InvestMaryland Challenge Finale Awards

Last evening, we attended the InvestMaryland Challenge Finale event where we were honored as a semi-finalist in the Information Technology category. More than 260 startups from across the nation applied to be a part of the program and just 41 companies advanced to the semi-finals. The evening featured remarks from Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and an awards ceremony recognizing innovation in four categories.

Artichoke Mobile Client Management was please to receive two awards worth more than $50,000.
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Five Steps to Simplicity

Have you ever had one of those days when most of the plates you’re spinning in the air come crashing down at your feet? You know, the days when you accidentally show up to an appointment that was rescheduled last week, create and send payment request to Bob for services provided to Joe? We have all been there, it’s not hard to trip and tumble through all of the small details that keep your business alive and running. It’s time to pause, get things in order and simplify.

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Is the Solo Entrepreneur Ever Really Out of Office?

With the sun finally on our cheeks and the freezing wind at our backs, it is time to embark on spring break vacations. Mobile in hand, we entrepreneurs and business owners push quickly through security only to find that all gate power outlets are occupied and that the free wifi provided by the airport is painfully slow. “How am I supposed to get work done?” you think to yourself. The response you will receive from family and friends? Stop working, put up an out of office message.

If you are one of the growing 17.7 million self-employed independent workers in the U.S., you know the out of office message struggle all too well. Because you are constantly on the move, adapting to client schedules and requests, you don’t have an office—so how do you claim to be ‘away’ when your ‘office’ (your mobile phone), is tucked comfortably in your back pocket? The traditional out of office reply coming from an entrepreneur begs the question “are they really away, or are they ignoring me?”
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Being Busy is not a Winning Goal or a Strategy

This is a great perspective on the role of work inside the bigger goal of a happy and healthy life. It really captures the essence of what we are trying to do with Artichoke by giving independent service providers the ability to work smarter not harder. To earn more and improve quality of life, new tools are needed that have been designed for the independents from the ground up. Tools that enable the self employed therapist, stylist, or trainer the ability to thrive.

Every day that we work on Artichoke, it is with this single goal in mind. By delivering easy to use tools that help service providers get organized, get booked, and get paid a new bread of independent service providers emerge who are healthier and wealthier.
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“A” Players Can Be People or Technology

This is a great article. “Are you the smartest person in the room?  Let’s hope not.”

The parallel to the self employed sole proprietor working alone is not being afraid to find the right tools that do things better than they can do themselves. “A” players on your team include people and technology. Used properly, technology is just like having an army of A” players on your team making you look great. You’ll be making more money and having more fun along the way.
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The Future of Customer Relationship Management “CRM”

Just the fact that this category has an acronym that is rarely explained as if to assume that all humans know what “CRM” stands for should be evidence enough that this is an industry stuck in the past and craving to move into a new era. If doing a good job managing clients is not a need that is unique to large enterprises (who often does not do a good job of client relationship management) then why is the industry ignoring the small business owner?

Well, to be fair, there are some good reasons. First of all, small businesses are not going to pay millions to use the software yet development costs are very high for these big applications. Second, many small businesses work in the field or away from a desk and simply don’t have dedicated staff to manage and update the software properly. We all know a fitness trainer, massage therapist, hair stylist, or some other profession that faces these challenges.
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What can you learn from a sixth grader?

kids on ipad

Attending a school function on technology yesterday evening it become apparent that there is much to be learned from a 6th grader.  The presenter started displaying icons one at a time requesting that the audience of parents and their 6th graders shout out the company names.  The famous white “f” on a blue background got the expected roar of FACEBOOK.  Following was the full participation of the parents and kids when seeing the universally recognized “t” for twitter.  The list went on to include many well recognized platforms with million of users.  However, as the presenter got farther down the list and presented an icon with a white ghost on a yellow background, only the voices of 6th graders were heard saying “SNAPCHAT!”  The white “V” on a green background also drew the “VINE” response almost exclusively from the 6th audience as parents looked on scratching their heads.
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Fitness Trainers are Smarter Than Wall Street

Why fitness trainers, hair stylists, and massage therapists are smarter than Wall Street. Forbes recently published the attached article referencing an article published in the New York Times from Sept. 1970 by Milton Freidman which sparked a multi-decade obsession with shareholder value as the centerpiece of all business objectives. This narrow focus spawned a whole tidal wave of sloppy thinking such as

1) “Speed to market is everything”
2) “First mover advantage”
3) “Grow and grow fast no matter what”

Over time the biggest proponents of the idea such as Jack Welsh of GE eventually came around to say “On the face of it, shareholder value is the dumbest idea in the world. Shareholder value is a result, not a strategy… your main constituencies are your employees, your customers and your products.”
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Betamore Crawl

Artichoke Mobile Client Management

Artichoke presents the mobile client management application

I was digging through some emails and came across this shot from the Betamore tech crawl in Baltimore Maryland. Artichoke, along with several other companies, presented to an audience of undergraduate and graduate students from several universities who are interested in technology. While the presentations were interesting, the best part of the program was meeting with individual students from all over the world afterwards. Some developers, some aspiring marketing professionals, and some budding entrepreneurs all with great enthusiasm and ideas.
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