DigitalFlash Radar 024

In Defense of Crowdfunding 

Crowdfunding is fully saturated; amidst the fray, a few gems emerge. Think contributions to technology that will shape our future lives, as opposed to obligatory donation to your best friend’s animated vlog memoir.

The life-shaping occurs only if the product makes it from idea to the development stage, which is a far more difficult task than getting backers excited about your product. 

Apparently, raising $2.4 million through Kickstarter and $93.4 million through VC funding is not always enough, as we saw with Facebook’s purchase of Oculus last week. Nate Mitchell told VentureBeat in an interview last week: “The partnership will let us bring all those impossible ideas we want to try into the product.”


Backers are frustrated; but supporting a Kickstarter in no way entitles a contributor to equity in a company. Initial contributors are worried the original aim of the product will change with the influence of Facebook—moving away from gaming and more towards a communication platform. The only people who are reaping tangible benefits are the early stage VC backers, who contributed within a year of when Oculus earned funding. 

This week, we are looking at what happens after the donation thermometer reaches 100%, and founders get to work. We talk with a crowdfunded product, Birdi and a company that helps crowdfunded products become realities. 

Breathe Easy


Birdi is a smart device startup whose crowdfunding campaign introduced the world’s first smart air monitor, which is so much more than a smoke detector. It tracks for emergencies, like fire and elevated carbon monoxide levels, as well as air quality, and provides recommendations to improve individual and neighborhood health and safety.

We chatted with Mark Belinsky (CEO and co-founder) and Jess Seilheimer (Strategy & Marketing). 

1. Why did you choose to crowdfund versus going a different funding route?   
Mark: Indiegogo was an obvious choice for us. They have opened the door for companies like ours to improve the stale technologies that we’ve all gotten used to. The Indiegogo platform is unique in that it gave hardware startups like Birdi dedicated help, working with the community to bring a product to market that’s driven by real peoples’ needs and perspectives. 


Marketing a crowdfunded company is an entirely different animal, you are selling consumers on an experience, not just a product. The most successful campaigns allow backers to feel like they are banding together towards a common goal, in the case of Birdi: cleaner air.  

2. What advice do you have for companies who are crowdfunding?
Jess: Crowdfunding requires a specific type of marketing approach, unlike any other type of marketing I’ve been a part of. You don’t sell a product—you’re selling a new experience that didn’t exist—in Birdi’s case it was to have a healthier, and connected smarter home. That is an experience—not a product, and that came through in all of our communications.   

A few tips from Jess:
  • Paid/SEM won’t work as Google doesn’t allow you to drive to a site that solicits funds. 
  • Tap into the amazing teams that work at the crowdfunding platforms
  • Create an amazing video
  • Budget for social media—it’s not free!
3. So you’ve raised funds—now what? What’s next for Birdi?
JessIt’s Birdi’s goal to push the dial on cleaner air with tangible, actionable information. Birdi is partnering with The San Francisco Mayor’s office and we’re part of their Entrepreneur in Residence Program, working with the San Francisco Department of Public Health on air quality and health issues. At the same time, Birdi is finalizing a commercial manufacturing partner and plans to deliver units in October 2014. We’re also taking pre-orders on and Grand St., a creative technology marketplace.

If We Build It… 

So many products are going with crowdfunding that, in late 2013, the only crowdfunding platform specifically aimed at hardware development, Dragon Innovation, was born. So far they have an impressive roster of clients from Pebble watches to Makerbot.

We had Scott Miller (CEO and co-founder) drop some intel for burgeoning companies looking to get their ideas funded.


1. What contributes to successful crowdfunding campaigns? 
Preparation! Crowdfunding hardware products is like using a power tool: in the hands of a well trained expert, it can accomplish amazing things (product market fit, raise capital, create engaged community, generate investor interest, etc).  However, if the entrepreneur is not well prepared, especially on the manufacturing side, after the campaign, like a power tool that is misused, it can create significant damage. One of the ways we’re trying to combat this is through our Dragon Certified Program. We believe that if a company has been Dragon Certified, they are far more likely to fulfill on their crowdfunding campaign, but more importantly, lay the foundation for building a successful company. 

2. Since you help companies post-crowdfunding, what are a few common pitfalls that arise from campaign to product ship date? 

Certainly what we call the “unknown unknowns.” When setting their funding thresholds, entrepreneurs tend to not include all costs required to manufacture their product, such as tooling, compliance, labor, factory profit and end up raising insufficient money required to deliver. 

Another common roadblock is not planning every step of the schedule ahead of time. For instance, some components (i.e. processors) may have a twelve week lead time for ordering, the injection mold tooling often takes eight weeks to build. These are key things to know ahead of time, prior to establishing a delivery date.

3. Do you think companies owe a certain level of transparency to their backers?
Absolutely!  This transparency is essential to keep crowdfunding from destroying the Hardware Revolution.

Crowdfunding for Good

Our friends at KITE took a look into the new breed of crowdfunding platforms; one of their highlights was Watsi, a company focused on collaborative healthcare.

The Watsi platform lets anyone donate money towards funding low-cost medical treatment for patients in need from rural areas or developing nations.  

The Watsi platform features an international network of trusted medical partners that sources and recommends patients. To ensure that each patient receives full funding and treatment, Watsi doesn’t limit funding periods and adds new patients based on the fluctuating amount of donations coming in.  

Watsi currently runs on monetary gifts from corporations, private donors, and foundations, and unlike other crowdfunding sites, 100% of every donation made goes directly to the patient in need.   

After the patients receive their donations and treatment, Watsi provides each donor an update on the progress of the patient’s recovery and improved quality of life.

To learn more about KITE, visit

Oculus photo from Hash Slush, Birdi features photo Grand St., Birdi app photo from Tech Times, Steve Miller photo from Dragon 

DigitalFlash Radar 023


DigitalFlash packed our bags and became citizens of Austin for the duration of that little festival that you aren’t sick of hearing about yet. Over the years at SXSW, we’ve hosted parties in a power plant, built spaces from scratch in parking lots, but this year we produced our biggest activation yet. Our list of events included: the Samsung Blogger Lounge with Grind, a party for Techset and SMAC’s Annual Panel and Brunch.

It its fourth year since inception, and our third year working on the project; the Lounge was a scaled-up version of its old self—we were outside of the convention center for the first time and stationed in the Vince Young Steakhouse. We, with the help of contractors, transformed the dark brown walled and wood paneled restaurant into a bright white co-working space. 

The Interactive Community

We sought to create a community among SXSW attendees, with the help of a collaboration with Grind, where we’ve worked out of in NYC since 2011, and office furniture by Turnstone. When guests arrived, they registered via a paperless, custom built check-in system, which displayed guests profiles on screens throughout the space.

Once in the lounge, people could cozy up in nooks and hop on super fast WIFI, using the full suite of Samsung products; including Galaxy tablets, Shape speakers and a Giga sound system, which pumped music from Samsung’s new MILK music player.

Teeny Boppers and Techies Unite

What’s Trending had centerstage and hosted a steady stream of talent from the Hollywood and tech worlds. Zac Efron (the girls lined up outside, thankfully we were 21+) to Neil DeGrasse Tyson chatted with Shira Lazar, while loungers could work and periodically tune in to exclusive content. Shaq was in the house during an Indiegogo panel talking about his Indiegogo campaign. Rosario Dawson and Diego Luna discussed their new movie, Cesar Chavez and Wayne Brady made an appearance. 

Aside from on camera appearances, the lounge entertained influencers from CMOs to entrepreneurs. 

We are happy to report that throughout the four days of Interactive, over 10,000 guests made their way through the space, enjoying Zing Zang Bloody Marys, Marley Coffee, Austin’s trademark breakfast tacos, on premise-smoked BBQ for lunch and snacks byKIND. At happy hour, while waiting in line for eats, guests were handed WhistlePig Whiskey shots—the perfect hunger distraction.

Thank you to Vince Young Steakhouse for all of your help throughout the process and thank you to everyone else who supported us along the way! 

Next time you’re in Austin, be sure to visit Vince Young, now back in its original steakhouse glory. 

-Team DF
Gideon, Sara, Laura, Elana and Rob 

Photo by The Bosco

SX Standouts 

Our friends at KITE were also in Austin, exploring startups demo-ing at SXSW. 

Here, they choose two of their favorites: 


The Internet of Things (IoT) was well represented, more specifically, the
Connected Home. One popular startup from the SXSW Accelerator ProgramCubeSensors, created a stylish little sensor that monitors the overall health of your home. Their sleek Cubes monitor air quality, lighting levels, temperature, vibrations and noise in the home. These sensors tether to a mobile app—making it easy to track pollutant levels, and make in-home adjustments to improve your health, comfort and quality of life.   


Another sector where we are seeing huge growth this year is Education Tech. One standout, MentorMob, is building an online learning platform that uses the crowdsourced knowledge to create step-by-step guidebooks. MentorMob one-ups a typical Google search or online course, by offering carefully curated, self-guided how-tos, tackling skills, like playing guitar or building a birdhouse, and other popular subjects. Each multimedia guidebook features the web’s best articles, videos, photos and slideshows collected and placed in order of quality by a vetted crowd of experts that sign up through the platform.

To learn more about KITE, visit

DigitalFlash Radar 022


SMW Panel Recap: Tech Untangled

The ever-increasing pace of social may make it seem like content is ephemeral, with this comes a naïveté in navigating today’s marketing landscape. 

Our Social Media Week panel explored how companies can move forward on their business objectives, and go beyond simply covering their tracks to allow for innovation and killer creative to take the spotlight. 

Panelists hailed from a range of backgrounds (from L to R):

Vejay Lalla, Partner at Davis & Gilbert LLP
Tom Chernaik, Co-Founder of Cm.ply
Tarah Feinberg, CMO of KITE
Marty Glovin, CPO of Marden-Kane Inc.


The amount of data brands collect today is insane; every time consumers engage with a marketing campaign, they sometimes unknowingly provide valuable information about their behavior. For transparencies sake, our panelists emphasized how companies need to be up front with their customers regarding the information they plan on gathering and, in turn, communicate those plans in an easily digestible fashion. 

Read on for a summary of highlights.

Acceleration is Key

By running an accelerator program, or using a company like Feinberg’s KITE, companies have their hand in emerging tech—they are tapped into all that is up-and-coming. These streams of connectivity allow brands to establish partnerships with startups at the beginning stages. Feinberg gave the example of Unilever and their early involvement with the recipe site, Yummly. Since Unilever contributed to Yummly’s first round of funding, they then had the ability to plan a multiyear strategic roadmap incorporating the new technology. Now we see that materialized as Hellman’s-branded recipes, and it’s all done in a very transparent fashion—a win for native advertising.

Riskless Business

The best way, according to our panel, to avoid facing regulatory scrutiny is to “mitigate risk,” which is sage advice, but what does that mean in practice? In order to mitigate risk, brands and agencies should plan in advance whenever possible. Lalla explained that getting lawyers involved, as early as the storyboarding stage, ensures the necessary communication is put in place so consumers understand what they are opting into.

"Kim Kardashian receives about $10,000 a tweet," explained Lalla, brands should tread carefully and fully flesh out the implications before pressing retweet. That theme of taking a second to step back came up repeatedly, as Glovin explained how he often has to steer brands away from the newest shiny object: "Maybe doing a Snapchat contest isn’t the best idea." 

Another way to mitigate risk is having effective systems set in place within your organization, enabling Oreo-type moments. Chernaik mused that the real lesson behind the now famous Oreo moment was the fact that executing The Daily Twist program every day, established the necessary approval streams for nearly a year before the Super Bowl. 

Compliance Made Simple

KITE is helping to untangle tech, and have created a mobile app that makes it easier to discover, evaluate, and engage with emerging technologies, platforms, and media.

This week, they took a look at the social compliance companies helping regulated industries engage meaningfully with consumers while upholding industry consumer/patient confidentiality standards. 


One highlight was Gremln: a social media management startup with a robust compliance toolbox that includes one-click content filtering, quick cross-departmental approval functionality, and an easy-to-use archiving tool. 

All of these tools are accessible through a dashboard that displays customized compliance options based on the user’s position level and department. The filtering tool lets businesses specify restricted keywords and phrases to ensure that every post, no matter who created it, meets SEC, FFIEC, FINRA, or HIPAA regulations and remains on message.

The archive keeps watch over every social post from the last ten years, turning social content into a flexible, searchable data set revealing actionable audience insights and save valuable time during audits.  

To learn more about KITE, visit

DigitalFlash Radar 021


The Influencers Are Coming

Last week, we’re sure you saw Lithium’s acquisition of Klout popping up on your various news feeds. Klout started the trend of measuring a person’s influence on their social graph and was originally founded to track users’ social influence. The jury is still out on the utility of Klout’s data to marketers, but that got us thinking about the next generation of influencer marketing tools.

Getting your product or brand in the hands of the right people is one of the necessary ways to play today’s content marketing game. Although, a numerical score assigned to an online persona is just the start to selecting the right influencers; brands must also understand the nuance of why someone is influential and what that influence can do for the brand.  

Couture Credentials

An area where influence is easily trackable is fashion—consumers consistently look towards certain stylish folk for the next product to purchase or an up-and-coming brand to explore. The number of fashion bloggers on the internet is overwhelming.  So how can brands take advantage of the vast network of fashion influencers out there? How can brands tell which bloggers have the strongest following and are actually influential?

That’s where Fohr Card comes in; founded in 2013 by James Nord, Holly Stair and Rich Tong, the platform allows bloggers to aggregate their digital presence. Brands subscribe in order to gain access to the network of indexed bloggers’ social stats, including typically private Google Analytics and Tumblr data.  To ease the process, brands can reach out to negotiate directly with bloggers.

Find Your Niche

Rob Fishman, previously social media editor at The Huffington Post, co-founded Niche with Darren Lachtman. Niche connects brands with social influencers, and received an additional round of funding back in November.


We chatted with Fishman about how his startup is changing the way brands engage with influencers.

What hole do you see Niche filling in the digital marketing space?

Eyeballs are moving rapidly from anything traditional (television, print, broadcast) to mobile applications like Vine, Instagram and Snapchat. On these emerging platforms, the “publishers” aren’t magazines, channels or networks: they’re individuals. Whether that’s an Instagram photographer, a Vine personality, a Tumblr blogger or YouTube vlogger, it’s individual creators who set the agenda on new media. Niche’s mission is to pull together these disparate populations into one, knowable network. For digital marketers especially, adding definition to this vast and variable space is critical for reaching new audiences.


How can Niche benefit both brands and individuals?

Both parties come to Niche for a mix of software and services. We offer a unified profile of all your social accounts, cross-platform analytics and tools to better collaborate and engage. Individuals in our network benefit from this suite of software, and also from a consistent stream of job offerings from brands like the NFL, American Eagle, Blue Apron, Lyft and Universal Studios. Brands on the other hand, take advantage of our technology, while leaning on our services side, to activate compelling campaigns across rising social channels.

How does Niche build campaigns for brands using your network of influencers?

We’re very hands-on with our clients. We work closely with brands to select the appropriate influencers from our roster of thousands. Then we clearly define goals, so that the “KPI” isn’t a few people posting on your behalf, but a structured and measured metric. As campaigns run, we’re in touch daily with both our creators and our brand partners, ensuring a smooth activation on both sides of the equation.

Do you think there’s a ceiling to the impact influencers have on consumers?

More and more, consumers are affiliating with creative influencers, trusting their recommendations, following their adventures and innovations, and engaging with their content. For young people especially, endemic influencers are relatable, engaging and entertaining—in some ways, a more desirable alternative to the more produced and polished content of old. If the ceiling is the reach of new mobile apps, then the sky is truly the limit.

Startups to Watch by KITE

Our friends over at KITE have created a mobile app that makes it easier to discover, evaluate, and engage with emerging technologies, platforms, and media.


This week they’ve found an influencer marketing and community-building startup, Backplane, which cut its teeth on Lady Gaga and her fan base ofLittle Monsters.    

Backplane allows engaged users with collective interests to gather and interact around a subject or person they’re passionate about. Fans can create content, post it, like one another’s work and socialize with community members. In the case of Lady Gaga, Backplane created a members-only community, where fans are free to express themselves through music, art and videos.  

The Backplane platform can be leveraged by celebrities looking to engage with fans and build their digital brand, as in the case of Gaga. However, its functionality easily lends itself to any company or organization looking to build thoughtful digital communities around ideas, affinities and movements they care about.    

To learn more about KITE, visit

DigitalFlash Radar 020


On January 29th, we gathered with a common goal: learn how Mondelēz approaches mobile. 

Naturally, beverages and snacks were involved.


Our esteemed panelists, Bonin Bough, VP of Global Media and Consumer Engagement and Laura Henderson, US Media & Communications at Mondelēz, kicked back in Chelsea’s intimate, Drift Studios to riff on how mobile plays a part in their marketing plans. Mondelēz’s “just go, don’t wait” philosophy has landed their products in industry-leading positions. 

For starters, Mondelēz selects digital, creative agencies, and partners who think mobile first—it’s working. 


The staggering results of Oreo’s “Twist, Lick and Dunk" game, all from strictly organic growth, speak for themselves. Created in partnership with PikPok and Carnival, the game earned:

  • 4 million downloads
  • #1 app in 12 countries 
  • 2.2 billion Oreos dunked to date 

Mondelēz is now advertising within the app; proving that thinking mobile is double-stuffed (Sorry, we couldn’t help it.).

From Couch to Store 

The traditional media funnel asks a lot of the consumer and leaves tremendous responsibility in the hands of the retailer-after viewing a TV commercial, the consumer has to 1) enter the store, 2) remember the ad, and 3) purchase the product. Leaving the brand to wonder, what’s really happening at the point of conversion?

Today’s path-to-purchase is no longer a linear funnel; mobile allows brands to be right there with the consumer every step of the way.  

When the consumer finally does get off the couch and enters the store, packaging and displays must be a living and breathing extension of the brand. Brands should view packaging as a piece of paid and owned media. 

Laura asked an important question, “What if media was actually a mechanism for conversion?” Since media is now in our pocket at all times, brands have the unique opportunity to shape the in-store conversation, at the moment of conversion.


Immeasurable Mobile

Mobile is no longer releasing a $5K video with hopes of virality; brands are putting serious media dollars behind their mobile campaigns. Now, there’s only one problem: how to measure results?

Unfortunately, leading measurement companies don’t account for mobile viewers, and with the sheer amount of content consumed on mobile, we are missing out on serious insights. Bonin added social is a useful tracker when measuring certain media.  

Technology entrepreneur friends; we’re looking at you to create a new way of tracking mobile impressions. 

"Listening to Laura is like listening to a great rap album." -Bonin

So now, a few excerpts from @TheLauraHendo's Spring 2014 forthcoming EP.

  • "The walls between media and commerce are about to collapse."
  • "We made our marketers makers."
  • "Mobile is not a channel, it’s the connective tissue spanning the experience."
  • "The purchase funnel has exploded, but mobile is the one thing in your pocket all the time."
  • "People are seduced by mobile."


A Beacon of Loyalty

Our friends over at KITE have created a mobile app that makes it easier to discover, evaluate, and engage with emerging technologies, platforms, and media.


We may have found a solution to ease the transition between couch and store, with Swirl, a retail analytics/loyalty startup that’s changing the way retailers understand and interact with their customers. They have created a software/hardware solution that offers brand retailers the tools they need to grow a healthy and loyal customer base.   

Swirl has developed a slick retail beacon that collects and tracks customer smartphone data and pushes relevant ads and offers right to their phone while they’re in-store.

The beacon gathers actionable data from every part of the retail sales funnel that, until recently, was not easily measured. It tracks when you enter the store, what displays you’re looking at, what offers you’re redeeming and what items you’re purchasing.

Their complimentary loyalty software lets retailers leverage in-store data to incentivize customers. Retailers can use this software to manipulate data, design exclusive offers and automatically push them to specific customers sets.   

Swirl is one of the many mobile retail companies featured on KITE. If you’re interested in exploring other mobile retail and loyalty startups, the KITE app has a large selection of pilot offers. 

To learn more about KITE, visit

Crowd and panel photos by Caroline Sinno, Snacks photo by Hannah Nickerson