Babson WIN Lab

CliqBit pivots to link companies to Gen Z

RULES OF ENGAGEMENT: CliqBit co-founders Hannah Wei and Olivia Joslin have taken their funny social network in a new direction, connecting brands with research and meetings with their young base of users. PHOTO PROVIDED BY CLIQBIT.


By JULIETTE FAHEY

BOSTON–For brands, understanding their youngest consumers is anything but funny.

So two years after the successful launch of CliqBit, a humor-based social media app, co-founders Hannah Wei and Olivia Joslin have shifted their focus to connecting companies with Generation Z.

The market potential for Generation Z is significant, according to a 2014 study by Goldman Sachs, which shows Generation representing 22 percent of the U.S. population. By 2020, they will account for 40 percent of the consumer base. These digital natives, the oldest of whom are now 18, are reportedly burdened with the shortest attention spans. But according to new research, their brains may have developed an adaptive filter that allows them to process online content and decide in seconds whether it has value to them.

How can brands connect in less than eight seconds? This is the kind of data CliqBit is now harnessing for clients.

“We wanted to see how we could take our knowledge of Generation Z and implement certain viral tools to help them,” says Wei, president of CliqBit.

At CliqBit, Wei and Joslin study Generation Z, their trends and purchase behavior, and share their insight with brands attempting to break into this burgeoning (but ad-resistant) market. Joslin, CliqBit’s CEO, speaks to an even greater challenge of locating Generation Z’s online presence.

“They’re really struggling to not only have Gen Z fill out their surveys, conduct their research and pay attention to it online, they’re struggling to find out where they are,” Joslin says. “It’s becoming harder for companies to grab at them for insight and just connect with them at another level.”

CliqBit has been developing this foundation of research on and connection with Gen Z since 2015, starting with the now-defunct social media app that targeted this demographic, they say. The women, rising seniors at Wellesley as well as participants in the MIT bridge program, successfully completed the 2016 Babson WIN Lab, the Boston-based accelerator for women entrepreneurs. In the process of working with the cohort, they saw the need to pivot into enterprise and decided to go for it.

“(WIN Lab) pushed us along in our transition, because when we entered, we were still a social app. And then by the time we came out, we were making revenue as a market research type of platform,” says Wei. “WIN Lab helped us because the women in it are powerhouses. We have so much respect for them. They were like, ‘OK, so now that you’re not raising this money any more, what’s next?’ ”

They saw value in the research they had conducted and decided to leverage it for this next iteration. The duo is currently working on expanding their offering while participating in the 2017 Babson Summer Venture Lab.

“A core part of our success with the CliqBit app was definitely the focus groups, the interviews that we conducted with Generation Z,” Joslin says.

“(With) quantitative data, you can figure out the what,” she says. “What is it that people don’t like or what is it that people do or don’t do? When do they drop off? But (brands) can’t figure out the why just through analyzing their metrics.

“And so, this is really where we come in, because now they know that something isn’t working, but they have to figure out why,” Joslin says.


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Join Loveleaf’s salad movement

If you’re considering revamping your holiday offerings, why not try a recipe Loveleaf founder Ally Milligan loves.

Milligan, one of the founders in this year’s Babson WIN Lab Boston cohort, is on a mission to help simplify life, by encouraging one salad a day.

Milligan says she doesn’t mean sad, store-bought, diet-fanatical, I’m-still-hungry salads. She means satisfying, colorful, energizing, homemade salads, packed with nutrients, antioxidants and flavor.

“It’s a simply powerful habit that will transform your approach to healthy eating without having to give up the fun stuff,” Milligan says. “Because we believe life is about balance, not deprivation. So enjoy that wine and pumpkin pie. You’re welcome.”

Milligan says she loves this Thanksgiving squash and cranberry salad because it’s make-ahead friendly and uses one of her favorite time-saving tricks: roasting everything together on one pan. “So you can spend more energy on the things that really matter. Like friends and family. Or not burning the turkey (you got this),” she says.

You might want to bookmark this one for January, too—when Loveleaf’s 7-Day Salad Reset might be just what you need to jumpstart your new year. Follow @Loveleaf on Instagram for a daily infusion of healthy food inspiration. 

THANKSGIVING SQUASH + CRANBERRY KALE SALAD

INGREDIENTS

For the salad:

½ c. pecans
1 delicata squash
1 c. fresh cranberries (can be thawed from frozen)
½ red onion
1 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1 T. maple syrup
1 t. kosher salt
1 large bunch Lacinato (aka Dinosaur) kale (see notes)

 For the dressing:

4-6 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1 T. maple syrup
1 t. lemon juice
½ t. cumin
½ t. sea salt (or more, to taste)
pinch of cayenne (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside. Chop pecans into coarse pieces. Place on the lined sheet pan and toast until golden and fragrant, approximately 10-12 minutes. Remove pecans from the pan, place on a plate to cool.
  1. To prepare the delicata squash, wash well and cut in half from top to bottom. Scoop out the seeds (save to roast later, if desired), and slice into ½ inch semi-circles. Cut each semi-circle into 3-4 pieces and put into a large mixing bowl.
  1. Rinse the cranberries and add to the bowl with the squash. Dice the red onion (pieces should be roughly the same size as the squash and cranberries) and place in the bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, maple syrup, and kosher salt.

Toss to combine. Pour mixture onto the parchment-lined sheet pan and bake for 40-45 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent burning.

  1. While the squash mixture is roasting, prepare the kale. Wash the leaves well under cool running water, shake-off excess liquid, and place on a cutting board. Cut out the tough center rib on each leaf and chop the leaves coarsely. Place in a large bowl.
  1. Prepare the salad dressing by putting all of the ingredients into a small jar (a pint-sized mason jar works well) and shake to combine. Pour the dressing over the kale and toss well. Place dressed kale into a serving bowl.
  1. Remove the squash mixture from the oven and allow to cool 10 minutes. Once cooled, spoon the squash mixture over the top of the kale and toss gently. Sprinkle the chopped pecans over the top of the salad and serve.

NOTE: Curly kale can also be used as shown here; just massage to soften before assembling. Salad can be made in advance and leftovers keep well for 2-3 days in the fridge.

 

Get your motivation on for this week’s events

It’s a new week, new energy! Network, get inspired and advance your venture vision.


Today, Nov. 7: Tech Tackles Cancer, hosted by hack/reduce, at Lansdowne Pub9 Lansdowne St., Boston. 6-11:30 p.m. Tickets $20. Register HERE.  Join hack/reduce, one of Boston’s biggest tech associations, for a good-time fundraiser aimed at eliminating pediatric cancer. No matter if you donate or just go out and support the cause, you’ll have a ton of fun with your fellow tech community builders.

Tuesday, Nov. 8: Recruiting Challenges for Startups, hosted by Nancy Drees at WeWork South Station, 795 Atlantic Ave., 8th floor, Boston. 6-8 p.m. FREE. Register HERE. So you have your startup vision in place, and you’re in the early planning stages. A priority needs to be the team you assemble to make that vision happen. The Vacaré Group is hosting a seminar with tips on how to build that startup team successfully.

Wednesday, Nov. 9: SheDemos 2016, hosted by She Starts and the Babson WIN Lab, at C Space, 290 Congress St., Boston. 5:30-8:30 p.m. FREE. Register HERE. If you’re an aspiring female entrepreneur, don’t miss the SheStarts/WIN Lab annual showcase of their dozen startup finalists. Not only will you get inspired by these rockstar women and the businesses they’re creating, you’ll get to make connections helpful to furthering your own startup vision.

Thursday, Nov. 10: 6 Months On: Equity Crowdfunding Rules and You, hosted by the Capital Network at the Cambridge Innovation Center’s Venture Cafe, 1 Broadway, Cambridge, 5:30-6:30 p.m. FREE. Register HERE. Startup funding can be a complex and confusing field. Head to the Venture Cafe for an educational conversation with experts on the ins-and-outs of crowdfunding and investing and how to successfully navigate them.

Friday, Nov. 11: Babson Entrepreneurship Forum: Take Action, hosted by F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business at Babson College, 231 Forest St., Wellesley. Tickets $30. Register HERE. Entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs: Join Babson students, faculty, and the Boston business community for a day-long conference and networking bash. You’ll get access to valuable entrepreneurial trends and leadership tools, along with pitch advice from the “Live to Pitch” component.

Saturday, Nov. 12: BU BUzz Lab Startup Bootcamp Fall 16, hosted by the Boston University BUzz Lab at Boston University Questrom School of Business (Room 208), 595 Commonwealth Ave., Boston. 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Tickets $10. Register HERE. If you’re looking to get your venture off the ground, or are already there and just want some tips on improving the process, join the BUzz Lab’s boot camp. Your startup will benefit from BU professors’ expertise on key topics like market validation, financing, legal navigation and team building.

Sunday, Nov. 13: Power Hour Brunch Bites Sunday, hosted by Cove at 293 Third St., Cambridge. 10 a.m.-noon. FREE. Register HERE. Cap off your weekend with yummy brunch treats and networking with your fellow Boston community space workers. Local eatery bites, coffee, and socializing galore.

Captain goes from war zone to DropZone for Veterans

Female Founder of the Week (FFoW) is a celebration of the women who are building businesses that drive change around the world. Courtney Wilson, founder of DropZone for Veterans, takes this week’s honors for her commitment to serving her country and her fellow veterans, by making sure they get the available services they need and deserve.

We also continue our spotlight on some of the innovations our military servicemen and women are creating, in honor of Veteran Small Business Week. If you are a veteran working on a startup or if you know of one (even after VSBW ends), please let us know RIGHT HERE.


By SHELAGH BRALEY
@founderswire

BOSTON—Courtney Wilson, as a United States Army engineer, was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for her service in Afghanistan. Now she’s applying her tactical and technical expertise to help other veterans find the services available to them.

“I want the focus on veterans, I want them to be able to be the best version of themselves,” Wilson says. “In the military, we have to have a level of uniformity, it’s what keeps us alive. In the civilian world, you have the chance to be anyone you want. If they want to go become a Fortune 500 CEO or hike the Appalachian Trail, I want them to do that. If they have to go to healing retreat first, I want them to do that. I want them to continue to do excellent things, just in a different environment.”

There are 21.8 million veterans in America, and tens of thousands of free and low-cost programs available to them, including coding bootcamps, LinkedIn premium accounts, five-day healing retreats and more. They run the gamut from personal, professional, financial and emotional benefits. But research shows less than half of veterans ever capitalize on those programs—mostly because veterans don’t know they exist.

DropZone for Veterans, a platform that aggregates all the free and low-cost services offered to military personnel and their families, is making those opportunities transparent. It works like Groupon, Wilson says, especially in terms of finding programs locally and nationally, with more than 50,000 benefits already catalogued.

One of the biggest issues for veterans when they do find services is discerning whether they qualify or if the program will fit their needs, Wilson says. DropZone’s mission is to ensure all veterans find these programs, and then present those that are most relevant for each member of the varied veteran population.

“So many people trying to help veterans,” says Wilson. “Helping any demographic of America, that’s hard enough, then layer on top of that: Is this person post-9/11? Is it a Vietnam veteran? My dad was a male, enlisted Marine during Vietnam. I’m female, post-9/11 and I’m a combat veteran. What’s available to me and what will be helpful for me is going to be completely different. No war is the same, no veteran is the same. What we all having in common is serving this country, but beyond that we’re pretty diverse.”

Wilson, who recently placed second in the HUBWeek Beantown Throwdown pitch competition, is a Babson MBA candidate and also a member of this year’s WIN Lab cohort. She also came in third in the Vets in Tech hackathon at Facebook headquarters in San Francisco.

In her military career, she was a platoon leader who led more than 100 combat missions throughout southern Afghanistan, constructing main supply routes for NATO forces. Now she’s leading a team to scale DropZone—because it’s addressing an obvious need that many in the tech world can easily get behind.

courtneywilsondropzone1

“This is one of the reasons I know I can make DropZone a success,” she says. “When I first started, I found someone who believed in our mission, he is a Ph.D. at MIT, he helped me out for free because he believed in our mission. He was so good, I brought him on as CTO. For our initial prototype, people just donated their time.”

Wilson says she knew DropZone could add value to both the veteran community and the business that want to serve them. “Platforms are everything,” she says. “Look at Amazon, Yelp, Groupon … no one should not be doing single marketing anymore. No one wants to do that, people want to see all their options at once and make a choice. This has been done before, just not in this industry.”

While DropZone works on an affiliate model, Wilson is also exploring the value of firsthand information and connections to the greater veteran buyer demographic. DropZone works on referral fees built into all the goods and services veterans buy, but Wilson sees a greater market opportunity in connecting brands to this particular consumer group.

“This is going to end up being our main value: being able to offer strategic marketing planning to companies that don’t understand the veteran landscape at all. They don’t see the potential of connecting with the veteran buying group.

“When you look at the military as a vertical … products have to be good. When we deploy, we have to be ready to move quickly—(most companies) have never thought of that vertical because they’ve never deployed, they can’t see it,” Wilson says.

From a financial perspective, companies that sign on for the platform get increased brand awareness and a direct line to the veterans that need and want their offerings.

“All the companies I’ve talked to, it means so much to them to be able to support veterans. It’s an honor and a privilege and they love it,” Wilson says. “On both sides, they just gain an awareness.”

They gain increased market share, too: She points to the Under Armour brand and its expansion into the military market, with its Under Armour Freedom initiative, which offers a 10 percent discount to active duty service members, veterans and first responders, and also gives a hoo-rah from those who wear the gear as a sign of support for those who defend our country at home and abroad.

“When Under Armour connected with the military community, their revenue increased 30 percent,” she says, plus 70 percent new customers and a significant increase in positive sentiment toward the brand on social media.. “It’s not just, hey, there’s this opportunity, and here’s exactly how you get it. We are going to be able to go to a company and say, here’s a list of all the veterans, here are the most popular influencers … having all that information is very valuable to a company.”

She also appreciates how DropZone for Veterans is connecting disparate sides of our nation, between those who serve and those who don’t—but who might use their businesses as a vehicle to show their support for them.

“There’s a huge military-civilian divide. People who haven’t served feel bad, and veterans doubt their value in the civilian world. But both sides should realize that they’re amazing and valuable, in their own right. When you bring those two groups together, they’re unstoppable,” she says.

“This is about bringing all sides together as a whole. We’re building community and taking down that divide of us versus them.”


Through such programs as Veteran Small Business Week, the U.S. Small Business Association provides veterans, active duty service members, Guard and Reserve members and military spouses the entrepreneurial training and education programs, business technical assistance counseling, special access to capital programs and federal procurement training and access to opportunities they need to create their own opportunities. Share these stories on Twitter at #MyVetBiz to show support to veterans and their families. Learn more about SBA veteran initiatives here.

WeBOS shines the spotlight on female founder growth

By SHELAGH BRALEY

BOSTON—When women help other women, you get success on par with this week’s second annual WeBOS Week.

Women exemplifying Boston’s entrepreneurial spirit turned out to develop their skills and connect with seasoned experts at programming held all over the city. WeBOS (Women Entrepreneurs Boston) is a city-run program led by Kara Miller that provides training and networking in support of economic growth from the nearly 20,000 women-run businesses that have proliferated here.

High-profile speaker events, skill-building workshops, round-table discussions and networking opportunities all materialized, at the direction of the women who have been behind the scenes, driving the growth and recognition of this ecosystem.

Bobbie Carlton, PR expert and founder of Innovation Women, says based on positive reception from the inaugural WeBOS Week, “shining a spotlight on the great women-led companies and initiatives in Boston,” she couldn’t wait to get involved again.

“We’re very much focused on driving visibility—women are doing great things, running great companies—sometimes we just don’t see it,” Carlton says. “We want women to recognize that their visibility brings even more opportunity—customers, partners and investments.”

webos-attendees1

Women make up more than half of Boston’s residents, yet only $1 of every $23 in conventional bank loans and less than 3 percent of venture capital funding is distributed to women-owned businesses, according to city reports. That’s a cold reality for the female founders pumping more than $7.6 billion into the local economy. These businesses also provide more than $208 million in tax revenue, according to city of Boston data.

By partnering with such groups as Boston Business Women, Innovation Women, SheStarts, Women In MassChallenge, BREAD, the Babson WIN Lab and more, Mayor Walsh’s office supports growth in funding, scaling and networking, the three priorities identified for the weeklong program.

“It’s really important to get involved in programming that supports women entrepreneurs because if one succeeds, then we all succeed,” says Meaghan Corson, founder of Flash22 Productions. “Most women tend to shy away from sharing their success. I know I’m still learning to get better about sharing the value I have to offer people. We need to encourage women to brag a little more because we do have a lot to offer and if we don’t share it, then no one will know about it.”

After attending Wednesday’s event hosted at ImpactHub Boston, she says having this supportive community focused on women in business will make it that much easier for everyone to own their successes and be proud to share what they’re working on.

“I made some great connections that I believe will develop into relationships where we refer business to each other,” says Corson. “I loved sharing what I’ve learned thus far and hearing other women’s experiences speaking. It’s great to know that people are on the same journey as you and still trying to grow themselves. The biggest thing for me was getting confirmation that I’m heading in the right direction.”

webos-panel-own-it

The “Own It” panel, moderated by Innovation Women’s Carlton, revealed the intricacies of speaking as a means for amplifying expertise and accelerating growth. Experts Ann Brainard, founder of MOJO cold-brewed coffee; Jenny Mirken, founder of Jet.me, an ad-free, secure chat platform for children younger than 13; and Samantha Stone, author of Unleash Possible: A Marketing Playbook That Drives Sales, walked the audience through their most practical tips and shared their own moments of uncertainty as they’ve scaled their businesses.

“We focused more on leveraging and capitalizing on speaking engagements,” Carlton says. “Women get such a small share of the funding pie because they are just not visible. We get on stage and we have instant credibility and expert status.”

“We had such good response from the attendees,” Carlton says. “The “Get It” and “Work It” panels did more to cater to those just getting started. So many felt they got good starting-out pointers. Many wanted to know what topics to talk about and there was a good discussion about brainstorming on those topics and finding what you are passionate about.”

The “Get It” panel included moderator and Innovation Women co-founder Betsy Dupre;   Maura Kolkmeyer, founder of Sitterly; Angela Lussier, from Speaking School for Women; and Linda Plano, coach and principal with Plano & Simple.

webos-work-it-panel

The “Work It” panel included moderator  Colleen Bradley-MacArthur from Carlton PR & MarketingAmanda Hennessey from Boston Public Speaking; Catherine Storing, founder of Styling Faith; and Rita B. Allen, author of Personal Branding and Marketing Yourself as well as president of national career management firm Rita B. Allen Associates.

Corson says she found a diverse group of women from all backgrounds and experience levels in attendance—all with the singular goal of growing their businesses. “Boston is full of motivated people and gives a great environment for entrepreneurship,” she says. “We are all coming from a place of support and giving to each other.”

That sense of giving creates a bridge across age, culture—even language barriers—to unite female founders in tech, nonprofit, service-providing and consumer sectors, all in the name of parity, to take positions of leadership across the city.

“We want a larger group of women to … think about how they can contribute to events and conferences from the front of the room,” Carlton says. “No more all-male, all-pale panels.”