Why Good UX Design is Smart Business

Erik Wingren and Petra Wennberg Cesario, partners and co-founders of Interactivism, will present and discuss the value of user-centered design, focusing on critical questions:

-What is real UX?

-How does UX fit into the development process?

-Why is it critical to engage design early on, and how do you do that?

-How do UX designers understand the user?

-How does UX increase engineering output?

-How does UX attract and retain users?

– What is the ROI of embracing the UX design process?

Check out the podcast here.

 

Bios:

Erik Wingren brings 15+ years of experience designing and shipping digital products and services, allowing him to add unique value to every aspect and stage of the product design process. With a degree in anthropology, and graduate studies in creative business management and organizational development, Erik started his career in Design Research, but has expanded his toolbox over the years to span the full width of User Experience Design. Before founding Interactivism in 2012, Erik worked with companies like Idealab, Iconmobile, Sony Design Center, Myspace, and Science. As a consultant, Erik help clients develop brand- & product propositions that are informed and inspired by real people’s needs, behaviors and motivations.

Petra Wennberg Cesario is a Visual / UX Designer with over 15+ years of experience designing effective brands and digital products for Startups to Fortune 500 companies. Born in Sweden, studying communication design at Art Center College of Design (Europe) in Switzerland, then completing her BA in Graphic Design at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. Petra is the co-founder of the North East LA based UX Meetup NELAUX that focuses in fostering a thriving community of designer and engineers in the NELA area. She is also a founding Executive Board Member at Innovate Pasadena, and organization with a mission to create a vibrant ecosystem of technology and design innovation in the greater Pasadena area that supports sustainable economic growth.

3 takeaways from Chris Wacker of Laserfiche

What I took away was his dare to dream attitude and his willingness to continue innovating even after thirty years of being an industry leader.
1) They developed something that a lot of us use on a daily basis and sometimes even take for granted. Paper to digital with OCR and document imaging. I’m sure back in the 80’s when they had the idea people must have thought…Why? But he saw what others at the time did not and has been the leader in the industry since. Which leads me to my 2nd takeaway.
2) They have remained on top as competitors have come and gone. Why? Focusing on the product to make what customers really need. With user focused design, they were able to stay ahead of their competitors that were simply acquiring their competition in hopes of gaining market share. Laserfiche was focused on making software products that people would Love. Leading me to my third takeaway
3) They never stopped innovating. We’ve all seen it happen to a lot of companies recently that didn’t innovate or move fast enough. Circuit City, Borders and even taxi cabs. The status quo, chilling, too big to fail. Whatever they want to say, without innovation you are doomed to fail. Laserfiche saw the writing on the wall with the cloud and in 2015 started migrating their products over to it providing users with even more function.
Laserfiche has been around for a long time and I can tell with the way they think, they will not only be around for a long time but be a leader in the space as well.
Listen to the podcast here or on itunes here.

Marketing Growth in Streaming Media

Currently the head of subscriber growth at Hulu, Patrizio will talk about his journey as a marketer and the guiding principles he developed along the way. Having worked in multiple industries and company sizes, Patrizio will share his learnings on what makes great marketing regardless of product or budget size.

Bio:

Patrizio (Pato) Spagnoletto brings over 20 years of marketing experience on both the client and publisher side. In his current role at Hulu  Pato is responsible for all activities to acquire and retain subscribers. Prior to Hulu, Patrizio was CMO at ad tech start up SteelHouse, where he helped the company double its revenue to over $100MM in less than 2 years. Before SteelHouse Patrizio was the Head of Digital for Farmers Insurance and prior to Farmers, he held a variety of leadership positions at Yahoo! including VP Global Marketing Services.

 

 

Choosing the Image Of Your Business Through Photography

As a business owner, you are in charge of how your brand is represented out in the world. No matter what your business is, whether you sell a product or provide a service, eventually you will need strong imagery to speak to your prospective clients.  When that time comes, it is important that you use imagery that is high quality, well thought out, and most importantly, creates a human dimension that connects to your target demographic(s).

In the last 15 years, technology has changed the industry of photography, the way business is done, and how images are created. Technology has made it easier than ever to create custom photography for your business. That means the planning leading up to your shoot and the team you choose to execute your creative ideas are the most important elements of the process. Come out on March 10th for a discussion about creating eye-grabbing imagery to drive your business.

Check out the podcast here.

 

Bio:

Keith Berson is a Los Angeles based lifestyle, beauty, and product photographer with a passion for music and all things photography.  An ideal collaborator, Keith’s motivation is to be sure his clients are thrilled with the results and that his creativity brings even more to the shoot than originally requested.  Keith has had the great opportunity to collaborate with many notable brands in his career such as Disney, Hasbro, Walmart, Hershey’s, San Manuel Casino, Design Catapult, and Kingii to name a few. He and his team perform with true professionalism on every shoot.  Keith believes that any day that he has a camera in his hands is in fact a great day.

The Five Smartest and Dumbest Things I did as a Founder

The Managing Director of Techstars LA shares the story of her journey as an entrepreneur.  She will talk about how she transitioned from a McKinsey consultant to a tech founder, how she raised money, grew her company and sold it, and the mistakes she made along the way.  She’ll also provide an overview of the new Techstars LA accelerator program and how she’s applying what she learned as a founder to helping other entrepreneurs.

Check out the podcast here.

Bio:

Anna Barber is the Managing Director of Techstars LA, an accelerator program that is part of the global Techstars network.  After graduating from Yale and Yale Law School, she started her career as a corporate lawyer focused on public company transactional work and spent two years at McKinsey as a strategy consultant to retail, media and financial services companies. She served as VP Product at Petstore.com and two other early stage e-commerce companies, before transitioning to Los Angeles where she started a talent management firm and produced two feature films.  In 2006 Anna sat next to a woman on an airplane who became her business partner in her next startup, Scribble Press. Anna was most recently GM and VP Partnerships at Fingerprint Digital, after exiting Scribble Press to Fingerprint. During the past decade she has served as an advisor, strategy consultant and coach to many other entrepreneurs, with a focus on product roadmap, commercialization, business development and financing.

She loves the concept-to-launch phase, go to market strategy, fundraising strategy and growth planning.  In her coaching work she focuses on building high performance teams and helping founders grow with their companies.  She believes in the power of storytelling and creating harmony between personal and company goals.  Find her @annawbarber.

 

Snapchat 101 for Business

With over 150 million daily active users participating over 10 billion views daily, Snapchat has emerged as today’s fastest growing social platform. And as Venice-based Snap Inc marches towards its IPO, adults and marketers alike are trying to figure out how to make the most of the channel which is easy to use, but hard to understand. SNAPCHAT 101 author Scott Perry takes away the mystery surrounding the platform by showing the basics of use for Snapchat, and providing an overview of best practices in using Snapchat to promote your brand or business.

In this presentation Perry goes over the macro reasons for joining Snapchat, breaks down the basics of everyday use, explains a lot of the challenges within the platform, goes over how to post, what to post, when to post, and the various paid & free channels businesses can use to engage with potential customers, as well as promote themselves on the platform.

Check out the podcast here.

Bio:

Scott Perry, founder of marketing firm Sperry Media, has made a living for nearly two decades by helping everyone from Fortune 500 companies to indie stores understand emerging platforms for their business, whether it’s been email, ad networks, Friendster, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and numerous other channels which have come & gone along the way. Clients have included Hasbro, Universal, Sony, Comedy Central, BBC, CBS, Fox, MTV, Nokia, Turner Networks, and nearly every single record label in America.
Perry’s first book, SNAPCHAT 101 is a Top 3 best seller on Amazon, and was most recently #1 Most Wishlisted, ahead of such luminaries as Guy Kawasaki and Ryan Holiday. SNAPCHAT 101 has even been called by Snap Inc founder Evan Spiegel, “Easy to understand and approachable.”

@scottperry

Speed Networking with FCM’s very own Christy and Alec

Event Hosts:

Alec Miller

Alec is a commercial leader who specializes in creating strategy and bringing technology products to market, with extensive experience in environmental technologies and industrial products. His experience includes working for multinational and venture backed companies, as well as working on his own startup. Alec has a B.A. from Yale University.

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/alecmiller1

 

Christy Conner

Christy leads Strategic Operations at Arbela Technologies and is passionate about connecting people and things to create innovative new relationships. She loves to network but used to be an introvert that hated it! She has an M.A. in International Relations from USC and a B.S. in Aviation Business Administration from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/christyconner

 

Entrepreneurship and the Razor-Thin Difference Between Success and Failure

 

Friday Coffee Meetup:  Feb 10, 2017

Presented by Bill Cullen

Blog Writeup by Jan Young

Bill Cullen is a highly-respected executive with 40-plus years of C-level experience in media, mobile, consumer products and advertising businesses. He began his business career in banking and has held several senior finance positions in a wide variety of businesses including professional sports, real estate, restaurants and consumer, industrial and commercial finance companies. Bill is actively engaged as an adviser and board member specializing in strategic positioning, financial management and complex business dealings for early-stage and middle-market companies including a well-recognized travel comfort products company and a long-established sunglass brand, both enjoying rapid growth in worldwide distribution.

Bill came by FCM on Friday, February 10 to share some of his thoughts what he looks for when working with entrepreneurs and companies. Following is a summary of some of the highlights from his presentation and Q&A—you can also listen to the podcast here or on iTunes.

There are lots of paths to becoming an entrepreneur, but basically, it is about identifying, evaluating, and exploiting an opportunity. It needs to connect to a business plan with economic value. You’re shifting the paradigm. Today especially, the power is no longer in the hands of the corporation, the power is in the hands of the individual to start their own business.

One key attribute in a successful entrepreneur is the ability to be introspective. Can you assess your strengths? Are you positive? Do you have wisdom—good judgment and the ability to act on it? Can you get out of your own way? Are you decisive? Can you act on it? I have a software development friend that had some great software, but he didn’t know how to close. He’d meet with his customers and get excited about the next and new idea. He couldn’t close and get the current business, so he couldn’t build his company, and he couldn’t sustain his product. I rate this ability as the highest requirement for an entrepreneur.

Things move quickly in the internet age. You no longer get the time for an elevator pitch. Can you explain your idea in two sentences, 30 seconds—maybe 90 seconds. When writing to investors, if can’t explain it in two paragraphs, forget it. Is there really a market need? Did you do a competitive analysis? What does the landscape look like? There are rarely truly new ideas in business, so investors are skeptical if you don’t have comparisons, I am.

What’s the long-term plan for your company? Do you embrace leadership easily? Are you ok with getting people to follow your endeavor? Good management doesn’t make a bad idea good. But bad management can turn a good idea bad. Investors want to know roles and responsibilities.

Your attitude is critical. Volatility can get people out of complacency, but employees want consistency—whether passing along good or bad news. Empathy and gratitude are also important attributes in an entrepreneur, no matter how large or small the organization.

There is no substitute for experience and good management. In 2000, (if you remember) there was an unprecedented tech meltdown. At the time, myself and another were 30 years older than the rest of the team in the startup. All of their ideas would have sunk the company. Because of our wisdom—the combination of knowledge and the ability to act on it—we were able to preserve the company.

What’s your exit? You don’t want to focus on that instead of your current business—that’s where your focus needs to be, but you need to know your end game, your direction, monetization.

Then there’s funding. Some people like fundraising and talking to investors, others don’t, but you’re probably going to have to do it. If you’re really successful at it, you could end up with too much money which can also be a challenge. A company I was advising had too much up front—they had big offices, travel budgets, free lunches, massages. They ran out of money because they didn’t spend it wisely. Then you need to think about when you should dilute? Angels are the first round—bootstrapping, friends and family. But they’ll get diluted pretty quickly. I always advocate for reserving 15% of stock for employees. All employees need to have skin in the game. And if you end up with 10-25%, you’re doing well. Know how investing works and all the stages before you get into it.

I also think an NDA is important these days – revealing private information puts you at risk without an NDA. Have a lawyer/ banker to help you in the process. It’s not reasonable for a VC to refuse an NDA. They’re hearing your idea, they should agree to not take your idea. I would suggest avoiding anyone who won’t sign an NDA.

Want more? There’s more wisdom and insights than I could summarize here! Watch the presentation, or listen to it on the podcast. (links above)

Women in Technology Panel presented by Echo-Factory

Women in Tech Panel @ Apple Pasadena:  Feb 8, 2017

Presented by Echo-Factory

Blog Writeup by Jan Young

Moderator: Dea Goldsmith, Chief Creative Officer & Co-Founder, Echo-Factory

Panelists:

Renee LaBran, Senior Advisor, Idealab

Max Powers, SVP Business Operations, TeleSign

Natalie Sun, Creative Technologist & Producer, Founder of Next Art

Echo-Factory sponsored a Women in Tech panel on February 8th at the Pasadena Apple store that brought together some inspirational women who came to technology via different paths: Finance/VC, operations, coding, and designing. None of the women panelists studied programming in school, and if you look at the statistics on who is in Computer Science programs in our universities, that’s not a surprise. But it also reflects how many people get into technology— startup people especially are driven by an idea and want to figure out how to get it done, so they teach themselves from online sources, read books and blogs, they join meetups, they work at a startup, or just dive in and start one of their own. These women panelists have that trait in common: they took their passion and taught themselves along the way.

Following is a brief introduction of the panelists, but to hear their stories and experiences, check out the podcast here, or find it on iTunes here.

The moderator, Dea Goldsmith, was a classically trained artist. After she graduated from art school, she bought a Mac and started teaching herself. She worked her way up in the ad world, and now she is co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Echo-Factory, an agency that has created a niche working with Clean Tech clients. They take incredibly complex technology like energy efficiency, demand response, renewables, and smart grids and make them easy to understand, easy to interface with, and easy to use. “That is the new face of advertising and technology allows us to make that transition.”

Renee La Bran is a Senior Advisor at Idealab. She started her career in finance and after business school worked in management consulting. Through management consulting, Renee learned how to become an expert in any industry quickly. When she wanted to travel less, she moved over to Times Mirror. Back then the newspaper industry was just starting to feel threatened by technology—Prodigy and AOL were the main disruptors, and Times Mirror had to figure out how to move newspapers into the digital world. These were the early days of the internet, and newspapers still had the eyeballs, content, advertising, and sellers of advertising—giving them the leverage to partner with the new technologies. Renee applied her management consulting skills to these new technology partnerships and became more expert than the CTO. Through that experience, she founded and led some companies and eventually moved into the world of Tech venture capitalism as partner at Rustic Canyon/ Fontis. Now, she’s a coach and mentor of startup CEOs at Idealab, a pre-eminent tech incubator in Pasadena, and the Co-Founder and advisor to Women’s Founders Network, a startup competition and accelerator to promote women entrepreneurs. She also serves as Governor Brown’s appointee as a non-attorney public member of the Board of Trustees of the State Bar of California.

Max Powers, SVP Business Operations, is a senior executive at TeleSign, a communications platform as a service that focuses on security. In 1998, while in graduate school studying marriage and family counseling, Max started working at a startup that put previously unavailable publications online. That experience provided the passion that lead to a career in technology and startups. She’s worked for four different startups, one of which was an email security company that was bought by Microsoft. She worked at Microsoft for 2 years and gained invaluable experience that she took back to the startup world in sunny SoCal.

Natalie Sun was studying to be a lawyer when she discovered technology art. She was doing illustration on the side and studying film, and considered herself a creative person. But when she encountered the world of interactive art, her passion took her away from law and she taught herself to code so she could create her art. From there, she worked at a startup and then moved into advertising. At the agency, her job was to bring TV and print campaigns into the interactive world online—experiential installations, interesting web campaigns, new ways to bring phones into the experience. Interactive projects require prototypes because the interaction is hard to explain—you need the power of the interaction for the clients to get it, so she built it. From there she started Next Art, an independent curation production studio that focuses on inspiring the creative industry with creative uses of technology. They take something like the web which has been around a while now and have artists use the web to interact and communicate in completely new ways.

Tim Cadogan, OpenX CEO, Talks About His Experiences Building OpenX

Friday Coffee Meetup:  Feb 3, 2017

Presented by Tim Cadogan

Blog Writeup by Jan Young

Tim Cadogan is the CEO of OpenX, a programmatic advertising technology company headquartered in Pasadena, and he came by FCM on Friday, Feb 3rd to share some reflections on his experiences building a company. Tim’s Pasadena roots go back to the Idealab incubator GoTo.com/ Overture. These were the early days of internet advertising, and Overture was the first company to successfully monetize pay-for-placement search. Tim moved over to Yahoo as SVP Global Advertising Marketplaces when they bought Overture. Back then, real-time-bidding was a pie-in-the-sky idea, but when enabling technology advances came about, Tim recognized the opportunity and knew he wanted to go back to Pasadena to build OpenX.

Following is a recap of some of Tim’s thoughts he shared with us. You can also listen to the podcast here or on iTunes.

I thought I would focus on the experience of building OpenX instead of the details of what we do which would only be interesting to 10-15% of you. But briefly, to provide some context, we started OpenX nine years ago. It’s basically digital advertising run on a real-time basis. We take an impression from a website, or now an app, we auction off that off in real time to a group of very specialized companies that run algorithms that can bid on that impression. Ten years ago, you couldn’t do that, but then as technology developed, and it started to be possible. We got in early and built our company around that concept. Now we have over 500 people—about 350 here in LA, and the rest in NY, London, Munich, Tokyo, Poland, and Palo Alto.

So, why do you build a company? Some here today are entrepreneurs, or are considering it. You need to start with that question and then everything flows from there.

To me, there are two simple reasons to build a company:  1) To be financially successful, 2) To create an enjoyable place to work. Most entrepreneurs don’t think much about the second reason, but the reason I thought that was important was because I had experienced both shitty places to work and good places to work, and the difference is life changing. It flows into the rest of your life. Who here has experienced a shitty workplace? How was that for the rest of your friends and family? When your job is rewarding, everything is much different. A friend and I wrote down 50 F’d up things we didn’t want to do at our company, and so we hoped to at least achieve creating a place that would really accelerate people’s career and they enjoyed connecting with their colleagues.

Go-to, which became Overture, an Idealab company—that was where I experienced the most personal growth and developed my deepest connections. That’s part of why we built the company here in Pasadena. Sure, I lived here, but there was also a set of people who lived here that would be effective colleagues and teammates for building a company. So, that’s the reason why overall.

Also, we always try to be really clear about our purpose, our vision, and our strategy. I was lucky enough at Yahoo to work for Jeff Weiner who later became CEO of LinkedIn. He’s a really stellar thinker. He really drilled into us to have great clarity on what we’re trying to do.

For example: The last Thursday of each month, we hold a company meeting. Every meeting we start with why are we here, what are trying to do, and what is our strategy for the year. And I repeat it, and sometimes people say “You’re going to do that again?” but it’s really important to reiterate your what it is we’re trying to do and why we’re trying to do that. We always start there. Where it gets interesting is driving that down through the whole organization. It’s easier to do that when you’re smaller. When you get to 300, 400, 500—you wrestle with it more. How do you draw that clean bright line between everyone’s daily work to what your purpose is. That alignment is hard to achieve. You do not want an employee wondering “Am I wasting my time?” There’s nothing worse.

Your strategy and purpose need to be clear, and what each person is doing each day needs to be aligned with that strategy and purpose. There are three things that we define and reiterate in our company.

  • Purpose: Why we’re here. We strive to create a place where people can build their careers, and we make ourselves indispensable to our customers. This is more of a high-level goal.
  • Vision: What are we trying to create. This is more aspirational three to five year goal, so it evolves.
  • Strategy: How we’re going to bring that vision to life. This is much more detailed, sometimes people would say painfully so. We just went through this in detail in our first company meeting of the year.

There are things that you think are going to be hard when you start a business. And you think maybe it will be making decisions. At business school, you get these case studies, and they’re beautifully framed. But when you’re running a company, it’s not like that at all. Decisions are the easy part of running a company. But I think what’s harder is framing the decision: “What question are you trying to answer?” You are being asked a question by the market. The market is moving ridiculously quickly and competitively. And it’s hard sometimes to realize that you are being asked a question by the marketplace, and then to frame that question. What is the question, what are the pros and cons, and this is future oriented so how do you answer that question without a bunch of data to look at? And the answering of that question—who do we involve, and how do we work through that, and how do we deal with the level of uncertainty that is inherent both in the nature of the question and the information about that question.  The fork in a road, that’s not difficult. I’ve found that framing the question, forcing yourself to pose it as a question, posing it so that you have to answer. When we do that we’re at our best, and when we don’t ever make a clear decision, or take a long time to make a decision. So that’s different than in school, you’re not just answering a question. You have to write the problem before you can answer it, and that’s not anywhere in business school.

Question from the audience:  When was that turning point when you knew you’d make it?

Tim’s Response:  Well, there are many points, it’s not like in movies—struggle, struggle, struggle then success—like Uber or Snapchat. Sure, that happens. But mainly it happens constantly, and it’s non-linear. In the first two years, it was all existential doubt. No one knew what it was that we were offering, what we were talking about. Then when we hit profitability people were acting like you’re done. But things change constantly. So you’re not done. It’s not even a marathon. It’s just ongoing. You keep getting whacked. It’s like driving a car, it’s all new and shiny at the beginning, but after nine years you’ve been in crashes, you’ve got all kinds of dents, but you keep driving it. You take a bunch of knocks. People you love leave, it happens. But you keep forging on. There is no turning point. There is always new challenges, and you keep grinding it out. There are some great moments, but then it keeps going.

People – all business is people. It’s all based on who you have and what they do. There’s two topics on people—there’s leadership and then there’s everything else. I had lunch with a guy a few years into it, and he asked me, “How’s your team? You know you’ll have to fire them.” I was like “What??” What a shitty lunch. But he was right. So, you hire the group who are great at starting up a company, but as you make progress, and you grow, they aren’t the right people any more. But you like them, and they’re your friends. Then they start not to be successful. You’re all in denial about it. It’s the last conversation you want to have. But he was right. We’ve turned over most of the people around me roughly two times in nine years. It sucks, but it was the right thing to do. A couple of times on the other side, a couple of guys have come to me and said you know, it was right—I feel better, and I’m back to what I love. But that process is difficult, and it is different for you and for them. You have to anticipate what you’re going to do in a year. In order to do that, you have to disconnect your emotion, but you need to do it with empathy. This may not be universally true, maybe some get through, but usually some or all turn over, rarely all get through to stage four. And if you have any humanity it’s a hard thing to do. (This is maybe a dark version of building a company—but I wanted to say something that was actually useful.)

The other part of the people stuff for the broader team, is creating a culture where people can work effectively, enjoy it, and get rewarded. When you’re smaller, it’s easier. When you get to 100 people and larger, it’s harder to do. So what we did, we got the company together in groups of 8-10, asked what do you want our values to be. And then we tried to breathe life into it, you need to codify it, and take actions to make it happen.

  • One value: Our customers define us. When people look at company, they look at which companies you work with. If they are good quality, then you’re good quality. And at a certain point, we had to evaluate who we were working with and decided that we need to shut down some of those relationships. So, we did it, we took a hit, but for the right reasons.
  • Another thing we have we call the traits – what we look for in each individual. Do people make the right decision when no one is looking? If no one would ever know, would you do the right thing. That’s a good test to try and apply.

It’s a never ending quest, and we’re still working on it to make everyone feel like it is there company. I  don’t want it to feel like a place where people just come to work 9 to 5, but when you have 500 people, there’s a certain percentage and our job is to get that percentage as low as possible. We’re always trying to achieve 100%.

Finally, as a CEO, as you get bigger, you need to be prepared to work on a lot of projects that do not work. So here’s what I mean by that: When you operate the company you’re setting up an operation against your strategy, and as you get deeper into the organization, you want the probability of the work being successful to go up because you’re asking people to work on known problems. As you go up the organization, particularly you, you have to work on a lot of prospective things that by definition have a high probability of failure. Big partnerships, strategic deals, all kinds of stuff, most of which you’ll never tell your company about. You’ll never speak of them and most of them won’t come to a hill of beans. You have to get your head around that, how that works, and get used to that because it is part of the dynamic. The failure rate may be high, but you gotta do it.

There’s more! Watch the very interesting Q&A session, or listen to it on the podcast. (links above)