Event Recap: September 2015 NY Tech Meetup

Last week, the Media Lab attended the New York Tech Meetup on campus at NYU. A number of startups showcased demos of their products, with varying levels of marketing implications. The environment was an open forum and the only question that was off limits from the audience was: “what is your business model?”

There were a wide range of solutions on display including a company that turns text into digital handwriting, a URL security database for brand protection, and an app that automatically edits music videos by syncing multiple takes to the audio. As far as companies that could be potentially interesting to marketers, a couple of the presentations stood out:

  • Grsp is a shopping app that allows a consumer to shop confidently by aggregating product reviews and competitive online and offline pricing. Consumers can scan a barcode, take a picture, or manually type in the name of a product in order to inform purchase decisions. As of now, Grsp is focusing on growing their scale. However, in the future, it may be possible to leverage their purchase data to re-target or conquest consumers.
  • Goldbean is an investment platform that targets finance novices. They are able to recommend equity to users based on their consumption data. Goldbean offers transparency into holdings within ETFs in order to lift the veil to people who are just starting off with their investments in order to make finance less intimidating. Their trading is built on Tradekings API and once scale is achieved, they will have an impressive amount of consumption and finance data on their audience.

Overall, there were some very impressive demonstrations that had practical use cases, although not many of the presentations offered much to be leveraged by brands. Most were in the very early stages of development and will be monitored as they grow their user bases for potential partnerships.


Event Recap: District Dialogues – The Future of Media

On August 27th, the IPG Media Lab attended a District Dialogue Meet Up on the future of media. The panel included Chelsea Emery, Deputy Editor of BBC Capital at BBC Worldwide; Jessica Manis, Digital Associate Director at Optimedia and; Alicianne Rand, VP of Marketing at Newscred.

There was a lively discussion about where the ad industry is headed and the best ways to reach audiences in the future. All the panelists (and most of the audience) agreed that it is becoming increasingly important to add value to consumers and create content that users will choose to engage in. Audiences are already less responsive to and tolerant of traditional banner advertisements and this trend will continue going forward. The panelists believe that banner ads will never go away entirely although they agree that they are becoming less effective, especially with most browsers ending support for flash and enabling ad blockers.

Another topic that was discussed at length was the fact that the lines between editorial and advertorial are getting increasingly blurred. It was interesting to hear the panelists discuss this separation between church and state. Those on the editorial side were adamant that the line must be drawn and that journalistic integrity must be preserved. Those on the marketing side believed that although the distinction is important, it was not quite as essential. They argued that great content could be created even when paid for by a marketer. Interestingly, one member of the editorial side of the discussion did acknowledge that her salary is funded entirely by ad revenues.

The final trend discussed was the fact that the power to create content is shifting from big publishers to consumers. Social media is allowing anyone with access to the internet to become a source of information and thought-leader. The distribution channels allow individuals to be heard on a much wider scale than ever before and these avenues are only going to become magnified as technology brings people closer together. A member of the audience summed it up perfectly: “Content is king but distribution is queen and she wears the pants in the relationship.” The advertising landscape is certainly shifting in many ways and marketers must adapt to provide value to consumers and take advantage of rising distribution models.


Event Recap: NJ Tech Meetup #63

On Wednesday, August 12th, the Media Lab attended the New Jersey Tech Meetup at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken. This monthly event is organized as a way for entrepreneurs from New Jersey to network and inspire each other.

A handful of startups were chosen to present their business ideas to the attendees. First to the stage was Fusar, a company that creates wearable hardware for action-sports enthusiasts. Their products include clip-on trackers that fit on helmets, handlebar controls, and an “Eyes up”-display helmet. Because the primary function of this equipment is safety, it seems unlikely that Fusar will incorporate an open-source app store that brands can leverage, as this may be seen as a distraction to someone driving a motorcycle. Next to present was Cosmic, a company that powers the pipes that enable native eCommerce. This technology allows vendors to seamlessly offer products across the web for purchase without having to drive consumers to a separate site to buy. Finally, Gravy presented their solution for an easier way for businesses to purchase and send gifts to clients and employees. The winner of the night was Cosmic, as selected by the audience.

The main event of the night was a fireside chat with Gary Vaynerchuk. Mr. Vaynerchuk covered a wide range of topics including how he makes business decisions, his general outlook on life, and his life goal of buying the New York Jets. Mr. Vaynerchuk has created a massive brand for himself as an entrepreneur, investor, author, and Internet personality. He grew his parents liquor store from an annual revenue of $3MM to $45MM business in six years, and then in 2006, leveraged a little site called YouTube to become a public figure among the tech community. He has since launched VaynerMedia and VaynerRSE, the latter of which he is in the midst of raising a $150MM round for 10-20 investments. When asked if he had any regrets, he promptly responded no, before relenting that he probably should not have passed twice on Uber’s angel round. Mr. Vaynerchuk’s chat was inspirational and the Media Lab wishes him good fortune in purchasing the Jets from Woody Johnson.

NY Quantifiable Self Show and Tell

Event Recap: NY Quantifiable Self Show and Tell

On August 6th, the IPG Media Lab attended a NY Quantified Self Show & Tell event where some entrepreneurs showcased their creations. Many of the products on display were still in early stages of development and few had direct marketing implications, they nevertheless presented a great deal of creativity and ingenuity. Among the items featured, the three standouts were:

  • A heart rate monitor on a steering wheel that flashed LED lights on the exterior of the vehicle so other drivers can get a sense of a fellow driver’s attentiveness.
  • A location-tracking app that aims to empower users by collecting and potentially monetizing the hyperlocal consumer data they generate.
  • A SMS-based platform that uses a conversational UI to enable users to conveniently track their diet and measure calorie intake.

The quantifiable self movement has been a dream come true for marketers. Now more than ever, users are incentivized to share data and information that brands can leverage to understand their consumer base on a much more personal level. This wealth of data allows brands to extend highly relevant and customized messaging in specific environments at the most effective moments.

Event Recap: District Dialogue – Future of Transportation

Last week, the IPG Media Lab attended a panel discussion around the future of transportation. Panel members, including founders of car-sharing services, venture capitalists, and a public transportation guru, addressed multiple topics such as car connectivity, self-driving capabilities, and security. From a marketing standpoint, this territory is ripe for opportunity. However, real world applications won’t be implemented until cars are more capable of driving themselves, thus shifting a driver’s attention from the road and towards the augmented windshields and screens within the vehicle. The panelists agreed that we are only 5-10 years away from this reality.

The primary barrier to autonomous cars is not the technology (which already exists in agriculture and mining vehicles) but the physical infrastructure and government regulations that the cars and manufacturers must navigate. Steps have already been taken to challenge legal boundaries and push for more flexibility for innovation. For example, Uber successfully fought off the Taxi & Limousine Commission’s attempt to limit new driver applications in New York City earlier last month, which set a precedent that regulations cannot impede customer experience or value.

There are companies that are already working to create branding opportunities within vehicles. Two companies that are attempting to crack into this space are Vin.li and Automatic. They are creating devices that plug into a car’s data port so the user can access apps and in-car WiFi. Such devices incorporate platforms for developers to build apps that are connected to the car and can also be accessed via mobile devices. Brands could potentially align with app developers to create unique user experiences within vehicles.

During the panel discussion, there was one tongue-in-cheek comment made that cars are essentially “computers with wheels.” Although this comment was made in jest, it speaks to the wide range of capabilities for brands to reach users in cars. As cars become more autonomous, drivers will become passengers and their attention will shift from operating the vehicle to operating systems. Brands will be able to collect and utilize actionable data to reach consumers on the go.

Event Recap: ARNY & The Future of Augmented Reality

During the week of July 27th, the Lab attended two events that focused on augmented reality (AR). Many topics were addressed including commercial adoption, industrial application, and marketing implications. There was a general consensus among the participants in “The Future of Augmented Reality” panel that the best use case for AR is education. It can be used to enhance a teacher’s lesson plan or train medical residents for surgical procedures without the need for expensive training facilities.

The State Of Binaural AR
When people think of augmented reality, they mostly focus on the visual aspects of the technology. In truth, audio is also an essential part of a person’s environment and can be augmented as well. Hooke is a company that is aiming to commercialize binaural recording on a large scale. Unlike 3DIO, which requires a large recording device, Hooke’s flagship product is a pair of Bluetooth headphones with built-in microphones, which allows it to record audio binaurally in the same way that human ears capture sound in their surrounding environment. Although the product itself is not bulky and minimally invasive, convincing consumers of the need of binaural recordings remains a major adoption barrier.

What Brands Should Do
There are currently in-market options that demonstrate the potential of AR but no products or services that are easily accessible. As of today, AR products are generally too bulky, too expensive, or not comprehensive enough for mass adoption. Nevertheless, better solutions could arrive within 5-10 years, the panelists said.

Therefore, brands that are willing to experiment now to see how they fit into the AR space will be in a much better position when the time comes. For example, it is not far-fetched to think that standard brick and mortar stores will enhance the shopping experience by layering product info directly over physical objects. Furthermore, combining consumer behavior data with AR allows brands to make purchase recommendations, surface relevant promotions at opportune times, and create a personalized shopping experience.

Event Recap: Product Hunt NYC – Invisible Apps

On Wednesday night, the Lab attended a Product Hunt NYC Meetup on service apps that do not have a user interface (Invisible Apps). The session was led by Harry Raymond, the organizer of Product Hunt and co-founder of Swig, a SMS-based service to discover beers and spirits. Four startups were featured in the session, including: Larry, SMS-based law advice; Alfred, text-based concierge service to help cross off items from your to-do list; Stefan’s Head, the first SMS-based retail brand; and xdotai, an AI personal assistant to help you schedule meetings via email. The founders did not give demos of their products but instead gave a brief background on launching their startups and then shared some lessons they had learned thus far.

Christian, the business development manager from Alfred, illustrated the difficulty of a truly on-demand service where a user can get anything at any time. Some companies that attempt to take this on have failed due to the inability to fulfill numerous and outlandish requests. In order to differentiate from those predecessors, Alfred offers an automatic recurring service as opposed to always-on on demand. This way, a user has their personal “Alfred” show up at an assigned time and date each week and handles all the requests that had come in throughout the week. This allows the company to vet and keep a stable of trained employees who have set schedules as opposed to a fleet of contractors that are not necessarily equipped for the jobs at hand.

As more people attempt to streamline their app usage, invisible apps that can be accessed via SMS, email, or voice commands have the potential to become more and more prevalent. From a marketing perspective, as users change their behaviors around how they request services and order products, brands will have to identify unique ways to collaborate with these existing platforms and quite literally, find their voice.

Header image courtesy of Product Hunt NYC’s Meetup page