Up until the year of my 23rd birthday, I spent every single Christmas at home with my family. Because my dad is a religious Coke drinker, I – like so many other young Americans – looked forward to Coke’s annual Christmas-themed television ads featuring polar bears on a magical snow train. My first Christmas away from home came in 2010. At the time, I was conducting research on electronic waste recycling in India as a U.S. Department of State Fulbright Scholar. Rather than returning home for the holidays, I chose to accept an intriguing invitation to serve as a mentor on board a real-life train full of young social entrepreneurs and innovators that was about to embark on a 14-day circumnavigation of India. I will never forget how, while waiting to depart from the train station in Mumbai that Christmas Eve, my extreme homesickness was washed away when the 400 Indian Millennials with whom I was about to share an epic journey put a mic in my hand and invited me to sing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” As we traveled across the geographical breadth of the world’s largest democracy, I was exposed to the idea of “nation-building through enterprise” – that the small and sustained efforts of young changemakers like those on the train were a recipe for a rising country like India to pursue and achieve greatness. I also took time to reflect on my own research, and the connection that I was exploring between innovation and sustainability amidst India’s toxic e-waste dumps, where obsolete electronics were being recycled in ways hazardous to the environment and human health.Two-and-a-half years later, I am gearing up to launch the Millennial Trains Project (MTP), a series of crowd-funded transcontinental train journeys focused on innovation, sustainability, and opportunity. MTP’s inaugural journey, which will travel from San Francisco, CA to Washington, DC this August, provides a platform for young entrepreneurs, artists, and changemakers to advance self-designed projects across the localities where our train stops, learn from distinguished mentors, and build trans-regional perspectives as they travel from state to state. The initiative combines the lessons I learned in India about the power of trains to connect young changemakers with local opportunities with my personal convictions about the importance of striking a mindful balance between innovation and sustainability. The Millennial Trains Project from Millennial Trains Project on Vimeo. As I have grown up and become more conscious about issues such as innovation and sustainability, so has Coca-Cola. You can see this in Coke’s business practices and in creative new initiatives like EKOCYCLE™, a collaboration with pop-artist and futurist will.i.am to inspire new things made from recycled materials. The EKOCYCLE battle cry of “Let’s Make More with What We Have” is an inspiring and pragmatic mantra that, from consumer electronics to vintage trains to plastic bottles, can actually help us build a more just and sustainable world. In many ways recycling and repurposing old, obsolete, and discarded materials requires more imagination than creating something from scratch because it forces us to innovate within the boundaries of very real resource constraints and think deeply about the consequences of consumption. As EKOCYCLE shows, caring about sustainability and innovation can be cool. Even cooler, I would argue, than polar bears on a magical snow train.Applications for the Millennial Trains Project's inaugural journey (SF-DC; Aug. 8-17) are still open. To get on board, applicants pitch a project they want to advance across the localities where our train stops and race to raise $5k on MTP's custom crowdfunding platform by July 1st. Apply today at www.crowdhitch.millennialtrain.co Read more about MTP: ABC News; National Geographic Traveler. Patrick Dowd is Founder and CEO of the Millennial Trains Project.More StoriesStartup Refreshed: Why Coke is Joining the Entrepreneurial RevolutionAn Entrepreneur's Five Tips to Starting Your Own BusinessJason Pate: From Coca-Cola Scholar to Indian Restaurant EntrepreneurStubb's: Barbecue Gone Global
We recently spoke to renowned photojournalist Rick Smolan about his ambitious multimedia project, The Human Face of Big Data, which goes “behind the byes” to breathe life into 2013’s hottest buzzword. Smolan crowdsourced people-driven stories and images that illustrate many of the ways our smartphone records, texts, browser histories, GPS data and other information are affecting our ability to live healthier, happier and safer lives. The book also explores Big Data’s darker side, with a look at how technology is monitoring, tracking and pinpointing our (nearly) every move. Where do you stand? Do the pros of Big Data outweigh the cons, or do you see many of today’s tools as a threat to your privacy and security? Let us know.
Rich Goodstone is wandering the 700-acre site of the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn. on Monday afternoon, taking in what will become the state’s sixth-largest city this weekend. “It’s so much fun to see it all come together,” the festival’s co-founder says over the din of production vehicles and crews. “Thousands of people are here working together to create something they’re really passionate about and proud of, knowing that 100,000 people will be here in a few days.” Now in its 12th year, Bonnaroo brings together music fans from all walks of life who eagerly detach from the realities and responsibilities of their daily lives for four days of music, camping and community. While the bands are clearly the main attraction – with noon-to-sunrise sets from more than 150 genre-spanning acts – the 24/7 experience also features a comedy theater, mini beer festival, cinema, art installations, yoga classes and more. Goodstone and his partners at Superfly Presents made their mark booking after-hours concerts during the annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, often bringing together multiple artists for unique collaborations. After hitting a financial and creative ceiling in 2001, they re-engineered their business model and hatched the idea of a multi-day music festival. The first Bonnaroo – Creole slang for “good stuff” – was held in 2002 on a sprawling farm 60 miles southeast of Nashville. A year later, Rolling Stone magazine anointed it “the American rock festival to end all festivals.” We spoke to Goodstone about how the Bonnaroo experience has evolved over the years while retaining its roots: What motivated you and your partners to launch Bonnaroo, and what was your initial vision for the festival? The inspiration was really around the great European festivals we’d just been to, seeing the kind of cultural touchstones they are and understanding what it’s like to bring different people together around shared passions and build a community. When you’re born, your eyes are wide open, and you greet everybody with a frame of mind that’s open and free. When people get older, they tend to close up. These environments encouraged people to open up and greet everyone with a hug. That was an eye- opener for us. Wanting to be part of these profound, rite-of-passage moments was a big reason for starting Bonnaroo. In addition, we started the company in New Orleans. One of my business partners used to work at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, so we learned a lot of lessons from that great event. Do you remember the first time you saw the farm in Manchester? It all happened so fast. We’d seen a few other pieces of property, but finding a great site wasn’t easy. We knew we wanted something centrally located, within a day’s drive of most of the country’s population. A guy who ran security for us a while back said, “Hey, there’s a farm over in Tennessee.” They’d hosted a festival there that was not successful. We took a look at the land and met with the owner. The site is such a beautiful piece of property… it just made a tremendous amount of sense. In 2002, you sold 10,000 tickets the day they went on sale and all 70,000 in about two weeks – with no advertising and before social media. Why was there such an appetite for an experience like Bonnaroo at the time? I think it was a combination of things. Artists were just starting to talk to their fanbases digitally, fan clubs were happening and the iPod generation was emerging. We fed off the grassroots rock scene, which was used to immersive experiences. The concept for Bonnaroo was to bring together different bands with established fanbases who were willing to travel and camp out – and adding our unique spin to create more than just a concert. And that’s what we did. Was there a ‘wow’ moment that stands out from that first year? It was all one big “wow” moment – from the on-sale, to understanding we’d struck a chord with U.S. culture. No doubt, we’ve come a long way from a logistics and operational standpoint since that first year. Our team today is best in class; everything is so tight. In 2002, we were not best in class (laughs). There were all sorts of issues, including backing up the highway for 12 hours, which we knew would happen, but the local community didn’t believe us. Yet what was amazing was despite all those issues – and certainly traffic was number one – people were just so forgiving. It was about the glass being almost full rather than being half empty. Everyone realized they were part of something special. Twelve years is an impressive run. How do you keep things fresh? We make sure we’re always listening to our audience, because they’re what makes Bonnaroo special. When we stay close to the community, we evolve with them. We’ve always looked after every attendee’s entire experience – from camping, to what they eat, to what they do while they’re here. We wanted to build an adult Disneyworld. We’ve always tried to look at the totality of the experience, not just one single passion. Because passions don’t live in silos. Even though I love live music, which is the cornerstone of the event, I don’t want to watch 17 hours in a row. Here at Bonnaroo, I can watch a great comedy performance, take in a movie and go to a café rather than walking up to a food both. The bands build on top of the environment we create. Millennials are turned off by traditional marketing. How have you integrated brand sponsorships without polluting or over-commercializing the experience? It’s all about authenticity. If you put your community at the center of anything you’re thinking about, you’ll usually be successful. Few people think about whether or not this or that will add value to the audience. If it doesn't, then you shouldn’t be doing it. It’s a simple guiding question for everything we do. And our partners totally get it. They understand that, in this day and age, marketing is entertainment. Marketing messages are everywhere you go, but that’s not what we’re about. If the message is going to be there, it needs to add value. It needs to surprise and delight. For example, we’ve worked with State Farm to set up lockers on site, and with Garnier to provide hair-washing stations. And the only way we’re able to film and broadcast content online – which is a big investment – is through partners like Ustream, who we’re working with this year. When partners can help us do something we couldn’t do without them – digitally, promotionally and certainly experientially – then it’s a real value proposition. How have you guys used technology to deliver, enhance and amplify the Bonnaroo experience? Everything we create here together with the community is socially rich and shareable. These are some of the most memorable moments of people’s lives. They’ll be talking about them forever. I have three friends who met their husbands or wives at Bonnaroo. The entire social and digital world feeds off real experiences that happen in the physical space. So the more profound those experiences are, the more shareable they are. That goes for the content created here – from photos, to vines, to vycloes. We see these as tools available to us to tell our story. And we continue to expand our ability to communicate with our audience throughout the year. Because one thing we hear from our audience is that they’re looking for more from us. They see us as a trusted source and curator. So rather than just doing that for four days, we’re focused on providing these experiences year-round digitally and socially. Thanks largely to the culture you guys have created, millennials have grown up in the festival era. How are their expectations for music festivals different from older generations? There really were no festivals here in the U.S. before Bonnaroo, so no one knew what to expect. Now the festival culture is burgeoning. There have been resets and failures, of course, but festivals that do a good job generally rise to the top and can stay there for the long haul. I think millennials appreciate the festival experience. They understand what you get, which is all this talent and energy in one location. They come here with a philosophical viewpoint – an openness that you can have a really great experience that offers much more than than a three-hour concert. Speaking of the experience, how does the camping aspect set Bonnaroo apart from other festivals? I often describe Bonnaroo as the most amazing five-course meal you’ve ever had, while a festival like Outside Lands in San Francisco (which Superfly also presents) is like the best slice of pizza you’ve ever had. Bonnaroo is a four-day experience, so people are taking multiple days off work to be here. They’re making a real commitment… living on site and creating their own environment. At the end of the night, they can’t go back to their TV. And there’s really something special about that. More StoriesEvery Song Has a Place: Coca-Cola, Spotify Launch Groundbreaking Social Music AppI Love It: Diet Coke Ad Carries Swedish Band to Top of the Charts
For the past 25 years Powerade and Powerade Zero have hydrated athletes around the world—whether that’s playing pick-up basketball, flashing football skills on the 50-yard line or squeezing in one last set at the gym before class. Now, Powerade Zero is taking its zero-calorie hydration solution, with ION4 Advanced Electrolyte System, out of the bottle and putting it into a new drops form.This is the first ready-to-drink sports drink brand to launch an on-the-go product that allows people to turn water into a zero-calorie sports drink. A sports bottle, water from a fountain and a quick squeeze of Powerade Zero Drops replenishes electrolytes including calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium that are lost through sweat. “Convenience is key,” said Ilan Sobel, senior vice president, glacéau. “Between class, practice, errands and work, our lives are becoming busier and busier by the day. With Powerade Zero Drops, we’re providing athletes with even more options to help hydrate with sports drinks. And, we’re doing it without sacrificing any of the great-taste or zero-calorie, electrolyte-enhanced refreshment that people have come to expect from us.” Powerade Zero Drops are offered in three flavors -- Mountain Berry Blast, Fruit Punch and Orange. Each variety of Powerade Zero Drops is available in a 3-fluid ounce squeezable bottle, and makes approximately twenty-four 8-fluid ounce servings. You can find Powerade Zero Drops in the drink-mix aisle at retailers nationwide. Now, more than ever before, Powerade and Powerade Zero are offering people #ZeroExcuses to #POWERTHROUGH it all. More Stories:Dressing Up Drinking Water to Suit Many Tastes 'We Needed a Big Idea:' The Extraordinary Story of How Diet Coke Came to Be15 Billion and Counting: The Story of PlantBottleTaB Turns 50: Those Who Love the Fizzy Diet Cola Celebrate
Austin’s reputation as a live music mecca and magnet for BBQ buffs may have put the Texas state capital on the map, but its status as a hub for high-tech startups will likely keep it there for years to come. Thanks to a thriving ecosystem of entrepreneurs, incubators and investors, Austin continues to make headlines as a pro-business city in a pro-business state. Texas is one of only seven states with no individual income tax, and overall it has one of the lowest state and local tax burdens in the country. “This place is like where Silicon Valley was in 1998,” says Andy Sernovitz, CEO of SocialMedia.org. “Everywhere you turn, people are saying, ‘I think I’m moving to Austin.’” Three years ago, Sernovitz was one of those people. He relocated his family and company from Chicago in search of a better quality of life and a more supportive startup culture. New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco were priced out, and contenders like Portland and Minneapolis lacked an established entrepreneurial scene. Austin, on the other hand, checked every box. “People who start companies get to pick where they work, which means they’re moving where they can live a good life,” Sernovitz explains. “And if you want to live in a nice house with good public schools, not pay state income taxes and be surrounded by tech-aware executives who love fitness, food and a great party, then Austin’s the place to be. When I go to my kid’s soccer game now, there are a dozen other entrepreneurs on the sidelines with me watching their kids.” Austin’s densely populated downtown area has emerged in recent years as ground zero for the city’s startup community to live, work and play. And though it’s not immune to growing pains other booming metro areas grapple with – traffic and transportation topping the list – Austin has a far more manageable feel compared to its counterparts. “It’s just easier here,” Sernovitz says. “And, as a result, there’s an associated psychological lift – and an extra layer of energy – that goes towards being successful.” Working to Live With a population of nearly 850,000, Austin is the country’s 13th largest city. It recently topped Forbes’ annual list of America’s Fastest Growing Cities for the third year in a row. According to the Austin Technology Council, one-third of the city’s jobs are tech-related. Big-name companies like Apple, Google and Facebook have opened offices there in recent years, and many of the country’s biggest thinkers are migrating to the area to hatch their next ideas. In a rare show of bipartisanship, entrepreneurs from both coasts are equally enamored with the Central Texas metropolis. Why? The as-advertised laid-back vibe and temperate climate are certainly part of the equation. But Austin’s crowning asset is its rich talent base of engineers, programmers, designers and marketers who want to work on a small team and make a big impact – many of whom funnel into the local job market from the University of Texas and other nearby schools. The city is also teeming with seasoned veterans. Several top Austin entrepreneurs worked at bigger companies in the area before branching off to start their own firms or take senior roles at fast-growing startups. As a result, the city’s crop of entrepreneurs skews a bit older and more experienced compared to, say, the dot-com boom of the ‘90s, when 20-somethings launched companies from their dorm rooms. “We’re the same people, just 20 years smarter,” Sernovitz says. “Instead of kids doing this for first time, we’re doing it for the fourth and fifth time.” Take Sam Decker, for example. Like many Austin-based entrepreneurs, he moved from the Bay Area, taking a job at Dell in 1999. He went on to found Bazaarvoice and, most recently, Mass Relevance. He claims Austin’s balance of startup intensity and a family-friendly lifestyle gives it an edge over other cities. “Austin has an appreciation for working to live, not living to work,” he explains. “And that was important for my family and me.” A Nurturing Community Ask just about anyone in Austin’s entrepreneurial community, and they’ll tell you it’s more inclusive and inviting than other tech hubs. The cycle of giving and pay-it-forward mentality here are pervasive says Scott Robinson, who chairs the Austin chapter of the Startup America Partnership, a network dedicated to helping young companies grow and building entrepreneurial communities. “There's a selflessness and a willingness here of anyone to help anyone else however they can – regardless of what they get out of it,” Robinson says. “Because when they win, Austin wins. When you do that, you can save an entrepreneur serious time, energy and money to leapfrog their vision." This spirit of all-boats-will-rise camaraderie breeds loyalty. The average tenure of startup talent is longer in Austin compared to other major cities, Decker suggests, thanks to a lack of what he describes as an ecochamber-like environment found New York and San Francisco – where startups compete with other startups, regardless of industry. “In Austin, you don’t have as much of that,” he adds. “There’s more of a community feel … a focus on the customer and on building a company people want to be a part of. It’s culturally normal to help each other here.” Center of Gravity Associations and networking organizations – plus marquee events like the annual South by Southwest Interactive Festival and the RISE (Relationship & Information Series for Entrepreneurs) conference –contribute to Austin’s collaborative culture. Nowhere is this ethos more on display than at Capital Factory, a startup accelerator and co-working space focused on helping young companies take off. Currently, about 250 entrepreneurs representing 100 startups are headquartered in a 20,000-sq. ft. space overlooking downtown Austin. President Obama recently toured the facility – which was modeled after similar accelerators like Y Combinator and TechStars – as part of his Jobs and Opportunity Tour. “We’re the center of gravity of startup stuff happening in Austin,” says Joshua Baer, Capital Factory’s managing director. “Every night of the week, a couple hundred engineers and programmers are here for meet-ups, events and hack-a-thons, and investors and press are coming through all the time. All of this creates a melting pot of ‘startup goo’ that makes good things happen.” Baer moved to Austin in 1999 at the height of the dot-com boom. After launching his first company, SKYLIST, in college and later selling it, he started angel investing and quickly understood the value of mentoring and networking. In 2009, he teamed up with Decker and other investors to found Capital Factory. “I realized I wanted to be working and investing with other like-minded people,” Baer recalls. “And we wanted to do more than just invest. We wanted to spend time with companies, work with them and help them grow.” Capital Factory pairs first-time entrepreneurs with serial entrepreneurs and angel investors who have founded successful companies and are eager to share what they’ve learned – and who they know – with the next generation. “We’re not taking anyone who wouldn’t be successful and making them successful,” Baer insists. “These are smart, talented and driven people who work hard. What we do is help make them more successful faster through introductions to customers, partners and talent.” Capital Factory's 30 mentors have built large companies and created more than 10,000 total jobs in Austin. Now they spend a significant amount of their time and money helping seed-stage entrepreneurs – most while still running their own companies. “Having a great mentor with relationships and contacts can be pretty critical to a small company, and working with someone who has walked in your shoes can save a lot of time,” Baer adds. Startup incubators and accelerators have been part of the city’s entrepreneurial fabric since 1989, when the Austin Technology Incubator (ATI) was founded as the commercialization arm of the University of Texas. ATI incubates wireless, IT, biotechnology and clean energy companies for 12 to 18 months. “We put a business wrapper around technologies startups bring to us by helping them hone their strategy and direction, circling them with mentors, and polishing their pitch so they can get funding from the sources we think are best for them,” says Mitch Jacobson, co-director of ATI’s clean energy incubator. To date, ATI has worked with 200-plus companies, helping them raise more than $1 billion in seed funding from venture capital firms and angel investors. Its nonprofit status and nearly 25-year track record set it apart from other incubators, says Jacobson, a former Dell executive. “'We get you funded' is our tagline,” says Jacobson. “In the last five years, 85 percent of the companies to come through our program have gotten funded.” For every dollar Austin puts into ATI, 72 are pumped back into the local economy, he adds, “providing an incentive for other entrepreneurs to go and invest in new stuff and to be successful.” Fueling the Pipeline Baer also co-teaches the Longhorn Startup program at the University of Texas, a practicum for students to earn course credit as the build their companies with support from Austin’s entrepreneurial community. “Our goal is to see great companies come out of this,” he says of the program, which just wrapped up its fourth semester. Another accelerator-like program at UT’s McCombs School of Business – Jon Brumley Texas Venture Labs – transforms students into future entrepreneurs and helps startups raise capital. Between 40% and 50% of the student-run companies the program works with get funded. “We offer entrepreneurs a quicker and more effective route to bring their innovations to market,” explains Rob Adams, director of Texas Venture Labs. “We don’t give out money or even know if the answer will be yes or no, but we get companies an investment answer more quickly than they could get on their own.” Such programs are needed to help educate first-time entrepreneurs on how to secure seed capital – $250,000 to $1 million – which is widely considered to be the hardest round of funding to raise. “The chasm between entrepreneurs and capital in Austin is early-stage funding,” says Robinson. “We need to do a better job of mentoring first-time entrepreneurs on effective fundraising strategies. And on the other side of the table, we need greater risk tolerance from the angel investor community.” We’re profiling several cities emerging as the next hotbeds of startup innovation. Next up: Detroit, Michigan. More StoriesStartup Refreshed: Why Coke is Joining the Entrepreneurial RevolutionAn Entrepreneur's Five Tips to Starting Your Own BusinessJason Pate: From Coca-Cola Scholar to Indian Restaurant EntrepreneurStubb's: Barbecue Gone Global
The Coca-Cola Small World Machines have received a lot of attention since their March debut in India and Pakistan. And, while reporters and bloggers have written a lot of great things about the experience, no one has captured the lives of these “magic machines” that helped unite strangers from nations separated by so much more than just borders. So, without further ado, here’s their story. The Set Up Coke's ad agency, Leo Burnett, came to The SuperGroup with a unique challenge: to develop a pair of interactive Coke machines to be deployed across the globe with the express purpose of uniting people divided by hundreds of miles and decades of warfare. We have a longstanding relationship with Coke's innovation group, and are no strangers to big technical challenges. This assignment, however, was different. These machines not only needed to be highly interactive, but also truly interpersonal. Even before beginning our first prototypes, we knew the technology needed to withdraw into the background once the experience started. We had to produce such a realistic interaction that people would focus on the person “standing” right in front of them and not on the huge technical lift that went into making the experience possible. So, we went to work – seven days a week, with many 16-hour days, for three straight months. There were challenges. Man, there were challenges. Round 1First off, there was no bundled technology available that would allow us to do what we wanted in a simple mash-up fashion. Since what we were trying to accomplish had never been done before, there were no tutorials to follow; we had to write our own. No single piece of equipment could do the job, but what did exist were single components that, if linked together properly, might produce the magic. So, we put on our MacGyver hats, and went to work. The most obvious methods and equipment could get us part of the way there, but wouldn’t produce the all-important eye-to-eye contact necessary to create an emotional connection between people meeting, albeit virtually, for the first time. Among many other avenues, we experimented with the illusionary technique known as Pepper’s Ghost, which relies on two-way mirrors. We achieved an incredibly lifelike image with this approach, but an unacceptable separation remained between the people in front of the screens when they touched hands. We also experimented with surrounding a television screen with multiple cameras to capture different angles of the subject. These angles would then be processed into a single composite image. Even though a more eye-to-eye perspective became possible, the user's hands would get cut off when they reached for the screen. We created design after design, prototype after prototype. There were failures, and a lot of frustration, but as we dug further into our woven technology and relied on our team's previous experiences in interactive development and film production, we quickly realized that the camera had to be placed behind the screen – and at eye level – to achieve a realistic viewing angle and capture the all-important hand-on-hand connection when presenting the video feed to the other machine. The Georgian Quickstep This realization led to the greatest single challenge that we would face throughout the entire development journey. Not only did we need to bring the camera behind the viewing screens, but we also had to figure out a way for the camera to see through a projected onscreen image in order to cleanly capture the people standing in front of each machine. Thus, a technique that we call The Georgian Quickstep was born. This new method gave our cameras the ability to practically see through a wall. We had just come off of a project at the 30th Anniversary of Disney’s Epcot Center, where we had to dig deeply into 3D technology. We worked extensively with both active and passive 3D glasses and projection for several months, and our experiences there led us to the breakthrough we were looking for. Active-shutter 3D glasses allow your eyes to effectively see two images at once, which is the very thing that gives the movies you are viewing a 3D quality. This feat is achieved by the lenses of the 3D glasses alternating slightly different images between one eye and the other at a rate of 60 frames per second – so fast that the naked eye does not notice the shift. We hijacked this feature and set up our camera and projector to use active shutter 3D in a different way. First, we created software that displayed the full image of the person in front of the machine in only one of the lens of the 3D glasses, while the other lens displayed a blank frame. We then put the 3D lens with the blank frame over the camera. The projector would display both the full and blank images the whole time, but the camera could only see the blank frame, and therefore was able to film the people in front of each machine without picking up the projected image as well. This way, the camera never saw the projector, and vice versa. So, voilà! The camera was able to see through a wall. Other Challenges Space inside the Small World Machines themselves was limited. We needed to find a 3D projector that had a short enough throw to project a full-body image in the 48 inches of space inside each machine. The final stage was to insert an infrared touch frame in front of the specialized rear projection screen we found in Germany. This last piece allows users to trace shapes together and engage in small, but important, hand-to-hand interactions. With this, all of the individual technologies began to work together in concert, and theCoke Small World Machines were born! Getting ThereWe decided to transport the machines on passenger airlines instead of cargo planes. Though this provided the fastest way to deliver the machines, it presented some major hurdles. I can’t begin to explain the mountain of regulations we had to work through just to get approval to ship. We had to list the specifics of every single piece of technology. And as you can see from the paragraphs above, the technology isn’t easy to communicate or understand, especially with a language barrier. Then, we had to develop customized packaging for the machines to fit through the luggage door of a passenger liner. With all the sensitive technology, an amazing amount of time and effort went into securing everything for the flights. In early-January 2013, the plan was for a handful of team members to fly to both countries to claim the machines from customs and begin the process of testing the equipment. The India trip pretty much went off without a hitch, but Pakistan was a different story, where complications rendered us unable to complete our activation. It took over two months for the new paperwork to clear before we could make a second effort. Not knowing what we’d find when we’d arrive, we had six back-up plans in the event we ran into trouble. The Big Day Arrives I have to admit, even though we had multiple backup plans, had rehearsed everything time and time again, and tested and retested all of the equipment, the operation had an Argo-like feel to it, where everything could fall apart at any minute. And, par for the course, it almost did. One cool element of the Small World Machines was that they were actually working refrigerated Coke dispensers. The machines were designed to drop a can of Coke after a person interacted with and “touched” a person in the other country. Well, in between our two trips, we learned that India had changed its Coke can size! So, the available cans didn’t fit our machine. The local production team worked with as many local distributors as possible to round up the remaining cans they had in stock that would fit. While that problem was solved, there were more on the horizon as we inched toward the big day.We had to work off each country’s power supply and electrical grids. In Pakistan, it was often three hours on, three hours off. We had battery backups, but we were told that rolling blackouts could last most of an entire day. Thankfully, that never happened. Oh, wait…We needed strong Internet connectivity for the machines to interact with the other. Just as we were about to drop the curtain, our broadband speeds in Pakistan dwindled to next to nothing. As we scrambled for a solution, seemingly out of nowhere, a knight in shining armor, a local tech whiz, came to our rescue, and somehow tapped into a private feed. We didn’t bother to ask how. The End It’s important to note that Indians and Pakistanis are not overly familiar with Coke machines to begin with. So, imagine their surprise and intrigue when they saw these stylish red beauties in the middle of their favorite mall. It didn’t take them long to get engaged. I can’t begin to tell you how inspiring it was to see children from India physically reaching out to children from Pakistan, and both of them tracing a peace sign together with hand-to-hand connection. Not one time did anyone ask about the advanced technology. You might think that would be a downer for us since we put so much effort into the development of these machines, but it wasn’t in the least. We wanted them to ignore the wizardry and magic, and to just share the wonderful experience. It was all about providing a positive difference, building friendships and community. One Indian man came up to us smiling, saying he didn’t even know what Pakistanis dressed like. “Not that different than us,” he said. Watch footage of consumers in Pakistan dancing back to their newfound friends in India.And, in truth, the people of these two countries aren’t that different. Coke helped show them that. In all, over 10,000 Cokes were distributed. But, that’s not the important part. Hundreds gathered, new friends were made, families came together, hearts were opened, hands touched, communication was established, and boundaries were diminished. There are projects that make you feel good. Then, there are life-altering projects that change you for the better. The Coke Small World Machines was that type of project. Gabe Aldridge is co-founder of The SuperGroup, an Atlanta, Ga.-based digital marketing and innovation agency. Reach him at email@example.com.More Stories:My Own Special Small World Machines StoryHappiness Without BordersSmall World Machines: Where to Next?Ads Worth Spreading: Coke's Security Cameras' Makes TED's Coveted List
Presenting an idea to a venture capitalist is one of the most important steps an entrepreneur will make during the course of creating a company. If the pitch is successful, it validates the company’s existence and puts the entrepreneur one step closer to making all that hard work pay off. If it’s unsuccessful, the company may not make it off the ground. Venture capitalists say making a great pitch takes specific knowledge about the company, the industry and the audience, as well as the ability to deliver a concise and compelling message in 20 minutes. Motivation and Drive When investors sit down with an entrepreneur to hear a pitch, one of the first things they evaluate is whether the person or team is driven and motivated to go out and build the company. Andreas Stavropoulos, managing director at Menlo Park, Calif.-based Draper Fisher Jurvetson, meets primarily with companies in the early stage of the investment cycle. “You are often dealing with an entrepreneur who is working day and night on their idea,” he said. “Ideas can change all the time, but one thing you can’t change is how you come across." Stavropoulos looks for ideas that will give a company the chance to get — and stay — ahead for many years. He wants those ideas that establish a company as an early player in the market and that will provide an edge over the competition. He also needs to hear how the entrepreneur expects to extract value from his or her company. Bryan Stolle, general partner at Mohr Davidow Ventures (also in Menlo Park), said, “I like to say it is an irrational act to start a company because the odds are so against you being successful. It takes incredible focus and the ability to power through things to build the company.” Stolle is also listening for the entrepreneur — who will most likely be the CEO — to show relevant knowledge and information about what problem the company will solve, who the customers will be and the market the product or service will join. He also wants the entrepreneur to understand who he or she is pitching, so he advises startup founders to arrive at meeting knowing what businesses the venture capital firm invests in, what it needs in terms of a return on investment and a little about the person sitting across the table. Frank Demmler, vice president of entrepreneurial services at Pittsburgh-based Innovation Works, looks for someone he “wants to get in the trenches with.” “There has to be a likability factor because I want to see them win,” he adds. “They also need to be coachable, especially if they are a first-time entrepreneur.” A Bad Pitch Isn't Always as Bad as You Think Meetings typically last an hour, Demmler said. During that time, 20 minutes are usually set aside for the presentation, which he said should consist of 10 to 12 slides. That might seem a short amount of time to explain something an entrepreneur has worked on for months or even years, but he said the key is figuring out a concise and effective way to communicate. Even though a great pitch goes a long way to ensuring an investor funds a company, Stolle said a person with a great concept doesn’t have to be a brilliant presenter to get his or her message across. “We’ve funded plenty of companies where the entrepreneur was a poor presenter,” he said. “A bad pitch isn’t one where the person is nervous, but one where they can’t tell us why their company matters or why it can be successful.” In addition, an investor and an entrepreneur will most likely develop a relationship, so the experience isn’t a one-shot thing, Stavropoulos said. One reason they're there in the first place is because the investor heard something that grabbed their attention, he added. “It can be hard to recover if you totally botch it, but seldom do we make a sweeping decision based on one presentation,” Stavropoulos said. That is, unless the presenter demonstrates a total lack of humility. Frank Demmler cautions against any displays of “intellectual arrogance.” “I’ve had people come in talking like they were God’s gift to technology and I was fortunate to have the opportunity to cut them a check, he said. However, Nate Redmond, managing partner at Rustic Canyon in Santa Monica, Calif., said losing composure in front of investors can be a troubling indicator of how a leader might perform in high-stress situations. "Starting a company is hard, so I never look down on an entrepreneur," he continued. "But any founder looking for money needs to know their business." Tips to Getting it RightStolle offered three tips for preparing a winning he pitch: 1. Research the market, including its size. 2. Be clear on where the money will be spent. In other words, when the funds run out, what will the company have accomplished, and will it be enough to raise more funds. Investors look out over many years and several phases of fundraising. 3. Do more work on the financial model. Investors want to see projections for at least three years, with five years being even better. “It is not going to be right, and we completely understand,” Stolle said of the financial projections. “We are interested in what that tells us about how you want to build the business, how you think it will play out over time, and what assumptions you are making.” More StoriesFrom Coke Scholar to Restaurant EntrepreneurAn Entrepreneur's 5 Tips to Starting Your Own BusinessMusings of an Entrepreneur Who Knows What She Wants
We are entering a new era of innovation. It’s now easier than ever to communicate with and engage a global audience; to create and commercialize a new product or service; and to start a business. Many experts believe this perfect storm of entrepreneurial stimuli is creating the next industrial revolution. Companies that adapt fast enough can revolutionize their industries and uncover new growth opportunities in other industries. Coca-Cola wants to be one of those companies. And being part of this revolution means learning from and collaborating with others. Last week, the Startup America Partnership and Startup Weekend teamed up to form UP Global, an organization committed to creating vibrant startup communities around the world by connecting entrepreneurs with the resources they need to be successful. Coca-Cola is excited to support the UP Global network – which combines Startup America’s expertise with the impact and reach of Startup Weekend’s networking and hands-on collaboration programs – as its first non-technology partner (Microsoft and Google are also onboard). Why? Because we believe we can help entrepreneurs succeed faster by bringing expertise in building billion-dollar brands and our 127-year legacy of innovation. Over the next year, we will mentor, support and participate in Startup Weekend events around the world, where engineers, designers, developers and other entrepreneurs in a specific community come together for 54 hours to network, learn new methods, and pitch and refine ideas. Specifically, we hope to bring awareness and resources to the emerging “maker movement” of do-it-yourself entrepreneurs who are creating and marketing physical products as a result of access to services like 3-D printing, which make it easier than ever to build and launch new solutions. We will partner to deliver 10 maker-themed Startup Weekends, starting June 28-30 in Seattle. We’re even kick-starting this effort in a few weeks by hosting an internal Startup Weekend event here at Coke. Our goal is to unleash 100,000 more entrepreneurs around the world and, as a result, support UP Global’s mission to empower sustainable communities. Because, as a global company operating on a local scale in 207 countries, that’s what we do. It’s in our DNA. Innovation is also part of our DNA, dating back to Dr. John Pemberton, Asa Candler and Robert Woodruff. These forefathers – and the countless giants who have followed in their footsteps – built our brand and business by doing what all great entrepreneurs do: creating something out of nothing. Yet despite the steps we continue to take to move the innovation needle, we know we can – and must – do more to adopt a startup mindset. Capturing the unprecedented opportunity we see ahead will require us to be more agile and to move faster. Our partnership with UP Global is part of our renewed focus on entrepreneurship and business model innovation. We began this journey about 18 months ago by looking not only at our own innovation agenda, pipeline and processes, but also by learning the lean startup process and opening up to the entire startup ecosystem. That’s how we connected with Startup Weekend and, later, UP Global. And we’re learning a lot from the startup community – from how they secure funding, to how they partner and collaborate, to how they go to market and drive growth, to how they “fail forward.” Because while we all cannot be entrepreneurs, everyone can think like entrepreneurs. David Butler is vice president of innovation at The Coca-Cola Company.More Innovation Stories:10 Questions With Coca-Cola's Innovation Guru'You Either Innovate or You Become Irrelevant'How Coke's Venturing & Emerging Brands Team Stays a Step Ahead of Tomorrow's ThirstsMuhtar Kent's 5 Keys to InnovationBreaking Through: Guy Wollaert on Coke's Formula for Disruptive InnovationEntrepreneurship for Rural Women, Brought to You by Coca-ColaTrash Turned Treasure: Artistic Inspiration From an Unlikely Source
Back in March, Coca-Cola installed high-tech vending machines in a pair of shopping malls: one in New Delhi, India, and another in Lahore, Pakistan. The “Small World Machines” linked strangers from two nations divided by more than just borders, with the hope of promoting cultural understanding and proving that what unites us is stronger than what sets us apart. Should the #smallworldmachines provoke happiness and connect people in other parts of the world? Let us know… and be sure to post your suggestions on where they should travel next in the comments section below.