GreenRubino’s “Brandidextrous” Promise

GreenRubino is an integrated marketing and communications firm—offering a comprehensive range of in-house services. In case you’re wondering about the term, “brandidextrous,” let’s be clear that I am not savvy enough to have made it up for my humble blog entry. It comes from the About GreenRubino page on the firm’s website. If you’re a brand-essence minimalist, you should be brandtoxicated by the thought of capturing it in one word.

I talked to the firm’s president, John Rubino, to ask what makes them special. John explained, they’re the only firm around that is actually delivering on the integrated marketing promise with all competencies in-house. Over a decade ago, they made a deliberate move to become more integrated, and they have been organically growing the practice since then. John noted that it’s important to stay aware of what’s going on in the marketing industry and understand the landscape. Change is constant, and they are continuously adapting to deliver a comprehensive range of solutions to clients. When new channels and tools begin to show promise, in terms of added value for clients, they will look for opportunities to incorporate them into the business.

How does the marketer do marketing? GreenRubino has a solid reputation, which is one factor that drives new business. They actively use several channels to get the word out including social, print ads, sponsorships, and of course their website. Like many leading edge businesses, they’re striving to produce rich content that can be discovered. When talking about channels, John highlighted the Puget Sound Business Journal, noting that it has been a great resource for reaching business decision-makers. GreenRubino holds positions on a few categories in the PSBJ Book of Lists.

When I asked who is GreenRubino’s ideal client, John said they don’t try to focus on specific industries or segments, which he noted is a little unusual. Instead they look for a certain type of client who wants a partnership and wants to be challenged, rather than calling all of the shots. More fundamentally, the right client is someone who connects with GreenRubino’s work. Now I see a new angle on what it means when they say, “the work works.” An honest, authentic connection to the client is like a conduit for the brand message—at least that’s my take on it. I’m a believer: followers + 1.


Rice and Beans: An Interview with Brent Frei of Smartsheet

When asked what his “old-age” trait, the trait that exists in you that will intensify with age, will be, Brent Frei responds, “Efficiency.” Aside from his intimidating stature and preceding highly accomplished reputation, Brent is a humble man who is strikingly determined. It is apparent that efficiency is core to who he is and efficiency is the core idea behind his company Smartsheet.

While with his previous company, Onyx, Brent realized a problem with operational oversight. The observed problem extended beyond his company. Products popped up like weeds yearly to help with project management and oversight, yet nothing appeared to stick. According to Brent, many adopted tracking programs stating they were “trying such and such” but all continually returned to the use of spreadsheets. “Spreadsheets are immediately available, they’re perceptually free, they’re perfectly flexible, they don’t force me (the user) into a process and they are easily shared and changed.” Brent realized the limitations with spreadsheets. Spreadsheets are not automated. Reminders to complete tasks do not exist within spreadsheets. You had to use other software to produce documents and manage products. Hence, the birth of Smartsheet.

Brent thought, “why not weld the features of project management programs into a spreadsheet and make them work together.” Others had been continually producing products that “lined up with the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result.” Brent’s idea merged these programs into what consumers already identified as their go to solution.

As seemingly simple as the idea appears, do not be fooled. Execution of the idea to creating a product took several years of development.

To aspiring entrepreneurs, Brent offers up this piece of advice:

“If you’re not super committed and not willing to eat rice and beans for years to get there, don’t bother. You have to be unbelievably determined.”

 Smartsheet is a testimony that Brent practices what he preaches. The first few years of Smartsheet’s existence were spent in development. At year 4, Brent was doing sales and began realizing the product did not work as efficiently as they had hoped. They realized the interface of the product was correct; people loved it when they got it. But that was the thing. They had to ‘get it’. Brent explained there were too many core concepts to learn before usability became simple.

Given the feedback, and under instructions from his wife, Brent and his team had new users test the product while they observed. Brent describes that experience as “humiliating”. Brent and his team validated every complaint heard from users. The users were right. The product needed to operate more efficiently. Given this feedback, taking the product out of beta would guarantee the company a spot with the ‘has beens’, all those before them that launched a solution that was under par of what consumers needed. They had a choice, run it into the ground or redevelop the product. They chose the latter.

They spent 18 more months in product development.

“We were set to run out of money in May. It was December. Our adult product was set to launch in February. We were coming out with Gantt Charts. The launch of Google Ads was approaching and we had invested time into adwords…just one of the 3 had to hit.”

 True to his advice, Brent did whatever he could to secure capital for Smartsheet. With 5 small children, Brent sold his house. He also went to his parents and borrowed $300,000. He undoubtedly believed in his product.

“If I believe in something, it’s not going to fail. I will die before it fails.”

The launch of Google Ads proved successful as well as Gantt Charts and the adult product launch. Soon, the company would not run out of cash in May but in June. Then it extended to July, from July to August and then beyond.

The diminishing capital honed in the focus of Smartsheet. They became incredibly, and noticeably, efficient with the use of capital. They focused in on what mattered and what actually had an impact on the growth of the company. Smartsheet began realizing customer growth of 30-40 new customers a month.

Smartsheet has grown from acquiring 30-40 new customers a month to acquiring 180 new customers a day. Today, they are listed at number 22 on Geekwire, Seattle’s Startup Leaderboard. The success can be attributed to Brent, his team and the relentless support around them. Brent’s determination is truly an inspiration. Congratulations, Brent.

Smartsheet has grown from acquiring 30-40 new customers a month to acquiring 180 new customers a day. Today, they are listed at number 22 on Geekwire, Seattle’s Startup Leaderboard. The success can be attributed to Brent, his team and the relentless support around them. Brent’s determination is truly an inspiration. Congratulations, Brent.

Entrepreneur Report – Nussbaum Group


Lead by landscape architect Dale Nussbaum, the Nussbaum Group has taken landscape construction and maintenance to a whole new level.   While they do not design the landscapes they do provide the following services for residential and commercial clients: collaborative landscape construction services, comprehensive organic landscape maintenance services, efficient year-round maintenance of all types of irrigation and landscape lighting systems, annual color and container designs and installation, and holiday and event lighting.

The landscape construction and maintenance market is nothing new. The Nussbaum Group however is dedicated to an elevated attention to quality and success. Dale’s experience as a landscape architect positions him as an expert in the process of landscape design and implementation. Adept at speaking the languages of design and construction Dale has his company more valuable to his clients than a typical contractor. At first glance the Nussbaum Group feels more like a design firm than contractors. This is what sets them apart and has allowed them to disrupt the market.

The Nussbaum Group straddles and interesting line between B2B and B2C. While their end clients typically are high-end residences and small commercial spaces, most of the Nussbaum Group’s marketing efforts are directed at the design firms that bring them into a project. These firms ultimately act as evangelists passing the Nussbaum Group on to their own clients where they work together to install landscapes, and the Nussbaum Group continues to work maintaining the landscapes they’ve built.

To reach the firms that bring them into projects the Nussbaum Group relies primarily on referrals and direct contact through office visits and trade shows. These efforts directly reflect their commitment to quality and service. From a branding perspective their goal is to “look smart and appeal to the high design sensibilities of Architects and Landscape Architects.” Quality comes through in everything from their sleek graphics and consistent branding, down to the weight and finish of their paper stock.   In addition to the typical logo and pantone associations to their branding the Nussbaum Group has adopted chocolate as a key element in their marketing.

One super fun strategy they have employed, Dale refers to as “Doughnut Marketing”. They bring doughnuts to design firms around town that they do or would like to do business with. This allows the Nussbaum Group to stay present in the companies’ minds, and it facilitates an ongoing conversation unbounded by the constraints of a formal meeting. As their ability to collaborate is key to the Nussbaum Group’s offerings these conversations are all the more important.

Blog 4 – Ad

I’m a software engineer and search a lot on technology for work. Recently I have been working with mobile apps and have been searching a lot related to that. I went to to read an article and noticed technology related ads. They are quite geared towards my interests. Overall, I found the ads are quite relevant and ended up clicking up on the second one to see what it is about. It is much better than showing me auto ads, as I’m currently not looking to buy a car.


Blog #3 – Headout

The company I find compelling on is Headout. It is a tour-planning app designed to book tours, fun activities and attraction tickets at the last minute on mobile device at cheaper prices. Currently it only provides services in New York and Las Vegas.

Here are the three bloggers I would like to reach out if I were the CEO:

Arabella Bowen: @arabellabowen. She’s the editor-in-chief at Fodors Travel. She’s a frequent traveller, a fan of arts and good designer. She’s also an active blogger with 1,447 followers in Twitter. Since she’s a decision maker in the travel magazine and also a professional traveller, she could be a good influencer of Headout by writing compelling stories on both the magazine and her blog.

Wendy Perrin: @wendyperrin. She’s a travel expert, author, speaker and founder of TripAdvisor’s Travel Advocate with 57.1K followers on Twitter. I believe she’s a big influencer in the travel industry. If she could write something about Headout, the company website traffic will be largely increased.

Tim&Nat: @acooknotmad. They are travel experts and storytellers with 3,712 followers on their Twitter account. I believe from experiencers’ perspective, they could be good advocates or evangelists of Headout.


For blog 3, I was interested in RosterBot. This is a tool directed towards managing recreational sports teams and leagues. The application has features for managing schedules, standings, invoices, and rosters. I would reach out to the following three people to gain press about this company.

Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski)

Greg Syshynski is a hockey blogger for Yahoo, and would reach a large audience of participants in recreational hockey leagues who might otherwise not pay attention to typical technology and lifestyle blogs.

Mark McClusky (@markmcc)

Mark McClusky is a writer for Wired who commonly reports on sports-related topics. His recommendation of the product would likely reach a connected audience who may have kids in sports leagues, or be in a variety of recreational sports leagues themselves.

Dave Greenbaum (@calldrdave)

Dave Greenbaum is a contributer to Lifehacker, and has perviously reported on a similar app. Interest from people who follow Dave would likely capture tech-oriented people who may find uses for the application beyond its stated use for sports teams and leagues.

Blog #3: Retro Jam

The company I chose is ‘Retro Jam’. This website lets you guide and categorize the popular songs based on your age in accordance to US education system when you type your birthday. It uses an algorithm the release date of single year-to-year basis and plays twenty two songs per year.

I would choose following bloggers:

1) Kerry Butters @kesbutters

She could offer a help the business by using the knowledge of SEO, social media and digital marketing. So, the business can grow traffic organically and manage online reputation.

2) Jeff Sheehan @JeffSheehan

He is one of the world’s top followed B2B/B2C Sales and Marketing Professionals specializing in technology, integrated marketing & social media.

3) Hilary Mason @hmason

She is a data scientist and founder at @FastForwardLabs. She would help to recognize and develop product and business opportunities through technologies.

Blog #1 – Flash Volunteer

Research Company: Flash Volunteer

Flash Volunteer is a real time, real world volunteer engagement online platform. Since their mission is to “build community and increase volunteerism through creation of a sustainable, user-friendly online platform”, their potential users could be anyone who is interested in community services, looking for flexibilities, tech-enabled, but not necessarily tech savvy. Their current customers are mostly young professionals who work in the office, well educated, are interested in knowing more people and contributing to communities with fun.

Since it’s a non-profit organization, it doesn’t really need to compete with other companies. Its long-term strategy could be developing more user-friendly and easy-to-use volunteer online platforms and apps. It could “steal” some customers who are users of other volunteer platforms such as UN Volunteers and GloVo. But instead of competing with other platforms, it’s devoted to providing more options and flexibilities to volunteers. As its platform and products are developed more engaging and easy to use, it could expand its customer group, engage and motivate more people from young professionals to elder and less educated people.

Blog 2 – ETEK Wearables

This may seem like a little bit of a reach, but in actuality the product concept is quite similar. I am in the Baby Tech group, and I came across ETEK on Angel List. ETEK is creating an athletic shirt that contains sensors and a BLE transmitter that allows the shirt to detect biometrics and convey them in real time to your smart phone. This is very similar to our concept in that, the sensors would be sewn into the fabric of the baby onesie and would similarly transmit to a mobile app on the parents’ smart phones, most likely via BLE. The comparison is made more interesting by the idea that sportswear could be a natural extension of the Baby Tech line.

ETEK has not done any marketing that I can tell. The website does rank first on branded SEO which is good, but they are nowhere to be seen on searches such as “wearable tech sportswear” or “smart sportswear.” The reason for this is most likely the website itself. There is virtually no content on the site – ETEK has a 45 second vimeo posted (but not published on YouTube), but little else. This is made worse by the vagueness of the vimeo; it does not demonstrate any compelling reason to buy or even provide a specific features of the product. ETEK is definitely not doing any paid search or display yet either. I also checked social channels, Twitter and Facebook, and could not find mention of the company or product on either of these sites.

ETEK’s positioning is in sportswear and connected devices. From the information they have explicitly provided, the value prop seems to be an advancement in the technology of the sensor/transmitters themselves, coupled with the mobile app that allows activities to become social events. Their tagline; “Compete, Compare, Challenge” is a call to athletes to come together and push each other.

They have not been at all successful that I can tell. Could be that I am not searching in the right areas but I don’t believe they have done any marketing whatsoever and branded search won’t drive traffic if there is no brand established.

Blog 2 – Beeline Bikes

Beeline Bikes is a mobile bicycle shop which offers all of the traditional shop services, including maintenance, new bike sales, and bike part sales. Beeline requires a scheduled appointment to provide the mobile bike service, but adds convenience by coming to the customer at the home or office.

Beeline Bikes is focusing on their website and social channels to do their marketing. They have a promotional video which demonstrates the service, which has a primary message of convenience to the customer. They use social channels of Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. These social channels are being used effectively to show how the service is being used by different customers, and to create an aspirational message of where one could bike after using the service.

Beeline Bikes appears to be positioning themselves as a more convenient alternative to a traditional bike shop. They do not offer services beyond a typical shop, other than the convenience of showing up to your house. The value proposition of the company appears to be convenience to the consumer by eliminating the task of hauling bicycles to a shop whenever they need tuneups or other services. Beeline appears to be successful in communicating to their target customer. In addition to online channels, Beeline has also partnered with community organizations around bicycling, which will likely lead to exposure to customers in the target market.

Company Profile: onehub

In perusing the Geekwire 200, I recently noticed a company in the 157 slot that I had not noticed before. Still small, Onehub boasts 664 Twitter followers, 2K Facebook followers, under 50 employees and 1K external links. Compare this to the first entry on the list, BigFish, with twenty times the external links and 150K times the Facebook attraction and it seems like Onehub has a ways to go before they really get noticed. Upon closer inspection though, Onehub has developed an interesting cloud application with a simple proposition of holistic business focused document management that seems to address some significant pain points for many different businesses looking to collaborate seamlessly in the cloud.


At the top of its homepage, Onehub boasts “Simple, secure sharing with unlimited storage and sharing for all of your business files. Share, manage, and access from anywhere”. Onehub goes onto say that users can:


  • Share files with confidence: Role-based permissions give you easy, granular control over what users have access to in your Workspace
  • Access your content anywhere: Mobile and desktop applications allow you to access, organize, and share your content from multiple devices.
  • Make it your own: Upload your logo and use custom colors to create a truly branded experience.


Onehub’s target focus is on businesses who need formalized document sharing and collaboration internally and externally. Through role based permissions, a business manager can set up document sharing for an internal project team to collaborate and edit seamlessly and in real-time using Google Documents editing system. Onehub extends its solution beyond internal walls by giving a business manager the ability to rebrand the customer facing portal using branding uploads and custom coloring. Onehub then overlays secure access on your desktop and mobile using password based permissions and secure links.


My initial reaction was that Onehub would be targeted at smaller businesses for internal collaboration and could function as an external document sharing hack with customers for bigger businesses with full-time IT departments. The solution feels like a slightly more sophisticated Dropbox with Google Doc’s word processing features but as I dug deeper, it seems that the company has built deeper security than it would initially convey. As a result, they have attracted larger partners like Aflac, Whole Foods, AARP, and the NHL to their service, providing convincing evidence that even larger firms can utilize the collaboration, storage, and customer facing tools without concern for scaling and security. This is surprising because I would have expected internal IT departments for larger companies to be using tools like Microsoft Sharepoint or internal homegrown collaboration tools but my expectation is that there are certain user focused tools, such as real-time editing, that are lacking in these enterprise focused solutions and drive end users to hack their way towards effectiveness using collaborative but unsecure tools like Google Docs and Dropbox. As a result, some enterprise IT functions might be seeking out secure external solutions like Onehub to build the collaborative tools that their users crave while maximizing their control on security and minimizing their budgetary spend.


I suspect Onehub had this all in mind when they designed their initial solution as the concept focus for both small and large companies quickly comes through on their website. What an effective approach for an up and coming firm!

– John Downey

Google Chrome Cast

I got a Google Chrome cast from to evaluate and compare it with my AppleTv. I was debating between and BestBuy to buy that item. Sometimes they had promotional deals at each location. Each one of them had their advantages and disadvantages. Although their price was similar, other factors were restricting me from buying from one or none.

I paid 30 $ to get it through Amazon and got a 2-day free shipping because I had AmazonPrime account. Since I just wanted to evaluate the product and see whether it worth keeping my AppleTV or not, maybe it was better to go through BestBuy and would be easier to return it at no extra cost. However, if after evaluating the product I decided to return it, it would have cost the same for both Amazon and BestBuy. I decided to get it through Amazon because it would be easier for me to receice the item through mail and free shipping.

I would have preferred to have picked it up at the RadioShack on our block instead of going through either Amazon or BestBuy.

Vital Nanometrics

Vital Nanometrics aims to reduce the pain and cost of blood sampling for diabetics by combining nanotechnology and a microfluidic system.  Vital Nanometrics is a “Pain Killer,” literally reducing the pain involved in the process of drawing blood in order to test glucose levels and moving closer toward the industry goal of a non-invasive blood glucose assay.  Globally, it is estimated that diabetes impacts 350 million people, and 25 million in the United States. 

The diabetes monitoring segment is moderately competitive and continues to integrate high-tech solutions both to attract new patients and to stay competitive among consumers seeking to replace outdated equipment.  Revenue growth in the segment has been driven by an increase in Bluetooth compatible devices and other advanced features.  Noninvasive testing innovations range from reflectance spectroscopy to ultrasound. 

 Sources: AngelList,, Kalorama Information – Advanced Remote Patient Monitoring.


QMedic’s is a wearable medical alert device protects your loved one though he is unable to press the emergency button. It will ensure your loved one receives timely treatment by alerting you via text message if your loved one has a late-wake up time, is out of the home for an extended period, or if he is not wearing the device. Emergency call center services is provided on-demand to ensure the safety of your loved one 24 hours/day.

This device mainly targets on senior people who stay home alone and need health-care. For those who have a family member to take care and have to work away from home, this is the device that allows you to focus on work and keep an eye on your loved one at the same time. Hospital can use this device to keep track on chronic patients who have been sent home

As the growth of senior people, there rises a dilemma for middle-aged population who need to take care of their parents at home and balance their work at the same time. On the other hand, more and more senior people would like to age in home with dignity. Before the existence of QMedic, senior people who need health-care can either be sent to nursing homes or left home alone.

QMedic is a Gain Creator that frees both senior people and their children. Senior people can now age in home with dignity while their children and care-givers can keep a eye on them away from their home.

PlaceFull: GeekWire 200 #179

PlaceFull is an online booking system that makes event planning faster and easier. Founded by Ryan Hamlin and George Webb in 2012, they have expanded to over 50 cities in five states across the U.S.

Created as a solution to a specific problem (not being able to find courts to rent for the founder’s four sons basketball practices), PlaceFull launched as a minimum viable product with the expectation of change based off data and feedback in the market. This strategy allowed the startup to be flexible and responsive to the needs of the customer. They initial segment targeted was consumers looking for venues for children’s events: parties, camps, classes, etc.

They quickly realized that the opportunity was larger than expected. Merchants in kid’s vertical were underserved and PlaceFull wanted to be positioned as an important component to growing their business. About a year after launch they transitioned from a marketplace model to a SaaS model. As a primary booking engine for small and medium businesses, PlaceFull now charges a license fee and transaction fee to the business and offers multiple services to help merchants grow their business. After implementing this change they were able to expand their market by adding wedding, winery tours and other venues that cater to the adult market. After gathering enough inventory (venue listings) were also able to successfully expand nationally.


SquareHub is the private social network that makes communication among your family fun and functional. Besides sending private messages and pictures to family members sharing the same SquareHub account, you can save family activities to SquareHub, such as restaurants to visit, movies to see, gifts to buy or activities to do together.

Worried about the safety of your teenage children? SquareHub’s check-in function can easily lets you know your children’s location. Worried about losing contact with family living in multiple locations? Private, real-time, one-to-one, group messaging environment keeps all family members in touch. SquareHub can also function as your private secretary by storing personal note and reminding important family activities.

SquareHub is available for iphone, ipad, ipod touch or Android phone. Download SuqareHub and make your family communication more convenience and fun. Let the communication and family activities bring family members together.

Z Girls Empowers Young Athletes

Z Girls is a program for young female athletes that teaches them the mental and emotional skills they need for their sport and their life. Founded by Libby Ludlow, a former Olympic skier, the Z Girls mission is to “empower girls with confidence, courage, and community.”

The Z Girls program is specifically targeted at 11 to 14 year old girls who participate in sports. According to Libby, this is a prime age to influence girls and incorporate the mental skills that are most important for their personal and sport successes. While there are sport psychologists and sports camps available for girls today, Z Girls has created a new market with its comprehensive instruction for young female athletes that is taught in the context of sport. Z Girls offers sport-specific curriculum in 6 one-hour sessions at a team’s regularly scheduled practice or 4 one-hour sessions with select components of the curriculum, or a one-day summer camp.

Z Girls positions itself as a fun camp with supportive coaching for young female athletes. Core to Z Girls is its Compass Curriculum™ which is based on four key elements: Inspired Direction (Courageous and Purposeful Goal-setting), Resilient Mind (Self-Awareness, Positive Thinking, ad Confidence), Solid Support (Communication and Building a Supportive Community), and Thriving Body (Positive Body-Image and Healthy Nutrition Habits). The curriculum is delivered through the consultant channel – the company recruits and trains Program Leaders who are all collegiate, professional, or Olympic athletes. The Program Leaders are not only instructors, but they also serve as positive role models for the young girls.

It’s always interesting to see how an entrepreneur can take something they are passionate about and turn it into a real business. Libby knew from the very beginning that she wanted to give back to the sports community. After receiving accolades for a pilot program she ran and winning 2nd place in the UW Business Plan Competition earlier this year, Z Girls is just beginning to take off. Thank you, Libby, for being an inspiration to young female athletes and to students who are looking to pursue entrepreneurship.

Individual Entrepreneur interview-Fun play game company

Part 1: Company profile

This is a young start-­‐up game company in Shenzhen. The founder, Rocky Fan, named the company-­‐ Fun Play (I just translate directly and the Chinese name is more interesting). It’s a mobile game company. Mobile operation system (OS) market land is different from US and other developed countries. Mainstream OS are MTK (China local invention) and android. IOS only comprises a small share 12.9%. This start-­‐up targeted the mainstream OS and providing free download mobile games. Most of the games are social games. Right now it’s a high speed developing market in China. And the completion is brutal and bloody!

Most of the mobile games in China are free. The popular and effective monetization model is in-­‐game purchasing. Since the margin is very high, so many people started a mobile game business, especially in Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Shanghai. And this young start-­‐up, Fun Play, targeted the same market with the same monetization model. At the same time, this company is also experimenting one-­‐time pay model, which means players can just pay only once when they download the game. The rest part is totally free!

For Fun play, the most challenge part is similar as the other young start-­‐ups that is how to survive when it comes to compete with Tencent. Tencent has monopoly position in game industry for a long time. Since Fun play is targeted younger generation of Chinese (16yr~26yr), which means it compete with Tencent directly. As a small team, Fun play is more agile and the founder used to work in Tencent for around 6 years. He knew there’re only 2 results after the competition: one is bankrupt obvious and the other is getting the attention from Tencent to be acquired. However, the funder, Rocky Fan, is very ambitions. He uses his network and gets the 

great opportunity to work together to serve the large consumer base. Then share the profit with Tencent. (The founder refused to disclosure the details)

How does it work? Fun play launched its game in Tencent game center. This game center has over 1 billion exposure just in one day! However, it’s also very competitive. Since Rocky Fan is not the only one who has good connection and network with Tencent. At the same time, Tencent started the open platform strategy 2 years ago. This new policy also attracted many great candidates.

Besides this so called magic platform, Fun play also very active on other prospers local platforms. Such MTK perks group and etc. They also built SMS viral system, which use to send out promotion and new games invitation through SMS. Well Mobile market in China is quite different from US. People, especially young generations, are very active using SMS.

About the new market, one-­‐time purchase game, Fun play is till doing its experiment. Since this business model is still new in China, Fun play found it hare to learn from successful case to learn from. And also the whole paying channel and online banking are still immature in China, people have to overcome the very high barrier to finish the purchasing. Even though some players are very interested into that type of game, the tolerance for the inconvenient is very low. – Watch out for the ACTIVE Advantage Membership!

I recently signed up to do a 5K run in Redmond and in order to register, I had to go through No problem. I went through the registration process online, paid for the registration fee, and was all set to run my race. However, after I registered for the 5K, I started getting emails from the Active Advantage newsletter which promotes local races, discounts on running gear, and training tips. I never paid close attention to the newsletters until yesterday when I noticed a $64.95 charge to my credit card from Alongside the charge, was a 1-800 phone number to call.

This made me go back through my emails from Active Advantage and read them more carefully. At the bottom of the most recent email, I found a note that said:

We would like to remind you that your ACTIVE Advantage trial will expire in 3 days and will be automatically upgraded to the 12 month membership for only $64.95. As an Advantage member, you will continue to get access to exclusive deals and discounts that active people love. If you have any questions or wish to cancel your membership prior to being billed, please contact us at or 866-561-0647.

We hope you’ve enjoyed your free trial period and will be happy to help you get the most out of your membership!

I don’t ever recall signing up for this newsletter. I just wanted to register for my race. There must have been a box that I forgot to uncheck about the newsletter or the free trial membership. This is a tricky and unethical way to get people to sign up for a membership. If I hadn’t noticed the charge on my credit card, I would have this membership that I never wanted. I’m sure there are a lot of people that have signed up for a race without noticing this pricey membership attached to it.

I called the 800-phone number today and canceled my membership. The $64.95 charge will be credited within 5 business days. When I was asked why I was canceling, I told them I never asked for the membership and only wanted to register for a race. What an awful way to do business – giving customers a free trial membership and automatically charging them after a limited time, when they probably didn’t even want the membership in the first place. Be wary of the ACTIVE Advantage membership when you register with Otherwise, you too will find a unauthorized charge for $64.95!

TwitMusic-Social web music platform.

TwitMusic is very Twitter specific. This product is aiming to build an ecosystem for the music artists and their fans. For music artists, when they  set up twitter accounts, they can upload and share any demo of their new songs. This platform enable the share become the instant sharing social network based on music. Twitter users can comment on under the uploaded tracks, follow them, love them and share the links with their friends. If fans love the demo, they can choose to buy them through iTunes.

TwitMusic targeted an unique group of users. However, they could be very accurate about the needs of this group of users. They build a more efficiency and active platform for the young talent artists. This platform use the nature of social network- share to arm the artists. Fans group is the second group of users for this network. They can actively listen to free songs, comments, share and discover new tracks!

Basically, TwitMusic use inbound marketing method. The main users acquisition method for TwitMusic is generate meaning content through Twitter to attract targeted users. The mission of TwitMusic is to connect artists to their listeners. At the same time, it’s quick and real time feedback. Artists can really benefit from the speedy responds from their fans. 

Artists distribution


Floralfox-The easiest way to plan your wedding.

Floralfox offers a platform for those who truly love flowers and gifts and understand the joy that they can bring. offers a unique online platform where flowers, gift shops and creative individuals can connect their clients and sell their products and offer their service. Floralfox does not sell flowers or gifts directly, it connects you to people who do. It is basically a web and mobile technology solution for the floral and event planning industry. It provides a targeted solution to help subscribers make profit by allowing them to create and manage their online shop to show and sell their products or services by placing offers on jobs customers post.

They position themselves the easiest way to plan your wedding, convey your vision effectively to service providers. Their target customers are those who are going to get married and need to plan for a wedding and those who need to plan for an event. Products and services they provide include flowers, venue, photography, music, hair styles, dresses and cakes. It also serves for both individuals and companies.

Their value proposition are that customers can use their platform to plan the wedding easily for free. Customers can also compare different proposals in order to stay on budget. The most important is that they have vetted professionals to make sure the customer can hire credible pros.

Customer can create a wedding board on Floralfox’s platform and follow through the checklist. Even use the board to project to receive different proposals from different service providers. Then they can compare those proposals and hire the 
best service provider for their weddings or events. In my opinion, they  are successful communicating to their customers.


EventSlice is an online platform that brings event venues and professionals together to help people plan their event. EventSlice positions themselves as “The New way to book and pay for Event Space + Event Professionals all in one marketplace.”

Their value proposition is that EventSlice brings venues and event professional services together, creating a “one stop hub that brings everything you need and makes it easy to plan your event.” They claim that their service is easy to use and manage, helping to save time and money. EventSlice owns the transaction from start to finish by allowing people to search and pay for venues, florists, DJs, etc. There are four simple steps:

  1. Plan you event
  2. Find ideal venue
  3. Find event professionals
  4. Pay all in one place

EventSlice provides examples like birthday parties, graduations, baby showers, and weddings, but it’s not clear who their key target is or where exactly the service is available. They need real examples of people that have successfully used the service. Even though the FAQ page says EventSlice is available in all 50 states, no venue options were available when searching for Seattle, San Francisco, and New York. It sounds like a great service for anyone planning an event, but they need to define and narrow their target customer.

eVenues – a one-stop shop for your next event space!

Planning meetings and events can be a real pain in the neck, especially if you need to procure and book a space to accomodate your group.  Traditional space rental involves meetings with property managers, term negotiation and contract agreements.  Well, no more!  We all have a tool available that matches those with event space rental needs to companies with event space available.

eVenues is an online service that aggregates available meeting and event space, offers its customers a free tool to book on-demand meeting and event space, without the hassle of negotiating terms, or requiring a long term lease of space.  On the flip side, eVenues offers space owners an easy way to monetize their underutilized meeting and event space.

The company was created in 2008 after it’s founder, David Jennings, was looking for short term classroom space for his venture at the time, DiscoverU.  He realized there was no viable online solution in the market for finding and booking on-demand event space (meeting rooms, classrooms, etc).  And the meetings business is nothing to scoff at.  According to, meetings were a $90 billion per year market in 2011.  eVenues initially launched in Seattle, WA with the goal of connecting small businesses, entrepreneurs and startups with short term available meeting space.  

Since its founding, eVenues has expanded to serve a broader target market that includes individual party & event planners, commercial real estate and hotels.  Strategic partnerships with companies like Regus have increased eVenues’ space offerings. eVenues’ free software provides all space managers with a tool to manage the bookings of their available space, which is especially useful for commercial property managers.  The company has also expanded their offering to include both self and full service booking options, in addition to expanding service to target major cities across the United States.   

So when you are looking for your next space rental, whether it be for a business meeting, a conference, a class or shin-dig, check out eVenues!


Assemblon, Inc. – Company Profile

            Assemblon is a clean energy company developing technology that bridges the gap between renewable energy sources and liquid fuel storage. There are a variety of sources of clean energy, such as wind and solar power, that generate large amounts of energy but the options for powering vehicles with these are limited. Electric vehicles exist, but they require hours to recharge. Assemblon has a patented liquid carrier for hydrogen gas, which can be produced by renewable electricity sources. This liquid carrier is called Hydrnol fuel, and allows for the storage of hydrogen at standard temperatures and pressures. Prior to this development, hydrogen gas had to be either compressed or cryogenically liquefied for use as a fuel source. These methods are expensive and hazardous, but most importantly, do not translate to a method that could allow for the refueling of vehicles at something akin to a gas station. Hydrnol, the liquid carrier, can be recycled up to 100 times, and it should be less expensive than conventional fuel. The advantage of liquid storage of hydrogen cannot be overemphasized – this would allow the use of existing infrastructure (pipelines, tankers, storage vessels) which would provide a great deal of savings. The company is seeking partners to develop this technology and bring it to market.

          A marketing technique that the company does especially well is their use of YouTube videos. They have a variety of videos, which explain their technology and also the larger picture of hydrogen as a fuel source for vehicles. One video shows a bench top set-up of their model process for extracting the hydrogen and recycling the liquid carrier, while another shows a small engine running from hydrogen released from their carrier. These videos are educational and provide a method for people to learn more about the company.

Mirador Biomedical


Mirador Biomedical, Seattle based company incorporated in 2009, is dedicated to develop simple-to-use and economical medical devices. One of the primary devices that Mirador is producing is a compass vascular access, a pressure transducer for central venous catheter insertion that enables physicians to simultaneously view their hands, the patient, and the pressure. Similarly, the company also provides compass lumbar puncture device, a disposable medical device that provides opening pressure reading; quantitative pressure measurement during spinal taps; used for lumbar punctures; and enables physicians to simultaneously view their hands, the patient, and the pressure.

Mirador’s devices are currently being used in many hospital settings (like the ICU, the ER, and the OR), but also offers applications to care providers working at the point-of-injury access to technology previously only available in the hospital. The expansion of the platform, Mirador’s technology, is a significant milestone for the medical field, which is accelerating the commercialization of Mirador products. Recently, Mirador’s devices have won FDA clearance to officially market its medical devices for a new set of uses, which physician have been asking for months. Mirador knows that hospital will pay for its technology to help prevent costly medical errors, and because it provides greater convenience in everyday workflow than existing methods that relay on clumsy cables and equipment; giving an unique market to Mirador.

It is clear that Mirador has chosen an industry that is exponentially growing and very profitable. Mirador’s strategic alliance with hospitals and physicians across the northwest as well as the focusing their intellectual forces into only pressure monitor devices have made them standup in their market and acquire numerous set of customers. Many would say that Mirador is rapidly expanding its business, market, clients and I agree. They had chosen a service that is high in demand and will be vastly use in multiple patients (e.g., age, sex, and body complexity); making Mirador’s devises unique in their industry.

Mirador Biomedical main goal is to offer simple-to-use medical devices that make procedures safer, faster and easier.

Transcriptic – Automating Science

Transcriptic wants to make “science a service” by developing lab automation technology. Many are referring to the company as cloud technology for the scientific world. Transcriptic aims to make the mundane aspects of scientific research automated so graduate students no longer have to toil away for hours performing experiments that require relatively little intellectual investment. Currently, the company offers a subcloning service, a technique used to package DNA for exogenous expression, while the larger infrastructure needed to expand the list of services is built. Transcriptic recently raised $1.2 million in a seed funding round to help build up the facility.

Transcriptic’s initial target market is graduate students and post-docs in academia. The company has gained its initial customers though partnerships, proximity to university campuses, and word of mouth. This strategy has served them well so far. Transcriptic is starting small to make sure that the services they offer run well and customers are happy. For a scientific services company, it is important that once they have a full launch everything works every time. As the CEO, Max Hodak, put it, customers will be lost quickly if there are mechanical rather than biological causes of failure for a particular experiment. Their initial service is also a smart pick due to the high turnover and low cost.

I think Transcriptic’s ability to start small will be important for their long-term success. The initial market and product they are focusing on will provide them with a strong initial customer base. These customers can then spread the word as the company grows. Transcriptic is taking the time to build a relationship with each customer now. This personal touch will help them stand out. I admire Transcriptic’s ability to stay focused and small initially even though they are set up to revolutionize the way science is performed. 

Simple & Crisp-The Perfect Pairing


Have you ever had a craving for low calorie and tasty snacks during your diet? Have you ever had a hard time coming up with a unique appetizer for your gatherings or parties? Have you ever experienced headaches when trying to find an aesthetic and delicious gift for your foodie friends? Seattle based startup Simple & Crisp offers a good solution for all these problems with its organic, gluten-free dried fruit chips. Served as gourmet serving vessel and cracker alternative, Simple & Crisp chips currently have three flavors for daily offering: orange, apple and pear, with blood orange coming soon. The chips can be paired perfectly with a variety of items such as cheese, chocolate, champagne, wine, etc., from savory to sweet, traditional to innovative. Each of the three flavors has different recommended pairing options, and customers are encouraged to try new pairing ideas as well.

Founder and “Chief Pairing Purveyor” Jane Yuan formed Simple & Crispy with a mission to provide healthier options to entertain guests, as well as satisfy different dietary needs. As Jane mentioned during the interview, her business philosophy was to “start high, rather than start low and go high”, thus Simple & Crisp is committed to high quality, and targeted to a high-end market. Simple & Crisp is positioned as an organic, gluten-free, low calorie cracker alternative for social, yet health conscious entertainers.

As a premium food product, Simple & Crisp pays special attention on presentation and aesthetics. Jane worked with a professional packaging firm to develop the brand and design the package, and they came up with a solution that matches the natural beauty of the fruit and also demands attention on the shelf. After the prototype was made, Jane had a focus group with MBA students and asked their willingness to pay for this product, which is a really effective and sensible strategy to price her product.

Simple & Crisp has maximized the effort on public relation of its brand and products. Jane mentioned that it was important to know why customers want this product, how does this product make their life better, create a story around these topics, and deliver the messages. A good story can make others take the messages even further. Moreover, Simple & Crisp has made effective use of social network and media. Simple & Crisp has presence in Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, and it is easy to access these channels through their website. Simple & Crisp has featured in 425 magazines, Gluten-free Living, and more. In addition, since Simple & Crisp is widely used in social events, such as birthday parties, dinner parties, barbeque, holiday soiree or weekly gathering, it is easy to attract potential customers from these settings.

Currently, Simple & Crisp is carried in northwestern region Wholefoods Market, Dean&Deluca, and other premium food stores, such as local cheese stores, wine stores, etc. It is expanding nationwide and even has offerings from international market. Customer Acquisition and Strategy

Image is a San Francisco-based start-up company that in the past three years has been gaining big momentum in the scientific research/academic societies. Richard Price, a Ph.D. Oxford University alumnus, founded this company with the aim of accelerating scientific research and reducing the inefficiency in academic publishing sector (e.g., publication time, distribution, collaboration, citation, etc). is a social web platform for scholars/academics/researchers/scientists to promptly share their research papers. Academia currently have over 1.8 M register users and ~5 M visitors a month; giving a staggering number of over 4K new users register everyday. Academia’s cutting edge comes with the analytical dashboard, which provides scientists with various statistical-tools of their scientific impact (e.g., research paper downloads, profiles views, citations, etc.) as well as the option to follow particular scientists or research trends.Image

So far, had $7M dollars in funding from CVs (Spark Capital, True Ventures, and Gerson Lehrman Group) with the goal of provide trending research data to R&D institutions that can improve the quality of their decisions by 10-20%.Richard says: “There is an opportunity to make a large economic impact. Around $1 trillion a year is spent on R&D globally” which is the economic sector that this company is proposing to impact. is currently using a variety of methodologies to manage user’s attention and maintain their customers acquisition. Some of the most important technique that this company is using is implementing inner customers relationships (ecosystem) via a social network as well as promoting press coverage –creating a large resonance in the research/R&D world. Also, what academia does is allow scientists to simply share their papers and then use academica’s web track-tools to analyze how this research is impacting their community, which is something that is truly lacking in the traditional research journals format.   

Positioning Analysis


Antibody therapy is an innovative technique that uses engineered antibodies to specifically bind to target cells or proteins, which then stimulate the patient’s immune system to attack those unhealthy sections of their bodies. This complicated biosynthesis of modified antibodies will eventually improve clinical outcomes for patients with cancer and other inflammatory diseases. Currently, the production of these synthetic antibodies is possible in almost any extracellular/cell surface target. The potential manufacturing of this promising molecular therapy and the high success to fight common illness projected this technology to be a $30 billion dollars market. Making the production of these synthetic antibodies highly demanding for biopharmaceutical companies like ImmunoGen, Inc., Seattle Genetics, Inc., Affimed Therapeutics and many more. 

Alder biopharmaceutical, a Bothell startup based company, has recognized this potential market for antibodies therapeutics and decided to work on a simpler, efficient, and profitable pathway to synthesized this product. Alders’ antibodies production is based on a method that incorporates yeast cells rather than animal cells, which is faster for manufacturing, lowering cost, reducing risk, as well as a groundbreaking approach. “Alder’s technologies allow companies to take control of antibodies manufacturing and timelines”-company’s website. At the same time, Alder is currently creating diverse set of products that have expertise in clinical autoimmune applications and inflammatory disorders. One of the most recent product is ALD518, a neutralizing monoclonal antibody for pro-inflammatory cytokine, which has completed FDA Phase I clinical trials- giving Alder a step forward into this market. 

Concerning marketing positioning, Alder Biopharmaceuticals has separated itself from its competitors and other companies by focusing and offering the molecular synthesis that incorporate yeast as a host cell. As it was stated previously, this technique allows pharmaceutical and clinical companies to decrease their antibody-manufacturing time frame as well as production price. Although, Alder is in their nascent stages as a company, they have identified their strengths and promoted its technology edge to give them space to growth in this multibillion dollars’ market. According to Nature’s recent article, antibodies have emerged as an important new drug class: “Indeed, 18 antibodies are now approved (17 have been marketed, and 1 withdrawn) for therapeutic use in the United States across diverse clinical settings, including oncology, chronic inflammatory diseases, transplantation, infectious diseases and cardiovascular medicine”. Making these synthetic products, engineered antibodies, constitute the most rapidly growing class of human therapeutics and the second largest class of drugs after vaccines. Clearly, Alder will benefit tremendously from clinical applications and therapeutic of antibodies, which allow them to grow and expand. Over all, Alder is promoting their reliable and cost efficient technology that provide value at the highest level. 

CareDox Inc. – “Evernote” for children’s health records

For parents and schools, CareDox is the most useful files for children’s health records that delivers easy electronic health records filing because only  CareDox can collect and update customer’s health records from medical providers automatically.

According to the CareDox’s website, the company looks to make health information easily accessible and securely portable. Its first product was MotherKnows, a subscription-based service that is fast, simple and easy to use. Parents simply sign an electronic release and MotherKnows collects and digitizes the records from any provider. Parents can view complete medical history via the web or mobile and share this information easily with any medical provider or caregiver. CareDox’s next product is a brand new health information management tool for schools, camps and day cares that replaces the need for parents to fill out paper health forms.

Hesky Kutscher, CEO of CareDox, said“There’s so much information that can be accessed ‘easily and instantly’ these days”, “But medical information hasn’t been among that. So, through MotherKnows, we hope to give parents the ability to pull up their child’s entire medical history whenever they want, which is sure to make for added efficiency when it comes to doctor’s visits, emergency care, insurance conversations.

CareDox currently focus on children’s health records in the United States. In thanks to the focus, CareDox has built an exceptional ecosystem with the partners. The partners are not only hospitals, doctors but also state health departments. In addition, they have co-branding partners, such as Walgreens. CareBox’s customers can be benefited from the eco-system. For example, MotherKnow users can collect children’s health records from any doctor or medical provider in the United States.  

Moreover, the company states “Your privacy is Important to us”. This comment is the other key difference from the other company.  Customer’s data is encrypted with 256-bit hospital level encryption and the company does not share the customer’s health data.

There are 25 million mothers in the United State and growing. Motherknows could dominate the market. And the company intends to expand to the other age category including senior in the near future. In addition, their business model can be applied to the other country where parents and schools still spent their time with filling and sending paper health records. 

Their website looks effective, they provides the short video that shows how their app works. However, the website would be more effective and attractive if they have story from personal experiences that make them decide establishing this service.

 By Yasuhiro Sakaue