Event Recap: LAUNCH Festival 2016

Last week, the Lab’s partnership team flew out to the West Coast to attend the 2016 LAUNCH Festival. An annual convergence of talented investors, founders, and startups, the festival has a storied track-record of catapulting new companies into the stratosphere, such as Dropbox, Fitbit, and Yammer. Over the course of three days, this year’s conference hosted over 15,000 attendees, over 240 startups, and a series of inspiring panel discussions and startup competitions.

After spending over 24 hours on the festival floor, viewing over 50 startup pitches and meeting with countless founders, the Lab has put together a shortlist of companies that can provide actionable solutions for Mediabrands agencies and clients.

Accountable VR
Virtual reality is a great way to create an immersive brand story, and more brands are beginning to test the waters by creating branded VR content. More brands have been warming up to VR content knowing that there have been over five million Google Cardboards shipped and new consumer-facing headsets like the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Playstation VR are all set to hit the market this year. While brands won’t see immediate ROI from a VR content investment, eventually brands will want to know how their VR content is performing. EaseVR and CognitiveVR are working to solve this question. Both startups are working to bring deep analytics to VR so brands can understand how viewers behave within their virtual experience.

A New Mover In OOH
Two major challenges the out-of-home industry faces are measurement and an increasingly fragmented audience whose attention is continuously switching among screens. Wrapify‘s on-vehicle advertising platform is working to overcome these challenges by connecting brands and drivers to create and launch OOH campaigns locally or nationally with real-time reach and impressions count.

A Solution To Increase Direct Hotel Booking
Today, a ridiculously high number of hotel bookings come from sites such as Expedia and Priceline as consumers book mostly on price. Stay Wanderful is alleviating this $33 billion problem by partnering with merchants, such as Regal Cinemas, Hard Rock Cafe, and Whole Foods, to create an incentive engine for hotel websites to increase direct hotel bookings and reduce the reliance on other channels.

But wait, there’s more! Here are 4 additional early-stage startups we discovered from the festival that you should keep an eye on in 2016:

Pilot AI Labs enables real-time computer vision using deep learning on embedded devices. Their algorithm can be trained to track specific objects and can be used in drones, retail security cameras or digital signage, and smart home devices.

CafeX unveiled a fully automated robotic cafe at Launch Festival. Prior to arrival at the cafe, customers can use the CafeX smartphone app to order premium coffee drinks.

We2o is the world’s first philanthropy platform to enable donation of unused vacation time to charities.

Mindset allows users to connect their app to a wearable heart rate monitor to learn and track stress levels throughout the day. The app notifies users of fluctuations in stress and provides exercises created by clinical specialists to lower stress.  


Header image courtesy of launchfestival.com

Event Recaps: NRF & Flash Pitch 2016

It has been a busy week for the IPG Media Lab. After the madness of CES 2016 we managed to squeeze in two events before the week ended ­– Retail’s Big Show by NRF (retail industry’s version of CES) and Flash Pitch 2016. The beauty of attending these two events was that they couldn’t be anymore opposite.

NRF held its 105th annual retail event from Jan. 15-18th, which was attended by more than 33,500 people. As expected, the event came and went with plenty of big announcements and interesting retail technology:

RetailNext (featured in our Media Lab) BT, Intel, NexGen Packaging and SATO Global Solutions announced a global alliance called Acuitas Digital Alliance. The purpose of the alliance is to combine their technology and capabilities to make it easier for retailers to integrate their front-end and back-end analytics.

T+Ink in collaboration with WestRock and Intel showcased its smart e-ink display tag technology. These tags can be mounted on store shelves and pegs to track inventory in real-time, measure sales velocity, and allow for dynamic pricing.

Mobeam showcased its light-based beaming technology that enables POS laser scanners to read barcodes from smartphone screens. This allows retailers to integrate mobile payment, loyalty cards, membership cards, gift cards, tickets, vouchers, and digital coupons into their app, which can be read through their existing scanners at checkout. For brands, specifically CPG brands, this allows them to follow their digital coupons throughout the entire shopping journey and understand which coupons are performing and which are not.

On the other hand, The Flash Pitch event presented by NYU Polytechnic Incubator was a combination of speed pitch meets Shark Tank. Eight early-stage startups were given the opportunity to pitch for two minutes followed by a four-minute Q&A. In classic fashion, the judges from Bain Capital Ventures, BMW iVentures, Corigin Ventures and Pilot Mountain Ventures were relentless, firing questions to learn more about traction, growth strategy, defensibility, current challenges, etc.

When the dust settled, LiquidTalent, which offers companies a marketplace to find high-quality developer and designer talent on-demand, and Denarri – an electronics-focused shopping app that remembers user preferences as they use it to make future shopping faster – were the two startups that caught our eye.

Event Recap: Highlights From The First-Ever TwitchCon

Twitch’s first ever conference dedicated to its community was far from ordinary. From September 25th to 26th, the heart of San Francisco was home to over 20,000 fans, gamers, and broadcasters. Throughout the event, the IPG Media Lab team interacted with partners, attended sessions, and even had sit-downs with Twitch influencers Itmejp and DansGaming. Here are some of the highlights of TwitchCon 2015.

During the keynote, Twitch unveiled that they will be finishing their roll out of their HTML5 video player in early 2016, and that there will finally be a Twitch app available across the Playstation Network. The apps will feature full chat integration, complete emoticon support, and will highlight broadcasts across PS4, PS3, PS Vita, and PS TV.


Aside from the staggering $173,320 prize pool, the H1Z1 Invitational was a showdown amongst some of the most popular broadcasters on Twitch such as Lirik, Summit1g, Itmejp, and Sodapoppin. H1Z1 is a combat-oriented game forcing players to fight to the death on a shrinking map until there is one player left standing. At one point there were over 130,000 concurrent viewers watching the live stream on Twitch.

Later, SF-based Twitch and LA-based Red Bull faced-off on the main stage in a Super Smash Bros. exhibition match where the winning office got to choose the location of a $10,000 prize-pool Super Smash Bros. event. Twitch beat Red Bull 3-0, unsurprisingly.


Even though TwitchCon primarily focused on offering its community workshops and classes to help improve their Twitch channel, brands should take notice. The event offered great insights on how Twitch built such a tight-knit community of influencers and fans and how they propelled the service into what it is today. It showcased Twitch’s wide variety of influencers, their tastes, and how they represent themselves to the community, and the ways influencers promote brands on their channel without offending or losing their followers.

Overall, TwitchCon was a huge success especially among millennials. Not only did the event attract a mass audience but also topped 1.9 million unique online viewers across the event’s various streams.



Header image courtesy of www.twitchcon.com


Partner Spotlight: WEVR

It’s no secret that Virtual Reality is growing in such a rapid pace, so much so that research firms expect demand for VR devices to reach 14 million units in 2016. This is one of the reasons why the IPG Media Lab made time during the craziness of Oculus Connect to meet with Ricky Ramsaran, Marketing Manager for WEVR – a Venice, California-based VR startup.

During the meeting the Media Lab had the opportunity to demo TheBluVR – originally developed for the Samsung Gear VR – but now on the HTC Vive. The second iteration called TheBlu: Encounter took full advantage of the Vive’s room scale system (the sensors on the headset) and joystick controllers, which allowed us to explore the aquatic environment and get up-close with the sea creatures and the 80-foot blue whale.

TheBlu: Encounter VR experience showcased the capabilities of the WEVR team and the possibilities of the HTC Vive. Because of the success of this experience, HTC decided to invest almost $10 million to enhance the HTC Vive VR content library.


Event Recap: VR Short “Henry” Demo

Live from Oculus Connect in Hollywood – it’s IPG Media Lab. We’re on the ground trying the latest demos and covering the latest news from the conference.

Today the IPG Media Lab had the pleasure to watch a new short VR film from Oculus Story Studio about a lonely little hedgehog who just wants a hug. As we sat on a red rug that matched the one in the film, we were transported to hedgehog Henry’s home hovering over a table during his birthday. The beauty of the experience was that, even though we weren’t part of the film, it felt as though we were physically there with Henry. At times during the emotional ups and downs of the film, Henry would look directly at us – at this point we were at eye level – and express his feelings.

Ultimately, VR filmmaking is still in its infancy. However, Henry may be the beginning of VR storytelling, some thing that will potentially change the way everyone experiences stories 5 or 10 years down the road. Furthermore, as more sensors become part the experience, it will be interesting to see how filmmakers will allow audiences to control character interactions and dictate outcomes of the VR films. ​



Header image courtesy of Oculus Story Studio’s website 

Event Recap: Oculus Toybox Demo

Live from Oculus Connect in Hollywood, it’s IPG Media Lab. We’re on the ground trying the latest demos and covering the latest news from the conference.

Today the IPG Media Lab went hands-on with the Crescent Bay headset and Touch controllers as part of the Oculus Toybox Demo, their multiplayer interactive sandbox. As the headset booted-up a holographic head wearing a Crescent Bay appeared along a pair of hands – a headless avatar named Oculus Mike. From there, Oculus Mike introduced himself and began to walk me through the Oculus Touch controllers which are ergonomically designed carbon joysticks with a thumbstick and trigger buttons.

As the demo started, a table appeared that had a number of different toys, blocks, and lasers to play with. The hardware sensors allowed for a variety of gestures and interactions, including grabbing, moving, flicking, as well as punching the surround toys and blocks, and even head-butting the hanging tetherball above.

Despite the inability to walk around the virtual environment with Oculus Mike, the combination of VR and social interaction was perhaps its most impressive feat. With VR headsets poised to hit the consumer market in early 2016, marketers need to start exploring the VR landscape in order to understand what game developers will do with the ability to have multiplayer virtual environments and how brands can seamless integrate to enhance and bring value to the experience.

Event Recap: WeWork Labs Med-Tech Demo Day

The past month has been a busy one for the IPG Media Lab. Despite the behind-the-scene activities, the Lab managed to attend Tuesday’s WeWork Labs Med-Tech Demo Day. The demo day was a Shark Tank-style event led by Merck’s own Jaime Melendez along with leaders from Sharecare, Sherpaa, and Milestone Venture Partners. The event also featured six of New York’s most exciting medical-tech startups:

  • Develop Link: is a data-driven platform providing healthcare infrastructure to developing worlds.
  • Healogram: is simplifying healthcare monitoring through more efficient recovery tracking and analytics.  
  • Motesque: is tracking daily movement to better prevent and diagnose injuries. 
  • DICOM Grid: is a diagnostic imaging management and exchange.
  • Healthify: is building healthcare infrastructure for vulnerable populations.
  • Voyager Med: is connecting patients to medical providers around the US.

Each presenter only had three minutes to pitch their business, followed by a four-minute Q&A. In classic fashion the judges were relentless, firing questions to learn more about their growth strategy, business model, defensibility, current challenges, etc. When the dust settled, both Develop Link and Healogram emerged as winners by the judges’ votes.

At the end of the day, The WeWork Labs Med-Tech Demo Day was an extremely successful event. The presenters had opportunity to pitch to thought leaders within the Med-Tech community, and the audience learned about exciting advancements in the medical industry and how it’s reshaping the paradigm of traditional medical care.

SXSW 2015: The Six Most-Talked About Digital Brand Activations

As our time here at the legendary interactive festival winds down, here is a look back at the 10 most talked-about brand activations:

  1. Studio uses Tinder to promote Ex Machina
    Some festival-goers using Tinder were matched with Ava, a 25-year-old Tinder bot created to promote Alex Garland’s sci-fi thriller Ex Machina, which premiered at SXSW.
  1. Meerkat breaks out
    FOMO is never higher than during SXSW, making this live-streaming app the perfect way to instantly drop in on celebrities, founders, and brands during the festival.
  1. Mophie uses St. Bernards to search and rescue owners with near-dead devices
    Through a partnership with the St. Bernard Rescue Foundation, nine full-size dogs and three puppies were used to deliver Mophie chargers—stored inside brandy barrel necklaces—to attendees in dire need of a charge.
  1. Lyft integrates One Touch PayPal into its interface
    As part of a promotional campaign during SXSW, riders who paid with PayPal received a $5 discount on their first ten rides as well as a chance to hitch a ride in a Ferrari 458 Italia, 1963 Bentley, Tesla Model S, or another noteworthy ride.
  1. Game of Thrones allows attendees to create digital art
    GoT encouraged attendees step on a stage, grab a (wooden) sword, and then go nuts on digital targets.
  1. USA Networks leverages beacons at SXSW for the “Mr. Robot” premiere
    The network created custom beacon alerts at various locations through the official SXSW app, rewarding festival-goers with free food and drinks, courtesy of “Mr. Robot.”


Event Recap: SXSW Accelerator, Part 3

See other highlights from the accelerator: Part 1 and Part 2

German startups had quite the presence across the pitch sessions the Lab attended on Sunday. Some of the most notable ones included:

  • NavVis: An app that enables indoor 3D turn-by-turn navigation thanks to indoor maps created by a Segway-type trolley. The trolley is equipped with scanners and cameras to scan and record building dimensions.
  • Tinnitracks: Developers of a music therapy treatment that helps lower hyperactivity of abnormal nerve cells for people with tinnitus. The subscription-based platform lets users upload and listen to their favorite music to provide relief. Tinnitracks’ secret sauce is being able to reformat the frequency of uploaded music.
  • Trip Rebel: A site aiming to be the go-to destination to find the best deals for hotel rooms. The process is quite simple and automatic: a user goes on the site and books a hotel reservation, and Trip Rebel keeps track of the reservation for price reductions until check-in day. If the price drops, Trip Rebel automatically re-books the same room at the new rate and refunds the difference to the user’s credit card.
  • Minubo: A dashboard that integrates fragmented data to give retailers a holistic view of their omni-channel strategy, enabling retailers to better allocate marketing budgets, identify unprofitable channels, and understand the customer’s lifetime values across all channels.

A few other startups from other countries are also of note:

  • Biobots.io: A cost-effective 3D bioprinter that research scientists can use for regenerative medicine procedures such as tissue or even organ replacement.
  • MobileODT: A mobile colposcope powered by an Android smartphone to detect cervical cancer. The mobile attachment is one-tenth the price and size of traditional colposcope devices.

Event Recap: SXSW Accelerator, Part 2

Missed Part 1 of the SXSW Accelerator? Catch up here.

Part 2 of the SXSW 2015 Accelerator Pitch-off not only featured startups from diverse industries, but also had a special guest MC, Sir Mix-A-Lot. During this session, four startups had two minutes to present before entering a ten-minute Q&A with the judges. Featured startups included:

  • CreoPop: An innovative 3D printing pen that enables anyone to literally print what they are thinking in real-time. Due to the company’s unique approach of UV laser and light sensitive resin, the “ink” comes out cool, making it safe for kids. Its inks can also be modified to glow in the dark, act as a magnet, become stretchy, and more fun tweaks.
  • GroundFloor: The first micro-lending community for real estate, similar to a LendingClub for real estate. Through the platform, lenders earn anywhere between 6% to 26% interest on projects. Over the past six months, GroundFloor has funded over $1 million worth of real estate transactions, signed up thousands of investors, and closed over $300,000 in loans.
  • Ledger Wallet: An external device (USB) that is used to secure Bitcoin transactions; it’s applying EMV chip technology to the ever growing Bitcoin world.
  • ProtonMail: An end-to-end encryption email service provider. Accounts are fully backwards compatible, so users can continue to send and receive emails from friends who aren’t using ProtonMail.


We’ll continue our reporting on SXSW tomorrow.