Marketing at SXSW: Go Big Or… Don’t?

This was my second year attending Austin’s SXSW Interactive and I’m surprised to say that I was quite blown away with the growth in attendees and content, even from just one-year prior. There was something for everyone: Nike+ court to get your slam-dunk on? Done. Free BBQ Tacos with wet wipes and antacid accompaniments? Easy. A chance to smash guitars with The Office’s Rainn Wilson? Of course!

The “I’m impressed!” neurotransmitters are stimulated to exhaustion and you still keep coming back for more- wanting bigger, better, shinier, free-er things (meanwhile causing increased use of neolexia). No doubt these big flashy exhibits and parties may momentarily grab your attention, but, to be honest, it was the low-budget marketing, random acts of kindness, and the truly personal touches that left the lasting mark for me. Here are a few of the companies that left a positive impression on me without having to throw down lavishly.

  • AT&T: You’re short one important email, or Foursquare badge to be earned, when you notice a blinking red battery…<gasp> and it’s only noon! We’ve all been in this terrifying 21st century situation. Thanks to AT&T this year, you didn’t have to be – the company offered free cell phone charging stations in guarded lockers. Now that’s some bang for your (marketing dollar) buck!
  • Uber: While they already have a rapidly growing and loyal fan club, it wasn’t Uber’s clever SXSW on demand BBQ that got my attention, it was the team’s generosity. As the happening house party came to an end, our TriplePoint group had a realization – we are far away from anything, it’s raining cats and dogs, and the place is overflowing with people (aka cab-hunting competition). Just as we were about to lose hope, our newly befriended crew from Uber swooped in like a team of Robin Hoods, giving us a ride back to civilization… and winning my business.
  • ToutApp: Tout pulled the best marketing move of all: a product that is actually useful. While SXSW was the beta-testing ground for all manner of apps focused on sales and networking, Tout’s iPhone app shone because it’s as powerful and ubiquitous as email itself. The company recently did a blog post on how Tout can replace business cards (go green!), but it doesn’t have to. Even with traditional business cards, using Tout can dramatically speed up sending and following up on emails. The service is much more than an iPhone app – even if you don’t have an iOS device, Tout offers tight integration with Gmail, SalesForce, and other email clients and CRMs.
  • Netbase: Ice cream cart and t-shirts proclaiming, “We know what women want” (which apparently is ice cream)… in order to promote their product and panel session the following day. Now they have grabbed the attention of both men and women. For a Ben & Jerry’s sampling, of course I’ll tell you what I want. Good move, Netbase.
  • (Honorable mention, but disqualified due to large Google budget) Schemer: (Which I didn’t realize WAS Google until after-the-fact…very clever), had me remembering their name by giving me a mustache. Computer program connected to a small Polaroid printer and voila! – Shockingly realistic image of me with a ‘stache (probably not unlike what my dad looked like in the 70s). Potentially regretfully attaching below.

All in all, no matter the size of your budget you don’t need to feel overshadowed by the Fortune 100 throwing down the (thousands of) Benjamins… Hire well and be creative and you’ll still come out on top.



WIRED: A Look Into the Future


 Conferences are like a box of chocolates… You never know what you’re going to get. Beyond the famed Forrest Gump reference, you get what I’m talking about- opening that box full of ambiguously filled, homogenous mirage of brown. In an effort to stay classy, you slyly poke a hole in the bottom to decide if it’s enticing enough to eat. Swiftly moving to our point, TriplePoint jetted over for WIRED’s inaugural conference in London last week. We attended to learn about the newest ideas and innovations from the leaders reshaping our world in various ways; we were able to see what the future has in store for us. This particular “box” had speakers and attendees from all over the world representing just about every spectrum: writers, visionaries, DJ’s, economists, engineers, artists, and ex-terrorists. Like a box of chocolate with the commonality of deliciousness, what could all these individuals have in common? Passion for innovation.

Each speaker at the two-day conference chose his or her topic, making the presentations exceptionally delightful and inspiring. We were blown away and humbled by the people we met at the conference- speakers and attendees were nothing but of the highest caliber. Here are five takeaways from the trip on what inspired us:


-Aza Raskin (Massive Health)-


Healthcare is not perfect, anywhere. By 2020 around 52 percent of Americans will be diabetic or pre-diabetic. This is horrifying, and what inspired Massive Health’s Aza Raskin, former creative lead at Mozilla. He described our healthcare system as clinically insane and that “we are always trying to solve the wrong problem.” So, what is the correct problem?  Feedback loops: which Aza introduced by showing the popular, yet somewhat comical Marshmallow Experiment. We need to bring back the feedback loop for the body to remind people not to overeat, or to correctly take their medication. To address this global issue, Massive Health wants to make a product for people’s health that they love to use. Their first experiment aims to incorporate all of the digital tools available to us, to ensure we lead healthier and happier lives, which you can sign up here for early access.

Lisa Harouni, of Digital Forming, has the goal to design and create products at the click of a button. Beyond creation of aesthetics and accessories, these 3D printers have the capability to revolutionize medicine. Prosthetics and implants are devices that can be built with 3D printers that couldn’t be manufactured in a traditional way (with semi-porous structures that the body can grow into which reduces the risk of rejection by the body). Dr. Anthony Atala, has begun to 3D-print organs themselves- building bladders, bowels, and kidneys using human cells. It’s then only a short step to customized organs.

Carie Lemack (Global Survivors Networks) & Henry Robinson (Former IRA member, Co-Founder of Family Against Intimidation and Terror) -Carrie Lemack (Global Survivors Networks) & Henry Robinson (Former member of IRA, Co-Founder of Families Against Intimidation & Terror)-

Community & Connections

Inspiration and innovation can be found in all nooks and crannies, including less technological subjects such as family reunions or terrorism. On a panel titled, “The Formers- Changing Minds,” Carrie Lemack, founder of Global Survivors Networks, and Henry Robinson, former member of the IRA and co-founder of Families Against Intimidation and Terror discuss how survivors of terrorism need to use innovation to take on extremists. “Extremists have innovated. They have used liquid explosives, shoes and one individual tried to put explosives in his underpants,” states Lemack, “So, how can we use innovation to fight fire with fire?” The conclusion was an Oscar-nominated documentary titled, Killing in the Name that brings a compelling and emotional message they hope to share with the world. In this powerful narrative, over 70 former terrorists and a few survivors are interviewed. You can watch the trailer here.

We always hear stories about the ultra-connected world we live in. Unfortunately, that’s not true. Chris and David Mikkelsen, founded Refugees United in an effort to help connect families throughout the world, and empower people to act on their own behalf.  The charity is a mobile phone-based service, looking to become the Google search of refugees. The Danish brothers decided to found the company after the pair helped a young Afghan refugee in his journey to find his family.

“It’s about connecting islands of goodwill until we have an entire continent,” says Mikkelsen. In order to maintain anonymity (for safety reasons), the company allows people to register online with nicknames, descriptions of scars, locations or other markers only known and identifiable to closest family members and friends. In 2009, they started with a mere 700 registrations. Today, there are 55,000 people registered on the platform who are looking for missing relatives, and very recently, the Ikea Foundation has agreed to donate $3.8 million to the project.

Collaborative Consumption

 The event was kicked off with a talk by Rachel Botsman, author of What’s Mine is Yours: How Collaborative Consumption is Changing the Way We Live. Not surprisingly, her talk focused on collaborative consumption, which, according to Botsman, is a social revolution where “we are relearning how to create value out of shared and open resources in ways that balance personal self-interest with the good of the larger community.” She sites companies like Airbnb, WhipCar, eBay, and TaskRabbit (her personal favorite) for changing the way people interact with and view products. This new peer-to-peer model drastically changes the way people look at goods and ownership. In a time of economic uncertainty, these organizations are creating flexible and unique ways for people to fully utilize their property or skills to turn a profit. Botsman explains that as we move into this new system, our reputation becomes more important. At the core of this system is trust.

Personally, it is the trust aspect of collaborative consumption that has prevented me from taking advantage of these services. The idea of having a stranger staying alone in my apartment is ridiculously unsettling; as is the idea of paying a random person to clean my apartment. However, in many ways there is very little difference between hiring a maid from a cleaning company I found online and hiring a “freelancer” to clean via TaskRabbit.

She did provide one shocking statistic- Zopa, a peer-to-peer money-lending site, has a default rate less than one percent. Compare that to your average bank.

-Andrew Keen, Author- 

Social Media

The post lunch talk on day two revolved around social media- a perfectly interesting topic to hold when the audience is full of food and sitting in an overheated room. Joanna Shields, the Vice President of Facebook Europe, Middle East, and Africa, spoke on her love of social media, and the continued presence it will have in our lives. A timely subject in London, she discussed the use of social media in times of civil unrest, vowing that a government will never shut down Facebook as a method to halt mass communication. It was interesting to look around the room and witness how many people were checking their Facebook or updating their Twitter while on the topic of social media. And while most people, especially those in this particular room are happy to embrace and participate in social networking, others are fearful of adopting it.

An interesting twist in the normal lineup of speakers, Andrew Keen came on the stage to finish up the discussion. A vocal critic of social media, he focused on the narcissism that Facebook, Twitter, and the like encourage. He argues against the willingness to freely provide personal information that corporations are profiting from. An extremely blunt and honest speaker, Keen was a crowd pleaser who offered an interesting and needed perspective on technological movement that has been so massively and thoughtlessly adopted.

-Lakshmi Pratury moderates “Indian Innovators” forum

Educational Apps

TriplePoint is no stranger to iOS. So, when Shilo Shiv Suleman, a young illustrator, took the stage to discuss the app she was working on, she touched on familiar ground. Children, books, and apps are a hotly discussed subject with strong opinions on both sides. While some rave about an apps ability to bring a story alive, others argue that it takes away the imaginative nature of books. “Interactive” comes into question as people debate the positive and negative aspects of childhood tablet use. Suleman’s project, a book app (that she has both written and illustrated) bridges the perfect gap between book and game. In her story Khoya, available before the end of the year, readers become a character in the book. After reading a chapter, they are asked to complete various tasks in order to advance the story and help the characters. Her book incorporates technology and nature by having young readers explore the outdoors and take photos of animal and plant life to progress. A future hit, Khoya is an amazing model for developers, providing a creative way to integrate reading and game play.

-David Rowan, WIRED editor


-Post-talks, guests had a chance to explore and play with toys, gadgets and fascinating new technology in the Test-Lab and were later entertained into the evening with LIVEWIRED with 02 featuring a range of live performances-

-Ben Hammersley, Editor-At-Large, WIRED Magazine gives an entertaining close to the conference-

TriplePoint’s Amanda Iseri & Samantha Qualls

Don’t Work…Rework!

A book full of “Don’ts” and “No’s” sounds a little exhausting and damp, yet Rework is inspiring — a breath of fresh air. Fortuitously, this book reminded me of

my year living abroad in Indonesia. I struggled to grasp the culture there when some things just seemed opposite to what I’d been told and done my entire life. Touching someone’s head: offensive to an Indonesian, yet a sign of affection at home. Shaking someone’s hand with your left: abhorrent in Indonesia, indifferent back home, and so on.

This same pattern is found inside Rework as authors Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson try to unteach all of our bad habits and misbeliefs.

A sampling of the book’s “radical” statements:

1. Ignore the real world — it’s not a place, it’s a justification
2. Think and review reasons you have to quit… frequently
3. Meetings are toxic — the worst form of an interruption
4. “Good enough” is fine, because flexing your intellectual muscles can be exhausting
5. Underdo your competition — instead of one-upping your competitor, try one-downing
6. When hiring: pass on great people, skip the rockstars, and remember resumes are ridiculous

I know what you’re thinking, and the answer is “no,” happy hour has not commenced. These are actual pieces of advice taken from the New York Times Bestseller.

The conclusion? There’s not a hard set of rules, or a magical recipe for a successful business, otherwise we’d all have our own Microsoft, Google, or Starbucks franchise under our belt. Rework isn’t the key to the billionaire’s door, but it rejuvenates the mind like a tropical vacation does for the soul, returning one fresh, clearheaded and ready to take on the world… or at least ready to start thinking about what you can rework in your life (given that there are no “rules”).

What would you rework?

Shoot me your thoughts; let’s get this virtual “book club” rolling.

8 Takeaways From PR Summit Conference 2011

On Wednesday, TP teamsters Amanda, Sonya, and Ashley joined other media influencers and PR professionals at the 2nd annual PR Summit Conference held at The St. Regis in downtown San Francisco. From early morning to late evening, the conference was buzzing with eager professionals who attended workshops, listened to keynotes, and squeezed in some networking. Major topics discussed were around how PR has changed over the years (“Is the press release dead?”), and how to best reach journalists with compelling and targeted pitches.

Panelists included Ben Parr, editor-at-large at Mashable, and Kara Swisher of All Things Digital. Shani Higgins (CEO of Technorati), PR Guru Eric Schwartzman and Joshua Weinbert (Digital Life Consulting Group) attended as keynote speakers. The conference was packed with Yoda-worthy insight and PR tips. Disappointed you missed it? Don’t be!  We’ve summarized our top 8 takeaways for you here:

  1. The role of PR is to first build credibility for the founder and find distinctive qualities before reaching out to the right people. The product launch is just the beginning, so build out the larger narrative and “values” story for the company early on.
  2. Don’t “Spray and Pray” or “Smile and Dial” when reaching out to press. Do your research, and only reach out to relevant reporters that would be interested in your news or topic.
  3. Yes, the press release is dead. Its main purpose these days is for searchable content about your client. Instead, create authentic and original content to share such as infographics, blogs, and social media.
  4. Integrate social media into the workflow to improve SEO. Record speeches and turn them into podcasts. Make your PowerPoint available to the public through SlideShare. Turn a text transcript into a blog post. Upload your event videos on YouTube or as webcasts.
  5. Social marketing should create conversation online that will increase your client’s SEO for the future. Don’t just post and hope, put your client into dialogue with other companies and consumers to expand their reach. The objective of social media and announcements is not distribution – it should be about building a digital breadcrumb trail; become an expert conversationalist.
  6. When reaching out to journalists, it’s all about the subject line.  Avoid jargon, overused buzzwords, all caps, or the oh-so appalling “Press Release.” Try to approach your subject line as a lead to a story–boil it down to the: who, what, where, when, and why.
  7. Bloggers are gaining in influence.  Be sure to treat them as a legitimate source rather than second tier media. To cultivate relationships with bloggers, help pitch their articles to major outlets that will increase their reach and your client’s exposure.
  8. Look across a company’s departments and customers’ social media responses to find story ideas. Use these different angles to create various pitches that appeal to multiple news outlets.