While CRM systems have been around for many years, in my experience, among the companies who invest in them, only a few have grasped their true purpose. For a business or a brand to “wrap its head around” the idea of an ongoing conversation with the customer, we are best served by taking a closer look at the role of the brand in experience management and contact management.
As Content Marketing continues to develop, much has been written about the role of experiences, memories, and emotion as driving forces in conversion, and most importantly, in customer loyalty. One post went on to suggest that we’re witnessing a shift in determining what truly makes us happy and expressing it in our behavior. That shift is most easily observed in generational attitudes; the younger generations are placing more value on experiences over stuff. We are discounting: the acquisition of things like houses, cars, clothes, and yes, even tech hardware like iPhones is giving way to a preference generating lasting memories of things we’ve done or seen or felt. Something we experience helps us look forward to some event or relationship. And while a change in the choices we make with brands might scare some, the search for something real and lasting can’t be ignored by marketers. These choices lead to moments, many of which are made unconsciously with brands.
Researchers at a Silicon Valley area university were polled in regards to Gens X and Y, revealing that after buying whatever their heart desired, participants responded that spending their money on an experience or on a person you experience it with would add to their quality of life for a more sustained period of time. The paradigm shift comes when the era of Social Media gives them the platform to share those experiences. I would argue that the surprise and delight delivered by positive brand experiences matters much more than purely the acquisition of what the brand makes.
Of course, we do and should reward ourselves for accomplishments, or upon good fortune. Sometimes that takes the form of a thing we buy. But when brands can communicate more of their “why” in the form of an experience, the effects can be memorable. When brands allow experiences to strengthen and confirm the wisdom of choosing them, they are communicating on an emotional level. In fact, emotions drive nearly everything we do.
Looking at the customer experience, much is emotion driven. We can research and shop for months, but when we are in that moment, we make an emotional decision. And what about loyalty? What makes us loyal? It’s the emotional connection with whom we are loyal to. Marketers all too often look at the “what”, instead of the “how” or even better, the “why.” A great customer experience goes beyond rationale and product features. We need the entire buyers journey or purchase funnel to achieve it.
For a brand to resonate and compete for the hearts and minds of consumers who, for example, prefer going places to buying and storing things, learning new insights into emotional response is part of codifying brand values. Emotion plays into one’s memories of experience and with whom.
So, in considering the role of emotion in marketing/branding, we need to consider the consumer holistically. Rationale and logic do indeed contribute to our decision making, but as Forrester Research stressed recently during their Customer Experience Forum in NYC, “customer experience doesn’t drive behavior that expands a brand, loyalty does.” Content delivered through the entire buyer/ownership journey is as much about creating emotional experience and advocacy in the form of loyalty as it is about acquisition. When designing customer experiences, we could begin with something like an experience map. While big data is now a primary catalyst for examining customer behavior, it still depends on compilation. More direct sources like call center logs, personas, one-on-one interviews, comments on our blog, the social web, and real life conversations can help gain insight to start. Then, we could apply some known behavioral tenants. For example:
People are more sensitive to avoiding negative experiences over investing in positive ones.
Experiential context must be accounted for when considering the consumer’s state of mind.
We tend to be revisionist and selective in our memories, so “moments” do matter.
Brands need to continually create relevant strategies, refine or reinvent company culture, develop new technologies, and re-examine brand values if they are to thrive.
Additionally, an internal perspective could be applied to employee experiences to support this effort. “C” Suite decisions could and should shift from a strategy of what to do to how, when, and how much to do. Making the case for a Social Employee at every touchpoint is a recognition that people with customer contact (employees) are the new marketers because they directly impact our emotional response to a brand experience. They function best when they have the opportunity to be authentic and creative in driving positive and emotional experiences and outcomes.
We know that 14% of people polled trust conventional advertising. We know that 92% trust recommendations from people they know (have an emotional connection to). In fact, more people trust a brand’s employees than the CEO. Addressing the importance of emotion in brand experience will go a long way to converting that 92% to higher conversion rates and retention.

5 of the Hottest Places for Startups

Monday, 14 September 2015 by

When you think of tech startups, you think of sprawling campuses in Silicon Valley fed by venture capitalists from across the bay.
San Francisco is synonymous with fresh faced programmers with a penchant for disruptive technology. But rising costs has made San Fran a less than desirable place to get going unless you’ve recently seen an injection of a few million dollars.
Having high-profile neighbors does not make a city the best place to launch your technology career. In fact, the competitive nature of the area makes it a more difficult place to be. Instead, check out these five places that aren’t Silicon Valley that foster creative culture and add fuel to the startup fire.
1. Denver, CO and Boulder, CO
You might be surprised at the most consistent places to launch your career. Colorado is consistently ranked as one of the best places to launch a tech startup. In fact, Denver and Boulder can be found at the top of almost every list.
Colorado features affordable real estate and a relaxed lifestyle. Education is a high priority in this state and creatives make up around 29.3 percent of the area’s population. The area is also home to tech giants like Oracle, SAP and HP as well as a large number of government research groups.
Boulder itself is known for its productivity and the city has an impressive tech startup density sitting at six times the national average per capita.
2. Austin, TX
Fly a few hours south to Austin in the heart of Texas and you discover another surprising city that is full of hot startups.
Austin sits at the top of several lists. From its food scene to its creative capital, the city offers plenty of resources to entrepreneurs at lower prices than its coastal compatriots. The stable cost of living combined with no state income taxes makes Austin a great place to get started.
3. Boca Raton, FL
Boca Raton – located near other Florida startup hub, Miami – is known mostly for its white beaches and the white hair of the swarms of retirees that flock to the area. But this all quietly began to change when IBM opened its doors in the city in 1970.
Lately, IBM vets have started opening their own tech firms. The number of creative professionals currently sits at around 14.2% of the population.
4. Seattle, WA
Seattle is the home of tech behemoths like Microsoft and Amazon. This is great news for new startups because these giants attract world-class talent to the city. With Microsoft’s increasing layoffs and Amazon’s high staff turnover, there is plenty of talent to go around.
5. Global
The tech startup scene extends far beyond the borders of the United States. There are countries around the world exploding with highly innovative technology companies. Some well known companies like TransferWise, a disruptive service endorsed by Richard Branson, have surprising origins.
If you’re looking for a change of scenery, you might considered the European Union. The Netherlands was recently ranked as the most entrepreneurial country in Europe and is home to many of the global tech campuses.
If the high prices of Amsterdam are a bit much, you can check out countries like Lithuania and Estonia. These countries have high levels of creativity and incredibly low costs of living. The number of creatives enjoying new found freedom have made these places attractive for getting your startup off the ground.
If you travel a little further afield to Tel Aviv, you will find yourself in a thriving beach technology culture. The country spends more money on research and development than many other countries in the world.
Whether you want to stay close to home or go far away, remember that San Francisco may be at the center of everything but the tech world is a big one and it is worth exploring.

In May 2015, I left everything in Montreal, Quebec, Canada behind and together my co-founder and fiancée Emilie Elice-Label, arrived in San Francisco to set up operations for our company here for the next 6 months.
While living in Montreal, and Paris before that, I’ve been educating myself about Silicon Valley with news articles to learn from other immigrants that made the same jump such as Bastian Lehmann, CEO of Postmates, and many other entrepreneurs. I thought deeply about how much of a difference location can make when building your company. Moving from Paris to Montreal helped me grow because there are more startup-minded people in Montreal, and the city offers easy proximity to New York City.
While in the startup capital of the world, we’ve visited the true Silicon Valley (Palo Alto and Mountain View), and began thinking about the benefits of the area and the importance that location has for companies.
Since we arrived in San Francisco, it is much easier to meet like-minded and useful people, and my expectations of how easy it is to meet people and how helpful people are have been exceeded. We’ve also had the chance to meet startups in our space and it has been fascinating to learn from them. It’s easier for these things to happen since many startups are based here. Emilie, my co-founder has been to many San Francisco events and it emphasizes this feeling even more.
People actually “get” what you’re building: This is what makes our move to the US unavoidable because this isn’t something that we felt in Montreal. In Montreal, most of the people didn’t get what we were building or why. In San Francisco, people get startups. The conversation can jump right into what your startup is about. Conversations like mobile strategy are easy to have, whereas the real estate marketplace conversation in Montreal seemed to center around explaining the instant gratification that only mobile devices can offer.
Sure, you might not be in Silicon Valley and you might not be able to pack your bags and hop on a flight over here for many reasons. That being said, I advise any founder to take risks and move to wherever you feel you’d be at ease to jumpstart your project. But not being in the right location shouldn’t stop you from making progress with your startup from your current location. To wait for any perfect environment, be it location, startup communities, experience, funds or otherwise, is a mistake to be avoided.
I’d love to learn from your experience in the comments.
Image Credit: Flickr/Jeff Gunn

Everyone knows that some of the world’s largest technology corporations reside in the Silicon Valley of California, and it’s hard to compete with the area’s wealth. However, the Bay area isn’t the only United States tech hub. Atlanta, Georgia is also a major player in the technology sector.
As far as technological advancements and major tech companies are concerned, Silicon Valley is far ahead of Atlanta. However, when it comes to small tech businesses and startups, aspiring entrepreneurs will have a tough time in the Silicon Valley. The Bay area is one of the worst places to begin a company, but those dreams have often been realized simply by visiting Atlanta Tech Village or Tech Square in Georgia.
The tech industry in Atlanta is already quite impressive, and there is always room for growth in the technology business sector. Atlanta grants more than 1,500 patents to new businesses alone for new technological innovations every year. It’s also been named one of the best places to start a business by Forbes. This is just one of the many reasons that Atlanta is defining itself as the East Coast’s version of Silicon Valley, but here are a few more:
1. Atlanta’s Economy Is Rising
It’s true the Silicon Valley’s economy is booming, and the average salary for a tech job is the highest in the nation. However, Atlanta isn’t far behind. The city took a significant hit in the 2008 financial crisis, but it’s been steadily gaining speed in the tech industry. According to a chart from 42 Floors, “The Atlanta metropolitan area is considered the eighth-largest economy in the country and the sixteenth-largest economy in the world.” This booming economy is largely a result of their determination to put startup companies on the map.
2. Woman-Owned Businesses Can Make It in Atlanta
Georgia is currently one of the best states for women-owned businesses. In fact, it was the number one state in 2013, according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle. The Bay area has always been high on the list of regions that support women-owned businesses, but they haven’t reached the top. Prominent women-operated businesses including Partpic and Rimidi got their start in Atlanta, and have already been largely successful at expanding their businesses.
3. There’s No Shortage of Fortune 500 Companies
With the third largest concentration of Fortune 500 companies in America, Atlanta can certainly compete with the major concentration of high-profile businesses in Silicon Valley. However, Atlanta’s businesses are far more willing to work with the surrounding startup businesses to help them get a leg up in the industry. What’s more, British tech firms looking to infiltrate the United States tend to gravitate more often towards Atlanta than larger tech hubs because of the success rate for startups. This means they’re slowly going international.
4. Atlanta Has Drive
If you look into the history of Atlanta, you’ll see that it hasn’t had an easy time staying at the top. However, it continually works to rebuild itself, both figuratively and literally. It’s the only United States city to have burned entirely to the ground twice and then picked up the pieces and started over again. This idea has translated to the way they handle new entrepreneurs and tech jobs.
The city has a drive to stay afloat, come recessions or natural disasters. It’s the sheer determination of Atlanta to help startups and small businesses rise to the top that will have the Silicon Valley watching their backs in the future.

My friends, Kirill Satanovsky is walking, living, breathing proof that entrepreneurs can come from anywhere. When he was in school he studied neuroscience, only to end up working at a home automation startup after graduation.
He didn’t abandon his interest in neuroscience by any means, Satanovsky simply found something in this world that was more important to him: entrepreneurship. You see, when he was working at this company he was bitten by the startup bug, big time.
Like many entrepreneurs before him he realized, while it was a big risk, his best bet was to pack up and move on out to Silicon Valley. After all, he had a colleague who was starting a company out there and she invited him to come help launch it.
Satanovsky spent about eight months at the company before realizing it wasn’t quite up his alley though. At the time when he decided to move on he was living in a hacker house which he eventually began running, and ultimately handling all the operations for.
That’s when Alex Cory entered the picture: Cory was running an education centered hackathon and needed some help. There was something special to Satanovsky about this hackathon, and he saw it as something that was legitimately trying to make a difference.
It all started when a group of student university ambassadors attended a Google summit and were charged with keeping innovative spirits at their schools high and to host individual, local hackathons. It didn’t make much sense to them though.
After all, San Francisco State, Berkeley, and Stanford are all relatively close: why not just hold one, massive event? That was the genesis of the first HackingEDU event, which Satanovsky eagerly offered to help with.
HackingEDU specifically brings together the sharpest young minds from all over the West Coast. It’s all under the banner of inspiring the next generation of students to solve the problems that plague our current education system,
“Education is broken, who better to fix it than those directly affected,” says Satanovsky. “I love the idea of empowering students to change the system from within.”
The idea has absolutely caught on with current university students. Cory and Satanovsky recently held a HackingEDU Training Day event where they brought in their sponsors to engage with the attendees, showcase companies, and provide networking opportunities at PayPal HQ.
Initially it was supposed to be a relatively low key, quiet event but the entrepreneurial duo got 1,500 student sign ups out of the clear blue. Granted, they officially clocked attendance at just over 400, but it was still a massive showing for the event.
When the PayPal rep asked them how they managed to pull the whole thing off, impressed by the turnout, they told him that it’s all because of the students. Cory and Sataovsky realize something poignant: these young minds are the ones who are super passionate about education because they’re directly embedded in it. All HackingEDU did that day was give them a stage to connect.
In a nutshell, that’s the core philosophy of HackingEDU though. Their biggest driving influence is to show students that they really can make a difference, even if it’s only making a smart watch app that teaches kids multiplication tables. However, you can’t innovate unless you start the conversation, and for HackingEDU it’s all about starting it with the students as early as possible.
“Education is more than just public schooling, it’s a right,” says Satanovsky. “You shouldn’t have to spend money on antiquated institutions who will teach you skills you can’t apply or not the right skills you need. Not everybody is Peter Thiel – what about all the other bright kids who don’t learn well in the traditional school systems? How do they learn new skills? How do they connect? We’re empowering DIY learners. We want to be the central place for people who are passionate about education.”
To hear Cory and Satanovsky tell it, this is only the raw beginning for HackingEDU, and they’re planning on running annual events for years to come. You’ve got to admire their tenacity, but take a step back and look at the bigger picture here. In effect, HackingEDU is showcasing a new generation of student entrepreneurs. This is what you get when you pair ambitious university talent with a robust tech ecosystem, and it’s beautiful.
Image Credit: HackingEDU Facebook page

Oakland is the Bay Area’s greatest paradox. No city in Northern California offers the same dichotomy of third world crime with first-class business opportunity. These days, the trend is heading much more in the direction of the latter. In 2014 Oakland experienced its lowest rate in violent crime in over a decade.
It’s been said many a time that Oakland is the “Detroit of the West”, and that nickname is just as relevant today as it was at the height of automobile production in the 1970s. Detroit is a city that’s been through a lot, to say the least, but it’s also starting to emerge as a land of opportunity. You could say the same about Oakland as well.

Highlighted by Pandora, there are hundreds of startup companies that call Oakland home, and the number keeps rising. Here are the reasons why:
1) Oakland needs business growth more than San Francisco or San Jose, and will go out of its way to accommodateOakland rolls out the red carpet for would-be businesses, including generous tax breaks. If your startup sets up shop in a deemed “Enterprise Zone”, Oakland could give you a credit of up to $37,440 over a 5-year period for every new eligible employee. And it’s not like if you moved your company to Oakland you’d be the only one making that move: there are more than 300 startups in the city now.
2) Tech workers already live in OaklandOne of the great reasons why Silicon Valley spread into SF in the first place was the fact that many workers were adamantly choosing to live in the city. In effect, the businesses slowly started following their workers. Since the emergence of SF’s tech scene this past decade, two things have started happening: rents have become too high for even many area tech workers, and Oakland has seen the addition of hundreds of restaurants, bars, and other amenities to make it more enticing to jump across the Bay. Google and Yahoo busses pick up residents in Oakland for a reason.
3) There’s an abundance of office spaceThere’s some pretty simple math at play here. Oakland has slightly more square miles than San Francisco, and half the population. There’s plenty of room to grow. The neighborhoods near Jack London Square, Grand/Lake, and uptown are poised to absorb more companies, including the now-vacant space where Sears used to be.
4) Oakland tech growth is already happeningAccording to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the Oakland metropolitan area (which excludes Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Berkeley and the North Bay) grew its computer industry by over 5 percent from 2013 to 2014. The BLS’s vaguely defined computer industry predominantly includes developers, systems analysts, and technical support roles. The growth is happening quietly, but it’s happening all the same.
5) The costs make the decision easyNot that office space is affordable in Oakland when compared nationally, but it’s infinitely less expensive than San Francisco or the Peninsula. Could be a major reason why Sunset Magazine just announced its move from Menlo Park in the Peninsula to Oakland, where it will likely pay close to $30 a square foot (in contrast to the $50 or $60 you’re likely to pay in Menlo Park or San Francisco).
So what do you get when you combine an educated workforce, affordable commercial real estate, and a town that’s on the rise? The next major technology hub, that’s what.

Whether you’re just about to start a company or you’re hoping to expand, setting up shop in New York City may be the best logical step for you and your company. Or, maybe, you’re at a point during which your location decision comes down to either Silicon Valley or Silicon Alley. Whatever the case, it’s important that you, as a founder, know as much about the New York startup ecosystem before fully committing to planting roots in the city. Thankfully, there’s now a handy infographic that gives founders (and potential founders) a general yet informative overview of the New York startup scene.
When it comes to resources, community, and funding, the New York startup economy comes in second behind Silicon Valley – this is a widely-known fact. With city-backed initiatives like Digital.NYC which aim to provide the city’s tech sector and greater local economy with the resources to help accelerate growth, and organically-developed organizations like New York Tech Meetup that unify the whole startup economy, a decision to startup in NYC essentially becomes a decision to become part of the economical history of our modern tech renaissance.
In the infographic below, you’ll find the most recent stats on the state of venture capital in NYC, the names of prominent accelerators and tech-focused organizations in the city, and even a list of some food hangout spots recommended by New York startup leaders. Here’s the infographic on a founder’s guide to the New York startup scene:

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Box will be valued at $1.7 billion when it begins trading on Friday, but concerns have been raised within Silicon Valley about the highflying valuations that some technology darlings have fetched recently.

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Box will be valued at $1.7 billion when it begins trading on Friday, but concerns have been raised within Silicon Valley about the highflying valuations that some technology darlings have fetched recently.

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Ford Opens Lab in Silicon Valley

Friday, 23 January 2015 by

Mark Fields, Ford’s chief executive, said the company wanted to be seen as part of Silicon Valley’s ecosystem.

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