Minneapolis PR agency spins out SaaS dashboard

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WPOincBy Josh Wolanin

The use of search engine optimization (SEO) has been in practice since the mid-1990s, but online discovery differs in many ways today.

Instead of specializing in search engine visibility for websites — web presence optimization (WPO) specializes in tracking, measuring, and optimizing all of a company’s online visibility, including its website, blogs, online ads, social media, and more.

WPOinc, a new Minnesota venture formed by KC Associates (KCA) and Webbiquity’s Tom Pick, has recently announced the release of its WPO Metrics Dashboard. Based on the premise of the Web Presence Optimization (WPO) framework, the company has created a SaaS application that delivers a set of unified WPO best-practice metrics that make it possible for small and midsize businesses (or 3rd party agencies) to measure and optimize their entire web visibility.

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TechFuse IT conference returns in March

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TechFuseBy Josh Wolanin

The 6th annual TechFuse Conference returns to the Minneapolis Convention Center on March 21, 2013.

Hosted by Benchmark Learning, 2013’s conference will be a one day event covering 7 tracks, 28 sections, and 1 keynote all geared towards enterprise IT professionals.

“It’s a one day conference for cutting edge information,” says Benchmark’s Corey Olson. “With this year’s event having the newest topical content that attendees need to know about.”  The conference features talks revolving around many Microsoft technologies, such as Exchange 2013, Sharepoint 2013 and Windows 8, among others.

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U of M investigating wearable technologies

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UMNCDBy Yael Grauer

Located within the University of Minnesota’s College of Design, the Wearable Product Design Center is an umbrella organization encompassing four research labs: the Wearable Technology Lab, the Human Dimensioning Lab, the Experiential Lab and the Wearable Innovation Studio.

The Wearable Technology Lab, directed by Dr. Lucy Dunne, is one year into an ambitious three year project to address the challenges and limitations of traditional ambulatory monitoring.  The research objective is to prove the concept of contextualizing clinical data parameters like blood pressure or joint movements with concurrent activity data from garment integrated body sensors, an area more broadly known as e-textiles. Body positions are used to detect activities of the wearer, which in turn provide information about the context in which the clinical data were captured for the clinician.

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Minnesota Broadband and Biz: September 2012

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Blandin FoundationBy Ann Treacy

The Minnesota Broadband Task Force released a Status Report and Policy Recommendations in September. The statewide legislative goal is to have ubiquitous broadband coverage with speeds of 10-20 Mbps download and 5-10 Mbps up by 2015.

Currently, less than 60 percent of the state meets that goal; there is clearly a need to build more.

Building broadband infrastructure has been an economic driver in Minnesota for many years. The industry received a boost when the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) began providing stimulus funding to spur growth in the area [1][2][3][4][5]. Many ARRA-funded projects are still building in Minnesota and we have also seen a number of other, non-ARRA-funded broadband projects start to take off as well.

In the last month, the Blandin on Broadband blog has highlighted several stories on businesses that build broadband:

Minneapolis spent millions on no-bid IT contract

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By Eric Roper, Star Tribune

“Nearly a decade after Minneapolis outsourced its IT services to Unisys Corp., no other company has had a chance to bid for what has become the city’s largest contract — worth $143 million over its lifetime.

Now some top city officials are casting doubt on whether the 10-year Unisys relationship, which dates back to the era of dialup modems, remains the best deal for taxpayers. What’s more, a recent audit found the company wasn’t following some of the requirements in its contract.

Several of the city’s IT players who guided the contract’s extensions over the years, all of whom have since left the city, had employment ties to Unisys.”

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Minnesota Broadband and Biz: May 2012

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Blandin FoundationBy Ann Treacy,

Last fall, broadband analyst Craig Settles published a survey of economic developers indicating that 58% of rural respondents either have broadband strategies and tactics worked into their economic development plans, or are writing plans currently with these elements.

With that in mind, it’s interesting to see how broadband is having an impact in rural areas. Currently there seem to be at least three potential revenue streams born of broadband:

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Updated: In wake of SOPA blackouts, Senators Franken and Klobuchar still endorsing PIPA

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By Camella Mendez (updated 1/21 with quote from Senator Klobuchar)

Franken Klobuchar PIPAYesterday’s ‘SOPA blackout’ was cause enough to close the curtains on major websites like Wikipedia, Reddit and Boing Boing for extended periods of time — up to 24 hours in some cases. Google, craigslist, Mozilla and many others leveraged their reach to inform the masses of congress’ radical plans to legislate, control and censor the global Internet in name of piracy.

But the heightened awareness – or lack thereof – failed to reach Minnesota’s own Senators Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar who are co-sponsoring SOPA’s sister bill, PIPA. Though SOPA has been halted in the House (for now), PIPA is still alive and has the ability to inflict a crippling blow to Minnesota’s startup community if passed on January 24th.

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Making Entrepreneurial Sausage

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By John Tedesco,

sausage-grinder-photoMany members of the Twin Cities tech community were  disappointed with an article in the Star Tribune on November 16 with the headline “Problems Hit Tech Accelerator.” The accelerator referenced is Project Skyway, co-founded – and 100% financed – by local tech entrepreneur Cem Erdem.

The article summarized the inaugural year of the program by focusing on a series of operational issues, including complaints about disorganization, unmet expectations and renegotiations of equity allocations.  I felt the reporting had a negative slant and was short-sighted, highlighting what are routine issues in early-stage ventures while de-emphasizing its accomplishments and ignoring the longer term goals of this type of organization.

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NE Minneapolis’ FourCubed en route to be the ‘Commission Junction’ of online poker

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By Ryan Ruud

Chris Carlson FourcubedFrom analyst, to gamer, to entrepreneur — east coast native Chris Carlson has quietly built a multi-million dollar internet marketing network in the world of online poker.

In 2004, Carlson began supplementing his income by playing poker online, but his business acumen naturally led him to more.  “Managing statistics and transactions was a pain,” Carlson recalls, “So I created various software and marketing tools to manage and fund it all.”

His first product, RakeTracker (rake = house commission) proved a worthy proposition to a growing audience, essentially discounting the cost of play through reimbursement.

FourCubedOver the next 7 years, Carlson launched multiple sites like affiliateEV.com & yourpokercash.com which all fall under the holding name FourCubed. The Northeast Minneapolis company now  has 19 employees, revenues topping $10m, and was recently named to the Inc. 500/5,000 fastest growing private companies list.

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For some, it starts with one

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By Ryan Ruud

Brendan McCarthy

Brendan McCarthy recalls one of his earliest entrepreneurial experiences, when at just nine-years old, young McCarthy spotted opportunity in the potato business.

While living in a small French farming town, the shipping trucks would inevitably miss a few potatoes during the annual harvest; his first transaction was found in gathering these left-behind spuds, only to turn around and sell them back to the townspeople through his ‘potato stand’.

“I think I only made one sale…although it was at a 100% profit margin,” he jokes.

Das Boot

One was all it took for his entrepreneurial spirit to take hold, carrying him from one scheme to another over the years.   Some time later, while completing his Masters Degree at the University of Wisconsin Madison, he took his first stab at e-commerce via eBay — seeking to emulate the successes of a friend and roommate.

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