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Saturday, May 05, 2012
Facebook's Stock Price in Context
How a 13-Year-Old's Startup Might Be Able to Cure Your Hiccups
27 Advertisers Leave Village Voice Following Child Sex Ad Scandal

Want to Turn Your Brand's Fans Into Expert Advisors? Try This Startup
12:41:00 AMKate Freeman

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark. If you would like to have your startup considered for inclusion, please see the details here.

Name: Needle

Quick Pitch: Needle offers expert live chat service to online retailers to help customers find the best products and increase sales.

Genius Idea: "Fansourcing" -- Turning superfans of your brand into part-time advisors for the rest of your customers.

It's hard not to argue that Needle is a cool startup when you see its headquarters -- essentially, a top-of-the-line RV with a roofdeck lined in artificial grass.

Needle connects online shoppers with product experts who assist them through chat, voice and video communication. Imagine the high-quality customer service of a sales person on the shop floor at Nordstrom, but when you're shopping online.

Needle re-creates a real store experience, but even one better because the experts are top-notch and love the products they recommend. They also don't work full time, so they don't get burnt out and are always eager to help.

"Needlers," as they are called, can earn credits for selling items, which they can put toward purchases of their own. They can also create "social coupons" to share with friends on Facebook.

Needle's CEO Morgan Lynch gave us the tour of his mobile office and introduced us to several "Needlers" who were working for Skullcandy and Under Armor, two of Needle's clients. Lynch calls it "fansourcing" commerce.

Lynch and his team drove the mobile office from Salt Lake City, Utah (where it's based) to San Francisco, then headed to southern California and finally Las Vegas to recruit for and promote the company. The inside of the RV is decked out with flat-screen computer monitors, dark wood paneling and a long bench with two sizable tables, where they can give PowerPoint presentations to clients.

The mobile office can hold 30 staffers and Needlers, however most Needlers reviewers are based all across the country.

We checked out the websites of Coach and Under Armor, sites that supposedly have Needlers. But no chat invite popped-up on our screen. The company explained a Needler wasn't available at that moment. Neither of those sites queue chats, so if there are not enough Needlers a visitor won't receive an invite.

Otherwise, the Needlers can be found by clicking on buttons such as "Chat with an Expert" or a pop-up that says "Live Chat."

Live chat on online retail shopping websites is growing in popularity and demand. Social sharing also increases the likelihood of purchase.

A survey by Social Labs in 2012 showed online shoppers were 57% more likely to make a purchase from a retailer after seeing a friend's activity on that retailer's site.

What do you think about Needle as a consumer or an online retailer? Tell us in the comments.

Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark, a startup program that gives you three-year access to the latest Microsoft development tools, as well as connecting you to a nationwide network of investors and incubators. There are no upfront costs, so if your business is privately owned, less than three years old, and generates less than U.S.$1 million in annual revenue, you can sign up today.

Fashion Designer Launches Platform for Crowdsourced Design
Friday, May 04, 2012 10:16 PMLauren Indvik

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark. If you would like to have your startup considered for inclusion, please see the details here.

Name: Cut On Your Bias

Quick Pitch: Vote on a range of design goods mockups, and purchase the ones voted most popular by the community.

Genius Idea: Have a role in the item of clothing or piece of furniture you buy next.

After 10 years designing for the likes of Calvin Klein, John Varvatos and Tommy Hilfiger, Louis Monoyudis did in late 2010 what many at his stage his career do: Decided to develop his own collection.

But Monoyudis, who holds degrees from both Harvard and Parsons, was quickly bewildered. "I had all of these sketches and swatches in boxes in my little room. I was so overwhelmed by choices," he recalls. So he called his friends, the very people he imagined would be his target customers, and asked them for feedback -- what palettes they liked, what kinds of collars they preferred.

Then he asked himself, "Why don't I build an interface to do this virtually?" After conferring with his designer friends, who were eager to have access to such a tool for the development of their own collections, he decided to build Cut On Your Bias. The site launched in February.

Cut On Your Bias describes itself as a "crowdsourced social commerce platform" for clothing and home goods that allows consumers "to interact on preproduction decisions with the designer themselves, creating an opportunity for virtual collaboration between consumer and designer."

In reality, Cut On Your Bias isn't quite so interactive, but it does give you a bigger role in the design process. After signing up for the site, which you can do simply by logging in through Facebook, you can browse the week's designs up for vote. Some designers allow you to vote among a range of colors; others let you go so far as choosing size, silhouette, material and color, for example with the Graf & Lantz handbags below:

The combinations with the most votes are made available for pre-order in limited editions of 25 to 50 the following week. Those who voted on the winning design will receive some form of discount. Designers handle production and shipping on their own. Products are guaranteed to arrive in eight weeks or less for fashion, and 12 weeks or less for home.

The model is similar to the one developed by FashionStake. Before it was acquired by Fab.com earlier this year, shoppers could vote on three similar designs -- say, three takes on the classic white button-down shirt, or three black dresses -- from three different designers on a weekly ballot. Voters who selected the winning design could then purchase the piece at a 30% discount after the polls closed.

Monoyudis says there are two big difference between Cut On Your Bias and FashionStake. One is that Cut On Your Bias is focused on creating unique capsule collections with designers. The second is that it's attacking the production process higher in the supply chain. Designers don't have to create samples of potential merchandise -- they can exhibit drawings or digital renderings instead.

Tell us: Do you find Cut On Your Bias's proposition appealing? Would you like to have more control over the design of the clothes and home goods you buy? If so, how?

Thumbnail courtesy of iStockphoto, bykac

Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark



The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark, a startup program that gives you three-year access to the latest Microsoft development tools, as well as connecting you to a nationwide network of investors and incubators. There are no upfront costs, so if your business is privately owned, less than three years old, and generates less than U.S.$1 million in annual revenue, you can sign up today.

How American Express Found Its Social Media Groove
Friday, May 04, 2012 9:52 PMTodd Wasserman

American Express went from virtually zero social media presence in 2009 to being hailed by Advertising Age as the "real winner" at South By Southwest this year.

How did AmEx do it? Leslie Berland, SVP of digital partnerships and development at the company, attempted to retrace the brand's steps during a talk at Mashable Connect, and then dispensed a few social media tips on Friday.

Berland highlighted two major inflection points in AmEx's social media marketing history: its introduction of Small Business Saturday and its promotion of Sync at SXSW. The former started with a "lofty goal," which was to "start a movement," Berland said.

Launched in 2010, Small Business Saturday was designed as a response of sorts to Black Friday, which comes the day before. The idea is to motivate consumers already in shopping mode to spend their cash at their local mom and pops. Berland says her aha moment with the program was realizing that it was a great fit on Facebook, where the SBS Page drew 1 million fans in three weeks. (It now has 2.8 million fans.)

That's a respectable showing considering the brand only began focusing on social media in 2009, when it set up AmEx's first Twitter account. Berland recalls that it took three weeks to come up with the account's first tweet. No wonder she likens getting a large brand on social media to giving birth.

Berland's coup de grace was this year's SXSW promotion for AmEx Sync's Twitter tie-in, which appears to have captured the hearts and minds of much of the event's attendees.

The effort, which introduced a program that offers cardmembers discounts for tweeting advertised hashtags, began before SXSWers even arrived. Berland secured 30 minutes of free Wi-Fi from GoGo to 80% to 90% of the flights to Austin, Texas, that included a plug for Sync. Then, once in Austin, AmEx offered 700 tickets to its Jay-Z concert. The concert became a major draw at the show, an outcome that reflects Jay-Z's popularity as well as AmEx's exacting standards as an entertainment partner. As Berland recalls, there was a long list of potential concert draws, but the brand was seeking someone who was both hip with the local crowd and popular nationally. (Justin Bieber was among those who didn't make the cut.)

Though Berland's talk included some trite advice ("Think like a startup"), she was more candid in her Q&A with the audience. When one attendee challenged her about her statement that "90% of our strategy is defined by the things we don't do," Berland said she meant, for instance, that it's wise to resist the pressure to embrace all formats. "What I'm often challenged with often is a lot of 'I want this, we want that'" she said, referring to internal pressure. However, "It's not a 'build it they will come,' thing."

Berland also said it doesn't make sense to back a Facebook campaign with traditional media like print and TV ads. "If you're running a program on Facebook, buy ads on Facebook."

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How Discovery's Acquisition of Revision3 Will Change the New Media Studio
Friday, May 04, 2012 9:26 PMTubefilter

After a day or two of speculation in the press, Discovery Channel announced it will acquire San Francisco-based new media studio and distribution network Revision3.

You can get acquainted with the details of the deal here, but this is the kind of news that begs more questions and information than whatever’s offered in a standard issue press release. That’s why I got on the phone with Revision3 CEO Jim Louderback to ask him some specifics about the news. Below are the highlights from our conversation (not including the things Louderback couldn’t comment on, like the purchase price):

Tubefilter: How’d your relationship with Discovery Channel start?

Jim Louderback: We first started talking with Discovery almost a year ago. What happened was the guys from  their team came up to Silicon Valley and talked to a bunch of different companies about expanding. They had connected with Greylock Partners, which is one of our investors, and then Greylock said talk to Revision3. We all got together and had our first meeting in May of 2011.

Tubefilter: So what happened after that? Was it love at first site?

Jim Louderback: I think at that time they were grazing. I think they looked a tons of companies and gradually over time we spent spent more time together. Like lots of these things, it started with talks about about how we could work together from a business perspective. We discussed things like, “Are there Discovery properties we can bring over to the internet side of entertainment?” or “Are there Revision3 properties we can bring to Discovery?” (Editor’s Note: You can watch both Scam School and App Judgement on Discovery.com)

You start doing a little bit of business together to see if your’e compatible. It’s like dating. First there was a blind date, then started going steady, and now we’re hitched!

Tubefilter: What does the deal give Revision3? 

Jim Louderback: It gives us a great parent that really understands what we’re doing, wants to be in the space, and is super excited about where we’re going. Discovery clearly sees the opportunity to build big, dominant preseneces with original web video. And they see us as a way to help them to that. They want us to keep doing what we’re doing.

Tubefilter: Will there be any crossover of Revision3 stars on Discovery programs and vice versa?

Jim Louderback: There are a lot of opportunities for collaboration, but we haven’t started talking about it yet. I’m sure we’ll soon get started to figure out what those collaborations may look like, and what online original iterations of their content we could help them create.

 As we start to work more with Discovery, there will be a lot of opportunites to develop programs and cross promote. But Revision3 will still operate the way it’s been. Discovery’s real goal here is to just keep us focused on what we’re doing.

If you have any of your own questions for Louderback, you should ask them to him in person. He’ll be presenting at our Multi-Screen Mixup on May 16 in New York CIty. You can RSVP here.

10 Most-Shared Star Wars-Themed Ads on YouTube
Friday, May 04, 2012 6:11 PMMatt Petronzio

In honor of Star Wars Day (May the fourth be with you), here are the 10 most-shared Star Wars-themed ads on YouTube. You'll find advertisements from companies such as Volkswagen, Adidas and ESPN with cameos by your favorite Star Wars characters and celebrities in your favorite Star Wars scenes.

Thanks to our friends at Unruly Media for compiling the list.

Which of these ads tickled your funny bone the most? Let us know in the comments.

Facebook's Stock Price in Context
Friday, May 04, 2012 5:39 PMMatt Silverman

Facebook announced its stock price on Thursday with rates between $28 and $35 per share. With a total of 337,415,352 shares set to hit the marketplace, the social network is on track to become the most valuable U.S. Internet company when it goes public.

Where does this pricing fall in the scheme of other Internet and tech companies? How do these shares compare with the capital raised? While Facebook may be the most valuable, its stock price is far from the top of the heap.

SEE ALSO: Facebook IPO: The Complete Guide

Our friends at Statista have broken down the share prices in context, along with some data that details which investors stand to see a windfall when Facebook hits the market. Check out the charts below.

Yahoo CEO: After Falsified Resume, Should He Be Fired? [POLL]
Friday, May 04, 2012 4:57 PMSam Laird

The latest reason it sucks to be Yahoo: New CEO Scott Thompson appears to have fudged his resume by claiming to hold a computer science degree he does not actually have.

The allegations were first made by activist Yahoo investor Dan Loeb, who questioned Thompson's credentials in a biting letter to the company's board. Thompson's official company biography and Yahoo filings with Securities and Exchange Commission both claimed Thompson held degrees in accounting and computer science. But Loeb said a "rudimentary Google search" showed the computer science degree to be fiction, although Thompson does have a degree in accounting.

Yahoo announced late Thursday that it had launched a probe and would report back to shareholders. There are a number of questions that must be answered, among them: Did Thompson himself insert the false claim? If so, when? How did Yahoo's hiring committee not discover the discrepancy? Did anyone else know Thompson does not in fact hold a computer science degree?

Loeb sent another letter to the Yahoo board on Friday, calling the company's response to the discovery about Thompson's resume "height of arrogance." Loeb also made an ominous point in the Friday letter.

"Mr. Thompson and the Board should make no mistake: this is a big deal," Loeb wrote. "CEO's have been terminated for less at other companies."

One argument could be made that Thompson's decades of corporate success outweigh a false resume claim. But others might see it as raising larger ethical concerns about how fit he is to run a major, publicly traded company.

What do you think Yahoo's board should do about Scott Thompson? Vote in the poll below, and check back often for updates on the Mashable community's verdict.

Scott Thompson's Resume Was Padded. Now What?

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

How a 13-Year-Old's Startup Might Be Able to Cure Your Hiccups
Friday, May 04, 2012 4:41 PMKate Freeman

Forget holding your breath or drinking water upside down. One startup wants to cure your pesky hiccups with candy suckers.

Mallory Kievman, a 13-year-old from Manchester, Conn., invented the lollipop in her kitchen after a bout of annoying hiccups. The pops are made with apple cider vinegar and sugar. The vinegar, she told the New York Times, overstimulates the nerves in your throat responsible for hiccups and "cancels out the message to hiccup."

Kievman told Mashable she did tons of research online to learn everything there is to know about hiccups, and then combined those ideas with her own inventiveness. She read everything from research on cats that showed how to incite hiccups, to clinical trials from the 1970s that tested the use of sugar on the back of the tongue (it actually worked in stopping sporadic hiccups in 18 of 20 patients). As for using apple cider vinegar, "I was reading an article somewhere about uses for vinegar and apple cider vinegar was in that story for getting rid of hiccups," she recalled. So Kievman put the vinegar into her patent-pending portable pops.

Kievman's been touring a variety of competitions with her startup invention -- and the idea has been well-received. At the Connecticut Innovation Competition for kids, Hiccupops was recognized for its "innovation and patentability," states the Times article. Kievman has also taken Hiccupops to a couple Connecticut economic and innovation summits.

This summer, the eighth grader will be getting help from MBA students at the University of Connecticut, who will help her launch the product nationwide. Also helping -- her dad. In the Times article, Mallory reportedly said her dad handles "a lot of the business stuff. And he's also helping me handle stuff like using the stove."

What do you think of Hiccupops? What qualities does any startup idea need to "make it"? Tell us in the comments.

?Photo courtesy of iStockphoto, lostinyonkers ?

Uber Offering On-Demand Mariachi Bands
Friday, May 04, 2012 3:35 PMEmily Price

This year, Uber is letting you start your Cinco de Mayo celebrations a little early, offering on-demand fiestas you can order from your mobile phone.

Much like ordering a ride, people in the San Francisco area can get their very own fiesta delivered today (Cuatro de Mayo) using Uber's mobile app. Firing up the app between 12-5 p.m. PST will give you the option of getting a car or a fiesta. Tap the sombrero on the screen and select "Let's Party" to have the party literally come to you.

So what might the fiesta option entail?

Uber has three Bay Area-based mariachi bands roaming the streets in SUVs, armed with margarita mix and pinatas. Once ordered, the band will come to you and play a song from its repetiore -- or one you request -- and leave behind a pinata filled with "mystery and wonder." The band also promises to leave behind a bottle of margarita mix (you have to provide your own tequila) and "beautiful memories."

"Our Cuatro de Mayo On-Demand Mariachi promo is similar to our On-Demand BBQ sandwiches at SXSW 2012. They both highlight Uber's ability to deliver you 'the coolest things ever' in only 5 minutes," Ryan Graves VP of Operations at Uber told Mashable. "We're all about logistics and experience, and I can guarantee this experience is going to be awesome."

On-demand fiestas cost $100 per party and are billed directly to your saved credit card within Uber.

Where do you think would be a good place to send a fiesta? Let us know your Cuatro de Mayo thoughts in the comments.

27 Advertisers Leave Village Voice Following Child Sex Ad Scandal
Friday, May 04, 2012 3:19 PMZoe Fox

Twenty-seven companies have pulled their ads from Village Voice Media, after an online petition called on advertisers to stop working with the publication.

Justin Wassel, an Ohio minister, launched a petition "Village Voice Advertisers: Pull Advertisement until Backpage.com Adult Section is Shut Down," which has amassed more than 3,000 signatures.

"I'm thrilled to hear so many companies have dropped their advertisements from Village Voice Media publications," Wassel says. "Many of them are major national brands who cater to families and children, so it's only natural they should be concerned about their advertisements supporting child sex trafficking."

H&M, Ikea, Best Buy, AT&T and Barnes and Noble are among the companies that have stopped advertising with Village Voice Media since the petition was launched.

A previous Change.org petition, telling Village Voice Media to discontinue the adult section of Backpage.com, picked up a lot of steam during the past month. The petition, "Tell Village Voice Media to Stop Child Sex Trafficking on Backpage.com," has received more than 235,000 signatures as of Thursday. The initial petition was launched by Groundswell, a multi-faith social action coalition.

The complete list of companies who have stopped advertising with Village Voice Media includes American Airlines, AT&T, Barnes and Noble, Best Buy, Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), Buddy Stubbs, Carnegie Hall, the Children's Wish Foundation International, Crown Imports LLC, H&M, Harkins Theatre, Harley Davidson, High Times, Ikea, Live Nation, Macy's, Miami Dolphins, MillerCoors, New York Public Radio, the NYC Film Forum, Park Avenue Church, Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, REI, Relativity Media, Starbucks, T-Mobile and the Tribeca Performing Arts Center.

Is it the responsibility of advertisers to only place spots on brands whose values they support? Let us know what message you think brands send when choosing where to place ads.

Image via Flickr, Shrieking Tree

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