Salesforce.com has unveiled a series of products for mobile computing, social collaboration, social analytics and marketing during the Dreamforce conference in San Francisco.
SAN FRANCISCO, May 25, 2012 /PRNewswire-iReach/ — Together with the Business Development Institute, PR Newswire hosted an interactive event, the Content Marketing and Communications Leadership forum, on May 16th in San Francisco. Michael Pranikoff, Global Director of Emerging Media, led…
Lightbank, the Chicago investment fund backed by Groupon’s co-founders, today announced that is investing $5 million in Lifecrowd, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based startup that bills itself as a “social activities discovery site.”
Lifecrowd said in a press release that it plans to use the funding to fuel expansion. The service is currently available in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Orange County and San Diego.
Lightbank is leading the investment round and will take a seat on Lifecrowd’s board. Other participating investors include Bullpen Capital (founded by Paul Martino, the seed investor in social gaming pioneer Zynga), Baroda Ventures (seed investor in Fab.com) and Prism VentureWorks (seed investor in The Receivables Exchange).
“The social activities space is really heating up and we see a tremendous market opportunity for Lifecrowd’s approach to catapult it to the head of the pack,” Paul Lee, partner at Lightbank, said in the press release.
Lifecrowd lets users discover and participate in casual group activities going on in their area—from wine tastings to dodge ball games. Users browse a selection of outings, events and host-led sessions, view photos and read user reviews about activities going on in their area.
While Lightbank has continued to pursue its original goal of investing in Midwest ventures (recent funding recipients include Chicago startups SocialKaty, DraftDay and SoCore), the firm also has sunk money into ventures farther afield. Lifecrowd is just the latest; other out-of-town investments include Palo Alto, Calif.-based E la Carte, as well as DoubleDutch, Udemy and Qwiki Inc. of San Francisco.
Crain’s contributor Robert Loerzel brings you news of fresh local startups every Tuesday on Crain’s blog for Chicago entrepreneurs.Dishcrawl: Dishcrawl, which organizes the foodie equivalent of pub crawls, expands to Chicago this month after holding “progressive food adventures” in Portland, Ore., Seattle, San Francisco, Washington, Toronto, Montreal and other cities. The Silicon Valley-based company’s first Chicago event will be April 21. Participating restaurants are kept secret until two days before the event, when the first location is revealed to ticket-holders. Reservations are $59 per person. “Dishcrawl focuses on introducing food lovers not only to restaurants’ signature dishes, but also to the chefs and owners behind those dishes,” Chicago Dishcrawl coordinator Todor Krecu says.BadHappy Poutine Shop: The Quebecois dish poutine — french fries with cheese curds and gravy — is the specialty at this BYOB restaurant, which opened in March at 939 N. Orleans St. on the Near North Side. The menu currently features several kinds of poutine, including “One Hot Asian” (fries with jalapeno curd, Vietnamese pork patties, headcheese, cilantro, carrot, daikon and kimchee sauce) and “Happy Face” (fries with slow-cooked veal cheek, garlic curd, chicken-fried sweetbreads, kale, onions and foie gras gravy).AttorneyFee.com: Chicago native Richard Komaiko started this company in September in San Francisco, and now he’s expanding with a second office in Chicago. The company’s website lets consumers compare fees of hundreds of attorneys nationwide. “There is clearly a huge amount of demand for this information, but almost no resources were available,” Mr. Komaiko says in a press release. “Once (clients) know the fair price, it will be impossible for any attorney to overcharge.” The service is free for both attorneys and consumers. The site includes educational and professional background information on listed attorneys. And it syncs with attorneys’ calendars, giving consumers the ability to see whether lawyers are available and to request appointments. Mr. Komaiko founded AttorneyFee with two friends he met at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Beibei Que and Stephen Kloder.Mole Detective: This new app from Chicago’s New Consumer Solutions helps smartphone users look for symptoms of melanoma. It analyzes pictures of potentially cancerous skin moles, tracking how they change. As the app’s website explains: “Dermatologists look for asymmetry, an irregular shape, which could result when one area of a mole is growing faster than another. . . .Mole Detective does the work for you, looking for asymmetry by mathematically defining a mole’s symmetry and identifying any irregularities.” CEO and founder Kristi Zuhlke started New Consumer Solutions shortly after moving to Chicago from Boston. “I have been very excited and surprised with the entrepreneurial spirit that is taking off in this city,” she says.Forza: This new restaurant and bar at 2476 N. Lincoln Ave. in Lincoln Park features Southern Italian cuisine from chef Mario Giuseppe Mentesana, who formerly worked at two Florence restaurants, Acqua al Due and Cavolo Nero. Many of his recipes will feature San Marzano tomatoes imported from the Naples area. Forza has about 50 wines, as well as cocktails created by mixologist Tony Selna (formerly of Mastro’s restaurants in Beverly Hills and Chicago). The owners brought in makeup artist Lisa Pekofsky to give the service staff a look reminiscent of Audrey Hepburn and the “Golden Age of Glamour,” according to a press release.Think Integer: This North Side consulting firm focuses on helping small businesses with cloud computing. “Think Integer offers the resources needed to leverage technology larger enterprises currently enjoy,” says Frank Diaz, who co-founded the firm in February with Josh Araya. Client companies can access their data, which is stored on secure servers, anywhere they have an Internet connection. Mr. Diaz says the data is more secure than it would be on a laptop, which could be stolen.FollowSpot Media: This new Chicago company writes and shoots videos for businesses and spreads the word about the videos via social media. The FollowSpot team includes experts from four firms: Bergonia Photography, Total Dish Marketing, Nimble Social Media and Forward Motion Media. Since making its first video in December, FollowSpot has created spots for the Perennial Virant restaurant, Burger Bar Chicago and Bonnie & Clyde’s boutique. Last month, FollowSpot posted a three-part video chronicle looking behind the scenes at Entertaining Co., an upscale caterer. “This is an interesting example of how small businesses in Chicago are using online video to command more eyeballs and create interest on a budget,” says Linda Bergonia of FollowSpot.
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RSA Conference 2012, the world’s largest information security event, takes place February 27 through March 2, 2012 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco.
By Judith Nemes
Biking to work in the frigid cold and looking sharp all day long is getting easier for guys in Chicago and beyond thanks to a local sustainable-clothing designer.Jonathan Shaun, an urban cyclist who has designed snowboard wear and worked for sustainable consulting and clothing companies, has launched a new Chicago company called Nonetheless Garments. He’s designed a line of weather-proof pants (and some jackets, too) that can take diehard year-round cyclists through the slushy streets of Chicago to a polished look at the office and then out to dinner or a night on the town.
More people are cycling to work year-round, even in Chicago. The market for durable clothing that moves from the road to the workplace is growing, and Mr. Shaun is looking to fill that niche.
Mr. Shaun, 39, works in small batches and develops three or four new products every few months. His current line offers four types of pants and a shirt jacket made from leftover Burberry trench coat material. He keeps his business local: All garments are manufactured in Chicago.One of the company’s most popular garments is the Nara Wool Bender Pant, made from an eco-friendly wool and polyester blend fabric from Japan-based Teijin Fibers Ltd. There’s no petroleum used in the textile’s manufacturing and the polyester is recycled from plastic bottles. Teijin worked with Mr. Shaun for two years to get the textile right so it could perform well for the mix of intended functions. The pants don’t need dry cleaning, which is better for the environment, too.
Another part of Mr. Shaun’s sustainable mission is to achieve zero waste. The company’s Afterward Program enables people wearing his clothes to swap them out for something new at discounts if the pants get messed up in a crash or if customers just want to freshen their wardrobe with a new piece.
Locals can buy his clothes at Connect, his Wicker Park storefront (with irregular hours) that also doubles as space for his sideline gig, 3.zero, a digital and branding studio. His clothing also is sold online and in cycle-centric retail stores in San Francisco, Seattle and Portland, Ore.
Mr. Shaun declines to discuss revenue, but says sales in 2011 were off to a strong start. He’s self-financed along with two private business partners. He’s looking for potential investors to develop the business to a bigger wholesale distribution model.
Crain’s met with Mr. Shaun (he goes by Shaun, actually) to learn about the challenges of creating sustainable clothing for a savvy shopper.
Crain’s: Why do you have a limited selection of clothing items?
Mr. Shaun: I’m highly focused on one piece at a time. I don’t have big committees like Nike or Apple. From first sketch to last stitch, the painstaking process takes a long time. I’m not going to put a product out just to fill the store.Sales reps tell me I need more pieces to round out my collection. They’re probably right, but I design it, resource the textiles, watch over the factory, the finishings, and I test everything with a small quality group of likeminded people who are influencers to help me make the final decisions. These people are very diverse: Some care about the environment, some care only about the design, some only care about how they perform on and off the bike. It took 30 samples and a year and a half to fine-tune the first pant and get it into final production.
Crain’s: What’s so unique about the fabric and design of the pants that sets it apart in the market?
Mr. Shaun: I’m very much into technical fabric. I’m a textile geek.
One of the new textiles is made from Polartec, called NeoShell, and it breathes 100 times better than Goretex. We’re only one of a handful of brands that got access to it, and that’s in the some of the pants I designed. Polartec is made in the U.S., and that’s important to me as well.
Crain’s: Why were you so intent on manufacturing your clothing line locally?
Mr. Shaun: I was bent on making this in Chicago because I want to put my dollars back into my community. I’ve seen the financial crisis here through this macro economic time. I can’t change the world but I can change a small corner of it.When you talk about the triple bottom line and being a socially responsible business, some people get lost. There’s lots of brand names made in China and all over the world. They can be made of the most sustainable fabrics and textiles and have the most socially responsible factories in China, but what’s more sustainable than making it in your own backyard here in Chicago?
Crain’s: Where do most people shop for your pants and other pieces?
Mr. Shaun: About 70% of sales are happening online, and 20% of our purchasers are wholesale. Another 10% comes from our retail showroom on Milwaukee Avenue. I’m getting pretty aggressive with the wholesale side.
Crain’s: How are you positioning yourselves for growth in the years ahead?
Mr. Shaun: We’re highly focused on figuring out how to still be a core commuter brand and also be able to be in boutiques and select department stores because of the aesthetic. Going into 2012 and beyond, we want to be able to be in the active commuter cycling market, and we want our design and product to translate into the boutique realm seamlessly.
The boutique side doesn’t care about the technical attributes. The cycling side cares about both the technical and the aesthetics. No one has found that sweet spot yet. The biggest challenge I have every day is to be both and not lose our DNA.
Judith Nemes is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in green issues and urban sustainability. Her weekly column for Crain’s, “Green Scene,” focuses on the local green economy. View her blog here.
Follow Ms. Nemes on Twitter: @JudithNemes.
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By Tina Sharkey
Motherhood triggers big changes in how women spend their time, how they consume media. And how they shop.
In younger days, shopping meant getting together with girlfriends to indulge in shoes, party dresses and fun conversation. Motherhood puts an end to that, fast. Suddenly life’s all about buying school supplies and diapers in bulk, and then rushing home to the family.
Just how do moms shop? BabyCenter US wanted to find out. We also wanted to know how their shopping habits compare to the general internet-using population. Working with comScore, we produced the report, “2011 Shopping Rituals of the American Mom.” As the year closes down — along with the seemingly endless holiday shopping season — it seems apropos to look at the study’s striking results.
P.S: Marketers take note: this isn’t just about moms. They’re the leading indicator for shopping behaviors — what they’re doing today, every consumer will be doing tomorrow.
It’s true, as Matt Carmichael wrote in a recent post, “Kids Take All the Fun out of Shopping”: moms are often stressed-out, rushed, overwhelmed, cost-obsessed. But that’s far from the whole story. Here’s the rest of it.
They play to win.
Our study, based on surveys of more than 8,000 online moms visiting the BabyCenter US site in summer 2011, shows that moms treat shopping as a sport. After all, many elements are the same: developing strategies, rising to challenges, outperforming the competition, reveling in the big score. No wonder that 84% of moms in our study agreed with the statement that: “When I save money on a shopping trip by using coupons, sales or other deals, I feel like ‘I won.’ ”
Moms who shop use every available resource to gain an edge. Almost two-thirds have a bar code scanner app on their mobile device to help them zero in on deals — 30% more than the general population. Three in five moms belong to at least one group buying service.
They’re hardly alone.
Moms may not shop in packs, but that doesn’t mean they’re on their own. Instead of calling a girlfriend into the changing room for a second opinion, moms reach for the smartphone: 34% have texted a picture of a product before buying it (compared with 10% of the general internet population). And when they hit the retail trail, they take the entire social graph with them: 44% share deals and discount codes through social media, and 62% post online reviews. Shopping can be one of the most socially engaged parts of a mom’s day.
Their partner’s helping.
Even savvy marketers can fall into the trap of thinking of household shopping as strictly a mom’s job. Groceries, nursery supplies, kids’ clothes, school supplies — the poor woman, how does she get it all done? With help from her partner. One in four moms say their partner is somewhat or highly involved in the purchase of baby items; a similar number say that their spouse plays an equal or greater role in purchasing household groceries.
They’re not just buying small stuff.
Moms aren’t just buying wipes and pencils. They have influence over a wider range of categories than ever before, spending more than twice as much online on video games as the general internet population, and nearly as much on hardware and software. They’re 47% more likely to anticipate a major financial services purchase in the next 12 months and 25% more likely to purchase airfare or hotels. A full 99% of moms are involved in deciding on a vehicle purchase. Still, nearly 3 in 5 moms feel uncomfortable at auto dealerships, mainly because the dealer falsely assumes that they have little knowledge and a limited role in the buying decision.
They’ll pay for convenience.
Moms reward brands and retailers that simplify their lives, even if it costs a bit more. Nearly two in five moms are willing to pay for online shipping to save time and effort, and more than one in three agree that simplicity, multi-use and convenience are the biggest priorities in their technology purchases. Moms also demand a more seamless shopping experience, such as the ability to buy online and return in-store without a lot of extra hassle. Free shipping to the store makes moms feel rewarded, which is good news for big-box retailers in particular: 64% of moms will purchase household items and 46% will buy snacks when in the store.
At the end of the day, moms are masters at tallying their savings and bragging to their social graph about the day’s biggest scores. How many ways does she love to shop? Let me count the ways . . .
Tina Sharkey is global president and chairman of BabyCenter, a San Francisco-based operator of websites for parents with young children. Her post originally appeared on the website of Crain’s sister publication, Advertising Age.
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