Michael Tchong

Square Leads Fast Company’s List of Top 10 Finance Innovators

Fast Company has published its list of the world’s top 10 most innovative companies in finance , lead by our pioneering fave, Square.

The list is fascinating, if only for the decoding of innovation trends as highlighted below:

World’s Top 10 Most Innovative Companies In Finance
Rnk Company Description
1. Square simple credit-card transaction system
2. OpenGamma realtime analytics for risk-management
3. Lending Club peer-to-peer lending
4. Kabbage leverages analytics to make small merchant loans
5. BillGuard anti-fraudulence service for credit card users
6. PayPal no-forget in-store checkout using Paypal account
7. American Express uses social analytics and consumer spending reports to send unique offers
8. Stripe easy-to-use online merchant credit-card system
9. Riskalyze assess risk using personalized algorithms and portfolio alerts
10. SigFig online portfolio doctor, highlights overpriced funds, suggests alternatives based on analytics
Source: 13-Feb-13 Fast Company; Social Revolution

Internet’s Newest Craze: Animated GIFs


They’re everywhere now. Propelled by pure entertainment lovers, the internet’s newest craze, animated GIFs, are making a big comeback. GIFs have become memes that explain concepts in animated style without requiring much knowledge of video editing.

The GIF above was the result of a news story about an owl getting stuck in a car. Who would have thought that a technology developed by CompuServe in 1987 would still be relevant today?

It’s definitely one of the simplest advertising technologies ever developed. Are you developing any easy-to-use GIF animation tools?

Update: Well, we certainly are market movers, here’s what crossed the wires this morning:

NEW YORK, Feb. 14, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — Vimeo today announced the acquisition of Echograph, the popular iPhone and iPad app from Clear-Media. Echograph is a premium app that creates beautiful videos that look like animated GIFs. As part of this acquisition, Vimeo will offer the previously £1.99 app for free from the iTunes App Store.

Social Dialog: Is the Hashtag Becoming Our New Mode of Conversation?


Last night’s post-State of the Union address debate unleashed a torrent of tweets that show how an esoteric database concept, hashtags, is mainstreaming:

Superbowl and Social Media Drop Kick Television to the Second Screen

Mainstream television is beginning to take a backseat to social media, part of a phenomenon that surfaced in the late 90s, when we first documented an emerging trend called “multi-media tasking.” The Superbowl lifted this pervasive habit of surfing the internet while watching TV to rabbit-ear heights.

The tres courant habit of juggling multiple media screens is now widely referred to as the “second screen phenomenon,” which, as far as we can tell, was first mentioned on a U.K. blog in July 2011. Here’s is how the second screen phenomenon, née multi-media tasking, has evolved over time:
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How Coca-Cola Uses Big Data to Squeeze Oranges


Bloomberg BussinessWeek documents a real-life application of big data:

That cold glass of 100 percent liquid sunshine on the breakfast table is the product of a sophisticated industrial juice complex. Satellite imagery, complicated data algorithms, even a juice pipeline are all part of the recipe. “You take Mother Nature and standardize it,” says Jim Horrisberger, director of procurement at Coke’s huge Auburndale (Fla.) juice packaging plant. “Mother Nature doesn’t like to be standardized.”

I have been a fresh orange juice fan all my life but Simply Orange is the first OJ that I find comparable to fresh. And it has no nasty “pasteurized” taste either!


Facebook Mobile Advertising

Facebook today announced that is mobile ad revenues reached 23% of total revenues in fourth quarter 2012, up from 14% in the quarter before. The company also notes that “Mobile DAUs exceeded web DAUs for the first time in the fourth quarter of 2012,” but did not provide any additional data on this particular trend.

The 23% mobile share is quite an achievement because as Finance Chief David Ebersman told Reuters, “Two quarters ago we really had no mobile revenue.”

What may be most significant, though, is the fact that mobile usage is growing very fast. As the chart below shows, Facebook reached 680 million mobile monthly active users (MAUs) in fourth quarter 2012, or 64% of the total 1.1 billion MAUs.

Another positive sign was the fact that Facebook was able to improve its average revenue per user (ARPU) from $1.34 in Q4 2011 to $1.50 in the last quarter. With $5.1 billion in annual revenues, Facebook is well on its way to becoming a mega media player.


Race Against the Machine

When 60 Minutes aired a report that inferred that robots were taking jobs away from American workers, one robotics pundit sharply criticized the program because it was based on the work of two economists, Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson, who wrote a controversial 2011 book, “Race Against the Machine.”

As The New York Times reports:

“‘Race Against the Machine’ renewed the debate about the relationship between the pace of automation and job growth. [The authors] argue that the pace of automation is accelerating and that robotics is pushing into new areas of the work force like white-collar jobs that were previously believed to be beyond the scope of computers.”

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Son I Am Disappoint Meme

You couldn’t have chosen a better theme for today’s reaction by Wall Street to Apple’s record-setting revenues than a 2008 meme, dubbed “Son I am Disappoint.” It speaks volumes in helping to explain this story.

Cadillac CUEMemes are internet-propelled commentary, usually of humorous nature, that combine imagery with words. The most popular “Son I am disappoint” meme is shown at right.

Apple sold 48 million iPhones in its most recent quarter, a record, and 23 million iPads, another record. But what the Cupertino, Calif.-based company did not do was blow the doors off analyst estimates. Yet in terms of earnings, Apple delivered the fourth most profitable year in corporate history ever. Here’s what Apple’s hockey-stick annual revenue curve looks like:

As Wayne Gretzky once said, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” Let’s hope that “slow daddy” is not soon disappoint again.


Woman’s Acceptance Factor

There it was: the umpteenth TV commercial featuring a woman doing the housework. You fill in the brand: PAM, Tide, McCormick’s, or even hip Target — all relegate women to that subsidiary role of “happy homemaker.” You would think the Renaissance thinkers in advertising could come up with something more enlightening.

That enlightenment might include reviewing “A Woman’s Nation” — a recent report authored by Maria Shriver and the Center for American Progress, whose first paragraph is telling:

“Earlier this year, the Center for American Progress decided to closely examine the consequences of what we thought was a major tipping point in our nation’s social and economic history: the emergence of working women as primary breadwinners for millions of families at the same time that their presence on America’s payrolls grew to comprise fully half the nation’s workforce.”

This whirlwind of change is being propelled by the growing power of women, which traces its roots to the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, N.Y. in 1848, but which got a big shot in the arm when Lucy Stone became the first woman to keep her own name after marriage in 1855 (see Timeline at end of story).
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Predicting the Future Blade Runner Style

When futurists want to divine what’s next, they turn to science fiction. After all, it’s the science fiction writer who ably peers into the future. Leonardo Da Vinci famously predicted that man would fly. Jules Verne accurately foresaw the submarine.

Fast forward to modern sci-fi. In 1968, Philip Dick published “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” — which became the basis for the 1982 movie Blade Runner. In the film, we see ad signs that reach far into the sky with skyscrapers (image above).

As the photo, below, shows, Philip Dick’s 60s vision has already become a reality in New York’s Times Square, where billboards soar 57 floors high against the W Hotel.

Times SquareNew York’s Times Square advertising billboards already towered 57 stories high in 2004, confirming Philip Dick’s 1968 prediction, aptly portrayed in “Blade Runner,” that advertising would one day compete with skyscrapers.

It appears that Time Compression is also shortening cycles between predictions and outcomes. Another singular development between science fiction and reality appears in 1999’s The Matrix, written by Andy and Lana Wachowski, which shows futuristic displays of Asian characters streaming down. Today, many Twitter monitoring services can mimic a similar stream of characters.

Matrix vs. TwitterfallTwitter tweet monitoring services, like Twitterfall, can already be made to imitate the futuristic display scenarios shown in 1999’s The Matrix movie.

And it took only five years to realize the haptic interface shown in Minority Report, released in 2002. These predictions became reality in 36, 10 and five years, respectively. Our science fiction future, it seems, is right around the corner.

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