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Coordination/Collaboration : Innovation + Job News

173 Coordination/Collaboration Articles | Page: | Show All

Startup YELLaround envisions more hyperlocal communication

It seems that every college campus and coffee shop is awash in flyers, with announcements about bands, parties, and for-sale items. But what if all that information could be disseminated digitally, creating a robust and hyperlocal connection?
 
That's the premise behind YELLaround, a startup created in 2011 when friends Kyle Case and Trong Dong came to the Twin Cities after graduating from Iowa State University. The pair were struck by the number of activities locally, but still struggled with feeling connected to the city, and realized that much of their information about events came from flyers and newspaper ads.
 
"We thought that there must be a way to feel engaged with the people around you in a better way," says Case. "We envisioned an app that would connect you to a community quickly."
 
They started YELLaround to build the app, and just released the first iteration to the App Store on iTunes in January. Although it's early in the sales cycle to get an idea of popularity, Case is feeling confident that it'll catch on, based on the positive reaction of the first wave of users. The app works by broadcasting a message over a 20-mile radius, making it ideal for local events, and users can expand the range with a feature called "echo."
 
To extend the app's reach, Case and Dong are focusing on event organizers, but they see a broader future ahead. Case says, "We want it to be a local communication venture, where you can connect with people around you without having to use formal systems like Facebook. You can see why traffic is backed up, or find people to start a band. It's an open platform to connect."
 
Source: Kyle Case, YELLaround
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

Tech firm thedatabank releases social media tool for nonprofits

Minneapolis-based thedatabank focuses on helping nonprofit organizations with software that makes operations more streamlined, and its latest offering fits right in with its product lineup.
 
Called SocialCRM, the tool includes capability for social media tracking so that nonprofits can use  information effectively. A user can rank Twitter followers, LinkedIn connections and Facebook friends based on a customizable system. With that scoring, a nonprofit can build relationships with social influencers, or even provide targeted messaging to certain members.
 
Also with SocialCRM, a nonprofit can manage its own social media accounts from a single dashboard. This is particularly valuable when nonprofits have to juggle multiple profiles on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other sites, and keep on top of all social media activity. SocialCRM funnels every post and tweet into a central dashboard that allows for better management and scheduling.
 
The software provides much-needed organization for nonprofit social media efforts, believes Chris Hanson, CEO and co-founder of thedatabank: "Every nonprofit we talk to is doing something with social media, yet very few of them have the information or tools they need to take advantage of the tremendous opportunity to raise money and increase support through social media."
 
Hanson adds that SocialCRM was developed when the company heard stories from its nonprofit customers about the difficulties of bridging the divide between a social media list and a database. The tool was developed to help nonprofits get a "full 360-degree view" of their members. "This is a game changer," he says.
 
Source: Chris Hanson, thedatabank
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

BREAKING NEWS: Google and CoCo partner for an extensive event series

Silicon Valley and Silicon Prairie are ready to meet.
 
On Wednesday, February 20, coworking and collaborative space CoCo hosted a major kickoff with new partner Google for Entrepreneurs, announcing a two-year schedule of events, conferences, and social mixers at CoCo's Minneapolis office.
 
Focusing on technology and startups, the events are aimed at boosting entrepreneurship in the state, and draw on Google's extensive history of innovation and development. The company's Google for Entrepreneurs initiative was created to support entrepreneurs worldwide, and boasts an array of successful programs already, including Campus London, Women on the Web, and The New Orleans Community Leaders Program. The company even provides guidance and training for child entrepreneurs with Lemonade Day, a nonprofit that teaches children how to start and operate their own businesses.
 
John Lyman, Entrepreneurship Manager at Google, remarked in a release that the company believes entrepreneurship drives innovation and economic growth. "We see that happening in Minnesota and particularly at CoCo," he noted.
 
An announcement about the local partnership was made during an all-day conference at CoCo that began with U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak talking about innovation and entrepreneurship. The jam-packed event was free, but filled up quickly, as tech leaders and aspiring business owners jockeyed for a spot at one of the afternoon's sessions with visiting Google employees.
 
A full 2013 event schedule is still being finalized, and will be released soon, but CoCo did give a glimpse of what's to come. The event series will include affinity and user groups, including Google Developers Group Twin Cities, Android Users Group of Minnesota, and House of Cards, as well as one-day and multi-day conferences. Social and networking events will also play a large role in the partnership, with a particular focus on connecting startup founders with mentors.
 
Also slated are classes and educational sessions, including online-only instruction geared toward appealing to entrepreneurs across Minnesota who may be far flung from CoCo's office space.
 
The event series will rely on Google technology, including Google+ Hangouts, a video conferencing app that allows users to connect directly to multiple participants, or to broadcast an event through Google+, a YouTube channel, and a website. The app also lets users record the broadcast so that it can be shared later.
 
In a release, CoCo founding partner Kyle Coolbroth noted, "This partnership with Google will allow us to continue to expand our mission of creating a robust community of individuals pursuing the work of their dreams."

Writer: Elizabeth Millard
 
 
 

Cooperative-focused CHS unveils new online platform

Inver Grove Heights-based agribusiness company CHS is owned by farmers, ranchers, and cooperatives across the country, and now, all of those stakeholders will be able to connect even more effectively through a new online platform.
 
Dubbed the CHS Center for Cooperative Growth and launched in October, the platform gathers diverse viewpoints from the industry and academia, with the goal of making cooperatives more effective.
 
Jessica Lamker, CHS Director of Marketing and Organizational Development, notes that the project came together when the organization considered the needs of the next generation of agribusiness leaders.
 
"Many agricultural cooperatives were formed in the 1930s," she says. "What we're finding is that as time goes on, young people don't understand the value of having them, and why they're important."
 
The online tool will provide clarity about complex topics related to cooperatives. For example, the latest content includes insight about equity management, with four industry leaders offering videos and articles on the topic. A future topic will be how cooperative boards of directors can achieve more alignment with each other and with customers.
 
The reaction from users has been strong, Lamker notes. Not only are farmers and ranchers turning to the site to access research papers and garner advice, but also to connect with others.
 
For the future, Lamker expects that content will continue to be king, with tutorials and tools. "Having the opportunity to bring this to life has been exciting, and we look forward to seeing where it goes from here," she says.
 
Source: Jessica Lamker, CHS
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

Curenci gains momentum with cause-related loyalty program

When Curenci co-founder Mike Brooks tries to describe the company, the first thing he mentions is Russian nesting dolls--those wooden tchotchkes that are split in the middle to accommodate smaller and smaller dolls tucked into one another.
 
"When people first see our company, they see a loyalty program, and get the impression that we're just a technology company," he says. "But if you keep going through the layers, you'll find there's more to us than that."
 
Started last year, the company calls itself "a loyalty program on steroids," and provides a link among merchants, consumers, and fundraising efforts. Retailers and other merchants sign up with Curenci, and when shoppers frequent those stores, they bring along their Curenci card. The merchant sends a rebate amount to a cause chosen by the consumer, as well as a certain amount to the consumer's card to be used like cash.
 
Merchants set the rebate amount. For example, Berry Blendz in Eden Prairie offers a 3.5 percent rebate amount, while Cloud 9 Carwash in the same city offers seven percent.
 
The company is finding some traction as it puts the program in place, and Brooks notes that they would like to have whole neighborhoods involved. Since Curenci can be used for any type of transaction, including EBT, car registration, and other tasks, Brooks believes that government agencies could benefit as well as vendors.
 
Currently, eight merchants have signed up, but now that the technology has been proven, Brooks says the momentum has begun. The tool represents the company's first application to market using its core payment and disbursement technology. Curenci's primary focus is on a patent-pending secure electronic settlement system for transactions and payments through ecommerce and mobile platforms.

"We're really getting things ramped up, and getting to market as quickly as we can," he notes.


 Source: Mike Brooks, Curenci
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

Tech startup Miinome focuses on genome data

Much has been written about cracking the genome's code, but little is said about how this information will be used, particularly on an individual level. Will your genome data be public property, or will you be able to have a level of ownership over its contents? One Minneapolis-based startup prefers the latter.
 
Founded in March 2012 by entrepreneur Paul Saarinen and University of Minnesota Associate Professor of Genetics Scott Fahrenkrug, Miinome aims to be the largest member-owned genetic database and genetic data broker in the world. The name Miinome derives from a combination of 'genome' and a play on 'Wii' game controllers, creating a blend that indicates members will have control of their own unique genetic code.
 
"We believe in the concept of property rights, and genomic data right now isn't necessarily legally yours yet," says Saarinen. "We want to change that, to a model where you would have access to your genetic information, and the ability to choose what you do with it."
 
The company is in its early stages right now, but sparking quite a bit of interest with partnerships and investors. The pair has filed an initial patent around the idea with plans to release a beta version of their platform in the next six months. Until then, Saarinen is jetting around the country collecting advisors and raising capital.
 
"This is getting a little crazy in terms of traction, and we're just trying to keep up," he says. In other words, keep an eye on Miinome this year as it goes from stealth to boom.
 
Source: Paul Saarinen, Miinome
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

UnitedHealthcare creates contest for innovative health tech

UnitedHealthcare (UHC) is hoping that plenty of innovation-minded individuals will be ready to take on a new challenge, and perhaps win some prize money as a result.
 
At the recent Consumer Electronics Show, the health benefit company announced the introduction of a "Breakthrough Health Tech Challenge," meant to spark creativity both within and outside of the health care industry.
 
Innovators can win a prize of $60,000 for an idea that utilizes common consumer technologies or devices to solve a healthcare challenge. For example, an innovator might propose a mobile app for preventing diabetes, or outline how an online game could reduce the risk of heart disease.
 
"We believe this groundbreaking challenge will inspire new ideas and concepts that could serve as breakthrough solutions to improving people's health and the healthcare system," says Gail Boudreaux, UnitedHealthcare CEO.
 
Boudreaux adds that since the competition is worldwide, the "crowdsourcing" technique should be even more potent. Details of the challenge are available here, and ideas are accepted until April 8th.
 
This isn't the first contest run by UHC for addressing technology and healthcare. The company has developed a series of innovation challenges since mid-2012, and Boudreaux notes that a number of unique ideas and concepts have resulted, with implementation on the horizon.
 
For the current contest, entrants must submit a written proposal and experimental proof-of-concept data or prototype. UHC offers a partial award of up to $20,000 if a proven solution doesn't exist yet, and there may be opportunities for collaboration between UHC and the innovator if the project sparks interest.
 
Source: Gail Boudreaux, UnitedHealthcare
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

January events: Collaborative Innovation, Healthy Life, Technically Speaking, Leadership Challenge

The Collaborative Innovation Series
January 10
Cowles Auditorium, Humphrey Institute
301 19th Ave. S., Minneapolis
7:45am - 10:25am
 
Maybe your resolution for 2013 is to put together a great board of directors. If that's the case, you're in luck: The Collaborative presents a morning of insight about how to create, develop, and effectively utilize a board.
 
Healthy Life Expo
January 12
Minneapolis Convention Center
10am - 5pm
$6 or free with donation to food shelf
 
This annual expo has been increasing in popularity every year, and this round offers up to 200 exhibitors, three stages of speaker presentations, product samples, free health advice, and plenty of information on wellness, nutrition, and fitness.
 
Technically Speaking: Leading with Emotional Intelligence
January 17
University of Minnesota
McNamara Alumni Center
5:30pm - 6:30pm
free, but must pre-register
 
The Technological Leadership Institute (TLI) at the U of M continues its new speaker series with this presentation about emotional intelligence, led by TLI's Kirk Froggatt. Geared toward leaders within organizations, the talk looks at the impact and practice of emotional intelligence as a way to boost leadership qualities.
 
Leadership Challenge Conference
January 24
St. Catherine University
Rauenhorst Ballroom
8am - 3:45pm
$225
 
The Leadership Challenge conference brings together professional women from a range of settings, including government, education, nonprofit, and small business sectors. Now in its 16th year, the event is a day of education and discussion focusing on leadership, with interactive workshops and networking opportunities. 

U of M to lead virtual institute focusing on climate issues

The University of Minnesota is slated to lead an international virtual institute for the study of Earth-surface systems. The multi-university effort will have a particular focus on watersheds and deltas, and is being called Linked Institutions for Future Earth (LIFE).
 
The effort is funded by the National Science Foundation, which is awarding the U of M a grant of $720,000 to kick off the collaborative network. In total, funding, grants, and resources from all participating universities come to roughly $30 million.
 
An ambitious project, the initiative will bring together numerous international research institutions and field sites, with the purpose of better understanding the impacts of climatic and human stresses on the environment.
 
LIFE intends to produce research that can affect policy decisions as well as future scientific directions. Initially, the project will also boost networking and information sharing among researchers. It's also likely to increase awareness about sustainability issues among the general public.
 
LIFE lead researcher Efi Foufoula-Georgiou notes that the effort will build on another NSF-funded project, the National Center for Earth-Surface Dynamics, and with that foundation, the project will be able to take a significant step toward better understanding watersheds and deltas worldwide.
 
"LIFE seeks to empower the next generation of Earth-system scientists, engineers, and educators with depth, breadth, and a global perspective on environmental sustainability," she says.
 
All that global insight will start right here in Minneapolis, at the distinctive experimental facilities at the St. Anthony Falls Laboratory.
 
Source: Efi Foufoula-Georgiou, LIFE
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

Minnesota exports reach an all-time high

Minnesota exports of agricultural, mining, and manufactured products reached a record $5.1 billion in the third quarter for 2012, up by one percent compared to the same period a year ago.
 
According to figures from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), this marks the eighth straight quarter of record exports in the state. Only three months ago, Minnesota reached an all-time high for a single quarter, when sales peaked at $5.4 billion.
 
Of the three major export categories, manufacturing has the highest sales, and is up by two percent compared to a year ago.
 
Ed Dieter, acting director of the Minnesota Trade Office, says that China and Europe had the biggest export gains recently, with China being especially strong. Dieter notes that sales there are up 16 percent over 2011. Other export areas that showed increases include Taiwan, Canada, Chile, and Australia.
 
In some other markets, sales were down when compared to last year's numbers, particularly for the United Kingdom, South Korea, and Argentina.
 
Given the state's strong biotech and medical device industries, it's not surprising that medical exports should see a big jump. The category increased by 19 percent during the third quarter, led by sales to China, Japan, and Belgium. The full report is available here on the DEED site.
 
Source: Ed Dieter, Minnesota Trade Office
Writer: Elizabeth Millard
 
 

W3i technologist releases tool for sifting through social media feeds

Social media can be a boon for keeping up with personal and business information, but given the number of tools available, feeds can also be a major time sink. That's why entrepreneur Shivani Khanna developed dasBoom, a data visualization application that helps users cut down on the noise and focus on what's important in a feed rather than what's simply new.
 
Khanna's venture is exactly the type of "intrapreneur" strategy that's often encouraged at tech firm W3i, where Khanna has acted as a software development manager before taking on her own projects. The company fosters incubator projects like these in order to encourage creativity and development growth.
 
Given its strong start, and large market potential, it's likely that dasBoom is ready to, well, boom. "With the enormous volume of information being generated on social networks, there's a critical need to make sense of all this connected knowledge," Khanna notes. With the tool, users will be able to make more intelligent decisions, she adds.
 
The application allows users to visualize information from their data feeds, and then organize and filter that content. For example, the app will show which friends have posted in the last few hours, and the user can choose how people should be ranked in terms of importance. Also, the app will show the popularity of those posts so that the user can get a quick glimpse of the amount of buzz being generated.
 
This strategy gives users the ability to focus on content that's most relevant to them, rather than wading through posts containing game requests or shared articles and photos.
 
Khanna notes that the app is unique compared to other applications that curate social content, because it doesn't create assumptions about what's important. Instead, it lets users decide what to filter out and what to keep. The app is currently for Facebook, but she anticipates that Twitter and LinkedIn will be covered in the near future.
 
Source: Shivani Khanna, dasBoom
Writer: Elizabeth Millard
 
 

HopeFULL expands product line, eyes larger distribution

By now, the bright blue bags of The HopeFULL Company are recognizable, even nestled in the shelves of a co-op. The founders of HopeFULL, though, want to boost that recognition even more.
 
As noted in previous Line coverage, the company was started by sisters Stephanie Williams and Jessica Welch, as a way to help patients in chemotherapy increase their nutrient intake. The sisters created small, easily transported kits that contain a neoprene bag, silicone molds for making frozen "pops," and Popsicle-type sticks that double as spoons.
 
Since founding the business a couple years ago, HopeFULL has been steadily growing to expand its product line and distribution. The company recently launched The BellyFULL Kit, inspired by a desire to introduce whole foods to young children.
 
HopeFULL has also found a larger audience as it gains traction. In addition to helping chemo patients, the kits are being used for any condition in which loss of appetite can be a factor, including gastric bypass surgery, lupus, and even strep throat.
 
Looking ahead, the company anticipates moving into more wholesale sales to supplement its thriving co-op and natural health care center placement, according to Williams.
 
"We're moving into the next phase," she says. "We see some strong opportunities in several different places and markets, so we're gearing up for the next stage of growth."
 
If the sisters succeed, it's likely that those bright blue HopeFULL bags and jaunty BellyFULL junior chefs hats will be coming to a store near you in the year ahead.
 
Source: Stephanie Williams, HopeFULL Company
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

TST Media plans growth thanks to strategic funding

Started in a dorm room in 2005, Minneapolis-based TST Media is growing steadily, and attracting strong investment interest along the way.
 
Last year, the maker of website-management applications for sports leagues closed on a $3.5 million round of financing with El Dorado Ventures. Although the company hasn't commented yet on its most recent funding round, regulatory filing reports note that it raised an additional $3.3 million in capital.
 
Going along with that funding is hiring, and the company continues to add employees in areas like sales, marketing development, and design. In addition to regularly promoting job openings on Twitter, company representatives also attend college career conferences and encourage employees to refer contacts from their networks.
 
"We have a product designed for explosive growth," says TST Media co-founder Carson Kipfer. "We have aggressive hiring goals that will keep us on that growth track."
 
Over the past year, TST Media has seen several wins in client acquisitions, including the Lake Placid Summit Classic lacrosse tournament, and it has crafted innovations to its main product. Its "Sport Ngin Mobile" app is used by sports teams and leagues in all U.S. states, across Canada, and in Europe and Asia as a way for teams to connect with fans via scores, stats, schedules, and other content.
 
"Once someone sees the capability of what we provide, it spiders out from there," says Kipfer. "Other teams and organizations want the platform, too, and that just fuels our success."
 
Source: Carson Kipfer, TST Media
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

Computer forensics firm LuciData distinguishes itself from the competition

With so much information being stored in digital form, it seems inevitable that computer forensics and e-discovery would surge toward growth.
 
The strategy is used by companies of all sizes to create a digital paper trail that identifies issues such as file theft by departing employees or misuse of company resources. In this competitive arena, Minneapolis-based LuciData is hoping that expertise wins out.
 
"Our guys come from the IT security world, not the law enforcement world," says CEO Jeremy Wunsch. "You see a lot of companies that hire former cops, and that's fine, but you need a deeper understanding of how technology works to really be effective. That's what we provide."
 
These days, the most common client requests come from companies fretting about intellectual property theft, he notes. If someone leaves a job and takes information along, that can burn not only the former employer, but also the new company as well. Hiring a seemingly stellar new employee and then getting hit with an IP theft lawsuit soon after can be a nasty surprise.
 
"We've seen that situation happening much more frequently," Wunsch says. "That's why clients are asking us for more safeguards and prevention measures, so they can detect theft as it's happening."
 
Because LuciData employs technologists with deep expertise in security, the company can watch the movement of data more easily, Wunsch believes. Called "internal threat management," or "proactive forensics," the field might be burgeoning right now, but look for it to boom in the near future as companies work to protect themselves at every level.
 
As that happens, Wunsch expects that LuciData will stay on its current growth track, and live up to its name. "We bring clarity to data," he says.
 
Source: Jeremy Wunsch, LuciData
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

November events: Tekne Awards, Women's Excelerator, Primal Branding, Selling Globally

Tekne Awards
 
November 1
Minneapolis Convention Center
4:30pm - 9pm
$195 for individuals; $1,750 for table of ten
 
The Tekne Awards program, now in its 13th year, recognizes innovations from 2011 that impact the lives of Minnesotans, through lifestyle improvement or education. Forty-four finalists were named in fifteen categories, and this event unveils the winners. Just as importantly, the gathering provides ample opportunity for networking with a "who's who" of Minnesota business, technology, and politics.
 
Women's Excelerator Workshop: Practice Your Pitch
 
November 14
St. Catherine University
CDC401 Board room, 4th floor
8am - 12pm
$89
 
In this workshop, attendees will develop a level of comfort with pitching their business, and will learn to create a value proposition statement. Each entrepreneur will have 10 minutes to present her business to her peers and facilitators, followed by a feedback session to identify which parts of the elevator pitches need work.
 
Tap the Power of Primal Branding
 
November 21
Risdall Marketing Group
550 Main St., New Brighton
8:30am - 11am
$99
 
Led by Patrick Hanlon, the author of the popular book "Primal Branding," this workshop lays out a blueprint for more effective brand marketing. Hanlon advocates creating "brand zealots" who spread a company's message across multiple channels, a process that builds a stronger customer base. After Hanlon's presentation, representatives from Risdall Marketing Group will showcase how primal branding helped a number of their clients.
 
Selling Globally in a Borderless Society
 
November 29
The Woman's Club of Minneapolis
410 Oak Grove St.
7:15am - 9am
Fees range from $20 to $60, depending on registration type
 
Hosted by the Sales & Marketing Professional Association, this expert panel addresses the challenges and benefits of selling and marketing internationally. Participating will be international trade specialists Matthew Woodlee, Mike Danielson, and Jim Thomas. Planned topics include marketing support, hiring consultants, cultural issues, and current political and economic affairs.
173 Coordination/Collaboration Articles | Page: | Show All
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