Category Archives: Web/Tech

PIE unveils six new startups @ Fall Demo Day 2012

Begun four years ago as a collaboration between Wieden+Kennedy, entrepreneurs, technologists and brands, PIE is a constantly evolving tech-fueled experiment in business and creative innovation. After an intense three-month program, six members of PIE’s current class (codename: #blueberry) took the Gerding theater stage to show their stuff on October 5th, 2012.

If you couldn’t join Friday’s #demoday in person, you can get a taste of the event through worldc.am photos, the livestream recording, or the individual presentations onYouTube.

Here was the run of show:

Little Bird – brainchild of @marshallk@mikalina@tylergillies (aided and abetted by @DGaff, @xolotl@brennannovack@peat) – identifies influencers by the quality (not quantity) of their connections. Just before coming on stage, AdWeekTechcrunchThe Next WebAll Things DVenturebeatBetakitDigital TrendsGigaOmWired, and the WSJ noted that Little Bird closed a $1MM round – led by Mark Cuban. Watch Marshall’s #piedemo presentation here.

Next up was a company that put the “experiment” into Portland Incubator Experiment: Code Scouts, PIE’s first non-profit startup. Founder/Exec. Director Michelle Rowley created Code Scouts to tackle both the worsening developer shortage  AND the chronic lack of women coders with a flexible training regimen + internship opportunities meant to “change the face of technology”. She used the #piedemo stage to describe the pilot program’s success and how she intends to refine and scale the offering nationwide. (see her presentation here.)

KS12 was another experiment for PIE: our first content-based, “social video” startup. KS12 co-founders Patrizia Kommerell and Gabriel Shalom want to build the future of events – starting with how they are documented – through a collaborative, on- and offline content-generation process they call a “videosprint“.  Onstage at #piedemo, they unveiled #earlystage, their current piece tracking fellow blueberries through PIE and the broader startup ecosystem. The finished ‘sprint’ is to be unveiled November 16th (follow their sprint liveblog here, and see their #piedemo pitch here.)

Appthwack co-founders Trent Peterson and Pawel Wojnarowicz are ex-Intel guys who saw the tidal wave of mobile app development blow all to hell on the cliffs of Android ecosystem fragmentation and built a testing solution for Android apps so good that Mozilla has made it a mandatory QA step for all Firefox-for-Android releases. Appthwack used the #piedemo stage to unveil their plans to expand their offering to serve mobile web (done, check) and iOS testing (in the next two months).

Lytics.io “makes big data useful”: CEO James McDermott and CTO Aaron Raddon saw lots of reports coming out of current analytics platforms, but didn’t see that data making software smarter. Anyone selling anything is now competing with Amazon and its big data – Lytics offers businesses a chance to level the playing field in terms of personalization and automated business decision-making. Aaron tells how Lytics can be YOUR “Moneyball” here.

Stublisher CEO Kyle Banuelos believes collective experiences like concerts and sporting events are our  shared social roots, and the Stublisher team wants to reinvent how we experience events before, during and after, using geo-fencing and social streams to tell new kinds of stories. “What Wikipedia did for knowledge, we’re doing for experiences.” Kyle tells the Stublisher story here.

Oh: and this time, we HAD A BAND!

Sans Yoko, Sneakin’ Out, the #piedemo house band KILLED: click, hear

Art hits Tech Hard in Rhizome’s “Seven on Seven” LHC: The Loooong Part One

The line between “artist”and “technologist” is blurring as code fluency becomes increasingly critical to the creation of meaningful cultural objects.

Three years ago, Lauren Cornell and the Rhizome/New Museum team launched “Seven on Seven“, a 24-hour “sprint-posium” pairing artists/technologist teams to create privately and explain publicly…something. A work, an idea, a prototype. Something resulting from the collision of their very different world views. Like a cultural LHC, “Seven on Seven’s” real premise is: can seven successive impacts of sufficient force throw off new cultural particles?

W+K got involved because the “Seven on Seven” platform confronts issues we tackle daily: What is an idea, now? How fast can you get to a compelling idea? How do artists and technologists productively collaborate? How do we build timeless stories in timely ways?

The teams had 24 hours to create two equally critical things: a collaboration, and the story of that collaboration. The story without the thing was fantasy, the thing without the story was unengaging.

A brief synopsis of the teams and the results:

Team #1 was Taryn Simon and Aaron Swartz, who used “the hidden spaces between cultures” as a visual root for their project: a tool that translates a query into a local language image search in fifteen countries – a “simple” act that exposes cultural differences visually (e.g., here’s “party“). Aaron described their process of considering “how supposedly neutral and statistical tools that claim to present an unmediated world carry with them biases that program us.”  The internet, they argued, has created an illusion of cultural flattening that this tool exposes.  (other examples: Liar, crazy and freedom).  Simple Formula, complex results.  So hot Clay Shirky (@chsirky) was tweeting it during their presentation. Watch their presentation here.

Charles Forman and Jon Rafman were Team #2.  They were interested in using images to explore memory and its plasticity. Charles described how looking at old photos created  “chronologically impossible” memories.  Jon has found unintended stories in images. Both sparked to the way old photos confront us with our “mistaken notion that we’ve always been whomever we’ve become,” and their collaboration generated the “Memory Box“. As described, by Jon, it’s as an “ivory box with golden circuitry” that records a reaction to any of your personal images, then serves that image and reaction back up seven years later for re-consideration. Not an archive of memories, the Box is an archive of what we’d forgotten, intentionally or not. Your chance to confront your neuro-plasticity. Without their invention, said Charles, “Ten years from now, I’ll remember that I was the funniest guy here at that you all loved me. And right now, there’s nothing to prevent me from doing that.” 20:47 video here.

Team#3 delivered the event’s “homeless hotspot ZOMG” moment.  Jeremy Asheknas, who enjoyed lifting “the constraint of the newsroom requirement of sticking to just the facts”, was working with Stephanie Syjuco, an artist who amongst other things, leads counterfeiting workshops. “I’m supposed to be transgressive,” she said,  “and he has a code of ethics.” Together they created an alternate “crowd-sourced” Seven-on-Seven they called “Seven on Seven, Again“.  They described their recruiting process and the resulting seven ideas – from “Hushamaphones” to a “Market of Intangibles”, but the mood shifted perceptibly in the room when the two revealed the entire project to be a fiction.  As required, they’d built a product (a website of the event) and a story – but in this case, the product was an artifact of a story that was a fiction. They raised all kinds of questions about authenticity you can watch here.

Team #4’s Aram Bartholl and Khoi Vinh were one of two team in Wieden’s NY office. While outside their office people leapt a swimming pool filled with rancid coffee and stale donuts, the two considered the ubiquity of the internet: Aram noted “it’s in pockets and cafes, but always in rectangles.” Khoi noted screens had gone from social experiences to personal ones, and wondered if you could reverse that trend. Aram didn’t buy technology deliverance – “I don’t believe in the AR thing – floating in a pool, connected to a brain…”, “or floating in a pool of coffee and donuts…” added Khoi.

They built a circular case for an iPad, then filmed Aram wearing it around NYC to see what reaction it caused. And while a circular screen “may not be culturally viable”, it was an important part of breaking cultural expectations for screens.

To see how it would change interactions. To see if people would engage with it differently. What would it mean if people could touch your content? Unsurprisingly, it took some convincing for women to engage with the gestural interface on Aram’s chest. Their video is priceless.

Team #5 was Blaine Cook and Naeem Mohaiemer, representing activism and left politics.  In wrestling with the creative process and where ideas come from, they considered the way the brain processes images and ideas, and thought about “slow” and “tactile” time. They explored five concepts:

“Don’t let me be lonely”: Naeem quoted Blaine with “poetry looks like ass on a blog.” And I can’t remember how this explained the concept, but it was so good, it’s here.

“Killing Time”: Now that people “Google” mid-conversation, everyone is an instant expert.  Or as Blaine put it, “I feel my memory doesn’t work anymore, and it doesn’t matter.”

Constellation Theory: Not a single note here. I google-ed it (see “killing time”, above) and got this blurb: “the self is organized into a stable concept, our defenses protect the self-concept and how to be aware of our defensive nature” from this book.

For the specificity of the local: you can’t flatten everything.  Local matters, illustrated by way of the German word, Doch, a hard-to-translate word roughly meaning “I affirm your negative structure.”  Also, (and I’m not sure why) they described Tacqawores, a work of fiction that described a micro-community (“Punk Muslims”) that was inspired to form because of the book.

Back to a room of my own: Naeem asked “how do we get our minds back when they are so linked into rectangles?” Blaine “we are against pecha kucha and TED. we are for the slow jam. we need our room back.”

The result: roomofmyown.org – a deliberately reflective collage-wall of ideas you can share with a limited number of people. While today’s “social” tools pressure us to expand our networks, this one forces choices to be made – and attention to be paid.  The prototype, said Naeem, is a means to an ends: How do we slow down? Watch their video here.

Team #6, Anthony Volodkin and Xavier Cha built an idea around the notion “you are what you eat” – and felt a fair proxy interactively was the twitter stream you consume. What if you could see the tweets someone else consumes, rather than projects? Would you get better insights into who they than reading their carefully curated tweets?  Boom: Peep, the tool that lets you step into someone else’s twitter feed. Xavier: “Foursquare isn’t a record of where you’ve been, it’s a record of missed opportunities – at any given moment, a friend is having a better time than you.” Peep looks for you in your incoming stream – in other words, the you you’ve chosen, not the you you create. You can watch them here.

Team #7, Latoya Ruby-Frazier and Michael Herf (also based in the W+K building) shared a concern about how technology is used – and how it affects us. Both interested in how you talk about culture and images – and how you raise visual literacy around the meanings embedded and encoded in images. Their project, Decode: A Encyclopedia of visual culture, is a collaborative platform on which users (identified by age, gender and race) can offer their cultural insights and perspectives on images in popular culture and communications. The tool would look for modifications, and layered cultural meanings. So that the font you use isn’t the one used by…say…Nazis. Video of the presentation is here.

If you’ve made it this far, wow. Buckle up – travelogue is over. Next stop: key takeaways

in

post….2.

(and here’s the liveblog stream of the event from Rhizome. Nifty.)

Portland Incubator Experiment, Reloaded: PIE 2.0

You may have seen some news about PIE today, or came across it on Twitter.  The application form went live yesterday.  What is PIE?  Well, let’s start with “delicious”:

“PIE is technology accelerator/incubator seeking 8-10 brand-collaborative startups who’ve identified an emergent opportunity in brand-aligned and business-aligned hardware, software, services or experiences – and we’re particularly interested in mobility.  Applicants need an existing prototype or proof of concept, and a scalable, viable idea deployable in 3-9 months.  Most importantly, they need a collaborative spirit and want to work with some of the world’s greatest brands – including Coca-Cola, Target and Nike!”

I believe you don’t really talk about something until you’ve got something real to talk about.  Crazy, I know, given the business I’m in, but hopefully fair when you consider that Dan Wieden (the guy who let us set up PIE in his building) speaks pretty convincingly about brand voice and brand truths.   We wanted to make sure we had a few before we ran off at the mouth.

 

"Know your voice or STFU"

This is why my first blog post about the PIE experience comes a full year after it began, when a motley band of W+K’ers, technologists, entrepreneurs and ne’er-do-wells set up camp in the old PICA/Icebreaker space at the corner of NW 12th and Davis in Portland, Oregon.

PIE was initially conceived as a social and entrepreneurial experiment by four folks – myself, Silicon Florist blogger Rick Turoczy, serial entrepreneur/mobile force of nature Scott Kveton, and the man who has turned the notion of ‘side projects’ into an art form, Jason Glaspey.  But it wouldn’t have been what it became if the idea hadn’t caught the imagination of a wider group of interesting people – what we called PIE’s “crust” and “filling”.   [insert your own bad joke here – lord knows we have]

Mobile PDX meetup at PIE

All of us (from the fruity middle to the flaky edges…I know, I know) wondered: what would happen if you put a bunch of entrepreneurial technology optimists into an open space? Would you get a brilliant hive mind?  SkyNet?  Given the ready availability of solid off-the-shelf and web-based software packages, how quickly could you build entire businesses (Bac’n took 21 days) ? What happens when you bring iterative speed development by folks who don’t eat if their idea fails, inside Wieden’s walls?  Would the proximities and adjacencies in PIE make ideas better than they might have been otherwise?  would unexpected things happen?   would it be fun?

Short answer?  Yes.  And the keg helped.

Taking the name “Portland Incubator Experiment”, or “PIE”, we set out with some pretty vague but audacious goals – build a techno-cultural social hub for Portland, launch new businesses fast, build platforms/cultural disruptions not one-offs.  We didn’t know what to expect, but we did know that there was a lot that PDX tech culture and W+K culture could learn from each other.

In our first year, PIE was home to 20 startups, and amongst other things, generated 3 venture-backed companies, hosted a wide range of interesting events and kicked out a book on fast innovation, fast-ly.

So with that under our belts, and some innovation where our mouth is, we are taking off our stealth paint.

PIE 2.0: fresher and more delicious.

Dan Wieden judges the entries in Wieden + Kennedy's tenth annual PIE contest
Dan knows PIE

This time around, Wieden+Kennedy and a hardy band of technology innovators and entrepreneurs are joined by tech-forward brand partners Coca-Cola, Target, and Nike.  We’ll work together to explore and redefine brand experiences.  PIE will continue to serve as an active hub for the PDX tech community, entrepreneurship, and creative thinking, but now we’ll collaborate to help brands find unexpected solutions, accelerate mobile efforts, share brand wisdom and insights with young startups and expose brand organization to the wacky world of real-time, startup-flavored innovation.  Each brand has volunteered amazing mentors for the program; they and the extended PIE mentor network of tech entrepreneurs, geo-location wizards, mobile gaming experts, open source advocates and techno-cultural disruptors will look to make communications objects/products more compelling and our lives a little more interesting.

The application for PIE is here. Got a business idea, a dream and a prototype?  Want to work with some of the world’s most amazing brands and the insight and scale they can provide?  Applications close August 1st.  September 1st, the new class takes their seats.

We are pretty excited.

Seven on Seven

W+K is collaborating with Rhizome.org and the New Museum on the upcoming Seven on Seven event –

“Seven on Seven will pair seven leading artists with seven
game-changing technologists in teams of two, and challenge them to
develop something new –be it an application, social media, artwork,
product, or whatever they imagine– over the course of a single day. The
seven teams will unveil their ideas at a one-day event at the New
Museum on April 17th.”

Who’s in?

On the “technology” team

And on the “artists” side of the floor:

Why is W+K there?  Because the future of storytelling, narrative and human experience lie at the crossroads of art and technology.

Seven teams of two will offer you a glimpse of the future.  And they’ll make it real in twenty-four hours.

And then they serve cocktails.

Sweeeet.

What’s more fun than answers? QUESTIONS!

I was asked to identify the typical questions an interactive strategist seeks to address when grappling with how to solve a particular client's business problem.  These were the ones that came immediately to mind:

(1) What is the consumer journey through the idea and how does that experience evolve over time?

(2) Vis-a-vis social media, how is my brand ALREADY ENGAGED in this space (twitter feeds,
websites, CRM efforts, social media outreach)?  What permissions do we have, and how can we leverage existing social capital?

(3) What are the CURRENT conversations around my brand/objectives (e.g., on user-powered customer service sites, via google/baidu results, on social nets, etc.) my campaign will be wading into?  Are their clear issues that need to be tackled/addressed, or opportunities to meaningfully participate?

(4) What are the conversations I want to have (or hope to inspire) and where will they be most effective? 

(5) Traditional planning sets a goal of defining a brand's 'voice', but generally it's applied
to mass communications.  Interactive planning asks "what is the
brand's voice when it speaks one-on-one?"

(6) How do we dynamically engage in conversations with consumers (e.g., will the brand
reply directly to queries and posts?  Will an agency partner? What is
the approval time for replies? etc.),

(7) What is the technographic profile of my target (what devices do they use, how do they use them, how do those devices/experiences mesh/complement with real world activity, etc.)?

(8) What does success look like (e.g., traffic, leads, buzz, conversation density, buzz, etc.) and how will it be measured?  Has the client bought the RIGHT success metrics?

(9) What is the "value" the brand provides the end user in return for
their attention/engagement (e.g., social/economic/entertainment)?

(10) How are we facilitating peoples' ability to SHARE their brand experiences with friends?

(11) How am I "findable" (e.g., what links to me? How are we playing SEO to optimize visibility? What will people looking for us type into Google? etc.),

(12) How is the idea participatory?

— not an exhaustive list, but does this adequately cover the big points?  Please let me know your thoughts…

“Karp Rocks”, or “The Innovator’s Dilemma”, or “My Shiny New Mantra”

Thank you, Publishing 2.0Scott Karp's "Google AdWords: A Brief History of Online Advertising Innovation" is a post well worth the read for a look back to when Google's global supremacy was not a foregone conclusion.  In it, Karp lays out the historical context and decisions that set Skynet on their current trajectory.

At the article's conclusion, Karp says this:

"The challenge of innovation is that we are all boxed in by what we know, by our assumptions about how things work…The next Google-like innovation is right in front of us — we just need to see past our own assumptions."

"Forget what you know."

A life philosophy in four words.