| Follow Us:


coordination/collaboration : Innovation + Job News

147 coordination/collaboration Articles | Page: | Show All

Creative agency Zeus Jones helps clients find their purpose

The Twin Cities are rich in creative agencies, and have drawn attention for the breadth of options from spunky startups to established major players. Recently, industry magazine Advertising Age showcased the local area, noting that it's little wonder that so many agencies get their start here since Minneapolis is a "smart and artsy town."
 
One of the prime examples, the article noted, is Zeus Jones, a Minneapolis-based firm that focuses on building brands and providing customer experiences and messaging that stand out in the marketplace.
 
Founded by advertising executives who'd worked together at large local agency Fallon, the company was started in 2007 as a way to deliver marketing instead of advertising, states Zeus Jones co-founder Adrian Ho.
 
"We had a simple idea: that the reason people like companies has to do with what they do, not what they say in ads," he says. "We have an idealistic view of what that means, and for the last five years, we've been figuring out what that means."
 
In general, he adds, Zeus Jones assists companies in thinking about how they define their brand, and helping to rebuild that brand around a purpose. Ho says, "This goes above and beyond products. We figure out the best ways to bring their purpose to life." That could mean product design, retail design, strategy, or other creative services. Clients have included Thymes, Nordstrom, and Purina ONE.
 
The agency has 32 employees, and is currently hiring and growing. Ho notes that the business plan didn't center around growth, but as the firm has drawn more clients, it's been a natural evolution.
 
"We think there are better ways to communicate a company's message than running ads, and we're seeing that proved on a bigger scale here," says Ho. "Clients respond to that."  
 
Source: Adrian Ho, Zeus Jones
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

August events: Collaborative Innovation, Datavenu, Exporting in 2012, EPCON

The Collaborative Innovation Series
 
August 2
University of St. Thomas College of Business, Minneapolis Campus
46 Eleventh St. South, Minneapolis
7:10am - 11:20am
$45 for members, $105 for non-members
 
The Collaborative, a membership organization focused on growing companies and investors, frequently provides education opportunities, and this upcoming morning seminar is part of its "innovation series." Speakers will focus on larger topics like choosing angel or VC investors, leveraging advisors, and growing through new hires. 
 
Datavenu
 
August 7 & 8
University of Minnesota
Carlson School of Management
Fee ranges from $25 - $125, depending on type of pass
 
Organized by local entrepreneur Barbara Bowen, Datavenu focuses on personal data, economic development, and the information economy. The first day of the event brings together leading speakers to talk about IT developments and data policies, while the second day is an "unconference" that features an agenda created in real time by participants.
 
Exporting in 2012: The Practices of Profitable Companies
 
August 22
Mortenson Construction
700 Meadow Lane North, Golden Valley
8:00am - 11:00am
$79 before Aug. 14, $119 afterward
 
Hosted by Enterprise Minnesota, this seminar brings together experts and business leaders who will discuss the export process and how attendees can better navigate this particular strategy. There will be several examples of how local companies are selling internationally, and connecting with global business experts who can streamline the process.
 
The Engaged Philanthropy Conference
 
August 23
Hyatt Regency Minneapolis
4:00pm - 8:00pm
$70
 
Also known as EPCON, this conference focuses on social innovation in Minnesota, and is hosted by Social Venture Partners Minnesota, an organization made up of entrepreneurs and corporate leaders who are attempting to address the state's social issues. Now in its fourth year, the conference features a competition for identifying top social entrepreneurs, and keynote speaker Tim Knowles from the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute.

Higher ed tech firm Reeher boasts a series of recent client adoptions

Major fuel sources for any university or college program are donations, leading every institute of higher education to refine its fundraising programs as much as possible. That's leading St. Paul-based Reeher, a technology firm that helps institutions fine-tune their fundraising strategies, toward robust growth as a result.
 
The company recently noted that Fordham University adopted the platform in order to reach a $500 million campaign goal. Before that, the University of Toledo joined Reeher for its own campaign. Saint John's University selected Reeher in April as a way to improve its donor identification and management.
 
Founded in 2002 by Andy Reeher, the firm has developed a technology platform that helps institutions find up to 40 percent more donors, resulting in more fundraising dollars and less time spent chasing leads. Reeher discovered that most universities and colleges were investing significantly in fundraising relationships, only to find that most of the donations came from a handful of large donors.
 
Using predictive technology, Reeher is able to make fundraising more cost-effective for institutions, and the company's growing reputation is opening more doors all the time.
 
Reeher says, "These institutions see a lot of fundraising management technologies come and go, and they tend to wait to see what's working for someone else before they make a choice on what they'll use. So, one of our big drivers is that with this growing list of customers, we anticipate more inquiries and momentum going forward."
 
Source: Andy Reeher, Reeher
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

Angel Tax Credit program continues robust funding for small businesses

The Minnesota Angel Tax Credit Program recently celebrated its second birthday, and boasts some impressive numbers for a two-year-old.
 
Since its launch in July 2010, the program has attracted more than $126 million in private investments for small, entrepreneur-led companies in the state. According to Mark Phillips, Commissioner for the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), over 100 businesses have received funding in 2012 alone. Companies attracting the most attention from investors and angel funds tend to be software, biotechnology, and medical device firms.
 
The program has been a tremendous help for promising businesses, Phillips believes. Some of the companies earning funds could be the state's next big high-tech success stories, leading to job growth and a more robust local economy.
 
Run by DEED, the program provides incentives to investors or investment funds, steering them in the direction of putting money into emerging companies, particularly those focused on high-tech endeavors. The Angel Tax Credit gives investors a credit of 25 percent for investments of at least $10,000, and the past few years have shown that plenty of investors are eager to take advantage of that incentive while helping to get innovative companies off the ground.
 
Over two-thirds of $12 million in tax credits allocated for this year have already gone out, Phillips noted, and DEED expects the remaining credits of about $3.3 million to be allocated by the end of August.
 
The program is slated to continue operation through the end of 2014, and if everything works as DEED expects, close to $236 million will have been invested in Minnesota high-tech startups by the time the program ends.
 
Source: Mark Phillips, Department of Employment and Economic Development
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

HomeVisor connects realtors with buyers and sellers nationwide

Searching for the right realtor can sometimes feel like dating--everyone is hunting for that special someone who's trustworthy, friendly, and compatible. Where are the sites that give you a strong realtor match the way dating sites pair you up with romantic candidates?
 
HomeVisor comes awfully close. Started by real estate agent Brett Doshan, the service aims to bring buyers and sellers together with realtors who understand their needs.
 
Doshan says, "A first-time, 22 year-old buyer usually wants a younger agent, whereas a retiree likes to work with someone their own age. That's just one example of preferences that people have. Buying and selling real estate is a big part of someone's life, so they want to make sure they feel comfortable with the agent."
 
In order to find just the right agent for each client, Doshan and his team spend hours on the phone, talking with agents around the country to get a sense of personality types, reputations, experience, and other factors that go into a recommendation.
 
There are some competitors that try to do a similar match-up, but Doshan says that they usually have a pool of agents that pay to be part of the service. When a buyer goes to one of their sites, they simply put in his or her zip code, and get a list of agents. "The focus of those sites is to get agents to sign up, to expand their databases," he notes. "Our focus is on buyers and sellers, to find out what they really need."
 
Doshan's comprehensive matchmaking skills have allowed HomeVisor to go national, within only a few years since it started. The company employs five people, and the founder expects strong growth for the future. "We just want to constantly get better at our service."
 
Source: Brett Doshan, HomeVisor
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

Information services firm DelaGet caters to restaurant industry

Sometimes, it pays to specialize. For Golden Valley-based DelaGet, customers come from only one industry segment, and it's that focus that's causing the company to attract investment and keep growing.
 
Spun out of restaurant franchisee Border Foods in 2000, the firm creates financial reporting software for restaurants, which can use the applications to track information like server performance and food inventory. A franchise restaurant owner can glance at sales results for all restaurants, for example, or look at the transaction-level activity of one cashier.
 
Over the past five years, DelaGet has expanded its services to include brand programs, notes CEO Bruce Clark: "We go in and create solutions for a brand, and that program becomes a best practice." The company works with some of the most visible restaurant chains in the country, including Taco Bell, KFC, and IHOP.
 
Another unique aspect comes with creating different platforms that can be customized to a restaurant's needs, Clark adds. DelaGet's software-as-a-service offering is on 40 different platforms, representing a significant part of its intellectual property, he says.
 
DelaGet's strength in the industry is getting the company noticed: in December, the firm attracted $400,000 from angel investors.
 
The company currently employs about 80 people, and has strong plans for growth. Although it boasts an impressive customer list, there are still numerous restaurant brands that fall within DelaGet's core market, notes Rick Berglund, VP of Business Development.
 
He says, "One stage of our growth will be to build brand relationships, and from there, we can expand services. We're seeing success on several levels so we're anticipating that we'll be accelerating our growth in the near future."
 
Sources: Bruce Clark and Rick Berglund, DelaGet
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

Smartpress boosts printing power for small businesses

Small business owners face limitations when it comes to bulk buying; the lack of huge orders sometimes usually means they have to pay higher prices, or order more than they'd like.
 
For printing, Smartpress.com is trying to correct that imbalance. The Chaska-based company has operated for the past three years, and sees steady growth in offering online printing services that cater to retailers, graphics professionals, and small businesses.
 
The range of printing options is vast, from car magnets to sales booklets, and a custom banner-printing service can produce hanging banners up to 150 feet long.
 
An online calculator sets the company apart, believes president Chuck Reese. Clients can get accurate pricing quickly, rather than waiting for a quote request from a more traditional printer.  
 
Another area of differentiation is proofing, he adds: "With many printers, the file that you send in is the one that gets printed, because no one looks at it. But we have someone really look over everything that comes in." Many times, the proofer catches layout and copy errors, saving a client from having to redo an order.
 
Because of its distinctive service, Smartpress.com has found a dedicated audience, and strong growth as a result. It's been adding to its 128-employee roster, and Reese notes every year brings 250 percent growth.
 
Currently, the company is adding custom sites for clients so they can implement print-on-demand service, which is helpful for clients like ad agencies and franchises. Reese says, "Everything we see shows that same strong growth rate going forward."
 
Source: Chuck Reese, Smartpress.com
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

Better Beer Society serves first round of certifications for bar owners

The craft beer scene in the Twin Cities is going strong, to the point where it feels like a new brewery or taproom is opening every week. Distinguishing them from each other can sometimes be a challenging (if delicious) task for craft beer drinkers.
 
To introduce some rigor into all the efforts, the Better Beer Society (BBS) offers some expertise. The agency focuses on promoting craft beer and every aspect of its service, including staff training for bar servers so they can chat about beers with confidence.
 
One major focus is certification; the organization awards a "BBS Certified" label to establishments that prove they have a high level of beer service, selection, storage, and server knowledge. So far, only three bars--Bryant Lake Bowl, The Happy Gnome, and Republic--have gotten the BBS stamp of approval, but founder Rob Shellman is working with others to get them to that point.
 
"We've been pretty hard at work these past few months auditing and meeting with bar and restaurant owners about the certification program," he says. "Most of the response has been very encouraging, with owners and management wanting to get involved and improve on their practices."
 
Certification isn't an easy task, he notes, but it's not impossible. The BBS works with each establishment closely to track areas of improvement, so that every pour is a clean, predictable one.
 
A certified Cicerone (the beer world's equivalent of a sommelier), Shellman started the BBS last year after moving back to Minneapolis from Los Angeles. He's seen the strong beer scene in places like Portland and San Diego, and believes that the craft beer movement in the Twin Cities could be just as robust.
 
"We could really be a major beer destination here," he says. "Our mission is to help make that happen."
 
Source: Rob Shellman, Better Beer Society
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

July events: Exporting 101, Software Quality Forum, Crowdfunding, TopCoder

Exporting 101
 
July 11
 
St. Michael City Center
11800 Town Center Dr. NE, St. Michael
11:30am - 4:30pm
free
 
Exporting isn't just for big companies; more than 97 percent of exporters are small- to medium-sized businesses. This seminar focuses on strategies that can increase sales and profits, minimize seasonal sales fluctuations, and connect businesses to the many trade resources available through the federal and state governments.
 
Software Quality Forum: Buyer Beware
 
July 12
Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Bloomington
7800 Normandale Blvd.
5:00pm - 7:00pm
free
 
Put on by the Software Quality Forum, this seminar looks at third-party software, and issues tips on how to purchase without getting burned. By applying due diligence upfront during the vendor and selection process, companies can defend against quality problems during implementation.
 
Crowdfunding: Using Digital Media to Directly Access Capital
 
July 17
CoCo Minneapolis
400 South 4th Street
3:00pm - 4:30pm
$75
 
Thanks to sites like Kickstarter.com, crowdfunding is fast becoming a viable way for many startup companies to gain funding from a range of sources. Speaker Patrick Donohue provides an interactive presentation on why digital media is changing the world of finance, and offers some tactics for achieving business goals and raising capital.
 
TopCoder Roadshow
 
July 25
Humphrey Institute
301 19th Ave. S., Minneapolis
1:00pm - 5:00pm
free
 
TopCoder is a community of developers, algorithmists, and digital designers, coming together from private enterprise, academia, and government agencies. On its spin through the Twin Cities, the group will offer an afternoon of sessions focused on open innovation for enterprises, education, and government.
 

Anser Innovation blends tech-based communication with pet ownership

Imagine being on a business trip and talking to your dog at home before the next meeting, and even giving him a treat for good behavior. Welcome to PetChatz.
 
Developed by Minneapolis-based Anser Innovation, the web-based "pet phone" is a unique product that's poised to tap into the enormous pet accessory market. CEO Lisa Lavin notes that even though the product isn't on the market yet--look for it this fall--the reaction has already been strong.
 
"We did national consumer research, and the response was amazing," she says. "About 76 percent of people we polled said they'd have high interest in PetChatz. We thought the product would be popular, but that number blew us away."
 
The idea for PetChatz comes from Mark Kroll, a medical device inventor who holds hundreds of patents. During lunch with him, Lavin asked if he had any patents that he wasn't using, and he talked about the "greet and treat videophone" that he'd envisioned for pet owners. The pair worked together, along with others on the Anser team, to make his vision into a working prototype.
 
The applications for the technology are broad, Lavin believes. For example, a pet boarding facility might install it in suites so that owners can check in on their pets and reduce separation anxiety (on both sides). Anser has teamed with KLN Enterprises' Tuffy's Pet Foods to design treats that can be given via the device.
 
The company anticipates hiring leading up to the launch in a few months, and growth after the product hits the market. In the future, this type of technology could be used for other markets, like communicating with seniors for elder care, or checking in with children in daycare, Lavin notes.
 
"We're building a platform for products that enhance remote communication," she says. "We're starting with the retail pet market, but there are so many directions we can go from there."
 
Source: Lisa Lavin, Anser Innovation
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

612Brew creates another sudsy option for local beer enthusiasts

The Twin Cities beer revolution continues: a new brewery and taproom, 612Brew, takes its name from the classic Minneapolis area code, and has announced plans to move into a busy intersection in Northeast Minneapolis.
 
On the auspicious date of 6/12/12, founders Adit Kalra, Robert Kasak, Ryan Libby, and Jamey Rossbach signed a lease for a brewery at the corner of Central and Broadway, in a historic building called The Broadway. The building has exposed brick and timber, as well as polished concrete floors and an outdoor patio, making it an ideal place to hoist a brew, the founders believe.
 
The taproom should be open by late fall, with growlers planned and two beers ready for launch: a pale ale called "SIX" and an IPA called "Rated R." Another beer, "Mary Ann," is a nod toward Gilligan's Island (complete with freshly grated ginger) and will be served as a summer seasonal beer.
 
Kalra notes that there's been a trend in the craft beer movement toward aged beers that have high alcohol content, but 612Brew will go the other direction into what he calls the "sessionable" category, with beers that feature moderate to low alcohol content. "That means you can drink a few and not feel over-served," he says.
 
The booming craft beer scene in Minnesota is bringing the state in line with other beer-friendly places like California, Oregon, Washington, and Colorado, adds Libby. He says that with other breweries starting up in Northeast Minneapolis, the 612Brew team is hoping the area adds "Brew District" to its reputation to go along with "Arts District." Cheers to that.
 
Source: Adit Kalra and Ryan Libby, 612Brew
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

SocialBundle boosts social media savvy for clients

When Amanda Axvig and her "rockstar team of developers" decided to establish a company for creating social media applications, they ran into just one hitch: many of their potential clients weren't even on Facebook or Twitter yet.
 
So, their company, SocialBundle, was forced to switch tactics. She says, "We decided to take a step back and get people on social media in the first place, and then we could go back to the app development."
 
The firm specializes in helping clients work out an overall social media strategy, including content development, scheduling, and site monitoring. For those who don't have time to craft multiple Tweets, put them up regularly, and watch how people are responding, SocialBundle is a boon.
 
Recently, the company has been seeing an uptick in interest from creative agencies that want to add social media to a broad client strategy.
 
Axvig notes that SocialBundle's growing reputation for social media insight comes from an ability to work with clients, rather than simply post and Tweet for them. She says, "We can handle everything if that's what someone wants, but we also enjoy working with people to help them learn how social media works, and how they can add to various conversations."
 
Now that so many businesses are flocking to social media, it's likely that SocialBundle will get back to its original purpose, and start focusing on app building again. But it'll never abandon its larger intent to make social media simple and effective for every client.
 
Source: Amanda Axvig, SocialBundle
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

ReconRobotics opens international HQ to gear up for growth

The world of micro-robot systems just got bigger.
 
Edina-based ReconRobotics, the fast-track robotics company that's been growing quickly, announced that it has established an international headquarters in Lugano, Switzerland.
 
The move is part of the company's multi-year global expansion plans, and the HQ there will oversee all sales, marketing, and customer service for operations outside of North America.
 
ReconRobotics has seen a robust amount of traction within the past couple years, garnering some major contracts from U.S. military and law enforcement agencies. Now, the company intends to broaden its international footprint, according to President and CEO Alan Bignall.
 
The Lugano subsidiary, known as RRI Global SAGL, will expand the company's international reseller network, which currently extends to 33 countries.
 
Formed in 2006, ReconRobotics started as a way to commercialize technology developed at the University of Minnesota Distributed Robotics Laboratory, with funding from the National Science Foundation and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), among others.
 
The company's mini-robots are particularly attractive to the military and law enforcement, since they can be sent into dangerous situations and navigated remotely in order to collect intelligence. For example, a SWAT team can throw one into a house and use the robot's cameras to assess a hostage situation.
 
"These robots are just the beginning of what we're seeing in terms of capability," Bignall says. "There are so many applications for this technology, and we're seeing expansion in both geography and in usage."
 
Source: Alan Bignall, ReconRobotics
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

June Events: Role of Diversity, Eyeo Festival, d.school, TechMasters, Womens Excelerator

The Role of Diversity in a World of Opportunity
 
May 31
Walker Art Center, Skyline Room
5:30pm - 8pm
$35 (rsvp required)
 
What does diversity in business really mean? It goes beyond race and culture, and extends into creating meaningful messages that resonate with consumers. In this presentation by Chris Roberts, president of Cargill Kitchen Solutions, attendees will hear about how we can check our own biases in order to do good work. All proceeds go to benefit The BrandLab, a non-profit that brings students from diverse backgrounds together with people in the marketing industry.
 
Eyeo Festival
 
June 5 - 8
Walker Art Center
9am - 2pm
Pre-conference workshops: $125; festival ticket price: $549
 
Artists, designers, and coders come together for a series of workshops and mixers to transform digital culture. The festival attracts a wide range of talented individuals, including those interested in creative code, data visualization, design, experience design, 3D printing, architecture, and gestural computing.
 
d.school Crash Course
 
June 5
CoCo Minneapolis
6pm - 8pm
$50
 
A quick introduction to "design thinking" methods and mindsets. In this session, students will take a common experience and redesign it completely. This crash course is based on the original Stanford Design Program d.school curriculum. See The Line's coverage of CoCo's d.school here.
 
TechMasters
 
June 5
Benchmark Learning training facility
4510 W. 77th St., Suite 210, Edina
7:40am - 9am
free
 
TechMasters is a new Toastmasters chapter in the Twin Cities, dedicated to helping technology professionals improve their skills in public speaking and presentations, impromptu speaking, critical thinking, and communicating with non-technical people. Every week, the group rotates roles to practice speaking in a friendly and supportive environment.
 
Womens Excelerator Workshop
 
June 16
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.

The BrandLab prepares teens for internships with work-ready training week

School outreach and scholarship program The BrandLab has been growing steadily since its inception in 2007, and this year, the organization is kicking off its summer season with a whole new offering: a work-ready training week.
 
Started by OLSON and expanded to include other agencies, The BrandLab creates opportunities in the marketing industry for students with diverse cultural and economic backgrounds (see The Line's previous coverage here).
 
This year, executive director Ellen Walthour was chatting with a 3M executive about wanting to broaden the initial training that's done when the students arrive. Since the participants range in age from 17 to 20, most haven't had a professional job and sometimes have trouble adjusting to a business environment.
 
3M offered to pay for a week of training, and that kicked off a flurry of networking and workshop development, with a range of topics planned. Students will learn about how to act at a business lunch, what to wear, how to write in a professional manner, what to expect in an informational interview, and how to brand themselves.
 
"It's been amazing to see how this has all come together," says Walthour. "People are so eager to help, and we have workshop leaders from several agencies in town."
 
The main goal, she adds, is to give the students confidence when they're walking into their 7-week internship. From there, they can learn about how to eventually stand out in a competitive job marketplace and compete against a large pool of talented professionals.
 
If all goes well, it's likely that The BrandLab will implement the week-long workshop again next year, and keep the business insights buzzing for its fortunate interns.
 
Source: Ellen Walthour, The BrandLab
Writer: Elizabeth Millard
147 coordination/collaboration Articles | Page: | Show All
Share this page
0
Email
Print
Signup for Email Alerts