Startup Day, Weekend, or maybe Year

Startup is the word. Make Twitter the economic world, #startup would be universally trending.

Three weeks after the Startup Weekend Catania, held in Sicily, and mere two weeks after the IS Open Day, Turin became the go-to hub for innovators as it was chosen by major startuppers worldwide for the Startup Weekend Torino.

Sponsored by I3P, Venture Incubator of the Politecnico in Turin, the gathering saw more than 120  participants coming from all over Europe. As the their site sums up better than we would:

“Startup Weekend is a global network of passionate leaders and entrepreneurs on a mission to inspire, educate, and empower individuals, teams and communities. Come share ideas, form teams, and launch startups.”

Among others, there were Electro Power Systems co-founder, who showed that Italy-based innovative companies can be successful overseas, and Earlybird representative, who warned wannabe startuppers with mistakes to avoid in showcasing and giving birth to their entrepreneurial dreams.

We were also there as guest speakers, but, aside from startuppers and early stage investors, the core of the event was the actual development of business ideas, from the spark of genius to the early phase. 15 made it to the actual hands-on experience, and gave life to the following two days of coding and designing.

All the (wannabe) startuppers described the experience as “pretty positive, and highly stimulating”. One went so far as to say: “people here are much more skilled than I expected them to be. Learning the “No talk, all action” motto by heart, the focus was not just to network and find investors, everyone was there to build something substantial and with business potential.

There were not as many college students as one would expect in a place like that, but from what we gathered talking with people, the fact is that university people tend to have a utopian approach to Internet and digital startups.

After a 54-garage-like-creative-marathon, Sunday came, bringing along award time!

Burst, the winning project, is a service that allows to aggregate personal information gained from the social network profiles, to render an innovative interface of information visualization.

SUW Torino participants loved Intoino, which was voted as the audience’s choice. The gist? This mobile platform allows anyone to use Arduino technology for building the Internet of things, by working on the code that’s already been created.

We’ll stay tuned to see which of the startups grows their own legs!

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News For Communication (and Marketing)

A couple of days ago, we talked about technologies that both allow us to interact with real world objects via our phones, 1ring and QR codes.  Now there’s a new kid on the block: Near Field Communication.

NFC has been around for some time now, but quite unsurprisingly it has yet to be chosen for mainstream adoption. Now things are about to change, since the technology has caught the attention of major cellphone manufacturers and we can expect to see the tech all over the place, thanks to the novelty factor.

NFC is being set up by Google and others to enable smartphones to be used primarily to make payments in a faster way, replacing traditional credit cards. Here’s a list of phones that already come equipped with NFC technology along with the “rumored ones”, smartphones that will include NFC as soon as they hit the shelves.

How can NFC be revolutionary in terms of marketing campaigns? Employee payment, building access, device testing, guided (aided) shopping, mobile wallet, hotel keys, loyalty programs and of course community marketing and business rating, social networking. These are the main fields of application in which the technology is already being used worldwide. To catch a glimpse of even more applications of Near Field Communication, take a look here.

Among the reasons provided for the initial mistrust towards this new technology, there was a study by GfK Group that stressed the user’s lack of confidence. Briefly put, the survey shows that only banks are regarded as guarantee for almost half of the respondents.

Pretty ironic, at times like these.

According to many, NFC will follow in bluetooth’s footsteps and become a technology we will grow to expect in every phone, yet going far beyond the limitations of bluetooth. At first glance, the two technologies appear very similar in terms of functionality, but NFC is way better to get interactive media directly in people’s hands. Therefore it’s easy to picture that big brands and players out there will want to jump on it very soon.

If NFC will turn out to be the ultimate real world-mobile interaction, it’s up to real world consumers to decide.

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Joint Forces

Last week Mashable singled out five reasons why QR code marketing is not the new “hot spot” in town as every marketer thought it would be by now.

If there’s one thing we know almost too well it’s that it’s easy to forget about usability altogether when we’re immersed in a marketing project. But as the article pointed out:

“However, let’s consider the user’s side of things. In order to scan a barcode, a user has to: 1. Get out their phone; 2. Unlock their phone; 3. Boot the app; 4. Get the code in focus and scan it. This is assuming they already have an app that scans barcodes. For most users, it’s faster to just search Google for whatever the code is giving them a shortcut to.”

As far as the user experience is concerned, another crucial aspect is somewhat being ovelooked. Where the QR is being put is no tiny detail that can be ignored. As the author would argue:

“Location is another important consideration. QR codes are showing up everywhere, on everything, with seemingly zero thought about context. (For some interesting use-cases, check out WTFQRCODES.) For instance, besides being impossible to scan, QR codes on highway billboards are dangerous and waste valuable visual real estate. A shortened URL, especially one created with a vanity URL shortener, would be easier and more effective.”

Looking into our own business, maybe it’s hard to tell the difference between one of our numbers and a traditional phone number; a similarity that does indeed create some confusion. Yet, it’s also a plus because most of our minds associate phone numbers with a two-way communication act, as opposed to a barcode which is often related to a mere commercial application.

QR codes are ugly. Worse still, they’re indistinguishable from codes used for industrial purposes. So a code on a product can be misinterpreted as a tracking barcode instead of a marketing outlet.

Perhaps they’re not pretty, but QR codes have an undeniable futuristic appeal and they can considered useful in some contexts, like when someone is waiting for a bus or reading an article. Provided there’s a free WiFi connection, of course.

The reason we’re not bragging about the first signs of QR codes ineffectiveness is that at best they’re being misunderstood, and by that we mean they’re being used in many ways, all with different degrees of non-sense.

The gist is, 1ring and QR codes are not competitors. What we are indeed trying to counteract is the bandwagon effect that’s leading companies worldwide to adopt QR codes in all sorts of cases when context is clearly not suitable. There’s plenty of space in terms of permission marketing and engagement for both tools.

“And they lived happily ever after.”

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Give it a break

Think you can go through a whole day without checking your phone, email or social networks’ profiles? The feeling that we’re living in an uber-connected world grows stronger  by the day, and lots of movements are asking people to take a break from the digital life, even if it’s just for a small amount of their time.

For the third year running, the National Day of Unplugging ran from Friday, March 23 to Saturday, March 24. With an astounding two thirds of the grown-up population claiming to be addicted to the Internet, the day was designed to give participants the chance to reconnect with themselves by alienating from technology.

The digital detox advocated by the movement was brought about by a Jewish organization called Reboot, whose members asked everyone to unplug for 24 hours starting each Saturday. Guess what? 1,200 people obligingly agreed and signed up via Causes.com.

Recently, more than 200 people attended the associations’s SXSW Unplugging Party, turning off their cell phones right in the middle of the much-connected 2012 SXSW Interactive Festival.

True. Technology overconsumption prevents us from dedicating time to the things that are actually important in our lives. Have you ever experienced a time when you were forced to cut off from connectivity? We bet at that time you got the chance to actually try and build or strenghten face-to-face (and potentially meaningful) connections.

In the world we’re in, we tend to forget that we were able to make it without smartphones and social networks. Of course, a whole lot of good comes from staying connected, we’re not denying the one too many things that we can now do thanks to the advancements in technology.

Yet sometimes it feels so good to take a break. All you are eager to find out and share, well, can be saved for later. Hence, 1ring.

Happy detox weekend!

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Seeking eXtreme Start-up Winner

Media convergence is not just a term, it’s more like a long sought-after, Holy Grail-like ideal at times like these. Everything is and must be cross-platform and every content must converge on any personal device.

The popular, TT-status SXSW is not just a crossroad, is a must-attend event. For those of you who are not familiar with the acronym, it stands for South by Southwest, the annual music, film, and interactive conference and festival held in Austin, Texas.

The fourth edition of SXSW Accelerator took place March 12-14 under an unusual downpour for most days. A live audience, as well as a panel of experts had the privilege to witness the advancements in social media, mobile applications, web entertainment and so on. The section that draws more attention is the Startup Accelerator, similar to many innovators get-togethers and conferences. As the staff describes it: “Product demonstrations by the most ambitious talents in the world with the most creative new ideas to change it.”

Over the past four years since its first edition, SXSW was the launch pad for two of the most famous Internet and mobile players, Twitter and Foursquare. Apparently this year no app resulted in outscoring competitors and stand out from the crowd of developers and wannabe Lowensohn. Sorry, Highlight.

As usual, the main objective, networking, was fully met: connections were made and careers launched. In the aftermath of this bandwagon, resorting back to life without free food and drink, all that’s left after this year’s edition is a collection of instant pics.

Not a schocker that these events are a huge cash machine for those who put them up. But they usually turn out to let the usual supects emerge under mainstream limelights.

Looking on our side of the pond, European companies’ presence is well under-represented in Austin, Texas. The main reason as to why that might be is not sheer U.S. nationalism. The U.S. market is a difficult one to break into for somebody whose entrepreneurial background was built overseas.

Still, worth a try, no?

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1ring toons

“When he was only barely a year old, he was almost run over by a rushing bus while playing with a football. However, Tsubasa had held the ball in front of him which served as a cushion for most of the impact. The force of the bump blew him away, but he was able to right himself over again with the ball. Hence, Tsubasa’s motto of “The ball is my friend”. Ever since he was little, he always went out with a football. His mother now having concluded that he was indeed born only to play football. At a very young age, Tsubasa already has amazing speed, stamina, dribbling skills and shotpower, astounding anyone who sees him play.”

Do you know whose touching bio is this? It’s Captain Tsubasa’s, probably one of the most famous fictional football players. The elements of a sad story, which build up to making a hero more appealing to the audience, are all there. Storytelling potential aside, Captain Tsubasa is one of the most  popular cartoon hero of all times. Holly and Benji, the fictional players of one of the most popular cartoons of all times (also known as Captain Tsubasa), make their comeback with Gazzetta dello Sport.

The original manga, created by Yoichi Takahashi in 1981, gave birth to one of Italy’s most loved cartoons. “La Gazzetta dello Sport” reignites this passion starting from today, March 2nd, with the complete set of all DVDs about the two Japan-based football stars. Calling the free number +39 029 29 66 222, readers and sport fans will be able to relive the excitement of the neverending games and the best moves. From Holly’s goals to Benji goalkeeping’s ability…to Mark Lenders’ scary tiger shot and the Derrick twins’ move.

After one ring, readers will receive a free text message from a very special sender – Holly himself, containing a direct link with all the extra contents and the episodes highlights. If they keep ringing, they’ll receive different text messages from all the cartoon characters.

Extra contents will be available also on 1ring personal account, with special offers and more highlights and trivia available every week.

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Fantastic Four

The 2012 Final Four Italian Cup, which will take place from Saturday afternoon to Sunday afternoon in Rome, will see a breakthough innovation in the engagement possibilities with the crowd.

This weekend 1ring will be the brand new and free tool that the best Italian volley teams will use to engage with their fans.

During the upcoming games of the Final Four competition, fans will be able to choose the MVP in real time with a free phone call to the 1ring number associated with their favorite player.

All fans have to do in order to vote is login onto 1ring to get the number and make their player go up the charts. Each free call is one vote and fans can vote as many times as they want.

There’s even more! Another competition runs among the fan groups to choose the most competitive and fierce among the four.

Both from the bleachers or while couch-potatoing, fans can take active part in the games.

For the two semifinal matches fans will be the only ones to choose the best player. After Sunday final match, fans votes will be summed with those of a selected panel of journalists and coaches to elect the MVP of the whole competition

Login for free on 1ring and vote for your MVP.

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