Beyond disruption, creating business opportunities in book publishing

By Dennis Clemente

What are the new, business opportunities in book publishing in the digital age? When you feel at a loss with every new technology vying for your attention, it’s normal to think we’re living in the middle of a (digital) revolution, we just don’t know where we are going. Last June 27, the panel of guests at the Fordham GBA’s Media and Entertainment Alliance provided a roadmap.

Mallory Kass of Scholastic Press, Nina Lassam of Open Road Media, and Rachel Fershleiser of Tumblr shared us their experiences and insights in the fourth panel discussion of the continuing Digital Media Disruption lecture series at Fordham University, Lincoln Center.

Scholastic Press, publisher of the Harry Potter books, has gone multiplatform. Kass showed us how the New York Times best-seller for kids, “39 Clues,” its first multiplatform series, has changed children’s book publishing as we know it.

What is multiplatform? “You can engage with the book any you want to. You can read the book and play the game (in the book), solve puzzles, interact with other fans online on our message boards. It can be as rich an experience as a kid would want it to be,” said Kass.

It appears Scholastic Press is making the best use of technology to connect with young readers all over the world. It’s now published in 27 countries, has 16 million print editions, 2 million registered users on line, 1,200 new registered users every day, and 1,000 posts on its board every day.

The global appeal of the book is understandable. It unlocks a key to “historic power” or knowledge about the world, giving you clues along the way, as it gives you a sense of being in other parts of the world. In the most recent series of “39 Clues,” Scholastic has tapped the famous crime novelist David Baldacci introducing him to children’s book writing in the process. Available in print and e-book, “39 Clues” comes with six game cards with unique digital codes that unlock clues.

Next presenter Lassam said Open Road creates opportunities in book publishing by serving as a marketing arm for authors 365 days a year. That’s refreshing to hear for those who wonder why their book publishers suddenly develop amnesia after publication.
Since its inception in 2009, Open Road has become one of the most sought-after e-book publishers (they’re going to do print as well). From literary fiction, it has moved on to do all other genres.

Showing a short video clip of author James Salter, Lassam said that Open Road is in branding authors as a way of marketing the author’s books. Being in the business of words is not enough, especially in a world where everything is getting more visual.
The solution: Do a bio video of an author. The videos come out in Biography.com, The Daily Beast and Tumblr. That is one tactical approach that can involve–as part of a more wholistic strategic ad campaign–retail merchandising; establishing a social media presence, interacting with a fan base, and having a big publicity push.

Among the three speakers, only fast-talking Fershleiser of Tumblr is not in book publishing at the moment, although she has a more expansive wealth of experience. She has been involved in different facets of publishing from event management to “freelance journalism,” researching (for Freakonomics) and editing. Fershleiser likes to believe the opportunities in digital publishing now has been democratized where only a select few (i.e., “white men”) in the past could get in.

The moderator, Fordham Professor Bozena Mierzejewska, asked if a good story will always sell.

“No, there are great books that tank (without the benefit of marketing),” Fershleiser said. What she guarantees is illuminating: “A good story will always survive the march of time. A good story simply indicates selling potential. A good story will connect with the right audience if the audience finds it,” subtly hinting at the value of buzz or marketing in general.

For the audience to find you, she insists on using more personalized marketing approach. That means involving readers in the writing process, through Tumblr or other social media means. From personal experience, this writer received an email from Susan Cain (or a staff), author of the huge best-seller, “The Quiet,” about topics that could be included in her sequel—and was later invited to chat with her.

“The more you involve readers in the process of writing a book and how it succeeds (in the marketplace) will make them feel valuable, too. It empowers them to share it,” she said.

The question that amused the panel the most was the question on self-publishing and how book publishers are dealing with it. “Publishing is not just about writing,” Fershleiser said.

Close to asking if you can be your own editor, agent, contract lawyer, designer, marketer or distributor, she asked if you can do all the nitty-gritty work. A book clearly involves so many people and many factors that Fershleiser advises aspiring authors without a name to go to a book publisher or an agent.

Lassam echoed Fershleiser’s sentiments, emphasizing again how important it is to have a strategy in place aside from giving importance to the production of a book.
She added how media coverage on self-publishing has given it widespread appeal, but she cautons how this perception needs to be tempered, especially since only some genres like erotica (eg. “Fifty Shades of Grey”) and those with cult appeal have enjoyed some measure of great success.

Kass agreed that if you’re getting your foot in the door, you need an agent, because they can also match you with the right editors and book publisher for your book to succeed.

With these new opportunities in book publishing, has storytelling changed? It certainly has the way different platforms can be used or how kids’ reading patterns will change, but Kass said certain components will not change like narrative arcs and characters.

But how are these new opportunities translating to jobs?

Lassam advises those looking forward to a career in book publishing to learn content marketing. Kass, for her part, thinks editorial requirements remain the same but bringing a genuine interest in it is important. The more practical Fershleiser puts it this way if you can’t get a job: “If you’re not a Harvard graduate, you need an established social media presence.”

Engadget turns tech, gadgets event into a party for New Yorkers

By Dennis Clemente

In an event loosely labeled as an exhibit and conference, the Engadget+gdgt staff must have had fun foremost in mind for its Soho event last June 24. It was a party and that mood extended to the speakers from Sony and Samsung and the tech editors who made light of all the discussions and enjoyed the rest of the evening watching Phil Collins’ son emerge as a musician.

The party mood started in the queue snaking all the way from Broadway to 84 Mercer Street where outlook.com was giving away vouchers for free tacos (and free emails) at the end of the line. A barker said there was a “50-people limit every half hour” going inside. Where space is limited in this city where else can you make room but in a basement where—lo and behold– an expansive space emerged, just enough to fit more than 20 exhibitors and hundreds of people.

In separate conference room, Engadget’s editor in chief Tim Stevens, assisted by Brian Heater, director of media, called its first guest speaker, Samsung’s Nick Di Carlo, VP of Product Planning and Product Marketing, Samsung Mobile. It was noticeable how the agenda for the evening headlined the Samsung Galaxy Lounge which clearly had the biggest space among the exhibitors.

“We are proud of our Korean heritage,” he said, even though he is not Korean.
“This company has grown tremendously in five years. We have offices in San Jose, San Diego, Dallas, New Jersey and many more places.” As for products in the works, he teased us about a 10-inch phone.

Next was Sony and its new TV technology, 4K. Looking at the TV, it appears to be four times clearer than HD. It has a 3,840 x 2,160 resolution. When attendees were asked how much they would spend to watch in 4K, one went ahead to say $50 before everyone whittled it down to a dollar, all in good humor.

The editors roundtable followed suit with Heater again, Jordan Crook of CrunchGear/TechCrunch, Kevin Tofel of Gigaom, Harry McCarcken of Time and Peter Rojas of gdgt talking about top tech news and trends. It was more a chance for bantering than getting into anything too serious for such an event.

“I wouldn’t mind the rumored iWatch to the Google Glass,” Crook said, suggesting it wasn’t normal for her to wear the glass, as many people may also feel uncomfortable with it.

It was also a night for presentations. Simple, Inq Mobile and Sony Entertainment had their turn.

Simple aims to replace your bank with everything you need to spend smarter and save more, including some of the best mobile apps around for iOS and Android. Krista Belincourt, communications director, demonstrated the app.

Inq Mobile’s Marcel Rutte, head of Handset Product Management, showed how it made the transition from hardware to social software. It created apps that are innately social, fuelled by the stuff you love and the full of the people you’re connected to.

Sony Entertainment Network’s Anu Kirk, Music Service Director, showed its new Music Unlimited Service featuring digital music, movies and games.

The event wrapped up with a live musical performance featuring Sound of Contact with Phil Collins’ son, Simon, performing songs from the band’s debut album, “Dimensionaut.” Earlier, Simon posed for photographers and people were heard saying he looks like Phil.

The exhibitors included Carbonite, Cookoo Watch, Cobra Airwave, Escort Radar and Laser Detectr, Gogo, Honeywell, Incipio Waterproof Case for iPhone 5, Monster, Outlook.com, Slingbox and Western Digital.

Mayor Bloomberg awards $150K to 2013 NYC BigApps winners

By Dennis Clemente

Last June 20, the NYC BigApps 2013 award ceremony announced the winners for the best apps made in New York City with Mayor Michael Bloomberg handing out the awards himself.

Bloomberg has a good reason to be proud of the city’s burgeoning tech industry. It has become the fastest-growing in the country and with initiatives like BigApps, Bloomberg looks forward to keeping it that way.

Bloomberg also has a good reason to kid around. “I didn’t join because it would be unfair to everyone here.” Over just four years, BigApps has become the global standard for open data software competitions. New York’s developers and designers are displaying their creativity and building their brands, while gaining access to the capital they need to expand and grow.

According to figures released by PricewaterhouseCoopers, $568 million in total venture capital funding has flooded the New York metro area during the second quarter of 2012, with more than $328 million going to 59 Internet-based companies.

Also, 82 startups in the city have received $10 million or more in financing, while 486 in total have received financing since 2007.

In four years, NYC BigApps introduced nearly 300 new apps that reportedly made government more transparent and accountable.

This year, BigApps was focused on critical city challenges grouped together into four areas—Jobs and Economic Mobility, Healthy Living, Lifelong Learning and the Cleanweb: Environment, Energy and Resilience—using public, private or crowdsourced data.

A total of $150,000 in prize money was awarded to seven apps out of the 54 app submitted this year.

Grand Prize winner and Best Healthy Living App was HealthyOut with total prize of $55,000. HealthyOut is an app for the IPhone that lets New Yorkers quickly locate restaurants that match their diet and nutrition preferences.

Winner of the Best Cleanweb: Energy, Environment and Resilience was SolarList, with $20,000 in prize money. SolarList calculates a homeowner’s costs and savings if they want to install solar power in their own homes.

The Best Lifelong Learning App winner was Hopscotch, with $20,000 in prize money. Hopscotch is an app for the iPad that teaches children to code using a simple, friendly interface. Kids can just drag and drop interface elements to create their own games, apps and scripts.

The Best Jobs and Economic Mobility App was bestowed to ChildCareDesk with a $25,000 prize. It allows parents to find quality child care centers with the help of a list of child care centers on a map, with Yelp reviews.

Second-place winner for Best Jobs and Economic Mobility App was handed to Helping Hands with $15,000 in prize money. Helping Hands lets users navigate, enroll, and apply for social benefits. A support network for peers, helpers, and mentors add tips, reviews and inspiring words.

Third-place winner also for the Best Jobs and Economic Mobility App was Hired In NY, who bagged $10,000. The Hired in NY app connects people to thousands of jobs at 2,000 New York- based startups and small companies.

A unique category, Best Wildcard App, went to Poncho, which took home $5,000. Users will have fun using a personalized weather service plus info on train delays and alternate parking. The text and e-mail based app is colorful and personalized. Data comes from public city data provided by NYC Open Data and MTA APIs.

The apps were judged by the following criteria: potential impact on NYC, implementation of idea, quality of idea, and potential commercial viability, with exception of the jobs and economic mobility category.

Bloomberg was in a good mood as he ended his speech by saying, “Don’t blame me if you didn’t win.”

NYC Facets, last year’s winner, was also in attendance demonstrating its open data at pediacities.com as the award ceremony was going on.

The awards ceremony was held at the IAC Headquarters in Chelsea. The building was designed by Frank Gehry and completed in 2007.

Aspiring NY mayors to tech companies: Do more for city, middle class

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By Dennis Clemente

How would you like New York to be Monaco where only the richest of the rich can afford it? Trust our politicians to have a flair for the dramatic. The reference is coming from former congressman Anthony Weiner who thinks that the city is facing a challenge (dwindling middle class jobs) as much as an opportunity (growing tech industry) for being the second tech capital of the United States.

He welcomes the 10,000 tech jobs gained but decries the diminishing job opportunities for the middle class. “We’ve been eliminating middle class jobs and backfilling them with restaurant and tourism jobs.”

Weiner was speaking at the Mayoral Candidates Tech Policy Forum at the Museum of Moving Image last June 17, along with other confirmed mayoral candidates– former NYC Councilmember Sal Albanese, former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion, Jr. and NYC Comptroller John Liu.

The candidates were a study in contrasting styles. Where Weiner and Liu were bold and audacious, the two other candidates, Carrion and Albanese, favored caution and discreetness.

For Weiner, “New York has to remain a magnet for the middle class, because they are the DNA of the city whose success hinges on the three-legged middle-class aspirational stool—being able to afford a place; having some decent public education and getting a steady job with benefits.” Without one leg, the middle class is bound to suffer. Nobody likes to be Monaco.

Speaking for the average middle class, Liu cited how the city is already “facing an aging infrastructure and how it’s made worse by monopolistic systems of big telecommunications companies and Internet service providers who are not holding their end of the bargain.”

He showed his displeasure about how companies can’t even provide the essentials. He said not enough neighborhoods are connected and that there are still dead spots. “We should hold big companies to a higher level of accountability. (If not), the city has to be the enforcer.”

Nilay Patel, the moderator who also writes for The Verge, laid down the tech companies’ most pressing concerns about the city, those who fought or are still fighting some regulations—Aereo with its streaming TV service, uber with its cab-calling app and AirBnb with its short stay rentals.

It was Weiner who responded boldly. “I don’t think uber will ever be a success in New York City. We have a system in place for dispatch cabs, yellow cabs and black cabs. You can argue with the structure. But it has worked very well for the city, in keeping the quality of our rides.”

He added, “It’s (app) a false choice, when somebody could get a ride because he has an app and bypass other people who, not having the app, is left standing in a corner (waiting for a cab). A tech company should not undermine laws so as to protect consumers.”

Patel’s rejoinder: “I hope you reconsider your answer next time you’re looking for a cab in the rain.”

As for AirBnb, Carrion thinks detailed SROs (single room occupancy laws) just need to be followed. “I believe it (AirBnb) will be good for us. It will be good for tourism. It’s expensive to go to New York City. We just need to revisit rules, our land-use policies, and make sure we don’t disrupt neighborhoods.”

In principle, Liu agreed with both Weiner and Carrion. “If you’re making a profit from your business model based on innovation, that’s great. But if you’re skirting regulations that other legitimate businesses have to follow, then that’s not a great thing.”

Carrion puts it simply, “Are you a developer or (job) creator? Are you adding value?”

The forum ran also discussed the need to address STEM (science technology engineering math) education, including teachers of computer science, and a rethinking of zoning laws as well as tech infrastructure. Albanese said residents in Williamsburg have asked him to run their businesses there. Liu said millions of dollars are being poured in a tech school in Long Island City where it thinks the City University of New York should also get some support.

Joel Natividad, founder of open data company, Ontodia, wished the candidates also talked about open government but there was simply no more time.

The forum was organized by the Coalition for Queens with Anjali Athavaley of the Wall Street Journal as the other moderator.

The mayoral candidates draw first blood.

Indie game developers use cross-promotion, sponsored content to compete

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By Dennis Clemente

Gaming is the largest business on smartphones and tablets, but how are small indie game companies competing out there? At the meetup called “TechHubNYC: Indie Games for the Win,” hosted by Yannis Dosios of Flurry recently, the guests do a little of everything—cross-promotions, video ads, sponsored content, as they work with various ad agencies to keep themselves solvent while staying true to their roots.

It was far from being an organized meetup (it started over an hour late, for one), but the audience didn’t mind as they waited patiently to hear from the two companies in gaming–Arkadium, Inc led by Neal Sinno and Patrick Morgen of the famed Dots game representing Betaworks with special guest Dan Yashiva of Musicsoft Arts.

The panel talked in varying degrees about the way they develop, self-publish and market their apps efficiently. Without mentioning big companies catching on to this lucrative business, each speaker recounted how they go about their quest for gameplay innovation, better measurement tools, low-cost acquisitions and high-efficiency monetization while also addressing the challenge of rising competition and costs.

Asked about the challenges they face, the three speakers pointed to the Android platform for the different sizes, but all agree that Kindle, because of Amazon’s huge retail coverage, shows promise.

Among the three guest speakers, Patrick Moberg, Betaworks’ hacker in residence, chooses to be the quiet one, preferring his mobile game, Dots, speak for itself, as he frequently passed on the mike to the other speakers. Dots has been voted one of the top 10 best indie games, clearly a big thing for Betaworks’ first mobile game.

Available only for the iPhone, Dots is a simple grid game: You connect the dots that are of the same color with a straight line, dots disappear and are replaced by more dots. You repeat until the clock runs out after 1 minute.

Moberg didn’t initially set out to make a game, but when he did Dots, he knew it should be simple to understand.

The next presenter, Arkadium, is not exactly “indie” the way it has succeeded since its inception 12 years ago as a bootstrapped company. Today, it is a leading casual games developer with a library of over 300 free online casual games in different platforms—plus $5 million in funding from Edison Ventures.

The New York-based company’s biggest hits are Microsoft Solitaire Collection and Mahjongg Dimensions Blast. It also makes games targeted at the cross-platform Windows environment while maintaining Facebook games and mobile games. Every month, 10 million people play its games.

In his experience, Sinno said it’s better to have ads come early in your app rather than later when people are already used to playing your games without seeing ads. “You don’t want to disappoint your fans.”

Asked how they market their games, Sinno said, “We talk with (ad) agencies. We do micro transactions. We do cross-promotion.”

Dan Yashiv, partner of Musicsoft Arts, also believes in cross-promotion. He has reportedly secured deals with major sponsors, including Toyota, Hennessy, Bacardi and Hyundai, top DJs and artists such as Carl Cox and Thievery Corporation, media hub VIBE Magazine, and music aggregators The Orchard and InGrooves.

Yashiv is a seasoned media entrepreneur who thinks advertising is a different skill set nevertheless. For the uninitiated, he said, “it’s also about knowing the right people.”

He co-creates and co-develops groundbreaking music apps. To date, he said Musicsoft apps have been downloaded in over 16 million mobile device users worldwide. Like Arkadium, Musicsoft is bootstrapped and a “5% app developer.”

Like Arkadium, Musicsoft is a New York-based company. However, his business is not exactly gaming but mobile music. An audience reminded him of that by saying, “you’re not in gaming, right?” which he deflected well by agreeing and talking about how he works with experienced software developers along with new media producers and music professionals, and how it is focused on building hi-fi music mobile apps.

Audiophile is one Musicsoft app for picky ears. Along with left and right channel decibel output displays, mini-player, as well as a full music library browser and playlist manager, Audiophile includes three enhancement toolkits for precise sound tuning and improvement. One of the most common tools, the standard equalizer is available in a 10-band configuration or a simplified three level setup with low, mid, and high adjustments.

A secondary EQ, which utilizes MaxxAudio technology, boosts the frequencies and volume beyond the audio file’s encoding, plus offers an automatic leveler and overall booster similar to Apple’s Sound Check feature.

For the third choice, you can optimize the output based on the speakers, whether
headphones, self-powered external units, or the iPad’s own audio system. The Maxx features can be tested using a limited duration demo mode, and are available to permanently unlock for $0.99 (currently on sale) via in-app purchase.

Flurry TechHub Meetups are monthly, free-to-attend events that bring together high-caliber developers, founders, entrepreneurs and investors in the technology community. Flurry TechHub Meetups are held across the world’s top tech centers including San Francisco, New York, Toronto, and Los Angeles.

Is crowdfunding right for you? Tales from the trenches

By Dennis Clemente

Is crowdfunding right for you? For some people, the thought of sharing their business idea online to get funding is like giving it away but not unless your idea gets funded faster. Maybe you’re not comfortable with the idea of getting in front of a camera, but there’s a way to overcome that, too.

At the meetup “In the Trenches: Best Practices for Crowdfunding” at a Microsoft office last June 4, the panel of speakers came from gamers who went through crowdfunding and lived to tell the tale. They were Melissa Marie Fassetta of FPS Russia, Joshua DeBonis of Meriweather and Mark McCorkle of Luna Nova.

There was no hesitation on Fassetta’s part. She said she went to Kickstarter right way with her idea. That proved to be a good move, as she helped raise $55,000 to fund FPS Russia: The Game http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/fpsrussia/fps-russia-the-game-0, coordinating with the popular YouTube channel http://www.youtube.com/user/FPSRussia. Fassetta is a game development and social media project manager for a digital creative agency in NYC.

She has also been involved in a Kickstarter project that was not funded, and is happy to share her experience in what works (and what doesn’t) in running a successful Kickstarter campaign. “Set a lower money level. We set it at $51,000. We got $55,000.”

Reaching that amount is not as easy. “Kickstarter is powerful but you can’t just rely on it. Have writers or bloggers write about you,” she said with others nodding in agreement. DeBonis ran a successful Kickstarter for a computer role-playing game about the Lewis and Clark Expedition called Meriwether http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/meriwether/meriwether-an-american-epic.

“We talked about our game using Google Hangout and did cross-promotions with others seeking funds on Kickstarter,” DeBonis said, who is particularly interested in exploring ways to integrate history and music with games, the procedural generation of game content, and games that provide a deep experience. DeBonis raised $35,000, still way less than the cost of the game but it’s a good start. As of press time, he has raised over $44,000.

It helps if you have the credentials for people to believe in you. DeBonis is an award-winning game designer and the Director of Sortasoft LLC, an independent studio based in Brooklyn, NY. He has taught game design and development at Parsons The New School for Design, is co-founder and organizer of the New York Board Game Designers playtest group, and recently co-founded the experimental collective Brooklyn Game Ensemble.

Over the past year, McCorkle has been working on various browser and cross-platform technologies, finally settling on a framework that will allow his game, “Luna Nova,” to reach as many platforms and players as possible.

The purpose of building the game is not just to entertain, but also to give McCorkle and the other creative people on his team a venue to communicate a rich sci-fi story. Kickstarter will allow him to get his indie game into people’s hands by winter of 2013.

Since this is McCorkle’s second Kickstarter campaign, he gives one great tip about how to use your Facebook log-in. “Create a Facebook page specific to your crowdfunding campaign, so when you need people to promote or collaborate with you, it’s easier.”

“This is my second Kickstarter project,” the animated McCorkle said. He started his game geek life writing small games on his Atari 800XL. After years of being a game consumer and building infrastructure for everything from ISPs to travel companies, he worked with a small team to develop a browser-based MMO.

The panel was moderated by Emma Larkins who works for a tech startup called Knodes that helps people build communities around their projects. She’s passionate about the crowdfunding industry, and recently Kickstarted her first science fiction novel, Mechalarum http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/emmalarkins/mechalarum-a-science-fiction-novel.

For people to consider funding your idea, handing out rewards or incentives is also important, but
what’s even more important is to know how to handle it without making it a bigger headache than your idea.

The panel said a physical item/reward can be problematic. It can be a pain to ship a thousand items plus you have to deal with customs. They also advised that you make sure you know where you are shipping your item—domestically or internationally.

As a crowdfunding site, not everybody gave Kickstarter a resounding endorsement. The panel offered some suggestions (and misgivings) on how the site has still room for improvement:

• Writing and editing fields could be improved (no copy-paste option)
• Fortunately, there is a preview mode now
• No interaction during and after posting with Kickstarter
• When the campaign ends, you can’t edit your posting anymore
• It has no data unlike Indiegogo, so you don’t know who’s clicking on your posting
• Indiegogo has no transaction fees
• You don’t need approval on Indiegogo

The more important benefit of crowdfunding is building a rich community of people who want you to succeed. But is crowdfunding for everyone? The panel was unanimous in saying some ideas “just have no audience,” with McCorkle adding that “if you failed the first time, it’s harder the second time.”

To raise your level of success, the panel was unanimous in saying that having a well-scripted video is essential. In the beginning, they admitted to trying an off-the-cuff, impromptu video to appear authentic, but it didn’t work.

Still, the question remains: Is there a full-proof way of getting your idea funded? You’ll learn from first-hand experience.

AOL Ventures’ mobile app demos go 3D and 4D

SPUN for iPhone. Great News. from SPUN on Vimeo.

By Dennis Clemente

Would you rather play Candy Crush or make one just as successful? Last May 28, AOL Ventures played host to a diverse mix of mobile apps that show you how to create a business plan, bank in a snap, track consumer behavior, provide enterprise solutions and experience 3D and 4D all in an app.

Problemio founder Alex Genadinik showed how his business plan app works, including how it can be used as collaboration tool. Being highly ranked on iTunes with over 150,000 downloads, many people clearly want to own their business someday. The app is also available on Android.

Now if you want to enable your business for mobile, Art Chang’s AppOrchard is going to talk to you about his team of iOS insiders and former Apple and NeXT software engineers and their background in producing mobile systems across the finance, retail, media, healthcare, education and other industries.

Chang said AppOrchard digs deep into an organization to understand business models to create premium enterprise apps.

Not all tech startups focus online. Nomi is offering a service that tracks consumer behavior across online channels and in physical stores.

Nomi has strong backing from several venture capitalists. This year, it reportedly raised $3 million in seed funding in a round led by First Round Capital, with Greycroft Partners, SV Angel, Forerunner Ventures, among others.

Founded by Salesforce and Buddy Media, Nomi provides retailers with a mobile analytics and engagement platform which integrates existing CRM, loyalty and e-commerce platforms. In physical stores, however, Wesley Barrow said it can only pull in data from Wi-Fi-enabled phones.

Another app presenter, Refundo, seems unbridled for a company that focuses on compliant-reliant financial services. Demonstrating the app, Refundo’s CEO Roger Chinchilla showed how anyone can open an FDIC-insured bank account from their mobile phone—under a minute.

“We are targeting the unbanked and there are 68 million of them,” he said. “We are also KYC (Know Your Customer)-compliant.”

KYC refers to due diligence activities that financial institutions and other regulated companies must perform to ascertain relevant information for their clients for the purpose of doing business with them.

Launched this year, Chinchilla said you can also access thousands of ATMs and cash deposit locations nationwide, and equips bank customers with a personalized Refundo debit Mastercard. For the cash deposits, he has partnered with Western Union nationwide. You can also choose to load money by scanning another card.

On the safety of the app, he said its 100% encrypted. “We get your routing and account numbers. We don’t store sensitive information.”

One app that does store information—and lots of it is SPUN, a news site that targets the best articles from thousands of users based on who they are, where they are, and what they like.

“We have an editorial team as consultants,” founder Scott Lindenbaum said.

How is it different from any other news aggregation site? Lindenbam demonstrated by a quick turn, how the top stories appear in a 3D cube. The stories show a virtual revolving cube with sound effects.

The news categories include Top Stories, Lifestyle, Entertainment. You can expect to see stories from the Business Insider, Bloomberg, Huffington Post, CNN, BuzzFeed, Consumerist, Betabeat, and many more.

If SPUN is 3D, Moveable is 4D or so it seems for founder Steve Schultz, the last presenter of the night. The name was inspired from the book by Ernest Hemingway, “Moveable Feast.”

Schultz described his app 4D for the immersive experience of his app where you blend maps, sounds, images and stories to create your own multimedia world. “Moveable immerses you in locations.”

For the artistic, Schultz said Moveable converts you to a storyteller, a traveler, a filmmaker, a journalist, even an explorer. The curated paths, he said, follow you forever as you can share the experience with just a few taps.