Blog

Choosing Greatness

A funny thing happened on my 1-year anniversary at LISNR. Spotify, in an effort to maintain its ranking as biggest and most popular streaming music provider in an increasingly competitive and commoditized category relaunched it’s service to provide more than just streaming music. Not only did they add streaming video, podcasts, and other media they also added music relevance. The ability to connect with content, recommendations, even the right music for your run based on what you’ve listened to in the past and the world around you. Spotify launched a product that LISNR scrapped last September.

That’s right. In September 2014 LISNR had a working prototype of a product (branded “NGINE”) that provided content recommendations based on the world around you. What you’ve listened to in the past, where you were, how fast you ran. LISNR had content partners lined up. And LISNR had 3 of the largest streaming music providers in active conversations around licensing this technology as part of their streaming music app. And we shelved it.

Strategy is one of those elusive terms. Each week I find a new “definition” of strategy that I like. But the one that has stuck with me since the beginning of my career came from one of my early mentors. Simply, Strategy = Choice. My mentor would tell you more – that it’s technically the economic definition of strategy, and he’d go into some examples of game theory. But it all boils down to the ability to make choices. And in late 2014 LISNR chose greatness.

In Q3 2014 our organization had 3 different business models. Three different focus areas. Three different “proof of concepts” that we were selling to prospects. We had over 30 pilots in market in our then 18 month existence. But we hadn’t shipped a single product.

Fast forward to early February 2015. That same 20 person team had a product in market with a CMS portal surrounding the core code base. In a one-week period in February the LISNR team rocked the stage at R/GA TechStars Demo Day, presented to digital marketing leaders in sport at National Sports Forum, and sat on a panel with RocNation and SuperFly at Digital Entertainment World.

Three months later we sit named as #12 on the CNBC Top 50 Disrupters list. We have stayed true to the core business model developed in Q4 2014 allowing us to drive an amazingly accelerated rate of bookings. And we have a plan that will scale the technology capability and team’s ability to serve the market growth over the next 12-18 months.

LISNR is a high frequency, inaudible technology; a new communication protocol that sends data over audio. As the leaders of the Internet of Sound, we use inaudible sound waves called SmartTones™, to transmit information.  LISNR essentially transmits customizable packets of data every second that enable proximity data transmission, second-screen functionality, authentication and low-fi device to deviceconnectivity on any LISNR enabled device.  We enable this functionality better and more efficiently than bluetooth (proximity), ACR (2nd Screen), and NFC/RFID (authentication). As an integrated software partner, LISNR can power devices to connect with world around better than ever before.

LISNR, Turn Down For What? Nothing.

September, last year, I became enlisted into the most unique company I have ever known. What makes this company different? It is the community and the culture.

LISNR is about being better than enough. This is being recognized by our customers and is really beneficial to its employees, community, and is a must. Without a living culture, no company can get the talent to maintain its course. It is by our culture that we have attracted the talent that has grown into our workforce. This is more than just a group of people; we are a family, a team. We have grown into a family that believes in our cause and become stitched together at the seams. This patchwork is united by commonality and driven by not one, but us all. United, LISNR has stood, is standing, and will continue to stand.

Unification through happiness

“Become happy, which will then help you become a success”1 (The Importance of Happiness in the Workplace, 2012).

The stats of working in a place concerned with your happiness, according to the research from the Wall Street Journal and iOpener Institute as recorded by the United States Geological Survey Department2, is:

  • Employees believe they are fulfilling their potential up to double that of their peers
  • Around 65% of employees have more energy
  • 58% of employees are more team oriented and helpful
  • Employees align their values with the company’s values up to 98% more than their peers in other businesses
  • Workers are 10 times less likely to take sick days
  • And most importantly to the bottom line, 85% of happy employees are more efficient at their work than the alternative

(List paraphrased from The Science of Happiness: How to Build a Killer Culture in Your Company, 2013)

Happy, Disruptive People

Untitled

Above is a picture of those stats come to life in a culture of individuals who have achieved success from a healthy, happy workplace. These very people are what helped LISNR to become the #12 disruptor company3 (Meet the 2015 CNBC Disruptor 50 companies, 2015).

So how did these happy people become so happy?

  • Engaged leadership who understand that the employees decide the culture (Leadership guides, does not dictate)
  • Employee meetings on deciding the culture (We set the parameters)
  • Happiness Committee (Because we are that dedicated to happiness)
  • Training opportunities (Encouraged to grow with hack-a-thons, mentorships, and pair programming)
  • Agile Development Strategies (You know it!)
  • We roll deep when we decide to go places (Employee engagement)

LISNR is its own company derived by a people who believe in the company values, establishes a culture that is involved in the local community, and most importantly, care about each other and our mutual success. As our culture grows, our success will grow, exponentially. We won’t be turned down for nothing!

Sources

1The Importance of Happiness in the Workplace. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.leadertoleaderjournal.com/sample-articles/the-importance-of-happiness-in-the-workplace.aspx.

2The Science of Happiness: How to Build a Killer Culture in Your Company. (2013). Globoforce Limited. Retrieved from http://www.usgs.gov/humancapital/ecd/mentoringreadinglist/Science_of_Happiness.pdf.

3Meet the 2015 CNBC Disruptor 50 companies. (2015). CNBC. Retrieved from http://www.cnbc.com/id/102609977

LISNR is a high frequency, inaudible technology; a new communication protocol that sends data over audio. As the leaders of the Internet of Sound, we use inaudible sound waves called SmartTones™, to transmit information.  LISNR essentially transmits customizable packets of data every second that enable proximity data transmission, second-screen functionality, authentication and low-fi device to deviceconnectivity on any LISNR enabled device.  We enable this functionality better and more efficiently than bluetooth (proximity), ACR (2nd Screen), and NFC/RFID (authentication). As an integrated software partner, LISNR can power devices to connect with world around better than ever before.

PyCon 2015: Are we still changing the world?

(Join the conversation on Hacker News.)

Last month, I was thrilled to represent the LISNR Engineering team at PyCon 2015 in Montreal. Though I’ve been a proponent of Python since I first discovered it in 2008, this was my first PyCon.

But gearing up for the conference, I was bittersweet.

I ❤️ Python

Over the past seven years, I’ve worked with Python for school, personally, and professionally to build everything… from blackjack games to computer vision trackers to projects in pattern recognition, information retrieval, and MapReduce, to web apps to most recently backend APIs at Lisnr.  In short, it’s become my favorite high-level language and my default language for nearly everything.

Is Python dead?

But lately I’ve been feeling bearish about Python.

Depending on who you ask, you’ll hear that Python is: (a) thriving, (b) experiencing a subtle decline, or (c) losing relevance on the web.

On the front cover of its handout of case studies, The Python Software Foundation boldly proclaims:

“A programming language changes the world.”

– The Python Software Foundation

The debate revolves mainly around two other languages: Ruby and Node.js.  Though Python and Ruby are syntactically similar, they are philosophically different, and Ruby is younger.  Rails was, and still is, a leader in web apps, with some even arguing that Ruby itself is geared toward web development.  Node, or io.js, unlocks stronger scalability (i.e., better concurrency through asynchronous I/O).  Event-driven web app architectures are touted as the future of server-side development, especially efforts which advance anti-monolithic components, which the Node community tends to do well.  [And, yes, we do have Tornado and Twisted in the Python world, but I digress…]

From conversation with developers locally and on the coasts (and also the front page of Hacker News), I felt concerned that our community was stagnating in favor of the other two.  Though we will always have the standard library, the third-party package ecosystem is a big factor in deeming any language suitable for new projects.  Are we losing relevance to a newer generation of tech?  Should we start considering a new default stack?  Should I actually start learning ES6 now?  These are some of the questions on my mind on the way to PyCon.

The Hacker News front page trends toward making everyone feel like their stack is obsolete if every component isn’t the latest and greatest hyper-specialized bleeding edge.

Has traction changed?

Looking at hard data from Stack Overflow and GitHub, of the top 10 programming languages, there are six suitable for backend web app development: JavaScript, Java, PHP, Python, C#, and Ruby.  Additionally, the top 5-10 languages don’t change much (or quickly).  Spoiler alert: Startup buzz is just trendy.  [One potential exception that will likely happen in the next few years is Go, but since it’s relatively lower level and really focused on concurrency rather than web apps in general, it’s more complementary to Python, than immediate competition.]  So, in all that: Where do we fit?

On silver bullets and hipster stacks

Most technologists argue against the existence of a universally best piece of tech — No Silver Bullet.  Instead, we should opt for the best tech to solve the problem at hand, even when it’s not our favorite.  Luckily, the problems I solve regularly are flexible enough that any top language, or a less popular one, will do.  Good developers are knowledgeable, but we’re also opinionated and human (i.e., biased and occasionally irrational).  I think this can be one of the hardest battles faced by forward-thinking developers because: (a) it’s easy to stick with what’s comfortable, and (b) the Hacker News front page trends toward making everyone feel like their stack is obsolete if every component isn’t the latest and greatest hyper-specialized bleeding edge.

Python isn’t falling off.  I say that with confidence from both the data measuring GitHub and Stack Overflow activity, and the strong community I experienced at PyCon.  Everyone uses Python.

Python is not just for web apps

On Saturday, my friend and fellow Pythonista David Felix and I sat down at a random lunch table. We started talking about sessions relevant to our work: APIs, security, scalability, deployment, etc.

Grams for the grams. #meta #PyCon #pycon2015 #instagram @instagram

A photo posted by Taylor Edmiston (@kicksopenminds) on

Me with David after discussing Django with an Instagram engineering lead.  Meta.

One of us brought up a pain point about the default caching configuration with memcached in Django not considering header params, then drifted into more advanced web app topics we’d like to see talks for.  When we asked another attendee at the table how he uses Python, he responded, “You know, Python is not just for web apps.”

It’s a patently true statement that’s easy to forget in the tunnel vision of solving your own work problems on a daily basis.  He’s right.  So I stepped back to ask myself: Who uses Python?

Everyone uses Python.


Taylor Edmiston is the Lead Backend Engineer at LISNR.  You can reach out to him or follow on Twitter @kicksopenminds.

LISNR is an emerging leader for building powerful experiences around presence using data-over-audio.  You can learn more about our tech and request beta access at lisnr.com.

LISNR is a high frequency, inaudible technology; a new communication protocol that sends data over audio. As the leaders of the Internet of Sound, we use inaudible sound waves called SmartTones™, to transmit information.  LISNR essentially transmits customizable packets of data every second that enable proximity data transmission, second-screen functionality, authentication and low-fi device to deviceconnectivity on any LISNR enabled device.  We enable this functionality better and more efficiently than bluetooth (proximity), ACR (2nd Screen), and NFC/RFID (authentication). As an integrated software partner, LISNR can power devices to connect with world around better than ever before.

LISNR & Miami U “The Startup Life”

Last week Team LISNR had the pleasure of hosting bright-eyed Miami University students for their Backpack to Briefcase Series. The program helps students prepare for life outside of Oxford equipping them with skills that will come in handy during those first job interviews and beyond. As a Miami University alumni I highly recommend programs like these and students you should participate (more than I did)!

 

students

So what did we discuss with the students about LISNR and startup life?

The Journey

No one person joined the startup life with the same background and story. Some of us went to school for degrees in Computer Sciences and knew at a young age Programming was in their future. Others graduated from college, joined Corporate America and realized cubicles and watercooler conversations weren’t for them. Others dabbled in grad school for a bit and some just met the right people at the right time. What we all have in common, though, is our passion for innovation and desire to put a dent in The Universe. It’s also not a coincidence that our personalities are all quite colorful and have pretty cool interests outside of work.

The Wearer of Many Hats

As a lover of hats (beanies, caps, bucket, etc) I couldn’t be more pleased to work in an environment that allows me to wear different hats everyday! Hats, of course, meaning roles in this instance. Just because you hold one title doesn’t mean you’re immune to performing tasks outside of that title, which is something I personally welcome! What better way to sharpen your skills than taking on duties you may feel uncomfortable doing. Programmers can become public speakers and client managers become developers. The more skills in your arsenal, the more valuable you become as an employee and the more opportunities you can take.

Flexibility

One of the many perks of startup life is how flexible the culture is. From working hours to the clothes we feel comfortable being productive in, we enjoy many unique freedoms that come with this industry. That goes without saying, it’s imperative to practice self-motivation and discipline. I’m sure all college students diligently work on refining their self-management skills, which gives way to becoming one responsible employee. Speaking of responsibility…

Responsibility

We manage ourselves and sometimes even up, which means it’s necessary to take initiative and manage our time wisely. On smaller teams it’s not uncommon for each employee to be the first line of defense when a problem arises. The fast-paced working environment creates new responsibilities everyday, many of which can be challenging and frustrating. However, with the right team and willingness to make quick adjustments, these responsibilities will be a welcomed test of your abilities.

 

It’s great to see students genuinely interested in startups and technology! Startups can be a risky bet, but these Miami students seemed to be attracted to the unorthodox nature of this industry. I look forward to seeing where they end up after four years in good old Oxford, Ohio.

 

LISNR is a high frequency, inaudible technology; a new communication protocol that sends data over audio. As the leaders of the Internet of Sound, we use inaudible sound waves called SmartTones™, to transmit information.  LISNR essentially transmits customizable packets of data every second that enable proximity data transmission, second-screen functionality, authentication and low-fi device to deviceconnectivity on any LISNR enabled device.  We enable this functionality better and more efficiently than bluetooth (proximity), ACR (2nd Screen), and NFC/RFID (authentication). As an integrated software partner, LISNR can power devices to connect with world around better than ever before.

Budweiser and LISNR are Honored with a Webby!

Exciting announcement for LISNR! Appearing right after this paragraph! Can you even wait? The suspense is building. The anticipation mounting. Here we go…

webby

Last week we were selected as a Webby Awards Official Honoree for our mobile work with the 2014 Budweiser Made In America Music Festival! While nothing we do is for the accolades or notoriety (such is the lot of a B2B company…), it felt really good to be recognized. And this isn’t our first tango with the Awards, having received a similar honor last year for J. Cole’s “Listening Session”, executed in partnership with Roc Nation.

Interested in learning more about the project? That puts you in the same company as the Webbys. Read on.

Problem

  • Budweiser needed a mobile experience to accompany the 2014 Budweiser Made in America Festival in Philadelphia and Los Angeles.
  • This mobile application needed engage with festival attendees on-site and in real time, bringing a heightened relevancy to the application as a digital tool for to brand and consumer engagement. The execution needed to increase brand impressions, mine unique physical and digital data points, engage attendees, and be the complete informational and experiential companion to on-site visitors.
  • Current technologies are very good at tracking consumer activity and behaviors on the digital web and making smart brand and advertising decisions based on correlating assumptions on intent and purpose. Every second of a consumer’s web history is recorded, analyzed, understood and acted upon. But innovators are still looking for ways to find consumers offline, in their real lives. A laundry list of technologies exist to make mobile devices contextually smart, but they are falling short, leaving large data holes related to where, when, and what consumers are doing in live and digital environments.

Solution

  • LISNR is a high frequency, inaudible technology; a new communication protocol that sends data over audio. It is a digital sound file that turns any speaker or piece of media into a beacon, working seamlessly across physical and digital spaces more effectively than all current solutions in the marketplace, most notably Bluetooth and traditional ACR.
  • LISNR is the solution to solving those gaps, providing a more reliable, scalable, universal technology to deploy across all hardware considerations, and environment considerations, based on LISNR’s unique and proprietary manipulation of sound waves. LISNR technology collects data points that can be used to measure a call to action, the success of a supporting mobile initiative, and presence/proximity insights where none had previously existed

Goals

  • Communicate customized messaging based on attendee’s exact location
  • Reach attendees with relevant content at relevant moments
  • Encourage/Track attendees around target locations
  • Increase app relevancy and engagement

Tactics

  • Broadcast LISNR ultrasonic Smart Tones throughout target festival areas, using on-site speakers and sound systems, delivering:
    • Content
    • Experiences
    • Call to Actions
    • Exclusives

…When app users come within range of a LISNR Tone.

*Another tactic: drive 6 hours from LISNR headquarters in Cincinnati to Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis to meet and strategize with the Made in America team face-to-face. That’s called “client service”.  Thank you for the BBQ, St. Lou!

Outcomes

  • 90% increase in 2015 application downloads (iOS/Android)
  • 35% increase in social activity via 2015 application
  • 20% increase in social account integrations, compared to industry standard
  • 70% push notification penetration, 500K – 750K notifications sent daily
  • 90% click through rate for LISNR triggered content
  • 11.5M brand impressions, 75% attributed to LISNR

This award could not have been possible without the effort, enthusiasm, and cooperation of our partners: Translation, Roc Nation, and above all Budweiser, who saw an opportunity for their brand to reach consumers in a more meaningful, delightful way.

Want to talk further about this or other use cases for LISNR? Reach out to me at jillian@lisnr.com.

LISNR is a high frequency, inaudible technology; a new communication protocol that sends data over audio. As the leaders of the Internet of Sound, we use inaudible sound waves called SmartTones™, to transmit information.  LISNR essentially transmits customizable packets of data every second that enable proximity data transmission, second-screen functionality, authentication and low-fi device to deviceconnectivity on any LISNR enabled device.  We enable this functionality better and more efficiently than bluetooth (proximity), ACR (2nd Screen), and NFC/RFID (authentication). As an integrated software partner, LISNR can power devices to connect with world around better than ever before.

Lisnr and SXSW 2015 in 5 Questions

Each March, the South by Southwest superfestival takes place in Austin, Texas, showcasing the latest film, music, and interactive media. In the startup world, its Interactive Festival has become known as a breeding ground for emerging tech.

Last week, I was fortunate to attend Startup Pow Wow #3, a talk about making the most of SXSW given by SXSW veteran Dave Knox, Co-Founder of The Brandery startup accelerator, alongside a SXSW first-timer Mike Sarow, Co-Founder of Kapture. I have transcribed some of their advice and stirred it up with other ideas from the interwebs.

The talk was timely and insightful, but for me it was more — without SXSW, the startup that I work for every day wouldn’t exist.

Enter Lisnr

Lisnr was born three years ago, on a bus to SXSW 2012. Though before my time, tidbits of the story about how Rodney and our other co-founders met, brainstormed, and began creating the Smart Tone have been passed down over the years. In late 2012, we had the first big pilot: Swedish House Mafia.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bh7FKbmm6YM]
I could tell you more about our story, but this shiny, new infographic conveys it pretty well.

infograph

Lisnr, from SXSW to SXSW. Handcrafted by our Interaction Designer, Max Burnside.

What it doesn’t tell you are the little details, like that we were invited to meet with Pepsi and Disney before the week was over. Since 2012, we have done more major pilots, and evolved Smart Tones to be more robust and powerful. This year, we built a platform on top of them. Next week at SXSW 2015, we’re coming full circle with our latest demos.

SXSW 2015

In general, the advice from Dave and Mike about SXSW, revolved around three themes: the value of having a very diverse body of attendees, the large amount of niche events, and the serendipity that naturally arises from the first two. (Dave wrote a related blog post about SXSW 2011.)

Should I get a badge?

Dave and Mike agree that you don’t need a badge to make the most of SXSW. That said, some sessions and events require a badge for access. There are multiple badge types, and most are $1k+. Austin.com adds that, you can get into any film without a badge by buying a $10 ticket right before it starts (as long as there are open seats). Alternatively, some people leave early handing out their badges as they go, so there’s a chance of getting into a special talk that way.

How should I network?

The broad advice with meetings and networking was to be intentional. Know why you’re attending (or not attending), and who you want to meet with. Try to schedule coffee with them ahead of time. If you can, get their cell, so that you can text to find each other, even in crowded space. Mike added that reaching out to mentors to ask if they’d be attending led to occasional replies offering them onto lists into shows and events they wouldn’t have otherwise.

Which sessions & events are worthwhile?

Let’s be real — the amount of sessions and parties is overwhelming. TheSXSW schedule is overflowing (information architects, where you at?), and that’s only the official events. Even once you have arrived, sometimes the line will be so long you can’t actually get in—don’t waste your time standing in long lines, rather just accept missing that talk and follow the tweets instead. Also, don’t forget to allocate travel time between sessions that aren’t close by, and to focus on niche events.

Is there an app for that?

Yes.

What about parties and shows?

Avoid most official parties for long lines and over-generalized conversation—instead seek out curated events, like vendor parties. Mike adds that while mingling, they had success simply asking, “what are you up to tonight?” then asking to get on the list for event as they networked. Dave mentions that your friends at marketing at branding companies, as well as VCs can have the sway to get you onto these exclusive RSVP lists, while most startup friends won’t. (But please don’t RSVP bomb.) When it comes to shows, the same advice holds: find the emerging artists instead of the big guys.

If you are in startups, two events not to miss are the SXSW Accelerator competition at Startup Village over the weekend (badge required), and the Global Accelerator Network Party on Monday (free).


Taylor Edmiston is a startup software engineer, entrepreneur, and Lead Backend Developer at LISNR in Cincinnati, Ohio.

This post originally appeared on Medium.

LISNR is a high frequency, inaudible technology; a new communication protocol that sends data over audio. As the leaders of the Internet of Sound, we use inaudible sound waves called SmartTones™, to transmit information.  LISNR essentially transmits customizable packets of data every second that enable proximity data transmission, second-screen functionality, authentication and low-fi device to deviceconnectivity on any LISNR enabled device.  We enable this functionality better and more efficiently than bluetooth (proximity), ACR (2nd Screen), and NFC/RFID (authentication). As an integrated software partner, LISNR can power devices to connect with world around better than ever before.

Making Magic Happen

WC Fields once said, “Never work with children or animals.” If I might slightly modify that to reflect the technology industry, “Never work with live software demos.”

It’s a variation on the common thread that everyone experiences where a computer program or piece of software doesn’t work until you try to show the problem to someone else. Or even worse, when someone is watching you type. My typing rate drops like a rock and every word is misspelled at least twice.
Luckily, there are ways to mitigate most of the risk associated with showcasing your work and efforts. As I am running around this, these solutions are sitting at the top of my mind:

1. Know your environment.

As a company that works a lot with sound, that means learning as much as you can about the layout of the speakers, the size of the room, what can you configure to make the experience as seamless as possible. For example, a few weeks ago we had a setup where there was no plan for a monitor to face the speaker during a presentation. That meant we were reliant on the sound echoing back onto the stage. After a quick discussion with the stage manager, a monitor was placed and the direct sound saved us a lot of problems. Getting in early and asking questions was key to avoiding issues.

2. Know your audience.

I like to figure out a series of 10 questions that I expect my audience to ask specific to the software and odd and surprising use cases. Most of the time, a good presentation demo runs on rails which allows you to fully control each step along the way. When you switch to hands on demos, that’s when things can start to go very, very wrong. By having the list of “Can it do X?” and resulting answers makes the software seem very natural and keeps the flow moving as people

3. Know your software.

It seems redundant, but knowing the aspects that are technically impressive might not always translate into what provides a great demo. I have worked with a script that covers the high points of the implementation, which is what I love to discuss, along side the more marketing focused side. I’ve also been guilty of rolling out the latest version of the code to show a new feature without fully testing all the legacy functionality.

While not every demo can and will go perfectly, being able to plan out the room, people, and software goes a long way to reducing the overall risk of something going askew. The rewards of being able to show a successful demo are huge, balancing and controlling the risk around live software is essential to creating the best overall view of your product.

LISNR is a high frequency, inaudible technology; a new communication protocol that sends data over audio. As the leaders of the Internet of Sound, we use inaudible sound waves called SmartTones™, to transmit information.  LISNR essentially transmits customizable packets of data every second that enable proximity data transmission, second-screen functionality, authentication and low-fi device to deviceconnectivity on any LISNR enabled device.  We enable this functionality better and more efficiently than bluetooth (proximity), ACR (2nd Screen), and NFC/RFID (authentication). As an integrated software partner, LISNR can power devices to connect with world around better than ever before.

We Raised Series A and Then Joined An Accelerator

[vimeo 119966937 w=500 h=281]

LISNR was founded in March 2012 and launched its first product a year after, at the end of February 2013. I joined the company right before that release, becoming a first (if not the first) employee amongst a small team of founders. I saw the company through significant business milestones, ones that supported our Seed stage ambitions and eventually solidified our Series A position. By May 2014, we had raised over $4M in two funding rounds. LISNR had weathered industry storms, changing markets, early adopters, and a few small pivots, but the aforementioned history can be leveraged as evidence that we had a defensible business and technology, supported by bullish investors representing the industry vision we intended to fall in line with. So it makes natural sense that in October 2014 we were accepted into the R/GA Accelerator, a connected devices startup accelerator powered by Techstars, one of the premier pre-/seed stage startup accelerators in the country.

I hope you caught my sarcasm there.

What was a post-Series A company doing entering a seed stage accelerator, never mind applying and hoping for acceptance into one? Some of these answers are deeply personal to our business and have to do with the particularities of the R/GA Accelerator focus: in order to understand the viability of a hardware business and its team, companies need to be further along than their softer brothers and sisters, even in just the prototyping phase. So for a company that’s obviously not hardware, what can we say we got out of the experience?

Let’s explore the more universal answers to these questions, so maybe we can help you consider your own unconventional startup resources on the path to success. Because sometimes you can get off the ground, you just need a little jet fuel to fly.

Why An Accelerator? Why Now?

  1. The Power of Brand

Techstars and R/GA are leaders in their respective industries and powerhouse brands to be reckoned with and recognized. Even when competitors speak of them, you can hear the reverence in their voice. With that said, LISNR needed a little shared brand equity. We have the unique opportunity to define a product, create a market, and build a business around a proprietary technology that we ourselves have perfected. We were sore for some awareness, vertically and horizontally across markets and verticals. Being backed by these brands fortified our own brand, in the face of our target market, end users, clients, potential investors, and even competitors.

2.   It’s Not Too Late for Fundamentals

Do you ever see your company how it could be more often than what it is? It’s a great concept, you have a great team, the product has sold and is getting traction, but things could be better. Maybe management isn’t talking enough, or stepping up to the plate. Product market fit doesn’t seem to be informing your decisions as you expect, and the product roadmap is stalled by conflicting goals and interests. Maybe it’s time to take a step back and find the cancer, something very hard with a business that has already put the rubber to the road. This is a chance to revisit some of the fundamentals and the early issues that could be coming back to haunt your success. If nothing else, for a later stage company, going back to the basics and applying some foundation principles to growth and scale might just be a perspective you need.

3.   Going Fast and Slow

Since we knew we needed to revisit some fundamentals, we then also knew we needed to be conscious of the business that was already in motion. Joining R/GA and Techstars enabled us to focus on growing and strengthening LISNR without absorbing the risk that comes with having more than one company focus. We are a client-oriented, sales driven company. If everyone from the CEO to the intern is not aligned under that culture, business suffers. R/GA and Techstars provided us the support and the roadmap to take on business and product development that we would have had to have done ourselves, alone and without guidance, opening us up to derision and possible detriment to the company.

What Did We Learn?

1.   You Are Not An Island

Techstars is a mentor-driven startup accelerator. It differentiates and prides itself on providing startups with what they really need to succeed: a little cash and mentorship from individuals with deep industry, investment, or entrepreneurship experience. For a long time, LISNR operated as an island. We did not leverage the large network we had amassed strategically or intentionally. It wasn’t done with ill will: sometimes when your head is down, and as an entrepreneur you’re used to doing things by yourself, it’s hard to know when and how to ask for help. Forming to the Techstars model, we had have and use mentors. The growth and knowledge base thus far has been exponential. LISNR curated four top mentors across verticals and channels that speak directly to our market. We are in the process of closing deals we would have never had the access or insight to do before.

2.   Prospects Won’t Buy Your Product, You Have To Sell It

LISNR didn’t intend for this, but after two years of being intimately involved with a pretty cool inaudible “data over audio” smart tone solution, we started expecting our prospects to buy our product without us selling it. We would barrell into meetings and talk about sexy features and functions, but forget to speak to the target about their problems and how we were a solution for those needs. We weren’t placing ourselves in the market or in their value chain, and the results saw inconsistent sales targets and closes. By refocusing on the art of selling, we were also able to catch some superfluous product features, strengthen our roadmap with more aligned product offerings, and find a better pricing model that lets us better predict income.

3.    Align Your Goals Across The Whole Business

The core offering R/GA brings to the relationship with Techstars is the ability for the startups to partner with the R/GA services teams. These are the same teams that work with global Fortune 500 companies and help build multimillion dollar brands. Our services team had a business objective and a product objective, but made it clear that goals of both projects needed to be aligned in order for one to support the other. To be transparent, we rallied around “shortening the sales cycle” and then built a business solution and a product solution that worked in tandem to support that end. It really helps in moments of decision making, across all of our functions, to go back to that one goal as ask ourselves, from the CEO to the intern, “is this getting us to a shorter sales cycle? How?”.

If you want to learn more about our experience in the R/GA Accelerator, our thoughts on the accelerator model, or learn more about Techstars, drop me an email: jillian@lisnr.com

LISNR is a high frequency, inaudible technology; a new communication protocol that sends data over audio. As the leaders of the Internet of Sound, we use inaudible sound waves called SmartTones™, to transmit information.  LISNR essentially transmits customizable packets of data every second that enable proximity data transmission, second-screen functionality, authentication and low-fi device to deviceconnectivity on any LISNR enabled device.  We enable this functionality better and more efficiently than bluetooth (proximity), ACR (2nd Screen), and NFC/RFID (authentication). As an integrated software partner, LISNR can power devices to connect with world around better than ever before.

Proximity vs. Presence

Proximity: nearness in space, time, or relationship.

Presence: the state or fact of existing, occurring, or being present in a place or thing.

The recent emergence of beacon technology (iBeacon, BLE, Bluetooth Smart) and other emerging technologies in geo-location have created a lot of hype around proximity marketing.  Wikipedia defines proximity marketing as the “localized wireless distribution of advertising content associated with a particular place. Transmissions can be received by individuals in that location who wish to receive them and have the necessary equipment to do so.”

At LISNR, we rarely use the word “proximity”.  We use presence. With proximity marketing, even if I know where you are, I don’t necessarily know anything about you or the environment impacting you at that moment.  Sure, I can fire a coupon based on your location, but it is hard to activate a truly valuable experience based on simply your location.

Presence is defined as “the state or fact of existing, occurring, or being present in a place or thing.”  I’m particularly drawn to the idea of “being present”.  What makes LISNR activations so successful is that we focus on activating in real-time based on the experience you’re having in a location, not simply the fact that you are in a location.  Synchronizing a light show at your favorite concert. Displaying missed plays after a restroom trip at the stadium. Providing you a free download of the song you just heard on your favorite television drama. These are things we’re able to do based on your presence, not just your proximity.

I believe what could ultimately doom technologies like BLE is the focus on proximity and the lack of focus on relevance and valuable content based on presence. This oversight leads to consumer disengagement and the disabling of BLE technology on the consumer device.

LISNR is a high frequency, inaudible technology; a new communication protocol that sends data over audio. As the leaders of the Internet of Sound, we use inaudible sound waves called SmartTones™, to transmit information.  LISNR essentially transmits customizable packets of data every second that enable proximity data transmission, second-screen functionality, authentication and low-fi device to deviceconnectivity on any LISNR enabled device.  We enable this functionality better and more efficiently than bluetooth (proximity), ACR (2nd Screen), and NFC/RFID (authentication). As an integrated software partner, LISNR can power devices to connect with world around better than ever before.

2014 In Review

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Last year, we focused on closing our Series A, advancing our technology and improving team leadership. Thank you for all of your support.

We’re starting off 2015 at CES and are available for meetings between 1/5 – 1/9.  Please send us a note at ces@lisnr.com if you are interested in connecting.

Happy New Year!

LISNR is a high frequency, inaudible technology; a new communication protocol that sends data over audio. As the leaders of the Internet of Sound, we use inaudible sound waves called SmartTones™, to transmit information.  LISNR essentially transmits customizable packets of data every second that enable proximity data transmission, second-screen functionality, authentication and low-fi device to deviceconnectivity on any LISNR enabled device.  We enable this functionality better and more efficiently than bluetooth (proximity), ACR (2nd Screen), and NFC/RFID (authentication). As an integrated software partner, LISNR can power devices to connect with world around better than ever before.