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Market Perspective

Rhomobile… In Good Company!

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By Michael Erwin

Congratulations to Rhomobile!

The San Jose-based company that offers products for enterprise smartphone applications has made the ninth annual AlwaysOn Global 250 Top Private Companies list. AlwaysOn selects 250 companies annually that are “demonstrating significant market traction and pursuing game-changing technologies” in Silicon Valley.

The award shines the spotlight on Rhomobile as a company that is innovative and making a difference in the mobile industry. Rhomobile’s Rhodes platform is making it possible to create smartphone applications that support Near Field Communications (NFC). It’s this type of breakthrough that has resulted in Rhomobile being chosen as a standout amongst thousands of businesses worldwide.

Rhomobile finds itself in good company this year. The 2011 list reads like a who’s who of tech, gaming and social media innovators with Jive, Zynga, Twitter, Foursquare, Groupon and Facebook all being recognized.

The companies will be honored at the Silicon Valley Innovation Summit 2011 in Santa Clara July 27th and 28th.

Don’t Get Burned on Facebook this Summer!

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By Lindsay Newman

School is out, summer is here and it’s time to protect yourself… and we’re not just talking about the sun. While it is time to lacquer on the SPF for sun protection, there’s another potential summer hazard to be wary of: Facebook.

It’s become the norm these days for students to chronicle their summer vacations. Mobile phones now allow for status updates and new photos in real time, but this can potentially lead to some problems.

While it may seem innocent enough at the time, liking your friend’s edgy comments, posting a suggestive status update, or posting an *ahem* alcohol-induced photo could potentially come back to haunt you.

Why? Because your Facebook profile is an extension of your reputation.

In this Internet age, job recruiters are looking at social networking sites before hiring prospective employees and that moment of spontaneity could potentially result in you not landing that dream job.

Meanwhile, a different type of a hazard has the potential to increase during the summer months that targets those most vulnerable: children.

Consumer Reports recently reported that of the 20 million minors who actively use Facebook, 7.5 million are younger than 13.

With extra time on their hands and parents at work, the younger set has the potential to spend hours on the social networking site. This could not only result in an increase in cyber bullying by peers, but could also lead to “friending” people who aren’t who they say they are.

People of all ages need to be aware of the potential dangers and possible repercussions that exist in cyberspace.

Some of LMGPR’s very own clients have joined the fight for safety & personal accountability online.

Reppler is a Facebook application that will alert you every time you or someone in your network uses profanity or offensive language that could affect your reputation. It provides 24-hour monitoring, something that even the most dedicated Facebook user can’t do. The result is immediate awareness and the ability to act upon inappropriate content.

 SocialGuard, a product of Check Point Security, allows parents to monitor all activity on their child’s Facebook account, wherever they use Facebook, without having to “friend” their child. SocialGuard provides parents peace of mind knowing they can keep an eye on their child as their tween/teen experiences social networking sites without encroaching on their privacy.   In addition, SocialGuard fosters open communication between parent and child/teen by alerting the parent to any safety issues that the child might be uncomfortable discussing.

The message here is simple: don’t let your summer become a bummer! LMGPR wants your summer to be a safe one! Keep your online reputation in check, talk to your kids, and always wear sunscreen!

 

 

I Spy FireEye… in Businessweek!

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By Michael Erwin

“It was early in the morning of Mar.16. The 25-year-old cybersecurity analyst had spent months preparing for the events soon to unfold. His reddish hair still matted down from sleep, Lanstein stood up and poured another cup of coffee. Suddenly, the data stream flickering on the monitor became dark, and a smile curled across Lanstein’s stubbly face. Operation Rustock had begun.”

It reads a bit like a spy novel, doesn’t it? But this is a true cybercrime story entitled “Fireye: Botnet Busters” featured in this week’s issue of Businessweek. The Bloomberg-owned magazine takes an in-depth look at how FireEye played a key role in bringing down Rustock, an organization believed responsible for nearly half of all junk e-mail sent.

Fireye’s rise to prominence is also chronicled in the article and Businessweek calls the company “one of the world’s most effective private cybercrime fighters.”

LMGPR is celebrating FireEye’s national recognition. Using our Systematic Communications (SysCom) approach to public relations, LMGPR was able to help FireEye achieve the acknowledgement it deserves.

SysCom is built upon three key components: Over the Horizon planning, Social Media Communications and our Strategic Story Engine to support marketing, business development and sales. LMGPR works with each client to identify compelling and timely topics that promote company messages and thought leadership objectives.

The end result? Our clients find themselves in high-end publications like Businessweek.

… and when that happens, it’s not just a victory for our client, but for LMGPR as well.

The New App Economy

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By Michael Erwin

The App explosion has been nothing short of astounding. Apple’s App Store was launched back in 2008 and saw its inventory jump from 10,000 to 100,000 in just the first year. It has never looked back. In January of 2011, Apple announced 350,000 apps were available and in late May that number was raised to 500,000.

148Apps reports that if a person bought every available app, they’d need a 7.5 terabyte iPhone and $891,982.24.

The popularity of apps has led to what is being called the “New App Economy” and a Palo Alto company is at the forefront of this new venture. appbackr is the first wholesale marketplace for apps using a CrowdFunding platform. There, app developers sell bulk copies of their apps to investors at a discount. Investors turn a profit when the app sells on the App Store.

appbackr’s approach has created quite a buzz and the company was featured on CNN-affiliate KLIV radio this week as part of its “Economy and Silicon Valley” series. To listen to the segment, click here

Apps have become more than just games for your iPhone such as Angry Birds or Words With Friends. A whole slew of app categories including lifestyle, entertainment and business have surfaced as more and more people adopt mobile lifestyles in an effort to simplify their lives.

With a New App Economy and unlimited app ideas, the future of apps is bright. It appears it won’t be long before we look back at 500,000 apps with a sense of nostalgia and ask, “What isn’t there an app for?”

The High Cost of Hacking

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By Michael Erwin

It’s been a rough few months for Sony. Hackers hit the entertainment giant back in April resulting in a nearly month-long shut down of its PlayStation Network.

The cost of the shutdown: approximately $171-million dollars. Perhaps worse than that however, was the public cost. Sony’s image took a hit as personal information and credit card numbers of its 100-million users were put at risk.

Following the attacks, Sony hired security experts to figure out what went wrong. The network was rebuilt and was rendered safe and secure… or so they thought.

This week, on the same day Sony reopened its PlayStation store, the company was hit by yet ANOTHER cyber attack. More than one million customers reportedly had their information compromised.

Hacking group Lulzsec took responsibility for the attack and in a release explained why they went after Sony:

“Our goal here is not to come across as master hackers, hence what we’re about to reveal: SonyPictures.com was owned by a very simple SQL injection, one of  the most primitive and common vulnerabilities, as we should all know by now.  From a single injection, we accessed EVERYTHING. Why do you put such faith in a company that allows itself to become open to these simple attacks? What’s worse is that every bit of data we took wasn’t encrypted. Sony stored over 1,000,000 passwords of its customers in plaintext, which means it’s just a matter of taking it. This is disgraceful and insecure: they were asking for it.

The recent attacks on Sony and other corporations including Lockheed and PBS have highlighted an alarming rise in corporate attacks. FireEye CEO Ashar Aziz believes this is only the beginning:

“This is the new reality. We live in a persistent state of cyber insecurity due to the lack of efficacy of traditional defenses against advanced cyber attacks.”

Aziz adds that the recent attacks are an example of the weaknesses that exist in cyber-security defenses:

“No organization, no matter how well run they are, are well protected against these kinds of attacks, considering that the new threat landscape has effectively obsoleted traditional enterprise security defenses.”

Meanwhile, it remains to be seen whether Sony can rebound from the attacks. The company remains in damage control offering a “Welcome Back” package for users that includes free games, movie rentals and virtual items for PlayStation Home.  But will that be enough to appease those customers who are now checking their monthly credit card statements for any suspicious activity?

Time will tell…

IT’S ONLY CHEATING IF YOU GET CAUGHT!

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By Michael Erwin

Tsk Tsk! The fallout continues after last week’s PR snafu involving Facebook and Google.

For those out of the loop, Facebook found itself in an embarrassing situation after it hired PR firm Burson-Marsteller to approach news outlets with negative stories about Google’s privacy practices on its “Social Circle” site. One of the journalists approached went public with the conversation.

Facebook denies the goal was to run a smear campaign against the Internet search giant, but admitted it had concerns about how Social Circle collects and uses personal data.

The issue has turned to an ethical one not only for Facebook, but for Burston-Marsteller as well.

The PR firm has vowed to retrain the the two employees at the center of the scandal. In addition, a code of ethics will be redistributed to all employees.

But is there really evidence of wrongdoing? While attempting to create negative press for Google could appear shady, these types of attempts are not uncommon. We see similar behavior in the political world constantly.

It appears the main ethical issue here is Burson’s failure to disclose who it was working for. The Public Relations Society of America’s Code of Ethics calls for members to “reveal the sponsors for causes and interests represented.”

Burson’s lack of transparency is being criticized, though it is not the first (nor the last) PR firm to withhold such information. The problem is, Burson-Marstellar got caught.

… and as part of damage control, the firm is doing the right public thing by admitting wrongdoing and taking steps to rectify the situation.

That’s what good PR is all about, right?!

PlugandPlay—Innovation Alive and Well in the Silicon Valley

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plugandplayThe heartbeat of the Silicon Valley is entrepreneurship.  I’m pleased to report that the heartbeat is alive and well despite the economy, unemployment and lack of funding the PlugandPlay Expo was a testament that innovation and entrepreneurship is thriving.  The lineup for this year’s venue was a mix of old school Silicon Valley leaders HP and venture capitalist Kleiner Perkins alumni presenting tips of wisdom to the eager fresh faced entrepreneurs that arrived by the dozens wearing team shirts, jeans, vans and sometimes a polo shirt and kakis.  It was great to see venture capital veteran Kanwal Rekhi who has been a serial entrepreneur and investor to so many companies including Exodus Communications that our founder Donna Michaels launched back in the late 90s.  Other key venture friends from Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Intel Capital, Sand Hill Angels, Softbank Ventures, SVB Capital and others were also on scope for the next talent.  It was not quite like America’s Got Talent but a lot of ways it ways.  Give me your best two minutes of fame….or you might not get another chance…or maybe just not this year.

More than 400 innovators, investors and tech enthusiast packed PlugandPlay to get a glimpse at tomorrow’s tech leaders.  There were close to two dozen presenting companies and a host of infomercials from sponsors which in our opinion a tad annoying.  We came to hear from the cool companies not the PlugandPlay sponsors of their day to day operations…show me the beef!  Remember the science fair at school?  There were always the geeky guys that had the cool guys but couldn’t articulate and then there were the not so great ideas that had flashy presentations.  Seeing through the smoke and mirrors is something that the VCs do well but LMGPR does well too.  We  have an eye for pinpointing the early stage companies that will be tomorrow’s leaders such as Exodus Communications,  Ankeena Networks, Filtrbox, 3Leaf Systems, enkoo (acquired by Sonicwall), NetScaler (acquired by Citrix) and dozens of others.  So looking for new entrepreneurs is always top of mind for us.

Some of the stand outs at this year’s event were Gameyola a social media gaming company fast on the trail of more established players like Zynga.  Nutshellmail and micello also were stand outs in their solution and presentation.  Also, was Twiki.   Our friend Victoria Ransom, co-founder of Wildfire Interactive, gave an outstanding two minute presentation that surpassed 22 of the 25 presenting companies.  Their proven advertising, revenue stream and no-nonsense way to run advertising contest for brand name advertisers such as Red Bull, Pepsi and others is a real best of show!  We’ve met with the Wildfire team and know they are on to something big!  Congrats to the Wildfire team!

After close to two dozen years of watching the what’s hot, what’s not in the valley, it’s quite rejuvenating to see so many eager entrepreneurs take a risk in pursuing their dream.  The Loughlin/Michaels Group embraces the dreamer, the risk taker, the unsung hero and the super hero in all of us. 

We applaud all those that presented at PlugandPlay for sharing their two minutes of passion with us!

Cell Phone Giving You a Headache? Maybe It’s Time For An MRI…

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According to a recent article released by eWEEK, cell phone use increases the risk of brain tumors. The International cell phoneEMF Collaborative (EMF standing for Electromagnetic Field) released the report in order to draw attention to the “significant risk of brain tumors from cell phone use.” This called the largest case-control study ever to correlate the relationship between brain tumors and cell phone use.

This study has been in debate since cell phones first entered into our technology stratosphere. Yet, just this month, the International EMF has “confirmed” that there is a definite link between tumors and cell phone use. Even before the release of this report, people all across Europe people have been curtailing their amount of cell phone usage in order to avoid any potential risks involved in cell phone usage.

However, John Walls, vice president of public affairs for the CTIA (a group representing wireless carriers and handset makers in the U.S.), issued a statement disregarding the relationship between cell phones and brain tumors,  and according to him this statement is backed by the American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute, the World Health Organization and the U.S. FDA.

So who are we supposed to believe? Is cell phone usage in fact bad for our health?

Although there is compelling data on either side of the argument, I think the take-away here is that we need to decrease our cell phone usage- if not for physical than for our mental health. Nothing can replace the importance of human interaction…not even video messaging. When was the last time you walked down a street and didn’t see at least five people on their cell phones? What about in an airport? Or a restaurant even? Maybe this information can help begin to bring us all back to a world where catching up meant visiting friends, not leaving a voicemail.

So will Americans take a cue from their neighbors across the pond and wean off or maybe even stop using their cell phones? My guess is no. Unless the media starts to pound this study into our cell phone-dependent brains, there is no study or threat (even cancer!) that could get us to detach ourselves from this now ironically nicknamed life-line. 

To judge the study for yourself, check out a copy of the report here:

RadiationReserarch.org

Or read the article with both sides of the debate here:

Cell Phone Use and Brain Tumors Article                              

To Tweet or Not to Tweet?

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A recent article from Jon Swartz of USA Today, discusses the other side of today’s current fad of “tweeting”. In this article, Twitter haters see no point in tweeting, Jon takes a look at the craze from a different perspective – the perspective that I know we’ve all heard. Tweeting is a time-wasting act and tweeple have nothing to say. Some may even refer to it as “babble”.

 I get this tone of dialogue from my family – they ask me constantly, what is that twitter thing? What do you even say? Why would you want people to know exactly what you’re doing? These are simply words coming from people who do not understand what Twitter is or how it works. But perhaps some of this is true. According to USA Today, a recent study showed that 40 percent of tweets are “pointless babble.” Very quickly, the world of Twitter is growing and with it comes a crowded world of pointless tweets. So is this the reason why we see so many Twitter haters?

 Moreover, those who do not like Twitter, find that the popular social networking site causes people to lose their human contact. Does it give us an out to meeting in-person – just shoot them a tweet or DM? Some even say that years ago, when families went on vacation, they actually went on vacation. This means that there were no handheld devices that kept them connected to the world back home, whether it is business, friends or school. People were unconnected, unwired and free to join their vacation. Now, people are able to tweet about their vacation instantly and share these experiences with the entire Twitter world.

 What do you think? Do you fall under the Twitter hater or lover category?