Interview: Father of the Internet, Vint Cerf

“I Invented the Internet.”

This is something Startup Grind’s DC speaker Vint Cerf can legitimately claim. The former DARPA scientist worked on data packet technologies which led to the internet as we know it. His led internet architecting at Verizon for eleven years and and spent fourteen years with NASA taking the internet to space. Vint serves as an evangelist for our October host and Startup Grind sponsor, Google. There he continues to push the bounds of the internet as we know it, into unconnected communities and new iterations in the internet of things.

Vint defied the portrait of a geeky scientist: Tall, and impeccably dressed, he took over the stage at our fireside chat, lobbing a joke at Brian. “You shouldn’t clap before people speak – you don’t know what they’re going to say yet.”

The Pro-Primordial Internet and the Cabana Hotel

Vint’s life story didn’t let us down there: Growing up in San Fernando in the Valley, his high school boasts Marilyn Monroe, Robert Redford, Steve Crawford, Jon Postel, who managed the domain name system, and Richard Carp who wrote the first implementation of TCP. It may have been fate that brought Vint just across the hill to UCLA’s campus, where the first node of the internet was being developed. There at only 17 he wrote his first piece of program, a transcendental equation, on a Bendex.

Brian fast-forwarded us to 1973 at the Hyatt Cabana Hotel in Palo Alto with Bob Con and the beginning of TCP/IP. Why the Cabana Hotel? “When you’re on a government salary, you have to choose hotels you can afford”, explained Vince. Armed with a pencil, the two had sat down to write the design for publication.

Model for the Internet: The United States Postal Service

“Aha is not quite the right notion here,” said Vince. Like any great inventors they had spent months working on the design. Like many other entrepreneurial teams, Bob and Vince had worked together previously to successfully design “archinet” in Washington, DC, a packet-switching pre-internet model that allowed for a homogenous network with heterogenous computers. Any brand of computer could host archinet, effectually democratizing internet access from its very birth.

Explaining TCP/IP protocol’s evolution very simply, he said, “no network knew how to refer to any other network, because they didn’t know there were other networks. We needed addresses.” The second problem was connecting the networks to be able to send info packets. “Since the networks didn’t know they were connected, we had to put a box in between them to be able to talk to both nets.” The “box” worked to receive info packets, unpack, repack and “ship” them to their final destination. “Simplicity was our friend,” summarized Vince.

Google Self-Driving Cars and What’s Next for the Internet

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Of the internet of things, Vint sees infinite possibilities. “I think we are going to be surrounded by smart devices. There’s something really magic, to be able to assume, that any device you have that has some programmability in it could be part of a communications network, and could communicate with any other random, programmable device. When you assume that’s the norm, you have almost no limit to the kinds of ideas you can come up with.”

Asked about the “future”, Vint responded, “I’m not better at anyone else at predicting the future, but I will say this ‘Smart City’ idea is a real grabber for me”. He gave the common examples of avoiding traffic congesting, controlling resources like water and electricity based on supply and demand, and looking at waste and disposable resources. “This notion of being able to track behavior and consumption – and feed that back – this is the one thing we lack in our lives, the ability to understand the impact of what we’re doing.”

On a more specific note, Brian had to ask, what’s up with the Google’s self-driving car? “There are all kinds of potential things, including cars being to adapt to what’s going on with traffic, etc.,” said Vint. However, he also quipped, “Our new cars have not accelerator, steering wheel or break. The reason is, we discovered people are not very unreliable…You’re in the backseat sleeping, or watching a movie, and [the car would alert you] ‘take over now!’ And you wouldn’t do a very good job. So we’ve concluded we really have to make the cars to everything – and they have to do it all the time.”

 

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By kariobrien Posted in Other

Getting into Business School & Sorority Recruitment

As I embark on my new journey as an MBA student…(aka spend the summer at my mother’s lakehouse or with my boyfriend in Spain)…I look back on the hustle that over the past two and half years.

I always knew I was getting an MBA – I majored in business, my mother has one, and about 1 year after school I realized with a panic that social media was neither going to satisfy my cerebral nor pecuniary needs. So B school was inevitable.

Getting into a good business school reminds me of sorority recruitment. Image

I rushed freshman year, and was only invited back to two sororities I didn’t like, so I decided to “defer” a year, and “reapply”, or rush again the next year. (I ended up going to China for a full year and never re-rushed.) Now, older, wiser, and, dangran, more wordly I can share the qualities that get you into your choice sorority and business school.

1. Get Smart

Most sororities have GPA requirements; All business schools do. While I tend to think people are born smart or not, anyone can work the deriers off and get good grades or test scores. GPAs and GMATs are the first filtering criteria for business students. With a low GPA, say bye-bye to top schools. Same with a low GPA, unless you have a compelling story or daddy owns Chile.

2. Have Money

When you’re a freshman girl, having money is probably a matter of circumstance. Your parents had it, or they didn’t. Hopefully though, like with preparing for business school, you planned ahead. Summer jobs, high school savings, a campus job, you’ll need it.

Here, I will make a slightly unseemly parallel the reader may forgive: There are unmentionable ways attractive young ladies in school earn extra cash or Prada bags, which in a down economy, have become more popular. These type of “occupations” are a great way to get you blackballed from any sorority.

Just like refined young Greek ladies, business schools care where you work. From the moment you leave school, you are typing lines, blank or full, on the resume you will submit to MBA programs. The nine months you were “looking”, the first job that didn’t work out, the one you hated…or the well-known firm you interned at, the managerial job that gives you experience other students didn’t have. The company names matter. Titles matter. What you accomplished, yes that matters too.

3. Do Your Research

What is the culture like? What are the requirements? What is the “word on the street”? Yes with business schools there are a ton of rankings, but there are many other things the school is known for, just as sororities have their national standards, as well as the more unwritten campus reputations. Finding out which one best fits you, or you can best assimilate to will help you not only in targeting the place you’ll fit in, but in being able to speak to students/admissions counselors about why you would fit.

4. Get to Know Them

In Greek culture, “dirty rushing” is when a member actively recruits another member before official rush. This can also occur after rush has begun, by soliciting the potential recruit away from regular activities, offering bribes, intimidation, inviting them to private parties, etc. In business school rushing, dirty rushing is highly legal.

I’m not sure whether I would have gotten in as a regular candidate, but I like sure things, so before I “rushed” I began talking to current students at all schools. I took a part-time course at one of my choices. I talked to multiple professors, and obtained references.

5. Go to the Parties

Which brings me to the next one…go to all the parties. In sorority recruitment there are scheduled parties, and you have to be invited back to the second round, third, and so fourth. In business school recruiting, there are lunches, cocktail hours, meet and greets, class visits, pre-interviews, one-on-one with students, school tours and more.

Then there are invitational only events, like weekends for top GMAT candidates, diverse candidates, (women, military, minorities), and top recruits. There are welcome weekends after you’ve been offered admission, but not yet accepted, accepted student happy hours and webinars.

Let me add – there are also non-recruitment events. Let’s call this the “private parties”.  Things like a Women in Business “what to wear” happy hour with the women’s group. Women in Leadership conferences on campus. Even informal events, if you’re lucky enough to live in the city your choice school is in, like Meetups, where you know current students will be out in bulk.

Go there, be cool and…

6. Be Confident and Charming

The sisterhood, or network, you’re joining is going to be extremely close with you for the next two or three years…and after. This network is for life. You need to be seen as someone who will be friendly, connects with the others, has common goals and interests, and is all around fun.

Being this type of person is more than just for the sisters personally enjoyment. Sororities need to continually be able to recruit new members; So do business schools. They need to be able to get the “best frats” to party with them; Business schools need the best companies. They want to be associated with popular, pleasant, successful people; Doesn’t everyone?

7. Learn the Cheers

There are actual songs and cheers for sororities, as there are for universities. There are also the “cheers” the admissions marketing team came up with: slogans, brochure language, top reasons to attend. Know why a school considers itself awesome, just as you would a sorority. Everyone wants their “outstanding attributes” recognized. Being able to gush over what they already told you is awesome shows you listened, believed it, and are ready to put on your letters with pride.

8. Make Friends

Know from the moment you show up at your first event, be it a luncheon, a table at a fair, a party or real recruitment session, you are being documented, and watched. Working in digital marketing, I was well aware the data tracking that goes on with individual records. Did they sign up for webinar? Skip the event they signed up? Tweet about us? Who in the office actually knows them?

If you are the girl surrounded by happy other sisters and rushees, you will immediately be seen as popular, likeable, and going to fit in. If you have the opportunity to do an admissions weekend for a school you will be similarly observed. Don’t worry about winning…(yes you’re an alpha)…worry about being liked, teaching the other students something, chatting up current students, and being the kind of “team player” who will strengthen the group.

The current students also are watching you….and will also be there to vouch for you. Connect with them whenever you can. If you know them outside school, even better. In my case, I’d made friends with people from schools I never applied to early in my search. When I did select my schools, I took advantage of this with a personal note from a student who volunteered for my club. I also put in a good word for a student I’d spent time with socially. And I know for a fact it mattered.

9. Widen Your Net

This advice is something I’d like to give myself in retrospect. I’m picky – there are certain things I like, certain people I’d like to associate with. You’ll remember I didn’t complete rush because I didn’t like the chapters I received invites from – but I went to their parties. My friend however, didn’t want to rush at first, did, and ended up at one of the sororities I rejected. She was thrilled; The girls had made a great choice in her.

For business school, during your research you should be open and talk to graduates from very different schools. I was told by a top school grad I was “undervaluing” myself with my choices. I found out another school was too snobby for me. Another one, honestly kind of racist.  By talking to people I found out the “unwritten” culture, and my choices changed.

My biggest regret is not applying to more schools: I applied to three and was accepted to all. I received enough money and it was easy enough that I wish I had applied to a few “reach” schools. Getting rejected isn’t that bad – more so it tells you where your “limit” is or some parameters of where you fit in.

10. Second Round

A this point, my girl friends received our first “invitation” back to the second party. Depending on how we presented ourselves, clicked with the members, how we fit, we may or may not have the opportunity to keep going.

In business school admissions, your first “invite” is the interview. (If they aren’t interviewing you, either you’re an ibanker with a 775 GMAT, volunteer activities, a legacy, 3.9 GPA, and career goals to go back to banking….or admissions criteria is ridiculously low.) The interview signals that “hey, we like how you look! give us a chance to get to you know better.”

This is when you want to go back to the “know the cheers” and be ready to rattle off how awesome the school is. You’ll also have a well rehearsed speech about why you want to go back. The most important thing about this speech is that it sounds reasonable, rational and achievable given your abilities and experience. In my interview for a part-time program the admissions counselor leveled with me, “As a career changer going part-time is going to be very difficult. You won’t be able to interview”.

I somehow convinced him I could do it slaving away, getting a new job closer to finance, networking like a mad woman…but his advice made a lot of sense. It impacted me enough that I decided a full-time program was a safer, and way more fun, option.

Now congrats, we want you!

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Ted Leonsis: From Making Money to Finding Happiness

The Ted Leonsis event blew out Startup Grind DC’s event capacity as one of the most popular speakers interviewed yet. Ted is a local hero in DC, a Georgetown graduate affectionately referred to as “Uncle Ted” by many of the young people who grew up with his kids. As the billionaire owner of the Verizon Center, he also owns the Caps and Wizards, making him one of the most popular DC residents.

Ted’s story proselytizes the classic American dream realized. “When you’re an ethnic kid, you’re raised with the idea that you can do better than your parents’ generation.” Born to a Greek immigrant, the first of his family to go to college, Ted is a self-made entrepreneur who continues to instill wisdom and work ethic not only in his children, but in hundreds of thousands of Americans through his book charmingly not on entrepreneurship, but happiness.

His choice of Georgetown was a fortuity; the alma mater of one Ted’s lawn mowing client’s saying “I like the work you do. Are you going to college?” A recommendation letter and a paper application later, and Ted would find himself on scholarship to Georgetown, and starting his first business.

The Startup Joy

“It’s a startup joy, not a grind, the joy of being independent”, espoused Ted. “I was a freshman at Georgetown University, and I had a rich roommate – dumb money, just like the kind you all want.” It was the summer of 1776, with 40 million tourists coming in for the bicentennial, he thought “gotta be something we can sell to 40 million people.” With his roommate’s financial backing, Ted was determined to spend his summer in DC.

His first entrepreneurial epiphany? Snow cones – with surge pricing. “For 0 – 80 degrees, it was 50 cents. At 80 – 90 degrees, a dollar. Over 90 degrees, and we would negotiate how bad you would want the cone,” he explained. Classmates, especially pretty coeds, and even a dog were employed to market the snowcone business. The snowcone tradition has continued with Ted’s daughter, a Georgetown senior who employed old snowcone machine to make money last summer.

Hard Work Really Matters

“You can do studies on what makes for an entrepreneur,” says Ted, citing the Kauffman Group. “I don’t buy into any of that. I think it’s an individual experience that comes from having high levels of self-expression, and really a chip on your shoulder. The best entrepreneurs that I’ve met really have a strong point-of-view, that’s powered by a belief that you can do something better than someone else.” His take more eloquently paraphrases the best quote of Startup Grind 2014 by George Zachary, “My screwed up childhood was a competitive advantage [for entrepreneurship].”

Sharing insights from one of his mentors, Congressman Paul Sangas, Ted explained “His thesis was hard work really mattered. He said [to me], ‘if you work this hard for a business you’ve started, you’ll be a millionaire by the time you’re thirty.’” Translating it to businesses today he explained, “The ability to work one on one with customers, the ability to take it to the streets, and be able to work person by person…I believe you can connect through hard work, through authenticity, through building a sense of community, and you can scale big businesses.”

 

Liberal Arts and Technology Come Together

Like most of Ted’s answers, his first foray into coding was a story, a story of man versus the Jesuit priest’s homework assignment.

“I was very busy,” said Ted of his youth. “I learned a lot about bandwidth. In college I got a little lazy. I discovered girls, I played sports. At Georgetown, you had to write a senior year thesis…so I went to the library to find the smallest book I could find. I was on a mission. It was Earnest Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea, ‘It was a good day, the sun was hot, then wind blew’. Chapter two.”

“My professor read my thesis and said ‘Why don’t you read it again?’. So I read it again, and I thought ‘I’m going to do something on Hemingway’. I went and got a second book, Across the River and into the Trees. It was 400 pages, and it was nothing like Old Man in the Sea. So I started reading other random works. ‘I said I don’t think he wrote Old Man and the Sea later in his career, I think he wrote it when he was a journalist, and started writing these novels later in life, then he took the book out from his drawer and published it.’”

“My professor said, ‘Now that’s a great idea! Let’s prove it.’ I said, ‘How are we going to do that, talk to his publisher?’ And Father Dirkin, a 76 year old Jesuit priest says, ‘We’ll use a computer’. There was one computer on the entire campus at Georgetown University…in the registrar’s office. Father Dirkin inspired me to create one of the first mashups of all time. We created the first algorithm applied to a non computer science application. They had me go at midnight some nights and input the first 500 words of a work written in 1950 or 1930.”

“It literally felt like magic to me. And we asked the computer, ‘When was Old Man in the Sea written?’ and it said ‘1933’. Father Dirkin said ‘I think is the first time liberal arts and technology have come together. Someone asked Steve Jobs once why Apple was the most valuable company, and he said ‘Apple is where liberal arts and technology come together’. Father Dirkin had said that in 1978.”

Things to Do Before You Die

Tracing his life through his first computer, to pitching his business (he was told “you could sell snow to an Eskimo), to telling his parents he was “getting venture capital”, Ted Leonsis beat Sangas’s estimate, becoming a multi-millionaire at 26 in 1983. So what do you do at 26 when you’ve made all the money you could possibly need at 26?

Flying on the wrong airplane, Ted’s plane hit turbulence. He found himself praying to an unfamiliar diety: God. He found himself “cutting a deal. Let me get through this and I will leave more than I take.”

“I said I was going to change, but I didn’t know what to do. So I made a list, ‘A Hundred and One Things to Do Before I Die’. It’s a terrible list. It was written by a young person in turmoil and stress, but I made the list. And the list became this powerful envisioning tool.”

See Ted’s full list here.

The mostly lighthearted talk ended with what seemed the perfect question, who was his favorite superhero? Leonsis said it was Superman although he could never understand why in the old TV show Superman would laugh at bullets but dodge the gun when it was thrown at him. The Startup Grind team, no doubt echoing the view of a lot of the local tech community, declared Leonsis a kind of superhero himself and presented him with a custom Ted Leonsis superhero action figure to much laughter and applause.

– See more at: http://startupgrind.com/2014/04/ted-leonsis-aol-revolution-and-owning-a-sports-franchise/#sthash.KoYsnuCj.dpuf

By kariobrien Posted in Other

Congressman Jared Polis: Before TechStars Were Stars

There are two path to venture capitalist – the first I’m currently on as I look for a summer internship before starting an MBA in finance.

The second in a far a rockier road that starts with an idea…

In February, Startup Grind DC had the honor of hosting Congressman Jared Polis (cofounder of TechStars, ProFlowers, BlueMountainArts.com). Often the tech and entrepreneurship community can feel overshadowed by the power and influence emanating from The Hill. While “Hill people” cloister in elegant Senate offices and old-style bars bowing off of K street, the area’s entrepreneurs coalesce in warehouses converted to coworking spaces and dive bars papered with stickers from former next-big-things.

It’s a seismic event, then, when the DC tech and Hill communities can come crashing together over a double-threat like they did last February with Congressman Polis. Rep. Polis has been serving Colorado’s 2nd district since 2009. Prior to becoming a politico, Polis founded and successfully sold three technology companies. He is now a mentor with TechStars, a startup accelerator.

Similar to our January speaker Alex Hawkinson, Polis grew up in an entrepreneurial family, learning sales from a young age. His first sell was BlueMountainArts.com, which he started with his parents using his father’s artwork to create online greeting cards. His second sell, American Information Systems, an internet access provider, went for $32 million. He immediately used the capital to found ProFlowers, an online florist.

It was at that point Rep. Polis moved from entrepreneur to mentor.

Before TechStars Were Stars

Brian listed Rep. Polis’ impressive cofounders: “David Cohen, Brad Feld, David Brown – these are big names in the startup community. How did you meet these guys?” Ever humble, Polis explains, “We weren’t all as big back then…There wasn’t a lot of us in the late ‘90s. The community wasn’t that big up there, so we all knew each other”.

Of the early days, he says “We didn’t have as many applicants. I was really active in the early days. We knew most of the founders in tech, so we’d ask them.” He explained, “Most of them enjoy this, they said ‘Sure I’d love to do this!’. Sometimes the companies wouldn’t interest [the mentors] – other times, one or two would be really interesting and they’d do their own angel investment.”

Brian asked about mentor buy-in, a common requirement for accelerators today. “But no, there was certainly no promise that they had to do anything in particular,” said Polis, “I think a lot of the mentors were looking to have fun. Some became CEOs or board members, and got buy-in that way.”

Taking a slight dig at “Things that call themselves accelerators these days”, Jared describes TechStars as a summer camp for startups, “This was a two and half month program in summer, housed together in one place. They had regular mentor visits with the companies. It was a full time program for everyone who was there.”

“We made sure to find the right mentors for each startup. We were trying to match everyone on the personal chemistry, as well as the core competencies.”

How Mature Does Your Startup Need to Be?

“If you have a million users, you are ready for Series A,” laughed Polis. “[TechStars] has migrated slightly from mid-stage to early-stage in the first few years. There are still pre-proof of concept companies, but much of the competition has some type of beta or proof of concept, so you are up against that, but it doesn’t mean that the right team and the right idea can’t get in before that.”

Proof of concept (POC), means that a startup has demonstrated their principle or product has actual usability. This may mean a growing user base, a beta product being used by a few potential customers, or a model that has been applied and shown to solve a specific problem. Having a POC doesn’t mean a startup isn’t going to change their direction though.

“Accelerators offer the most value right in the early stage. I think a lot of the companies who have gone through TechStars have pivoted on their idea anyway.” Major pivoting may occur after realizing that burning idea doesn’t really have the customer base, or maybe a small aspect of your company is getting all the attention from potential consumers. Said Polis, about a third of TechStars start-ups undergo a major pivot during their accelerator phase.

“It Is Harder to Get into TechStars than Harvard”

“That could be,” said Polis, a little unnerved. “It depends on the city. You get 600 applications and most of them are just throwaways. You throw out more than half. There’s a big piece missing – either it is an idea that is hair-brained, or you have a team that has no potential to execute the idea.”

Asked about metrics for measuring applications, Polis responds, “Well in the application we go to the zoo, get a monkey, put all the applications on the wall, give him a dart and [the monkey] throws a dart.”

His more serious response was “idea and team”:

– Does this idea make sense?

– Do these people show they have what it takes to execute the idea?

– Do they show there is a need and a marketplace?

– Do the teammates compliment one another?

– Are there holes in the team?

– If so, are they aware of these holes?

TechStar to Politician: Why?

“This is a brand new set of challenges”, said Polis about his new career. “I had done well enough in business, I could think about what I want to do next, and I wanted to make an impact…I decided I wanted to dedicate a portion of my life to public service.”

Polis’s first foray into politics was in the education system, attempting to unseat the incumbent on the Colorado Board of Education. With 1.6 million voters, the split came down to ninety-two votes. Thanks to those ninety-two votes, Polis’s career continued to move forward, and today his reforms are impacting the startup community.

“One of the big reforms is of course immigration reform,” shares Polis. “One [reform] is a visa for founders. The other has to do with capital formation, EB5, to allow more capital for investment. And one is the high-skilled visa, so you can get the high skills in this country that you need to succeed. And my passion in public service has always been education…that’s all the way through the K-12 system to affordable access to college.”

By kariobrien Posted in Other

What Gossip Girl Can Teach You About Branding

Gossip Girl fanatics were thrilled on the final episode to finally know the true identity of the Perez Hilton style blogger who made most of the drama happen on the show by blogging about the main characters. The posh female voice who had narrated the show, the catty, clever language used in the blogposts and the almost eponymous sign off “XOXO” made one think the show’s secret star had to be female…

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The big reveal was “Gossip Girl” was the nomme de plumme of none other than a starring character, Dan Humphrey. The protegee writer had created the blog at the end middle school to chronicle the exploits of his one true love, Serena Van Derwoodsen. As he explained in the ending, by writing about Serena, he created a mythical version of her; An aspirational female beyond his flesh and bone crush.

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Brands Create Demi-Gods

Brands do this every day, creating demi-gods that people feel emotional connections to. Sometimes the brand is literally personified or animalitized, like in the case of Tony the Tiger or Aunt Jemima, other times the brand is an idea of a person, like J. Crew or Ann Taylor, and sometimes a real person is blown out into a character, like William Shatner for Priceline.

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I was lucky enough to be treated to a presentation by a brand manager for Betty Crocker who was discussing how her team is developing the classic personification of the Betty Crocker brand into it’s own “Gossip Girl” voice. The Betty Crocker brand began with the face of a model posing as the “perfect housewife”. Over the years artists were used to depict various June Cleaver or Jacklyn Kennedy type women who were called “Betty”. The character the company created was so relatable, women would write in asking the company for questions on baking and even in landing a husband.
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If you’ve studied polytheistic religions, you’ll notice enduring gods have malleability across centuries. Between Roman, Greek, Viking and Hindu gods, there are great deal of similarities. Gods of fertility, war, famine and knowledge exist in every anthropomorphic religion. In ancient fairy tales, wind, air and animals become elves, trolls and sea people. In far Eastern religions “gods” may be supernatural people who interact with humans to bestow gifts or teach lessons. In Catholicism saints have similar characteristics, giving worshipers a person to connect to in a way the more abstract God can’t: St. Thomas promises to find lost travelers, while Mary Magdalen offers hope for “lost” women. The uniting thread for a god between the centuries is what they offer for the worshiper – strength, fertility, knowledge – and consistency in their character. Loki, a Norse god, is clever, but will always make trouble. Krisna is always youthful and protects the people.

Betty Crocker evolved the same way, keeping her core value as a champion for “homemakers”, evoking images of the perfect caretaker and a great cook. In the nineties the company moved away from the personified brand and began just using her talisman, a red spoon, in marketing and advertising. This degraded the brand and removed the ability for consumers to feel a personal connection. Today the company has removed the actual representations of the brand as a female housewife, into a malleable “homemaker”, called Betty, who, like a Zeus, can be incarnated into anyone: Someone of any race, gender or lifestyle who represents the core values of a caretaker and baker.

Social Media Personas

At our National Leadership Summit, I presented to a group of college students on managing their pages. I introduced myself to the class as “Steve Dupont”. Most of the room knew who Steve Loflin, our founder, was, and of the Steve Dupont Facebook account, but were shocked to see the young female face actually behind the brand. Steve Dupont had become a demi-god.

jtmrotatingimager1When I first took over my company’s social media account, the Steve Dupont account had been in place several years, and had been managed very successfully by a digital strategist. “Steve”, was a brand created around our company’s founder,  a slightly-geeky leader who champions high achieving first and second year college students. To personify a social media brand you need more than just a mission and a clever name, you need a character and a voice.

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Community managers know their job is about 40% customer service, 40% cheer leading and 20% actually finding interesting content. Managing, and now training my team on managing our brand through social is helping them realize your personality is only a little part of what you want your brand to project online. This may apply to your personal brand as well. For my company, Steve Dupont is a faceless brand who can relate to any major or career interest. He is more excited than you are about your academic achievements! He wants to see your pictures and is so proud of what a great person you are through the service work you do. He thinks the blogposts you write are amazing and he wants to share your work with all of the community. He’s there when you need an internship or a scholarship, and is going to push you to succeed and achieve more. He celebrates your “geekiness”, loves cats, and will never post anything controversial. He respects every opinion, but never judges himself. Steve Dupont is a malleable god, incarnated by every NSCS  member.

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Our Millennial-aged membership is great representation of the country, with extreme diversities spreading across regions. This is the audience most companies are dealing with today, an audience which doesn’t fall into a niche or prototype customer that’s easy to create a personified brand to connect to. Brands today have to create a voice and character that can represent their customers and offer the intangible qualities humans crave, while keeping the character ambiguous enough to appeal to any background or walk of life.4080141040_7fd4f4d0e6_o

By kariobrien Posted in Other

Chasing ROI on Social: Hire a Mathlete

Marketing_ROI_Cartoon

I have no doubt 2010 was the year social media took a seat at the marketing table. After 2011’s launch into mobile, I predicted that 2012 would be the year of augmented reality – instead, in the dank, creative pit of the Great Recession, 2012 brought practical decisions made by a wizened marketing force: Clients were demanding ROI.

While agencies continued to jump into the game with “fresh approaches”, that “integrated marketing communications” and became a “conversation with your audience”, while “leveraging key opinion leaders”, many smaller companies shook off the “consultants” and freelancers who had failed to hit black on the bottom line. Instead, these businesses, (finally), hired recent college grads who could manage twitter channels all day for minimum return and field basic customer service questions without the ego.

And the big agencies? They bought brains. Digital powerhouses, fusing creativity with analytics and tracking innovation. Radian6 had become the corporate standard. Google Analytics was blown out into customized campaign tracking, following every click from every source. Smaller link trackers like Bit.ly bowed to full-functioning social media systems. An industry was created for fresh startups, the future Buddy Medias, bringing better and more detailed conversation analysis, semi-natural language processing and conversion tracking.

Even after GM pulled out of Facebook, online social media marketing has grown more popular with marketing managers. This is because the ability to mine data on individuals, campaigns and over time is being refined by minds bright enough to be found in the quant quarter at a financial firm. Programmers are able to funnel that data into beautiful dashboards, but the real impact comes on exporting into spreadsheets, parsing, analyzing and color coding into graphs, until you can slip it into a PowerPoint and say to the decision maker, yes!, Oreo sales went up in Q1!

My advice for anyone wondering if their marketing team’s efforts are in vain, is start digging for data. Even if it’s just running sales over time against your campaign efforts over time, find the geekiest person on your team and give him or her undivided time. Marketing data is almost always trackable. When it comes to the economic rebound though, my guess is as good as a guru’s.

Next post I’ll share tips on tracking and benchmarking I use.

From the Madtown: I Stand With Walker

Tonight Scott Walker is the winner of a state he already won the right to run. They are saying its a test for the country, the “stirring of something on a domestic level” and a warning for Obama. While the pundits speculate about the 62 million, (by some estimates 34 million Republican, 4 million Democrat, the rest special interests), which lambbasted the state the last months, I can’t help but wonder: Have any of these people ever been to Wisconsin?

Do they know it’s mostly Catholic and Lutheran, and yet prochoice? Do they understand the thick accent derived from German and Scandanavian settlers which still influences the socialist ideals? Do they know it’s one of the most literate states in the country? Or the fattest? Do they know that La Crosse is a place, not a sport, and jorts never went out of style..the rest of the country merely came back in? Do they understand, to a Wisconsin voter, politics are the most fun since football season is over?

Last fall as the nation turned its attention on my hometown, I hoped they would see what I saw: The liberal, diverse, highly educated (most PhDs per capita), Best City to Live In several years running capital city. Madison’s economy is a town similar to my new home, Washingon, D.C. It runs on the government, a handful of insurance companies and the internet and tech fueled startups like ShopBop and Epic, which employ the bright, hard-working and conscientious graduates the UW turns out every year.

It’s a smart city. Which is why I was shocked in horror to watch last fall as a bunch of out-of-towners drove tractors around the capital, and my little brother and sister’s high school classes poured into the Rotunda to cheer in red and white sweatshirts along side my former classmates. But then that’s Wisconsin. We’re the only state that owns our own football team: This is not a sit back and watch the t.v. ads kind of voter.

Is this a state which reflects the country? I’d like to think this country’s population is half as passionate, as well-informed and half as loyal as the average Wisconsinite. This is a state of people who will paint their faces blue or red or green, (my Catholic gradeschool voted for Ralph Nader one year), but never gets drunk on anything except beer. Political affiliations are an identity, and supporting some cause, any cause, is a favorite past-time in a state with 3 seasons of winter, but every mind is always independent.

If you ask an 18 year old Wisconsinite why they voted for Walker, or against, beyond the tears and jeers, you will hear a logic as crisp and as clean as the air on a January morning in Eau Claire, (where Obama once said he’d create green jobs). In the satirical outfits worn by college students and postgrads, (some of them my friends – see Where’s Waldo), you’ll find ideological statements that hit too close to reality. No, there was no way Democrats could outspend Republicans in Wisconsin.

In this heated liberal seat like Madison, my mother said it was bad enough you couldn’t put a Walker sign on your front lawn for fear of retaliation. The teachers had taken the fight into the classrooms, (National Honors schools, some of the best public schools in the country). And yet, when you drove into the cornfields just beyond the Beltline, spreading between Madison and Milwaukee, and down to Janesville where the oldest GM plant still operates, there were the “I’m with Walker signs”.

There on the front lawns in an America as idealistic as a BP commercial, Wisconsin voters were loyal to their governor. Just like they were loyal to Tommy Thompson, Republican, and in Tammy Baldwin, Democrat and openly gay, and to Paul Ryan, Republican and antiwar. Because the funny thing about a state that tried to recall their governor, they’re a pretty loyal bunch.

Scott Walker did what he believed was best for the people of Wisconsin. He balanced the budget, decreased unemployment, and protected the majority of the state in a time of economic uncertainty. He didn’t win on womens rights, or social issues, or individual privacy, or gun rights, or domestic security, or foreign policy, or social welfare programs. He didn’t win as a Republican governor; He won as the governor of Wisconsin.

Obama and that rich guy Mitt Romney? That’s a whole other game.

From my Facebook

Tom –
A victory for taxpayers across Wisconsin and America! Thanks to all the volunteers who helped make this historic victory possible!

Amanda –
Guess I won’t be taking my teaching career back to Wisco for a while…

Michael – shared a link.
Misinformed USA: Why average Americans vote for Republicans

Christopher –
Yet another day in Wisconsin history that makes me so happy I no longer live there.

Sarah –
Yay! Proud to be a Wisconsinite!

Rachael –
today was a good day because i got my first hire, pretty little liars returned, and i realized how smart my decision was to move to chicago. =)

Newman –
Its times like these I just retreat more into myself.

Kristin V. –
Learned 2 “important” things today: 1. The Turtle Lake mascot is not a turtle but rather a “Laker” and is a picture of an anchor (very disappointing). 2. it is legal to throw anything out your window in this part of the state.

Kyle –
I’m moving to the moon.

Annie –
Wisconsin will live to fight another day. Tomorrow is my last day before finals with the freshmen. Even if my state doesn’t respect what I do, my students have.

Kristen E. –
miller park with my favs!!

My favorite:

Mona –
BREAKING: Madison, Wisconsin Voter Turnout Over 100% http://t.co/XrJ2Silh