Geek Level: Medium

Friday, January 11, 2013

Black Girls CODE Comes to Memphis

Posted By on Fri, Jan 11, 2013 at 9:54 AM

Black Girls CODE is a nonprofit based in San Francisco whose vision is to increase the number of women of color in the digital space by empowering girls of color ages 7 to 17 to become innovators in STEM fields, leaders in their communities, and builders of their own futures through exposure to computer science and technology. As described by founder Kimberly Bryant, a Memphis native and Vanderbilt alumna:

When I was first introduced to computer programming, as a freshman in Electrical Engineering, Fortran and Pascal were the popular languages for newbies in computing and the Apple Macintosh was the new kid on the block. I remember being excited by the prospects, and looked forward to embarking on a rich and rewarding career after college.

But I also recall, as I pursued my studies, feeling culturally isolated: few of my classmates looked like me. While we shared similar aspirations and many good times, there’s much to be said for making any challenging journey with people of the same cultural background.

Much has changed since my college days, but there’s still a dearth of African-American women in science, technology, engineering and math professions, an absence that cannot be explained by, say, a lack of interest in these fields. Lack of access and lack of exposure to STEM topics are the likelier culprits.

Kimberly Bryant
  • Kimberly Bryant

So how did Kimberly become the change she wanted to see? By launching Black Girls CODE, and providing hands-on opportunities through workshops and after-school programs for girls to learn technical skills like video game design and mobile app development. BGC recently earned a first place Award Laureate in the 2012 Innovation in Philanthropy Awards.

Now Kimberly is bringing program home to Memphis, with the help of local champions Pamela W. Kelly, Meka Egwuekwe, Dominique Anderson, Tonya Meeks and Brenda Buckman. On February 16 they will host Black Girls CODE: Build a Webpage in a Day Memphis, a day-long workshop hosted by Rhodes College. Girls from ages 10-17 are encouraged to sign up and enjoy a fun and educational way to start heading toward — or creating — the jobs of tomorrow.

And here is where you come in: girls can apply for need-based scholarships, but for those to be available we ask that you support BGC and select the “sponsor a girl” ticket option here.

Also they need volunteers! Certainly those with relevant web developer skills are encouraged to step forward, but no matter your technical skills the organizers need event volunteers (including pre- and post-event). You can fill out a volunteer application online, but you are also invited to a Black Girls CODE Memphis launch reception at EmergeMemphis (516 Tennessee St.) on January 15 from 6-8pm. The event is free but please RSVP online here.


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I need a developer. Can you introduce me?

Posted By on Wed, Dec 5, 2012 at 10:26 AM

Many people walk in our doors with ideas they believe will change the world and make them rich. The problem they invariably have is that they can't build it. 95% of these potential founders have an idea for an mobile app or web app and they want the LaunchYourCity team to play matchmaker to a developer. These potential founders don't realize that the developer probably has his own awesome ideas. Why would he switch from developing his ideas to developing yours? These potential founders will get no where fast with developers because they have ignored the obvious: a developer is your first investor.

Like all investments you need to earn the right to ask!

Here is the typical scenario. A non-technical founder approaches a potential technical co-founder with just an idea. These potential founders usually have very little skin in the game. They haven't invested a ton of their own time, but expect a developer to contribute 100s of hours. They haven't even dipped into their own funds to get something mocked up or designed. These potential founders have not invested energy into determining who the customer is, understanding their buying behaviors, or even determine if they would want the app and pay for it. The outcome is always the same. The developer says no and gets annoyed with wannabe entrepreneurs and gets turned off to the startup world.

This is a very bad outcome for our entire community. It could all be avoided.

Imagine going to a technical co-founder and saying the following:

"I have been working to validate an idea for a new app over the past couple of weeks. I didn't know if this was a good idea so I talked to 50 customers and found out that not only was it good, but also determined what the minimum features would be to satisfy the customer. Because I wanted to continue to make progress, I taught myself to code a little bit. With a logo that I paid a local designer to polish up for me, I was able to get a one page website up and running articulating the features of the future app. I also was able to code the website to capture email addresses from future customers. I created a blog to talk about the industry and my perspective on the changes coming. I got a lot of feedback and interest from the blog — one post has been viewed 10,000 times and has 56 comments. I started to market a bit to garner interest and I didn't get 1,000 email signups — I got over 5,000 people to give me their email address. Because I figured out how to market more effectively, I get about 100 signups day now on the website and I'm only spending $10 a day on ads. I went ahead and contracted with a designer to get some wire frames done and some screen mock ups. I showed them to some of the customers who signed up and they gave me feedback to refine the app. I'm currently working on a new set of mocks ups with the designer. Along the way I reached out to the CMO of a big local bank and he agreed to mentor me and my future team as we startup. I think I'll get another rock star mentor to commit next week. I did all this in just 60 days. I'm looking for a technical co-founder that believes in me and how we can change the world. I think you would be a great co-founder. Will you join me?"

  • Please?

Guess what a technical co-founder will say after hearing this pitch?

People invest in execution, not ideas. If you’re willing to do the work you will have no problems getting the right talent on the bus. Prove that you are a worthy founder by doing the leg work before going to a technical co-founder and you will find many people jumping on board.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Investing in Digital Word-of-Mouth

Posted By on Tue, Dec 4, 2012 at 9:29 AM

I recently took my car to a local repair center for the first time. My first visit was generally the same as with others except that I noticed that they seemed more interested in customer care. I was especially intrigued when I received follow up emails after my first visit welcoming me as a new customer and another asking me to provide feedback on the visit. They even offered a ‘refer a friend’ promo with $10 off my next visit. As a new customer and user of many digital channels, I found this to be a very convenient way to promote this business and get something of value in return. I’ll most likely take my car there again and tell my friends about them.


It makes a lot of sense for local service providers, especially those highly dependent upon word-of-mouth, to use digital marketing tools to grow their business and stay competitive. And a lot of small and midsized businesses are learning how to gain benefit in shifting marketing efforts from traditional to digital marketing in a big way. There are several reasons for this.

Consumers are increasingly influenced by and want to do business through a wide variety of channels including the in-person storefront, as well as digital channels such as the website, email or social networks. According to a recent BIA/Kelsey study on local commerce, small businesses are marketing to their customers across 5 to 6 digital channels on average, and the number of online channels used for advertising by the average small business has nearly doubled in the past five years. More than half (52 percent) of small businesses now use Facebook and 25 percent use email for marketing.

Also, trends show local consumers continue to trust word-of-mouth, such as a recommendation from someone they know, much more so than traditional advertising. According to Nielsen’s recent Global Trust in Advertising Survey (PDF), almost all (92 percent) of consumers trust earned media, such as word-of-mouth or recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising. And most (78 percent) trust online reviews, while only 47 percent believe traditional broadcast and print ads.

And consumers are increasing using digital word-of-mouth to promote small businesses they like. This is especially important as most local business recommendations occur by way of word of mouth. A recent Local Consumer Review study by BrightLocal found that that 8 out of 10 people have recommended local businesses to friends, family, co-workers or other acquaintances, and most people (65 percent) that do business locally will recommend a business which provides professional and reliable service. 32 percent of them use Facebook to recommend businesses.

To get the most out of an investment in digital tools for word-of-mouth marketing, here’s a few quick tips. First, know and understand who your target customers are and connect that to your business strategy. Second, hire a digital marketing consultant to find the best tools that match your strategy and customer. These local professionals can help navigate the vast landscape of new tools that are available and provide consultation and training to put them to use for the best investment return.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

What's Your Favorite App? (And a List of our Faves)

Posted By on Tue, Oct 9, 2012 at 12:30 PM

We asked a group of Memphis’ most tech savvy to share their latest app obsessions, and why they’re wowed. You definitely want to check out these recommendations, and please add your own in the comments below.


Kyle Sandler of Nibletz introduced me to my own app du jour: Voxer, a free “all in one messenger” for Apple and Android that lets you send audio, text, photos and location to selected recipients. The audio messages are key: Voxer turns your smartphone into a walkie-talkie, and is a nearly hands-free alternative to texting for those “don’t forget to pick up coffee” messages.

Tal Frankfurt, Cloud for Good
Dropbox provides cloud-based storage for documents, photos and other files. Your account can connect to all of your devices - including iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry and Kindle Fire - so it’s easy to access all my files from anywhere at any time.

Rachel Hurley, Kangaroo
The app that I really can not live without is Feedly. It's a reader that makes it super easy to share content. It's one of those apps that you are almost scared to tell people about because it gives you such an edge. It works with iPhone, iPad, Android, Kindle and Firefox. And its free!

Brad Montgomery, Work for Pie
Zombies, Run! ($7.99, iOS, Android, Windows mobile) is THE most awesome running app, EVER. It turns your run or workout into a zombie apocalypse game.

Trish Kalbas-Schmidt, University of Memphis Crews Venture Lab
This is old school but one of my favorites is TurboScan. You can create PDFs of by taking pictures of documents with your phone. In a world where we still do need hard copies or at least PDFs of documents it comes in pretty handy! It was $1.99 and I use it all the time.

James Kegel,
My favorite app is AirDroid. It is free from the Google Play store, and allows me to use my droid from my browser. You can send text messages, install apps, and do just about anything without touching your phone.

Cheryl Hurley, The Stylist Quo
Right now my obsession is with Keek, a social network for short video uploads. I'm trying to develop an early following before it explodes. It's free, and available for iPhone and Android; you can also upload via webcam.

Carrie Brown-Smith, University of Memphis Journalism Department
I couldn't live without Delicious or Evernote for productivity to store and tag useful articles, research, and information so that I can find it later.

Kenn Gibbs, The Knowledge Co.
As much of a tech junkie as I am, I just started using a password manager and really like LastPass. It's $12 a year to keep all your passwords secure on any OS. There are other free options out there, but I liked the higher security (I'm a little paranoid), and I can easy go between my Mac, Windows, and Linux machines.

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