Ingrid Kopp talks about Tribeca Film Institute’s Digital Initiatives

Alex H. Yong: Hi Ingrid! Would you tell us how you became Tribeca Film Institute’s Director of Digital Initiatives?

Ingrid Kopp: Yes, my background is in television. I’m from South Africa but worked in the U.K. at Channel 4 before moving to the U.S. At that point I wasn’t doing very much around digital but I always wanted to know more about technology’s effects on documentary filmmaking. I’d have conversations with TV engineers about cameras and broadcast quality and what types of technologies affected what kinds of stories we could tell.

I was working with a global online network for independent filmmakers called Shooting People, running the New York office. I was teaching classes for filmmakers, such as how to use the internet for marketing, and ways to use online communities.

I realized a new world was emerging, a world that wasn’t confined to using the web just as a promotional tool, but the tools and media themselves were changing and influencing what could be produced in the first place. For example, some people were experimenting with films where interactive elements, such as online choices, were added. It became apparent this world would continue to grow – The rise of social media, web tools becoming cheaper, smartphones where you could record footage and play it back on the same device – All these were fueling the growth.

I was speaking and writing about what I saw as this emerging world within storytelling, and connected with the Tribeca Film Institute. They invited me to work with them on a new fund, the TFI New Media Fund, which launched in 2011 with the Ford Foundation. So I said yes and eventually became Tribeca Film Institute’s Director of Digital Initiatives.


Alex H. Yong: You’ve been quoted as saying that it’s good to look outside one’s usual circles. Would you elaborate?

Ingrid Kopp: Yes, for example, Twitter is a platform I find useful because it allows you to dabble in different worlds that you’re not fully a part of. What I’ve learned regarding indie films and storytelling, is that it’s beneficial to look outside of film because we need to learn from developers, designers, the NGO community, activists and others. Twitter is where a lot of those conversations are taking place. It leads to info on what’s happening in other disciplines, and that’s key to pulling in many pieces of knowledge.

We want to collaborate with coders and others in the tech industry. We’re in our fourth year (editor’s note: They’re in their ninth year as of 2019) at the Digital Initiatives department and we’re happy to say the community has grown, plus we’ve learned a lot – It doesn’t feel like we’re at step one anymore, which is nice. We’re delighted to build strong collaborations with the broader tech industry and others who like what we’re doing.

For me, there were definite learning curves because my background was in TV, specifically documentaries. ‘Interactive’ meant I was forced to think about code, UX and UI, and the audience doing active things, not just passively watching something. Years ago, if you were in the film industry you’d mostly go to film festivals and film conferences, but now we also attend tech conferences, design conferences, interdisciplinary events. There you might find journalists trying to better understand data journalism, or museum designers thinking about interactive installations. Everyone’s trying to figure out what interaction means for their industry, especially online. Technology moving forward brings enthusiasm to us here at TFI because of the creative world we’re in – Everything’s exciting on the creative front, the technology front, the audience front, all around.

Alex H. Yong: Your Twitter bio mentioned constant thought. What do you mean by that?

Ingrid Kopp: Constant thought is required for digital storytelling because you’re thinking about it from the creative’s point of view and how artists and filmmakers can be supported. But then you’re also thinking about the audiences, about how projects reach them and how they’re invited to engage. And even when you’ve thought about both, things can change quickly. One obvious constant is change, and so you’ve got to be on your toes.

Often, when one problem gets solved, another comes up, but as a film institute and as artists, we encourage people to think about what’s “timeless.” How can stories be created that aren’t just jumping on a new tech bandwagon? We’ve learned that you’ve got to look beyond the technology – it’s about the story. Sometimes, the more the technology gets in the way, the less successful the story is. For example, I don’t have all the answers on the future of Oculus Rift, or where browser technology is headed, but we stay informed because we have to. But at the end of the day, it’s still about filmmaking, and the story is always key. Stories that can be told 10 years from now are important.

Alex H. Yong: This was my first TFI Interactive (#TFIi) Week. It was packed with activity – I was overwhelmed, in a good way. Were there others?

Ingrid Kopp: Yes, this was our third TFI Interactive Week. All departments within TFI as well as our grantees, and of course the Tribeca Film Festival, and many others take part. For us, it’s as much about the audiences too, not just the presenters. We realize some people are working on these very same issues – and throughout the week, they get to meet each other. Sometimes projects come out of that, and that’s really great. Building a community around this space is key. Attendance has been up every year – People relish the opportunity to hear stories and new thoughts and then apply the experiences to their work.

Alex H. Yong: What kind of funding can artists get via the TFI New Media Fund? And would you talk more about what excites TFI Interactive?

Ingrid Kopp: Grantees have received between $50,000 and $100,000 each. These are sizeable grants because we like to see projects realized. We’ve funded 17 projects so far, including incredibly sophisticated works such as Hollow and Use of Force. Through the fund, we’ve also been able to include projects into the Tribeca Film Festival’s Storyscapes exhibition module – We’re excited about that because Storyscapes emphasize how powerful storytelling can be when told across different interfaces.

We’re also proud of the global hackathons we host throughout the year – These hackathons build community by bringing diverse sets of people into teams to solve a challenge within a set timeframe, usually 2-5 days. Overall, TFI is excited by diverse projects, global ones too – Immigrant Nation and 18 Days in Egypt are just two examples. They’re diverse not only in subject matter, but also in the way they’re created, which includes the use of various technologies.

Alex H. Yong: Thank you, Ingrid. I’m glad I learned more about TFI and its Digital Initiatives department. I look forward to #TFIi 2015!


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What is Thunderclap? A tool with thunderous impact!


Update: Sept 2018:

Thunderclap is now defunct, not because of a lack of users. They had plenty. Facebook imposed new rules which had major negative effects on Thunderclap. So major that it was senseless for them to carry on. Our 2014 interview with its founder is below, for posterity.

May 4, 2014: A few weeks ago, Thunderclap won top honor at the International Andy Awards, taking home the “Grandy”. In 2013, they won the first-ever Cannes Innovation Lion Award at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. In 2012, Forbes said Thunderclap was the future of social empowerment. What is Thunderclap, you ask? It lets you build a large (or even massive) support campaign for anything you care about. Then, in one dramatic moment, all your messages are blasted out to social media. Think of the impact of a very loud thunderclap heard in a storm – you can hear one for miles. That’s where the name comes from. I spoke with the founder and CEO of Thunderclap, David Cascino, and what I heard floored me.

Alex H. Yong: How did you come up with the idea for Thunderclap?

David Cascino: Thunderclap‘s story began with my frustrations with the SOPA/PIPA issues from a few years ago. For those who don’t remember, it was about the government’s plan to make a law that would let them shut down any website at any time, anywhere, just by issuing a court order. They could literally make a site go dark, with no trial, no due process, no committee, nothing. “Suspicion” was reason enough for a website to be shut down. There was a lot of outcry from people in the tech industry, myself included. I remember I felt so strongly about it and how I was sharing to social media, trying to get others to rally against it. I actually called my elected representatives for the first time in my life. I remember speaking to staffer after staffer, feeling like I was speaking into a void no matter what I did.

I thought: Who’s going to listen to one person?

Then one day I went for a walk near Zuccotti Park, the famous park in the Occupy Wall Street saga, and I experienced something called the human megaphone, which I’d never seen before. The purpose of the human megaphone is to counteract the law that says you can’t have a bullhorn, megaphone or PA system unless you can get a permit from the city. Well, Mayor Bloomberg wanted the Occupy protesters out of Zuccotti Park, so there was no way they were going to get a permit. So they borrowed a technique from the nuclear war protests where someone would stand up on a high point to speak, and everyone that could hear would repeat what was said word-for-word, and then everyone behind them would repeat it. The words would ripple through the park maybe three or four times until the message could be heard by the entire park, loudly and clearly, powered solely by human voices – no technical amplification at all. Watching this stopped me dead in my tracks.

It was like getting punched in the face. I couldn’t stop watching.

I realized there wasn’t a way for people to rally around a message and amplify it online all at the same time. As a developer and long-time technologist, I got really excited about an idea I had, which eventually became Thunderclap. I went straight home and started working on a prototype, first checking if something similar had been built already, and didn’t find anything. I also spent time researching the technical side, to see if there were any limitations with the APIs in social media sites which might obstruct the entire project. Again, I didn’t find anything. At that moment, I realized there was an opportunity to create something powerful which people could use to band together around a message.  From there I joined an incubator and within three months, we launched.

Alex H. Yong: How were the early days after launching?

David Cascino: We were lucky enough to get a few early adopters with decent followings to do beta testing. Within a week of launching, one of the first users we got to help was Matt Taibbi, the Rolling Stone journalist. Within 24 hours, he had 500 supporters, and by the end of the week he had almost 2,000. We were so excited because it worked, and people were using it! We blasted out all of Matt Taibbi’s messages on Twitter – because at the time we were only on Twitter – and a few hours later, I got an email from Twitter – It said they revoked our API token! Yeah, they shut us down.

As you can imagine, we went from feeling all sorts of excitement to being shut down by Twitter – all within one week.

We got up and running on Facebook as soon as we could, and shortly after, our discussions with Twitter began. We wanted them to tell us what we were doing wrong, what changes we could make to get back in, because we definitely wanted to be on Twitter. It took about a month of back and forth through emails, trying to hone in on what specific terms we were violating, if any. We wanted them to know we were ready to modify our side of things to comply with their TOS. It took some time, but Twitter’s Trust and Safety team eventually saw the good in what we were doing and gave us our access back.

Alex H. Yong: I heard the White House uses Thunderclap – I need to hear more about that!

David Cascino: Yes, the White House called us a few weeks after we launched, wanting to know more about our concept. Our hopes got up because they took notice and we felt they were going to run a campaign, but nothing happened for months. We kept following up with them, including pointing out new features and interesting campaigns. One week I was in D.C. for meetings and emailed the White House to let them know I was in town. I didn’t hear back for days, but on the Friday I was scheduled to head back to New York, I got an email from their digital strategy team asking if there was any way I could stop by! I changed my ticket, headed over and gave my presentation, which included a feature they had been asking about. I showed them the new feature and they were really excited.

Within three days, the White House was up and running on Thunderclap.

Even better, the GSA (Government Services Administration) heard about us and asked if we could amend our TOS to be more compatible with the federal government. We went through a long process to create a separate TOS for government clients, which then unlocked Thunderclap for all the different government agencies. Since then, we’ve seen FEMA run a campaign, and the Ad Council in conjunction with some government agencies ran one about drunk driving. A few months ago, we had a meeting with the FBI down in D.C. about using Thunderclap for missing children and capturing fugitives.

It’s definitely taken a life of its own. It’s such a simple platform, but at the end of the day, it’s a tool.  The real excitement comes from how people are using Thunderclap – We’re always amazed at the creative concepts our users apply to it. We’re just trying to create a simple way to organize people to amplify a message.

Alex H. Yong: Thunderclap isn’t dominated by politics, is it?

David Cascino: No, we see lots of campaigns created around medical and environmental causes, even crowdfunding projects. And now we’re seeing more and more entertainment-based campaigns. W magazine used Thunderclap to engage with social media users about who should appear on the cover for their 20th anniversary. People magazine used us in conjunction with their famous “Sexiest Man Alive” issue.  Blake Shelton, country music star and judge on The Voice used Thunderclap to announce his tour dates. We’re seeing content from all across the spectrum! Politics, as you can imagine, are well-suited for Thunderclap because when people are passionate about a certain issue, they want to raise the most awareness about it.

Alex H. Yong: To be clear, users need to drum up support and hit a minimum, is that right?

David Cascino: Our minimum goal is 100 supporters. If you don’t hit 100, your messages don’t go out. It’s hard to predict what people will respond to. In our queue where we can see each campaign, we sometimes see clients with large followings not get the support we guessed they would, and conversely, an individual person might receive an amazing amount of supporters.

If you think about it, Thunderclap is low-risk. It takes 5 minutes to set up and it’s a simple way to find out if your content resonates with people or not. If it does, great; if it doesn’t, you can try another idea. We’ve seen a big uptick in the amount of crowdfunding enthusiasts using our site to vet an idea before they go ahead and do a concerted crowdfunding effort. To do a successful crowdfunding campaign takes months of preparation. You need to create a really compelling video, you have to figure out what your rewards will be for different tiers – It’s a lot of work. Thunderclap is low-risk compared to that. We can help you get a sense if anyone cares about your issue, meaning, does the world want the thing you’re trying to create or promote? Is it even interesting? One vivid example is Dave Hakkens and Phonebloks,
Dave PhoneBloks
the modular phone. When we first saw it on our site, we thought it was kind of cool but within 24 hours, 100,000 people had supported it. It struck a chord none of us expected!  By the end of the Phonebloks campaign, Dave had 950,000 people link their Twitter or Facebook accounts to it. We were blown away that it skyrocketed. The day Dave’s Thunderclap was blasted out, Motorola announced they’d be partnering with him to bring his vision to life!  Project Ara, as it’s known, was amazed that one guy got a million people to express enthusiasm in a concept phone. It was a remarkable match because here they were with their skunkworks prototype, and here was Dave with a large, target audience. I’m blown away by these types of stories.

One person really can spark a massive groundswell of interest.

Alex H. Yong: Yes, that’s amazing – and it’s a far cry from the day you felt it was hard for one person to make a difference. I’m thinking the Thunderclap story might make a good indie film or something. Tell me more! I can’t get enough.

David Cascino: Another amazing moment is when I see some of my personal heroes supporting and making Thunderclap campaigns. For example,  Lawrence Lessig, the IP attorney known for his role in setting up Creative Commons, popped up on our radar a few times. I knew about his work with regard to campaign finance reform, an issue I care strongly about personally. Well it turned out his Thunderclap involved a rally and march down the state of New Hampshire. The walk was set to begin in Dixville Notch and end in Concord.  Along the way, random people would join the march like Ben Cohen from Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. I said “I wanna do this!” So I packed my son and wife in the car and drove up to New Hampshire on a Friday night to join Lawrence’s march and speak with him in-person. It was great – we ended up walking a few hours discussing the things we’re passionate about. Now we’re actually collaborating on a new project, and he mentioned it in one of his recent TED talks. It was cool to get his thoughts on the idea – and now his support.

Alex H. Yong: I’m thrilled I got the opportunity to speak with you. This has truly been amazing David. Thank you!

To watch Thunderclap’s video, click here to scroll to the top of this article


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Zackees Gloves Help Keep You Safe By Increasing Your Visibility

Zach Vorhies created Zackees gloves for safety
improved for 2016 Zackees turnsignal gloves

Watch the video above:

Turn signal gloves for safety

Better than before – Available now at
short wide break utility

So what’s new for the 2016 iteration?

Click here: List of 3rd gen Zackees improvements

Original interview from 2013 is below:

Click here to see article and video on Zackees gloves

Zackees Turn Signal Gloves are gloves that light up for safety. They were conceived by Zach Vorhies, a former Google employee who spent over 5 years there as a Software Engineer. Prior to that, he worked at LucasArts as an AI Engineer.  I asked Zach a few questions about these gloves and his journey to offer them on Kickstarter.

Q: Hey Zach, you must be pretty busy with all that’s going on. What’s the Kickstarter goal and how many days do you have? I’m looking forward to hearing more about your company and the actual gloves. Did you feel the need to consult with the cycling community or are you a bike rider yourself?

I’ve been super busy, but I thrive on that. Our goal is $35,000 in 30 days. This happens to be my first product launch and experience forming a company. I was a Software Engineer at Google prior to this. Even though I own a bike and use it regularly, I’ve found a new form of transportation that I really like – electric skateboard! Zackees gloves work really well with electric skateboards. They’re great for joggers, too.

Q: Your gloves really seem like a great safety idea. What’s the current status on meeting the funding goal? How did you test the gloves prior to Kickstarter? Are you getting a lot of orders from NYC? I imagine so. Bikes are everywhere here.

Given the current trend, it looks like we’re going to hit our goal sometime this week, which is really exciting! Since we began offering the Zackees on Monday, we have over $18,000 in pre-orders, and this is just Day #3. We product tested using myself, my co-founder and friends. Our friends really liked the gloves and said if they weren’t wearing them while biking, they felt “naked!” I’ll always remember that feedback. And yes, we’ve seen a lot of people from NYC ordering the gloves.

Q: Good! I hope more do. We need that extra safety, especially now that the sun sets earlier. I heard you made it into the Huffington Post! Congrats!

Thanks! Yeah, Zackees got onto the front page of Huffington Post’s tech section. It felt very validating. The TODAY show has also expressed interest in our story. We’re also in CNET, Wearable Tech Insider, Fast Company, TrendHunter, VentureBeat. Everything’s really exciting.

Q: What else should folks know if they’re thinking of getting Zackees? Do you think Zackees could be in stores someday? Can you tell us about possible next steps for the company?

America's Greatest Makers Season 1 contestant Zach Vorhies

We are offering gloves that take rechargeable and disposable batteries. The batteries themselves are the same dimensions as the standard coin cell that powers many electronics. It’s called the 2032. A ‘low battery indicator’ is built in. It’s a red light that only comes on as the battery is nearing the end of its life. The price difference between the rechargeable early adopter Zackees model and the standard is $99 versus $69. $99 will get you the glove plus two sets of rechargeable batteries so that you never have to wait for the batteries to charge. Yes, we’d love to see our gloves in stores – we think it will be a very strong seller. However, the challenge for a hardware company is scale and bringing the price down. Our Kickstarter campaign allows fast access to go directly to an economical scale. So the retail story for Zackees begins with Kickstarter to drive the initial inventory.

We have a rough idea of what we want to do after the campaign, but we know that we could pivot for the right opportunity. We have a bunch of ideas we want to push through using our company as a channel. We want to improve on gloves so that people riding mopeds and motorcycles can have turn signals. A lot of times motorcyclists make their turn signals as low-profile as possible. I can see a lot of motorcyclists preferring a light board for signaling, in addition to their actual turn signal.

Q: Can people overseas order the gloves?

Yes, they can. They’ll receive the product in 2Q 2014.

Q: Do you feel your ideas hit you from out of the blue? It’s kind of amazing – and great for you – that the gloves weren’t dreamed up by anybody before you.

Actually, I want to give credit where credit is due. After I made the first few gloves, I started doing viability research because my instinct told me, ‘There’s NO WAY I’m the first person to think of this.’ Lo and behold, it turns out other people did try, but they didn’t see success. But yeah, I get ideas all of the time, but most of them don’t pan out. Some of my ideas, such as Zackees gloves, gain traction with my friends. At first I didn’t want to commit to making a business. I simply wanted to make a cool pair of gloves that made me safer on the road. I love it when people come up to me and and ask, ‘Where did you get these things!?’ And that’s what I set out to do, originally. I wanted to work at Google during the day, but at night I wanted to create fantastic art projects that amaze people. Then the glove idea just grew and I thought, “Maybe there is something here…” So I started making gloves and decided to be consistent in my efforts to improve them.

Q: Do you consider yourself the type that comes out unscathed from tough situations, most of the time?

Let’s face it, the business world is tough. I have all sorts of ‘scars’ on my body and mind from past mistakes, so I wouldn’t say ‘unscathed.’ Everything’s a learning experience. People may look at someone and say, ‘Wow, they’re a great success, they must be naturally successful.’ But I don’t think that’s right at all. I think a lot of successful people are that way because they’ve failed a lot, but they keep going. Someone said it takes ten years to be an overnight success, and I certainly agree with that. Imagine the time and dedication required to succeed in software engineering. As a Software Engineer at Google, I also helped design the best navigation system in the world – the MMI3G. It’s in Audi’s and Volkswagens. Those cars have Google Earth in them!

Q: Wow, very cool, Zach. Is there a subculture within the crowdfunding scene? Tell us more about your experience with crowdfunding. Did you feel your time at Google gave you some insights?

In San Francisco, there’s a subculture for sure. Most of us meet each other through meet ups facilitated through The crowdfunding trend is really exciting. I like seeing these new companies emerge to challenge dominant positions. It’s like David versus Goliath, except there are like 1,000 Davids, and 10 Goliaths. I think one of the best things about my experience with Google is that I know their online tools such as Google Docs. The ability to stay organized as a small company is really tough, especially when everyone has their own computer. Naturally, when I went looking for a solution, I realized Google had all of this software that was perfect for a small business.

Q: How deep does your appreciation for tech go?

One of my loves is user experience, and that comes from my psychology background. I’m very perceptive when it comes to UX. A lot of people think integrated devices usually give a poor UX, but it’s not always true. Sometimes integration is good for the UX. A lot of car companies prefer their own navigation systems instead of just a holder for your phone on the dashboard. With the MMI3G, Audi solved certain challenges through integration – and I mean ones that are very hard to solve with discrete devices. For example, our cellphones have inconsistent data coverage. Imagine your navigation system saying “Sorry, I’m not going to accurately work anymore. I can’t load the road data because I don’t have a connection.” We accept that as smartphone users, but when it comes to designing a car navigation system, it’s completely unacceptable. To get around this, Audi stores a copy of the road network locally. That way, when the connection drops, they still have their road data intact, even if the terrain images might get a bit fuzzy. So that’s one example of how integration has a positive effect on user experience.

Q: Tell us about Zackees’ core team. Who’s in it? How’d you meet? Where’s all the info if people want to learn more about the gloves?

The core team consists of two founders, myself and Murat Ozkan! I’m a software engineer by trade, and now I can say business strategy and vision are part of my arsenal. Murat is a hardware/firmware engineer and handles the fabrication and assembly of the electronics. We met through a mutual friend who said “You have to meet Murat, he’s awesome.” And true enough, we hit it off. When I thought of the idea for the Turn Signal Gloves, I asked for his help. He got really into them and so I asked him to join, and here we are, 6 months later, in the thick of our Kickstarter. It’s super exciting. To learn more, visit

He put TVs into NYC taxis but now he continues to help the NBA and youngsters


openquotesThe word hustle is often used in a bad kind of way, but I think for me, I’ve always considered myself as someone who hustles – this was true even when I was a kid. The first thing I hustled my way into was when I talked my way into a ballboy job with the New York Knicks. I met Mark Jackson, who is now the head coach of the Golden State Warriors, when I was 14. I said “I’d love to be a ballboy.” There was no internet or cellphones then, so he said I should speak to the head trainer. When I met the head trainer I told him: “Mark said I have a job. When do I start?” The rest is history. I’ve been very fortunate to work in media for the majority of my career. I’ve always been passionate about the arts, and I worked in every different role you can imagine, even behind the camera and selling. I worked with NBC Universal for awhile which involved a lot of travel back and forth to California from New York. At first it was a big scare to live in California, but one of the best experiences is to put yourself in an uncomfortable situation. The best characteristics in yourself can be discovered by doing that.

mission athletecare mark french court grip event
image credit: Jeana Lindo

Ultimately, when I moved back to New York I was given a position to figure out how to get more people to watch NBC, and to make new money from advertising. It was a big challenge, but it really was exciting because I built a team built on trust. We looked at the environment and we knew getting NBC’s content to “be better than it is” wasn’t really our job; What we were tasked with was to get more people to watch it.

So I thought: “What if we bring our content to people in captive environments where they can’t turn the channel?” When I retell this story, people typically throw stuff at me, but at the time it was kind of cool. We were the ones who put the TVs in taxis here in New York! That was kind of our first innovation. The business strategy behind it was: “This is a very attractive demographic for advertisers, and it’s also large-scale.” When we first presented the idea to the Taxi & Limousine Commission, we said we’d do all the hard work, but even so, the initial feeling from them was that nobody was going to watch TV in a taxi. Today, tons of New Yorkers watch WNBC in taxis. So again, that’s hustle. Don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. I think ignorance has always been a secret weapon for me (laughs) in that I’m probably too dumb to realize that something’s too hard to do and so I keep going.

During that NBC venture of putting TVs in taxis, on gas pumps and trains, I was really lucky to see a lot of business plans from technology companies. I had no background in finance or M&A or anything along those lines, so it was a chance to see a lot of really good business plans, and some really bad ones too. I was blown away because I saw exactly how finance could raise a lot of money to get ideas off the ground. This inspired me to solve a problem I noticed for years on basketball courts. The problem was: When you don’t have good traction on the court, it really impedes your performance. So I flew out to Ohio every Friday after work to try to find and hire a few engineers. I chose Ohio because that’s where racecar tires are developed – traction was something they studied. The first nine scientists said my idea couldn’t be done. They told me there was no way to add something to a shoe to give it better traction. Later though, a few folks did believe in me, most importantly Dwayne Wade, who became my business partner and the person who co-funded my idea, as well as Urnex, who is a sponsor here tonight. Eventually, we launched the product with Foot Locker! It’s been an incredible experience. Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard got involved, and we sold the business about two years ago. I’m now involved in expanding into new products and investing in new start-ups. So whatever you do, it might be the next big idea.


Mark French is a Founding Partner of MISSION Athletecare™ and Inventor of Court Grip™, an NBA endorsed, patented traction enhancing formula and delivery system. Mark’s invention has been credited by ESPN, CNBC, the NBA, etc. as ‘one of the most dynamic innovations in the sports industry’. Mark developed his Court Grip business with an all-star team of partners including Miami Heat World Champion Dwyane Wade. In addition to Dwyane Wade, Mark worked closely with NBA superstars Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, Brandon Jennings, as well as the NBA, the NBA Trainers, and several premiere NCAA and NBA coaches who all endorse Court Grip. Starting in Footlocker, Court Grip was recognized as one of the fastest selling accessories in sports retail history and is now available in more than 20,000 retail locations worldwide. Today, Mark is in discussions with the leading global sneaker manufacturers who are looking to maximize Mark’s patents of embedding his Court Grip formula directly into the sole of the sneaker.

Prior to the official launch of Court Grip, Mark merged his business with MISSION, and joined as President and led the company’s product innovation, marketing and M&A efforts. Mark and his team launched EnduraCool™ a revolutionary instant-cooling product line. Mark worked closely with partners Serena Williams, Reggie Bush, Ryan Tannehill, etc. on the development and marketing of the EnduraCool product lines. Mark produced and directed all of MISSION’s national marketing campaigns and led PR activations for the company. Including unprecedented integration into programs like The Today Show, Good Morning America, Sports Center, the Tonight Show, Mark orchestrated some of the most high profile product features. Under Mark’s leadership, MISSION was recognized with global and national awards for consumer goods packaging, sports marketing and product innovation. With their astronomical revenue growth, MISSION recently secured $35 million dollars of growth capital.

About the event: Canopy Brand Group, a New York City-based branding and advertising agency, joined forces with Wishbone, to break the cycle of high school drop-outs in New York City, via the S.P.A.R.K. (Smart, Powerful, and

Continued at: Mark French/S.P.A.R.K.

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A chat with the developer of MyScript Calculator


short wide break utility
The MyScript Calculator free Android and iOS app by Vision Objects

I had the fortune of interviewing Giovanni Rodriguez of Vision Objects, a world leader in handwriting recognition. At the Mobile Apps Showdown, Vision Objects’ Fernando Rynne told the crowd that handwriting recognition goes beyond replacing legacy keyboards. The unprecedented app they created proves that. They named it the MyScriptÂŽ Calculator and it’s available on Android and iOS.  Check out the presentation video to see why MyScript Calculator was crowned the 2013 Winner of the Mobile Apps Showdown, besting nearly 40 other great competitors. Now that’s impressive!

Interview answers are provided by Giovanni Rodriguez of Vision Objects.

Q: What’s the difference between the MyScript® MathPad and the MyScript Calculator? How soon was MyScript MathPad created after MyScript Calculator?

A: MyScript Calculator is targeted at the general public and shows that there is an easier way to enter math into a machine than using a keyboard. The fact that your mathematical expression gets transcribed and calculated on the fly is what gives this app its wow effect. However, our core business has nothing to do with developing calculators or scientific solvers – we provide the handwriting recognition engines that let developers add handwriting input methods to their solutions (the SDK used in MyScript Calculator is called MyScript Equation). To illustrate the full power of MyScript Equation, we decided in Q2 2013 to develop a full-fledged mathematical expression renderer capable of recognizing and converting into LaTeX almost any form of mathematical expression. This is a tool many professors and students have longed for!

Q: After its inception, how many years and months did it take to finally present the Calculator at the Mobile Apps Showdown?

A: MyScript Calculator started a couple years back as a demonstration application we developed to showcase our math recognition SDK. All the customers we showed it to were amazed by its accuracy, speed and concept. In fact, after the feedback received at CES 2012, we decided to polish up this demo and turn it into an application. The first release of MyScript Calculator was born on Google Play in late June 2012. Then we recognized the need to port this app to the Apple world and version 1.1 appeared on the App Store that December, just 3 weeks prior to the 2013 Mobile Apps Showdown. The rest is history I guess. We have reached over 12 million downloads since its launch, appeared on the Apple TV commercial, and inquiries are still coming in from all over the world.

Q: At what age did you become aware that you loved math? What else would you like to say about your apps to students, parents, professionals, etc.?

A: Being a system engineer,  math was always with me as a student. I remember those big calculators with a lot of buttons. In those days, just to write a simple equation, you’d need to refer to the user manual and do a lot of combinations. What we are looking to do is to have a real natural way to write and interact with math, text, shapes and much more. This is what our technology provides, a natural way for people who want the pen and paper feel, but with the advantage of mobile devices and the interactivity on tablets and smartphones. The idea behind the use of our technology is to provide students and professionals reasons to start using those devices more as companions and content creation devices, and less as consumer devices.  Thank you for taking time to write about us and our vision for the great potential of mobile devices for students, parents, children, and professionals.

Special thanks to:

• Robin Raskin of Living In Digital Times

• Fernando Rynne of Vision Objects

• Jay Farris

for helping with this article.

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