Tipping Point For Mobile, Generation World and Merging Physical and Digital

Hello and happy Friday. I’ve just returned from the dmexco event in Cologne, Germany where I acted as moderator on a panel entitled, The Tipping Point for Mobile. I was joined by Dan Rosen, CEO EMEA for Joule, and Dave Gwozdz, CEO of Mojiva. The thrust of the discussion centered around what advertisers can and should be doing to leverage the explosive consumer usage of mobile devices. As you’ll see from the video of the session, Dan and Dave really know what they are talking about:


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I’d also like to share with you a couple of other sessions from dmexco, which was an absolutely massive event. How big? In one of the two huge trade show floors they had a McCafe… inside the Google booth!  Ok, but on to the other sessions. First, here’s a Day 2 keynote from Y&R Global CEO, David Sable on Generation World. A great presentation:


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Later on Thursday, David Sable was joined by Frank Cooper of PepsiCo and Lisa Utzschneider of Amazon to talk about the merging of physical and digital:


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There were many other great panels over the two days, I encourage to explore the dmexco YouTube channel which offers all the sessions in full.


CEO Interview Series: Adam Leibsohn of voyurl

The thing I love about the CEO Interview series is getting inside the heads of people like voyurl founder Adam Leibsohn. Reading his responses really highlights the passion and dedication he has, and clearly demonstrates the crazy smarts the dude is bringing to the table. Voyurl, in a very short time, has found itself a leader in the data / information privacy issues debate, being featured in publications such as The New York Times, Wired and Germany’s Spiegel. If you care about this stuff, and if you spend anytime online you should, then read on to find out more about voyurl.


voyurl's Adam Leibsohn

Rick Liebling: Tell me about Voyurl. What was the inspiration, how did you get it off the ground?

Adam Leibsohn: So the the inspiration for voyurl came from working in digital strategy at a boutique agency in New York. After a few years spent helping build out strategic capabilities on the digital side of things, I was fortunate enough to get exposed to some interesting technologies. But a lot of what I saw were companies and platforms taking liberties with behavioral data, data that people weren’t aware was being collected about them. Nonetheless, these different vendors and tech platforms were exploiting this data to create services and products that generated a lot of revenue for themselves and their clients… but never created any benefit–let alone revenue–for the people who were responsible for generating all of this information.

Around the time that this epiphany was hitting me, Mark Zuckerberg kindly poured kerosene all over the embers of this situation by revamping the privacy policies/practices for all Facebook members. Then everyone sorta “lost it.” Lots of privacy advocates bubbled up, user-advocates started speaking up, users themselves were beginning to get more vocal about their rights and their data… and then The Wall Street Journal literally made personal data practices an entire, dedicated editorial section of their website. Not so quietly and not so slowly, everyone had something to say about data, what it meant, what should be done with it, and what people should do with themselves.

And while I respected the responses I witnessed, I had a slightly different view about things. I wasn’t really shocked about privacy violations because I didn’t see what was happening as a privacy violation but rather I considered it an absence of control. I’ve always viewed online privacy as the subsequent outcome of the presence or lack of two things: control and agency. Danah Boyd is significantly better spoken on this than me. And insanely smarter. So rather than break this whole dynamic down, I recommend reading up on her thoughts here. The short of it is that if users don’t have any agency and control within the platforms they use, then the subsequent outcome is a loss of privacy.

So that’s when I decided to start synthesizing my thoughts around what I continue to believe to be the solution: creating a space for a transparent, honest relationship around data… driven by a user’s perspective rather than a business’ or a platform’s. I believe that there is room for a platform that brings data out into the open in a way that doesn’t threaten a user’s agency or control. In fact, the intention is for this platform to actually empower users with agency and control specifically in relation to their data. Finally, when I thought I had the basics sorted out about how all the pieces would hang together, I started to beat the pavement–both physical and virtual. I did the basic rounds that probably every first-time entrepreneur has to do: I emailed anyone I knew who was even distantly connected to some kind of development. I visited everyone I knew within commuting distance to discuss the idea and explore their capabilities to help make it happen. It literally took years of this kind of effort–talking, meeting, emailing, calling, wishing–to find the right folks who were committed to the idea–not just the job–and who had the chops to get it done. There were many mini-failures along the way… lots of “not so perfect” folks I met who began work and never finished it, or just effed it all up. But… shit happens. You keep going.

When I had our current, completely awesomesauce team assembled, I tried some things to get attention within investment circles to begin introductions. I wasn’t attempting to fund raise, but I didn’t know anyone in the NYC tech scene; I thought this would be a good way to get my foot in the door and say, “Hello.” So, I took out Google search ads for prominent angel and seed fund decision makers so that when they Googled themselves, they got an ad from voyurl. It worked wonderfully. I got a few good meetings and a few weird ones. One thing became ridiculously clear: without a tech pedigree, someone who could vouch for me, or a prototype I wasn’t going to get anywhere with these folks. Fair enough.

That’s when I decided to go homeless. I gave my apartment up for 1 year and couch-surfed (among other things) in order to put my rent money in a savings account. That’s how I built the initial “go-to-market” fund for voyurl. And that’s all the money we’ve used to get voyurl to the point it is today. If it’s one thing you must have to do something like this, it is passion. If you’re not willing

Take a better look

to do anything and everything it takes to bring your vision to life, it’s the wrong vision.


Rick Liebling: So, what exactly does voyurl do?

Adam Leibsohn: voyurl recycles your data exhaust and browsing history to help you quantify your browsing behavior; and, we use that same data to start helping you discover cool, new content online about the stuff you love. So, you basically get your own analytics dashboard that’s made just for you and is only about you. It’s 100% private and secure and helps you understand what you’re doing online. Then we also use those same analytics to help you find new stuff online. In that sense we’re sort of like the mint.com for your digital data because we gather it up for you, trend it with analytics, and make recommendations to you.

The difference between what we’re doing and every other recommendation engine out there is twofold: 1) We literally require zero feedback. Just browse the web. voyurl will do the rest. We don’t ask you to like, thumbs up, plus, star, vote for anything because we use an awesome combination of bioinformatics and cluster analysis to make your data work really hard and work for you… without requiring any work from you. 2) We don’t need or want access to you social graph. That’s because we think people are getting sick of handing over the keys to their entire personal lives for a digital perk. And, to be honest, your social graph is more of a red herring than not when it comes to content recommendation. Are you so close with every person you’re connected to on Facebook that you want to get content recommendations from them? Do you all have that much in common? The answer to these questions and others like them is almost always, “Nope.”


Rick Liebling: Online privacy and online identity are especially hot topics right now. What do you think of the current debate regarding Google+ (and other sites) demanding ‘real names’ for accounts?

Adam Leibsohn: Frankly I think it’s a really weird debate because I don’t think it’s the right one. The way it’s framed makes it an inherently pro-platform debate not a pro-user one. And I think that immediately grounds the context of the debate in favor of the wrong side regardless of the outcome. Think about it: the only entity that really benefits from *forcing* people to accurately identify themselves are the platforms that demand it. That’s because, if they can guarantee you are who you say you are, suddenly the data you’re generating under that identity becomes a lot more valuable; it is undoubtedly coming from a real, live human who lives in city X and does job Y. It’s the same reason a lot of social platforms force you to claim your age and gender before allowing you to sign up. They engineer roadblocks to get more accurate (re: more valuable) data about you. Any time a platform asks for stuff like that on sign up, it sends up a giant rend flag in my head. In most cases, I bail at that point.

So, I think this entire debate misses the point. In my opinion, the debate ought to focus on why platforms aren’t giving *users* the choice (shameless plug). And that’s exactly what voyurl does. Sure, pick a username… it can be whatever you want. If you *choose* to put your real info in there (first name, last name, etc) you’re more than welcome to do it. But that’s your choice, not ours. All of the sudden, there’s something really interesting and potentially extremely beneficial for the end user in a dynamic like the one I just proposed. For confidential and business reasons, I can’t divulge what or why… but I know some serious smarties read your blog (and another one writes it: you!). I bet you’ll all be able to get a vague idea of where the value could be and why it’s there. At any rate, I personally think that if you’re engaging in a deep debate about anonymity vs identity you’re one level too deep in the discussion because that particular debate is one that eliminates choice… not one that empowers it. So, next time someone tries to get clever with you on a debate like this, ask them what the advantage is for the user when the platform eliminates the ability to choose who you are.


It's ok to look.

Rick Liebling: This is a really terrific infographic based on voyurl data, what did you find most interesting?


Adam Leibsohn: I’m personally in love with the height comparison. I think it’s just incredible to understand and see that in one month, a private beta group can tear through enough pages to tower over the Burj Dubai (now the Burj Khalifa). That’s bigger than the tallest building in the world! And we did it in a month just by clicking. Think about the potential energy in a structure that big: how much it weighs, how much volume it consumes, how much it sways when it’s windy. That’s how much power is sitting in that information, that data exhaust. That’s what voyurl is working to harness. The best part is that we’re not trying to harness it for the platform; we’re working to harness that power for you. Makes me smile because there’s so much we can do for you with something so powerful. We can empower you through your own data. I think that’s the best form of ‘digital environmentalism’ out there. We’re recycling your data… and giving you all the potential energy locked up in it.


Rick Liebling: What’s next for Voyurl?

Adam Leibsohn: I’m usually long-winded, if you couldn’t tell, but I’ll have to apologize because I’m not able to disclose everything that we’re working on right now. Some things are going to be obvious from a front end stand point. We’ve been getting hammered with volume and traffic. So we’re dealing with some growing pains when it comes to keeping pace with all that. I’m sure people have noticed that we’ve had some downtime and speed issues. And we’re working furiously to sort all of that out. It’s a gift and a curse really; one of those ‘fun’ startup issues where we’re doing our job so well and people are really pushing our tech that things are moving a little faster than just the three of us can manage. I would just ask that if you’re a voyurl member please know that we’re doing everything we can to get voyurl crazy fast and awesome smooth for you. We’re working nonstop to do it. Just bear with us for a little while longer. Now on the more secretive stuff… we’re about to unleash some great new stuff that delivers on some things our members have been asking for… and then some other great things that will start us on our path to disrupt current behavioral data markets and that will start to put our members in control of their own data. It’s going to be exciting and a lot of fun. Can’t wait to let this stuff loose!


CEO Interview: Casey Meehan of Chicago Mixtape

Casey Meehan

A little something different this time as part of our CEO Interview series. Rather than the latest social media tool or service, we’re taking a look at a project that has really thrived thanks to social media – The Chicago Mixtape. This project was started by Casey Meehan back in February of this year and it really caught my eye. One of those things that as soon as I saw it I said, “This thing is going to take off.” Well, seven months later and I’m happy to say that Casey has a hit on his hands.


Rick Liebling: Ok, first fill us in on what the Chicago Mixtape project is:

Casey Meehan: Sure, the Chicago Mixtape was developed to continuously connect Chicago music fans directly to progressive local artists.  Every Monday or Tuesday morning, I send a compilation of high quality mp3’s directly to our list of subscribers. These downloads showcase some of the most interesting music being performed in Chicago that week.

Through this “total immersion” process, subscribers can quickly and easily explore the colorful culture of Chicago’s unique art rock and punk rock scenes.

I spend many hours each week listening to hundreds of bands and I pick the five or six that I enjoy the most.

We differ from most other websites in that you have to be subscribed to our email list to get this music each week.  However, these subscriptions are free and all you have to do is visit the home page and enter your email in the upper right corner to start receiving the music every week.


Rick Liebling: What was the inspiration for this project?

Casey Meehan: A while back, I was hanging out with a good friend of mine who knew I was a musician and involved with the local music scene.  He asked me if I knew of any good new music (this is a question that I used to get asked all the time).  I played a band for him and he really liked it.  I was like, that’s funny because they practice literally right next door.

It struck me that there wasn’t an easy way for local fans to find great local music.  Many of the traditional sources focus on out of town bands and when they feature a local artist it’s often because of an interesting story related to that band, not necessarily because of the quality of their music.

So, I thought it might be cool to answer the “What-Has-Casey-Been-Listening-To?” question once and for all by creating an email list where I would simply send mp3s of my favorite bands to any of my friends who wanted to join.

This idea sat idle for many months (some call it procrastination, I call it incubation) then we had this huge storm in early February.  I was marooned alone in my apartment.  Trapped inside four walls of snow, I decided it was time to make this thing happen and I built a 4 page website that collected email addresses and I started mailing out music…


Rick Liebling: What has the response been like so far?

Casey Meehan: We launched 6 months ago (Valentines Day 2011) and since then our community has grown to reach many, many thousands of people using only “word-of-mouth” and viral marketing.

The response has been truly inspiring.  I get tons of encouragement from the bands, the fans and the local record labels.   A fan in China started a page on Douban.com (China’s version of facebook) and now there are a ton of fans in China.  I was approached by a DJ in Germany who now spins our stuff regularly and has printed his own Chicago Mixtape sign that he puts up at his shows.  It’s really been a blast!


Rick Liebling: You’ve just started a new phase of this project with the KOKO Club, tell me about that?

Casey Meehan: So, each week I come across tons of great stuff that just doesn’t fit into the mixtape format so I wanted a way to share all this great content.  At the same time, our servers and software systems were getting totally punished by the explosion of exposure we were getting each week.   I needed a way to pay for a few upgrades or we would have had to shut it down.

KOKO stands for Keep-On-Keeping-On and it’s a paid membership site where folks can get access to all the cool stuff I come across each week.

In addition to the extra content, KOKO Club members get to share in the Chicago Mixtape spotlight a bit by promoting their project (band, business, blog, non-profit, whatever) on a rotating banner on the side of every mixtape page.

We just launched the limited beta-version, it’s currently closed to new members as we fine-tune it a bit.  However, there is a waiting list available for folks who want to join the final version when it launches a few months from now.

We are also in talks with a few advertisers and sponsors who might be involved in helping us get to the next level.


Rick Liebling: From a marketing perspective, what’s been your biggest learning?

Casey Meehan: Keep the audience in mind at all times.  It gets easy to get lost in your own ideas but you’ve got to make sure to keep the interest of your audience at heart.  Make sure your idea is simple enough that it can be easily explained and therefore harness the power of word of mouth / viral marketing.  Also, in my experience capturing an email address is much more valuable than a “Like” on facebook or twitter follower.


Rick Liebling: Any plans to take the Chicago Mixtape concept to other cities?

Casey Meehan: For sure, I have my eyes on a few cities that I think might work.  The main problem with scaling in that direction however is that I want to have the right team in a particular city.  Subscribers to the Chicago Mixtape will probably be the first to know.  It may be happening sooner than I had expected!?

CEO Interview: Eric Kim of Twylah

It’s time for another installment of the CEO Interview series. I really love discovering new tools and services and speaking with the people who created them through their drive, smarts and passions. I always have tremendous respect for these hard-working people. The truth however, is that many of these tools and services are ones I seldom go back to after first discovering them. They were a nice idea, but the utility just wasn’t there. Not so with Twylah. I’m using it quite a bit now, and find it useful and interesting weeks after first being introduced to it. So it is with great pleasure that I was able to correspond with founder Eric Kim via email:


Rick Liebling: First, tell us what problem Twylah solves. Why should people take a look?

Eric Kim: The way we see it, we solve three big problems.  Currently on Twitter, 1) your tweets have a very short shelf-life  2) your tweets are fairly unintelligible to the 90% of the population not actively on Twitter, and 3) you do not own the traffic and therefore cannot “monetize” your Twitter content the same ways that you can monetize content on your own website or blog.

Twylah significantly increases the shelf-life of your tweets beyond the typical one hour viability of a tweet, into weeks and even months in some cases. Twylah is understandable to virtually anyone — we designed it to be almost Web 1.0-like in its simplicity and navigability. And Twylah pages can be owned and monetized by you, the publisher.

Rick Liebling: So, how does Twylah work?

Eric Kim: Based on the frequency and recency of your tweets, we create a dynamic, engaging, navigable website of your Twitter content, organized by topic, which significantly increases the engagement of your tweets from seconds on Twitter to minutes on your Twylah page.  And these same pages are SEO friendly, so when found on Google, they provide even more exposure and awareness of your brand.

Rick Liebling: How does a service like Twylah fit into a social media ecosystem that is dominated by the likes of Google and Facebook?

Eric Kim: Over 70% of Fortune 500 brands are on Twitter already.  The beauty of Twylah is that it doesn’t have to “fit in” anywhere.  As long as you are tweeting already, you might as well have

Twylah CEO, Eric Kim

Twylah CEO, Eric Kim

Twylah pages, too.  You can tweet exactly as you have been doing and still get benefit from your Twylah pages.  The more promotion you do of your pages, however, the better they perform, of course.  And we’ve provided multiple ways of sharing your Twylah pages very quickly and easily.

Rick Liebling: Explain the Celebrity, Personal and Brand page options?

Eric Kim: Yes, we work with celebrities, personal brands, and enterprises — all of whom have unique challenges and goals.  What they all have in common however is that they are already tweeting and seeing a certain amount of benefit from their Twitter efforts.  With Twylah, whatever this benefit is can be multiplied 40X, and we’ve proven this.

When traffic comes from Twitter to Twylah, we’ve seen 40X the level of engagement with the brand’s content.  And we can multiply this benefit infinitely when you are looking at your Twitter content being found on Google.  If someone finds a month old tweet of yours on Google (via your Twylah page) and drives a significant amount of traffic back to your Twylah page by sharing it, that is 100% upside for your brand.  And it is engagement that would have been completely lost if it weren’t for your Twylah. So I can be confident in saying that we have the potential to multiply your brand engagement by orders of magnitude.

Rick Liebling: What new features can users of Twylah expect to see in the near future?

Eric Kim: We’re coming out with a mobile theme for our Twylah pages very soon, so that your Twylah pages render much better when your audience finds them on mobile.  We’re also coming out with a way to share your Twylah pages (your TWITTER content) as a tab on your Facebook Pages — just more ways to provide value and good content on Facebook by doing nothing different or incremental — just by tweeting as you currently do.


Terrific stuff. I really recommend you give Twylah a shot. Check out my page here to see what it looks like in action.


CEO Interview: Arin Sarkissian of Toodo

Time for another chat with a CEO who is looking to make waves in the Social Media sphere. This time we chat with Arin Sarkissian of Toodo. I’ll let Arin explain how Toodo works, but here’s a video interview he did with Robert Scoble.

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And now on to Arin…

Rick Liebling: First, tell us what Toodo is:

Arin Sarkissian: Toodo is a social todo list… nice and simple. You can check out what friends need to get done, help them out, leave comments, encourage ’em and even suggest more todos to them (ex: suggest that I add “Watch Jaws” to my “Movies to see” list).

We currently have an invite only web-app live at Toodo.com and are alpha testing our iPhone & Android apps.

RL: What was the impetus or inspiration for creating Toodo?

AS: Within a few days of each other I had 3 or 4 conversations with friends that all ended with “I didn’t know you were doing that. I could have helped…”

In one instance I was selling a Mac Pro and cut a stranger a sweetheart deal in order to make a quick sale. Turns out my friend Rita was about to buy a new computer: I had no idea she was in the market for a new PC and she didn’t have any clue I was selling one.

After having a few of these conversations I started thinking about sharing my todo list friends… so, I did. I put up an ad-hoc little webapp and shared the link with a few friends. Soon my friends started asking if they could use it as well. Pretty quickly the feature requests started rolling in at which point I decided to quit my job and focus on it full-time.

Fun fact: the name “Toodo”  came about as a result of using the app. I had put “name this site” on my todo list and my buddy Ian posted “I got it, Toodo.com” in comment stream.

RL: It seems every week I discover two or three new tools/services/platforms. Why should people spend time with Toodo?

AS: The long term goal of Toodo is to bring help to you. From our own experience we’ve found it tremendously effective to put everything out in the open. Your friends, and even strangers, are more than happy to help & provide recommendations.

Even mundane todos like “wash my car” liven up once 2 friends comments, 4 like it and 1 actually suggests a good carwash place nearby.

If you have a “My Trip to NYC” list or “Bands to see Live” list then you get a lot of interesting and fun interaction. You’d be surprised how much feedback, recommendations and encouragement you’ll get.

RL: This could be an interesting enterprise tool, allowing teams to coordinate elements of projects. Do you anticipate adoption by companies?

AS: I wouldn’t say “never” but, for now, our focus is on the consumer market.

With that said; we currently have quite a few features in place that are quite good for collaboration.

For example: you can share a todo list with 6 people & view an activity stream which consists solely of activity performed on that list. We actually use that internally to manage our “bugs to fix” and “new features” lists. Furthermore we provide users the ability to assign tasks to each other (even people on Twitter and FB); something that’s useful for both consumer and enterprise cases.

RL: This time next year, how will Toodo be different than it is today?

AS: It’ll be a lot better. We’re very happy with our initial release but this its just the first part of a larger plan. We’re alpha testing our iPhone and Android apps now – so those will definitely be mature, stable and robust a year from now. Otherwise, we’ll be focussing tons of energy on providing users with features geared specifically towards bringing the help to them.



CEO Interview: Len Kendall of Gis.to

While tweets, Facebook status updates and text messages have driven the communication of ideas to their very essence, there is still plenty of great, long-form content out there. In fact, there’s so much good content it’s hard to know where to direct your precious time. Gis.to is a tool that sets out to help solve that problem. I spoke with founder Len Kendall to find out more:


Rick Liebling: For those not familiar with it, what is Gis.to?

Len Kendall: Gis.to aims to be the “Cliff’s Notes” of the long-form internet. It’s a place where people can go to get the insights from a piece of online content when they know they’ll never get back to reading something they’ve bookmarked, instapaper’d, etc. It will be fueled by the individuals who do find precious time to read and who are willing to quickly summarize quality non-fiction writing. [Ed. note – See examples here and here.]

Rick Liebling: There are a number of new tools for sharing content – Twylah, Percolate, Bre.ad – what differentiates Gis.to?

Len Kendall: Gis.to stands out from many new tools in two key ways. First of all, from a curation standpoint, it’s not meant to feature the latest posts from Mashable or CNN. Its focus is on the type of long-form content you would find in the New York Times, Wired, or Psychology Today. Secondly, most of the curation tools that exist today are far too automated. Believe me, I welcome machines getting smart enough to offer us relevant content, but it’s just not there yet, and until it is, we need to have efficient systems built for the valuable curators out there sharing the best that the web has to offer. Additionally, Gis.to isn’t just collecting links and headlines like other popular tools today, it’s providing context that saves you the time of actually having to follow the breadcrumbs being aggregated by other utilities.
Rick Liebling: The notion seems to be, how can we add context to our sharing beyond just providing a link. How do we manage, and decide, when short-form, long-form or now medium-form content is the right amount?

Len Kendall: The right amount often is determined by the constraints of a platform and by the culture of the users. On Twitter for example, not much context is allowed due to the 140-character limitation. On Tumblr, context often comes in the form of a visual versus a block of text. From a culture perspective, people never have really developed the behavior of sharing long-form posts on Facebook, while on Google+ that seems to be a rising trend. In the case of Gis.to, we feel that it will act as a bridge between a simple headline, and a full reading experience.

Rick Liebling: 2011 seems to be the year of “Gamification”. Can/do game mechanics play a role with Gis.to?

Len Kendall: Game Mechanics will absolutely play a role in Gis.to down the road when we build in a marketplace for writing. The plan right now is to actually create a system which rewards users for investing time into the Gis.to community by giving them first dibs on paid writing opportunities. Additionally, we’ll use prominence on the site as a reward for participation. The details of the specific actions or mechanics that will grow user’s levels are still being hashed out, but likely it will focus on submissions, ratings, and comments.

Rick Liebling:  It’s summer 2012, what’s happening with Gis.to?

Len Kendall: 25,000 registered users with at least 5-10% of them actively contributing Gists each day. We realize that it’s likely Gis.to will always be used more for consumption than creation. But that’s the whole point. By sharing the privilege/burden of creating summaries for the web, we’ll all be able to soak up more knowledge, and when necessary, save ourselves some time collectively.


If you’re interested in supporting Gis.to, check out the Kickstarter page for it, there’re just a couple of days left to help fund it.