April 5th, 2013 by Collin Canright
March 26th, 2013 by Collin Canright
The Obama for America Campaign took the technology used to run an election campaign a step or two forward—at least for now—by building an API-based platform to manage the campaign. Harper Reed, CTO of the Obama campaign, boiled the reason down to a two-word formula: API = Freedom.
“We needed to build a platform,” Reed said the January 29 Technori Pitch, a start-up presentation event held each month in Chicago. Called Narwhal, the platform formed the basis of dozens of software tools and systems used to run the campaign, everything from a call scheduler to advanced data analytics tools. The GigaOM blog proved more details on “How Obama’s tech team helped deliver the 2012 election.”
“We built an API to have freedom,” Reed told the audience of start-up aficionados and fans. Technori Pitch is monthly showcase of Chicago start ups, which present their companies to the audience and take questions.
The concept the Obama engineering team followed was that a platform with an API would allow the flexible development of integrated products and tools that would help campaign staff and volunteers reelect the president. Reed hacked the first API of Chicago Transit Authority data, which became the data engine powering CTA’s innovative Bus Tracker app.
Reed gave the Obama technology effort a start-up feel by using a suite of systems and tools familiar to most start-up engineers, including Github, Macs, Linux, and Amazon Web Services. In the end, however, it was not the technology that made the difference. As in most businesses and organizations, it was the team, the entire team, from campaign staff to phone volunteers.,
“Technology doesn’t last,” Reed said, “but we had the right people.”
July 7th, 2012 by James Richter
A packed room of largely first-time attendees came to the Social Media Club of Chicago’s March meeting to hear about this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive conference—”SouthBy,” in the lingo of the regulars.
The event was held at DraftFCB’s offices in Chicago, notable to me for the impeccably done brown terrazzo up on the 14th floor. You don’t see much terrazzo in office buildings outside lobbies. (I notice because we have an association of terrazzo contractors as a client.)
Panelists agreed that this year’s interactive conference did feature an Earth-shaking digital trend as in years past, such as Twitter in 2007. The 25% increase in attendance, to more than 27,000, stood out. It sounded like a lot of little things came together: an integration of people, brands, and disciplines into a conversational and interactive whole. Several themes stood out to me as I listened:
International emerges. Chris Miller (@scubachris) mentioned that there were more international attendees and presenters than in any of the more than a dozen SXSW conferences he’s attended, with a notable emphasis on the developing world. The internet in the developing world does not look like a monitor; it shows up on a mobile phone, and not a smart phone at that. They are doing wonderful things with plain-old cell phones and SMS in Africa, including epayments.
Things are becoming connected. One of the year’s trends is “the internet of things,” as Melissa Pierce (@melissapierce) noted. Look for apps to become increasingly interconnected with each other and to increasingly diverse types of devices throughout every aspect of our daily lives.
We will be producers. We started to become publishers with blogging in 2004, the beginning of a movement within IBM to show the behemoth corporation’s human faces and personal opinions, Ed Brill (@edbrill) mentioned. With 3D printing, we will all become producers, Lizz Kannenberg (@lizzkannenberg) said.
Service and thoughtfulness rule. Brands that served participant needs got noticed most, Lizz Kannenberg (@lizzkannenberg) said. Everyone has t-shirts. Snacks are good if they are done right. But anything that serves a need of 27,000 people at a fast-paced conference can stand out. Uber, the mobile-based towncar and taxi service, got high marks for providing much-need transportation on several levels, from free basic service to ultra-luxury vehicles.
Collaborate and converse. Panelists remarked on increased collaboration among the digital, film, and music disciplines. Brands sought to collaborate with technology vendors, and the whole event (I have never been) sounds like one big conversation among nerds morphing into another among hipsters, with the two types blending as life becomes digital while retaining the human yearning to connect face to face.
For more on SXSW:
Watch CNN’s special SXSW coverage to get an introduction to the event.
Read takeaways for marketers on the MarketingProfs blog.
- Chris Miller (@scubachris), Chief Digital Officer at DraftFCB
- Melissa Pierce (@melissapierce), COO Everpurse, fledgling programmer, filmmaker and #RVSX producer
- Lizz Kannenberg (@lizzkannenberg), Social Media Director at Walton-Isaacson
- Ed Brill (@edbrill), Director Market Management IBM Mobile Enterprise at IBM
May 31st, 2012 by James Richter
Canright Guide to Pitchfork 2012 – PDF download
Canright Guide to Pitchfork 2012 – PDF download
We at Canright Communications love discovering new music and sharing it with our friends, family, and business partners. Music can open our minds to unfamiliar emotions, different cultures, and new possibilities. We’re often listening to music while writing and designing new communications solutions for our clients. It can help us get in the zone.
Pitchfork has served as a wellspring of emerging artists for over a decade. Founded and headquartered in Chicago (just like us), the former start-up is now the leading voice in independent music. From their incisive, well-crafted reviews to their newly launched YouTube channel to the upcoming annual music festival July 13-15, Pitchfork is simultaneously criticizing, curating, and collaborating with musicians in a range of genres (and even helping to coin new ones).
While looking at the music schedule of this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival, we couldn’t help but notice that the set times and stages were presented in a format that is less than ideal. It’s easiest to plan out your personal schedule–and improvise while at the fest–if you have the acts lined up side-by-side. Most major fests do this, but Pitchfork does not.
Well, we just couldn’t resist, so we created a very basic schedule that you are free to download, print, mark up, and take with you to this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival. It has times, stages, and even some aftershows clearly laid out to help you make the best of the fest.
If you haven’t gotten a ticket, day passes are still for sale.
Enjoy the music, stay hydrated, and have fun!
Canright Guide to Pitchfork 2012 – PDF download
March 10th, 2012 by Collin Canright
Sometime early last week, I was walking past the bookshelf in my apartment when I did something unusual: I actually stopped and looked at a few of the titles.
The first book to grab my attention was one called Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking by Andy Sernovitz. I picked it up to scan the contents and intro, but before long I was laying on the couch, in full reading mode. The book kept my attention during my rides to and from work the entire week, and it was still fresh on my mind early Tuesday morning when I was sitting down to get a haircut.
Joe Gambino has been dicing domes from the third floor of the Tribune Tower for over twenty years. He’s got an old-school barber way about him, always asking which way I part my hair and snipping accordingly. There’s a classic masculinity about this shop, too, with no attention paid to wall art or the few random bottles of hair product in the display case, but Playboys are neatly splayed on a table next to where I sometimes sit and wait. At 26, I still can’t bring myself to open one in public, opting instead for a Scientific American.
That morning there was already one other man in the barbershop chatting with Joe when I got there. His presence was fortunate, because it was early, and after Joe and I both shared our Memorial Day weekend activities with each other, I was out of topics of conversation.
The man asked Joe, “Did you hear about the White Sox giving all the police officers free tickets to any game of the season?”
Joe had. I hadn’t.
Boom. Word-of-mouth marketing. Beautiful in its simplicity, no?
Some people might dismiss WOM as an antiquated technique of the pre-Social Era. Indeed, Word of Mouth Marketing was published in 2006. In his book, Sernovitz places particular emphasis on blogs, because that was before the platform exploded into so many mutations that continue to proliferate at warp speed. These new social media amplify strong WOM campaigns, rendering the fundamental WOM strategy all the more important.
WOM still begins with a great idea that will get people talking:
“Let’s give tickets to every Chicago police officer to thank them for their service.”
SIDE NOTE: Anyone reading this who keeps up with the turbulent world of Chicago politics might know that the back story behind this idea is a bit more complicated than that, but let’s assume that the idea sprang organically from somewhere within the White Sox organization.
Way back in the day—I’m talking two thousand eight—this news would have most likely been disseminated via a barbershop-type scenario or a news story that you just happened to stumble across. But this is 2012, a time when complete strangers share opinions, news, recommendations, and more with one another through a constellation of media. Here’s a small sample of tweets referencing the aforementioned story, which was generated after a quick search of “white sox cops”:
These people and many more all liked the story for one reason or another, so they tweeted it. With a story like this, people might tell a few friends, maybe a coworker or two. But they will absolutely tweet it. Or pin it. Or post it to Facebook or Tumblr or maybe even the blog they’ve been updating since 2006. Some people will post it to all of their accounts with just one click.
No, they don’t have to actually use their mouths for it to count as word-of-mouth marketing.
Sernovitz writes, “You need to do two things: Find a super-simple message and help people share it.” He also makes this observation: “People share surprisingly simple and stupid things.”
Anyone who has ever seen a guy go gaga over a double rainbow would agree with that.
July 23rd, 2011 by Collin Canright
There is a war going on for your wallet. The combatants are credit card companies, banks, and tech companies both established and emerging. Until recently, most of the operations were covert: contracts, alliances, M&A, and other business activities that by and large go unnoticed by the general public.
The war is now spilling onto the streets of Chicago. From cabs to trains to restaurants to bus stops, there are early signs of emerging epayment technology adoption, with plenty of territory where epayment solutions are desperately needed. All the while, the largest epayments players with pockets deep enough for advertising campaigns are battling for public mindshare.
Read the rest of the article in the March issue of Transaction News (p. 5). Much of the article first appeared as Built in Chicago blog posts.
What’s your experience with epayments? Let me know.
May 28th, 2011 by Collin Canright
Control of information and data equates to control of people and markets. Warnings from Milton to Orwell and the ideological struggle between capitalistic and socialistic market approaches increasingly result in greater wealth and freedom.
At Chicago’s Techweek 2011 conference, the evolution toward freedom and away from control manifested in Friday talks through the benefits of greater access to raw data, whether government data or market data. Information drives democracy and business, and the internet economy is “democratizing” the data required for both. “Data is the rocket fuel of the internet economy,” said Aneesh Chopra chief technology officer of the United States at his Techweek keynote speech.
Tapping the vast trove of government data to create applications can help citizens get more from their government at less cost while making government operations more accountable. “Simple information transparency can reduce costs,” he said.
The City of Chicago and the federal government are both using public challenges for apps and other ideas. “We’re crowdsourcing ways to make the city more efficient by providing raw data feeds,” said John Tolva, chief technology officer of the City of Chicago, in his keynote.
Data feeds are updated regularly by the city and made available to app developers. To see what’s available, check out the City of Chicago’s Data Portal. It contains thousands of datasets, maps, files and documents, charts, etc. Just fascinating.
Federal challenges include Health and Human Services’ Community Health Data Initiative , listed through the Administration’s Open Government Initiative.
Open government and data transparency in the context of the Obama Administration’s healthcare IT innovation initiative were the major themes of Chopra’s talk. “We will democratize government data,” he said. As I expect of a representative of the Obama administration, he’s a terrific orator and inspiring speaker, focusing throughout his talk on success stories of individuals while weaving in details of program initiatives.
One hope is that the private industry will follow suit and release more data. That appears to be the case with the Blue Button, which allows individuals to download healthcare data. It started in the Veterans Administration and has been adopted by other agencies and private health organizations and companies.
It was apparent to me that there clearly is money in healthcare innovation if you can mine data for insight into how to provide better health for individuals, less costly payment options, and more efficient operations for the whole system.
The theme of transparency, based on increased access to data, continued in the afternoon session on financial innovation. Moderated by Jeff Carter, a co-founder of Hyde Park Angles and former CME board member, the panel featured four entrepreneurs creating trading exchanges and infrastructure to support for new markets.
All of the firms are based on the premise that transparency is critical for efficient markets. Markets are not efficient if they are not transparent, and markets are transparent when sufficient data are available on sellers and trades. The availability of market data itself can lead to the creation of trading in markets that did not exist.
“With transparency comes benefits. One of those benefits is a lower cost of capital,” said Nic Perkin, president, The Receivables Exchange. The firm’s platform requires companies wanting to list receivables for sale on the exchange to provide public cash flow and balance sheet data updated quarterly, something the small and medium sized business rarely need to do. “We bring transparency and standardization to market that typically has not had it.”
The data available on private companies in the internet space, for instance, led to the creation of an investment market for those companies, noted Adam Oliveri, managing director at SecondMarket, “a leading online destination for accessing market data”. You could easily see things like membership growth so the private exchange had information to work with.
The word “democratization” and the importance of increased data cropped up in Friday’s talks from Chopra’s to Craig Newmark’s and again in remarks from the financial innovation panelists. As Perkin said, “The internet democratizes everything.”
April 15th, 2011 by Collin Canright
It’s hard not to read about Groupon, currently the most mediafied of Chicago companies. It’s got a What’s Hot tab on TechCrunch. It’s national burger weekend deals made Crain’s and other media, and it’s one of several pre-IPO companies cited as examples of a new tech bubble. Groupon brings a lot of tech start-up luster to Chicago.
All that attention–along with discussing innovation at last week’s MIT Enterprise Forum Chicago Whiteboard Challenge and reading Malcom Gladwell’s May 16 New Yorker piece on the story of creativity and innovation at Apple Computer and Xerox PARC–got me thinking about Groupon and its Chicago location.
Chicago is not technology like Silicon Valley or Boston. There is not the mass of high tech here out there. The mass of innovation in Chicago spans a much wider range of industries, as shown by winners of the Chicago Innovation Awards, now in their 10th year.
Chicago is manufacturing (food, healthcare, drugs), finance (economic thought and trading products), and media-entertainment (Oprah and improvisational comedy).
It’s retailing and advertising that I think of when I think of Groupon.
Like Chicago retailer innovators Sears, Wards, and Spiegel, Groupon is a retail sales organization. Like the old catalogs of those retailers, Groupon relies on a clever copywriting style for its pitches (not without its critics). It also relies on a savvy sales force (akin to buyers) to source and sell local deals. It’s a direct-response sales organization using email rather than postal mail.
Where else would Groupon be? Not the technology garages of Silicon Valley but the old Wards warehouse in Chicago. As Gladwell suggests with innovation, the new Chicago spirit of progress is a new incarnation of the old.
March 24th, 2011 by Collin Canright
February 8th, 2011 by Collin Canright
Inflation is the top economic concern of the Chinese government, said Kok-Chi Tsim, Managing Director and Senior Relationship Executive at JPMorgan Chase Bank, Chicago. He spoke March 30 at the monthly luncheon of the Economic Development Council of Chicago on “China’s Economic and Business Environment.”
The concern for inflation flows from one underlying economic fact: “China is a rich country with still a lot of very poor people,” with large differences between the coastal and the western inner provinces. Inflation is a concern because the hyperinflation of the 1940s led, in part to the ousting of Chaing Kai-shek in 1949 in favor of Mao Zedong and the communist state. The current government does not want to risk creating the same situation, especially when a portion of the population would suffer greatly should its income be eroded by inflation.
Inflation is running at 11% annually. Labor costs are also increasing. The minimum wage will increase by 15% this year. Last year, wages in major cities increased by 21%.
“That raised a lot of red flags among the Chinese government,” Mr. Tsim said. “Fighting inflation is the Chinese government’s top priority.”
To combat inflation, the Chinese government has allowed its currency, the renminbi (RMB), typically referred to as the yuan, to appreciate. This makes exports more expensive, which is a risk for the Chinese because the economy is driven by inexpensive exports.
For details and information on China’s desire to see the RMB become a global trade and reserve currency like the dollar, see Mr. Tsim’s webinar, “China: Internationalization of Renminbi (RMB).” This development is good for U.S. companies doing business in China, as it opens other payment options, given that RMB denominated accounts are now available in Hong Kong.
Other interesting facts and analysis from Mr. Tsim included:
- The Chinese government does not have many tools for monetary control. The major method the government uses to control the money supply is putting quotas on bank loans. It’s difficult, however, because bank loans are the only source of financing in the country. Chinese do not invest in local stock because Chinese companies do not follow standards of corporate governance like western companies and are riskier investments as a result. Instead, they invest in real estate, with its boom-and-bust bubbles.
- The largest pollution problem in China is not air pollution, as you may expect from the reports and reality of poor air quality in Beijing. It’s water pollution. The Chinese government is expected to spend hundreds of billions on water infrastructure in the coming years.
- Overseas direct investments by China are increasing. “Access to natural resources, including agriculture, is the biggest challenge facing Chinese growth,” Mr. Tsim said.
- The major hindrance to Chinese investments here is the U.S. government’s restrictions on the import of high-performance computer technologies. Given rising labor costs in China, productivity increases are critical, as they have been in every major industrial country. “Automation is absolutely necessary. That’s where U.S. companies can help.”
- In response to a question on Chicago Mayor Daley’s trips to China and their influence, Mr. Tsim smiled and said, “You want me to be quite honest? I don’t think there’s much impact.”
The Chicago Payments Information Exchange (CPIX) is live on the Built in Chicago. The group’s purpose is to build on Chicago’s history of innovation in payments and create greater visibility for this financial technology market.
Built in Chicago is a fast-growing community that serves as a “resource for digital professionals working to build great web and mobile businesses and mind-blowing user experiences.” For details, read this interview with founder Matt Moog: http://bit.ly/fWrnlp (links to Crain’s Chicago Business’ Enterprise City blog).
CPIX is moderated by long-time treasury, banking, and payments writer and communications consultant Collin Canright The group is intended to build a network of financial institutions, payments processors, software firms, and consultants in order to strengthen this niche in Chicago’s technology community through collaborative communication and to help propel its future success.
To join Built in Chicago, visit: www.builtinchicago.org
To view CPIX group content, visit www.builtinchicago.org/group/payments
For more information, contact:
773 248-8935 ext. 9404 (office)
773 426-7000 (mobile)