Accepted to the Portland Incubator Experiment!

In the last few days, I’ve been posting all sorts of photos, updates and tweets from Portland. Why, you might ask? It’s simple: the super-secret, early-stage stealth startup I’ve been working on has been accepted to the Portland Incubator Experiment, or PIE.

In the coming weeks and months, I’ll post more on my experiences in Cascadia. (In fact, I’m kind of hoping it’s similar to this “Portlandia” portrayal:

I’m kidding, of course, to an extent. We’ll be working our butts off out there, but we’re excited about the opportunity to work with the PIE mentors, as well as the brands (Coke, Nike, Target, Google) and the agency (Wieden + Kennedy) supporting PIE. The folks here have done a bang-up job bringing together a lot of smart people!

If you’re wondering about just what it is that I’m working on, sit tight. You’ll hear about it on here soon enough! In the meantime, if you’d like to recommend any sights, attractions, events, restaurants or bars that I should check out, please let me know by commenting below. Some places I’ve been so far:

Voodoo Doughnuts: I tried the famous maple bacon bar and the chocolate/Oreo/peanut butter donut. (Click for photos.)
Rogue Distillery and Public House
Deschutes Brewery
Stumptown Coffee Roasters
– The Art in the Pearl festival
– The Portland Saturday Market

There’s more to come, so stay tuned!

Pegmo: Why I love it

Chicago is home to a few startup giants (e.g. Groupon, 37signals), and fast growers (Tap.Me) One up-and-comer is Pegmo, is a simple social media-based loyalty program for brands that may not have one; co-founder Wes Donohoe refers to as “a big game that isn’t built.”

There are a few reasons I like Pegmo:

Pegmo rewards consumer behavior that already exists. When I created and led the KmartGamer project over at Sears Holdings, our end goal was to find a way to reward gamers for being gamers. Once a user signs up for Pegmo, they start earning rewards for things they already do: follow a brand or retailer on Twitter or Facebook or check into a store on Foursquare.

Pegmo unifies brand-related social engagement on one platform. Users may follow brands and retailers on Twitter and Facebook, and check in frequently on Foursquare, but no other platform (that I’ve seen) makes it this easy for businesses to form a multi-layer relationship (unless there’s a savvy marketer driving the channel and content strategy, that is).

For brands and retailers, Pegmo generates not just numbers, but actions. If users don’t already follow the brands or retailers that are listed on the site, Pegmo prompts them to do so for additional points, or “Pegs.” In addition, Pegmo prompts users to share their thoughts about the brands themselves. For instance, a restaurant could ask users to share their thoughts on the dishes or drinks they like at the restaurant, whether it’s directly to the brand, or posted on their Facebook wall. As a result — and depending on the feedback itself — Pegmo has the potential to be an interesting research tool.

Pegmo can always evolve through new tasks. As businesses evolve, their goals and products do as well. (For instance, restaurants always change their menus, and retailers expand or offer new products.) This gives Pegmo a seemingly endless way to evolve, which is very different from, say, Foursquare, which relies on one basic action — the check-in — as the basis of its value prop.

Have you signed up for Pegmo yet? If so, what do you think of it? Please leave your thoughts as comments below!

The state of Chicago tech networking events

Yesterday, I attended a startup networking event, run by the Chicago Entrepreneurial Center. At the event, there was a great mix of startup founders, press and investor types. (Surprisingly, there were no social media consultants in sight — a good thing.)

In short, it was easily one of the best tech networking events in Chicago I’ve attended. The space was nice, I learned a lot from everyone I talked to and there was a great sense of collaboration, rather than competition, from everyone there.

There’s a great need for more events like this in Chicago. What other tech- and startup-related events in Chicago do you attend? If you’re not in Chicago, are there any you attend in your city or town? Why do you attend?

A guide to turntable.fm etiquette

Turntable.fm logo

Outside of Spotify, Turntable.fm has been one of the hottest startups to have been launched in the last several months. It now has more than 300K users and is seeking more funding.

More than Spotify, Pandora, last.fm or Rdio, turntable.fm is a social experience, and as such, it’s interesting to watch how users interact in the rooms.

With that, I’ve put together this quick guide to proper etiquette on turntable.fm, in the form of do’s and don’ts:

Do:

When you enter a room to DJ, get a lay of the land. Are DJs skipping outros? Is there a theme to the music? I DJ in a lot of hip-hop related rooms, but often I find the DJs are picking songs based on a theme (e.g. battle raps, emcees from Queens, etc.). If there’s no theme per se, just play songs that are consistent with the room title.
Be social, but be respectful. The biggest difference between Pandora and turntable.fm is that turntable is inherently social. Talk to the other DJs. (You can even “fan” them, which alerts you when they’re DJing.) A lot of the folks using the service are in the internet or music business; if you are too, it could be a good opportunity to network with them, so don’t disrespect them or the music they like.
Welcome new DJs to the service. When someone comes into the room, click on their avatar. If they have zero DJ points, they’re new to turntable.fm. Make them feel welcome; one easy way to do this is to “awesome” their first song, no matter what it is!
Skip your outros, if they’re long. A lot of hip-hop songs have extended outros and skits that can last up to two minutes after the song is over. Be cognizant of the fact that not everyone wants to hear the outro – in fact, there’s a good chance nobody wants to – and skip it.

Don’t:

Don’t click “Lame” unless you absolutely HAVE to. There are two reasons, really, for “Lame-ing” a song: if the song is inconsistent with the room’s theme, or if the DJ playing it is away from the computer. Otherwise, just hit “mute” and play something else. Either way, especially don’t lame at the very beginning of the song, as DJ Woooo said in this CNN article.
Don’t cut the line. In the more popular rooms on turntable.fm, there’s usually a DJ list. To find it, click the “Room Info” button towards the top of the page. (The list is usually a Google doc.) If you want to DJ, get your name on there, and stick around.
Don’t repeat songs. A big [analog] DJ faux-pas is to play songs twice, and there’s an easy way to avoid it on turntable.fm. Just click “Room info” and you’ll see a list of recently played songs you’ll want to steer clear of.
– If you’re DJing, don’t keep DJing if you have to step away from your computer for an extended period of time. Give someone else a chance to spin!
– A lot of aspiring musicians and DJs may use turntable to showcase new material. If you’re in this group, don’t play self-recorded songs if it’s of poor quality. (Thanks to TT user RyanTheMagnificent for this suggestion.)
– (Added 7/20) Don’t play songs that are too long, unless everyone in the room (or a majority of it) is OK with it. The other DJs want a chance to spin their tunes, which gets more difficult if everyone plays eight-minute songs!

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Have I missed anything? Do you disagree with something I’ve said? Please feel free to post any additional thoughts you have as comments below!

3 startup blogs worth checking out

I said in my last post that I took the plunge and went full time on a startup I’ve been working on since October 2010. We’re in the process of developing the first iteration of our private Beta. Part of this will be a blog.

I’ve run several blogs before, including this one, and Old Media, New Tricks, but it’s critical for early-stage startups to have good, engaging blogs that do several things:

– represent the look and feel of the company (a no-brainer)
– inspire readers to not only tell their friends about the startup
– most importantly, generate new members and new business through case studies and community highlights

In the course of researching startup blogs, there are several that, at least to me, stand out. I’ve listed a few below:

1. Foodspotting

Foodspotting blog

Spotted, the Foodspotting blog, does a fantastic job representing the Foodspotting site, app and community. It’s very visually appealing, and ties in the Foodspotting experience quite well. As a result, posts get shared and commented on pretty regularly.

2. MintLife

Mint Life blog

Mint’s blog, MintLife, not only reflects Mint, the company, but has established itself as a leading personal finance blog.

3. Evernote Blogcast

Evernote blog

Evernote Blogcast, the Evernote blog, covers product news and updates, it differentiates itself by examining what its users are doing to “make the world more notable.” Not only does this put its users in the spotlight, but it also looks at different ways to use the product, kills several birds with one stone. (Suggested by @mkedave on Twitter.)

What else do you think good startup blogs have in common? Are there any others — not listed here — that you think are good examples? Please leave your thoughts as comments below!

3 side benefits of going full time on my startup

About a month ago, I made the decision to leave my job at Sears Electronics as its social media manager and go full time on my startup.

We still haven’t launched yet, so I’m not going to say what it is, but there have been some great fringe benefits to working for myself:

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5 Chicago-made products worth buying

From an early age, I’ve always supported local companies, whether in New York (e.g. Boylan) or Buffalo (New Era), and I continue to do so in Chicago.

If I can choose between one of the products below and a competitor’s product, I’ll support the local guys — not just because they’re local, but because their stuff is just better:
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Cigarchat #7, sponsored by Tesa Cigars

Know it’s been a little while since I’ve done a #cigarchat event (you know, new job and all), but they’re back!

The next chat, sponsored by Chicago-based Tesa Cigars, will be on Monday, September 27 from 7-9pm CST, and the cigar we’ll be smoking is the Tesa Cabinet 312.

Once again, there will be a few sticks to go around. Follow me on Twitter at @DanielHonigman and keep an eye out for my announcement there. The first 10 people who DM me after that (A few from Chicago, 4-5 from elsewhere) will get a Cabinet 312 to enjoy during the event. (Of course, you’ll have to smoke it during the #cigarchat, and provide proof in the form of a photo or video that includes the proper hashtag.)

Hope you can make the chat!

Chicago Cigar Tweetup #2

The first ever Chicago Cigar Tweetup was such a success, we’ve decided to hold another!

The Chicago Cigar Tweetup #2 will be over at Tesa Cigar Co. on Thursday, May 27 from 6-10pm.

Our liquor sponsor will be Chicago’s own Salud Tequila Lounge, who will be sampling several of its featured mescals and tequilas.

Tesa Cigars will also be running a Buy 3, Get 1 deal on its own cigars, which are available in all price ranges. Cigars from home are NOT allowed.

If you’re going to come, PLEASE (x50) RSVP so our sponsor knows how much liquor to bring! (NOTE: If you’re not a tequila drinker, Tesa is BYOB, so feel free to bring anything else you’d like to drink.)

This event is open to both men and women; no one will be out of place.

Hope to see you there! The details are:

Where: Tesa Cigar Co.
Address: 464 N. Halsted St., Chicago IL 60622
Phone: 312.929.3075
Time: 6-10pm
Date: May 27, 2010

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Check out some of my Cigar of the Week posts here.

CigarChat #6, sponsored by CAO

We’ve been enjoying our #cigarchat events so much, we’ve been keeping them going with top-notch cigar brands showcasing their very latest offerings.

Our next event, sponsored by CAO Cigars, will be on May 10, 2010 from 7:30-9:30pm CST, and we’ll be smoking the CAO La Traviata.

Once again, there will be a few sticks — and some swag — to go around. Follow me on Twitter at @DanielHonigman and keep an eye out for my announcement there. The first 10 people who DM me after that (4-5 from Chicago, 4-5 from elsewhere) will get a La Traviata cigar to enjoy during the event. (Of course, you’ll have to smoke it during the #cigarchat, and provide proof in the form of a photo or video that includes the proper hashtag.)

(NOTE: To follow the conversation on Twitter, go here.)