Business Model Showcase: TutorUniverse

Business Model Showcase: TutorUniverse

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Everyone's a tutor

As a seven-trillion dollar industry, it is surprising that the Internet has not yet managed to disrupt the field of education. But the digital education landscape is changing fast - from a one-size-fits-all model to more technology-enabled solutions, such as TutorUniverse.

TutorUniverse offers a free service that allows students to ask study-related questions from qualified tutors and get them answered almost immediately. They can also use this service to find skilled tutors who are available to assist students with a specific hourly rate for study sessions conducted through the website interface. 

To turn this into a financial transaction, tutors must decide how much they would like to charge their students and mention it on their profiles. In turn, students must set their budget and then load 'TutorBucks' in their account to hire the tutor they need (1 TutorBuck = 1 USD). 

Students are given a 100% satisfaction guarantee by TutorUniverse for their first study session, so the pressure is on the tutors to deliver what they promise their prospective students in the Virtual Study Room.

GotIt! is a free app by TutorUniverse that has been launched on both iOS and Android platforms to provide the same free service that TutorUniverse offers on its website, only on mobile; allowing students to get help with their studies instantly. Just as on the website, this app also allows tutors the opportunity to impress prospective students by answering questions and getting noticed.

Tutors must pay 15% to 25% commission to TutorUniverse as service charges, depending on how often they use the platform to teach. As they tutor more, the service charge gets smaller and the tutors save more money. 

Book Review: Running Lean

Book Review: Running Lean

From Lean theory to Lean practice

There's a wide gap between theory and practice, particularly in the innovation arena. After the wide success of Steve Blank's "The Startup Owner's Manual: The Step-by-Step Guide for Building a Great Company" and Eric Ries' "The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses", the market was now armed with a new innovation theory, but lacked the in-depth knowledge to avoid pitfalls in practice. Ash Maurya's "Running Lean: Iterate from Plan A to a Plan that Works" aims to fill that gap.

Covering all steps of the Lean strategy, Ash goes into each part in detail, arming current and wannabe entrepreneurs with tools, processes and vocabulary to tackle each phase.

Running Lean works for us as a weekly consultation guide. That works for us much better than a long continuous read. We recommend it for intra and entrepreneurs in any industry that are already familiarized with the Lean Startup philosophy, as well as developers who would like to get rid of their waterfall processes.

The new world order of marketing

The new world order of marketing

The new world order of marketing

Now more than ever before, brands expect agencies to be fluent in existing and emerging technologies. In their dealings with the account manager or lead strategist, they assume they are liaising directly with a community manager, strategist, developer, creative designer, data specialist, editor and public relations practitioner – all rolled up into one. Although some brand managers do try to understand the inner workings of a digital agency – and we greatly appreciate that – it is not part of their job.

So if a brand expects a superhero strategist who can do it all, why should they deal with anything less? After all, this is the role strategists hope to play if they intend to keep working in the field in the future. The question remains, how does today’s digital strategist raise the ante to become the superhero they are already being demanded to be?

A strategist can now accomplish many of the tasks only a developer could by using tools like Zapier, saving time (and money) usually reserved for programmers. Such an effort goes a long way in bridging the gap usually found between Strategy and Technology within a typical digital agency, while giving more command to the strategist, helping them manage their multiple job roles – sales, event management, content management (posting, curating, filtering), talent management, marketing, reporting and community management.

If the strategist’s job requires them to keep an eye on sales, they can create an email or SMS alert for every Paypal transaction, or create a Xero invoice for record-keeping, and store the new lead in a CRM like Zoho or SalesForce or AWeber, using Zapier’s interface. If one of the brands they work with runs many events (and uses Google Calendar to manage them), a strategist can program Zapier to automatically post to Facebook shortly before a Google Calendar event starts. For Facebook page managers who have future social media updates stored in a Google Doc – they can get Zapier to update the Facebook page or Twitter profile from a new Google Doc row, automatically.

All these automations are called ‘zaps’, and there are many other things you can do with them. A zap could allow new HubSpot contacts to be registered on GoToWebinar automatically, or sync Dropbox with Google Drive. You could create a zap that adds MailChimp subscribers automatically to a Google Form, filter a Twitter channel’s content to automatically post to a Facebook page, automatically tweet new Wordpress posts, add new Capsule CRM people to a Campaign Monitor list, or send email from a Webhook endpoint.

One of the great things about Zapier is that it allows programmers to upload their own APIs as well. You can then make these custom APIs ‘talk’ to other web services in a fraction of the time it takes to get a formal approval from a CTO. Zapier even helps you create smooth workflows between your SaaS services.

If you wish to integrate sales, marketing, accounting, and community management without being forced to use a huge (and expensive) ERP, Zapier may be the light you seek

Many strategists work with different types of talent and they use different mediums to engage with them. Say, a strategist manages four different Gmail addresses for email communications and a company LinkedIn account to find and engage new talent, it is rather easy to sync all those contacts on to one Google account using a zap, and create another zap to save those LinkedIn connections to Google Contacts as well.

The year 2013 has been termed ‘The Year of the Content Strategist’. How does a content strategist resonate with fans so that they keep coming back? What’s the viral element that gets them sharing your content? Does that lead to organic growth? How can you make use of the fact that 42% people use #hashtags to explore new content and 25% use them in their own posts (RadiumOne)?

If a content strategist is armed with the ability to curate a great mass of content (using tools like Zapier or itDuzzit), it gives them more time to be creative, and a greater ability to distinguish the sticky content from the mundane. For example, they could setup Zapier to ‘zap’ content from numerous sources onto one neat little spreadsheet. Maybe they want to include only those tweets that have been favorited more than 10 times? They can setup Zapier to do this too; saving all that time spent browsing, often aimlessly.

Instead of making our programmers and strategists work overtime, the future demands digital strategists and account managers to think out of the box and equip themselves with the ability to be driven by data and automation to ensure customer insights and brand strategy are applied throughout the delivery of their services. Zapier is just one example of a tool that helps digital agencies achieve this and retain their focus on the most important aspects of their services: using Search and Social as the primary gateways to consumers, and creating quality content to deliver authentic and compelling experiences in a brand-centric manner.

Branding MOOC starting this month

Branding MOOC starting this month

Wolff Olins behind massive open online course (MOOC) on branding

One of the most reputable branding agencies in the world, Wolff Olins, is sharing some of their branding knowledge and experience in a MOOC (massive open online course) entitled "The secret power of brands", which you can enroll for free at FutureLearn, a British online learning platform. The course starts on February 24, and it will run for six weeks, at a 3 hour per week pace. Robert Jones is the lead instructor. No academic requirement is required, but we feel it's an opportunity for junior to mid-level Marketing executives and agency account managers and creatives who want to up their skills, techniques and vocabulary on branding.

Make art with code (and Google)

Make art with code (and Google)

Google launches DevArt initiative

There's a new class of artist in the world. Artists whose main canvases are technology and interaction. Google has launched the DevArt initiative with Barbican Centre in London to highlight the works of selected, established interactive artists like Zach Lieberman, Karsten Schmidt and Varvara and Mar, at the same time as giving the platform and opportunity for aspiring coders and programmers to show off their skills for this form of art. Together, these interactive artists will form the body of work of the upcoming Digital Revolution exhibition to take place at the Barbican in July.

Interaction14 begins today

Interaction14 begins today

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Amsterdam becomes the world's UX epicenter

Today marks the beginning of the 14th edition of interaction, a 4-day user experience conference hosted by the IxDA (Interaction Design Association). This year in Amsterdam, the event takes place at Westergasfabriek, a remodeled gas factory. We will be collecting information in our Facebook Event Page (some videos, photos and words). It doesn't seem that the official site will be covering much, so we're counting on a Twitter #ixd14 hashtag and YouTube search strategy as a means of gathering some information for you. Wish us luck.

Business Model Showcase: EatWith

Business Model Showcase: EatWith

Earn for hosting a lunch or dinner at your house

Like Airbnb but for meals

Peer-to-peer marketplaces are having a pretty solid growth trajectory in the last few years. The building blocks are now cheaper, the barriers to entry smaller. One example of an upcoming platform we like is EatWith. They are like AirBnB but for meals with locals. Search a destination, check the menu and book a lunch or dinner experience directly with the host. The interface could improve a bit, and there are many destinations that are yet to be covered (like Venice!), but we're a firm believer in this type of platform.

Business Model Showcase: The Pop Up Agency

Business Model Showcase: The Pop Up Agency

The Pop Up Agency: a new paradigm in creative collaboration

Mobile agency (and successful Kickstarters)

We've been following up with guys at The Pop Up Agency for a while now, ever since we came across their story as they were gearing up to cross the world and solve multiple business problems while at it. We tried finding a company host for them in Dubai, but the market wasn't ready for the novelty of the proposition just yet. The ideas was to fly in to a location, attack a brief in 48h, present and be out the door as quickly as they came in. The host's only duties were to find accommodation and pay for travel expenses.

After a brilliant start, they are now settled in London and working on a crowd funded documentary (which we also donated to). But I think nomadism is still in their blog, and business model.

Mecenato is one year old today

Mecenato is one year old today

And it's just the beginning

On February 1st, 2013, I set out on a personal journey of trying to rethink and redesign a creative services agency for the future. A future that was based in decentralized networks of expertise, in cheap cloud tools and APIs, and in constant change. We think Mecenato will play a part in that future, or so we dearly hope. In order to inch in closer to our mission, I'd love to ask for your general website feedback. Any comment, critique, appraisal is appreciated.


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Meet Facebook Paper

Meet Facebook Paper

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Facebook's ongoing pursuit of mobile supremacy

No doubt Facebook is betting high on mobile as their growing source of revenue and shareholder value creation. Today they announced Facebook Paper, a new mobile application – to be launched on February 3rd – that promises to add some beauty to storytelling via Facebook. Paper seems to be heading into an arena currently occupied by Flipboard, and one that we think Medium will join in the near future (as of publishing, Medium doesn't have a dedicated mobile application yet).

Paper's interface design looks solid yet fluid, and it will benefit from all the in-built Facebook actions you can currently take, including tagging, sharing and liking. On top of that, there might be more powerful opportunities for brands to create channels/pages that fully leverage custom Open Graph stories inside a fully mobile environment. Let's wait and see.

On technology and the end of institutions

On technology and the end of institutions

A clear peek into the future

We spotted this Harvard Business School podcast interview earlier this week, and thought it was a great listen for marketers and brand specialists that want to have a better understanding of the effect of technology in institutions and large corporations in the near future. Nico Melle, a Fortune 1000 consultant and entrepreneur, really hits the nerve on quite a few issues.

Business Model Showcase: ooomf

Business Model Showcase: ooomf

Ooomf is a marketplace for mobile/interface design

A marketplace for mobile design/development

ooomf allows you to find and hire prescreened mobile developers and designers. They are what we would love to be when we grow up (and have enough developers ourselves to start creating that kind of marketplace). Wannabe collaborators have to create a profile and upload work samples to be eligible. Clients commissioning work also have access to a neat project cost calculator tool. Their business model is based on taking a cut of the project's cost, once the right team has been found and assigned.

Book Review: Remote: Office Not Required

Book Review: Remote: Office Not Required

By Jason Fried, David Heinemeier Hansson

Remote workers unite

I've recently finished reading 37signals' latest book, Remote: Office Not Required. It's a 256-page ode to a new world where remote collaboration is touted as the norm and not the exception. The book also presses a lot on the messaging of long-term happiness and independence in the workplace. Treating people as adults is one of their first premises, although one that is much easier to implement in a medium sized business with great hiring strategies.

Unexpectedly I have benefited most from their chapter on security, where they share their best practices related to cloud services, mobile devices and more.

Even though it's another book that I would definitely recommend – especially if you are serious about implementing or being a part in a remote work structure implementation – I can't help but wonder if I wouldn't be better off if they had decided to use their time to update Highrise, their cloud CRM tool and our relationship software of choice here at Mecenato. It's seriously outdated by now.

 

Talent spotlight: Haraldur Thorleifsson

Talent spotlight: Haraldur Thorleifsson

Our talent spotlight for the week, Haraldur is a massively talented interface designer with a round-up of amazing brands in his portfolio: Google, YouTube, TiVO, The Economist, Square, and many more. He is based in San Francisco. Check a few work samples from his Dribbble account.

Talent spotlight: Seth Eckert

Talent spotlight: Seth Eckert

Seth Eckert is a designer and motion graphics virtuoso based in Kentucky, USA. His work is a combination of highly crafted design and some pretty good animation flows.

Talent spotlight: Maykel Loomans

Talent spotlight: Maykel Loomans

Maykel Loomans is one of the guys behind the mobile interface design of Instagram, possibly one of the biggest mobile application sensations of the last 3 years. He's from the Netherlands and lives in San Francisco. Here's a bit of his user experience work in detail, sourced from his account on Dribbble.

The future of currencies

The future of currencies

Bitcoin and the future of payments

In a world when everything seems to be going the virtual way, why not currencies? Though only popular recently, virtual or crypto-currencies have been in existence for quite some time. Traditional currency issued by central banks and governments of various countries is now getting stiff competition from digital.

The first widely used decentralized crypto-currency, Bitcoin can be used in transactions without interference of any financial institution. Formally introduced in 2009 by developer/hacker Satoshi Nakamoto (pseudonym), Bitcoin is an open source currency that relies on cryptography alongside proof-of-work scheme in order to create and manage the currency. Bitcoin has been specially designed to prevent problems faced by centralized currencies.

The amount and speed of generation of Bitcoins is algorithmically controlled and only a fixed amount will exist. A person will have a virtual wallet and can have many virtual addresses through which virtual money can be received or sent. No additional tax or fee will be levied on trading of cryptocurrency from wallet to wallet and all this is done instantly. Bitcoin users send payments by broadcasting digitally signed messages that transfer ownership of coins. A decentralized global network of specialized computers verifies and timestamps all transactions using a proof-of-work system. The operators of these systems, known as “miners”, are rewarded with new coins themselves.

Bitcoin is getting an overwhelming response from investors and the business community. According to David Johnston, CEO of Engine, it is already the 75th most valuable currency on Earth. Bitcoin has soared to a valuation of more than USD$1000.

Risks over conventional currencies

• Intractability
This feature of Bitcoin will undoubtedly attract crime. Bitcoin can be widely used for buying and selling illegal items because of significantly less risk of being tracked by the authorities;

• Threat of theft
Bitcoins can’t be recovered if stolen if somebody hacks into your wallet;

• Lower acceptance
There aren’t a lot of places where Bitcoins is accepted as payment yet. However one of the main reasons why Bitcoins are receiving criticism is because of its association with criminal activities. It is being looked down as an effective medium that could be exploited by criminals to conduct illicit transactions online;

Good or bad, Bitcoin has certainly captured the imagination of the media. Just look at the excitement over the first Bitcoin ATM installed at a Starbucks Coffee shop, which made the cover of a recent edition of the New York Times.

Yet another wake up call for the ad industry

Yet another wake up call for the ad industry

Shortly after this tweet, the Indonesian copywriter behind it – that had worked for almost three hours straight – was no more. This is another wake-up for an ad industry that somehow still appears to believe that brute forcing hours into work will lead to advantages in the career ladder. Very sad news for her family. I do hope I read no more stories like this in the future.

Talent spotlight: Justin Pervorse

Talent spotlight: Justin Pervorse

Justin Pervorse is an Atlanta-based designer. I've recently come across his work when uploading my very first shots at Dribbble. His fat strokes, great sensibility for color palettes and style got me. He currently works for Mailchimp, an e-mail marketing tool used by thousands of people around the world, including us.