NEXPO 2011: IDEAs All Around

Last Wednesday, Feb. 9 I had the privilege of attending the second annual Northeastern Entrepreneurship Expo (NEXPO), which I blogged about a few weeks ago. However, now I have created something more exciting: A video news segment exploring the event.

The second annual NEXPO event, held by the Inter-Disciplinary Entrepreneurial Accelerator (IDEA) student group on Northeastern’s campus is a celebration of the entrepreneurial ventures throughout the Boston and Northeastern communities. Startup companies and new businesses that work with IDEA (the group connects students and startup companies with resources, coaches and funding) were able to showcase their ventures, giving the founders an opportunity to network with one another as well as meet industry professionals.

In the video, I had the opportunity of speaking with Chris Wolfel, CFO of IDEA who helped run and organize the event, Chuck Svirk, co-founder of University Apparel LLC, Cory Bolotsky, a member of the Northeastern Entrepreneurship Club, Sean Castro, founder of Rummagers Group, LLC and Tyler Smith, founder of Brewspy.com. The companies, from Svirk’s apparel businesses to Castro and Smith’s online businesses, were all really interesting and showed an incredible amount of entrepreneurial spirit. I am very excited to see which businesses take off in the future!

Please take the time to check out the video, and feel free to follow the companies online!

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Want to Visit Facebook at Work? Now You Can!

My co op advisor at Northeastern is always reiterating that students should NOT, under any circumstances, go on Facebook at work. It is considered unprofessional to check your personal social networking site, and not to mention the fact that by checking what your “friends” are up to, you are probably neglecting your work duties.

However, things may be changing. Today, you might even be required to visit Facebook at work–just not your personal page.

A new article from Entrepreneur.com Daily Dose details Facebook’s major updates to its Pages platform, making it easier for business owners to use the site to engage with consumers online. Feature changes and enhancements will go into effect for all Pages on March 10.

Facebook is a popular site for entrepreneurs and start-ups, because the site is relatively simple to navigate and it is free to use. People of all ages have a Facebook account, which guarantees that business owners can reach out to their niche audience and target markets through the site. Using Facebook as a business strategy is an even easier choice for young entrepreneurs, because young professionals are typically using Facebook to network with their friends already and know the ins and outs of the site.

So what are some of these changes, you may ask?

Facebook will implement simplified page navigation that compresses the page navigation links into one scheme, located at the left-hand top of the page. Instead of a list of several navigation links, there will be just one, which is a popular best practice for websites and make it easier for users to navigate the site. Facebook will also be enhancing their email notification system for page administrators, ensuring that users receive instant notifications when someone posts on their wall. For individuals or business owners using Facebook as a business, this is extremely important so that the site can remain professional and clean.

Placement of photos will also be changing. Business page photos will appear at the top of the page, just like personal profile pages. The article recommends that business owners post a series of new images that they want to be associated with first and foremost when customers and fans land on the page.

I think these changes are a great step in the right direction, however, I do not think Facebook fan pages of business pages should be a substitute for an actual business website. Though there is room for pictures and information, I do not think there is nearly enough space for all the important information to be present–plus, it is not organized in any special way on Facebook to make it interesting or stand out. If anything, a Facebook page should be the connection between the fan and/or consumer and the company’s actual website. If someone sees something they think is “cool” on Facebook, they can automatically check out the Facebook page which will lead to the company website. The company website should also have a link to the Facebook website, making the transition circular and allowing fans and/or consumers to come back to the Facebook page and engage in discussion with other fans and/or consumers. That being said, I do think Facebook is a great (and free!) tool for entrepreneurs to build their fanbase and engage with their consumers.

A great example for how entrepreneurs should use Facebook for their business can be seen within the Facebook page for Mini Pops, an air-popped & seasoned Organic Sorghum grain that resembles popcorn, but is apparently “healthier.” Mini Pops is the entrepreneurial venture of Ari Taube, formally in the pharmaceutical business. The Facebook page includes a brief background of the food as well as what flavors it comes in, yet designates customers to the company website to learn more.


The 21st Century Journalist Needs Video Skills

On Friday, Emily Sweeney from The Boston Globe came to talk to my Reinventing the News class about mutlimedia journalism. Sweeney is a graduate of Northeastern University and played on the women’s varsity hockey team as an undergrad. It’s great to see graduates of the Northeastern journalism school working at places with such high standards of journalism like The Globe.

Sweeney emphasized many of the things I have been hearing lately about the world of journalism, such as the idea that journalists today cannot just be writers–they have to have a complete set of skills. Sweeney said that having the ability to shoot and edit video, as well as make a radio show are now equally as important as being able to write. I guess it’s a good thing my class is currently working on creating video news segments–even if iMovie ’09 can be quite tempermental.

Sweeney gave some encouraging news to the class, stating that most video editing programs are similar, so learning iMovie ’09 will be a good tool to use in the future, no matter what editing program we may be using later on. Knowing how to edit videos is a “marketable skill,” Sweeney said.

Sweeney showed us a few of her own video segments, including one about Bingo in Boston, another about word pronunciation in Boston and a third about an elderly women’s basketball league. I really enjoyed all three of the segments, however I especially liked the segment about word pronunciation in Boston. Not only was it funny, but the images that went along with it gave a clear representation of what they were talking about. It’s interesting that even though they weren’t using actual video, they were still able to make a video segment by pairing the audio with images. It also shows that a video segment doesn’t necessarily have to be something that’s actually happening, but can just be an interesting topic that will keep the audience engaged.

I think the video segments are able to tell a really interesting story because the audience not only gets to hear narration, they get to see the actual story playing out. Instead of just seeing a quote said by a person, the audience can see the actual person and the actions that go along with what they are saying. As Sweeney emphasized, the woman in the Bingo video segment who sprinkled sugar on her cards was able to express herself through her actions, not just through words, which I think really adds to the value of the story.

More video news segments by Emily Sweeney can be found here–I definitely recommend taking a look!


Greenhorn Connect: Connecting Entrepreneurs, Not Enviromentalists

Upon reading the name Greenhorn Connect, many minds shift to the environmentally safe connotation many have come to associate the word “green” with. Yet Greenhorn Connect has nothing to do with being enviromentally safe–unless, of course, it’s featuring a “green” startup business or entrepreneurial venture.

Pardees Safizadeh from Greenhorn Connect at NEXPO 2011

Greenhorn Connect is actually a community website that helps to build connections within the Boston entrepreneur ecosystem. The site connects Boston startups and entrepreneur enthusiasts with the many resources, events and even open jobs available in the Boston area. It’s mission is “to deliver relevant content to entrepreneurs and help channel the energy and enthusiasm of ‘greenhorns,'” which are newcomers–or in other words, entrepreneurs.

I first came across the name of Greenhorn Connect when attending Northeastern Entrepreneurship Expo that I blogged about a few weeks ago. I saw their booth showcasing their business and went over to talk to Pardees Safizadeh. The most interesting thing, it turns out, is that Greenhorn Connect is actually a website for entrepreneurs, made by entrepreneurs. The founding “Team” consists of two Northeastern graduates and Safizadeh, a graduate of Boston College. They created the website in order to serve the challenges faced by young entrepreneurs trying to learn from and connect with the resources, organizations and events available in the city of Boston.

The website contains a journalistic element with its Blog feed that contains relevant articles summarizing event recaps, interviews with startup founders and advice articles. The site also has a “news and announcements” element where site visitors can check up on what events are going on as well as enter various contests to win free tickets and access to events, and prizes that may help with their entrepreneurial endeavors. The site also allows community members to comment on posts and submit their own content, making it a real collaborative product.

In addition to the journalistic elements, Greenhorn Connect includes an event calendar so visitors can easily see what is happening throughout the week, get a brief summary of the event, and go to the event page right from the site to sign up. The site has tons of resources, providing learning guides, how-to articles, and lists organizations and companies that may be places of interest to entrepreneurs, such as 406 Ventures.

For the entrepreneur in us all, the site also has a job board where visitors and members can look for available jobs with startup companies and entrepreneurial ventures, or put up a posting for their own business.

I love the fact that the website is local and specifically for Boston-based entrepreneurs. I also love the combination of the journalistic elements along with learning elements, and that it is a community site, so anyone can contribute.

However, there are some things I would also improve. Members of the site have the opportunity to post feedback, yet from looking at the site, I did not see much feedback. This could be due to the fact that I myself am not a member, so I cannot see the comments. Another thing I thought that the site could improve was its visual appearance–pictures from events would be a great contribution, and having journalists cover all of the events they post would be extremely helpful. Perhaps a rating system of these events for community members to comment on different events would help other site members know if they should attend a weekly meeting from the reviews from the previous week.

Websites that can be compared to Greenhorn are BostInnovation, a website that also features articles about local entrepreneurs and new businesses in the Boston area. However, BostInnovation also features “What’s New in Boston,” so it is not specifically focused on entrepreneurs, making Greenhorn Connect unique.


Northeastern Collegiettes Get Published

Every Sunday evening I go to the Curry Student Center and meet with several other female students at Northeastern. There, we discuss what is going on around campus and pitch ideas for stories to one another, trying to figure out what it is that the female population of Northeastern wants, or needs, to know. Once we come up with these ideas for stories and write them up, we can then post them online to the Northeastern branch of Her Campus, a national online magazine for college women.

From left: Karlee Stewart (Campus Secretary) and Rachel Kossman (Campus Coordinator)

Her Campus has a national home page, which serves as a hub for information, news and updates relevant to the interests of college women. With content on style, health, love, life and careers, the national site is supplemented by campus-specific content. The site individualizes its content college-by-college by establishing My Campus branches at schools across the country.

Created by three undergraduate Harvard students, Her Campus is the definition of an entrepreneurial venture. The founders, Stephanie Kaplan, Annie Wang and Windsor Hanger collaborated to create Her Campus and their idea was a winner in Harvard College’s business plan competition, the i3 Innovation Challenge, in March 2009. Since Her Campus’s launch in September 2009, the website has proven to be largely successful and now has campus branches

The founders (now graduates, except for Annie Wang, who has taken a leave of absence from Harvard) currently work in their office in Cambridge near Harvard University that was provided to them after winning the i3 Innovation Challenge. They have formed partnerships with Seventeen Magazine and The Huffington Post, and have been featured in The New York Times and The Boston Globe.

Northeastern's Her Campus Branch Website

100+ college across the country now have Her Campus branches, with new branches popping up every week. Readers of the site can enjoy new articles daily, and monthly giveaways. Kaplan has been featured on Fox25 News to talk about various subjects, including last week when she went to talk about the pros and cons of joining Greek Life. The women have been featured in Inc. Magazine’s 30 Under 30 Coolest Young EntrepreneursGlamour Magazine’s 20 Amazing Young Women, and The Boston Globe’s 25 Most Stylish Bostonians.

The group of women writing for Northeastern’s Her Campus branch (including myself) are also exhibiting a sense of entrepreneurialism. We meet each week to discuss our ideas and ways to make the website better, without any one authority member telling us what to do. We direct ourselves, without pay, to generate relevant and interesting content for the Northeastern community, and simultaneously create writing clips for ourselves. We strive to make our branch website better each week, gaining more website views inch-by-inch each month. By being a part of this particular venture, we are all adopting the spirit of entrepreneurialism, and learning more about what it takes to create a successful business: A good idea, knowledge of online content and a group of hard working individuals ready to make a difference.

 

From left: Sarah Moomaw and Jen Gorden (Campus Contributors) Peer Edit Articles


Got an IDEA?

Many Northeastern students and alumni do, and on Wednesday night many of these ideas were showcased throughout the ground floor of the Curry Student Center at the second Northeastern Entrepreneurship Expo (NEXPO).

Held by the Inter-Disciplinary Entrepreneurship Accelerator group at Northeastern (IDEA), NEXPO is a celebration of the entrepreneurial groups, students and organizations in the Northeastern and Boston communities. Student ventures working with IDEA had the opportunity to feature and show their businesses on the expo floor, and the event was a unique opportunity for entrepreneurs to meet and network with one another.

Though I will covering this event to a much further degree in a short video news segment later on in the semester, I wanted to share two entrepreneurial ventures I thought were particularly interesting for the typical college student.

Topplayedgames.com is the idea of Sean A. Castro, who is a founding partner of Rummagers Group, a new web and mobile umbrealla company. The website is an online gaming portal, consisting of classic arcade and developed flash games. Castro said the idea for this particular website came about from always playing games online while in classes, so why not make a business out of it?

Castro also showcased DrinkTV, which is a website in the works that will eventually feature drinking game guidelines for a variety of TV shows.

“Like for Jersey Shore, you would have to drink every time you see an Ed Hardy t-shirt,” Castro said.

Another website I thought was particularly interesting, and have been following for quite some time, is Brewspy.com. Created by Northeastern student Tyler Smith, the website allows individuals to view daily deals at various bars and restaurants around the Boston area. Smith also showed me a website he is working on that will allow individuals (mainly college students) to tell their friends where they plan to go that particular night.

Though the website seems much like FourSquare, Smith made sure to draw a line of distinction between the two, citing that FourSquare allows you to check-in somewhere when you’re there, while his new website will allow people to check-in before they go, allowing the site to connect friends with each other’s plans for the evening. Smith said he hopes the website, which has yet to be named, will be live within the next two months.

Many other entrepreneurial ventures at NEXPO were phenomenal, and I’m very excited to share them with you via my video segment, however, these two ideas are geared mainly to the college student and immediately struck my interest. Perhaps the college student market has many more opportunities for entrepreneurial ventures to be explored!


Igniting Ideas at Boston 8

Ever been to a conference where you wish the presenter would just get to the point already?

Perhaps we all have. However, at “Boston 8 — Globate Ignite,” held at Microsoft New England’s Research and Development office tonight (Monday, Feb. 7), long and boring presentations did not exist.

Why? Because each presenter was only allowed five minutes to get across what he or she wanted to say. They had the opportunity to present 20 slides that automatically advanced every 15 seconds. So no matter what, their time with the microphone was short and concise.

Click here for more photos from Boston 8, 2011

Click the image for more photos from Boston 8, 2011

Boston 8 is part of a larger initiative through Global Ignite week. From February 7-11, over 100 cities will host Ignite events, made possible by community volunteers. Technologists, entrepreneurs, DIYers and creative  professionals have the opportunity to speak and listen to one another’s innovative ideas.

This year’s presenters in Boston included presentations about “Conception, Pregnancy, Labor, Deliver and Infants (For Geeks)” by Jacob Buckley-Fortin and “How to Start a Summer Camp,” delivered by Katie Gradowski.

Evan Sietz, 28, a disaster recovery planner,  said he heard about Boston 8 from a friend and thought it was a fun way to see what’s going on in the startup community in Boston. He said Boston is a great place to begin getting involved in entrepreneurship and startups.

Another attendee, JD Doyle, 42, heard about the event on Twitter and is looking to network with others interested in startups.

“I’ve been in the mobile communications industry for awhile and just left my company. If there’s any time to create a startup [company], nows the time to do it,” he said.