Startup Debut at CES

img-featuredCongratulations to Michael Terpin and the Social Radius team for their successful Startup Debut event to kick off CES in Las Vegas. Several influential technology journalists made their way to the House of Blues Foundation Room atop the Mandalay Bay Casino Tuesday night, where they were given an intimate look at some of the hot new media, entertainment, games and mobile companies making the rounds here this week. The full list of participating companies exhibiting at Startup Debut can be found here, but following are a few higlights from my conversations throughout the evening.

  • WOWee ONE – This compact portable speaker unit uses a standard speaker to deliver mid-high frequencies and a Gel Audio™ driver that turns any flat surface into a subwoofer with impressive low end bass frequencies. At a reasonable $79.99 price point and featuring a rechargable 20-hour battery it’s arguably among the best speakers in its category, but by far the best part of this demo was watching my old pal Spence Bovee enthusiastically pitch the product.
  • yap.TV – Billed by co-founder Shawn Cunningham as the first vertical social network for television fans, yap.TV is a personalized TV show guide app for the iPad with an elegant interface for interacting with friends fans in real-time while watching your favorite shows. My favorite features are integration with Twitter and Facebook, automatic check-in to see what friends are watching and real-time private group chat.
  • NTB Media – The A Game is a video-based pop culture trivia game using music videos, movie trailers to entertain users while delivering brands higher levels of engagement across social media networks, third party sites, in-stream video adverstising and mobile.
  • YouMail – Visual voicemail service YouMail showcased its free Android Visual Voicemail Plus application that allows users to share voicemail not only through e-mail or text messages but also by posting them directly to Facebook and Twitter. 
  • Omek – This softwared development enviornment allows developers to create gesture-recognition experiences with any depth sensor on any hardware platform. Think Kinect for the PC. The bigger news is that legendary game industry executive Jonathan Epstein has been named President and CRO.
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Digital Family Reunion Celebrates SoCal Innovation

dfrIt’s become a holiday tradition I look forward to each year. Co-hosting the Digital Family Reunion reconnects me with friends and colleagues from the dot-com era and opens new doors too. More importantly, when we gather several hundred of Southern California’s most influential digital media, technology and entertainment leaders on Wednesday, we will recognize the connectedness of our community and celebrate those who inspire us with their success.

Part of the ritual is to bestow the Outstanding Achievement Honor on one person whose leadership, technical innovation and business acumen has made a significant impact on Southern California’s digital media community. This year, we will honor William Quigley, managing director at Clearstone Venture Partners. Additionally, Mark Turk and Stephen Hughes of Silicon Valley Bank will each receive the inaugural Industry Catalyst Honor.

William Quigley joined Clearstone Venture Partners more than 10 years ago, helping launch many successful companies, like MP3.com, Tickets.com, and Emusic. His current portfolio reflects his passion and belief in the digital media industry with companies like AOptix, SoonR, Meru Networks and Novariant. Prior to Clearstone Venture Partners, Quigley worked at The Walt Disney Company for more than seven years in a variety of business planning and operational roles. William received his MBA with distinction from Harvard Business School, and holds a BS in Accounting with Honors from the University of Southern California. He is also a CPA and a Kauffman Fellow.

Mark Turk, Managing Director, and Stephen Hughes, Senior Relationship Manager, of Silicon Valley Bank, lead the Los Angeles Corporate Finance Department focused on the banking and growth needs of early and late stage technology companies. Together, Turk and Hughes have completed more than $1 billion in debt financing to more than 250 different Los Angeles-based technology companies in the past five years.

Mark Turk is a managing director at Silicon Valley Bank and he manages the SoCal Corporate Finance team. Prior to joining Silicon Valley Bank in 2000, Turk was chief credit officer at Pacific Century Bank, a $1.3 billion business bank headquartered in Los Angeles and was also a vice president at Wells Fargo Bank and Bank of America. Turk earned a bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and an MBA from UCLA’s Anderson Graduate School of Management. He is currently a board member of the Los Angeles Venture Association.

Stephen Hughes leads Silicon Valley Bank’s (SFV) Early Stage team in Los Angeles. The Early Stage team focuses on the banking needs of technology, life science, and clean-tech companies from start-up through mature companies with revenues of $75 million or more. Prior to joining SVB, Hughes served as Founder and CFO of a venture-backed software company (How2TV) and Head of Royal Bank of Canada’s US Technology Banking Group. He earned both his MBA and an Honors BA in Business Administration from the Ivey Business School in Canada.

The Digital Family Reunion will be held at Wokcano restaurant in Santa Monica from 6-10 p.m. on Wednesday, December 8, 2010. The event is sponsored by: Geico, Namesake.com, Catalonian Trade and Investment Agency, City Sourced, SoCalTECH.com, Social Radius, Digital Media Wire and WITI. Tickets to the event are available at http://www.digitalfamilyinc.com/dfr/2010/.

Digital Family serves to unify the Southern California technology and business communities by convening 30+ regional trade groups which reflect the digital spectrum and interweave them into one memorable night celebrating everyone’s connectedness and honoring those who’ve made major contributions to the industry. Selected by members of the Digital Family community, the Outstanding Achievement and Industry Catalyst Honors recognize those exceptional individuals whose achievements have impacted our local economy, advanced our community and inspired our collective vision for what is possible in the greater technology and business communities.

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ad:tech New York 2010

imagesWith a conference the size and importance of ad:tech, each attendee is likely to give a different answer when asked “so, how was the show?” From my perspective, ad:tech, along with the industry it serves, is alive and well. Now in its second year at Javits Center, ad:tech New York has never been short of attendees, with around 13,000 pre-registered for the show last week (Nov. 2-4). 

Typically the signal-to-noise ratio at ad:tech is so bad it requires you to speak with 1o people to arrive at a single qualified conversation on the show floor. But I’m pleased to report that the efforts of ad:tech chairwoman Sarah Fay and the DMG management team to pull the show back from the brink of being an affiliate vendor-fest appear to be working. During the couple of hours I walked the floor, in addition to at least three prospective CPA/CPL advertisers, I met representatives of Pepsico and Vonage, both of whom seemed open to new opportunities. Exhibitors echoed this sentiment, which was great to hear since even with a booth, introductions to big brands are unlikely unless prearranged.

While my primary focus was to evangelize ValueClick Media’s recent advancements in data, audience targeting and optimization technology among press, clients and digital opinion leaders, I did a fair amount of listening too, and came away with a few themes worth sharing:

  • The ad:tech conference is healthy and so is online advertising. No recession here, thank-you-very-much and knock on wood.
  • Social commerce is hot, with some mentioning the Gap ‘deal’ by name.
  • Questions abound regarding how, when and where social, mobile, local and search intersect with meaningful traction.
  • Lots of buzz surrounding the Rubicon/FAN and Specific/BBE deals, rumors of AOL buying Dotomi and other video consolidation anticipated.
  • A prevailing attitude of “enough already” when it comes to the over-labeling, shiny-button syndrome that seems to plague our industry. People are ready for consolidation and until then want to simplify the silos in ways that can make it easier for brands to buy from digital media providers.

If you are in agreement with the last point, you should love the video investment banker and savvy online self-promoter Terence Kawaja posted during the conference. Enjoy!

For more information from the conference, the ad:tech blog is always a good read.

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Study highlights efficacy of display advertising

comscore logoThis week comScore and ValueClick Media released a white paper I co-authored titled “When Money Moves to Digital, Where Should It Go? Identifying the right media-placement strategies for digital display.”  The study was based on over 100 campaigns run on the ValueClick Media network and used comScore’s Action Lift reporting methodology to evaluate the impact of various display placement and pricing strategies on site visitation and search behavior .

                       Read the press release.                        Download the paper.

While cross-media and search vs. display has been studied previously, to our knowledge this is the first quantitative analysis of the view-through effectiveness of various display placement strategies (Audience Targeting, Contextual Targeting, Retargeting) and pricing options (Premium/CPM, Efficiency/CPC). And while the study is by no means exhaustive, and may even raise more questions than it answers, it validates the efficacy of display advertising and provides direction on which placement strategies to deploy to drive advertiser performance, whether measured by brand or direct response metrics.

Here are a few of the key findings:

  • Retargeting works extremely well and should be considered for both direct response and branding initiatives
  • Some placements create new traffic while others find audiences that are already engaged with the subject
  • Marketers in different industries take advantage of the strategies differently
  • All multi-strategy marketers increased site visitation above the norm
  • Advertisers who used three or more placement strategies tended to have one metric in which they disproportionately beat the norm

While the study was exclusively on placements across the ValueClick Media network, it was not sponsored research, but rather done in partnership with comScore. Regardless, the campaigns were all sold and delivered on a single network, so a different network or analysis across an entire campaign may have shown different results.

That said, the data tells an interesting story about ValueClick Media. Most surprising to me was the lift, however small, driven by the RON baseline, something we attribute to the impact data and optimization is increasingly having on the ability to predict the performance of every impression — a huge validation of our technology. Contextual pricing probably skewed high due to inclusion of campaigns run on our more exclusive vertical networks. And the data suggests we just may be undervaluing our audience targeting and retargeting inventory.

Laurie Sullivan did a great job of recapping the results of the paper in her MediaPost article published today. I will be presenting the research with Anne Hunter on Tuesday at the IAB MIXX conference in NY. Our workshop is up against sponsored content from Google/AdMob, Yahoo! and AOL, so I’m eager to see what audience we attract. Whoever comes, I’m looking forward to seeing everyone during Advertising Week in NY!

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Bocce Gets Hip in West LA

bocceblitz1Who knew Beach Bocce was so cool? Apparently it’s the new thing to do in Los Angeles these days, and will catch a big wave on October 2 as Bocce Blitzkrieg comes to the Santa Monica Pier for a great cause. I’ve been volunteering with communication efforts for the Room to Read chapter in LA. If you’re interested, this will be a fun way to learn more about RTR and meet a diverse group of individuals who support its global mission to support literacy and equality in education in the developing world. I’ve posted the press release below for LA chapter members (or anyone else) to help spread the word.  

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Media Contact: Allison Wilson 213-925-9633

Event Contact: Dominic Bernacchi, 310-664-4530

BOCCE BLITZKRIEG STORMS SANTA MONICA PIER WITH LOS ANGELES’ FIRST BEACH BOCCE BALL TOURNAMENT TO BENEFIT ROOM TO READ

Registration is now open, with all ages and skill levels invited to experience bocce while making a direct impact on literacy in the developing world.

Santa Monica, Calif. (September 16, 2010) – Los Angeles’ first-ever Beach Bocce Ball Tournament will hit the sand on Saturday, October 2, with all proceeds to benefit Room to Read and its fight for global literacy and gender equality in education.

 when Los Angeles’ first-ever Beach Bocce Ball Tournament comes to the Santa Monica Pier on Saturday, October 2. All proceeds will benefit Room to Read and its fight for global literacy and gender equality in education.  The all-day event is open to the public and will begin at 9 a.m. in the sand near the northern corner of Santa Monica Pier parking lot. Registration is now open, with entry categories for men, women and couples teams. Registration is $70 for teams of two.  The tournament will feature early round robin play funneling into brackets that will result in one team reigning as Beach Bocce Champions in each division. Trophies and prizes will be awarded to each and every bocce master.

Beach Bocce has been gaining in popularity in recent years, and can be enjoyed by competitors of all ages and all walks of life. The game is an adapted form of the traditional Italian ball game, played on the sand.

There will be just as much action off the sand, with games of skill open to everyone including Blindfolded Bocce, The Awesomely Accurate and the infamous Ball Handling competition. The Beach Bocce Blitzkrieg will also include special appearances by KCRW DJ Dan Wilcox and The Bocce King, “Giuseppe Napoli” as well as some of LA’s finest food trucks and an oasis from the heat of the competition provided in the Bud Light Beer Garden.

To register or make a donation to Room to Read in the name of Bocce Blitzkrieg, please visit http://www.bocceblitzkrieg.com.

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About Room to Read

Room to Read is an innovative nonprofit leader dedicated to promoting and enabling global education. Founded in 2000, the organization is based on the belief that education is crucial to breaking the cycle of poverty in the developing world. Since then, the organization has supported over three million children by providing better access to higher-quality educational opportunities. Room to Read has catalyzed the construction of more than 700 schools, established 7,000 bilingual libraries with 5 million books, and continues to support the education of nearly 7,000 girls. Room to Read is providing opportunities that change children’s lives and communities throughout Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Laos, Nepal, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Zambia. By 2010, Room to Read hopes to improve literacy for 5 million children by establishing over 10,000 libraries and distributing close to 9 million children’s books. For more information visit our website at www.roomtoread.org.

About Room to Read Los Angeles Chapter

Room to Read chapters are comprised of dedicated individuals who have made a long-term volunteer commitment to promoting Room to Read within their networks and communities. Since 2006, the chapters have collectively helped source over one third of Room to Read’s operating budget and they have an equally ambitious goal for 2009. Currently Room to Read has 39 chapters in the U.S., Asia, Europe and Australia. Room to Read’s Los Angeles Chapter was launched in 2008 and to date has raised more than $250,000 toward Room to Read’s goal of reaching 5 million children by 2010.

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