Day two of HackATL is in the books

Walking into the second day of HackATL was a little confusing for me. Where was everyone at? Delicious breakfast bagels with delectable cream cheese and coffee with few organizers making sure operations were running according to plan were the only evidence I had to go on. After a minute or less of taking in my surroundings and making a fair assessment, I realized where everyone was at - and l'll tell you exactly where they were at. 

They were in their respective break out rooms grinding away and creating the next best thing while trying to take the title at HackATL. With that being said, the participants had no time to dilly dally around with less than a two-day deadline getting closer and closer every second. Not a moment to spare. 
I can say something with all certainly about the contestants in the competition up to this point...HATS OFF TO YOU. These are not easy projects and they take top-level business know-how and the ability to turn their concept into a reality to even have a chance in this competition. With all of the involvement by participants, each bringing a specific skill set that is an enormous asset to each group, there is no question these individuals will be the ones building a better tomorrow for years to come. 

There was an abundance of verbal content this afternoon by several distinguished speakers such as Stuart Bracken who is the CEO of Bioscape and Emory Alum Sahil Patel. 

As for the event groups, they aren't letting much out of the bag and many had no time for interviews. So, there's an enormous question hovering over the entire HackATL event: Who Has the Best Business?
Best of luck to all the teams to perform to the best of their advantage. Tomorrow at 10am we will start to see the end products, they are due at that time. Preliminary judging starts at 11:00am and final judging starts at 1:00pm and ending at 2:30pm.

HackATL and events similar have the talent pool to take the Atlanta technology community by storm and make contributions that rival any technology center in the world. Emory University and the Atlanta Tech Community has some of the best and brightest, so we are in for a treat. Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow for the final ceremonies!!! 

HackATL Gets Underway With A Bang On Friday

Friday night in the Goizueta School of Business at Emory University, HackATL kicked off the first moments of the inaugural event. This incredible event was made possible by the Emory Entrepreneurship and Venture Management Club. 

Students, faculty, speakers, and other technology enthusiasts packed the the auditorium after dinner was served to get the official info from event organizers on just how this outstanding weekend with high-level demonstrations of entrepreneurial, technological, and business prowess would ensue. Guidelines and schedules were given and a few speakers took the floor to discuss their projects.
One of the speakers was Jeff Dymant from Fitmoo. He spoke a little bit on how his project operates and how the webtility of Fitmoo can help create revenue through social media channels for individuals.

When dealing with Pay-Per-Click digital marketing, I realized his premise was simple. "Use social media influencers as channels for affiliate marketing opportunities when segmenting your target market. Putting you in a more advantageous location to increase the probability of conversions. " 
Pitches came from individuals with an open mic forum where team members could start targeting groups or begin rethinking their strategies. Every pitch was filled with incredible concepts. The pitches wrapped up and then it was time to get to work. 

For Saturday, you can find the schedule here with several speakers throughout the day. The Entrepreneurial Q&A Panel session will be starting at 5pm. 

The energy and excitement of the entire event was palpable on the first night and the turn out was right on par with hopes for the event. It's going to be exciting weekend at HackATL. Stay tuned!
Emory University will hold its inaugural HackATL event November 22nd thru November 24th at the Goizueta School of Business starting at 5pm. The event will be the first of its kind at Emory.

The premise is simple: task individuals with specific skill sets and talents in technology, design, marketing, and business operations to build a business within 48 hours that would attract venture capitalists. Sounds like the business equivalent of Mission Impossible, right?

HackATL is extremely unique in its concept. Most Hackathon events and outcomes are programming (and programmer) driven. HackATL encompasses several areas of business expertise to create the end result. This well-rounded approach allows for a larger and more diverse audience of participants, judges, speakers and attendees.

In recent years Hackathons have become widely popularized by companies like Facebook, who hold regular Hackathon events to inspire new ideas and potentially spawn the latest and greatest technology. Among other several top-level Universities, Hackathons are gaining tons of momentum around the United States. 

MIT has regularly hosted these types of events to give students and non-students an opportunity to display their technological prowess. Technology is proving to be the new Rock and Roll and these events are the stage. 

With Emory joining the list, the Emory Entrepreneurship and Venture Management Club has taken the reigns in making HackATL a reality. This club is comprised entirely of like-minded student and faculty volunteers who have an affinity for all things with a technology/business relationship. 
When speaking with the Director of Marketing for the Emory Entrepreneurship and Venture Management Club, Aarya Budhiraja, he discussed the excitement surrounding the event. He said, “The team is very excited about this event. With HackATL, our goal is to be something for everyone. Everyone has ideas they want to make reality, regardless of their background. You don't have to be a computer science or engineering mind to change the world - you can have a business, design, and liberal arts background, and be equally interested in implementing ideas. We want to bring all these different groups together to build stuff. The real world has all sorts of people, and we're excited to bring that diversity to the thought creation process at HackATL.”

Registrations are up on the HackATL website, but could close soon. We recommend everyone sign up so your spot is secured for this amazing event. Teams can be assembled prior or will have an opportunity to connect at the HackATL Networking Reception. You can see the entire schedule for the weekend here. Whether a spectator or a participant, HackATL will be an incredible event you don’t want to miss.
One of the easiest tips to getting paid quicker is providing plenty of details on the invoice. 

We all do it and we think that sending the general invoices to our clients is ok. It is ok, for them to wonder what the heck they are getting billed for with an invoice for $10,000 for design work. Then they will put your invoice in the "What the heck pile." This pile will exist until you call and find out why you have not received payment. Next, the accounts payable department will need to go through their proper channels to get it approved and then cut a check. 

This is a pain in the butt and can easily be avoided by making sure that the invoice is well detailed from: 
  • Description of service.
  • When the work was performed.
  • Who the work was for.
  • Possible PO number.   
This is very easy to overlook but this is also very easy to make a difference in how quickly you get paid.

One of the new things we are rolling out at Payscape this week is ongoing learning through Twitter. We have created a hashtag #PayscapeInsights. Every time someone within the organization sees an article or something that will benefit the group, they will tweet the information with that hashtag. Then anyone in the organization can search for #PayscapeInsights and read the insights.

In the current economy, companies are up against very challenging conditions.. At the same time, the increase of technology allows everyone to connect and share information and knowledge. 

When companies want to grow, often times they start by focusing on their customer and putting the customers first. What does the customer want? How can we sell them more? How do we get more customers?  This is not necessarily the first step. The first step is to start with the company’s greatest asset... their employees. 

The employees are the ones interacting with the customer and they have front-line knowledge. That is why building a collaborative environment is so important. The collaborative enterprise is about building an ecosystem of open dialog that promotes collaboration and communication of the organization's objectives.

One benefit of this is it encourages people to continually apply their knowledge and talents to a group and to become motivated by a collective goal. By joining a common purpose to a supportive structure, these organizations are mobilizing knowledge, expertise, and talent in flexible, highly manageable group-work efforts. This grows innovation, agility, efficiency, and scalability.

Next steps: Since we are all in agreement that collaboration is beneficial to our companies and it is a great opportunity, in order to succeed, we all must share, discuss, and highlight this knowledge.

It is very simple! 

What are other methods you all use to share information within your organizations?

By Jason Swenk, Chief Innovation Officer

A blog is the free sharing of information and ideas surrounding your point of view and expertise. Successful blogs allow you to connect with your prospective clients and become a trusted authority on a particular topic. Once you become a trusted authority, you're able to build and reinforce your brand through the blog and increase your rankings among the search engines.

So, where do you start if you're interested in blogging? 

1. Name: You definitely want to think long and hard (if need be) about the blog's name, tagline, and content direction as you don't want to change any significant piece of branding once you begin to retain readers. One of the most important first steps is to research your domain name and ensure it's not already registered. 

2. Hosting: Once you are ready to begin creating content for public consumption, you'll need to host your blog. There are so many hosting options, including or Blogger, but Payscape decided to use when we built Blog-O-Scape. Weebly makes it possible to create a content-rich website in minutes, and the best part is that the drag and drop website builder makes it incredibly simple to create a professional blog with zero technical skills required. 

3. Design: Once you decide on a blogging platform, you will utilize its templates and themes to create the look and feel of your blog. Your blog may contain great content but with poor design, you will turn away potential readers and lose entire audiences. Ensure your design is appealing, engaging, and clean. 

4. Content: Before you share your blog with the world, draft five or six pieces of content. Taper that content across several days and stick to a publishing schedule so your readers get into a habit of consistently checking your blog for new content. Consider publishing content in different types of formats, including audio, video, and infographics to break up the monotony of text content. 

5. Share: Not only should you share each piece of new content with your friends, family, colleagues, prospects, clients, and vendors, but you should also make it simple for your readers to spread your content across their network. Make it easy for them to do so and enable share buttons after each post. 

What are some other helpful tips to start blogging?

By Jason Swenk, Chief Innovation Officer 

Whenever I tell people that Payscape Advisors provides financial technologies that allow businesses to accept payments, streamline their business and increase cash-flow, they usually assume we operate just like PayPal. 

While Payscape and PayPal both secure payment on behalf of small business owners, there are quite a few notable differences between us. Herein lies our quick and dirty breakdown of the five main differences between Payscape Advisors and PayPal. 
By Jason Swenk

Traditional client invoices began as a piece of paper that was snail mailed. Eventually invoicing transformed into an email attachment. 

Mailed invoices have a considerably long life cycle. It takes a few days to reach the recipient. Once the invoice has reached its destination, it is passed around for approval and once approved, it's placed within the stack of due invoices. The invoice is then paid by check and mailed to the vendor. On average, the invoices takes one to three weeks to be paid. 

Next, the invoice by email attachment. Quicker and more cost-effective than snail mail, the electronic invoice requires the recipient to download the invoice in order to view and pay. Just like the snail mail version, this type of invoice requires printing, check payment and mailing. While many vendors accept payment over the phone, the process of requiring the client to download the attached invoice to review and make payment is still the same with the electronic invoice. 

Interactive invoicing is the process of sending an invoice through an HTML email that is viewable as a dynamic website within the client's email. The client can copy and paste the invoice as well as click on a button within the email to immediately pay. Interactive invoicing also includes an online customer portal that allows the customer to view payment history and details of their account. 

Interactive invoicing not only gets you paid quicker, but it saves you time and eliminates the need to mail invoices or accept payment over the phone. Account history is tracked and synched with your preferred online accounting platform. It doesn't get much easier or quicker than this. If you're still mailing invoices or attaching invoices to email, consider interactive invoicing - a one-click solution to maintaining healthier levels of cash flow.  

By Jason Swenk - Chief Innovation Officer

I often get asked about mobile payment processing and Square. Square is strong brand within the mobile payments industry and has done a fantastic job advertising itself as the perfect solution for anyone who wants to accept payments on their mobile device. 

What's important to note is that Square is geared toward the micro-merchant, the merchant selling hand-made jewelry at a festival or selling freshly grown fruit and vegetables at the farmer's market. Micro-merchants comprise 2% of all businesses, and is a client that receives less than $4,000 a year accepting credit card payments. If you qualify as a micro-merchant, using a micro-processor such as Square makes sense because a micro-processor does not require a contract nor underwriting since the risk is very low. 

If you're a merchant that processes over $4,000 annually, you will save much more on the transaction fee if you process through a traditional solution. Square charges a flat processing fee while a traditional processor offers variable pricing. The traditional processor is also more secure (via hardware encryption), PCI compliant, and funds are generally deposited within 24 hours. 

So, when you're ready to accept payments electronically for your business, remember that the easiest way to decide which type of processing solution is right for you depends on the amount you process annually. If you anticipate processing more than $4,000 over the next twelve months, a traditional processor is the best solution. 
By Matt Icard, District Sales Manager, Charlotte, North Carolina

What is the first thing a potential customer does before trying a new restaurant? If they are like me, they go online via their phone and visit the restaurant's website to view the menu, hours, and get a feel for the atmosphere. 

This action and thought process alone should relay the message of how important a company’s website is to prospective customers.  Here's a little food for thought… 90% of consumers search online before visiting a local business.  

In the essence of marketing your business via its public-facing billboard (i.e. your website), I’ve put together a few simple factors that can make or break the marketing success and reachability of your company’s website.

1.)  Back to the basics: you must continually update code, design and the mobile functionality of your site.  

2.)  ABaC (Always Be Adding Content): You should never stop adding new contact to your site; information, products and services, and technology changes quickly. You must add and replace content to keep up with your audience's expectations.

3.)  Get your blog on: Blogging is a great way to communicate with your clients and prospects at their leisure. Blogging also increases SEO and can help position you as a thought leader. 

4.)  Social Madness: Social media helps you connect to customers and prospects in the channels they frequent the most. Not everyone responds to a billboard, direct mail piece or email. At the least, create a company Facebook page and Twitter profile and regularly contribute. Look into social media automation tools to help schedule updates. Remember that your content should be interesting, valuable, and authentic, and get your employees involved with generating social media content if you don't have the time. Multiple contributors lend a unique voice to your social media presence. 

5.)  Get the Ruler: What’s the point of having a great website if you don’t track the analytics? Who’s visiting your site, when, and why are critical measures to the overall picture.

Continually creating content, sharing that content, and measuring content traction and visitor engagement (whether through visits or lead generation) are three of the most basic and important components of your website. Does yours need a facelift?