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Archives for: December 2013

There were 48 posts published in December 2013.

What do You Think is Going to Disrupt the Technology World Most in 2014 and Why?

The following answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.


1. Wearable Tech


They are not only the next obvious horizon for consumer technology, but also smart watches, Google Glass and the like will force the tech world to re-approach the human-technology interface that we’ve relied on for so long — keyboards. Many ways of interacting with technology are being tried for novelty (Siri, for example), but it will only become crucial as wearable takes off in late 2014.


Brennan White ( ), Watchtower ( )








2. Same-Day Delivery


Amazon is doing it. Wal-Mart is in on it. Even eBay is joining up. Same-day delivery will have as much impact on changing consumers’ habits and eliminating the need for social contact and traditional errand running as the miracle of the Internet has had in the last 20 years.


Ty Morse, Songwhale ( )


ty morse







3. 3D Printing Advancements


I think advancements in 3D printing will be the most disruptive technology to come out in 2014. It will allow first world countries to produce goods at a much lower cost without having to pay taxes and tariffs. If developing countries lose income because they are losing manufacturing contracts, will they continue to respect our intellectual property laws?


Nikki Robinson ( ), Gloss and Glam ( )








4. Privacy-Enhancing Technologies


Privacy has been an ongoing issue since the Internet has existed. With more data available than ever, and cases of service providers or government agencies sharing private information, privacy-enhancing technologies are growing in importance. We are reaching a peak in privacy issues, and I believe 2014 will be a pivotal year for services to aid in enhancing users’ privacy.


Phil Chen ( ), Givit ( )








5. Healthcare Automation


Healthcare will be big in 2014 with new legislation adding complexity and requiring more care. Disruption will come from new digital health tools that deliver the care and efficiently pay for it.


Neil Thanedar ( ), LabDoor ( )








6. Mobile Payments


More and more big brands, such as Starbucks, are integrating payment in their mobile apps. I think whoever cracks the code on simple mobile payments across many brands or apps is going to win big. Because everyone is so connected through their mobile devices now, adding a payment option will make the connection even greater and more valuable to brands because of the intelligence it will provide.


Sarah Schupp ( ), UniversityParent ( )








7. TV on the Internet


Netflix has started to make its own content, and cable as we know it will change. Because this content is released in seasons, not episodes, consumer demand for entertainment will no longer be on a linear schedule. Widespread Internet-TV consumption will be made possible via expanding fiber optic networks, and it will allow advertisers to become more dynamic to a specific viewer’s preferences.


Ben Rubenstein ( ), Yodle ( )


ben rubenstein







8. Self-Driving Cars


I think you’ll begin to see self-driving cars take root in 2014. Transport trucks, taxi cabs and, finally, consumer-level cars will all be driverless within the next 10 years. However, this next year you’ll see the first steps occur in the consumer space in California.


Liam Martin ( ), ( )








9. Virtual Reality for Gaming


Gaming technology is evolving fast because it’s such a competitive industry. With the new consoles having the ability to track almost any motion and interaction with the game in real life, it’s only a matter of time until the technology incorporates vision into the experience and literally puts you in the game.


Russ Oja, Seattle Windows and Construction, LLC ( )




Gaming in 2014: the Year of Mobile Games?

While the majority of young people and gaming fanatics will be asking Santa for the Xbox One or PlayStation 4 this Christmas, it’s worth remembering that there are plenty of other gaming platforms out there that are serious contenders to the console for the title of the “King of the Gaming Platforms.”


















Over the years, we’ve moved away from the traditional King, the arcade game, especially in the UK where there are very few arcades left and those that are still around offer simulators such as Gran Turismo as opposed to the more traditional games like Pac Man. The console remains popular right around the world with new titles released across the range of genres on what seems to be a weekly basis, but online and mobile gaming have come to the fore front in recent months, with the meccabingo slots and Angry Birds, to name just two examples, proving to be among the most popular.


The Internet and mobile devices have changed how we perceive gaming. No longer is the perception of geeky teenage boys playing in their bedroom all alone with multiple screens, a bowl of popcorn and the lights turned off reality. Sure, they might be sitting alone in their room, but thanks to the web, they can now play with and against their friends, communicating via live chat features or head-sets.


While everything we could possibly want from a game is a possibility – the enjoyment factor, the latest innovations, and the ability to play with friends – the ability to play anytime, anywhere is possible thanks to the development of mobile devices and the number of games made with these features in mind. Smartphones and tablet computers are everywhere, and the quality of the processors and graphics have made them the ideal platform for gamers to get their quick-fix of lunchtime or evening-commute gaming.


Throughout 2013, the top of the download charts on smartphones and tablets have been regularly taken up by games, in the free and paid-for categories. Titles such as Temple Run, and even the FIFA series have made topped the charts, keeping children entertained on long journeys for hours, as well as helping us to find out few minutes of relaxation with a quiz app that we’ve downloaded to get away from everyday life.


In 2014, mobile gaming will explode further… Yes this is possible!


6 Online Tools and Tips for Marketing Small Businesses

Stay In Contact With Your Customers Via Email


Sending regular emails to customers is a simple and efficient way to keep customers informed about promotions and build brand loyalty. According to MarketingProfs, 65% of americans claimed to have been influenced to make a purchase because of email. Taking time to send personalized emails to wish your customers “Happy Birthday” or “Seasons Greetings” is another way to help build customer relationships throughout the year. Small businesses that send regular email updates can expect to see a high return on investment. MailChimp offers their email marketing service for free for up to 2,000 emails while companies such as Aweber and Constant Contact have packages that range from $1 to $19 per month.


Save Time and Get More Business With Online Scheduling


Why spend time scheduling your customers, when they can schedule themselves? According to Schedulista, over 75% of their customer’s clients schedule their appointments during non-business hours. If your business relies on appointments, online appointment scheduling software is the perfect solution for managing your busy schedule. If you plan on trying email marketing, Schedulista offers email integration with MailChimp that automatically keeps your client records up to date, so you don’t need to import and export email addresses manually.


Find New Customers With Gift Certificates

By encouraging your clients to buy gift certificates for their friends and families, you can generate more brand awareness and attract new customers. According to Practical Ecommerce, 41% of consumers will try a new product or service because of a gift certificate and 72% will return even after using up the balance of the certificate.  The Motley Fool reports that the average customer is likely to spend 20% more than the gift card amount. This makes for a very attractive return on investment, especially since gift certificates are inexpensive to make. A set of 50 customized gift certificates with envelopes starts at about $17.99 through Vista Print.


Update Your Website, Blog and Social Media Accounts

The advertising and research firm Bia Kesely recently reported that over 97% of consumers research local businesses through some kind of online media. If you are offering special holiday deals, gift certificates or planning special events, it’s crucial that you make sure people can easily find out about them. Many businesses make the mistake of believing that a single Facebook status update is enough. It’s not. It’s important to regularly update your company’s web page, google business page and blog (if you have one).


Keep Your Clients Engaged with Facebook

In a recent Forbes survey, 78% of people said that a business’s social media posts affected their purchasing decisions. 81% stated that their friends’ posts directly influence their purchasing decisions. The more engagement you can have with your Facebook page, the more likely it is that your clients will share your page and influence their friends to find out about your business. Posting a holiday themed photo or recipe contests on Facebook is a great way to build community and keep customers engaged. Companies such as Short Stack make it simple to create contests and holiday calendars.


Be Consistent

Professional Marketers know the importance of staying in contact with customers all year round. Yet, after the holiday season, many businesses slow down their marketing efforts. January is an excellent time to continue to make social media updates, send out emails or even mail postcards to thank customers for their support over the holiday season and to wish them a Happy New Year.


5 Ways to Improve Your App Promotion Efforts

The App Store is a ferociously competitive landscape to promote an app with. With over a million apps on the store, cost per install prices increasing and superstar freemium companies snatching up all the money, getting your app noticed by users is a tricky prospect.


So how can you help get your app up to the top of the charts and into the hands of users? We’ve got five easy ways for you to improve your app promotion efforts and help turn your app into one of the greats on the store.


1) Make something that people want


This might seem like I’m stating the obvious, but if you’re not releasing something that people want to download then they aren’t going to bother to get your app from the store.


There are two distinct things that you need to do to make sure that people want your app. The first is to ensure that your idea shines in comparison to what else is on the store. As an example, there are a lot of infinite runners on the App Store and a lot are shameless rip offs of Temple Run. But the recently released Boson X, which heavily borrows infinite running mechanics, twists the genre around by turning it into a ferociously challenging level driven game which echoes Super Hexagon. A pinch of innovation can go a long way to standing out.


Second, it’s a great idea to make sure that your app evolves to take advantage of seasonal interest. At MagicSolver, we’ve built on the success of our daily app discovery service, Free App Magic, by releasing event specific calendars for Advent, Halloween, Valentine’s Day and major sporting events. Like the way big companies create special Christmas ad campaigns to sell their products, updating your app with seasonal content and keywords is a great way of latching on to consumer interest to boost yourself up the charts.


2) Harness the power of organic installs


Speaking of natural interest, one of the most important things you need to be doing before you spend a dollar on promoting your app is making sure you are fine tuned to benefit from so called organic installs. They are free downloads accrued either through app store search or from people talking about your app and they are one of the cheapest and most effective ways of getting installs.


First up, you should spend time optimizing your app store assets and keywords, as they’re essential for strong download performance on the app store. Strong icon and screenshot design is essential to appeal to people browsing through the store; a well written app store description is a great way to capture uncertain users and perfectly selected keywords can result in an additional 3,000-16,000 installs a month for a free app — an important first step to capturing floating users.


Second, you need to build strong social and rate & review mechanics into your app. By encouraging people to share your app and review it when they’ve had a positive experience, you can successfully increase consumer trust and benefit from changes to the App Store ranking algorithm that rewards positive reviews. How can you go about doing it? Well, in case you need inspiration, King’s Candy Crush Saga is an excellent example of how social mechanics can be used to great effect, while Fireproof Studios’ The Room benefitted from thousands of good reviews by presenting the review option to users at the end of every satisfying chapter.


3) Make your app free


This is arguably the most important thing you need to do to make your app a success. While games like Ridiculous Fishing, Badland and Infinity Blade have shown that paid apps can be a success for some, the case for a free to play as a tool for successful app promotion is clear. 90% of apps released this year were free to play according to Flurry and a couple of reasons make it clear why yours should be too.


First, there is the obvious reason, which is that well designed free to play games generate enormous revenues. While a paid game like Badland garnered $700,000 revenue in over three months of promotion, top grossing apps like Clash of Clans and Candy Crush Saga make that in a day. It’s clear that if you want to be in the money then your app needs to be in the free charts.


More importantly, the second and less obvious reason you need to make your app free is that it opens up your options for marketing your app on mobile considerably. While paid apps can rarely get away with advertising and struggle to convince people to try them out due to the price barrier, free apps have no such problems.


By releasing your app for free, you will significantly increase the number of people willing to try your app, meaning that your organic downloads will increase as well as the effectiveness of your adverts. Going free also opens up options to insert advertising SDKs into your app, allowing you to display ads for revenue or swap installs with other developers. Making an app free brings you a much greater promotional flexibility and it is something you should be considering long and hard if you have a decent advertising budget.


4) Test out ad networks


With CPIs going through the roof, you need to make sure that you’re getting the best bang for your buck when you’re using advertising networks. So make sure you test a load out before you decide which one to spend most of your money on.


Why? Because you need to know if you’re actually returning on your advertising investment before you spend. By working with a number of install providers, integrating a number of SDKs and using a third party tracking service to check whether or not players you acquire are spending enough, you can quickly and easily identify which networks are going to return your investment. This ensures that you learn where your promotional spending and efforts are best spent.


5) Optimize your ads


Lastly, once you’ve gotten your advertising efforts started, you need to work hard to make sure your advertising creatives are working as well as they can for you.


When you first set up a campaign with a network, you should make sure you have a variety of wordings and images to test to see which users react to. Once the campaign is finished, you should easily be able to identify which messages and images work best so you can use them in the future and, crucially, improve their effectiveness in the future. By continually refreshing and critiquing your creative, you can make your advertising spend work much harder for you.


Digital Advertising 101

Ad inventory, ad impressions, fill rate and eCPM are terms that app developers throw around day in and day out.

At SponsorPay, we know that the language of digital advertising involves an initial learning curve. In an effort to explain what these acronyms actually mean, we’ve compiled an overview of several concepts that drive the success of any ad monetization strategy. The basic overview below emphasizes the perspective of web and mobile developers employing ad-based monetization in their games and apps.

Let’s begin!


Developers with free apps available on iOS, Android or the web often leverage advertising to create a reliable, predictable revenue stream. What does this business model actually look like?


Monetizing an app with ads follows a very simple equation:


Revenue =


Amount of ad space that the developer has for sale (ad inventory)

x Percentage of inventory that actually gets bought (the fill rate)

x The revenue a developer receives for 1,000 ads sold (eCPM)


As you can see there are three primary elements here:


Ad inventory


A developer’s ad inventory is a term that describes the totality of the advertising space available on a certain digital property. It is the total number of opportunities the developer has to show an ad. In other words, it’s the total inventory the developer can sell to advertisers. Naturally, a developer can increase revenue by increasing the ad spaces in the application, assuming other factors stay constant. That said, it’s critical that ad placement and user experience are always considered.




eCPM or “effective cost per mille” is the amount of revenue received for 1,000 ad impressions. It’s calculated by dividing the amount of ad revenue by the number of ad impressions (when a user is shown an ad) and multiplying by 1,000. For example, if a developer earned 12,500 USD one week based on one million ad impressions, the eCPM for that week would be 12.5 USD. The value is used to compare the performance of ad formats and ad providers, and to evaluate changes in performance over time.


Fill rate


Fill rate is the ratio between the number of times a developer requested an ad to be shown divided by the number of times an ad was actually returned from an ad network or other source. Of course, revenue is only generated when ads are shown, so it’s critical that developers have a high fill rate, lest they forfeit potential revenue. Fill rate = Actual ad impressions / Ad requests


So, how does ad monetization fit in?


Available ad inventory, fill rate and eCPM are the key drivers of any ad monetization strategy. An effective ad monetization strategy aims to increase fill rate and eCPM, thereby allowing a developer to earn the highest revenue from a given app’s ad inventory.


Fill rate is of the utmost importance when it comes to ad monetization because revenue is only generated when an ad is shown. To address the challenge of insufficient fill rate, many developers are turning to mediation. Mediation solutions like SponsorPay’s allow developers to use one platform to integrate, manage and optimize different sources of ads. Meanwhile, developers can let hundreds of demand partners from our Ad Marketplace bid on their ad inventory. These options increase the overall number of ads available to a developer.


Developers also strive to serve ads with the highest eCPM. Holistic yield optimization, one feature of SponsorPay’s Ad Monetization Platform, ensures that the ads that are filling a developers ad requests are always the highest-paying ads available. The goal is not only to optimize, but also to simplify the process for developers. SpnsorPay’s AutoPilot, for instance, enables developers to maximize eCPM automatically in real time, eliminating the need to continually adjust prioritization settings.


Understanding the definitions and relationship of these key concepts is square one in learning more about the accelerating world of ad monetization. It’s an ever-changing environment, but one with endless growth potential. We hope that breaking down these ideas has given you a sense of the challenges faced by developers and the innovative solutions companies are creating to solve them.


Africa 2.0: From Dark to Digital

Africa 2.0 or more explicitly the updated, modern day version of Africa can be traced back to the mobile telecom visit of this bountifully blessed land at the turn of the 21st Century.



Rewinding a century earlier, the cradle of civilization was being visited by Europeans who met a vast land full of untapped potential. The Dark Continent they called her, the dark cloudy continent. Still she refused to be called so and wanted to prove that through that darkness lays a safe haven for the realisation of dreams. Yes there are still some problems that are pending, but a huge market share and highly motivated young African entrepreneurs have given birth to a new, upgraded version of Africa, Africa 2.0.


Africa 2.0: A gradual transition


One of Africa’s biggest startup accelerators, Venture for Africa, carried out a survey in 2011 to find out about the reasons most African start-ups fail.  The eight reasons tabled out on their blog blames poor execution as the number one killer for startups in Africa. Though this still remains a problem, some great progress has been made due to the ease of access to necessary information, and encounters through forums with other techies who’ve been in the industry long enough to share their experiences. The other factors like the lack of proper infrastructures and sustainable financing are becoming a thing of the past, as the infrastructure landscape is improving and more and more investors are queuing up to tap into this rich gold mine. So the question now goes. How soon before the newer version is ready for download?




Africa 2.0:













Initializing download….


Within the last 10 years, there has been some sort of startup revolution from the North through to the South of Africa. Young energetic Africans are coding away the problems they, as Africans, encounter on a daily basis. Talking to Mambe Churchill of Njorku Inc., you get a cross sectional look at the devotion young Africans have towards building this newer version of Africa. In 2011, Mr. Mambe created, a job search platform to help reduce the ever present anti-economic factor which is unemployment. A sweet melange of technology and dedication has led to millions of Africans having job vacancy information directly sent to them by email or SMS. From Njorku in Cameroon to Dropifi in Ghana, Ushahidi in Kenya and Sembuse in South Africa, young Africans have been actively working to make Africa 2.0 the most downloadable “app” within the next 10 years.


Africa 2.0: Comes with great new features…


With a 5.3 forecasted growth rate in 2014 and the title of fastest growing continent in the world, Africa 2.0 comes with great new features for doing business and lots of cool stuffs yet to be exploited by its users. The “interface” is much improved due to the improving access to fast and reliable internet connectivity and a touch of modern day technology at the disposal of African techtrepreneurs.


The sky is by no means the limit to what these savvy African techies can mastermind. The reason why there hasn’t been an independent big startup success story in Africa is because Africa is the big success story. As this African proverb goes, “it takes a whole village to raise a child”. So trying to point out one stand out performer is by no means fair, as each one of our African techies are bringing something very unique and special to the development of the new digital Africa, Africa 2.0.




Five Questions to Ask a Mobile App Analytics Company

‘Tis season for growing mobile commerce. Black Friday and Cyber Monday reports from retailers are showing massive growth in purchases from cell phones.


To improve performance, internet retailers can never get enough information about customer behavior. So in the post-holiday season, many etailers will choose to revisit mobile analytics to improve their data capture and quality. Dozens of mobile analytics companies will tell you why they are the best. It’s confusing to judge. That said, there are some simple questions which can quickly screen out the analytics companies that you probably don’t want to do business with. Here are five things to ask the sales rep.


1) What is your business model? And what are your potential conflicts of interest?


A number of mobile analytics companies are actually subsidiaries or business lines of mobile advertising providers that sell ad or retargeting inventory. This is a clear conflict of interest. Insights taken from analytics will drive key marketing and advertising spend decisions.  If the same company that sells you the analytics tools also wants to sell you advertisements or marketing services, how can you trust their analytics data?  Even if the analytics data remains pristine, just dealing with constant upsells is a hassle.


The Best Answer: “We only sell analytics capabilities. Our only revenue stream is selling analytics tools.”


2) Can I see the source code of your SDK and can I compile it myself?

Every mobile analytics company needs to install a Software Development Kit in your application. Engineers hate this. So to improve your chances of convincing your engineers to install new analytics (or to argue with them to remove your existing system) ask this simple question: “Can I see the source code of your SDK?” If you can’t see the SDK source code, then you don’t really know what the analytics company is doing with your customer data. You also can’t see how the SDK is interacting with your app. A black box SDK could be accessing key customer data (geolocations, purchase patterns etc.) without telling you about it. Or that SDK may be forcing all functions in your app to wait while it completes calls to the server, leading to slower app response times. If you never saw the code, you would have no way of knowing that the SDK was doing these things. Also, a poorly written SDK may crash your app or conflict with other third-party SDKs. For app developers and publishers, the best case is if your analytics company has an open source SDK. Your engineers can not only see the code, but also request modifications if the code is published in GitHub or Bitbucket. If the analytics company allows you to review the SDK source code and compile it on your own, that’s also good and might be an acceptable alternative. But then you will need to see the code every time the analytics company makes modifications in order to be completely sure that the SDK is not going to cause problems.


The Best Answer: “You can actually download our SDK source code or even modify it. Our SDK is open source. Here’s the link.”


3) Is all tracked information transmitted over an encrypted connection?

This is one of the dirty little secrets of mobile analytics. The majority of the tracked information transmitted from the user’s smartphone back to the analytics provider is sent as clear text. As a result, geolocation data and most other personal information is often sent out unencrypted. Most publishers have no idea that this is happening. Unfortunately, not encrypting all traffic between the handset and the tracking server presents an enormous potential risk for an app developer. It might also be a privacy law violation in many European countries that could get you fined. Don’t take my word for it. Read what the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse has to say on the topic of privacy and encryption for mobile applications.


Why would mobile analytics providers put their customers at risk? Money. Maintaining robust, end-to-end encryption is expensive. The process is far more compute intensive and sucks up more bandwidth than just sending most tracking data in clear text. To encrypt all analytics traffic coming off the app, the analytics providers would need to purchase an appliance designed for encrypted connectivity. Or they would need to reserve a dedicated cloud server that specializes in what’s called SSL termination (SSL is the most common form of encryption on the Internet). Either can cost well into the six figures per year. Encryption also means sending more bits over the wire. That means more bandwidth is used. Using more bandwidth, particularly for cloud-based mobile analytics SaaS companies, can significantly increase costs because cloud providers nail you on bandwidth costs. So to save money, analytics companies cut that corner. But don’t settle on this one. Ask for end-to-end encryption.


The Best Answer: “100% of analytics tracking information from your customers to our services is encrypted.”


4) Where do you store the tracking data? Do you have physical control of the servers?


Sound paranoid? Maybe. But for any sort of true compliance with privacy standards, an app publisher will need to know the physical location of user data. In cloud computing, it is impossible to designate a specific physical location unless the data resides in a specific piece of hardware. If your user data is stored in a giant cloud data center, you may know the street address. But that data may be scattered across a handful of servers and may be moved from one server to another at random. Knowing exactly where your data resides will make your life much easier if you are sued, need to pass a privacy audit, or even want to ensure that all your user data is deleted at regular intervals.


Note: This is a particularly hot topic in Europe. Many European companies, in particular those in Germany, flat out refuse to allow the tracking data gathered from their users to be stored outside of the European Union. Recently, many European companies have started to insist that their data reside in an infrastructure that is not owned by a U.S. cloud provider, such as Amazon Web Services (sorry, AWS Dublin). These European companies fear that the U.S. National Security Agency has full access to their data if a data center is operated by a U.S. cloud provider. So if you are a U.S. publisher planning to distribute and monetize an application in the E.U., you should strongly consider nailing down the physical location of analytics data stored by third-party analytics providers.


The Best Answer: “We control all the servers and hardware we use for data storage. We can even tell you a specific cage location.”


5) Can I easily share my aggregated historical data with marketing partners?


Basically, this question tests the technical capabilities and data export features of your analytics provider. You, as the customer, should be able to easily slice, dice and export your user analytics data into whatever marketing optimization, revenue augmentation, retargeting, or attribution management system. And you should be able to do this, at a minimum, as aggregated data grouped as a time-series so that you can maintain historical continuity even if you switch analytics providers. At the core of this capability must lie a well-structured API offered by your marketing analytics provider. This API should allow you to export specifically selected types of information, using accepted formats such as JSON, XML or CSV, to any destination. If your mobile analytics provider really loves you, they will set your data free when you want to take it back. If not, then you know that there is a serious lock-in problem caused either by their technology or their business model.


The Best Answer: “You can definitely share your aggregated historical data with marketing partners. Just read our API documentation to learn how. If you have specific questions, we’ll you connect with our database engineers.”


12 Tech Tools to Help You Succeed

Hundreds of startups are hard at work creating tech tools designed to help other companies succeed. Ironic? Perhaps, but the beauty lies in the fact that they are available for all to share and use.


Whether it’s the ability to outsource a design for the new company logo or to optimize the content on a website’s homepage, tech tools have the power to improve your company’s workflow significantly if used effectively. So which are worth paying attention to?


The company I work for – AnyPerk  – utilizes online tech tools to assist with mainly three things: 1) boost productivity 2) improve efficiency and 3) recruit top talent. As a startup that has grown from five to almost thirty employees in the last year, the ability to outsource certain tasks has been crucial for our company’s growth and success.


So here are the 12 tech tools that can also help streamline your business:


Virtual Assistance: If menial tasks are eating up a lot of your time, your best bet is to outsource them. A couple great virtual assistance services are Fancy Hands and Red Butler, which offer monthly memberships allowing you and/or your colleagues to call on independent contractors to make the reservations, pick up the packages, and schedule the flights that otherwise would cut into your time. This way you can spend more time focusing on important tasks that require your particular attention.


Design: Outsourcing graphic design can be a cost efficient way of vamping up a company’s corporate image. 99Designs is a unique tool that allows a user to create contests in which different artists compete to create the perfect design. Once they are all submitted, the user can select their favorite to purchase or otherwise, not pay a dime.


Web Optimization: Optimizely is a great web tool that allows users to run A/B tests and track clicks, conversions, and signups to best tailor a website to its users in order to maximize engagement. Altering a website even slightly – changing the font or even darkening the shade of a color – has the power to dramatically increase conversions.


Recruiting: The Resumator is an effective recruiting tool that a) provides an easy application process for applicants and b) allows companies to customize their features according to their unique recruiting workflow. One can easily manage all job posts plus manage and track all applicants from The Resumator dashboard. When looking for a qualified intern, InternMatch is strong recruiting tool that connects businesses with students around the country looking for part-time or unpaid internships. It partners with university career centers to help find the perfect fit for your company, and provides free templates and advice on intern recruiting.


Prospecting: SalesLoft is an incredibly useful tool that integrates seamlessly with LinkedIn so sales reps can pull the most important information – including the individual’s name, where they work, their contact info, and job title - from multiple sources and aggregate them onto one dashboard. Rapportive creates contact profiles in Gmail that includes a photo, links to their social media sites, recent messages and more; this can be helpful when trying to verify the accuracy of a contact’s email address, if you don’t already have it.


Legal Services: For small and growing companies, the efficiency and affordability of online legal services is key. Though they each have varying membership programs, LegalZoom and RocketLawyer are both great tools that allow individuals to access legal documents such as wills, trusts, and LLCs and reach out for further legal advice. This will save you the time and the cost of hiring an attorney.


Retention: Google and Facebook have helped set a high standard for company culture. For small to middle-sized companies that can’t afford to offer extravagant perks like on-site laundry and gym services, AnyPerk is a great alternative that provides employee discounts to gym memberships, movie tickets, cell phone plans and more. Plus, it provides HR with the ability to easily reward employees with online gift cards and track the activities trending via which perks are redeemed by their employees. CEO Chef is another unique team-building tool that brings teams together through gourmet cooking classes and competitions. Company culture has a direct and positive impact on employee engagement and productivity, so if you haven’t started thinking about how this affects your company, we encourage you to start.


How the Cloud is Changing the Bookkeeping and Accounting Industry

With a focus on technology, the world of bookkeeping and accounting has undergone a number of changes throughout the past decade, and is continuing to grow in new and interesting directions.


In the past five years, we have seen various cloud based accounting applications introduced into the market, which has helped to revolutionize the industry while creating awareness of online technologies. This new-found awareness has generated an opportunity for tech firms that are creating unique applications that address many of the problems currently in the industry, while helping to streamline the bookkeeping and accounting process.


In the past, bookkeepers and accountants would use accounting applications, such as QuickBooks, that offer a traditional financial package and leaves businesses feeling confident with their books. Throughout the past five years, there has been an influx of competition branching into the market with cloud-based applications, offering many of same financial functions as the traditional applications, but with added value such as anywhere or anytime access, multiple user admittance, and activity log audit trails. Competitors like Kashoo and Xero have made a name for themselves within the industry by offering an innovative product dedicated to make the financial process as simple as possible for bookkeepers, accountants, and businesses. This change in the industry has certainly stirred the pot, as QuickBooks released their brand new online application earlier this year.


It is clear that many of the bookkeeping and accounting functions we are used to are gradually moving to the cloud, especially with some of the most influential organizations in the industry now working with SaaS companies and products. As these online tools are starting to become a norm in the industry, many individuals who would, prehistorically, not understand the “cloud-movement” are beginning to look at tools that simplify the bookkeeping and accounting process.


One of the latest trends within the industry is the addition of cloud-based document management applications such as Smartvault and LedgerDocs. These firms offer innovative and time effective ways to receive, organize, and collaborate on documents, and have designed their applications specifically for the bookkeeping and accounting industry. Cloud-based tools such as these offer firms a competitive advantage as they have an opportunity to become virtual bookkeepers and accountants that are able to work with clients from around the world while never having to receive hard-copy documents. This also benefits businesses that are now able to make electronic copies of their accounting documents via smartphone or scanner, and upload them directly to their financial representative. These tools cut down on time spent couriering important documents, while offering a unique collaboration of tool bookkeepers, accountants, and their clients.


With such rapid change, it will be interesting to see where the bookkeeping and accounting industry goes in 2014. One thing is obvious; the move to the cloud is certainly coming and, although there will always be traditional methods being used, the wide-spread acceptance of cloud technologies within the industry is opening eyes to many tech firms looking for a niche.


Explainer Videos: Three Striking Stats, Three Tips to Master Them

The Stats














Only 20% of website visitors will read the majority of the text but 80% will watch a video (source: Forrester Research). Adding a video to your website also makes it six times more likely to convert a browser to a paying customer (Forrester Research). Videos can simplify, create compelling narratives and convey a sense of quality. And of course they can directly demonstrate a product or service. 68% of the top 50 internet retailers use videos on their websites (source: Forest Research).






Animated marketing videos can capture your message in its perfect form – a powerful thing. Infographics platform had over 80,000 signups from a video on its LaunchRock page, months before the company went live. And the advantages are industry agnostic. Four example, complex B2B services benefit hugely from the clarity of explainer videos. When document processing automation company Celaton added a video to its homepage, CEO Andrew Anderson said “The video immediately transformed our biz dev and boosted growth.”


Buyers are 98% more likely to watch a presentation on video than to listen to a sales rep. (Forrester Research). As a shareable format, videos make it much easier for people to become evangelists. And online video delivers 10 times the response rate of static text and graphics. (Source Double Click).





Videos are 53 times more likely than traditional web pages to receive an organic first-page ranking (Forrester Research). Videos can also achieve top Google rankings much more quickly than webpages. SEO results normally take several months, as the age and history of the site is a factor, but videos don’t have this restriction. Google’s enthusiasm for video means web pages are being pushed down the rankings to make space for video content, so it’s a great way to jump ahead of the competition.


The Tips


Get to the heart of your message.


This is the most important thing in the whole process. Product, service, business, or charity, it’s crucial to be absolutely clear about why it’s special. People are increasingly well informed and can spot fake messages in a heartbeat. On the plus side, they’re also good at spotting genuine messages, acting on them and sharing them.


Tell your story.


Stories are far more powerful and persuasive than facts and features. Tell your story in the most engaging, concise way possible. One of Pixar’s rules of storytelling is: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free. Create a compelling story that captures why your message is meaningful, and people will want to follow you.


Clarify ideas by visualising them.




The human brain absorbs 50% more information through moving pictures and sound than the next best medium (Forrester Research). Visualisations work best when they’re simple and human. For example, Celaton had tried using graphs to illustrate its document automation process - it looked good, but wasn’t engaging. When their software was visualised as a super-hero robot, sucking up inboxes, Andrew Anderson said “It had such a big impact we redesigned our website around it.” Perhaps that’s the future of video: The central marketing asset, capturing the perfect message and informing everything else.