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Innovation + Job News

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W3i technologist releases tool for sifting through social media feeds

Social media can be a boon for keeping up with personal and business information, but given the number of tools available, feeds can also be a major time sink. That's why entrepreneur Shivani Khanna developed dasBoom, a data visualization application that helps users cut down on the noise and focus on what's important in a feed rather than what's simply new.
Khanna's venture is exactly the type of "intrapreneur" strategy that's often encouraged at tech firm W3i, where Khanna has acted as a software development manager before taking on her own projects. The company fosters incubator projects like these in order to encourage creativity and development growth.
Given its strong start, and large market potential, it's likely that dasBoom is ready to, well, boom. "With the enormous volume of information being generated on social networks, there's a critical need to make sense of all this connected knowledge," Khanna notes. With the tool, users will be able to make more intelligent decisions, she adds.
The application allows users to visualize information from their data feeds, and then organize and filter that content. For example, the app will show which friends have posted in the last few hours, and the user can choose how people should be ranked in terms of importance. Also, the app will show the popularity of those posts so that the user can get a quick glimpse of the amount of buzz being generated.
This strategy gives users the ability to focus on content that's most relevant to them, rather than wading through posts containing game requests or shared articles and photos.
Khanna notes that the app is unique compared to other applications that curate social content, because it doesn't create assumptions about what's important. Instead, it lets users decide what to filter out and what to keep. The app is currently for Facebook, but she anticipates that Twitter and LinkedIn will be covered in the near future.
Source: Shivani Khanna, dasBoom
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

HopeFULL expands product line, eyes larger distribution

By now, the bright blue bags of The HopeFULL Company are recognizable, even nestled in the shelves of a co-op. The founders of HopeFULL, though, want to boost that recognition even more.
As noted in previous Line coverage, the company was started by sisters Stephanie Williams and Jessica Welch, as a way to help patients in chemotherapy increase their nutrient intake. The sisters created small, easily transported kits that contain a neoprene bag, silicone molds for making frozen "pops," and Popsicle-type sticks that double as spoons.
Since founding the business a couple years ago, HopeFULL has been steadily growing to expand its product line and distribution. The company recently launched The BellyFULL Kit, inspired by a desire to introduce whole foods to young children.
HopeFULL has also found a larger audience as it gains traction. In addition to helping chemo patients, the kits are being used for any condition in which loss of appetite can be a factor, including gastric bypass surgery, lupus, and even strep throat.
Looking ahead, the company anticipates moving into more wholesale sales to supplement its thriving co-op and natural health care center placement, according to Williams.
"We're moving into the next phase," she says. "We see some strong opportunities in several different places and markets, so we're gearing up for the next stage of growth."
If the sisters succeed, it's likely that those bright blue HopeFULL bags and jaunty BellyFULL junior chefs hats will be coming to a store near you in the year ahead.
Source: Stephanie Williams, HopeFULL Company
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

TST Media plans growth thanks to strategic funding

Started in a dorm room in 2005, Minneapolis-based TST Media is growing steadily, and attracting strong investment interest along the way.
Last year, the maker of website-management applications for sports leagues closed on a $3.5 million round of financing with El Dorado Ventures. Although the company hasn't commented yet on its most recent funding round, regulatory filing reports note that it raised an additional $3.3 million in capital.
Going along with that funding is hiring, and the company continues to add employees in areas like sales, marketing development, and design. In addition to regularly promoting job openings on Twitter, company representatives also attend college career conferences and encourage employees to refer contacts from their networks.
"We have a product designed for explosive growth," says TST Media co-founder Carson Kipfer. "We have aggressive hiring goals that will keep us on that growth track."
Over the past year, TST Media has seen several wins in client acquisitions, including the Lake Placid Summit Classic lacrosse tournament, and it has crafted innovations to its main product. Its "Sport Ngin Mobile" app is used by sports teams and leagues in all U.S. states, across Canada, and in Europe and Asia as a way for teams to connect with fans via scores, stats, schedules, and other content.
"Once someone sees the capability of what we provide, it spiders out from there," says Kipfer. "Other teams and organizations want the platform, too, and that just fuels our success."
Source: Carson Kipfer, TST Media
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

Keyhubs grows through new client projects

As it turns out, being able to pinpoint influential people within an organization is an in-demand talent.
That's the experience of Vikas Narula, founder of Minneapolis-based Keyhubs, a startup that focuses on how connections within an enterprise can affect everything from productivity to executive development.
Narula first had the idea for the company while in business school at Duke University. A professor did an experiment about corporate social networks, and Narula was fascinated (for more on Keyhubs' beginnings, see our previous coverage here).
After nearly three years since founding the company, Narula is seeing strong growth as the concept is embraced by clients looking for more strategic ways to understand their enterprises.
In the past past year, the company was featured in Forbes, and Narula was listed as one of the 100 Twin Cities leaders to watch by Twin Cities Business magazine. New client engagements include Medtronic, Liberty Diversified International, and a Silicon Valley technology company called Responsys.
Buzz is growing, Narula notes, and that's driving more interest in the distinctive services that Keyhubs offers. Although there are management consulting firms that look at org charts, Keyhubs seems to be the only firm that can give deep insight into how employees interconnect on an informal basis -- information that could be crucial to talent development.
Narula feels that the future looks bright as well. "In 2013, we're looking to deepen relationships with our existing clients and bring on new ones with thoughtful care and consideration," he says.
Source: Vikas Narula, Keyhubs
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

Alignamite develops employee-centric performance tools

Employee performance reviews: the three little words that no one likes to hear.
"Almost universally, it's been a process filled with dread," says J. Forrest, founder and president of Minneapolis-based technology company Alignamite. "Who looks forward to performance reviews, even if they're largely positive?"
Forrest wanted a better strategy, so he built one. Alignamite's new software tool is designed to create alignment between an enterprise's goals and an employee's success. With a dashboard that tracks employee performance and a system that brings in colleague opinions as well as management views, Alignamite looks like it could change how performance is measured.
Founded in 2011, Alignamite got started when Forrest decided to quit building performance tools for other companies and start his own enterprise instead. He envisioned a system that would be more employee-centric, where staff members could get a grasp of their performance on a continual basis and an ongoing sense of how well they were meeting company goals, rather than relying on annual performance reviews.
After completing a beta testing period, Alignamite recently launched a robust, full version and is already seeing strong growth, particularly with clients of about 50 to 200 employees.
"There's great scalability in the tool, so that makes it exciting for organizations," says Forrest. "Most important, though, is that it significantly improves communication within an enterprise, and that benefits everyone."
Source: J. Forrest, Alignamite
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

Morphology game maker sees growth past the holidays

In 2009, Kate Ryan Reiling and some friends were waiting out a snowstorm in an Uptown apartment, and they quickly became bored by their game selections. That's when the fun really started.
The group put together flat glass beads, Jenga pieces, string, and a dictionary. One person would choose a word, then try to depict it using the game components. Although it was a simple way to pass the time, Reiling was struck by the level of creativity and enjoyment that emerged, and she used her business school background to turn a fun afternoon into a full-time avocation.
Using pieces she first cobbled together from surplus stores, Reiling created Morphology, a game that lets players "morph" wooden sticks, cubes, glass beads, little wooden people, and other elements into a representation of certain words.
When Reiling brought a prototype to a major toy and game show in 2010, she knew she had a winner. She sold 400 games on the spot, and later that year began landing on lists like Time magazine's Toys of the Year. She says, "I began to get emails from around the world asking about the game. It's been really amazing to see the momentum and watch this catch on."
Reiling created a version for kids called Morphology Jr., and her ultimate goal is for Morphology Games to be acquired by one of the major game companies. Until that happens, though, she'll work on getting the game in more stores and expanding distribution. With so much buzz building in this holiday season, she's expecting strong growth in the next month and beyond.
"We see a real opportunity to keep expanding this and designing more games that encourage creativity, and maybe even move into the digital tablet space," she says.  
Source: Kate Ryan Reiling, Morphology Games
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

December events: Lean Startup, Women in the Boardroom, Cloud Automation, No Coast Craft-O-Rama

The Lean Startup Conference
December 3
University of Minnesota
Carlson School of Management
11am - 7pm
Those who aren't able to attend The Lean Startup Conference in San Francisco can still see great speakers, thanks to this simulcast event that showcases the conference's experts. Presented by the university's Gary S. Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship and the Minnesota Lean Startup Circle, the event will help attendees jumpstart their businesses.
Women in the Boardroom
December 4
University of St. Thomas
Law School Atrium, 11th St. and Harmon Place, Minneapolis
3pm - 6pm
An organization designed to assist women in pursuing board service, Women in the Boardroom hosts several types of in-person and virtual events throughout the year. This signature event brings together a panel of experts, including the Chief Administrative Officer of the Mayo Clinic.
Automation for the Cloud
December 5
Open Book
1011 Washington Ave. S., Minneapolis
4pm - 5:30pm
Hosted by cloud management company enStratus, this event looks at extending automation to cloud environments, including auto-provisioning, auto-scaling, and setting automated backups. Attendees will learn more about cloud management and see a product demo.
No Coast Craft-O-Rama
December 7 & 8
Midtown Global Market
3pm - 8pm on Dec. 7; 9am - 5pm on Dec. 8
Started in 2005 as a way to feature designers, artists, and creators of handmade crafts, the No Coast Craft-O-Rama has grown into a true showcase for artisans of every type. From letterpress operators to knitters to jewelry makers to many others, the breadth of work is staggering--and the fair is showing up just in time for holiday shopping, too.

Tekne award winners show breadth of local tech scene

Highlighting technology leaders in the state, the Minnesota High Tech Association (MHTA) announced winners for the 2012 Tekne Awards, handing out top honors to companies like MakeMusic, ReconRobotics, JAMF Software.
The award program, now in its 13th year, recognizes innovations from 2011 that impact the lives of Minnesotans, through lifestyle improvement or education. Forty-four finalists were named in fifteen categories. Winners were unveiled at a special event on November 1st.
According to MHTA president Margaret Anderson Kelliher, the awards draw attention to the breadth of innovative and competitive technology companies in the state. Greater awareness of the efforts being done here will boost Minnesota's stature as a "silicon prairie" where tech companies can thrive.
Fifteen winners show the range of businesses here, and the list includes both large companies like Seagate Technology (winner in the advanced manufacturing category) and smaller companies like Code 42 Software and SparkWeave.
Other winners included  PeopleNet, Agosto, GiveMN, OrthoCor Medical, Starkey Hearing Technologies, Imation, and The University of Minnesota Rochester.
In addition to showcasing the work of technology-fueled businesses, the awards also honored seven individuals who provided leadership to advance technology and innovation in Minnesota, particularly in state government. The public officials led the effort to consolidate IT services from more than 70 state agencies into a single organization called MN.IT Services.
Speaking about all of the awards, Kelliher says, "This year's recipients, once again, raised the bar with the quality and originality of their entries and should be very proud of their accomplishments."
Source: Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Minnesota High Tech Association
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

Atomic Learning expands customer reach to keep growth steady

Founded in 2000 by a group of technology educators, Atomic Learning now boasts customers in more than 45 countries, and it's likely that its reach will keep growing.
The Little Falls-based company has worked for over a decade to provide the K-12 market with tools for teacher development, classroom technology integration, and software support, among other areas. The company focuses on promoting the practical application of technology in education by giving educators the training and resources needed to teach tech-savvy students.
"I think a big part of what's driven our growth is the same thing that allowed us to break into the market in the first place, and that's staying true to customer needs," says Lisa Barnett, Atomic Learning COO. "We adapt as those needs change, and we're always thinking about how to have a meaningful impact."
That focus has allowed the company not only to weather difficult economic storms, but also to keep growing by expanding into higher education. Barnett notes that Atomic Learning recently worked to bring its insights and experience into that market after realizing that the tools used by K-12 teachers would also be relevant for higher education instructors and professors.
"Customer demand really drove our expansion into the higher ed space," says Barnett. "We saw those at colleges and universities finding ways to bring us into their environments, but they had to twist and turn to make it work." The company developed tools specifically for those environments, and the result has been continued growth and interest.
"We have a central theme here, and that's guiding learners from awkward to awesome, no matter where they are," says Barnett.
Source: Lisa Barnett, Atomic Learning
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

Computer forensics firm LuciData distinguishes itself from the competition

With so much information being stored in digital form, it seems inevitable that computer forensics and e-discovery would surge toward growth.
The strategy is used by companies of all sizes to create a digital paper trail that identifies issues such as file theft by departing employees or misuse of company resources. In this competitive arena, Minneapolis-based LuciData is hoping that expertise wins out.
"Our guys come from the IT security world, not the law enforcement world," says CEO Jeremy Wunsch. "You see a lot of companies that hire former cops, and that's fine, but you need a deeper understanding of how technology works to really be effective. That's what we provide."
These days, the most common client requests come from companies fretting about intellectual property theft, he notes. If someone leaves a job and takes information along, that can burn not only the former employer, but also the new company as well. Hiring a seemingly stellar new employee and then getting hit with an IP theft lawsuit soon after can be a nasty surprise.
"We've seen that situation happening much more frequently," Wunsch says. "That's why clients are asking us for more safeguards and prevention measures, so they can detect theft as it's happening."
Because LuciData employs technologists with deep expertise in security, the company can watch the movement of data more easily, Wunsch believes. Called "internal threat management," or "proactive forensics," the field might be burgeoning right now, but look for it to boom in the near future as companies work to protect themselves at every level.
As that happens, Wunsch expects that LuciData will stay on its current growth track, and live up to its name. "We bring clarity to data," he says.
Source: Jeremy Wunsch, LuciData
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

Student information system Infinite Campus continues on strong growth track

Blaine-based Infinite Campus is continuing to build momentum as it heads into another school year, helping K-12 districts to become more cost-efficient, streamlined, and productive.
The company delivers student information systems, and distinguishes its development from competitors, says Karl Beach, whose company title is Evangelist: "We build what districts need, rather than waiting to find out what they want. That puts them ahead in terms of having systems that work for the future, not just for today."
Infinite Campus manages more than 5.3 million students in 43 states. One recent implementation has been Clark County School District in Las Vegas, which selected the company's system for management of over 300,000 students.
Over the past year, Infinite Campus has worked to enhance its systems, and recently released new instructional management tools that assist teachers in offering blended instruction. For example, teachers can post assignments and hyperlinks through a campus portal, allowing students to submit homework online. Capabilities like these reduce the need for data entry, and make information available to administrators, parents, and students as well as teachers.
The systems can even track behavior data such as violence, bullying, and drug use. This type of tracking is crucial for federal grant funding tied to the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act. With Infinite Campus' Behavior Management Tool, districts can streamline incident reporting and improve communication throughout schools.
"Public education can be divisive, fragmented, and resource-constrained," says Beach. "We're working to change that. We want to transform education."
Source: Karl Beach, Infinite Campus
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

Technology platform nGage Health connects patients and doctors more effectively

Thanks to the recent elections, healthcare has been a hot topic lately, and politics aside, it should continue to lead policy debates for some time to come. But apart from competing visions of what healthcare in the U.S. should look like, the issue comes down to a more fundamental level, believes Dr. Peter Mills. "How can providers interact with patients in a more effective way?" he asks. "That's the real question to be asking."
Mills has worked to combine technology with health care in a way that increases doctor-to-patient communication. Previously, he launched employee wellness software firm vielife, which was sold to Cigna in 2006, and now helms a new effort called nGage Health.
The cloud-based online platform is geared toward creating a more robust relationship between doctors and patients, so health activities can be tracked with more accuracy. For example, a patient can input information about exercise and food intake, and a doctor could monitor that data remotely to make sure the person is on track with preventative measures.
That type of system is a radical departure from existing healthcare interactions, Mills says. Currently, most doctor visits occur because a patient is ill, leading to treatment of symptoms rather than an understanding of factors like lifestyle and behavior that can be tweaked to avoid illness.
"I felt that we have so much technology at our fingertips, and it's transformed how we do banking, communication, travel, almost everything," says Mills. "Yet, healthcare is delivered in the exact same way as it has been. Why not use that technology to change the relationship between provider and patient?"
Source: Peter Mills, nGage
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

SourceMob offers social media tools for employee recruitment

Employee recruitment and online technology have blended together with mixed results in the past decade--Monster.com may have led the way initially in applying innovation to job postings, but these days, talent acquisition calls for more sophisticated tools.
Founded by Jeffery Giesener in 2011, St. Louis Park-based SourceMob aims to meet the need. The startup helps companies expand their recruitment efforts by utilizing social networks more effectively. With modules called Social Media Career Centers, the service taps into major sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, tracking active jobs and conversational content.
"We saw an opportunity to bring a new lens to the talent acquisition space," says Giesener. "There's an e-commerce angle that hasn't existed before."
One particular strength for SourceMob is reaching passive candidates, who are open to new opportunities, but aren't actively sending out resumes or perusing online job boards. These candidates, highly prized by HR departments, have been tricky to acquire, but SourceMob makes the process easier since clients can access them through social platforms.
Better recruitment is particularly crucial right now, Giesener believes, since there are many jobs like software development going unfilled. Regardless of industry, companies are desperately trying to fill those vacancies in order to thrive, and depending on a more robust solution like SourceMob can boost their talent acquisition strategies.
Giesener self-funded the venture, and expects significant growth in the year ahead. He says, "It's getting really exciting to see the potential for what we've built. We're really in the right place at the right time with this."
Source: Jeffery Giesener, SourceMob
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

November events: Tekne Awards, Women's Excelerator, Primal Branding, Selling Globally

Tekne Awards
November 1
Minneapolis Convention Center
4:30pm - 9pm
$195 for individuals; $1,750 for table of ten
The Tekne Awards program, now in its 13th year, recognizes innovations from 2011 that impact the lives of Minnesotans, through lifestyle improvement or education. Forty-four finalists were named in fifteen categories, and this event unveils the winners. Just as importantly, the gathering provides ample opportunity for networking with a "who's who" of Minnesota business, technology, and politics.
Women's Excelerator Workshop: Practice Your Pitch
November 14
St. Catherine University
CDC401 Board room, 4th floor
8am - 12pm
In this workshop, attendees will develop a level of comfort with pitching their business, and will learn to create a value proposition statement. Each entrepreneur will have 10 minutes to present her business to her peers and facilitators, followed by a feedback session to identify which parts of the elevator pitches need work.
Tap the Power of Primal Branding
November 21
Risdall Marketing Group
550 Main St., New Brighton
8:30am - 11am
Led by Patrick Hanlon, the author of the popular book "Primal Branding," this workshop lays out a blueprint for more effective brand marketing. Hanlon advocates creating "brand zealots" who spread a company's message across multiple channels, a process that builds a stronger customer base. After Hanlon's presentation, representatives from Risdall Marketing Group will showcase how primal branding helped a number of their clients.
Selling Globally in a Borderless Society
November 29
The Woman's Club of Minneapolis
410 Oak Grove St.
7:15am - 9am
Fees range from $20 to $60, depending on registration type
Hosted by the Sales & Marketing Professional Association, this expert panel addresses the challenges and benefits of selling and marketing internationally. Participating will be international trade specialists Matthew Woodlee, Mike Danielson, and Jim Thomas. Planned topics include marketing support, hiring consultants, cultural issues, and current political and economic affairs.

Warecorp keeps expanding, launches new projects

St. Louis Park-based software development firm Warecorp doesn't see boundaries--geographically or otherwise.
Founded in 2004, the company has been growing at a steady pace, thanks in part to expansion into Minsk, Belarus, a hotbed of engineering talent. Warecorp has added about 30 employees there in the past six months, and has also brought on a Montana-based Vice President of Development, Sarmeesha Reddy.
The firm specializes in software engineering, and boasts projects in open source, social media, and software testing. One particularly compelling new project is Drupal Squad, developed by Warecorp engineers who use the programming language to design custom modules for other clients.
"Drupal Squad is an exciting development for us, and one that grew organically," says company cofounder Chris Dykstra. "We just converted a service we'd created to manage our own customer base, and it ended up being something that was really needed in the marketplace."

 Because of projects like these, Warecorp is poised for growth, and Reddy notes that she's been tasked with bringing the company from $5 million in annual sales to $20 million. After working on $100 million projects at Motorola, she's ready for the challenge. "This is a company that's full of heart, with a super smart team," she says. "When you bring that together with so many great ideas, it's magic."
Source: Chris Dykstra and Sarmeesha Reddy, Warecorp
Writer: Elizabeth Millard
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