Week 6: FeedMagnet!

August 27th, 2012

Axel Blocker ’13: Hanson Fellow in Business Development

After some waiting and prodding past clients with reminder e-mails, we got some results.

Most of the responses were from business orientated clients, so there was too much to be said about FeedMagnet’s technical performance. However, FeedMagnet was ranked very highly in terms of customer satisfaction – meaning that we’ve been doing our job quite well. Clients were most impressed with the personable interaction they had with the sales team. What was most interesting though were the responses to the client’s expectations and recommendations for FeedMagnet’s future development. About 2/3rds of respondents envisioned FeedMagnet developing a full-service end-to-end experiences in addition to the software platform, as opposed to focusing on the software platform and allow designers and developers to create strategic marketing tools around it. The only major complaint that stood out is that FeedMagnet’s server pricing and contract limits plan often causes some “confusion” for clients. It may be a point to expand upon with further research.

This confirms that FeedMagnet’s strategic vision is a correct path. Clients’ responses further help by specifying what features they wished to see the most further develop – which could give the development team a better idea of what they should focus on. Developing in this direction will be a long term goal that will take time long after I am gone. The team was very happy to hear the results, as small as the office is, it really feels like a team effort. The survey results would have probably been clearer if we had differentiated between event and web-based clients.

For the final week, I’ll be wrapping up other projects and getting everything done for the fellowship. It was really cool to play a part in FeedMagnet’s long-term development. It’s been a good experience that exposed to me to the tech industry from the unique perspective of a start-up!

Week 5: FeedMagnet!

August 17th, 2012

Axel Blocker ’13: Hanson Fellow in Business Development

We’re still waiting for the customer surveys to come in, I’ve been helping out operations in the company. FeedMagnet has been getting a lot of clients in lately, and therefore its become necessary to go into past files and reorganize things to be more streamlined. FeedMagnet keeps data of all its deals, implementation material, and results from its work in online applications such as Dropbox and trello. The advantage of these programs is that they are relatively cheap, and the server maintenance is handled by the companies – making it ideal for small firms like FeedMagnet to use. From this, I’ve learned there quite a few applications and online services that are remarkably convenient for small firms or start-ups which cheapen costs drastically from what it would have been a decade ago where companies had to maintain their own servers.

However, the downside to this is that files often get cluttered in a non-standardized mess as the company evolves. When first starting out, there are not many protocols in place, simply because there has not been the experience yet to know what needs to be organized and how. So, now that FeedMagnet is up to speed,  we have to go through the effort of going back through past files, information, and logs and reorganizing it to fit a standardized scheme that everyone can easily navigate. So, I first started by adding server URLs to the trello current client board, so our development team can easily access the client websites that they’re working on, instead of having to hunt around. After this, I have started working on cleaning up FeedMagnet’s dropbox directories, in order to make things more streamlined and less confusing. More on this later!

Week 4: FeedMagnet!

August 13th, 2012

Axel Blocker ’13: Hanson Fellow in Business Development

Now that Frank is back, the ball has started rolling on what my main project is: customer feedback. FeedMagnet currently functions something like a design studio, clients come with an idea that they want implemented, and FeedMagnets puts it together.  FeedMagnet’s leadership wishes to somehow orient the firm towards providing a product to clientele instead. How exactly this will be done is hard to tell, which brings in my project.

This week, I have been researching and putting together a customer survey project based on what types of clients we have had in the past. This involved a brainstorming session and research over what dimensions of FeedMagnet’s service would be most relevant to past customers – server licensing, implementation, cooperation, etc. As FeedMagnet is a small firm, there really aren’t any standardized methods to approaching tasks like these, so its kind of cool that I am having an impact on the company by developing these. Most importantly, the survey will include an expectations page, which is worded in an attempt to understand what hopes, ideas, or impressions clients had of FeedMagnet when they first heard of the firm – and whether those can provide clues to where and how FeedMagnet should develop.

Next week, the survey shall go out, and hopefully the results should come in soon!

Week 3: FeedMagnet!

August 1st, 2012

Axel Blocker ’13: Hanson Fellow in Business Development

Board game night was a blast. Most of the company was over at a co-worker’s house to have a night of board games like Settlers of Catan and Arkham Horror. FeedMagnet is truly a group of geeks, they work hard, and the play hard. This week I’ve really been waiting on getting company feedback on the draft questionnaire that we want to send out eventually.

The company VP comes to Austin next week, and he’ll have a lot of input to put into this project. In the meantime, I’ve been working on several side-projects that need to get done, but nobody else has time for. The revised revenue spreadsheet is pretty much done (after many strained eyes and headaches). FeedMagnet changed its pricing model for servers, so I went through all the current server contracts to find out which ones need updating. I realized that there were some good questions here for the customer survey, such as if the server pricing and limitations make sense to the customer. FeedMagnet curates and feeds social content from sites such as Facebook or Twitter.

It goes in a “pipeline’ through a FeedMagnet server which extract, filters, and delivers content to the client’s destination – such as their company website or a screen at an event. Since social content can’t really be controlled, there are limits to how much content a server can handle.  There’s been some problems where certain companies who garner a lot of attention in social media rent servers that are too small to handle the content that streams in. Then a conflict begins as the company complains about how the server isn’t handling the traffic required, despite knowing the limitations beforehand. Of course, there is also a degree of uncertainty as it’s impossible to know how much content will be generated. This has some interesting technical dimensions to it, but due to the NDA, I don’t think I should go into it.

That’s all for now!

Week 2: FeedMagnet!

July 26th, 2012

Axel Blocker ’13: Hanson Fellow in Business Development

The second week has gone well. I got started on my main project. During my stay at FeedMagnet, I will be drafting, sending, and analyzing feedback from FeedMagnet’s previous clients about the company’s performance, service quality, and other issues. I first started by reviewing the contractual agreements between FeedMagnet and past companies to get a sense of what types of clients there were – long-term, short-term, consultations, in-house productions, etc. I also started breaking down the ‘service experience’ into definable chunks, such as consultation, implementation, development, training, and delivery. I lack the technical knowledge to brainstorm further questions, so I shared the draft survey with the company through Google docs. People should take a look at and provide comments of their own of what else to include or consider. As I am introduced to more of FeedMagnet’s operations, I’ll continue to keep thinking how I can relate it to a customer questionnaire. I’m teaching myself a crash course in Excel’s finer and more powerful tools. My revenue spreadsheet had some carry-over mistakes from year to year, so I’m going through the painstaking process of reviewing it and polishing it up with more streamlined algorithms to make it easier to manage the data.

I really like my co-workers, they’re a geeky bunch. I’m a geek too, so I fit in pretty well. They’re planning a board game night, which I am invited to. I hope it’s a lot of fun!

Week 1: FeedMagnet–Austin, Texas

July 17th, 2012

Axel Blocker ’13, Hanson Fellow in Business Development

I arrived in Austin, Texas on July 6th without any incident. A co-worker of mine, who will be overseeing me during the internship picked me up and gave me a tour of Austin. Its a strange city in transition (hence the motto “Keep Austin weird.”), due to large urban growth and gentrification of certain neighborhoods. I am living in East Austin, which is historically the home to Austin’s Hispanic and African-American minority groups. The neighborhood originally started as forced segregation, but lately it has become a hot spot for newcomers due to its proximity to downtown. FeedMagnet is located not too far away in the same locale.

Since my first day at work, I’ve realized that this is a pretty relaxed place to work. People often work at home, or do odd hours – starting at 10 or 11 AM, or working just the afternoons. As a start-up, FeedMagnet is more task-orientated than simply logging the regular 9-to-5.  Everything is shared through websites such as trello, google docs, and shared applications such as dropbox. So, technically, one could work anywhere they wanted to. (One employee is currently working out of New York) However, everyone puts in a lot of hours. Working at a start-up is a big commitment, as the firm’s performance is directly correlated to the individual effort put in than rather just the hours. Everyone here is in this for the future of FeedMagnet and its hopefully its success.

I was first given a simple project of creating a spreadsheet of monthly revenue from 2009-2012. It was tedious, but useful to the firm, as it’ll give a clearer picture of the firm’s revenue stream. I had a long talk with the ‘CEO’ of the firm, Marc, about what FeedMagnet actually does, and where it is headed. Right now, FeedMagnet mainly provides the implementation of the vision of its clients. This mainly involves the “tunneling” and curation of social media feed from websites such as twitter or facebook into one place; such as a screen at Times Square, the company website, or screens at a special event. For example, Ben and Jerry’s has a special ice cream truck event where people can ‘tweet’ asking that the van stop in their local for ice cream. FeedMagnet created the system where tweets are “farmed” from the B&J twitter page, filtered, and sent to the vans about where to go. So, in essence, FeedMagnet provides the implementation for creating the “pipeline” in which raw social media feed is filtered, sent, and formatted in the specifications that its clients want.

FeedMagnet has plans to orientate itself from being mostly a designer (from my understanding), towards something else. Unfortunately, I signed an NDA, so I wouldn’t be able to talk about that!

Its been a very interesting week, and I think I am going to enjoy my time here!

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