Author Archives: marksilva

Seven Lessons from a 2-Year Old Startup

Been a minute since my last post. For the past couple of years I’ve been heads-down building KITE from pre-seed to viable business. Today is our second-anniversarytwo from incorporating, so I thought it might be helpful to share some learnings for fellow entrepreneurs and those pursuing innovation in their businesses. Continue reading

Impressions from TechCrunch SF Hackathon Part 2

TechCrunch hosted a hackathon before the 2012 TechCrunch Disrupt in SF this weekend.  Part one of this post deals with Hackathon logistics and presentations; Part 2 will be some quick thoughts on some of the ideas presented. Here are some of the overall impressions followed by tweet-length reactions to the 60-second presentations. You can see all the demos here and the top winners with videos and pics are available here. Continue reading

Impressions from TechCrunch SF 2012 Hackathon Part 1

TechCrunch hosted a hackathon before the 2012 TechCrunch Disrupt in SF this weekend. Wanted to push out some quick impressions for both the companies that demo at Hackathons as those looking to host/participate in future hacks. Part one of this post deals with Hackathon logistics and presentations; Part 2 will be some quick thoughts on some of the ideas presented.

Some basic rules/tactics to cover off at a minimum:

  • If you have 60-seconds on stage do ALL the boring stuff before you get on stage—that means set up monitor for mirroring. Clear cache, have everything demo-ready
  • Limit to 2-people per hack to minimize congestion; and really for 60-seconds you should only have one presenter unless you’ve got a role for each of the other folks on stage
  • Make an impression–Display stickers so #is visible in video/pics w/Name for judging b/c sometimes names get confused, presentations jump out of order & stuff happens
  • Make a lasting impression–don’t hack until you get on stage; leave at least an hour to run through and refine your main talking points, places for humor or impact and repetition of your name/solution/problem you’re solving
  • Demo your app first 
  • List apis/technologies used quickly at the beginning or in the end w/credits to thank the amazing resources that helped you get there, but don’t sell them as a differentiator or key feature. It shouldn’t be last thing people hear/remember, but please give credit where credit’s due; plus you’re more likely to win API-specific prizes if you give the shout-out
  • Have your presentation flow tightly choreographed between screens, server-calls, etc. Know which ones take longest and which will cut out if WiFi isn’t working (which is likely b/c everyone’s on it or blocking good signals w/their mifi networks). Consider cut/paste options and other shortcuts if involved input is required.


  • Don’t trust the tech–we’re still in a “can you hear me now” world even at the best-prepared/run events
  • Don’t get lost in the features and forget to share the idea (tough b/c you’ve just spent 24 sleepless hours in feature analysis/focus land)
  • If fast pitching, consider having 2-3 podiums vs 1 table. Understand it means you need more Elmos, etc. to make that work. Would allow pitch bug delays to be minimized and feature the work
  • Focus on pitch, not on the screen—distractions lead to disjointed delivery
  • It’s a marathon & you win by getting it past the finish line–many of the presenters acted like just being on stage was the finish line; it’s not. You need to close FTW
  • Keep going until they kick you off
  • Sponsor apps get more time to present/fail
  • Native language presenters aren’t necessarily the best presenters—go with the most entertaining b/c even if the demo sucks they’ll still remember you—but if you can have both, it’s better b/c you’re usually trying to convey some complex thoughts into a simple story
  • If you’re on a team, don’t lean over and tell the presenter they only have 20-seconds left—distracting & it’s conf organizer’s job to manage anyway—like a coach; your job is done when they go on the field.

And, if you’d like to see a well-run Hackathon recap, enjoy the Big Brand Hackathon we hosted earlier this year with Kraft Foods and The Home Depot:

SocialTV and Emerging Platforms Overview

SocialTV-the return of the family room?I was invited to speak to Hollywood marketing executives on June 26, 2012 at the iMedia Entertainment Summit by Brad Berens and Nancy Galanty of DMG Events. The initial request was for an overview of up and coming along with more established companies in the SocialTV space. I’m far more interested in emerging platforms than the individual companies, although I admire and enjoy the entrepreneurship, vision and camaraderie of their leaders. As an angel investor or strategic partner I might invest capital or resources in the individual company, but in my agency role I’m infinitely more interested in the convergence of technologies and consumer trends that launch new behaviors and platforms into popular culture. As a result, I framed the presentation this way:

  • Overview/Intro/Definition
  • Underlying influences and market dynamics that make SocialTV compelling
  • Proposed a spectrum of engagement models for nascent, volatile and emerging platforms like SocialTV
Some key take aways:
  • SocialTV may become the new normal for consuming video versus a discrete space–the term “SocialTV” may go away
  • Almost 90% Tablet & Smartphone Owners Use Devices While Watching TVAccording to Nielsen’s Q1 2012 report almost 90% of Smartphone and Tablet owners use their devices while watching TV; about 40% do so daily and over 60% do so several times a week. Conclusion: you can’t talk about SocialTV without the context of mobile which is where the greatest innovation will happen outside of the box
  • SocialTV is currently comprised of content discovery and companion apps–think a better remote control or check-in and chatter–as well as analytics applied around TV content
  • There are dozens if not hundreds of companies chipping away at pieces of this space but only a few are top-of-mind brands–Miso, Get Glue, IntoNow, Viggle, TrendRR, Bluefin and a few network offerings were like USA Chatter and HBOGo–mentioned at the conference of Hollywood insiders and Execs
  • There’s a lot of interest in this space as it represents massive potential shifts in consumer and advertising revenues for Hollywood, marketers, SocialMedia companies along with emerging players able to capitalize on the expanding ecosystem
  • For consumers, the opportunity to engage with families, friends and networks may unlock the social aspects of SocialTV and usher in the return from our Entertainment or TV room to the Family Room
Below is the slideware prepared for the presentation, followed by the video which has much more nuance and information with some reference links to close this post:

Slides with voiceover:

Curated links in preparation for the presentation:

Special thanks to Nielsen along with Adam Broitman, Adam Burg, Mark Ghuneim, Jeff Minsky and Lori Schwartz for their input and advice informing the presentation.

Big Brand Panel for Social-Loco Conference

I had the honor of moderating the Big Brand Panel at Social-Loco Conference in San Francisco June 18, 2012 featuring: Michael Hammer, Director of Venture Capital Strategy for PepsiCo; Jon Paluga, Vice President Marketing for Armored AutoGroup; Fred Neil, Vice President of CRM for The Home Depot. The panel covered a range of topics from: SoLoMo and regional brand engagements that sit under big brand programs; Big Brand Hackathons; Acquisitions for big brands of tech companies and more. Transcript via follows the video:

Continue reading

Ron Conway, Another Reason Why The Valley Rocks

I love discovering these moments in time preserved on YouTube: here’s All Things D‘s Kara Swisher interviewing legendary Valley Angel, Ron Conway in 2008. At that time Facebook had a whopping 22 million users–about the number of people they acquire each quarter now by conservative estimates.

Kara: What’s hot?

Ron: Social Networking.

Kara: Not just a hyped trend?

Ron: Absolutely not.

Ron’s been right about a lot of things, including his steadfast belief in the value and wealth creation of the internet, in entrepreneurs and the intersection of Tech, Popular Culture and media. Here’s a great article about Ron in Fortune Magazine where Twitter’s Biz Stone coins the term “Rontourage” for the circle of influential people following him on valley tours.

I remember a different kind of Rontourage when I was young. As an altar boy in 7th & 8th grade at Nativity Church in Menlo Park, I recall services where Ron and his dozen brothers, sisters and other family members spilled out of the last row. Ron and a few of his brothers would stand behind a full Conway pew, hand on their mother’s shoulder. It was clear the importance family, community and faith held for each of them.

If I sound like a fan, I’m being clear. I’ve know entrepreneurs that will attest to the spirit of the Fortune article and are fans as well. Ron’s an example of what makes the Valley great. He’s another reason why no where else has replicated the success of the Valley in infrastructure, performance and value creation.

Inspired by Steve Jobs

Everyone who had the good fortune to work at or around Apple has a “Steve Jobs Story.” After Steve resigned as Apple’s CEO on Wednesday, August 24, 2011 there was a flood of “Steve Jobs Stories.” Some really good ones; I encourage you to search and find them. At that time I wondered if his eulogy was already written in those days following his resignation.

His eulogy hadn’t been written–that reaction to his resignation was the tip of the iceberg. Even more stories with an outpouring of support, grief, love and admiration poured out online and in the mainstream news as we all learned of Steve passing on Wednesday, October 5th. Personally, I got choked up explaining to my children what he meant to me personally and to us as region, country and world. More than anything, he is and will probably always be the closest human representation of what I preach to them daily: The Power of an Idea. Carl Jung liked to quote the Chinese Master saying “a man thinking rightly alone in a room can be heard thousands of miles away.” Steve Jobs made those thoughts reality to our greater benefit.

Here’s one “Steve Jobs Story” I’ve paraphrased and likely mangled in translation that came to me from a friend. I found it inspiring and a little insightful:

My friend was going to present internal communications programs to Steve Jobs—you know, the kind of stuff you see by the elevators and in the cafeteria for large corporate campuses. He previously had success with an employee referral program that was well received, captured the culture and delivered the message. And, of course, it was beautiful. The VP, concerned they needed to convey scope in their preparation and thinking, asked for 10 different campaigns in addition to the one in place. You know the drill: panic, long-hours, ideation, preparation. Then the big day. As nearly a dozen full-designed campaigns circled the room, Steve Jobs entered the room in classic black mock tee and jeans with blown-out knees. He had a friend in tow. Without missing a beat with a dismissive sweeping arm gesture Jobs declared:


He then sat down, carried on a conversation for nearly 30-minutes with his friend about what made great culture and internal communications. At some point, Jobs mentioned something that caught his eye from past work. My friend pointed to his original campaign and Jobs nodded his approval, stood and exited the room.

What was “uninspired?” The work or the presentation format? Or too much of the same—you know how some ideas are too thin or simply deserve to die? Or a lack of conviction to narrow the selection and lead with a strong perspective? Your guess is as good as anyone’s–pls add to comments below.

So here’s to inspired work. To inspiring others. To changing the way people think when they see and interact with your work. To thinking different. To the confidence to live it. To joining in bringing a culture that inspires. Be Great.

Or as Steve quoted from Whole Earth Catalog in his now-famous Stanford commencement speech:  “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.”


Funky & Amazing Food Service Bot

Yesterday’s BrandSquare newsletter featured this amazing innovation in food preparation, packaging and serving that was originally covered in FastCompany:

No idea what the technology costs at scale, but you can see this radicalizing foodservice and small-batch food manufacturing. For more cool hunting around brands, packaging, design and marketing, subscribe to BrandSquare and follow BrandSquare on Twitter.

Is Social Gaming the Future of Employee and Customer Engagement?

According to a May 2011 study by IPSOS conducted for Saatchi & Saatchi, gamification may have an important role in transforming consumer behaviors into new brand loyalty and employee communications, incentive programs and training. Some of the top-line findings:

  1. Ban it or exploit it?
  2. 50% say they play social games at work–guys more than gals 53%/39%–and Tablet owners more than smartphone owners (68%-54%).

  3. Are you as engaging as a game? 57% play social games to pass time when bored–implication, make the workplace and communications more engaging
  4. Give a break or take a break? 39-40% game when alone or in need of a “mindless” break respectively
  5. What motivates: “Discounts” are most compelling incentives for winning a challenge followed by “Social Action” and “Points toward Loyalty Program.” 25% said “Status in Community” was a compelling incentive.–wonder if that would change if bonus compensation and advancement were tied to it?
  6. Express your inner goodness to win: 18-24 year olds most likely to take a salary reduction to work for a socially responsible company.

Here’s the study:


Weekly Round-Up 6/13/2011

Most of the attention was about WWDC and Apple’s announcements although we should probably mention something about Groupon’s IPO Announcment:

And now a little bit about Groupon IPO plans to raise $750mm. Some highlights from filing:

  • 7,000 employees and 83 million subscribers in 43 countries
  • $714 mm in revenue up from $30mm the year before
  • With claims of a frothy valuation, not surprising to see All Things D report on the Groupon reporting “Smack-down” following the IPO announcement
Closing with a fun little conceptual hack worthy of a big Apple announcement week. This “invisible phone” uses hand gestures and a depth-aware camera to interface with your smartphone–essentially allowing it to sit in your pocket or purse.