here are a couple of related interviews from the Silicon City vault:
If you’ve seen this ad or any of the five thousand copycats online, then you know that the soda SunDrop has enjoyed a successful marketing campaign. Today’s Silicon City Q&A features Ross Martin, the Viacom exec whose Scratch division (formerly MTV Scratch) developed the campaign.
From the cutting-room floor. Here’s my favorite quote from Ross that didn’t make the post: “When campaign launched, we saw immediate success in social media because the character really tapped into the zeitgeist. Dance is huge with our audience—freedom of expression, this idea of being liberated, be yourself. So, then, here’s this everyday white chick dancing in a way that’s so odd, you have to dance with her. And they did dance with her.”
Actually, I’ll add one other comment from Ross about Maggie Champagne, the actress who plays the SunDrop girl: “She can’t walk down the street anymore; she gets recognized all the time even when not in her [SunDrop] outfit. And if she does wear it, look out—it’s like following the Jonas Brothers.”
As will hopefully become my custom, here’s a little extra that didn’t make the official post:
From the cutting-room floor. The Silicon City Q&A focuses on Justin’s experience at Excelerate, and then at Demo Day. Here’s Justin’s story of how the company found its way to Excelerate in the first place:
[Co-founder Eric Cooper] and I came up with the idea for Food Genius last year, but life got in the way. I had a daughter last summer, and Eric was living in Japan and then Australia, but by December , he moved back and my daughter had starting sleeping through the night. So we said, ‘Let’s take this seriously,’ and it went from a hobby were noodling on to something we took very seriously, something we were working on with all of our free time. We spent January and February [of 2011] sorting out data problems, doing some really early testing and figuring out exactly what we wanted Food Genius to do.
In March, that first application to Excelerate was due, and there was a mixer or party [to promote the program]. I went to first one and to talked to some friends—I knew people from [the 2010] class— and a bunch of people we knew encouraged us to apply. So I looked into it and realized what unbelievable success last year’s class had already had at that point. So we as a team had to make a decision. We said, ‘Our team can stay focused on just the business itself, developing the product or figuring out the company, or can shift and really focus on getting into Excelerate.’ And we did that. We dropped everything else and everything we did was focused on getting into Excelerate, and in retrospect that was a very good decision.
I think we heard that we got in around the middle of April, Troy [Henikoff] called on a sunday afternoon to tell us, and immediately I called the team and told them. Everyone freaked out, and I walked into my day job the next morning and gave them six weeks notice.