211info App: Adapting to a Mobile Population

211info is a non-profit based in based in Portland, Oregon; they provided referral services for local community services in the State of Oregon and 4 counties in Southwest Washington.  Traditionally, their clients would dial “211” and their team would answer the phone and verbally provide them the answers.  As technology has progressed, they have taken queries from email, SMS, and there is also a self-serve tool on their web site.

211info received a grant from the Oregon Department of Human Services / Child Welfare Division to develop a mobile app to expand their capabilities.   The 211info team developed the user interface in-house and partnered with Apptology to do the coding.  Apptology was able to develop an iPhone and Android app that leverages 211info’s resources database.

The app is a self-serve tool allows their clients to search for local resources.  One of the features of the app is that it will use the user’s location by leveraging the smart phone’s GPS capabilities.  The resource’s description, address, phone number, and web site are displayed and can also be viewed in a map view.  The user can further use the smart phone’s capabilities by using tap-to-call, view their web site, and get turn by turn directions.    Users can also call, email, or text 211info team within the app for further assistance.

In developing the app, 211info was acknowledging the fact that smartphones have widespread adoption and is nearly ubiquitous among young adults.   The adoption has been relatively easy and 15% of inquiries to 211info now come from the app.   A surprising base of users has been health and human services workers.

“I was at a Health Round-Up and someone needed some direction on resources. I pulled out my 211info mobile app and was able to easily direct them to an agency. It was so easy!”

-Michelle Homer-Anderson

(Southern Oregon Head Start Director)

When asked about feedback about the app, Matthew Rasmussen, Coordinator at Oregon Department of Human Services, responded, “The app is simple and easy to use, yet visibly streamline and functional. As a result we have seen an impressive number of downloads and expect this trend to continue. Our goal in developing an app is to engage and assist young people with meeting their own basic needs using technology they already use. Our target audience already uses their phones for nearly everything they do and we want to meet them where they already are, offering them the information they need in an easy to use platform. We believe we achieve this goal with the app.”

Emily Berndt, 211info Director of Partnerships, stated that they are tracking the feedback on the app and overall, it has been overwhelmingly positive.  They definitely see the advantages of having a mobile app has had to their customer base and see it as a useful tool for other referral agencies such as theirs.

Please note if you download the app and you’re not in 211info’s service area, the app will only give the option to call, email or text for referral info.

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at@ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.

 

 

 

SMUD offering up to $100K Sponsorships to Nonprofits

One of the great things that I like about the Sacramento region is that I often see entrepreneurs creating nonprofits.   SMUD, our local electric service, just announced some great news for nonprofits—they’re awarding grants of up to $100K to nonprofits through their new Shine program.

To be eligible, the applicant must be a 501 c3 or 501 c6 located within SMUD’s service territory.  The types of projects that SMUD is looking for include:

  • Neighborhood revitalization
  • STEM Education
  • Environmental, energy efficiency, greenhouse gas reduction, and energy conversation
  • General beautification

SMUD is offering three levels of sponsorship:

Spark Sponsorships ($10 K or less):  Short-term (less than 3 months) and requires 50% fund matching.

Amplifier Sponsorships (up to $50 K): 3-6 month projects and requires a dollar for dollar match.

Transformer Sponsorships (Up to $100 K): 6-12 month projects and requires a dollar for dollar match.

“We want to help local communities make permanent improvements that will benefit their residents for years,” said Erica Manuel, SMUD’s manager of community relations, education and economic development. “Our new Shine program provides a great opportunity for nonprofits to receive the resources they need to really make a difference.”

The projects will be awarded based on the potential impact on the local community.  The deadline to apply is June 26, 2017.  More info can be found here:  smud.org/Shine.

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at@ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.

CAL FIRE Ready for Wildfire App

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) fights over 5600 calfireiconwildfires that plague California annually.  CAL FIRE has a new weapon in their arsenal to help prepare the public for when the next wildfire strikes, it’s their new mobile app called CAL FIRE Ready for Wildfire.  The app is currently available on both the iPhone and Android platforms.  The app has three primary functions:

  • Providing Educational Content on how to prepare for and help protect property from wildfires
  • Notifying citizens of wildfire incidents with custom alerts
  • Providing incident information and maps on California wildfires

Education

The main purpose of the app is to help educate residents and property owners in high risk wildland areas on how to prepare for wildfires.  The app has a series of checklists that is broken down as follows:

  • Ready (Maintain Defensible Space and Hardening Homes)
    • Create Defensible Space
    • Harden Home
    • Prepare for Bark Beetles
  • Set (Create a Wildfire Action Plan)
    • Wildfire Action Plan
    • Emergency Supply Kit
    • Design a Family Communication Plan
  • Go! (Evacuation Guide)
    • Pre-Evacuation Guide
    • When to evacuate
    • What to do when trapped

 

The app has nine separate check-off lists that also provide educational material in the form of articles and videos.  The videos can be viewed as part of the checklist or in the video library.

Cal Fire education

Notifications

The user can sign up to receive custom wildfire alerts for a physical address and/or for the user’s device location.  The user can opt-in for push notifications and/or SMS messages for wildfires that are reported in selected California counties, or within 30 miles of the user’s device, using location services.

Push Notifications

Push Notifications require the user to have the app.  The push notifications are generated using integration with Urban Airship.

SMS

The user can also opt to receive text messages about latest wildfires.  The advantage of using this option is that the user doesn’t need the app to receive the notification.   The SMS messages are generated through integration with Twilio.

CAL Fire alerts

Information

Basic information from CAL FIRE can also be found on the app.  The app has embedded CAL FIRE’s mobile website for incident information, and there’s a feed from CAL FIRE’s Twitter account.  In addition, there’s a Statewide Fire Google Map that displays all the active wildfires in California.

Cal Fire Info

CAL FIRE launched a campaign to promote the app that directs residents to this resource as tool to prepare their Defensible Space in advance of the 2017 wildfire season. The campaign also includes an incentive for user downloads through an App Sweepstakes that is available now through May 21, 2017. The Sweepstakes offers users a chance to win a home hardening prize package. The Sweepstakes is co-sponsored by Apptology and iHeartRadio. No state funds are used for promotion or prizes. The CAL FIRE app was developed by Apptology as a contractor to CAL FIRE’s marketing agency, Sagent. For more information on the Ready For Wildfire Campaign, visit www.readyforwildfire.org

Equity Crowdfunding: A New Funding Source for Startups

Spend a little time in the startup world and you’ll quickly become familiar with crowdfunding, from consumer platforms like Kickstarter or Indigogo to the new equity crowdfunding models. Launching a crowdfunding campaign is becoming a great way for startups to gain exposure while generating financial support for their project – and in the same time, validating it.

So how does it work? Supporters that contribute funds for a startup’s cause, known as “backers,” generally receive an item in return, whether a token of the startup’s appreciation or an early version of the product.

For a famous example, consider the Oculus Rift. In 2012, Oculus Rift ran a KickStarter campaignthat raised $2.4 million. Contributors received everything from T-shirts to a prototype kit. Just four years later, Oculus Rift was acquired by Facebook for $2 billion. If this was an equity situation, investors would have received a 145x return. And that’s where equity crowdfunding comes in

Image Source: Edison Awards 

Over 3 years ago now, the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) compiled the JOBS Act laying the foundation for investment opportunities in the 21st century. Title III of this bill had language geared towards equity crowdfunding but lacked clarity until earlier in July. Of course hundreds of pages of legal jargon isn’t something me and you would enjoy “clarifying” per se, so let’s overview some of the most exciting provisions of this bill.

Startups Can Raise $1 Million Max Per Year; But There’s a Catch

“Only $1 million?! Really?!” If you were one of the individuals hoping that the SEC would increase the maximum higher than $1 mill, Title III does not allow such terms. However, Title IV (Regulation A+) of the JOBS Act mentions that startups have the opportunity to raise up to $50 million by holding a mini Initial Public Offering (IPO) for their campaign.

Image Source: CDN1

Accredited Investor? I Think Not!

Over the past couple of years, there has been debate over who can partake in equity crowdfunding. At first, if you weren’t an accredited investor, you were not eligible to contribute towards an equity crowdfunding campaign. In order to fall into this category, you had to make at least $200,000 per year and have a working networth of a minimum of $1 million. This requirement greatly limited investor access considering less than 3% of American citizens are presently considered accredited. The JOBS Act eliminates this criteria so now anyone can contribute regardless of their annual income. However, there are still limits to how much a backer can contribute.

Crowd Limitations

The SEC actually tightened the limits allowed for contributors to invest. According to the codes, investors are limited to, “(a) the greater of $2,000 or 5 percent of the lesser of their annual income or net worth, if either the annual income or the net worth of the investor is less than $100,000 and (b) 10 percent of the lesser of their annual income or net worth, if both the annual income and net worth of the investor is equal to or more than $100,000.” In other words, the ceiling stops at $100k for individual investment.

Equity Crowdfunding is Affordable for Startups

One of the biggest concerns was a past proposal requiring startups to conduct a full financial audit before launching a campaign. Of course this would cost tens of thousands of dollars that could be better channeled towards more important business expenses. Fortunately, the SEC agreed that this proposed requirement was a little excessive and not realistic for many emerging startups. They rejected this provision and replaced it with much more reasonable provisions. If a startup using equity crowdfunding wants to raise more than $100,000, financial review records are required. In addition, if a company’s end goal is less than $100,000 they have even fewer financial requirements.

Startup Responsibilities

With great opportunity comes great responsibility so please don’t cut corners on what’s required with equity crowdfunding. Startups have to disclose all of the campaign’s information from start to finish. This includes security values, the target amount, target deadline, and other important variables. The SEC needs to stay in the loop at all times so there will be a lot of logistics, business descriptions, employee profiles and other assignments that entrepreneurs will have to complete. Most importantly, equity crowdfunding is the sale of securities and these laws vary by region. You want to assure that you have crossed your T’s and dotted your I’s on all of the state and federal requirements for the sale of securities. If not, it is possible to be charged for violating a required financial mandate. And believe me, that’s no fun. Your best bet is to educate yourself and your team on what’s required on a state and federal level to avoid any complications.

The JOBs act has become law as of May 2016.   I expect to see a surge of crowd funding platforms to emerge in the near future. Indiegogo has announced that they will develop an equity crowdfunding service.  The Startup Hour is planning a Shark Tank like television show that will allow the audience to vote on featured startups with their dollars and receive equity in return.  For startups, equity crowdfunding will be another great resource to raise funds.

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at@ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.

What is a Blockchain?

Bitcoins and Ether are forms of alternative digital currency that are decentralized; meaning the source of value does not come from one central source or authority. In fact, the functionality of its operation may be distributed among the collective creating a more communal type of currency. If you haven’t heard of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ether, chances are you haven’t heard of the blockchain. A blockchain is a structure that makes concepts such as cryptocurrencies possible and is one of the most innovative applications of the 21st century.

Image Source: Bitcoin Space

Blockchain Defined:

A blockchain is a data structure that produces a digital ledger of transactions and can be publicly viewed among a dispersed network of computers. The structure uses cryptography enabling those in the network to make transactions thereby adjusting the ledger without centralized supervision. The concept of a blockchain was introduced by Satoshi Nakamoto (his actual identity is still in question) when he invented Bitcoin in 2008. Bitcoin transactions are payments between key pairs that are broadcast[ed] on a peer-to-peer network.” In easier terms, it is a chain of transactions and the participants of that particular network contribute by adding blocks of value to the ledger hence the title: blockchain.

Image Source: Blockchain.com

How to Contribute to Blockchain:

When a party wants to contribute to the existing blockchain, users are able to run evaluations to determine whether a proposed transaction can be approved. If the majority of people conclude that the contribution can be done, than the new transaction will be carried out manifesting an additional block to the chain. Because the blockchain is a public ledger that cannot be manipulated, abused or altered, users are able to easily assess whether or not proposed transactions are valid. Once a block of data has been recorded, it’s nearly impossible to alter or eliminate. According to  Francisco Corella, CTO of Pomcor, there are potential loopholes to this theory. He has observed that, “the network by itself cannot guarantee that all transactions are seen by all nodes as occurring in the same order. So a cheater could pay for a good or service with the amount of bitcoin available to a key pair that he/she owns, receive the good or service, then make a second payment for the same amount to another key pair owned by him/herself, and pretend that the payment to him/herself happened earlier, thus invalidating the payment for the good or service.” He goes on to say that the, “blockchain prevents such cheating by recording all transactions in a particular order in a chain of transaction blocks, which are “minted” at the rate of about one in 10 minutes. Minting a block requires solving a computationally expensive puzzle.”

Image Source: Rublacklist

For instance, let’s say an organization has 5 transactions every second. Each of these transactions contain an exclusive digital signature. Utilizing a chain framework, these signatures are then blended together and receive an individual online fingerprint i.e. a unique symbol representing that particular transaction. This procedure will occur for every entity that made a transaction in that specific time frame as well. Once approved, the fingerprint is stored and made public in the blockchain so users and miners can confirm a transaction’s validity. This enables ultimate transparency and security for all parties involved.

The Significance of Blockchain:

A blockchain is a substantial step away from conventional financial and authoritative systems because it does not rely on a central monitoring party or source. Because the blockchain requires collaboration, it encourages a communal atmosphere where people are able to transfer value independently and places power back into the masses. Rather than having a central entity dictate the activity of consumers, people are able to monitor, enhance and manipulate transactions thereby disabling any chance of foul play or fraud. Francisco concurred with these implications saying, “the blockchain was significant because it made it possible to achieve consensus (on the order of transactions) without relying on a central authority.”

Image Source: Coin Telegraph 

The Future of Blockchain Technology:

The possibilities are endless with the blockchain and to an extent, the future of its uses are already here. For instance, Ethereum allows users to integrate business applications into the blockchain. This means that unlike Bitcoin, Ethereum’s platform will increase in value because business applications will continue to be added. Moreover, the idea of a trustworthy and honest financial system is appealing to virtually everybody. Although its unregulated, the transparency factor has the ability to weed out risks before they become too big to manage. The blockchain can quite possibly stop any chance of future financial disasters. This is why banking institutions are betting on the future of blockchains while some have already adopted its practice. Even some online casinos are accepting BitCoin.  Francisco expressed his excitement over Ethereum’s use of the blockchain saying, “The scripting language in bitcoin is simple, but blockchains invented after bitcoin, such as Ethereum, feature scripting languages that are Turing-complete, i.e. as powerful as any general-purpose programming language. Such blockchains have the potential to disrupt the financial industry because they make it possible to write smart contracts that are executed automatically and do not require trusted arbitrators.”

 

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at@ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.

 

5 Reasons Public Sector Organizations Should Have a Native Mobile App in 2016

In a previous post, I discussed why public sector organizations and non-profits should adopt a mobile strategy and briefly mentioned that they should consider developing a native mobile app. In this article, I give five reasons why a public sector organization should develop a native mobile app.

Native Mobile App Advantage #1: Deliver Mobile Friendly Content

One of the benefits of a native mobile app is that it will deliver mobile friendly content. Any information that is displayed on the organization’s website can be repurposed and added to an app so it can be easily read on a smart phone. When adding content, it’s important to remember there’s limited real estate so you need to pick content that’s most used. Content that is rarely viewed on the web site doesn’t have to be included in the app.

6-7-2016 11-40-07 AM

Native Mobile App Advantage #2: Convenience:

Smart Phone users spend 80% of their time using apps vs. 20% of time on the web. I think a big reason is convenience. Think about it: Would you rather use the Facebook app or launch Safari to access it? If you have content on your website that is regularly accessed, you should strongly consider developing an app to make it more convenient for your users.

Native Mobile App Advantage #3: Push Notifications

One of the most powerful features that can be found on an app is the ability to send out push notifications. Push notifications have a read rate around 80%. Compare that to email which has a dismal read rate of 22%. If you think about it, if your phone vibrates, you instinctively glance down to see if it’s an important message. That’s the power of mobile which is why apps are only going to increase in popularity.
Mobile-Engagement-When-Push-Comes-to-Shove

Image Source: PUBL 

Native Mobile App Advantage #4: App Smartphone Capabilities

A native mobile app has the ability to leverage smartphone’s capabilities. For public sector organizations and non-profits, some of the things to consider include:

GPS: The ability to provide directions and show resources on a map

Push Notifications: Refer to Native Mobile App Advantage #3

Camera: A picture says a thousand words. The ability to send an image provides faster communication

Tap to Communicate: The ability to tap the screen for emails, calls, and text really facilitates communication

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Image Source: Fasturtle

Native Mobile App Advantage #5: Offline Mode

Probably the biggest advantage of an app over mobile web sites is the ability to work offline. A mobile web site needs an internet connection to function in comparison to an app that can function without Internet access. This is best for a population that either has unreliable data connection or for economic reasons cannot afford a Wi-Fi data plan.

A native app is a communication tool for their customers which if used and promoted properly can become a valuable asset to any public sector organization or non-profit.

 

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at@ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.

Why the Public Sector Needs a Mobile Strategy in 2016

public-sector-mobility1

Image Source: Open Ratio

Let’s face it; the public sector tends to drag their feet with recognizing opportunity which is why many organizations overlook the power of mobile technology. There are several reasons why non-profits and public sector organizations need to adopt a mobile strategy.

Mobile Technology is here to Stay

The main reason that a mobile strategy needs be adopted is that the population has already adopted mobile. In the few short years following the debut iPhone, these devices have had unprecedented growth. There are lots of studies and statistics to prove this point. My favorite is that there are more mobile devices than there are people in the world.

Mobile searches exceed desktop searches

Recently Google reported that there are more searches done on a mobile device than from a desktop computer. This is significant because it represents a tech trend that needs to be acknowledged and adopted. If more people are depending on mobile for their needs, it would make sense to have an effective mobile strategy.

Google’s algorithm favors mobile friendly web sites

In 2015, Google changed their algorithm that a search done on a mobile device will favor mobile friendly websites. Based on points 2 and 3, organizations that have a mobile friendly web site will have an advantage over those that don’t.

colorful-3d-technology-background-vector

Image Source: Deluxe E-Vectors

Mobile may be the only means of internet access

In a recent study, mobile was the only means of access to the Internet for 23% of families below the poverty level. So for organizations that deal with providing social services, a significant part of the population they serve can only access the internet via mobile device.

Web sites designed for desktops are difficult to navigate from mobile phone

A good example is the California WIC web site. This web site is hard enough to navigate on a desktop computer. If you are in the WIC program, there’s a slight chance that the only internet connection you have is through a mobile device. Try navigating the WIC web site with your smart phone and experience what it looks like to have a poor mobile strategy.

mobile-power

Image Source: Mobloggy

When developing a mobile strategy, there are 3 elements to consider:

Develop a mobile friendly website

This will address points 2 and 3 previously discussed.

Communicate via SMS

I see a lot of communication from the Public Sector done via email marketing. Sadly, with an open rate of only 22%, it’s really a futile way to communicate. SMS, on the other hand, has a read rate of 98%. The good news is that there are a lot of SMS marketing tools out there that are relatively inexpensive. I’ve actually seen a couple of organizations that realize that SMS is a better way to communicate and employees end up using their personal mobile devices to send out text messages.

Develop a mobile app

An app can be a very effective tool to communicate with the population served by a public sector organization. A mobile app that is used specifically for a platform or device is what’s called a “native app.” The reasons an organization should have their own native app are numerous and as such, I plan to write a future post on why a public sector organization would need a native app.

UYODImage Source: Esign Live

Businesses will continually develop more simplified mobile solutions to increase work efficiency and communication. One way or another, this is the direction the future holds. I want you to take advantage of this trend by staying ahead of the curve and strategize how to most effectively integrate mobile. If you manage a public sector organization, I hope this post gave you some food for thought on why you need to adopt a mobile strategy and how to go about it. If you want to read on some of the common challenges in the mobile community, check out my personal insight as a modern day appreneur. 

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at@ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.