NewsCred, Skimm reveal product management process

NEW YORK —  The Product Council’s meetup last May 24 at the Pivotal Labs featured guests from the news business, Benjy Boxer, former staff of NewsCred, which offers content marketing software, and Dheerja Kaur of The Skimm, the national news as email newsletter.

Now doing his own thing at Parsecloud, Boxer walked us back to five phases NewsCred underwent to improve a process aimed at helping content marketers out there.

In phase one, Boxer said NewsCred tried to truly understand and empathize with content marketers, prospects, and partners, taking very detailed notes wherein they “abstracted 700+ informative comments to drive our understanding of the customer challenges and solutions.”

As they analyzed the feedback in phase two, Newscred identified four particular jobs its customers were trying to accomplish via its software:content management, project management, analytics, and integrations.

In phase 3, it broke down “each of the 700+ comments and bucketed them into the four jobs and created thematic categories.” This was for product managers to decipher themselves.

Boxer said they designated a room where every member of the NewsCred team contributed feedback. “We lock 10 to 15 people in the room…where product council debates all challenges for 3 hours,” he said.

Should they have had non-staffers be in that room, someone in the audience asked? The exercise, he said, was about establishing trust and transparency about its R&D and product organization and in (making) better decisions and (fulfilling) commitments.

“Consensus builds trust in the organization,” he said. “We were trying to understand why we were making the choices even if we knew what would be chosen.”

In phase four, he said the design and engineering teams broke this experience down into smaller tasks as they created wireframes, selected success metrics for the experiences, and assigned prices to each experience based on the level of effort. The price was important because it wanted to implement the auction process that Pandora used to prioritize product development. They distributed these experiences to the entire company to have managers force rank the experiences with their teams. .

In phase five, the auction process helped them prioritize across the competing interests of its stakeholders. “The market dynamics forced every member of its voting committee to consider exactly what they were spending their limited money on…,” he said.

In the end, we come to a consensus on the most valuable challenges to solve for our customers

The group prioritizes valuable challenges. We call them challenges, not solution,” he stressed .

In closing, he said a great product team should have its engineers talking to its customers.

Dheerja Kaur of TheSkimm presented next, talking about how it has amassed 3.5 million subscribers to date with over 12,00 Simmbassadors in 20 cities.

Kaur talked about how how it came to build the Skimm iOS app with email, messaging and a calendar.

In Phase 1, tts team conducted a focus group as they tried to identify challenges. In Phase 2, it had a pre-MVP test. They tested editorial ideas and heard weekly feedback. They even put news in its calendar.

In Phase 3, they started building the app by finding out how to create a seamless experience where users can experience SkimmAhead content. “We did polls on Facebook and communicated constantly with users,” he said. They also recruited 300 beta testers testing via TestFlight. They also collected engagement data.

In Phase 4, they tested pricing. “Testing pricing is hard,” she said as she mentioned going over .99 cents to 1.99 cents to $2.99 a moth. They also tackled reminders when people need to pay again. In Phase 5, the team launched the app with the help of its 12,000 Skimmbassadors. They also showed an insider look of their process to generate some PR mileage.

The team worked closely with engineers with them to build the app from September to December. They figured the money and accounts part in January and April.

What’s next for them? They will continue to iterate, as they also target more platforms and grow the larger Skimm audience.

Going back to its audience of 3.5 million subscribers, Kaur said, “I would not have done an app first if we didn’t have an audience.”

Shop while watching a movie

convert media

NEW YORK—Last May 26 at the HBO offices, the NY Video meetup featured ConvertMedia, Teleport, TVRunway and Snakt.

ConvertMedia‘s proprietary platform and broad range of video formats allows publishers to strike a balance between revenue goals, the exposure they afford advertisers and how they engage consumers.

Publishers reportedly use ConvertMedia’s video gallery to expand their supply of quality video ad inventory. These outstream video ad units are served through its dedicated programmatic monetization platform, which maximizes fill rates. The platform manages outstream video inventory, with controls for audio, viewability and frequency.

As partner with DSPs, CEO and founder Yoav Naveh said ConvertMedia offers access to exclusive video inventory on premium publishers for desktop and mobile that is brand-safe and viewable. It reportedly delivers over 100B display impressions every month.

TVRunway finds the clothes from your favorite shows with a single click while you watch online. Just by inserting 3 lines of code, retailers can have access to a new revenue stream, increased engagement and verifiable viewer data.

Now you can find your favorite clothes from your favorite shows with just one click at It turns all existing OTT content into an additional revenue stream. With its API, you connect directly inside the online video player, allowing a site’s users to click on clothes worn in the video and buy while watching.

“We don’t pin, tag, collect metadata,” Terena Bells and that means “no plugins, downloads, video editing or tagging.” makes use of machine learning and comparative algorithms to identify items, then displays the top three, real-time matches from about retailers’ available inventories. This approach reportedly makes TVRunway instantly deployable and 100% scalable across all videos, no matter when they were made.

“You just need 3 lines of code to connect to your website. It will never take more than 13 seconds,” she said, stressing it’s a “search engine.”

Everytime you hit buy, we share our money with the distributor. “About 75 percent hit the buy button with 72% user engagement,” she said.

Teleport’s Gavrilo Bozovic presented his interactive online video platform from Sweden. The startup developed a platform which allows distributing scrollable, media-enriched video, through web browsers.

“It’s about giving context to your videos,” he said.

Last presenter was Snakt’s COO and Co-Founder, Tristan Snell.

“Snakt is an invite-only iOS app for video that lets you create ‘video legos’ of 7-second-or-less clips for infinite remixing and compilations,” he said.

Now on open beta in the Apple app store, it is reportedly coming to The Onion while it also continues talking with sports networks.  “You can create private group and make videos on Snakt.”

Some affiliate marketing will be added as well. “You can add your reaction to movie or TV shows,” he said.

‘Globalization is where you can get everything wherever you are’

NEW YORK—What is lifestyle in the internet age? If the speakers and attendees at the Racked meetup last May 17 were any indication of how the world of tech and publishing could learn more from each other, this is that meetup. But unfortunately, not many tech people, especially those targeting millennial consumers, come to this type of meetup.

The panel consisted of young journalists: Julia Rubin, Racked features editor and moderator; Helen Rosner, executive editor at Eater; Kyle Chayka, writer and contributor to Racked, The Guardian and The New Yorkers; Alanna Okun, senior editor at BuzzFeed; Rachel Miller, senior lifestyle editor at Buzzfeed and Mark Lotto, co-founder at Matter Studios.

The millennial panel defined lifestyle in many ways:

Rosner: It’s consumer identity as a force. It’s something that allows advertisers to reach readers.

Chayka: It’s so abstract. It means nothing and everything you do. It’s the things you most consume or identify with. Lifestyle is composed of objects you identify yourself with

Miller: Everything you do that is not work. Some are essential like food and shelter

Okun: It’s the choices (we put) in or around the body.

Lotto: It’s brands that (give) a distinct voice

From there, the panel’s discussed flowed freely– with almost no moderation.

On how social media impacts lifestyle, Rosner said it allows us to “show the best version of ourselves. Lifestyle is curation. Lifestyle covers you. It’s this reflecting game.”

But she is also quick to point out how the individual product has become less important. “The barriers are not money anymore.”

For her, lifestyle provides excitement: “Lifestyle is when readers need to hang their excitement on something. Everybody is so tired of their jobs.”

And what do bored people tired of their jobs do? “They travel,” she said. “Everything you want to be is a secret (but they have to be) balanced with (good lifestyle advice).

And where do people get these tips and advice if not the magazine. “The format of a magazine is suited for lifestyle.”

Similar to a magazine these days is Pinterest, where Okun said she just spent the whole day figuring out the people Buzzfeed responds to.  Lifestyle is also about learning who your readers are. And based on the chuckles from the crowd when Rubin said, “very cerulean” when echoing some of the thoughts by the panel, you know the audience has seen “The Devil Wears Prada.”

Beyond Pinterest, Rosner said Instagram has taught people the secrets of magazine photography. With Instagram, everyone seems to have her own magazine online.

“They don’t need to pay us a hundred dollars to take their photos. It’s richly democratizing,” she said.

“Things can make them happy..What is unattainable is now attainable,” she added.

Not only that, she said “you are communicating massive multi-consumption about yourself with just one coat.”

What is social media if not a lifestyle magazine, it seems. Said Lotto, “We’re carrying it in our pocket. It’s beautiful, immersive, rich.”

What is the future of social media?

Rosner addressed this question seriously, “For PR, it’s not always best way to do pitch traditional printing.”

What’s the next big thing? The panel had some fun answering this question.

Rosner said, “Our parents’ parties.”

Chayka: “Ugliness is going to be back. Aggressively ugly things”

Miller: Analog note-taking”

Rosner gave some serious thought on the question of globalization of lifestyle because she thought her answer can be a scary thought. “Globalization is where you can get everything here (New York),” she said.

If that is the case, the panelists nodded as if in agreement, because what would be the point of discovery if you can find everything easily, if everything is within reach.

Delivering great search and predictive marketing intelligence

NEW YORK–Nicholas Dessaigne, founder and CEO of Algolia kicked off the monthly Data-Driven meetup last May 19 at AXA Center by talking about the journey of his company in delivering a great search experience for apps and websites with its hosted search API.

Today, Algolia has 1,500 enterprise customers with 36 data centers in 15 regions, serving billions of queries weekly in under 50 ms for more than 1300 customers, including many Fortune 500 companies.

Algolia is scalable and reliable, with a 99.99% SLA and both server and provider redundancy.

In his presentation, Dessaignee talked about its journey through the years since it was founded in 2012. He recalled ow in March 2015, the company spread its US clusters across two completely different providers

  • 2 different data center in close locations (24 miles, 1ms latency)
  • 3 different machines
  • 2 completely different autonomous systems

Algolia is designed from the ground up to maximize the speed of search and solve the pain of relevance tuning. It pushes the search experience beyond its traditional limits for better user engagement.

“Building an HA architecture takes time. Design early (but) do not over-engineer,” he said. “Focus on execution.”

“You have to be as upfront as you can. Definitely do a post-mortem and why it should not happen again.

Louis DiModugno, chief data and analytics officer at AXA US (global leader in insurance), talked about how the company is enhancing customer experience and making sure it has the right balance of products to protect them.

DiModugno knows data can’t flow freely, so it maintains data offices in Paris, US and in process of building one in Singapore. “We are a young company,” he said, announcing job openings for engineers in the coming weeks.

6Sense is a B2B predictive intelligence engine for marketing and sales.

Amanda Kahlow, founder and CEO of 6Sense, says it’s “all about timing” as she addressed the number  one thing CMOs and sales both want to know: “when buyers are in market.”

“We accelerate sales by finding buyers at every stage of the funnel,” she said.

Founder and CEO Peter Brodsky said HyperScience (AI for the enterprise) leverages a novel approach to AI to automate work currently performed by human data scientists, solving the pain points across the enterprise.

“We identify subnets.” Subnets can be used in different applications.”

He demonstrated how it works by asking people to upload photos of images he listed on the projector screen where people then tweeted them and HyperScience identified correctly.

“Most databases can only tell you about the past. HyperScience can tell you about the future,” he said.

Requiring no data science or statistics, it seems. It is self-configuring, self-tuning and self-healing. It scales horizontally and supports real time queries.

Challenge for startups? Social media makes everyone a publisher

NEW YORK—Last May 10, Spark Labs packed its Union Square office to overflowing. Social Media has become a hot topic for the many complexities it is adding to the conversation, the way new social networks emerge and require us to consider them.

“Everyone is a publisher,” said Aparna Mukherjee of The Paley Center for Media who was joined by four other panelists in the talk at the Spark Labs’ offices near Union Square.

Most startups have indeed become publishers too because of their blog and social media interactions with their customers out there. And many of those who come from a  programming background don’t have the requisite skills and experience to be publishers themselves. This reminds us how Hootsuite knows how hiring an established journalist to manage its content is crucial.

The challenges facing many startups in terms of putting the word out there is certainlly getting harder with people distracted by so many things online. Or as Christian Busch, investor and former Indiegogo SVP puts it, “Social media is becoming more of a communication tool,” adding how people use it even for airing out complaints.

As a publisher, a company or startup has never had so many social tools at their disposal. From Twitter and Facebook to Instagram and Pinterest, to name just a few, everyone is chasing real-time relevance. And talking about real-time, there’s an opportunity to market your product or service out there live using live streaming apps like Periscope and even YouTube, which also offers live streaming now.

Little Things’ Maya Borenstein said, “We found how viral blogging could be huge tool.”  It’s not often you hear someone say what is really happening out there, but she’s spot-on on this one. There’s a way to get attention out there with a blog, only if companies realized they have to spend for it as well.  “Hire good creatives, incentivize them.”

One example of this came from Kristy Sunjaya of Live Person who said companies make use of YouTube for its branded content. Still, she stresses the importance of authenticity.

She admits to going to Alexa every morning. In checking if your social media activities is working, she asks everyone to rely not just on CTR but also engagement and time on site.

The panelists didn’t have all the answers.

“What is prized in social is relevance,” Mukherjee said but she also addressed the crowd and asked them, “How do you repurpose content that was not relevant before?”

Increasing your success odds as an IoT startup

NEW YORK–”A hardware startup is (equivalent) to five companies,” said Avidan Ross,founder of early stage VC firm Root/ Ventures,nailing down the challenge level of building a company that combines both software and hardware hence IoT or Internet of Things.

The odds of succeeding as an IoT startup is just not easy, but it’s also where VCs are keeping an interesting eye on as most of these IoT or hardware startups because of their capability to raise the stakes. If you’ve seen many of these companies, they’re early in this sector the way the focus is more on functionality–with few putting emphasis on design.

Among the presenters at the Hardwired meetup last May 11, Jonathan Frankel of Nucleus (launching August 1) talked more about how to thrive in this sector. He talked about ways to increase your odds of success as a hardware startup, as he reminded everyone how costs could easily spin out of control. As Ross said, it’s like running five companies in one.

“Who is on your mailing list?” Frankel asked, before saying how crucial it is to meet in-person but to put away the NDAs in any talk.

In building something, he cautioned how, “every need component adds an associated complexity.” And we all know how time is cost, which means tooling and tweaking IoTs require time to pull off.

“Assume cash flow at 20% a month and BOM at $100. Hire a business development and sales teams early,”  he advised, adding how one should oversee interoperability, supply chain and lead time along the maddening IoT process.

The fun part came from two demonstrations Lampix and Sam Labs.

Lampix presented what I would call a computer illuminated in a physical world. George Popescu of Lampix called it “a platform Open API and Smart Lamp,” which he announced was going to be at Kickstarter afterwards–for crowdfunding purposes.

Sam Labs showed how its wireless blocks and drag-and-drop app allows younger people to become an instant inventor and even explore programming as it applies in the physical world.

The fireside chat with Ross talked freely about the IoT space:

  • Years ago if you wanted to build a hardware product you had to work at GE. Now you can start on your own.
  • We’re investing  in companies building hardware products; none of them are actually hardware companies
  • Humans should be part of the process
  • Do not pitch me a Wi-Fi service
  • Hardware is f–king hard
  • You have to have a specific domain
  • (In selecting a founder or team) If he lived all his working in a hamburger chain ( and he proposes a relevant idea), that’s a good start
  • Los Angeles is not meant for production (in terms of quality).
  • What makes crowdfunding fail: they didn’t prepare from prototype to production
  • Apple ingrained in us how design (impacts us) emotionally. Beyond the functionality, design should be front of mind

Dan Burton talked about the many uses of drones nowadays in mining, construction and real estate.

Adam Jonas of Morgan Stanley’s global auto research team looked into how automobiles could be both driven and autonomous, owned and shared. He sees the rise of ride-sharing of cars and the implications of this change.

The meetup was hosted by Matt Turck of First Mark Capital.

Museums, exhibitions get digital and 3D treatment

NEW YORK–Last May 3, the NY Tech Meetup featured 10 startups with founders barely out of college or high school sharing the stage with other more matured founders at the monthly event held at NYU Skirball Theater.  The night showcased how digital wizardry is also becoming part of museums and various exhibitions nowadays.

Enter the Machine is about the work of New York-based artist and programmer Eric Corriel and how he creates art out of custom software. The work showcases synchronized pulsating light boxes and a computer hard drive turned inside out to show its innards. Corriel raises questions about the digitization of contemporary society, exploring humanity’s dance with technology.

Karolin Ziulkoski, a new media artist, uses technological applications to create immersive experiences through Kokowa. Users from beginner to expert levels can create 3-D virtual spaces using an easy-to-use interface, powerful webGL technology and a growing database of user-created 3D content. They can be good for exhibitions, developing a game, showing off a new product, creating a 3D photography library, flying through an architectural model, and exploring new worlds.

Complementing the former two startups, presenter Local Projects showed how it works as an experience design and strategy firm that tests the limits of human interaction. It has won top prize in many design interaction awards. If you find yourself interacting with a digital artwork at the 9/11 Memorial Museum and Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, it’s not farfetched to think it’s Local Projects’ work.

Another presenter in a similar vein, Luxloop focuses on finding new ways to captivate and inspire our fellow humans with its creative technology, with Meural presenting itself as the canvas for the digital age. Fancy a digital art on your wall? Meural is equipped with a set of motion sensors and gesture recognition software that allows you to change your screen by waving your hand through the air.  


Now if you have similar ideas as all these companies, pitch to NEW INC, the first museum-led incubator for art, design, and technology founded by the New Museum.  

Other presenters at the meetup were SAM Labs, for fans of Internet of Things as it offers a toolkit for creating your own smart inventions.

Beaker Notebook is an open source polyglot UI for visualization and data analysis; Get Accent helps you read the news in a foreign language and Drone Regulator automatically monitors and enforces flight restrictions on drones.

For those who like practical ideas that can help you earn extra money, Peer Wifi demonstrated how you can sell your mobile hotspot data for other users to buy. It’s hard to do a demo in front of a big audience, but the young founders didn’t find any problems showing us how its platform works in less in few minutes.

How drones, the cloud, and cognitive computing work for enterprise, saving lives

By Dennis Clemente

NEW YORK–Software architect Andrew Trice spoke about “Drones & The Mobile Enterprise” at the  New York City Bluemix meetup  last May 25 with DJI Phantom 3 and DJI Phantom 4 units on display, the drones he used to demonstrate his recent mobile enterprise experience.

Trice says drones will become a big part of big business, as it moves beyond videography and photography to enterprise the way it helps process workflows and drive efficiency.

“Drones are now used to track disease outbreaks, search and rescue operations, improve agriculture management, aid in wildlife preservation, real estate mapping, law enforcement, automated deliveries, inspect power line infrastructure, firefighting and many more,” he said.

Quoting from the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, he said drones are predicted to become an $82-billion industry by 2025.

Trice talked about how drones, the cloud, and cognitive computing all come together now. Even better, you can use a low-cost accessible and portable consumer drone — and still get the job done.

In his proof of application concept called Skylink, he showed how captured aerial images delivers results to an enterprise system–and this can reportedly be done even when the drone is still in the air. The application connects a DJI drone aircraft to Bluemix using an Apple iPad to bridge the connection from aircraft to the external network and cloud services. The aircraft remote control connects directly to the controller via a USB connection.

This allows the drone to send a live video stream, captured media, and telemetry data directly to an app running on the iPad. This also allows the iPad to send control instructions to the aircraft, enabling the app to control what the aircraft is doing. All communication back and forth between the aircraft and app on the iPad is handled using DJI’s developer toolkit.

In the sample application, he leverages the following services on Bluemix:

If you’re wondering how to fly a drone, the DJI Phantom is easy to fly; you’d be flying in 10 minutes.

What’s next?

“Watson, push notifications, advanced analytics, BPM/workflow, you name it,” he said. Drones for insurance? Why not? Insurance companies evaluate drones.