Self-driving car will make trip from San Francisco to New York City

It’s all of the road trip and none of the driving — at least, not by a human.

An autonomous car, developed by Michigan-based Delphi Automotive, will begin a 3,500-mile trip across the U.S. on March 22. Beginning in San Francisco, the car is expected to arrive in New York about a week later.

“We’re going to learn a lot out of this,” Jeff Owens, Delphi’s chief technology officer, told The Associated Press.

There will be a person behind the wheel at all times, but they are not expected to intervene at all unless the autonomous car gets into trouble.

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Google Launches Interactive Games on Times Square’s Biggest Billboard Ever

Content marketers are taking it to the streets – and to stadiums, subways, and bus stops. With the vast majority of marketers using content to build their brands, it’s no wonder marketers are expanding the ways their content gets delivered.

Experiential marketing is nothing new — from billboards to sandwich boards, brands have a history of engaging consumers outside their homes. In recent years, however, out-of-home media spend has been among the fastest-growing categories – global spend is expected to exceed $40 billionn by 2018, according to PWC. The large canvas, the emergence of digitally powered signage, and the hyper-local nature of outdoor advertising have all contributed to the growth. Still, while the format may be known, today’s top marketers are innovating they way they use experiential marketing to tell their brand stories.

Connect your experiences.

Like all digital campaigns, the best ones move seamlessly across screens, formats, and platforms. When Qualcomm took over this bus stop for its “Born Mobile” campaign, the brand interwove print, mobile, and out-of-home to give unwitting bus takers the ride of their lives. The experience was very share-worthy: this video compilation of the stunt has racked up more than 3.7M views. Continue reading

Business Lessons from Shark Tank’s Barbara Corcoran

The real estate mogul shared her wisdom in the keynote address at the National Association of Professional Women conference in New York City.

On Friday, the sixth-floor ballroom at the Marriott Marquis hotel in New York City was filled with the sounds of cheering and laughing women (and select men) during the keynote address by real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran at the National Association of Professional Women conference. The wildly successful and unapologetic businesswoman–well known for her appearances on ABC’s Shark Tank–traced her entrepreneurial journey from her entry into the real estate industry in her early 20s to where she is today.

During her speech, Corcoran passed on the most important business lessons she learned along the way. Here are a few highlights:

The meek shall not inherit the earth

After entering the New York real estate business, Corcoran quickly realized that what her mother taught her and her siblings during their childhood didn’t necessarily hold true in the big city. Although after watching Shark Tank it’s hard to imagine Corcoran ever being meek, the entrepreneur said that she had to develop a different personality when she first started her career.

“I found as a real estate broker that people really respond to how you look–especially in a town like New York,” Corcoran said. “If you act and look successful, people will make the wrongful assumption that you are.”

That was a lesson, she said, that she stumbled upon by accident during the first real estate recession she experienced. On a whim, a desperate Corcoran totaled up all the sales that she made that year, found the average apartment price, typed up the results, labeled the document “The Corcoran Report,” and mailed it to The New York Times.

“I didn’t expect anything good. I didn’t expect anything bad. I was just trying everything,” Corcoran said. Shortly after, she opened up the newspaper and saw that her off-the-cuff report made the front page of the real estate section. It was a turning point for The Corcoran Group and changed the way she did business.

“If you want to be a somebody or you want to grab a market that you didn’t have before or you want to look bigger than you are–go brag about it before you have it,” Corcoran said. “Its not illegal. I have used that technique again and again and again on anything I have wanted.”

There are two kinds of people in business, and you need them both

When Corcoran first met Esther Kaplan, she knew that Kaplan was her exact opposite–and Corcoran realized that was exactly what her real estate business needed. Kaplan eventually became a 10 percent partner in the Corcoran Group and handled everything that Corcoran didn’t want to do, such as cash projections and insurance. She also balanced Corcoran’s bold style. Corcoran continued to try to replicate that balance whenever she brought on new employees.

“For every single position I ever hired for, I learned to ignore the résumé when they were sitting at my desk and to focus on whether they were a container or an expander. Do they like to bullshit, get out there, and try anything–[are they] not risk-averse? Or were they the type that likes to create order out of chaos, control things, bring it in?” Corcoran said. “Esther was an extreme container. I was an extreme expander. I always coupled [those types] together. I wouldn’t hire one without the other. They take care of each other.”

Fun is good for business

“I use the fun card to build my business as much as I use publicity,” Corcoran said. “What I found by creating a fun culture is that no one ever left our company. They loved being there.” She says she spread the word of the fun culture by throwing parties with unique themes or putting on other quirky events, and it became the most effective recruiting tool the company had. 

The better you are at failing, the more you succeed

“I found after a lot of trial and error that there really was only one difference between the phenomenal salespeople and the people who just got by,” Corcoran said. “The difference was not their education, not their contacts that helped in the beginning, not how hard they worked–[it] was that when they took a hit, the superstars took a lot less time to feel sorry for themselves.”

Corcoran added that over the years, the most common reason she fired employees was for an inability to bounce back from failure. She found that, in an interview, the best thing to focus on was the negative experiences candidates had to determine how they respond to failure. “I learned that in my business, the reason that I succeed is because I am so good at failure,” she said.

This Startup Is Eyeing a Members-Only Bathroom in Times Square

This Startup Is Eyeing a Members-Only Bathroom in Times Square

This summer, one startup is hoping to bring some much-needed privacy — and an added dash of glamour — to one of the world’s most bustling intersections.

As a glitzy new take on the port-a-potty business, Posh Stow and Go is a luxury bathroom and storage facility for members only, slated to debut in New York City’s Times Square this June.

Tourists and locals alike will be able to safely store their belongings while out and about — as well as make use of the facility’s staffed, private restrooms featuring “soundproof rooms, motion sensor flushers and faucets, and high-powered hand dryers,” the company said.

Additional planned amenities include digitally resettable lockers, luxury showers in one of every five rooms, electronic charging stations and, eventually, private lounges for nursing mothers.

Beginning today, Posh Stow and Go is also launching a month-long crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo that will offer prospective users as much as half off their memberships. “I believe in deeply rewarding the early-bird supporters who help spread Posh’s message organically,” said the company’s founder, Wayne Parks.

Current packages available on the company’s site include three days of bathroom and locker storage for $24, six days for $4, and $60 for 10 days of use. Posh Stow and Go said it will sell limited packages to maximize the eventual user experience.

Airbnb Renters Open Their Homes to the Enemy: NY Mayor Bill de Blasio

Airbnb Renters Open Their Homes to the Enemy: NY Mayor Bill de Blasio
Keep your friends close and your enemies closer, the proverbial saying goes. But rarely has this advice been taken so literally as in Airbnb’s latest marketing effort, aimed at New York City mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, an opponent of the short-term rental concept that drives Airbnb’s business model.

In a video uploaded to Airbnb’s YouTube channel, a handful of New York City renters invite de Blasio’s friends and family into their homes for the incoming mayor’s “big day,” his impending inauguration on January 1. “Gracie Mansion must be fully booked,” reasons one host in the video, referring to the mayoral residence.

The playful invitation serves as a way of confronting, without antagonism, someone who could make or break Airbnb in New York, one of the apartment-rental service’s largest markets. De Blasio is a friend to the organized labor factions, namely hotel unions, that oppose Airbnb. He has publicly voiced support for the short-term rental laws that forbid Airbnb hosts from renting out their homes in their own absence.

Airbnb did win a victory in September, when an appeals board overturned an earlier ruling that would have levied a $2,400 fine — reduced from an original $40,000 — against an East Village man who rented out his apartment through Airbnb’s site. The ruling found the man, Nigel Warren, not guilty of violating city laws. “The sharing economy is here to stay, and so are we,” David Hantman, Airbnb’s head of public policy, wrote on the company’s blog after the decision.

But that decision went in Airbnb’s favor only because Warren had been present during the entire period of his renter’s three-day stay. Many Airbnb hosts use the site to rent out their homes during vacations or other trips, earning money in absentia — an activity which is still illegal in New York.

In November, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office issued a subpoena to Airbnb, demanding that the company turn over information on its users. Airbnb has petitioned to have the subpoena set aside.

Airbnb’s video cuts through the contentious legal battle to address Bill de Blasio directly. After congratulating the mayor-elect on his win, the hosts featured in the video make a case for the value of Airbnb as a way of introducing people to New York and giving them an authentic, “local” experience. “Our guests spend their time and their money in diverse communities across the city,” says one host.

And the invitation extends not only to de Blasio’s nearest and dearest but to the new mayor himself. “Mr. Mayor, if you’re ever in Hamilton Heights, you’re always welcome to stay with me,” another host says.


Step Aside, San Francisco: New York-Based Companies Expected to Steal the IPO Show

Step Aside, San Francisco: New York-Based Companies Expected to Steal the IPO Show
For a platform built on 140-character snippets, San Francisco-based Twitter is certainly hogging a fair chunk of the IPO spotlight. But it’s not the only game in town. As investor appetite improves and the Big Apple’s tech scene continues to mature, analysts expect New York City to become a hub of tech IPO activity in coming years.

Part of the reason has to do with an improvement in IPO activity overall. The market for initial public offerings has been exceptionally weak in the years since 2000, which saw the dot-com bust, the September 11 attacks and the 2008 financial crisis. But there are signs things are turning around.

More than 150 IPO deals have priced in the U.S. so far this year, an increase from the 133 that priced in all of 2012, said Frank Lopez, the co-head of global capital markets at law firm Proskauer, at a seminar the company hosted last week.

Twenty-six of this year’s IPOs have been technology companies. In 2008, the lowest year on record for IPOs, there were only 7 technology IPOs all year, said Lopez.

Lopez says in coming years it’s fair to expect about 250 to 300 IPOs annually, with about 75 of them in the technology space. While that’s still far less than the 852 IPOs that priced in 1996, the nearest market peak, it’s a sign of improvement. “We really believe…that there is the start of an uptick and a real rebound, even though it has been a tough go for the last 13 years,” Lopez said.

At the same time, the New York City tech scene has exploded. Technology is the second largest job-creating sector in New York City, according to data compiled by the office of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. In addition to a proliferation of accelerators, venture capital deals and merger and acquisition deals, some of the major California technology giants have established headquarters in New York City, including Google, Facebook and LinkedIn, notes Lopez.

“We see this convergence in the uptick of the IPO market and an uptick in New York technology,” Lopez said. The result, he predicts, is that the volume of New York City-based tech companies going public will increase over the next 20 years.

The kinds of tech companies investors are looking for:

Where Larry Ellison of Oracle famously asked “What the hell is cloud computing?” five years ago, technology companies that provide cloud-computing services are all the rage in the IPO market. “It seems to be the buzzword that everybody wants to use,” Daryn Grossman, co-head of technology, media and communications at Proskauer said at the seminar last week. Companies that identified “cloud computing” as their exclusive business model had a 50 percent jump in the price of their stock on their first day on public markets, said Grossman.

Other desirable trends for technology companies looking to go public include anything that touches on the idea of “big data,” or the buzz-worthy concept of collecting and sorting through the vast quantities of information that widespread Internet connectivity is generating, said Justin Smolkin, the head of equity capital markets origination at UBS Americas. Investors are also hungry for any technology company that can access and leverage the millennial 18-to-30-year-old generation, says Smolkin.

But as the IPO markets improve, investor’s tastes broaden. “Investors, in markets like they are now, are very willing to engage in a variety of different sectors,” Smolkin said.

While all trends in the technology IPO market apply to New York City, one emerging hotspot that is Big Apple-specific is advertising-tech companies, said Jeffrey Neuburger, co-head of technology, media and communications at Proskauer. “Particularly because New York has a significant advertising base, you see a lot of companies that are focused on advertising that are heading towards the public markets,” Neuburger said.


With $12M Burning A Hole In Its Pocket, London’s YPlan Wants New York To Be More Socially Spontaneous

YPlan Home Screen

Yplan, the London-based startup that’s building a platform for selling last-minute event-booking on mobile, has closed a $12 million (£7.9 million) Series A, led by General Catalyst Partners. Existing investorsWellington Partners and Octopus Investments also participated in the round, along with a swathe of co-investors, including A-Grade, Kevin Colleran and David Morin’s SLOW Ventures Fund, and Shakil Khan, investor and advisor to Spotify and Summly.

YPlan has previously raised $1.7 million (£1.06 million) in seed funding, bringing its total funding to date to $13.7 million. The startup plans to use its new funding to fuel international expansion — with the second city (after London, where it launched in November last year) in its sights being New York. It plans to launch there during the second half of this year, and will then use New York as its North American base, as it looks to expand to other U.S. cities. London will remain as its European base as it looks to expand to other cities in the region, and also for a future push into Asia.

There’s no firm roadmap on which U.S. cities it’ll be tapping after New York but co-founder and CEO, Rytis Vitkauskas, tells TechCrunch that likely candidates include San Francisco, L.A., Boston, Chicago and Austin. “We’ll decide as we go along but the cities that we have in mind are the more densely populated cities with a lot of smartphones,” he says. “And also with a good density of events… That’s the priority list.”

As for why New York specifically, it’s not hard to imagine why a social events app would settle on the Big Apple. Basically it’s got the right blend of time-strapped young smartphone owners who want to go out, coupled with a steady supply of events to go to, says Vitkauskas. ”New York is a large city, a lot of people but also a lot of our target audience — our core demographic is people between 20 and late 30s, that are typically starved for time, so they’re very busy. For them time is everything, and you also don’t always have time to plan for the last minute or their plans have changed at the last minute,” he says.

“On the other hand there’s a high density of events happening in New York every single day. Plus surrounding both of those is the fact that New York has a great going out culture. People are out four or five days in a week, just actively engaging with social activities and so YPlan essentially just plugs into all the existing trends.”

YPlan is mobile only, which plays to the serendipitous/spontaneous going out niche it’s targeting. It’s definitely not competing with the big web-based ticketing platforms, says Vitkauskas. The focus is firmly on personalised last-minute recommendations for time-strapped folk — so it’s putting money into what he calls its “secret sauce,” aka its personalisation and recommendation engines.

YPlan users aren’t presented with huge lists of stuff to browse through — a model that doesn’t make sense on mobile — rather they are pushed “a carefully curated list of up to 15 events to go to every night.” YPlan is even writing the  snippet-sized descriptions itself, telling its users why such and such an event is a must attend for them. So really YPlan is acting as a personalised filter to flag up cool stuff so its users don’t have to go looking for it. Frankly it’s the sort of feature you could imagine Google adding to Google Now, or Apple to Siri.

Currently YPlan has some 200,000 active users in London, and claims that more than 10 percent of iPhone owners in the city carry the app (I must be one of the 90 percent that don’t then). Since launching in November last year it says it has featured more than 2,500 events on its platform.

The startup works directly with events organisers to get their events on its platform, meaning its headcount is already up to around 30 staff — which it says will probably expand to around 100 over the next year and a half. Its business model is based solely on taking a cut of any events booked through its platform — so it’s already booking revenue — with the aim being to keep the monetisation process simple and free of detracting clutter like ads, says Vitkauskas.

Asked what attracted its VC backers to the YPlan model, he says it’s not so much the idea but the execution, with the company having managed to achieve decent traction in the half year or so its app has been in the market.

“The idea of YPlan is not new necessarily. Brent Hoberman and Martha Lane Fox started with exactly this vision in mind, and what Brent saw — he’s also an adviser to YPlan — and when he saw our prototypes first he said this is what was meant to be but we were there 14 years too early. And now the time has come. Now the mobile Internet’s fast enough, smartphones are smart enough and GPS technology is up to speed enough and consumers are ready to transact through the phone and they weren’t ready to transact just a couple of years ago,” says Vitkauskas. “Likewise the event organisers are now ready to embrace the developments in technology.”

YPlan is currently on iPhone only, with plans to launch an Android app “later in the summer.” It’s also going to make a dedicated iPad app, tailoring the experience to fit the different use-case of the tablet device. Vitkauskas adds that it will also look at whether to launch apps in other mobile platforms down the line.

 Courtesy: Techcrunch