If location-based marketing means focusing on the blue dot, you’re missing the point

location-based marketing

That useful little blue dot on your smartphone’s map is like a flame to a moth for location-based marketers.

But as I found out from Mike Schneider, VP of marketing at Skyhook, during our webinar “Drive ad revenue with precise location targeting,” if you focus on pushing offers, messages, and coupons to people based on where they are right now, you’re missing the point of having their location at all.

In fact, it turns out that not only are you missing the chance to discover that person’s affinities, you’re probably getting their location wrong while you’re at it.

“Let’s take a look at the old adage of ‘message, person, place, and time,’ and let’s assume that that’s the experience,” Scheider said. “Advertising has been a very ‘content first’ ecosystem. The way you do it now is you think about the content and try to get that in front of a person, in a place, at a time.”

He’s right, of course. When we’re advertising to a person right now, we think about the demographic of the average website visitor in the hope that we’ll hit the right person at the right time from a cast of thousands. That’s fine, but we typically fail to understand the location of that website visitor or their affinities. Too often we throw ever-increasing amounts of money at blanket campaigns rather than stepping back to understand the exact persona of the potential buyer.

That’s where location comes into play, but not just the most current location.

Targeting based on a single location is folly. The real magic happens when you understand a person’s journey over time.

The problem with many location-based marketing systems right now is that marketers use IP address as an indicator of location. That can be inaccurate in the extreme. A single IP address may reference as much as a six-mile square area.

If you were a courier delivering packages, it would be the equivalent of dropping all of them at the center of a zip code area, rather than delivering them by hand to each recipient’s mailbox.

Or, as Schneider put it, it’s like “your cardiac surgeon doing heart surgery on your liver.”


And according to Schneider, 60 percent of marketers aren’t getting accurate location information.

Once you have an accurate location, and once you start attaching that location to real places, you can build a full picture of the person.

“If you have good location in the advertising technology space,” Schneider said, “you can understand [the customer’s] persona.”

By looking at good locations signals over time, you can determine if someone is a coffee lover, or a new mother, or a combination of any of the 50+ personas Skyhook understands from processing that data.

That is the way to leverage location-based marketing. Not from a single signal. Not by pushing ads to someone just because they are in a particular location (or in the general vicinity, if you’re using an IP address), but by looking at good location data over time to better understand the person, place, and moment to send the most relevant messages.

It’s a win for you because it helps keep your ad spend low while yielding high performance, and it’s a win for the consumer, since relevant messaging cuts through the noise and provides them information they might actually be able to use.

Dig deeper by listening to the entire recorded webinar now. Schneider and I delve into the strategy of tracking location over time to better target advertising, and we answer some super-relevant questions from our live webinar audience.


More information:

Powered by VBProfiles

U.K. ISP TalkTalk gets hacked, the CEO doesn’t even know if data was encrypted


TalkTalk, one of the U.K.’s largest Internet services providers, with more than four million customer accounts, has suffered its third data breach in 2015 — and the latest one is significant.

Founded initially as a subsidiary to the Carphone Warehouse mobile phone retailer, TalkTalk has emerged as one of the preeminent communication brands in the U.K., offering pay TV services, broadband, and a mobile network.

While the full extent of the latest hack hasn’t yet been revealed, the company has said that it’s likely that names, addresses, dates of birth, telephone numbers, email addresses, TalkTalk account numbers, and bank details have been compromised. Company CEO Dido Harding has said that all four million customers may be impacted, though confirmation of this hasn’t yet been given.

A “significant and sustained cyber attack” on the TalkTalk website was carried out on Wednesday of this week, after which the Metropolitan Police Cyber Crime Unit launched a criminal investigation. News of the breach started to emerge last night (U.K. time), but events took a twist today when Harding revealed she had received an email demanding a ransom from a group claiming responsibility for the attack.

But when asked by the BBC whether customer data was encrypted, she said she didn’t know:

“The awful truth is, I don’t know. I would love to be able to give you that complete and unequivocal assurance. But it would be wrong of me to give you that today, when the amount of data that these criminals have had access to is very large. I don’t want to give a false impression of confidence where I don’t have it.”

That the CEO of a major technology company can simply “not know” whether the data was encrypted is a startling confession, especially given how easy it would have been for her to find out whether it was or wasn’t. But a FAQ section on the company’s website does say:

Not all of the data was encrypted. We constantly review and update our systems to make sure they are as secure as possible. We’re working with the police and cyber security experts to understand what happened and protect as best we can against similar attacks in future.

But perhaps the most worrying facet of this latest hack is that the company has suffered two previous hits this year.

Back in February, TalkTalk sent an email to every customer warning them that scammers were using stolen data to “trick” people into handing over their bank details, though the actual number of customers whose data was pilfered was just a few thousand. Attackers had infiltrated TalkTalk’s systems and obtained names, addresses, phone numbers, and TalkTalk account numbers — this information was sold and then used by fraudsters to call customers and obtain their bank details.

And back in August, the Carphone Warehouse’s mobile site suffered a data breach that reportedly affected almost 500,000 TalkTalk customers.

Of course, the issue of data breaches has rarely been out the headlines in recent times — the Ashley Madison case is perhaps the most recent example, with tens of millions of users affected. However, the fact that a company can be infiltrated by cyber criminals so often, and still have the CEO not know what data (if any) was encrypted, should be worrying for any TalkTalk customer.

BlackBerry Priv is now available for preorder in U.S., U.K., and Canada for $699

Blackberry Priv

BlackBerry is officially accepting preorders for its new Android-based smartphone.

Priv was first announced last month. The phone features a touchscreen, slide-out keyboard, and Blackberry’s security software.

The phone is first being made available in the U.S., U.K., and Canada for $699, £549, and $899 CND respectively. BlackBerry hasn’t yet announced when the phones will actually ship.

Priv is an important launch for Blackberry. The once-popular handset maker has seen its sales dwindle in recent years, so much so that CEO John Chen recently said that it would retire its mobile phone business if it isn’t profitable in a year. A look at the popularity of its operating system among smartphone users paints a picture of BlackBerry’s overall standing in the market. That’s likely why it decided to use Android for its latest device.

Chen says he intends to marry BB10 OS with Android in the future to give its devices enterprise-level security and software within an Android user experience.

In order for BlackBerry to move ahead with more devices and a new operating system, its smartphone business is going to have to beef up sales first. That makes Priv’s success or failure crucial to BlackBerry’s future.

Facebook’s stock now over $100 per share, a new record that values the company at $280B

Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook's F8 2015 developer conference

Facebook has hit a milestone today as its stock price has topped $100 per share in current market trading hours. The company now has a market cap of over $280 billion.

Since July 16, Facebook’s stock price had hovered within the $90 range, creeping ever closer to $100. Analysts had predicted that the company would hit this record sometime between 2014 and 2016. The stock came close on Monday prior to its Q2 2015 earnings hitting an all-time high of $99.24 and even closed at $98.39 recently, but still hadn’t found a way to break through.

The social networking company announced its second quarter earnings in July, and some thought that this milestone would be hit then. However, since then, Facebook’s stock has dropped to the $93 to $94 range. But over the past few days, the stock has rebounded to now go as high as $102 in active trading today. One potential reason for the jump is Facebook’s recent announcement that the company has unveiled universal search across all public posts, likely taking on Google and Twitter.

But does the fact that Facebook’s stock is now worth $100 a share mean anything? In reality: no. It’s a historic moment for the social networking company, and some might say that it’s a sign of a less volatile Facebook. Amid all of this, it’s worth noting that the company’s market cap is certainly telling.

Three years in the making

It took Facebook slightly longer than three years to achieve this record, and it wasn’t an easy journey for the company. We looked at the amount of time other companies took to get there:

  • Google: It took the search engine company no time at all — it opened at $100 a share after being initially priced at $85 per share.
  • Apple: The technology company achieved this milestone on a split-adjusted basis on August 19, 2014, nearly 34 years after its IPO
  • Amazon: The etailer achieved this record on October 23, 2009 — more than 12 years after going public.
  • LinkedIn: The professional social network took about 10 months to reach this record.
  • Baidu: The Chinese web service company’s stock eventually hit $100, but it took more than five years.

These are just for comparison purposes to see how other tech companies reached this milestone.

Granted, hitting the $100 mark isn’t necessarily noteworthy — it’s much smaller than Apple’s $700 share price in 2012.

In the first year of its IPO, Facebook’s stock price fluctuated, but stayed within the $20 to $40 range. That changed on July 24, 2013 when Facebook announced its second quarter earnings (“Soon, we’ll have more revenue on mobile than on desktop,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at the time), and then the stock took off upwards on the journey to $100 a share.

Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 8.25.37 AM

Facebook’s stock been inching upwards over the past few days, thanks to analysts from firms like Merrill Lynch expressing positive comments about the company, mostly spurred by its rapidly growing user base and platform traction.

“We continue to rate Facebook as a top idea in Internet given mobile exposure and growing time share in the category, improving ad targeting, video traction, Instagram ad ramp, and growth of new platforms. Checks suggest positive trends in 3Q, and we see upside to our revenue estimate with improving ad targeting, video, and Instagram,” said Merrill Lynch.

Facebook's monthly active users, as of Q1 FY2015

Above: Facebook’s monthly active users, as of Q1 FY2015

The social networking company has certainly seen huge growth in its user growth. It now has more than 1.44 billion monthly active users (MAUs) worldwide, of which at least 581 million MAUs access Facebook on mobile only. It has also successfully converted itself into not only a mobile-first entity, but “mobile-best.” Besides its core app gaining a lot of usage, it’s found a working formula to develop some of the biggest mobile apps in the marketplace today:

But it’s not just product traction that has propelled Facebook’s stock upwards. Advertisers and developers may be intrigued by the social network’s reach and targeting capabilities, thanks to the debut of its mobile app install ads, desktop video app ads, acquisition and expansion of the LiveRail ad platform, and the launch of the company’s Audience Network, to name a few.

Troubled IPO to success

On May 18, 2012, the world’s largest social networking company made its public debut. It was considered at the time to be the biggest technology IPO — and also the biggest in Internet history, thanks to its market capitalization of over $104 billion. As highly anticipated as it was, it wasn’t exactly the best day for Facebook: Trading was plagued by technical problems at Nasdaq due to huge order volume.

Facebook’s stock price was originally priced at $38 per share, but actually traded at $42 before closing at $38.37. However, for the first year as a public company, shareholders didn’t seem overly impressed by its performance. And it’s not that Facebook didn’t try — it just made a few mistakes along the way.

Of course it had to deal with the fallout from its IPO, such as criticism that Zuckerberg was being “immature” with investors during Facebook’s pre-IPO roadshow, and also litigation brought by shareholders who alleged that the company deceived them about its growth prospect prior to its IPO (the case was dismissed in 2013 and the dismissal was reaffirmed by a U.S. federal appeals court).

Early on, Zuckerberg had to do a mea culpa to apologize for betting too much on HTML5 as Facebook’s mobile strategy, instead of native applications. Moving past that, the company accelerated its mobile strategy to make sure that the social network was available to everybody everywhere, but even that hit some stumbling blocks — remember Home?

Amid all of this, Facebook has dusted itself off and moved forward. The results have impressed stockholders, with the overall trend of its stock price moving upward. Out of the 12 quarters the company has provided earnings reports on, it beat Wall Street estimates 10 times, only falling short last quarter (it met expectations in Q2 2012, the first quarter of trading).

Since its public debut, Facebook has also launched and acquired products to help it remain relevant as a connector of people in the digital age. Among such activities include the purchase of Oculus VR in 2014 for $2 billion, the launch of Internet.org, broadening of its developer network with the acquisition of Parse, the unveiling of its version of an enterprise social network, and more.

Facebook’s stock opened up at $101.91 today, after closing at $99.67 yesterday. So far, it’s being pushed up 0.96 percent, with the market still open for another few hours. We’ll update where this stands after trading closes for the weekend.

The company is scheduled to announce earnings results from its third quarter on November 4.

More information:

Powered by VBProfiles

A $750 Pill And Its Brash Owner Get Competition — And It Costs $1

screen-shot-2015-09-21-at-1-46-35-am Turing Pharmaceuticals, a months-old biotech startup that is largely financed by its 32-year-old founder and CEO Martin Shkreli, sparked widespread outrage last month. The reason: shortly after paying $55 million for a 62-year-old drug called Daraprim that’s prescribed for toxoplasmosis and other types of infections, Turing repriced the drug from $13.50 per pill to a stunning $750… Read More

The DeanBeat: Two decades of work and $1B in sales put Israel’s game industry on the global map

Playtika's party at Casual Connect Tel Aviv.

The organizers of Casual Connect Tel Aviv paid my way to Israel. Our coverage remains objective.

TEL AVIV — Israel’s 200 game companies are expected to generate $1 billion in mobile and social gaming revenue in 2015, up 25 percent from $800 million a year earlier, according to a market analysis by Playtika, Israel’s largest game company and the biggest social casino game maker in the world.

That’s a great result for a young industry in a region that had no obvious reason to grow a game industry, and it explains why the Casual Connect game show was held in Israel for the first time last week in the place that calls itself the “Startup Nation.” The event drew more than 1,800 registered attendees, or twice as many as originally expected.

“For me, this conference is something we worked to get for many years,” said Robert Antokol, chief executive of Playtika, in a fireside chat with me at the start of the conference. “I hope that people will hear about this, and it will become a tradition.”

But success in gaming is a fragile and fleeting thing, and Israel still needs more progress to become a permanent player in the Darwinian game market. The Israeli presence in gaming is a good example of how a region can become an economic powerhouse in one industry in a very short time by capitalizing on the changes that technology brings.

For a small country of 8 million people, Israel has an disproportionate share of the world’s $91 billion game industry. It reminds me of Finland, which, thanks to Angry Birds maker Rovio and Clash of Clans maker Supercell, has a couple of thousand game jobs and dozens of companies that generated well beyond $1 billion in revenues in 2015. Israel also has thousands of game jobs, if you add up the numbers from game developers, publishers, real-money gambling companies, and related marketing technology companies.

Jeremie Kletzkine of Start-up Nation Central.

Above: Jeremie Kletzkine of Start-up Nation Central.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

Its prospects are good because it has already had so much success in other tech industries, said Jeremie Kletzkine, vice president of business development at Start-up Nation Central, an economic development group, in an interview. Israel has developed fundamental and broad technologies in cleantech, healthcare, software, the Internet, life sciences, big data, the military, hardware, and cyber security. Israel has 5,000 startups, or the highest concentration of startups in the world, Kletzkine said.

“If you compared us to Silicon Valley, it is very different,” he said. “Silicon Valley is about execution. Israel starts with technology, and then it finds something to do with it. Israel is very far from the end markets, and it needs partnerships to find uses for the technology. Israelis are not into connecting dots. They create new dots.”

A good example is how Israel’s PrimeSense and other Israeli companies created the sensor technology, born from the Israeli military, for sensing body motions. PrimeSense teamed up with Microsoft to create the Kinect motion-sensing system for the Xbox 360 game console. Apple eventually acquired it and turned PrimeSense it into a hub for research and development in Israel.

Microsoft's Kinect

Above: Microsoft’s Kinect

Image Credit: Microsoft

Israel has had some luck in content, not just technology, thanks to its background in social casino games. In that sector alone, Israeli entrepreneurs have had more than $600 million in exits, according to market researcher Eilers Research. Those entrepreneurs can reinvest that money in Israeli startups. About 20 game companies are sizable, according to Tsahi Liberman, board member at Israel’s game industry group, GameIS, in an interview.

The Israeli industry owes its roots to 1990s online gambling companies such as 888 Holdings, Playtech, and Empire Online, said Michael Rosen, founder and CEO of Tacticsoft, a maker of midcore games, or hardcore titles that can be played in short sessions on mobile devices. Those online gambling companies weren’t game companies, but they had to conquer problems such as user acquisition, monetization, and targeted marketing, Rosen said.

In the mid-2000s, Israelis joined the rush to capitalize on the growth of social gaming on Facebook and mobile games on the iPhone. Antokol credits Zynga for turning the casino games world upside down in 2008 with Zynga Poker, a non-gambling game where you could pay to buy virtual poker chips but you could not cash out your winnings.

Antokol cofounded Playtika with Uri Shahak in 2010, launching the social casino slots game Slotomania. It took them a long eight months to raise money because nobody really believed that people would play casino games where they couldn’t win cash. But Playtika added value by making it easy to play casino games on modern platforms, making them social, and incorporating free-to-play game mechanics that eventually helped fuel growth to 20 million monthly active users.

Antokol and Shahak sold the company at a valuation of $150 million to Caesars Interactive Entertainment, the digital gaming division of the land-based casino behemoth Caesars, in 2011. That triggered the craze around social casino games and led to the formation of a whole social casino gaming sector in Israel. Hundreds of social casino startups were formed, but through swift development and acquisitions, Playtika rose to the top of a market that became a $3.4 billion sector by 2015.

The growth of social casino games also helped the country’s entrepreneurs form ad tech companies like Matomy, which in turn helped the game companies acquire users and monetize them. Those companies, like ClicksMob and Appsflyer, help Israeli game companies reach the right users.

Elad Kushnir (left) and Robert Antokol of Playtika.

Above: Elad Kushnir (left) and Robert Antokol of Playtika.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

Meanwhile, entrepreneurs such as Sagi Schliesser created child education game companies like Tab Tale, which has nearly 300 employees. Now, Israel has strength in sectors such as real-money gambling, social casino games, marketing technology, and education. There are also a few makers of mid-core games, or hardcore games with short play sessions that are ideal for mobile players, such as Plarium.

Adi Hanin, business development manager at Playtika, said in a talk that Israel has advantages such as nine universities and a high-tech military that produce a lot of coders. That led to many tech spinoffs and large research campuses for big companies such as Intel. That produces a lot of tech talent for the startups. Israel also has 100 venture capitalists who have gathered a lot of funding from previous successes, and some of those VCs are willing to fund game companies. Israel gets more venture capital per capita than any country in the world, Kletzkine said.

In contrast to Finland, Israel’s government doesn’t invest in game or tech companies. But it does give tax breaks to foreign tech companies expanding in Israel, helping to create or bring more talent to the country. Israel has about 30 incubators, and another 30 accelerators.

Even without the government funding, Israel has become a “startup nation,” because it has to do that to survive. It doesn’t have natural resources, big finance companies, or other obvious sources of jobs. High-tech, and subsequently games, was the obvious path. In that way, Israel is similar to Berlin, which had none of the large German corporations within its borders. As a result, Berlin has become a startup hub of Europe.

In a similar way, necessity created a tech and game boom in Israel, Rosen said. With nothing obvious to manufacture or trade, Israel has to be inventive. Tel Aviv has a bunch of skyscrapers that weren’t here 15 years ago, and a bunch are under construction. They are there because Israelis have learned how to balance opportunities and risks, Rosen said.

“Israel’s culture is to do the maximum with the minimum,” Rosen said, who has been making games in Israel for more than a decade and employs 12 people at his game studio.

Michael Rosen, CEO of Tacticsoft

Above: Michael Rosen, CEO of Tacticsoft

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

Rosen and others like Nir Miretzky, chairman of GameIS, are trying to make sure that the Israeli game companies keep their eyes on the larger prize. Instead of competing against each other, they’re organizing game development groups and game jams to ensure that the developers teach each other how to become successful on a global scale.

“There’s room for everyone,” Rosen said.

There are plenty of risks that Israel’s game companies have yet to overcome. Mobile gaming market share is starting to concentrate in the top companies, leaving little for the smaller companies. While mobile gaming is expected to hit $30 billion, many of the smaller companies may fall victim to an “indiepocalypse,” or a predicted collapse due to problems in mobile such as high user acquisition costs.

In part because of these fears, a lot of venture capitalists have pulled back from games, or they make a single game investment to reduce their exposure to being wrong, said Gigi Levy-Weiss, head of the NFX Guild accelerator and an early investor in Playtika and Plarium. Levy-Weiss has backed a dozen game companies in Israel.

Digi-Capital, a tech advisory firm, said this week that game deals have dropped dramatically this year. In the first nine months of the year, mergers and acquisitions (and initial public offerings) are down 82 percent from a year ago, and game investments are 35 percent below a year ago. IPOs evaporated. By comparison, Israelis could get much richer if they eschewed games in favor of other tech companies. In 2014, Israeli tech companies had $15 billion worth of IPOs and other exits.

And while Israel has become a world leader in social casino games, it still needs more creative talent. Hardcore console games companies are nonexistent in the Israeli market. A handful of midcore and hardcore game companies, such as Rosen’s Tacticsoft and Plarium, have sprouted in Israel. But there’s a risk that Israel is overly dependent on a few narrow game industry categories.

Gigi Levy-Weiss, head of NFX Guild and an investor in game companies.

Above: Gigi Levy-Weiss, head of NFX Guild and an investor in game companies.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

There’s debate on whether Triple-A games such as those made by the console makers will be developed by Israeli companies. Gabi Shalel, chief marketing officer at Plarium, thinks it’s going to be quite a while before that happens. His company uses analytics and performance marketing to target consumers and adapt its games to make them happy, but it doesn’t quite yet have the creative muscle and budget to create high-end console-like games on mobile.

On the other hand, Triple-A quality games will eventually come to Israel, in the form of better PC online, console, or mobile games, Levy-Weiss said. One way that can happen will be with the retrieval of really good production managers through reverse immigration. Younger game designers will head overseas, learn how to make games, return home, and then manage projects in Israel. That’s going to take time, but it’s been proven in other parts of the tech industry, said Liberman.

“We don’t have the ecosystem for Triple-A,” Rosen said. “It’s going to take a lot of years for that. No one will give you a budget for a hundred million euros if you haven’t done it before.”

Perhaps the biggest obstacle for gaming’s growth is geopolitics. More than 250,000 people have died in the civil war in neighboring Syria. The violence in Jerusalem in recent weeks dampened attendance of the conference, and it was a grim reminder of how hard it is to survive in the Middle East.

But games could be an answer there too. Bandura Games is making a title that encourages friendship across conflict zones by rewarding cooperation.

Justin Hefter, CEO of Bandura and an American Jew, Israeli entrepreneur Etay Furman, and Palestinian teacher Ammoun Dissi stood together on a stage to encourage world peace through games. They elicited warm applause and even tears from people in the audience who want an end to generations of violence.

“I think that games are the only way to have peace,” Rosen said. “When you put two people together who are indoctrinated by nationality, they will never be able to speak. But once you get them playing Monopoly, they are the best of friends.”

Justin Hefter, Ammoun Dissi, and Itay Furman of Bandura Games.

Above: Justin Hefter, Ammoun Dissi, and Itay Furman of Bandura Games.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

Capital One Launches SwiftID, A Way To Bypass Security Questions With Just A Swipe

swiftid Banks aren’t always known for being technical innovators – which is one thing that gives startups in the financial services space an edge. But this morning Capital One is attempting to change that perception with the launch of a new technology called SwiftID – a way to authenticate users with just a swipe on the smartphone’s screen. SwiftID, which aims to do… Read More

Canada drone maker Aeryon Labs secures C$60 million financing

Canadian commercial drone maker Aeryon Labs Inc said on Friday it has secured C$60 million of financing from a U.S. venture capital firm, putting it on a path to expand and more than double its sales growth over the next two years. Aeryon, which is based in BlackBerry's hometown of Waterloo, Ontario, is focussed on making specialized drones for military reconnaissance and public safety uses, as well as drones for commercial uses such as inspection of power lines or wildlife monitoring.

‘Gamergate was a wake-up call’ to issues of diversity in the game industry

A crowd gathers at the GamesBeat 2015 summit for a breakout session on the subject of diversity.

The breakout sessions at GamesBeat 2015 were a bit different in format from other presentations at the show, allowing larger groups of panelists to have more direct interactions with attendees and each other. The breakout session on diversity in the games industry began with a showcase of this more interactive approach: In order to set the tone for the panel, the speakers asked attendees to perform an in-person exercise with the person sitting next to them. While one person was requested to discuss something they felt strongly about, the other person was instructed to either ignore, rebuke, or affirm the other party.

The exercise was designed to not just make the attendees uncomfortable but to also illustrate a point: many people in minority groups often feel that their opinions are often ignored or rebuked by others.

“When I first role-played this exercise, I [remembered] all the times I’d been criticized, dismissed, and ignored,” said Megan Gaiser, the founder of Contagious Creativity and speaker on the panel. “But what I didn’t remember is all the times that I did it. That was a huge realization for me.”

Katy Jo Meyer from Microsoft’s Xbox division reaffirmed this point: “It’s hard when you care deeply about something, and someone else just blows it off.” She asked us to think more deeply about the times when it’s happened to us, and the times we may have been guilty of it ourselves.

“When I finally sat and listened [to my partner], I felt a strong connection,” said speaker Justin Hefter or Bandura Games.

The increased call for diversity in tech and gaming fields comes in the wake of the social-media fueled Gamergate movement, which has often voiced resistance against such initiatives.

“For me, [Gamergate] was a wake-up call in the sense that we weren’t seeing tiny microaggressions,” said panelist Gordon Bellamy from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinema. “It was literal sexist, racist aggression against people in our craft, a wake-up call on how we treat and value each other. … I actually had a higher expectation of our own industry and our own leadership … that’s part of what drew me to this panel today.”

The panelists moved to the subject of unconscious bias, “a blind spot,” as Gaiser said. “A bad habit we all have. It prevents us from letting go of perceived notions [and allow us to] expand our perspectives, to consider other possibilities, to be respectful to diverse people.” She pointed out that we often don’t realize that we have these biases, hence the “unconscious.”

Meyer pointed out that brain researchers had done extensive studies on unconscious bias and that it was a necessary element for human survival in some degree. “It’s a matter of understanding what unconscious biases we have, learning what those are, and then determining whether those biases are serving us or getting in the way of doing great work.”

“It’s important to think about how that affects diversity and leadership decisions, who’s even allowed to lead and fully express themselves,” added Bellamy.

The focus then shifted over to the value of diversity. “The reason why diversity is important from a business perspective … is that [it allows] you, as a manager, to consider several different alternatives,” Hefter said. “If you’re not listening to a certain number of your employees because of an unconscious bias, then you’re not getting a full suite of opportunities to take your business in a certain direction.”

Asra Rasheed from the Walt Disney Company had her own take. “I’ll share an example … I’ve been in the game industry 15 years. It wasn’t until about five years ago when I had been approached by LeVar Burton [the well-known African-American actor] to be the CEO of his company. He said to me, ‘I know you’re a tiny woman and I’m a [big] African-American man … but this is what we can do to change things.’

“It’s important to have that kind of thinking, and it’s important to have leaders who are also diverse. Someone like that gave me an opportunity, who respected me enough and knew I could take on a challenge … oftentimes we don’t even get that chance.”

The panel then took on cultural fit.

“So how do we reconcile ‘Culture Fit’ [in the workplace sense] with a culture of diversity?” asked Bellamy. The panelists discussed this and agreed that it should build upon the idea introduced earlier: that different perspectives are ultimately beneficial for the company.”

“It’s not just diversity of people, it’s creating an environment where those diverse perspectives are valued,” noted Meyer. “If you don’t have the environment where people feel safe to share their different perspective, then it’s all for naught … it’s a matter of bringing all those voices to the table, because those voices represent the customers and the gamers we’re trying to create the experiences for.”

Rasheed downplayed the notion that instilling diverse culture in companies would lead to unqualified people getting hired. “Just because I’m a woman, I shouldn’t be filling a quota at any company. I should be hired for my experience and skillset. It’s important for us to own what we do,” she said.

The conversation shifted to achieving business goals through diversity. “Our goal is for everyone to have a great experience on Xbox Live,” said Gaiser on the matter. “That goal is becoming more and more heightened in our development process.” She described how the process involved listening to the feedback of a large pool of diverse players.

Rasheed chimed in as well. “[Disney] is so open to diversity … they are constantly making the efforts [to improve diversity in the company.” She pointed out that most of her team consisted of women, and that women were often perceived as “better” at making games for children as an unconscious bias, but that many of the strongest team members were male. “The most important thing is creating the best product that you can, regardless of where that’s coming from.”

“If the company culture is to be creative, then it shouldn’t matter if they’re black, white, Hispanic — if they’re creative, they fit the company culture, said Hefter. “As a CEO, I’m trying to hire people who deliver what they say they are going to do … it doesn’t matter where they are from, as long as they can deliver the end result … it’s important that your team is able to understand the people who you’re trying to reach.” He explained how he built a team of Israelis and Palestinians to make games that would help create empathy and open communication between the two conflicting groups.

Bellamy posed another question to the women on the panel. “How often do you get asked ‘What games do you play?’ as a qualifier [to participate in conversations about the industry]?”

“All the time,” said Rasheed. The other women agreed.

After some discussion of Gaiser’s history with female-oriented software developer Her Interactive (which made the Nancy Drew series), Bellamy made a request of people in the crowd. “Those of you who are leaders, impacters — talk about things that you have done and can do to cultivate a diverse workplace.” Opening a single door for a person can often lead to more opportunities, allowing for people to empower each other.

The panelists then discussed the issue of allocating resources toward diversity and integration of varied minority groups. “When you have communities that are underrepresented, you should call that out,” said Meyer. “[We should] make this a great place where they want to work, too… remember the time when you were “the only” [in your group], and the amount of energy that takes as a human being. You… constantly have things going on in your head because you are “the only,” so you’re self-conscious and thinking about things… when you’re in the majority, you’re on autopilot.” They discussed resources that are available for minority groups in the game industry.

Gaiser summed up the positive mood of the panel. “We’re all leaders. The idea that the deciders know everything is the myth that we’re all breaking now … it’s our responsibility to become inspired.”

“Gender, race and religion shouldn’t really matter … we’re all here for the same reason.” said Asra. “Whatever your identity is, know that you’re not alone.”

More information:

Powered by VBProfiles

The Daily Startup: Reach Capital Grabs $53M Fund to Back Ed-Tech Startups

Reach Capital team, left to right, Partner Esteban Sosnik, General Partner Shauntel Poulson, General Partner Jennifer Carolan and Partner Wayee Chu Reach Capital has raised a $53 million fund to back education-tech startups, Lora Kolodny reports for Dow Jones VentureWire. Reach was spun out from the nonprofit New Schools Venture Fund earlier this year.