I couldn't resist the title - I'm an unabashed big fan of moster ballads. So, I digress early in this blog post, but not really.
This week, we helped launch a good story and I was excited to be a part of it. Mostly because I believe in what they are doing.
This week Zoobean launched.
From the press release:
"Zoobean is the site that makes it easy to find remarkable children’s books that have been recommended and curated by parents. They also announced $500,000 in seed investment led by Kapor Capital.... Zoobean offers a subscription service and direct sales of its well-loved books. Books on Zoobean are cataloged by recommended age, relevant topics, characters’ backgrounds, and other tags that matter to families."
That's the basics, and the rest is a good example of the correlation between story and coverage.
Zoobean was born when husband and wife Co-founders Felix Brandon Lloyd and Jordan Lloyd Bookey were expecting their second child. They went in search of a great children’s book to explain to their 3-year-old son what it would mean to be a big brother. This task turned out to be much more challenging than they expected.
At the time, they could not easily find books that told stories about new experiences and featured a brother and sister and a multiracial family. In stores, books were organized by genre, author, or very broad themes that weren’t really relevant for us,” said Chief Mom Jordan Lloyd Bookey. “We also searched many popular shopping websites, but the information was overwhelming and impersonal. In the end, we were frustrated and empty-handed. The same frustration might have resulted looking for books about bullying and teasing, the death of a pet, or finding e-books featuring Latino characters. Parents and educators rely on remarkable books to help connect children to their worlds and we decided to create Zoobean to address a need that benefits families and helps children imagine and achieve anything.”
Lloyd and Bookey are both former teachers and bring their domain expertise to the venture. Lloyd is a former Washington, D.C. Teacher of the Year for 2000/2001 and most recently built and sold Skill-Life, a financial literacy platform, which is now MoneyIsland. Bookey is the outgoing head of Google’s K-12 Education Outreach. She is also a former teacher and director with a DC-based non-profit supporting improved literacy in low-income neighborhoods.
Good story, right? It has the elements of timeliness with National Children's Book Week, human interest, a strong local hook, and on the technical front - funding was obviously a major angle, as was Jordan as a higher up with Google and Felix having started and sold a financial literacy platform prior to Zoobean.
Even with the wealth of angles, the coverage was still hard fought, with the common wrangling around exclusives and timing. There's still more media to penetrate, specifically in lifestyle/parenting category, who are more interested in stories and contributed content and less so in launches.
We're proud of the initial results: https://www.zoobean.com/news
So, back to monster ballads.
I'm an aunt to two awesome, almost 5-year-olds. They live near San Francisco, so we FaceTime a lot and I LOVE to send them gifts. I try really hard not to send them junk, so I spend hours scouring sites online to find the best of books and toys for them. And while I love thinking about what will make them smile and engage their respective minds, the search part kind of sucks. I cross my fingers that the sites I scour actually have decent authority and I find myself calling my brother to say, "what about this?" and sometimes he knows, but most of the time it's a flip of the coin as to whether what I've found online will be great. Then there is the actually finding it to buy once it's identified. Once I find that list of "top" whatever for 5-year-old boys, I have to go to retail sites to see if it's actually available for purchase. It's pretty time consuming and my schedule is pretty busy, so I find myself doing this research, gut check and purchase cycle at off hours.
Enter Zoobean. They are starting with remarkable children's book and their long-term goal is to expand into children's toys and educational products. Parents, teachers and librarians curate the books on their site, so I don't need to call my brother to ask. They have a subscription service, so I can buy direct from them and for the books that they don't sell, I can click a link versus having to start a second search. I also love that tagging makes sense for most famlies' reality. My nephews have a Jewish and Christian background. Their parents are divorced. Both sets of grandparents and Aunts and Uncles live in different states than they do. They are fraternal and are very different. One of them is bigger than the other and uses that in his favor; the smaller one is aware of this and has always navigated self esteem and how to "compete" with this. In short, they are a typical, not-so-typical family and they love, love, love being read to and are in the process of starting to read themselves. They are my family, and I want the books we/they read to be outstanding. I also want them to see themselves in each wonderful story.
Zoobean is quality, thoughtful and easy in an online world that seems to be based on volume, cheaper, and faster. They've won this Aunt over - given me something to believe in - so it's just a matter of time before the rest of you are experiencing the same, welcome, sigh of relief:)
The last session of the day I sat in on was Startup Marketing: Working with a Lean Budget featuring SpeakerBox’s own Lisa Throckmorton.
Moderated by Paul Sherman with Potomac Tech Wire, the panel also included:
Michele Perry, Founder and President, MPB Strategies
Trevor Lynn, Marketing Manager, Social Tables
Zubair Talib, Co-Founder and CEO, YaSabe
Lets dive into some of the highlights:
- Marketing for a startup vs. an established company differs greatly – and it is not just because of money! Startups often are less likely to take a risk because they have more to lose if it doesn’t pay off. Additionally, a strategic marketing plan does not exist in many cases and there is more of a tradeoff when it comes to campaigns. Startups often have to pick and choose the few things they want to do – and the pressure is on, because they need to do those things right.
- Branding a company in the startup phase vs. focusing on marketing and sales is a balancing act. Companies are often so focused on getting the product to market that they can’t articulate the value proposition well and many times do not have clear messaging on their website. Before the brand can focus on promotion, these items need to be put in place. However, at the same time, developing a brand is very important at the startup stage in order to raise money, get employees and it has been proven that marketing programs work better if there is awareness of the company already.
- When asked about where marketing ends and sales starts, Trevor responded that at Social Tables they don’t have a divide between sales and marketing – they have “smarketing.” Essentially they do all aspects together. They know where all leads are coming from and what tactics are making a difference. Their marketing is very metrics driven and they experiment with all options to see what generates the best results.
Startups are willing to spend money wherever there is positive ROI. Content is an incredibly effective way to get the ball rolling in terms of recognition. Since budgets are limited, marketing money needs to be spent wisely and knowing your audience helps to narrow down on which channels would be most effective. Most importantly - track everything you do. Start with a baseline and continually try to make it better and more effective.
- Finally, when it comes to marketing for startups – resist the urge to boil the ocean. When startups are all over the map, campaigns don’t go over as well and are not successful. Pick a few areas and really focus in on them while measuring and tracking the results. Stay focused and give it time. Results won’t happen over night, it is a process that involves continual testing, so stay focused and make decisions based on practicality rather than desperation.
That’s all from us from MAM summit today! Check out the Twitter stream for more detail on these great sessions.
This week, I responded to a DC Startups - Fierce Conversations Facebook group post that offered this basic notion:
"Entrepreneurs are horrible at pitching. Not pitching the details of their companies so much, but generally pitching who they are to get introductions or sponsorships."
As someone who spends a fair amount of time in the trenches with startups and loves to connect people in my network, I was compelled to respond. The post went on to share some examples of weakness in the wide assundry of asks/pitches that the author regularly receives; all of them very common and ones that I (and SpeakerBox) have expereineced as well.
I felt compelled to respond because in my own bridging of connections, it's not uncommon for me (or for most of us, I imagine) to tell a startup founder who is trying to move the needle with some event of activity: "You should reach out to X" with a quick explanation of why.
What I've failed to do on those same occassions is follow-on with "and here are some things to do or think through before and during your outreach."
So, what's an entreprenuer, who is in the process of building connections to do? As your parents likely counseled "first impressions matter" and with that in mind, here are some tips:
Research the individuals and companies that you are pitching. This could be through their company's Web site or LinkedIn or Facebook and most certainly through the connections you have in common. Beyond understanding why your ask/pitch is relevant to them, you should try to glean as much as you can about their communication style and the best way to contact them. In some instances a little bit of due diligence my result in your mutual contacts suggesting that they bridge the introduction for you or even help deliver your pitch (see below).
Make sure that you hava all of your own details buttoned up as well. Any time an event or sponsorship is on the table, the person or company is going to want to know what is in it for them and for larger companies, the internal champion will likely have to present a business case. Aside from the usual date, time and venue logistics, how many people will be there, what demographic breakdown (types of companies, level of the attendees), who else is sponsoring, what they get for their sponsorship, etc. You may be able to approach a smaller, more scrappy company with an opportunity that is not fully baked yet, but it's going to be a really hard sell, and probably a giant waste of time with larger companies.
If you are approaching them to sponsor an event, understanding some of the basics of their organization can become a big time saver:
- What do they already sponsor? Similar events can work in your favor, but competitive events will not.
- Does what you are asking them to sponsor align with their client targets, business objectives, philanthropic efforts?
- Are they are large, Fortune 500 company? If so, how does the timing of your ask align? Large companies tend to be heavily process ladened when it comes to approving things like sponsorships and if your event in in the next few months, that window will likely be too short.
- Are they a public company? If so, be sensitive to approaching them at the end of a quarter or their fiscal year end. If they provide services to the government, remember that there is a government busy season that consumes these comapnies in the Fall.
When it comes to your actual ask/pitch, it is not disimilar from pitching an investor or the media. You need to be able to present all of the relevant data and make the ask in a way that is thoughtful, personal and compelling. Share your excitement, and share any information or personal connections to them, that will help get them on the same path to entusiasm. It's also ok to ask a person that you have in common to help make the ask for you. In many cases, if you are able to send your intermediary a good pitch, they will be happy to send it (and ideally it increases the chances of it being read). If you feel good about sending it yourself, you could always ask your mutual contact to give a heads up to the person that you are reaching out to that they will be receiving and e-mail or phone call from you.
If you've come to the conclusion that you don't have the right ask for a particular person or their organization, but know that they would be a good resource, you may start by requesting a few minutes of their time to benefit from their expertise and people they may know that might be a better fit for your needs.
In my mind, these are a few of the fundamentals to making a strong ask.
Summing this all up: Do your research, create a thoughful and compelling ask that reflects that research and ask your network for help in bridging these important connections.
A parallel end goal should be building longer-term relationships with the individuals and if you keep that in mind, and go about outreach and relationship building in a way that you, in all likelihood, would want to be apprached as well, you will be on a track towards success.
Tuesday night marked the beginning of MindShare's 17th year, and we held the annual kickoff meeting at the Verizon Center, with a special pre-Wizards game reception with Ted Leonsis. I felt honored as a newly inducted board member, and I'm excited to be involved.
Ok, before I get started...here is the press release on new members, also highlighting the board members that support the program each year.
And, just because we love the media..thank you Allyson Jacob of ElevationDC, for showing up, leaving your kids with your husband, so you could file this article....and to Tania Anderson of Bisnow for also highlighting the evening in this article. As I met with some of the incoming class, there was a lot of buzz as to what this "MindShare" concept is all about. I heard some folks compare it to a super-secret-handshake club, and some felt like they were "rushing" a fraternity or sorority as they worked the room. One CEO likened it to "CEO school," and he was excited about that, actually, a humble statement for a man, but one who recognizes the value in the learning experience.
So, I asked co-chair and co-founder of the organization April Young, what the organization looks for...
"We look people whose dreams are close enough to reality that they might become companies, and who have something that is loosely called a ‘product' rather than a service. I love the ‘CEO school' comment – I usually describe it as a kind of YPO, except you don’t have to be young, and you do not have to be CEO or founder."
She adds that you need to be a CEO of a company with proprietary technology or be internet focused.
Since I run a services business, I've never been a candidate for MindShare, so I've always kinda watched from the outside. This year I'll be able to participate on the organizing committee, and be able to see even more what it's all about. I can't wait…
I heard many people say what an honor it was to be not only nominated for inclusion, but then accepted and invited into the incoming class.
Everyone was hand-picked to be there, and yet the criteria for being involved is really no more than "be a first-time CEO for an emerging product company who wants to build a scalable company, and will take advantage of the powerful ecosystem that MindShare has to offer." There are (of course), hundreds of CEOs who fit that description in this region, and yet only 60 get in each year.
The intent of MindShare was never to be exclusive, per se, and it has operated in relative stealth mode since it was founded in 1997 by a group of industry visionaries. But it's become exclusive, and that's what makes it powerful. The members there last night saw the value in so many CEOs being together in the same place, with often times, similar issues that might keep them up at night: how to patent-protect your technology, how to raise money, how to build a strong management team, how to scale, how to build a business model that is ahead of its time, etc.
Members also got to rub shoulders with the some key "players" in this market. Gaining access to some of the most influential people in this ecosystem--Mike Lincoln, April Young, Harry Glazer, Gene Reichers, Steve Balisteri (the co-chairs, founders and executive committee members)--can often time take years without a channel like MindShare.
(Photo Courtesy of Anne Lord Photography): Pictured: Board Members Mark Esposito, April Young, Ted Leonsis, Mike Lincoln and Steve Balistreri)
Here's how the model works: CEOs are nominated by other CEO groups, past alumni, board members, and the like. Some self-nominate. The board meets several times to research and identify who will be a part of the incoming class. Invitations are extended and members accept or decline. The expectation is that each year, the class members will show up, engage, and then hopefully "graduate" at year's end.
MindShare holds 8-10 "classes" each year which deal with topics such as the ones outlined above. Experts are brought in to teach and educate in an informal manner, and the members are able to network with their peers before and after. The camaraderie that is developed is invaluable.
Assuming a member's attendance record is strong (they keep track!), he or she will "graduate." Then they become a part of the powerful alumni organization, where it all comes together: they are now part of a 660+ strong group of some of the most powerful leaders and technology CEOs in the region. To make my case, past graduates of MindShare include some household names in this region's technology sector:
- Joe Payne of Eloqua (2012 IPO and acquired by Oracle for $871M);
- Tim O’Shaughnessy of LivingSocial (raised over $180M in 2010);
- Reggie Aggarwal of Cvent (raised $136M in one of the largest Series A rounds on record in 2011);
- Rick Rudman of Vocus (2005 IPO);
- Hemant Kanakia of Torrent Networking Technologies (acquired by Ericsson for $450M);
- Phillip Merrick of webMethods (the most successful first day software IPO ever).
I know I speak for the other committee and board members when I say that MindShare just gets better every year. I've already had the chance to hear Ted Leonsis speak in a private setting, and that sets the bar. I have my pencil sharpened and I'm ready to go to class…here's to the 17th year of MindShare!
-- Elizabeth Shea @eliz2shea
Today marks the launch date of the Ballston Innovative Initiative (BI2), another notch in the beltway highlighting the technology and entrepreneurial ecosystem that exists in the Washington, DC region. The press release outlines the program as it is shaping up, a series of events taking place around the region between April and June, 2013.
BI2 was the brainchild of Jonathan Aberman, founder and Managing Director of Amplifier Ventures, creator of the esteemed FounderCorps, guitarist for Two Car Living Room, professor, entrepreneurship professor at Smith Business School, University of Maryland, and co-host of Left Jab Radio.
As if he didn't have enough going on, he drummed up the idea to launch a three-month initiative designed to bring together entrepreneurs, academia and government, to demonstrate that the Greater Washington region can accelerate its growth as an entrepreneurial center by taking advantage of opportunities to work with the funding source and buyer of the most cutting edge of technologies.
You won't want to miss the Launch Party, to be held April 18th, featuring keynote speaker Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett Packard, and delivering a panel of respected CEOs that have launched successful ventures that focused on building products critical to our national security agencies.
We sat down with Jonathan to learn more about what insprired this initiative, what he hopes to accomplish, and what we can expect to see.
Jonathan Aberman, founder and Managing Director, Amplifier Ventures
SPEAKERBOX: So, Jonathan, there is such a focus on what's happening in government right now, with Sequestration, with our elected officials, why this, and why now?
JONATHAN: Well, despite the hubbub in Washington today, one thing remains...we still need to support creating the technology that this country needs to protect and serve. And many companies are doing just that, but face challenges in bringing products to market. Moreover, technology procurement is very centralized on a small number of companies and sources. There are literally millions of entrepreneurs and technologists that are invisible to our national security agencies. And, vice versa. Efforts to date to bridge these gaps have just brushed the surface of what could be done. It’s a big job and one that could really help our region and the nation at a time of budgetary reallocations. Folks know that the world of national security is changing, but they don’t quite know into what. We thought that by raising awareness and bringing folks in the community together we could advance figuring this out. I think this can bring some positive energy to the government technology landscape, particularly at a time of economic uncertainty.
SPEAKERBOX: Tell us more about this 3-month initiative, and what prompted the idea.
JONATHAN: This stems from the idea that the biggest funders and purchasers of advanced technology are in our back yard...in Ballston and the Greater Washington region. The relationship between new technology and government spending, particularly in national security, is really striking. For instance, if you look at the industrial history of the US, quite literally every major technology industry that we have benefitted from since World War II was fostered in a significant way by national security research and development or purchasing. The smart phone you use today is a great example – the chips inside it, the GPS system, the voice enablement of Siri and the internet it relies on – came out of national security funded basic research and development.
There are over 70,000 emerging companies financed a year that focus on new technologies (and this is just VC and Angel financed companies -- there are many others that are self funded), and very few of these companies and entrepreneurs are engaged with the national security agencies. The entrepreneurs behind them, and the broader community of technologists both in and out of universities, are often working on technologies and approaches that would be perfectly suited to address technology requirements for the Department of Defense, DARPA, or other intelligence agencies. But both sides need help; startups don't often know how to navigate the purchasing landscape and the world of FARs and contract vehicles, and the agency program managers don't always have visibility to what are called by many “nontraditional performers.” We want to bring these two worlds together, and surround them with a support structure and ecosystem in business and academia, that can help further this for a greater good.
SPEAKERBOX: What types of events will there be?
JONATHAN: Well, so far we have the launch event organized. That will be a lot of fun, and should be a great opportunity to hear some well-known entrepreneurs share their experiences and meet fellow community members. I’m happy that Carly Fiorina was willing to come along and join us in particular, as she is a tireless advocate of free enterprise and entrepreneurship. When I told her about the intiative a few weeks ago she was immediately engaged with it. Peggy Styer of Blackbird Technologies and Steven Chen of Power Fingerprinting are great examples of the kind of national security entrepreneurship that we want to promote.
Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett Packard
We have another of other impressive people lined up and will be adding to our announced speakers next week. The other events that are planned and will be rolled out over the next week or two, including a bootcamp to teach entrepreneurs how to start a government contractor, or otherwise work with the government, a suite of high quality classes around entrepreneurship, company creation and expansion (taught by FounderCorps) and a company showcase event that will bring together promising technology startups with investors and program managers. There are also some things in the hopper that are more targeted to bringing nontraditional performers into contact with national security program managers, because we hope to do some things there too.
SPEAKERBOX: Are these events open to the general public?
JONATHAN: Absolutely. We'd like to see as many supporters as possible for this initiative, and to see it grow and expand. We're thrilled to see so many folks come in from academia, the business community, the government, and local government agencies such as Arlington County.
I'd also like to give a hat tip to my friend Bill Flook, who ran an article on this initiative this morning (note, subscription required) in the Washington Business Journal. It goes into more detail on what we're looking to do.
SPEAKERBOX: Thanks, Jonathan, this sounds like a terrific program, and we'll be excited to follow along! How can we find out more?
JONATHAN: We have a website which will be continually updated to reflect new speakers, programs, etc.: www.ballstoni2.com. You can also register there online. And follow BI2 on twitter @ballstoni2. Check back from time to time for updates, hope to see you all at the launch event!
--Elizbeth Shea, @eliz2shea
I think I have finally recovered from South by Southwest Interactive. I think.
I've been home a few days and have had time to reflect on the whirlwind of activities, interactions, events and parties.
I went to Austin in collaboration with a wide range of people from #DCTech to represent and help spread the word about the city's vibrant tech ecosystem. Not that this effort hasn't been made previously, it has. DC's SXSW veterans have been waving the flag and endearing the national tech community to the city for years.
This year was a little different though. DC's Mayor Vincent Gray made it priority to attend the conference and invest time, alongside DC Tech stalwarts, and serve as the lead spokesperson.
His efforts included a luncheon with national tech and business media, where he got to know journalists and bloggers from Fast Comapny, TechCrunch, Mashable, MSNBC, and Social Media Monthly, among others. DC has its wealth of media - but it's not a city where tech media is prevalent - so building these key relationships benefits everyone in ecosystem. Thank you to Evan Burfield of 1776, Peter Corbett of iStrategyLabs, DC Tech Meetup and DC Week, Michael Chasen, former Chairman of Blackboard and CEO of new startup Social Radar, Neil Kataria of newBrandAnalytics and Blue Tiger Ventures, Mark Ein of Venturehouse Group and Kastle Systems and Aaron Saunders of Clearly Innovative for being great champions for DC at this event.
(Mayor Gray, Mark Ein, and Deputy Mayor Victor Hoskins talk about DC Tech with Fast Company's Ariel Schwartz)
The media lunch sequed to a DC Tech Meetup at Stage on Sixth, which led to an opportunity for the Mayor to take the stage and talkto TECH Cocktail's Frank Gruber about DC Tech and the launch of 1776, Fortify Ventures, keeping newBrandAnalytics local, having one of the largest tech meetups in the country and other gems of progress for the community.
A personal highlight for me, was the Mayor taking the opportunity to spend "office hours" time with entreprenuers from other regions at Startup America LIVE event. Can you imagine perusing a list of mentors to engage with and finding the Mayor of the Nation's Capital on the list?
(Mayor Gray Mentoring at Startup America's Startup Live)
I was also honored to participate in a roundtable dinner dicussion on furthering progress on the DC Tech. The conversation covered the bases that you would expect: access to capital, access to talent, tax incentives, and infrastructure to name a few. The discussion was lively, engagement was strong, and it quickly surpassed it's alloted time.
(DC Tech Roundtable dinner)
And that was just Saturday...
That day and in the days that followed, the #DCTech buzz around Austin was hard to ignore. It wasn't just the local contingent either - pretty much everyone I talked to seemed to make the same comment: "I feel like DC Tech is all over this conference," and I felt really proud to hear it.
Thanks to the team at the Washington DC Economic Partneship for jumping in and committing the energy and funds to elevate DC's presence at SXSW this year; and of course, Mayor Gray and his tireless team as well.
Well done DC Tech, well done!
Mark your calendars! Following last year's success, the second annual Day of Foster.ly (D.O.F.) will return to Artisphere in Arlington, Virginia on Saturday, May 4th, 2013.
The event will draw more than 500 members of the region's entrepreneurship community, and D.O.F. will offer multiple panels and experience chats, two expos, a job fair, community driven workshops, a Media Match (where entrepreneurs pitch stories to journalists in a speed dating format), and much more.
SpeakerBox is excited to be involved in the Media Match event again this year. Media Match provides many of the region's best startups and entrepreneurs an opportunity to speak with journalists who might be interested in their story. It works like speed dating is a great opportunity for emerging coming companies to practice their media story. The journalists benefit from a "first look" into up-and-coming companies in the region.
Register today at www.DayOfFosterly.com and you can stay connected with event plans via Foster.ly's Facebook Group and Twitter. Also, make sure to set up your Foster.ly profile if you have not already registered to connect with this extensive and information-packed network.
If you are a member of the media and interested in participating in Media Match, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Okay, pull him. That was the precise amount of knee trauma I wanted him to sustain in this half."
Okay, let’s get the bad news out of the way first:
You remember that old adage -- “whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger”? Well, it turns out that’s pretty much the opposite of how it works.
According to doctors who no longer work for the Washington Redskins, getting a concussion (for example) doesn’t make you stronger at all. In fact, it makes you quite a bit weaker and more susceptible to a second concussion.
But maybe that whole “whatever makes me stronger” slogan is referring to mental toughness. You know, the “school of hard knocks” philosophy?
Let’s look at technology startups. Maybe failure early on just primes an entrepreneur for success down the road. Maybe? Yes?
According to Google’s venture capital arm (writes TNR’s Lydia DePillis):
“...Entrepreneurs whose first business did well had a 29 percent chance of success on their second, compared to a 16 percent success rate for people who’d failed their the first time around (essentially the same as first timers, who succeed 15 percent of the time).”
In other words, failed entrepreneurs don’t learn anything from their mistakes (at least nothing that’s statistically significant).
“[This finding] makes sense,” rationalizes DePillis. “There are a zillion ways to fail, and resolving to avoid the mistake that did you in the first time doesn’t shield you from making another one.”
Personally, I find that conclusion far too generous.
Any fair reading of history shows that we humans are quite talented at making the same exact mistakes over and over, ad infinitum.
Which bodes quite well for a third Nixon term, if not a healthy RGIII.
Today Startup VA and Arlington Economic Development Council hosted Pitch for Charity (#PFC2012).
The event was differentiated by its amazing caliber of startups and the fact that prize money goes to ther charity of the winner's choosing.
Carl Pierre of IntheCapital was the emcee for the event and the companies that pitched included:
Barrel of Jobs
Digital Wallet Plus
The pitches were 60 seconds and the presenters did a great job of selling their businesses on the clock. We were even treated to a rap and a rhyme and lots of humor in between.
The judges, Jonathan Aberman of Amplifier Ventures, Aneesh Chopra, Former White House CTO, Jen Consalvo of Tech Cocktail, Donna Harris of Startup America and Jonathon Perrelli of Fortify.vc had a tough job when it came to narrowing down to a winner. Lucky for them, there was a crowdsourced element as well and presenters got more leverage from votes that were texted by the audience (very American Idol).
We're excited that our client, Troop ID, took top honors! Their $2,000 prizemoney is going to National Military Famiy Association. Congrats to all the companies that presented.
Can't wait for Pitch for Charity 2013!
As the spouse of a veteran, I have always felt that the Veteran’s Day holiday is an important time to pay tribute to those who have served our country. Perhaps I’m a bit biased, since I understand the trials and tribulations associated with those who dedicate their time and effort to assuring our freedom and safety, but also the difficulties experienced by members of their families who are left behind to hold down the home front.
I also have a great appreciation for organizations that provide services to our troops, vets and their families, and that is why this year’s Veteran’s Day was so great. This year, I had the privilege of being part of the SpeakerBox team that helped launch Troop ID.
Many of you may be familiar with TroopSwap, the online e-commerce discount site for service members and veterans. Recently, Blake Hall and Matt Thompson (who happen to be retired Army Rangers) have launched a new technology for authenticating veteran and active duty military identities so that they can receive online discounts from vendors
that already provide those discounts in their brick-and-mortar facilities. Several large brands, including Under Armour (NYSE: UA), are launching merchant partnerships with Troop ID in conjunction with the announcement. Troop ID verification can be found on UA's desktop site first, then will expanding to mobile site in the coming weeks. Startup America has also endorsed Troop ID as a best practice for its regions as a means to gate identity for veteran-centric events.
I can attest that this is a much-appreciated technology, especially now that so much of modern commerce takes place online. And, now, soldiers can actually take advantage of these discounts while deployed overseas, as well. In the official release, Troop ID Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer Blake Hall described the verification widget as the means to ultimately bridge the long-standing civilian/military divide: "Without a way to verify military credentials, brands are unable to deliver discounts to service members and veterans online. Troop ID solves that problem. On the surface, it looks like we are allowing brands to give service members discounts online, but what we are really doing is letting service members and veterans know that Americans care."
So if you’ll pardon a little bit of chest thumping, we were quite enthusiastic to share the success to date for the launch, which officially took place on Tuesday, November 13. Several local DC media along with national retail publications wrote about the news, which can be found here: Washington Post, Washington Business Journal, InTheCapital, Tech Cocktail. Tech Bisnow, Daily Deal, Internet Retailer, PotomacTech Wire and USMC Life.
And, if you know any active-duty military or veterans, be sure to let them know about this new offering so they can take advantage of it this holiday season!