Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Don’t Network. Have Fun.

Since law school, I have known that I do not generally enjoy traditional networking events that involve a large group of people meeting in a ballroom, event space, or bar and chatting over drinks and appetizers. Even putting aside the fact that I am an introvert (despite what others may believe!), I have always felt more engaged and that my time is better spent when either (a) meeting with a small group of people or (b) participating in activity-based networking. In the recent Harvard Business Review article, “Go Ahead, Skip that Networking Event,” David Burkus addresses the latter and explains why many people, introverts and extroverts alike, leave traditional networking events feeling that they have wasted their time. 

As Burkus explains, “…schmoozing at a mixer is far less likely to lead you to a powerful network than jumping into projects, teams, or activities that draw a diverse set of people together. The problem with networking events is that there’s no bigger purpose other than just having conversations with people, and without that bigger purpose—without that high-stakes activity—there’s little incentive to move beyond conversations that make us comfortable.” For many people, this means that a large amount of time spent at a networking event involves talking with people that they already know. 

Thursday, May 10, 2018

What Entrepreneurs Get Wrong

Sometimes knowing what not do to do is just as, if not more, valuable than knowing what to do. I came across an interesting article recently in the Harvard Business Review related to this very topic. While this article, titled “What Entrepreneurs Get Wrong” was published a few years ago, its practical advice is as relevant now as ever.

What I like about this article is that it deviates from the notion that entrepreneurism is, for lack of a better term, all “rainbows and butterflies.” The article outlines common pitfalls that entrepreneurs face when launching their business and provides strategies for overcoming such obstacles. (Can you tell this blog post is written by an attorney?) 

The authors surveyed 120 entrepreneurs from around the world and examined the mistakes they cited most frequently, focusing primarily on the sales aspect of entrepreneurism. 

If you are an entrepreneur just launching your business, or are interested in sales strategies in general, I would highly encourage you to read this article!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Prepare to Pay More for Tunes

Due in large part to the active policing of performing rights organizations (PROs)—American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI), and Society of European Stage Authors and Composers (SESAC)—most businesses understand that music is protected by copyright, and using it for commercial purposes, even if only as background sound for a photography studio, likely requires the payment of royalties.
Music licensing is complicated. Copyright interests attach to the composition itself (notes and lyrics), as well as any sound recording of the composition. It is one license if you want to perform the work (maybe more if the composition was created by persons holding joint interests, or you want to perform a specific arrangement, etc.) and two licenses if you want to use/play a sound recording for commercial purposes. 

Identifying applicable copyright interests and negotiating individual licenses for even a limited playlist would be maddening—for both copyright owners and consumers. PROs have substantially eased that burden by creating a one-stop shop that both issues blanket public performance licenses and collects the public performance royalties on behalf of the copyright owners. Unfortunately, each PRO covers different music/artists, and although they have online searchable lists, it is rare that a business will be fully covered by the repertoire of a single PRO.  And while business owners have generally accepted (often grudgingly) that they probably need a license from all three mainstay PROs—ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC—a fourth is now actively on the scene.

Monday, April 23, 2018

A Guide to GIFs

While nothing new, GIFs (an acronym for Graphics Interchange Format) have become a fundamental form of digital expression. GIFs were created in 1987 by Steve Wilhite, a programmer at CompuServe, as a new way to present a moving image. In an age of social media, they have morphed into a means of expressing complex feelings and thoughts more effectively than words and photographs.

Public interest in GIFs has increased dynamically over the past five years and is still on the rise. In 2017, the GIF celebrate its 30th anniversary. According to some digital marketing experts, it was also the year when the GIF reached its highest potential yet in the digital marketing industry.

Very few things (other than, heaven forbid, actual human interaction) can convey emotion like an animated GIF. The entertainment value of GIFs is pretty obvious and in recent years, brands have also recognized the business value. When compared to photos, GIFs are more appealing and more effective in digital marketing strategy. When compared to videos, GIFs take less time to create and are cheaper and easier to make.

The most used websites and apps for finding and creating GIFs include Giphy, GifBin, Gifmaker, ExGif, MakeAGif, ImgFlip, Phhhoto, and Boomerang (owned by Instagram). Giphy, leading GIF database and search engine, serves more than 1 billionGIFs per day  to over 100 million active daily users! Twitter, Facebook and many other popular social media and messaging platforms integrate native GIF searching into their platforms and sites like BuzzFeed have built content marketing empires by using GIFs in their infamous listicles.

But, using someone else’s content when creating and sharing GIFs has the potential to invite intellectual property infringement issues, especially given that many popular GIFs draw content from players like Disney and the NFL, which are notorious for being aggressive when it comes to protecting their intellectual property. Studios and sports leagues could decide to file lawsuits against GIF-based businesses, or they could use copyright notices to remove GIFs from websites and social media accounts. This has already occurred in the case of major sports events like the World Cup and the Olympics. Celebrities could also invoke right of publicity laws, which allow people to control how their image is used in public.

So, what does this mean you if you want to use GIFs in your brand/marketing strategy?
  • Be wary. The use of GIFs in digital marketing campaigns can be a bit of a minefield. There is a higher risk when the use is commercial and companies in the public light also make a much better target for a lawsuit.
  • Make your own. Instead of using other parties’ GIFs, the better option is to make your own using your own copyrighted material.
  • Get permission. When using GIFs that you do not create, get the permission of everyone featured in the clip, the copyright holder of the original image(s), and the person who created the GIF. There should also be appropriate licenses in place for commercial use.
  • Link to content. When using third-party GIFs, consider linking to those GIFs rather than embedding them in your own content.  
Just because other brands may get away with using GIFs in their digital marketing campaigns doesn’t mean it’s safe. Using GIFs without permission could surely invite a cease and desist from the original creators, copyright holders, or featured parties. It could create disruption (e.g. recreating and taking down content) and, if you’re really lucky, spending time (and money) with intellectual property lawyers!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Batter Up!

“Swing level.”
“Keep your back elbow up.” 
“Lead with your hands.” 
“Just see the ball and hit the ball.” 

If you ever played baseball or softball growing up, you likely heard similar instructions. But what about, “See how your bat is at 38.7 degrees here? It is causing your exit velocity to drop to 85 mph, so try to get it at 40.2 degrees.” Okay, maybe something so technical sounds silly, but one company, Blast Motion, is at the forefront of delivering cutting-edge technology to help players, coaches, and teams measure and improve swings using similar analysis.

Among other things, Blast Motion’s product package involves attaching a sensor to either end of your bat and equipping you with a mobile app and cloud services to access swing data, video and 3D visualizations, and personalized performance reports. In other words, open the app on your phone, jump into the batter’s box, take some cuts, and then check out your swing’s launch angle, the ball’s speed/exit velocity, and an estimated ball flight distance, while also getting real-time swing analysis and voice feedback. And then jump back in and take better cuts.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

14th Annual 2018 Minnesota Cup Underway

For those of you who didn’t hear, the Minnesota Cup recently opened for applications (through April 27). Frequent entreVIEW readers know that the Entrepreneurial Services Group at Gray Plant Mooty has been a supporter and sponsor of the Minnesota Cup since its early days.  

For those who aren’t familiar with the Minnesota Cup, it is the largest statewide startup competition in the country. In addition to awarding $2.4 million of seed money to MN startups over the last 13 years, it also affords a great opportunity for entrepreneurs to further develop and refine their business plans, gain access to investors, mentors, entrepreneurs (and even entrepreneurial lawyers), along with others involved in Minnesota’s entrepreneurial community.

We have posted about the Minnesota Cup and its value to Minnesota’s entrepreneurial community too many times to count, so no need to belabor the point any further. However, if you’re at all curious about the competition or want additional support for your aspiring business or idea, I highly recommend that you consider participating this year as a way to advance your endeavor.

Can’t wait to attend some Minnesota Cup events and learn about all the exciting entrepreneurial activity of this year’s participants!  

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Lee Billings, Five Billion Years of Solitude: The Search for Life Among the Stars (Penguin Books, 2013)

It’s no secret that our time on Earth is limited—individually, of course, but also as a species. In fact, all life on Earth will come to an end in a billion years (give or take), maybe earlier if those warning us of the dangers of global warming are correct.

This is a scary thought, but not one to keep most of us awake at night. At least it’s not unless you’re Lee Billings or one of the astronomers and physicists he interviewed for Five Billion Years of Solitude. Sure, they’re interested in whether there is life elsewhere in the universe. However, equally as interesting as catching up with ET is the possibility of finding a new home for us before our current place is enveloped by the sun as it enters its red giant phase.

Given the fair amount of advanced warning we have, it’s not surprising that this project has been put on the backburner. Potential steps forward made possible by developing technology are constantly being delayed primarily as a result of budgetary concerns. There is, however, some talk about alternative funding avenues, a number of which feature tapping into entrepreneurial sources.

In the last decade or so, the human genome was mapped—more quickly than anyone anticipated it could be—as a result of a competitive race between public and private researchers who pushed each other along. Something similar could happen in the search for a habitable (but currently uninhabited?) nearby exoplanet, which might be rich with resources for entrepreneurial earthlings as well as our future home for when the time comes. ET, we’re on our way!