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!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Exercise: Coming Soon to Your Workplace?

Like most people who work in an office, I spend most of my workday sitting. Although I periodically use a standing workstation or walk to the printer (right outside my office), my workday is generally a sedentary affair. Exercise is part of my evening and weekend schedule.  

Perhaps that is why a recent article in the Harvard Business Review by Carl Cederstrom and Torkild Thanem titled “The Swedish CEO Who Runs His Company Like a CrossFit Gym” caught my eye. The article profiles Bjorn Borg, a Swedish sports fashion company (yes, named for the tennis star), and in particular, its CEO, Henrik Bunge. Bunge, not like some other CEOs, has implemented mandatory company workouts.  Think your yoga class or boot-camp session at the office. That sounds simultaneously inspiring and terrifying.
Bunge is part of a generation of CEOs who are throwing concepts like “transformational” and “authentic” leadership to the wayside in favor of “fitness leadership.” The theory is that work and fitness go hand-in-hand: Much like at the gym, the harder you work, the better your results. Bunge was brought in as CEO in 2014, when the company was struggling. His view was that the 60 employees had to “train harder, measure our goals better, and become a better team” and that success could be achieved through a marriage of exercise and work. All employees are now required to take fitness tests twice a year and there are mandatory Friday fitness classes, team wall squat and push-up competitions, and the occasional game of ping pong. 

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

A Room with a View (or an Air Mattress): Airbnb celebrates its 10th anniversary

Spring is almost here! For many, this means travelling with family or friends to a warm destination for a weeks’ worth of fun in the sun. Interestingly enough, Americans owe this annual rite of spring break to ancient Greece. Originally called “Anthestreria,” it was a festival dedicated to Dionysus, the god of wine and “ritual madness.” For three days, local Greeks would come together to dance, sing and drink wine. More than two thousand years later, the ritual of Anthestreria remains, in many respects, unchanged. Recognized, almost universally, by primary through post-secondary educational institutions, spring break provides families and friends time to relax and recharge (and sometimes even get a little crazy). 

Given that many of us will be travelling in the next month, I thought it timely to recognize one of the most disruptive and innovative companies in the history of the modern tourism industry, Airbnb, Inc. The tourism industry is one of the world’s largest industries, with an overall global economic impact of more than 7.6 trillion U.S. dollars in 2016. According to the U.S. Travel Association, the 2016 economic output in the United States alone was $2.3 trillion. As with any large market, it is ripe for disruption by 
enterprising entrepreneurs. This is exemplified by the wild success of Airbnb.

2018 marks Airbnb’s 10th year of operation. And what a 10 years it has been for the San Francisco-based tech start-up! Founded by Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia, and Nathan Blecharczyk in 2008, Airbnb (in case you have been living on Mars) operates an international online marketplace for short-term lodging, offering a much-desired alternative to traditional hotel accommodations for guests and a source of income for hosts. Airbnb is merely a broker. It provides a platform for home owners, “hosts,” to rent out their properties to short-term guests. The company generates revenue by charging both its guests and hosts service fees. 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Virtual Reality: May the Force Be With You

Growing up, I loved Star Wars. I played the video games, read the Expanded Universe novels, and built my own galaxy through the accumulation of many, many Lego sets. Yet, truly, what I wanted more than anything was to experience Star Wars, to be in that galaxy far, far away. 

Now, as an adult, I may get to do just that. In the midst of Disney’s construction of the Star Wars expansions to its parks, THE VOID’S walk-through virtual reality experience, Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire, has opened, offering Star Wars fans a depth of immersion that many, including myself, had previously only dreamed of. THE VOID offers a “hyper-reality” experience that enables players to go on a team mission on the planet of Mustafar. Rather than being stationery, the players move, interact, and experience immersive sensory details, even down to smells and temperature.  

Virtual reality (VR) is not new, but it is becoming increasingly more mainstream. While it is still most commonly found in the entertainment sector, VR has the potential to be tapped for a vast number of applications and we may very well see it play a more prominent role in the legal field.