MOBILE TECH

  • RSVP NOW FOR THE SPRINT MHEALTH ACCELERATOR DEMO DAY!

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Innovation, Kansas City, Mobile Tech, Sprint Accelerator

    1 Comment

    70 days ago, we welcomed 10 companies to Kansas City.  As a group, there were 43 of them and they came from all over the World (Chicago, Salt Lake City, Boston, Baltimore, New York, Atlanta, LA, San Francisco and Seattle.  Italy, Australia, Bulgaria, Belarus, Spain and Argentina).

    I’ve been surrounded by remarkable people…a physician who put her medical residency at a Boston Hospital on hold, a former attorney who left his job on Wall Street, a founder who turned down a Fulbright Scholarship to med school, a mobile developer who starred on “The Amazing Race”…twice, former Google, Intel, Microsoft engineers, and more accomplishments than I have time to list here.

    Each company formed around a problem they had personally encountered related to healthcare.  Relatives struggling with diabetes, a grandparent who had suffered a traumatic fall, a parent sifting through mounds of paperwork through treatment of a chronic illness and a desire to better understand how a beloved pet was feeling just to name a few.

    They came in various stages, some with just 3D drawings or prototypes, others with customers and growing monthly revenues. During their time in KC, they all had a mission to accelerate the growth of their startup companies, cramming about a year’s worth of work into 3 months with access to experts in health, tech, business and each-other in the collaborative Sprint Accelerator facility.

    According to the “you’re the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with” rule, my average has shot through the roof.  I feel like a pretty lucky guy.

    ———————–

    I’m looking forward to sharing these companies with the world…  On June 12th, the 10 CEO’s will stand on stage to talk about their business and the progress they’ve made over the 90 day program.  This is your opportunity to get a sneak peek into what progress looks like in a changing healthcare industry.  The event is free and open to the public…all you need to do is RSVP now.

    In addition to you, we’re looking for interested investors, media, business leaders, government officials, healthcare workers, university students/faculty, entrepreneurs and community members here in KC who want to learn more about the 10 companies.  With 1,700 seats available in the Kauffman Performing Arts Center, we will nearly triple the audience size of an average Techstars Demo Day, truly showing off our supportive Kansas City community.

    Sold?  Go RSVP for the show!!

    After that, share the link with your friends, post it to your social sites and bring the rest of KC out for an evening that will be one to remember.

  • DO MORE FASTER: ACTION IS CONTAGIOUS

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Kansas City, Life Lessons, Mobile Tech, Sprint Accelerator

    1 Comment

    Hello again internet…it’s been a while.

    Kevin McGinnis brought it to my attention last week that I hadn’t posted anything since October 22nd.  My last post may have read somewhat like a George Bush “Mission Accomplished” banner but I’m far from done here; I simply didn’t realize how much time had passed.

    (To be fair…I have been writing a little bit, but it’s been on the Sprint Accelerator blog HERE)

    I’m writing this post from the comfort of my couch after the very first public event at the Sprint Accelerator.  My feet hurt, my voice is fading in and out from talking too much and I feel fantastic.  Tonight was a gigantic milestone in a journey that started 9 months ago with a serendipitous trip to Portland.

    *Wayne’s World Flashback – do do do, do do do, do do do*

    I stood inside of the Nike+ Accelerator on that evening in April, sipping on a Bridgeport IPA, reflecting on a long day of “speed dating” with entrepreneurs.  As I looked around the room of Techstars teams, a speaker from Big KC came to mind who had quoted Jim Rohn (“You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with”).  The creativity and hustle that filled the room was palpable, these people had already affected me.

    I’m not going to bore you with the entire story of how the last 9 months unfolded, because it’s probably better told over a cold beer.  My big takeaway in working closely with Techstars, the KC entrepreneurial community and my peers?  The word “accelerate” is contagious.

    Over the last 9 months, I watched our executives, our corporate real estate team, lawyers, architects, contractors and co-workers move quickly, sometimes in a way that was un-natural or outside of their “process,” to pull off everything leading up to tonight’s milestone.  Much like this blog, the Sprint Accelerator isn’t anywhere close to flying a “Mission Accomplished” banner but we’ve established some good momentum, building a culture that will infect everyone who comes into contact with us.

    Remember…you are one of the 5 people that someone else spends a lot of time with.  Set a great example and make them catch up to you.  Stop talking about your great idea, do something about it.  Quit waiting for initiative, take it.  Don’t plan on learning something from inaction…give it a shot, take good notes and try again as a more enlightened individual.  Hustle.

    Or as Techstars likes to say:  “Do More Faster”

  • BLEEDING EDGE: THE TECH TRECK THESIS – PART 1 OF 3

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Innovation, Mobile Tech, Tech Trek

    1 Comment

    It was 2am, my eyes were focused on the road directly in front of me and my hands were firmly planted at 10 and 2.  I was definitely getting tired as the 9 hours of traveling (and the 2,500 miles prior to that) started to wear on me.  As we crested a small hill on I-70, KC finally came into view.  The Tech Trek was quickly coming to a close and we were all anxious to get a good night of sleep in our own beds.

    I captured some of the events that had happened along the way but up to this point hadn’t really reflected on what the trip meant to me.  Seeing “home” in the distance brought a sudden rush of energy into my system and the events of the last 7 days ran through my head.  We packed every single day full with meetings, sightseeing and general shenanigans…my body could feel that.  It’s probably why it’s taken another full week for me to process what this road trip really meant to me.

    As I’ve encountered co-workers and friends, a narrative has started to shape up.  There’s so much to share but I think I can boil it down into 3 key observations of what I witnessed on this unconventional “business trip.”

    Part One:  Bleeding Edge Technology

    I wasn’t originally invited up to the top floor to receive Google Glass with Chris, but apparently my status as a “Sprint Employee” intrigued one of the Google staff and I was told to come up.  There were large guys standing at the entrance with Google polo shirts on, one of the “o’s” was shaped like a deputy sheriff’s star…all the same they were extremely friendly and showed me into the pop-up store.  It was modern, sparsely furnished with wood and steel tables, each of those holding a Chromebook Pixel and a fitting mirror to see how you looked with Google’s wearable computer on your face.  Through the picture windows along the side of the room you could see the Bay Bridge spanning out across the water and a couple demo stations stood nearby giving me the opportunity to try on a pair of Glass for the first time.

    I had read a lot about Google Glass and to be perfectly honest, wasn’t completely impressed with the functionality.  That being said, a podium with a bunch of non-working samples of Glass awakened the squealing Google Geek within me and I was already thinking through how I could explain a $1,500 purchase like this to my wife.  Fortunately for her, Glass is only available to a limited number of people and I didn’t make that exclusive list.  I tried them on for the first time and felt instant tech euphoria.  One of the employees could sense this emotion and walked over to ask if I wanted him to take a headshot for me…I did and I instantly posted it to Facebook.

    While my geek-out was going on, Chris was sitting at one of the modern tables working with a Google Glass fit specialist.  She was walking him through the hardware and beginning to introduce some of the the software functionality.  I turned around to watch him initially struggle with they very specific syntax of the voice commands.  Through trial and error, a number of questions and a few technical difficulties Glass was up and running and we had worn out our welcome with the Google team.  We were the last ones in the location and the Googlers were clearly ready to go home.

    We hit the streets, reunited with the larger crew and went in search of pizza (every member of the Tech Trek taking their turn trying on Glass and taking a picture of themselves wearing it so they too could post to Facebook).  Within 20 minutes, we had our very first Glass Gawker.  After parking our car outside of the pizza joint, someone stopped Chris on the street to ask if he was wearing Google Glass.  Chris did a quick demonstration for the guy and we headed on our way.  This became extremely common in public places…even in downtown San Francisco where there is arguably a higher saturation of Glass than any other part of the country.

    We interacted with a number of people over the course of the trip to get their reaction.  There was really no standard…everyone fell into different parts of a quadrant:

    glass plot

    As we traveled on, the composition of people’s thoughts didn’t change as much as the frequency of gawking.  The further we travelled from the Bay Area the more we would catch people stopping and staring.  At one point I enjoyed following our camera man Spencer, as he captured reaction shots.  People would walk by Chris and, immediately after passing him, look at each other with puzzled faces or do a double take.  It was a lot of fun to watch.

    Finding communities like Venice Beach where we could put Glass onto people doing amazing things like dunking a basketball or boxing produced great results.  We all agreed that video and photo capture is probably the current “killer app” but that means Glass in its current form is little more than a pricey Go Pro camera that sits on your face.

    It’s clear that Glass has a long way to go and the promise of more invasive applications like “Winky” or deeper exploration into Augmented Reality may justify the concern of the people who sit on the “freaked out” end of the spectrum.  The product is definitely a 1.0 or Beta version and has a long ways to go before its utility is proven in the general market.

    In part two, I’ll talk contrast the tech communities from California back to KC, stay tuned!

  • TECH TREK – DAY 1…

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Innovation, Mobile Tech, Other Cool Stuff..., Tech Trek

    No Comments

    My eyes shot open and I looked above my head to see the upside-down characters on the alarm clock…somehow my brain made out the fact that it was 3:30 AM, but it didn’t matter I couldn’t sleep any more.  I reached up and turned off the clock so it wouldn’t blare and wake up my wife when it was scheduled to go off at 3:45.  I rolled out of bed to see my wheeled carry-on bag and backpack bursting at the seams, sitting along the wall.  Both bags were stuffed with enough t-shirts, clean underwear and technology to last me 7 days on the road.

    My beautiful wife eventually woke up and graciously drove me to KCI where I barely made my flight out.  Airport security at 6:12 AM runs just as fast as you do at that time….  Day 1 of the Tech Trek had begun:  8 guys, 7 days, 5 stops, countless experiences with the bleeding edge Google Glass hardware in tow, all documented on video.

    After some flight confusion and missed connections by some others we eventually assembled as a team in Silicon Valley.  A Mod Squad of technologists, creative designers, innovators and entrepreneurial minds assembled on the patio of a German style beer garden in down town Mountain View:

    Chris Shaw – Entrepreneur In Residence at Think Big Partners and founder of the Tech Trek (LinkedIn Twitter)

    Hampton Stevens – Freelance journalist for the Atlantic, ESPN the Magazine, Playboy and many more (LinkedIn Twitter)

    Blake Miller – Partner at Think Big Partners and Managing Director of their Accelerator (LinkedIn Twitter)

    Andy Olson – Innovation Leader at Hallmark Cards (LinkedIn Twitter)

    Tom Brantman – Innovation Leader, Immagineer at Hallmark Cards (LinkedIn Twitter)

    Jason Grill – Media Relations, Public Affairs, PR, Attorney, Entrepreneur, TV Analyst, National Writer, Radio Host, Fmr MO Rep (LinkedIn Twitter)

    Spencer Walsh – Documentary Filmmaker, Owner of Piscator Media (LinkedIn Twitter)

    and me….

    We kicked off the day talking with Wade Foster, a graduate from MU who founded Zapier and just recently moved out to Silicon Valley. Over brats and a .5L of beer we talked about his experience with Y Combinator, the benefits of the Valley and his desire to eventually come back “home” to Missouri.

    After killing some time at  the Googleplex in Mountain View, we headed back to our hotel to prepare for the main event….picking up Glass in downtown San Francisco.  We arrived at a nondescript corporate office building close to pier 28 and took the elevator to the 5th floor.  Greeted by Google security, only a couple of us were actually allowed to go into the Glass Receiving area…a stripped down concrete floor with modern/minimal furniture accented by Glass branding.  Chris was seated at a table with a Glass specialist who helped him with the fit and walked him through a very detailed orientation.  It’s clear the technology is new and Google is trying to reduce the learning curve as much as possible.

    We played around, geeked out, asked a bunch of questions and then we were off…on our own in downtown San Francisco.  We navigated to a local pizza joint using Glass and devoured our food.  Everyone took their turn passing Glass around the table and envious onlookers peered through the window to see what we were doing.  We were having a great time but many of us were coming upon our 24th hour awake and we were ready for bed.

    Today is a new day, we’ll be exploring the bay area a bit more talking with a few early stage companies and then doing some of the touristy things.  I would love to take you all along with me on this experience over the next 7 days and you’ll be able to do that because of the technology we have in tow.  Stay tuned here, keep an eye on the TechTrek Blog and Twitter as well as my social media sites….we’re capturing a lot of content with the intent to share!!

    Tech Trek Blog:  http://techtrek.co/

    Tech Trek Twitter:  https://twitter.com/TheTechTrek

  • NIKE & TECHSTARS, BUSINESS SYMBIOSIS

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Life Lessons, Marketing Brilliance, Mobile Tech

    No Comments

    Many of you have read about my whirlwind week that culminated with a last-minute trip to the Nike Accelerator in Portland.  It was an amazing week my best week on record and I learned a lot about putting myself in the “way of opportunity” as a friend of mine put it.

    Aside from personal growth, I witnessed an amazing partnership between a huge multi-national corporation and a handful of small startups.  These two groups are typically juxtaposed but what I saw in Portland was a symbiotic relationship where everyone involved was walking away with more than what they brought into the relationship.

    First some context…The world has changed

    Seth Godin’s latest book, “The Icarus Deception,” chronicles the end of the industrial age due to the birth of the connected economy.  Rather than fumble through explaining this shift to you, I’ll let the master give you a 3 minute schooling:

     

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TdjBBdaAWqw

     

    High Growth Startups were born in the Connected Economy

    The benefits of the Connected Economy are well-known among entrepreneurs and founders of high growth startups.  They grew up in the connected age and have defined it for themselves by creating a lot of the platforms and tools they use to be successful.  There are 4 principles that I believe set a successful high growth startup apart from a typical organization in the Connected Economy:

    They focus on a real customer problem/pain point:  with limited resources, they define a problem, prototype a solution, understand market size/competition, focus on differentiation and determine a business model…in that order.  As a side benefit, the founders are typically emotionally connected to their companies making it easier to define and adhere to a clear mission in the marketplace.

    They connect with a ridiculously large network of people who can help them:  Well documented in Brad Feld’s book “Startup Communities,” entrepreneurs build out a community that looks out for one another, favoring a “give before you get” mentality.  Jumping into something blind sucks, knowing that there are a number of people around who have been there before increases the likelihood of success.

    They move quickly:  They don’t tackle the entire solution right away, they instead target a Minimally Viable Product that will get them on base and use an iterative process to continually improve while growing their business.  Practices like the Lean Startup Movement, Agile Development and even Agile Marketing have been designed with speed to market at the center.

    They have no fear of failure:  Failure is always an option…as long as you’re learning something and improving the next time around.  This ability to silence the “lizard brain,” and find a way to get something done is a true competitive advantage.

     

    So are corporations just worthless and screwed?

    Absolutely NOT!  While corporations may have been born during the industrial age, almost all of them have amassed valuable assets that any young company would love to get their hands on…they just need to be shown the value in sharing:

    Meaty Business Problems:  Every organization out there has business problems in need of solutions.  Generally the lack of fresh thought the limitations of bandwidth or a lack of entrepreneurial skill-set make these problems fester.  By open-sourcing these challenges, corporations and startups could both benefit.

    Access to Intellectual Property:  The rate at which corporations file patents is amazing.  There’s so much IP floating around that a lot of it actually goes unused.  While the theory of “technology transfer” is something that’s been around the academic world for quite some time, exploring performance based IP licensing models where someone else could actually help enable that IP would benefit everyone.

    Talented “Domain Experts”:  I sit next to thousands of tenured professionals who have deep experience and extremely valuable skills.  Your startup most likely can’t afford a brand expert who has been working on large sports sponsorships or a pricing manager who crunches business models for a living.  Loaning this talent to a startup as a mentor not only helps a startup in need, but maybe some of that cultural magic will rub off on your corporate employee…

    Seed Capital:  This is typically cited as a key challenge for any startup community.  A large corporation should be playing the role of a hub in your entrepreneurial community.  This includes investing relatively small amounts of money that return a good portfolio of entrepreneurs working close to core business problems. At the end of the day, you want to ensure innovation happens around you, not to you.

    Large Customer Bases:  Ah yes…the holy grail.  Once that startup has a product in market they sure would love to have access to all of your paying customers.  As a corporation, if you’ve managed to surround yourself with a portfolio of relevant startups, chances are…you probably want your customers to know about them.  Everyone wins.

     

    Creating an Environment where everyone can win…right in your home town

    Large and small companies working together is not a new concept by any means…in fact, there are a number of companies doing something similar to Nike.  Technology companies immediately set their sights on Silicon Valley, I would opt to start as close to home as possible.  Startup communities are popping up in every city and they’re probably waiting for a large corporation to show a little interest.  When building a community close to your company, make sure things are close enough for you to keep tabs on what’s going on but far enough away from HQ to keep the heavy hands of the executives at bay.

    What Nike and TechStars have set up in Portland seems to be working and I’m excited to watch it grow.  They have laid the ground work for a healthy innovation pipeline that they can manage over a long period of time.  As I provided advice to each of the teams I met with, I received a number of thank you’s and genuine appreciation….but they ended up changing me for the better (whether they know it or not).

  • I LOVE HACK-A-THONS

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Life Lessons, Marketing Brilliance, Mobile Tech

    4 Comments

    As many of you know, I found a love for hack-a-thons after participating in a company sponsored event focused on mobile app development.  I learned a lot and found some useful tips in how the hack-a-thon concept can translate well into any field, not just the techie side of your business.

    Over the weekend I participated in another hack-a-thon: the Global Service Jam right here in Kansas City.  The event attracted around 15-20 young professionals from the area with a variety of skill sets, but one common goal:  “stop talking” and “start building”

    The Global Service Jam is a world-wide organization with participants in over 100 cities working toward a solution within a common theme.  This year’s theme was “Grow^” (which our group interpreted as “Grow Up”).  From there it was up to us to define a problem related to the “Grow Up” theme and begin building a solution.  My team focused in on increasing financial acumen among young children (helping them “Grow Up” financially).  We aimed to develop a service that would allow parents to include their children in real world financial decisions, not just abstract conversations about money or allowances.

    Over the next 48 hours we went to work; defining a target customer, thinking through a whole bunch of prototypes and eventually narrowing our focus to the grocery store and all of the teachable moments that live within that eco-system.  We built a prototype application that breaks shopping trips into three categories related to financial acumen, utilizing two cute monsters by the name of Eenie and Meenie to keep the child engaged:

    1)  Needs vs. Wants – Creating the grocery list adhering to a shopping budget

    2)  Cost & Value – Comparison shopping in store

    3)  Feedback & Reward – Total target to budget and savings

    We produced a VERY poorly acted video showcasing a shopping trip before and after our solution:

     

     

    Needless to say….I had a blast.  I went into this with a little apprehension, knowing that my precious weekend was basically shot.  I justified the trade-off hoping to push my skills to the limit, comfortable with the fact that I would be extremely aggressive and never worry about failure as an outcome (something most of us aren’t OK with in our day jobs).

    In addition, I made some connections that will last a lifetime with some EXTREMELY talented people from the KC area.  When you put a whole bunch of people in a room who are willing to gamble their weekend away to an opportunity like this…amazing things happen.

    What happens next is the key…  Hack-a-thons are a blast for rapid prototyping, product/service development and a little personal discovery.  You’re completely spent mentally and you walk away with something tangible to show people.  Turning that tangible thing into something commercially viable is the next bridge to cross…but that will be the subject of my next blog post :-)

    Thank you to the Global Service Jam organization, thank you to the local KC chapter,  and more than anything…thank you to the VERY talented people who decided to give up a weekend to come hack with me.  I’ll never forget it!

    Follow the Kansas City Global Service Jam organization for announcements on the Fall Jam…..I’ll be there.  If you want to DO SOMETHING, you should be too:

    FACEBOOK

    TWITTER

  • 5 REASONS YOU [YES, YOU] SHOULD PARTICIPATE IN A HACKATHON

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Life Lessons, Marketing Brilliance, Mobile Tech, Other Cool Stuff...

    2 Comments

    This past Thursday/Friday I had the honor of joining a team in a company hosted hackathon.

    Quick vocabulary check (because many have asked)…I would define a hackathon as a set amount of time where a group of people work together to solve a problem with the goal of bringing a viable solution together before the end of the contest.  

    While the term hackathon could include any contest where you are hacking a solution together, most focus on software design (Facebook’s “Like” button was the product of an internal hackathon, the super secret algorithm that decides what Netflix movie you should watch next was a during an open hackathon and one of my favorite success stories, “GroupMe” was created at Techcruch Disrupt – and later acquired by Skype/Microsoft for more than $40M).

    The rules for Sprint’s hackathon were fairly simple:  1 – It had to be a mobile app, 2 – it had to be related to Sprint, 3 – it had to be marketable and make money.

    I had always heard about hackathons and was excited that Sprint was going to host one internally…  I never thought anyone would see value in bringing a marketer into the group, but to my surprise I was asked to join a team!  On Wednesday, the four of us (two developers, one designer/UX expert and me, a marketer) sat down for 30 minutes and brainstormed.  We left there with a good idea of each other’s capabilities and I went to work on what I believed to be some important pre-work…. defining the problem statement and the current marketplace.

    The contest started Thursday afternoon at 2pm and the sound of keyboard clicking filled the room.  We huddled as a team to quickly review some of my research and came to a consensus on the problem statement, the target customer, the current solutions for that problem in the market, and what we believed to be some blue ocean/white space to exploit.

    Our pre-work paid off, we were extremely focused and full of purpose.  Everyone knew their role (mine at times was simply filling cups of coffee), we communicated well and executed on the shared vision.  24 hours later (after a 4-5 hour nap back at our respective homes) we had a solution that looked a lot like what we set out to create.  As a cherry on the top of our beautifully executed plan, we also won the contest with an app that looked/worked great, had a realistic business model and most importantly, solved a real problem.

    So, what did I learn?  Aside from the fact that I probably only utilize about 1% of my Mac Book’s computing power…I witnessed a few things about the hackathon concept that can be applied to any problem solving situation in ANY functional organization:

    1)  Solve real problems – This is the most important component of them all.  If you’re not working on something that matters then find something that does.  We picked a problem that we were all passionate about and would be meaningful to Sprint.  By 2:15am, we were all ready for bed.  We took off from the campus and went home for some shut-eye.  By 6:30am, I was tossing and turning in my bed, obsessing over our project.  I jumped out of bed, hit the shower and headed back to work.  I wasn’t too surprised to find that my whole team was already there, back to work on our solution…they were personally invested and believed in the cause.

    2)  Make friends with people who can do stuff you can’t – I was flat-out, blown-away by the skills of my teammates.  We were well balanced and everyone learned something from someone else on the team.  There are people in your company right now with some amazing talents (you’re one of them).  Some are creative, some have analytical skills, some are fantastic communicators, some can write strings of code that turn into apps.  Until you get them out of their individual corners (or in my case…gigantic organizational structures), onto a diverse team, they’re not really working for you…

    3)  Set a deadline – The pressure of a 24 hour contest was palpable…with 6 minutes to go, our two developers were merging the final code together (the designer and I exchanged nervous glances behind their backs).  With total exhaustion setting in, they were both dead set on delivering their piece of the puzzle…they were not going to let the team down.  With a short period of time, everyone is forced to put everything they have into the problem…and if they’re not, maybe they don’t have your best interests at heart when the pressure is on during normal business hours.

    4)  Learn to Prioritize – Because of the deadline, we were forced to leave some components on the cutting room floor…and probably for the best.  Through the normal course of business, we’re all tempted to analyze the data one more time, add a couple more slides, slide in one more disclaimer, pour over the details to the point where nothing makes sense any more.  The short deadline forces you to trim the fat and dump the details that aren’t critical to success….what you may find is the solution didn’t need any of that stuff to ship in the first place.

    5)  Celebrate Progress – About 9 hours into the contest, we had our first look at the app running on a phone.  The user interface hadn’t been added yet, the buttons were boxy and the text wasn’t in the right spot….but it worked!!!  We all stood up from our huddled position around the phone and celebrated with high-fives and cheers [as though we just landed a man on the moon].  We can get beat down from time to time about the status of a project or how things aren’t going the way we want.  Find a way to celebrate what’s working.  Start evaluating what’s not.  You might be fretting over one of those details that should be left on the cutting room floor.

     We took something from concept to a working reality in less than 24 hours.  With a few more hours worth of work, we can put our app into the Google Play store and get some real-time feedback from actual users.  Had we set out to tackle this same problem through the normal process it would have taken months and most likely never launched.

    I’m a believer that the hackathon framework should be re-purposed for all kinds of problem solving exercises.  Is your business looking for new market opportunities?  Want some ideas on brand strategies?  Looking for innovative programs to build a better corporate culture?  Putting a well-rounded team of individuals on a hilariously short deadline to solve a real business problem could be the answer to what is keeping you up at night.

  • MY DISTRACTED DRIVING SOLUTION

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: App Test Drives, Mobile Tech

    No Comments

    Sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent-at 55 mph-of driving the length of an entire football field……blindfolded

    -Department of Transportation Study

    Let’s be honest, it’s happened to all of us at one point….  You’re headed somewhere, your phone makes a noise, you reach over to just take a quick look and by the time you look up the situation on the road has changed drastically.  In fact, the stats like the one listed above are straight up ALARMING!

    After a few too many close calls, and some prodding by my employer I’ve decided that it’s time to swear it off completely.  While no one in the industry has come out and supported an all-out ban on their products while in a motor vehicle, Sprint has taken a stance that any distraction on the road is un-acceptable and AT&T has even started running PSA’s that are extremely powerful.  I applaud all of these efforts and I hope more follow the lead.

    It’s embarrassing to admit, but sometimes my phone is just too tempting…  I set out to find a more direct method of blocking my obsessive behavior.  There are a number of apps out there for Android that restrict phone usage, some of them like Sprint Drive First even automagically lock your phone when they detect movement over 10mph.  The application sends all calls straight to voicemail and auto-replies to incoming text messages when enabled.  I opted for a more passive approach and went with “Safely GO” a similar app that requires the driver to manually enable the lock screen before heading off on a trip (I like to be in control…)

    To create a visual reminder, I now have an NFC enabled sticker* on my steering wheel that will enable the Safely GO app when I tap it.  Within the first week of setting all of this up, I found that I grabbed my phone an average of 6 times per trip to and from work….once picking up my phone and seeing the lock screen, I’m reminded to put it down….who knows what I was really looking for.  Email, text messages, Facebook updates????  None of that is really that important and can wait until I get to my destination.

    I’ve found that the sticker is now a permanent reminder to keep my eyes on the road and my phone sits happily in my pocket.  Nerds like myself will continue to hack solutions together like this, but it’s only a matter of time before the government steps in and figures out a broader solution.  Challenge yourself on your next car ride.  Count the number of times you reach for your phone, I think you’ll be surprised.

    Have a better solution?  Let me know in the comments!

    *For my Mom…NFC is Near Field Communication.  The technology is built into certain phones (all Sprint Android phones going forward) and is a short range wireless communication that can enable tasks on your phone.  With a blank NFC sticker you can program it to do certain tasks when you touch your phone to it….I programmed this one in my car to enable Safely GO’s driving mode.  It’s the same technology that enables “tap to pay” applications like Google Wallet.

  • MY 3 FAVORITE SPORTS APPS FOR FALL

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: App Test Drives, Mobile Tech

    2 Comments

    Fall is a beautiful time of year…  After the horrible summer we had, the weather has been a treat and my inner-Nebraskan is overjoyed by the fact that football is in full swing.  Aside from a bit of a rough start for my Huskers and two weeks of heart-breaking losses for my fantasy football team, I’ve caught every moment with some help from my mobile phone and these three awesome apps:

    1)  ESPN College Football:  FREE (Android/iPhone)

     Nebraska law dictates that nothing shall interrupt a Husker game, unfortunately the occasional wedding or trip to Runza for a half-time snack may interfere.  Luckily the folks at ESPN were on point with top notch reporting and a really slick interface to fulfill all of your College Football needs.  I’ve found that even while sitting in front of my TV, I’m getting more information than the on-air talent (i.e. the Bo Pelini heartburn scare of week 3).  Simply log in with your Facebook account and add your favorite college teams….timely notifications can be customized to deliver news, game start/end, scores and more.

    2)  Yahoo! Fantasy Football ’12:  FREE (Android/iPhone)

    While I definitely bleed Husker Red, Fantasy Football has turned into an obsession over the last few years.  With the KC Chiefs completely embarrassing themselves again in 2012, it’s nice to have a fake team that I can root for.  We’ve used Yahoo! over the last couple years and their app has slowly become one of the more capable on the market with live scoring, roster changes and more available at your finger tips.  A must have companion when watching NFL Redzone in the basement.

    3)  THUUZ Sports:  FREE (Android/iPhone)

    While the ESPN CFB app definitely takes the cake, this sleeper pick is a MUST DOWNLOAD….  I’ve been watching THUUZ for about a year as they’ve developed from cool app to necessary utility.  The wizards at THUUZ watch every single game going on and will send you a notification if there’s something on TV that you shouldn’t miss.  It’s a brilliant concept made even better by the fact that they now can integrate your fantasy football teams with the click of a button.  By logging in with my Yahoo! credentials, Thuuz knows when Vick is tearing it up and gives me a quick nudge to flip the channel….nice work guys.

    How about you?  Any favorites that I missed?