My trip to the Google Fiber Space

Google Fiber SpaceOn a recent business trip I was stranded in Kansas City, MO while winter storms played with the plans of travelers and airlines.  My rescheduled Saturday afternoon departure allowed me an opportunity to make a field trip to the Google Fiber Space.  I imagined a Kansas City version of a Cambridge-like space like the Microsoft NERD Center or the Venture Café at the Cambridge Innovation Center.  As active as I am with Mass Innovation Nights and Boston / Cambridge meetups, I’ve never been to Google in Cambridge.

Kansas City taxis are not accustomed to navigating the gauntlet of post-snow storm roads and there’s no standing rule that every business should shovel their sidewalks immediately after a storm to encourage commerce.  When the driver pulled into the Google Fiber Space address that I got on Google maps it reminded me of one of those Comcast offices in a strip mall where you drop off your cable box when you move.

Upon entering a friendly guy welcomed me and inquired how they could help me.   100 times the possibilities I self-identified as a visitor who had read about the Google Fiberhood and wanted to learn more.  He kindly asked me my zip code.  02138.  He paused with a baffled look when he tried to record it.  Yes, I hail from a place with a zip code that starts with zero.

A nice young lady appeared and offered to show me around.  The large greeting screen made a nice introduction and an adjacent table displayed things that looked like cable boxes, a few chrome book computers, a Galaxy device.  Instantly recalling Bob Garfield’s  “Comcast Must Die”, I couldn’t decide if I was in the mode of picking up cable box and ISP equipment or heading into a cool tech space with den-like couches just a few strides away.  For the record I like Comcast.

I had just shared an article in a training session that explained how Google does “scan” your gmail to offer a better search experience, but it doesn’t “read” your mail.

In the course of the tour I learned how Google was using good old fashioned community organizing tactics to build critical mass to lay down fiber in specific micro-neighborhoods, “fiberhoods”, and how non-profits and community services would benefits in the form of free Google Fiber services.  Tim Stansky

Google ad on MBTA Red Line platform video screen

So now my email provider, default search engine, and brilliance behind my droid smartphone is also now a cable/internet/phone company that also makes Chrome computers that lots of smart people really like.  And Google is mobilizing residents to gain critical mass to lay down fiber in Kansas City.  More stereotypes of people hating on their cable companies keep popping into my mind.  Yeah, and that Google self-driving car?

I’ve been home a week now and while waiting for the Red Line inbound at Harvard station there was Google running video ads on the recently installed MBTA video monitors.

Google fiber

Their cute rabbit mascot is designed to convey friendliness and speed.  I’m just not sure why I’m uneasy about this.  Maybe you’ll share this with Google+ or comment.


@FoodDayMA Media Group Recipe for Collaboration

The Mass Innovation Nights annual “Foodie” Product Launch Party is a wildly popular event and I attended a “Food Day MA” planning meeting in May with the intention to offer them free exposure at the event for Food Day on October 24th in the spirit of communal support in the food circles. 

Inspired by the anecdotes of communities’ success in the 2011 inaugural year I raised my hand and started dispensing advice on how the momentum could be captured statewide if someone would only orchestrate the efforts, realizing in the same breath that I was volunteering my services to captain the Food Day MA Media Group.  Here are the steps you might take to glean from the way we cobbled together our efforts with no budget and lots of enthusiasm from many.

  1. Pull together a core team who volunteer to manage a social media tool that they are good at and let them be the lead to post, Tweet, Pin, etc.  We were Twitter-centric, used facebook and dabbled in Pinterest.  I wish we had Pinned more considering that platform’s growth at the time.  New social media channels will crop up in the future, embrace the ones with momentum and critical mass.
  2. Create a gmail account with your group’s affinity name as a master email account that you will use to build a WordPress site and enroll in social media platforms.  If a facebook or Twitter account already exists don’t worry about it – as long as the owner of that account is on your core team.
  3. Create a Dropbox account using your new gmail account where you will keep a Master Schedule of guest bloggers, store logos, photos/images, a contact list and other necessary assets.  You can invite members to join the Dropbox and that’s where they can claim their date to post on the Master Schedule.  I stored the text of a an email that I sent to every new guest blogger with instructions on claiming a date to post along with a heads-up that they’d be receiving two following emails inviting them to the Dropbox and the WordPress site.  This made the recruitment of guest bloggers pretty easy once I set up the system.
  4. Build your social media tools using the gmail account you created – Twitter, facebook, Pinterest.
  5. Build a WordPress site using the gmail account you created.  Add widgets for the social media accounts you created.  When I built the Food Day MA website there was no easy widget to plug in a Pinterest button.  Many thanks to betweenheandshe.com, I found a VERY good post that taught me how to add a Pinterest button.
  6. Write your first post and publish it.  Double check that your post automatically cross-promoted on your social media channels.
  7. Send an email to your core group that explains the guest blogging process. 
  8. [this is what I sent]    First THANK YOU.    You should have received an invitation to www.fooddayma.wordpress.com with Author status and an invitation to the FoodDayMA Dropbox folder.  If you’re not a current Dropbox user and install it on your desktop we earn more storage space.  You can always uninstall it.  There’s a word document in the Dropbox named “FDMA blogging schedule”.   Add the information on the date you plan to post the blog and the other information and SAVE your changes.  Write and post your blog or schedule it to publish on the date you chose.  Promote your blog on the social media platforms you frequent.  If you Tweet about it please include @FoodDayMA in the Tweet to notify us to call out the birds!  Post it on facebook, pin it on your Pinterest account, etc.  We’re here to help you with anything you need.  If you’re not comfortable with WordPress and can at least provide text and images we can tee it up for you.  Tim Stansky
  9. Use your Dropbox account to build and store your Press/Media Contact list, Media Advisories and Press Releases.  Sending your releases from the gmail account you created allows you to manage your efforts.
  10. Now you have become your organization’s “Tom Sawyer” and it’s time to recruit guest bloggers, showing them how easy it is to be part of your bigger effort and that many hands make for light work.
  11. We’re still tallying the collective tide of exposure that we created through the blogging site and social media.  It’s clear that the WordPress site was a powerful anchor point.
  12. Our highest traffic day for the site was the day The Boston Globe wrote about Food Day.

We had a fantastic team and props to everyone involved.

Good luck and pay it forward.


Crowdfunding Innovation – @MassInno event

Mass Innovation Nights is producing two educational events about crowdfunding to help the local innovation and entrepreneur communities make sense of what’s happening.  Crowdfunding is a big movement and lawmakers are in the midst of creating guidelines and rules that will create opportunities and confusion.  MassInno is acting as a connector for our community to host a panel conversation with entrepreneurs who launched products at Mass Innovation Nights and have crowdfunded projects.  Our growing list panelists include Mass Inno alumni LifeCycle, Memory On Hand, and Ministry of Supply.

“Crowdfunding Innovation” is a sponsored, ticketed event separate from @MassInno’s free monthly Launch Parties.  The September 19th event is designed to give a current snapshot of the state of crowdfunding.  Everyone who attends will receive a 4GB MoH Band™  USB Flash Drive Wristband loaded with crowdfunding content, an e-book and digital resources.

The follow up January 23rd 2013 event will offer valuable insights on developments from the anticipated Q4 2012 passage of government rules.  Both events will take place at the Microsoft NERD (New England Research and Development) Center in Cambridge, MA.

Mass Innovation Nights is actively looking for sponsors and possibilities start with:

  • On-site event integration
  • Content marketing  as a guest blogger in the @MassInno weekly newsletter to 5,000+ readers
  • @MassInno website advertising in July, August and September
  • Consideration for panel participation
  • Content inclusion on “Crowdfunding Innovation” Memory On Hand 4GB wristbands.
  • Feature at an upcoming Mass Innovation Nights Launch Party

Tickets are on sale now http://bit.ly/CIfriend.


Crowdfunding Rewards – focus on perks, not equity – for now.

The Entretech Forum hosted an event at the Foley Hoag Emerging Enterprise Center filled with curious people looking to make sense of what this crowdfunding thing is, the JOBS Act, and current conversations about tax, equity, SEC, and other concerns.  David R. Pierson, Chair of Foley Hoag’s Venture Capital/Emerging Companies Practice Group moderated a panel that included Jack Richard, Constituent Services Counsel for US Senator Scott Brown, Jack Kelly, CEO of Adva Mobile, Jed Cohen, Co-Founder and COO of RocketHub, Joseph Schlesinger, Founder of ArcBotics, and Mike Norman, Cofounder and President of Wefunder.

The presentations painted a big picture of two forms of crowdfunding distinguished by backers’ motivation to open their wallet.  One is a group of donors driven by PASSION to contribute for the success of a project rewarded by some form of a perk.  The other is a group of donors to contribute for some form of EQUITY.

Since the equity, SEC regulations, tax conversations and many other financial factors are yet to be finalized, there is no clarity yet on the crowdfunding for equity model.

In the meantime millions are being raised through the rewards/perks for donation model.  This model offers the most to learn in the short term on how a project can launch successfully.  People are making donations in return for a range of perks at staggered levels because they believe in the idea and are satisfied with whatever item or “experience” they receive in consideration.

Jed Cohen of RocketHub.com pointed out that the arts have been early adopters of crowdfunding because of its resemblance to the arts’ familiar and historical reliance on patrons to fund works in return for access and enjoyment.  Crowdfunding rewards, simplified, are another way to pass the digital hat to get a donation and that digital hat has the potential to go viral through social media and take on a life of its own.

Going live on a crowdfunding platform starts with an accepted/declined application process.  The real hard work is in the preparation to seed believers, fans and supporters so they are ready to donate to a project online when it launches to create a fast, high-trajectory acceleration of donations to gain momentum, social media, buzz and sharing.  This acceleration creates a good environment for donor nurturing, and turns them into evangelists on Twitter, facebook, blogs and conversations.  It also builds name recognition, a cheer-for-the-home-team factor and enthusiasm that can morph into a talent recruiting tool and a base of customers to upsell or inspire product development.  Joe Schelsinger shared a customer inquiry “does this thing come in a bluetooth option?”.  His team’s concierge spirit quickly produced a bluetoothed product and it eventually became a top-seller.

Jed also offered three pillars that should be demonstrated in the application process to RocketHub to improve the likelihood of being approved:

The Project: Tell them how great the project is and how great the team is.

The Network: Demonstrate its width – how many people have you gotten excited and ready to donate when you go live? – and its depth – how connected are they?  Do you know them well enough to count on them to help your trajectory?

The Rewards: Have exciting rewards that reflect the spirit of the project, sell the story, have milestones for even bigger rewards, and make the donation/perk exchange exciting and fun.

Admittedly, I tweeted the word “buzzkill” from the event when David Pierson took his turn as the final panelist to a room lathered up with stories of six figure and million-plus crowdfunded projects and a grassroots pledges of $14 million dollars to invest.  David’s words reinforced the need for lengthy consideration of consequences on many levels after (and when) the rules and regulations are spelled out.

My takeaway from this event:  The rewards model is an exciting low-donation for a perk that’s available to all of us today.  It allows us to be part of the magical experience of seeing an idea turn into a reality and watching the trajectory hit the mark like a Boston sports team coming back and beating the arch rival.

Hexy the Hexapod – by ArcBotics

Joe Schlesinger had the best line of the night “This stuff is still being invented in your neighbor’s garage…  now you have access to it.”   

I also want to take this opportunity to put Mass Innovation Nights’ upcoming two-part “Crowdfunding Innovation” events on your radar.  Mark your calendar for Wednesday September 19th and Wednesday January 23rd at the Microsoft NERD Center.   Please follow @MassInno on Twitter, details will also be available in mid-July at www.mass.innovationnights.com


Yelp Town Hall and How One Star Increase = 5% to 9% Increase in Revenue

I attended Yelp Boston Town Hall, billed as a forum for the fourth in a series of cities hosted by Yelp offering businesses best practices in how to engage online critics and exchange ideas with other local businesses trying to harness the best in Yelp.  Yelp Boston Community Manager, Damien Smith quarterbacked a panel conversation with two avid local Yelpers, Darnell Holloway, Yelp’s Manager of Local Business Outreach, and two local businesses who are faring quite well with Yelp – Renee Eliah of Saus, a Belgian waffle and pommes frites place near Government Center and Brian Poe, chef of Poe’s Kitchen at the Rattlesnake and Beacon Hill newcomer Tip Tap Room.  And though the event was held in a restaurant with two restaurants as the businesses on the panel the folks from Yelp noted that restaurants account for only 23% of the reviews on Yelp.  Note to anyone holding a social media event in a downstairs section of a venue – make sure there’s working wifi to use an event hashtag such as #yelptownhall on social media or to check in on Yelp.  Does that belong in a Yelp review of hosting an event at the Back Bay Social Club?…

Renee shared anecdotes that Yelp worked as a marketing tool for Saus to channel pre-opening anticipation of pommes frites-philes and curiosity to build buzz when the doors finally opened.  Renee also believes that the majority of their business in the beginning was attributable to Yelp and that helped keep the business going.  Yelpers actually came to Saus’ defense from online harsh reviews of growing pains common to lots of new restaurants.

Brian talked about a real-time turnaround when a guest shared the status of a bad experience on social media while it was happening and from afar he and his team were able to figure out who the patron was and made things right for that patron before he left the restaurant.

The Yelping Yentas had earnest intentions in offering frank reviews to business but it’s hard not to feel for the business owner who spoke from the crowd equating bad reviews as graffiti on one’s home or the tattoo studio entrepreneur contending that competitors might be the source of staged reviews or inflating their own reviews manufactured by friends and family.

The event did not offer a magic elixir to remove the digital stains of bad reviews on Yelp, but it did offer some key takeaways:

  • Bad reviews are nothing new.  Attention and resolution of reasonable customer complaints can turn things around.
  • Consistently good customer service and attention will pay off in the long-term.
  • Yelp reviews can be considered focus groups for feedback on your products and services.
  • Higher ratings and great reviews grow organically.  Pushing non-Yelping customers to write a review leads to less-than-raving reviews and fewer stars because people feel obliged and may not even be familiar in how to write a great review in Yelp-ese.

    Reviews, Reputation, and Revenue: The Case of Yelp.com
    Michael Luca, HBS
    Working Paper

The most delicious part of the night was a serendipitous conversation with Chantelle Karl, Yelp Senior Public Relations Manager when I asked about how much, in dollars, a good Yelp rating is worth when Michael Luca just happened to join us.

Michael is an Assistant Professor at Harvard Business School and author of  “Reviews, Reputation, and Revenue: The Case of Yelp.com”.  Mike studied the impact of Yelp reviews on Seattle area restaurants through Washington State Department of Revenue data.  His Working Paper demonstrates that a one star Yelp rating increase can lead to a 5 to 9 percent increase in revenue.  Pretty cool to meet someone who can put it into dollars and sense.

Yelp did a good job taking their own advice listening to business owners’ side of their model for feedback.  And for those business owners who obsess over tough criticism, there are many bigger priorities in running a business and plenty of customer marketing options if Yelp is not one’s choice.


WTOP #1 and Pandora #1? – radio content and technology

Two trends that continue to attract my attention are the spoken-word radio formats’ move to FM and the competition for online listening between traditional broadcasters and the likes of Pandora, Sirius, etc.  In conversations about my days of selling radio advertising and marketing solutions I point out that online and device listening of (particularly younger) adults is doing to their parents’ FM band just what those boomers did in abandoning their parents’ AM stations for FM.  It sounds better, plays what they want, interacts and travels with them on their favorite device.  Remember FM converters?

Radio Ink recently listed the top-billing stations in America and some industry voices tried to attribute the strong presence of AM stations on that list as an assertion of the AM band’s vitality.  One of my favorite bloggers in this space, Mark Ramsey asserts that it’s the brand, not the band – CONTENT rules despite the delivery platform.  Here’s his take on the AM bandwagon.

Couple Mark’s assertion with another “who’d have thought” incident, this headline in the Los Angeles Times  “Pandora: The No. 1 radio station in Los Angeles?” and I would suggest that a winning formula to watch is CONTENT that keeps up with consumers through technology widely adapted by the masses.


One could argue that the source of the ratings article is The Media Audit, not Arbitron or Neilsen and it’s  from last year.  It could be a sign of things to come despite Pandora’s $8.2MM Q4 loss.  But since it is all about who brings in the most revenue, WTOP‘s $57M is quite a feat to take to the bank.


MITX President Debi Kleiman and the Sisterhood of Startups’ “one thing”

Bobbie Carlton, Exhale Magazine blogBobbie Carlton, Founder of Mass Innovation Nights and President of Carlton PR and Marketing posted a blog along with the video wrap up of Exhale Magazine’s  “Women in Conversation – the Sisterhood of Startups” event.  In it, Debi Kleiman, the MITX Maven, asked the panel to share their one thing they wanted the room of over 180 people to hear:

>  Stephanie Kaplan / Her Campus Media –  “set the bar extraordinarily high, and then set it higher”

>  Erica Zidel / Sitting Around– “take your idea and execute it, it does NOT have to be (a grueling) 90 hours a week (life)”

>  Dr. Sonia Divney / Zarzatech,- “opportunities arrive unexpectedly, you have to always be prepared”Mass Challenge,

>  Ashley Lucas / Diffuse 5 – “if you have the idea, just start it, no matter how small or the number of hours you put into it”

>  Ainsley Braun / Tinfoil Security – “follow your passion”

>  Erin Viestra / Zyrra – “be comfortable faking it ’til you make it … eventually you’re no long faking it and you know more than you thought”

This event was a follow up to the article about women-led startups in the MassChallenge competition in the Winter 2012 issue of Exhale Lifestyle Magazine for Women and mentioned in a previous post.

Twitter Updates

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 752 other followers