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Coordination/Collaboration : Innovation + Job News

163 Coordination/Collaboration Articles | Page: | Show All

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.

Warecorp keeps expanding, launches new projects

St. Louis Park-based software development firm Warecorp doesn't see boundaries--geographically or otherwise.
 
Founded in 2004, the company has been growing at a steady pace, thanks in part to expansion into Minsk, Belarus, a hotbed of engineering talent. Warecorp has added about 30 employees there in the past six months, and has also brought on a Montana-based Vice President of Development, Sarmeesha Reddy.
 
The firm specializes in software engineering, and boasts projects in open source, social media, and software testing. One particularly compelling new project is Drupal Squad, developed by Warecorp engineers who use the programming language to design custom modules for other clients.
 
"Drupal Squad is an exciting development for us, and one that grew organically," says company cofounder Chris Dykstra. "We just converted a service we'd created to manage our own customer base, and it ended up being something that was really needed in the marketplace."

 Because of projects like these, Warecorp is poised for growth, and Reddy notes that she's been tasked with bringing the company from $5 million in annual sales to $20 million. After working on $100 million projects at Motorola, she's ready for the challenge. "This is a company that's full of heart, with a super smart team," she says. "When you bring that together with so many great ideas, it's magic."
 
Source: Chris Dykstra and Sarmeesha Reddy, Warecorp
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

Ad agency Periscope boosts growth through hiring

Creative agency Periscope continues to keep its Human Resources department busy.
 
Following a steady hiring rate in 2011, the agency kept growth strong this year, adding 123 employees as of the beginning of October. That brings the company's total employee count to 475, with the majority of those staffers in the Minneapolis offices.
 
Lori Sharbono, Periscope's VP and Director of Business Development, notes that hiring is a result of robust business development efforts, which added some new clients and expanded some services as well. Loyalty marketing services, retail branding, and increased analytics capabilities have all been put into the agency's existing services mix of content creation, brand development, website creation, media buying, and other capabilities.
 
"It sounds simple and basic but what works for us is to focus on client success," says Sharbono. "We grow our capabilities based on what they need, and we try to stay a step ahead of that. In order to achieve that level of innovation, we focus on bringing in subject matter experts who can provide insight."
 
In addition to its Minneapolis office, Periscope also operates smaller offices in Hong Kong, New Delhi, and Toronto. Most of the new hires this year will be in the local office. Although the growth rate might make it more challenging to keep finding enough office space, it also creates a vibrant culture, Sharbono believes. "We have a very unique culture here, and that's what draws people," she says. "We have commitment to our clients, but we're also committed to creating a fun, lively culture for employees."
 
Source: Lori Sharbono, Periscope
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

University of Minnesota spearheads project for more sustainable lawns

Advocates of sustainability have often demonized lawn care for squandering water, adding fertilizers and herbicides to the environment, and increasing our carbon footprint through gas-powered mowing. But a new research project from the University of Minnesota could make both environmentalists and homeowners happier in the future.
 
Funded by a $2.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the 5-year project is part of a national research effort aimed at improving specialty crops. Researchers will be investigating ways to develop turf grasses that require less water and mowing, and that stay green without extensive use of pesticides and fertilizers.
 
The reduction in water usage will be especially important, since this season's lengthy drought isn't seen as a fluke by many climate experts, but as an indication of dry seasons ahead. With a more drought-resistant turf grass, public spaces and lawns could remain healthy even with significantly reduced rainfall.
 
The project's lead investigator, U. of M. Associate Professor of Horticultural Science Eric Watkins, says: "This project will lead to the development of new varieties of these grasses that are well-adapted to adverse conditions and more available to consumers."
 
As part of the research, Watkins and his team will work with scientists from Rutgers University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. They'll evaluate homeowner buying patterns and breed new varieties of grasses called "fine fescue" that are better at withstanding heat and disease.
 
As the project evolves, it's likely that a greener and more eco-friendly lawn may be coming soon to a neighborhood or park near you.
 
Source: Eric Watkins, University of Minnesota
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

Book publisher Hillcrest Media launches CoffeeandBooks.com

Although coffee shops have always attracted book lovers, one local publisher is using technology to make that relationship even more rewarding.
 
Minneapolis-based Hillcrest Media Group recently launched CoffeeandBooks.com, an online venture that pairs coffee house partners with publishers, with plenty of incentives thrown in for reading groups and bibliophiles.
 
Hillcrest CEO Mark Levine actually bought the domain name four years ago, but let it idle while he built the company into a leading local publisher, growing the company through other business divisions like Mill City Press, BPR Book Group, and Publish Green. Then, a chance connection with the head of Dunn Bros. put the site on a fast track.
 
"Once we had that anchor partner, the site became a priority," says Levine. "Dunn Bros. is very entrepreneurial, as are we, so it was a great partnership." The publishing firm tested the model about two months ago by putting together events for authors like Don Shelby and promoting them on CoffeeandBooks.com. When huge crowds showed up, they knew they'd found a powerful combination.
 
"The success we found with those early tests is very encouraging, and we're ready to go to the next phase," Levine says. That will involve putting a point-of-sale stand in participating coffee shops, with a selection of eight books, including both fiction and non-fiction. Although titles and publishers have yet to be fully finalized, Levine notes that some of the books will come from local favorites like Milkweed Press and the University of Minnesota.
 
He says, "So many publishers are dying to find non-retail places to sell books, and this is a fresh concept, so we expect to see a great deal of interest." Readers will also benefit from incentives like discounts on food and drinks, and a gift card for each book purchased. 
 
Source: Mark Levine, Hillcrest Media Group
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

Advance IT Minnesota unveils new award for young women in technology

Technology group Advance IT Minnesota unveiled a new award that could give some high school girls a major boost in their technology careers.
 
The first annual Minnesota Aspirations for Women in Computing Award will be open to girls in grades 9 through 12, and is tied to a national competition from the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT).
 
Advance IT decided to take on the award because of the shortage of skilled technical workers graduating from college, according to Ann Thureen, a vice president at Unisys Corporation.
 
She says, "Encouraging students at the high school level to see the possibilities of the STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics] field is a great way to get them into the right college tracks to sustain and grow our IT industry in Minnesota. We see more young women going to college than young men. We need to tap into this valuable talent pool and expose them to the opportunities for great paying jobs in IT."
 
Advance IT is administered through the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, and serves as a connection point among employers, educators, and IT professionals. The group's mission is to position Minnesota as one of the top states in the country for IT-related employment.  The award will help to bring the organization closer to that goal, says Russell Fraenkel, Advance IT Minnesota's Director of Collaborative Programs and Outreach.
 
"The Aspirations Award provides an encouraging environment for young women to gain greater awareness of technology career options and sets the stage for them to become more deeply engaged in determining their education and career path," he says.
 
For high school girls who are ready to compete for the award, act fast: the deadline for entries is Nov. 16th, but entries that come in before Oct. 31 will be eligible for the national award as well.
 
Sources: Russell Fraenkel, Advance IT; Ann Thureen, Unisys Corporation
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

Argos Risk empowers SMBs for better financial decisions

Small companies spend a large chunk of time on customer acquisition and supplier management, but it can be tricky to determine if those external contacts will be a boon to business or a drag on the accounting department.
 
Minneapolis-based Argos Risk intends to turn the process into a streamlined, simple strategy that can benefit any company. The firm provides a monthly subscription service that allows enterprises to monitor the ongoing financial health of customers, suppliers, and even competitors.
 
The tactic lets Argos clients manage risk, and also gives them a tool to determine which customers deserve more credit or more sales efforts directed their way. The software-as-service was designed for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in particular, says co-founder Steven Foster, because companies of that size often lack the resources to do extensive risk management.
 
The Argos "stoplight system" gives users a quick indication of potential credit problems, and an alert system kicks in when a customer or supplier starts heading from yellow to red. Foster says, "We've had very good feedback about the system; people really appreciate how helpful it can be when making decisions about their customers or suppliers."
 
Recently, the company introduced another risk-management tool, but this time it's for the SMBs themselves. Argos Risk Defender monitors a company's credit and issues an alert if problems are cropping up. Company president Lori Frank compares it to LifeLock, the identity-theft prevention tool for individuals.
 
"This is an era when identity theft is the fastest growing crime, and businesses aren't immune--far from it," she says. "We're helping to address the problem, and to help companies that may have been compromised."
 
The company is finding strong traction for its products, and expects strong growth in the year ahead, including hiring in some key positions. "We take a field that's complicated and make it easy for our customers," says Frank. "When you do that, you can always find growth."
 
Sources: Steven Foster and Lori Frank, Argos Risk
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

Minnesota Cup announces division finalists

Now it's down to 19.
 
The eighth annual Minnesota Cup continues to draw attention in announcing the division finalists, whittling the top contenders down to just three companies in each category. The contest features high tech, bioscience and health IT, clean tech and renewable energy, general, and student divisions. Four contenders are competing in the social entrepreneur category.
 
Finalists include OrthoCor Medical, which proposed ideas for noninvasive therapeutic devices to alleviate pain, and PreciouStatus, a mobile application that allows care providers to interact with patients' family members throughout the day.
 
Division finalists will deliver an eight-minute presentation to a panel of judges, and winners will be announced on August 29. The grand prize will be awarded on Sept. 6 at an event held at the University of Minnesota.
 
This year's competition has been closely watched, in part because it offers the highest total prizes in the Cup's history. One finalist from each division will receive $25,000 in seed capital ($10,000 in the student division), and runners-up each receive $5,000. The grand prize winner will get an additional $40,000.
 
Cup co-founder Scott Litman believes that the contest serves as a catalyst for innovation in the state. He notes that selecting the top ideas is always a challenge, since the Cup draws impressive applicants every year. Those who've won in the past or have been finalists went on to attract significant investment, he adds: "Our track record shows the level of intelligent and inspiring entrepreneurs in the state is truly remarkable."
 
Source: Scott Litman, Minnesota Cup
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

Online education company Sophia lets teachers "flip" their classrooms

Fast-growing online education firm SOPHIA has been ramping up hiring and reach over the past 16 months, and with a new way to "flip" a classroom, it's likely to expand even more in the year ahead.
 
The Flipped Classroom Certificate was introduced in April, and since then, nearly 100 teachers have earned the designation, with another 500 in the process. The professional development certificate involves a relatively new teaching method that reverses or "flips" the traditional homework model.
 
In a flipped classroom, students view multimedia tutorials as homework, then use class time to complete assignments. This gives teachers the ability to provide one-on-one assistance, and to explore a concept more fully if it seems that students are struggling or particularly curious about an aspect of the subject.
 
Since students are online so much of the day, the model allows teachers to capture students' time more effectively.
 
Beyond the certificate, the company provides free teaching and learning tools in a variety of subjects, including math, science, English, humanities, fine arts, and languages. Founder Don Smithmier notes that bringing SOPHIA to the whole world was a goal from the start, and one that the company reached quickly. In just its first two days, SOPHIA saw people logging in for the tools from nearly 70 countries.
 
"We're working in a new category of education, which we call social education," says Smithmier. "It's at the leading edge of learning effectiveness, so there's no path to follow where someone else has led. That can be daunting, to be the first one to forge the path, but it can be exciting, too."
 
Source: Don Smithmier, SOPHIA
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

Software firm KeyedIn Solutions boosts growth through global expansion

Started in late 2011, Minneapolis-based KeyedIn Solutions has been on the fast track ever since.
 
The company provides software-as-a-service (SaaS) and consulting for small to midsize businesses, specializing in areas like enterprise resource planning and project management. The past year has been a whirlwind of acquisition and hiring and CEO Lauri Klaus notes that they see more opportunity ahead.
 
"We're working to establish ourselves in the marketplace, and we're aggressive in reaching that goal," she says. "We've made more progress in a shorter amount of time than I would have anticipated, and that's exciting. We're looking toward long-term growth, definitely."
 
To keep up the momentum, KeyedIn is thinking globally. Recently, the company announced that it would be opening a new office in Monterrey, Mexico, and it is likely to expand in South Africa within the next year. Already, the firm has a presence in nine U.S. cities as well as the United Kingdom and Australia.
 
The Mexico office will be led by Christian Orellana, a software industry veteran with experience in channel and project management, Klaus notes. He'll be responsible for all channel sales in the region as well as strategic partnerships, and Klaus believes that growth in the country will be rapid as a result.
 
"Technically, I think we're still considered a startup, but we don't feel like that," she says. "With this expansion and other global opportunities, we feel like we're really finding our place and creating new opportunities as we go."
 
Source: Lauri Klaus, KeyedIn Solutions
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

Minneapolis launches smartphone app for city services

Want to report a particularly nasty pothole, or let the city know about a traffic light issue? Now there's an app for that.
 
The City of Minneapolis recently launched the new Minneapolis 311 smartphone app, which allows users to report service requests, including complaints about road wear, signal problems, and graffiti.
 
The app uses GPS technology to pinpoint the location of the problem, and sends that information to the appropriate city department.
 
Minneapolis 311 originated in August 2004 as part of the Minneapolis One Call Project; the number (311 in the city, 612-673-3000 from outside) is staffed between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. According to the program director Don Stickney, about 70 percent of all calls are for information, and the remaining calls are for transfers or requests for service. Stickney notes most of the highest-used service requests can be processed online, which makes the new mobile app a strong addition to the program.
 
"The City answers between 1,000 to 2,400 calls per day on average," says Stickney. "Not only does the new Minneapolis 311 Mobile App give Minneapolis citizens a convenient and efficient way to report issues, the Open311 integration enables the City to automatically and seamlessly respond to those issues outside of traditional contact center business hours."
 
Another advantage for residents is the ability to check in on requests that have already been submitted. The app also generates an email when the request has been completed by the relevant agency.
 
The app was built by Connecticut-based SeeClickFix, a software developer specializing in these type of apps for government and community group clients.  
 
Free to download, the app is available for iPhone and Android, and those with Blackberry or Windows phones can submit reports to 311 through SeeClickFix.com.
 
Source: Don Stickney, City of Minneapolis
Writer: Elizabeth Millard
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