Crystal Ball

In Brief

Fortune Telling En Masse

Executives everywhere wish they could peer into a crystal ball and predict the future. Thanks to Mat Fogarty, MBA 01, that wish has finally been granted.

Fortune Telling En Masse


Crystal BallExecutives everywhere wish they could peer into a crystal ball and predict the future. Thanks to Mat Fogarty, MBA 01, that wish has finally been granted. Fogarty’s company, Crowdcast, helps decision makers look forward by tapping into the current collective intelligence of their company’s own employees, taking advantage of the theory that a crowd contains more knowledge than an individual.

Crowdcast’s software lets decision makers post questions about key metrics and events to a cohort of participants—such as employees, customers, and partners. Participants then share their insights by selecting likely outcomes.

Among the questions that Crowdcast can help answer: When will our new product ship? How many units will we sell? Which supplier will we select? Customers have included Electronic Arts, Hallmark, and General Motors.

Fogarty views Crowdcast as an alternative to companies’ traditional way of forecasting—looking backwards at historical data. And he foresees big things ahead for Crowdcast: "As business leaders realize the valuable knowledge they have assembled in their workforce, our tool will be incorporated into the fabric of enterprise IT systems, so that sharing an opinion about the future is as seamless and simple as placing a comment.”

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Won't You Be My (Green) Neighbor?


Green HousingMany Americans live in houses that are too big and inefficiently designed. Kevin Casey, MBA 09, wants to change that. His venture capital-backed startup, New Avenue, finances and builds small, affordable green homes and detached second units on underutilized land, helping communities grow internally instead of sprawling outward in a suburban creep. The company broke ground on its first unit in May in Berkeley.

"The greenest thing we can do is increase utilization of our existing infrastructure,” Casey says. "This reduces green space consumption and vehicle dependence.”

New Avenue also aims to address a central design flaw of the average American dwelling: Most homes are designed for the "nuclear family.” But what about young couples, seniors, or single parents? "The big waste in American housing is that 55 percent of homes are underutilized with just one or two people living in them,” Casey says.

New Avenue offers four small home designs, with financing ranging from less than $300 to $600 per month. The homes are modern, energy efficient, and healthy to live in. If New Avenue realizes its goals, your backyard is about to get a lot more neighborly.

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Kindling a New Venture


Kindle1) Across: What is the Kindle missing? Answer: puzzles, according to Elad Ganot, MBA 10. So Ganot created Puzux, a platform for delivering interactive and social mind games to the educated adult. Rather than chasing the iPhone app crowd after the youth market, Ganot decided to get bookish with an older, less tech-savvy, and more affluent demographic.

Puzux sells interactive crossword and Sudoku puzzles for Amazon’s Kindle. Two of its interactive crossword books recently ranked in the top 300 out of a library of 480,000 titles for the device.

Ganot credits his Haas School International Business Development class and a trip to Finland for Puzux’s genesis: “I naturally took my Kindle with me and was surprised to discover that there was no interactive content available for the device.”

Puzux’s founding team consists of Eran Schitzer, MBA 10; Dana Pelleg, wife of Amir Pelleg, MBA 10; and David Davies, husband of Hannah Davies, MBA 10.

Puzux is also actively trying to change puzzles from solitary pursuits to interactive social experiences. It’s a challenge that is keeping Ganot’s mind busy.

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Taming Twitter With Tweet-sized Tips


Twitter With more than 100 million users, Twitter may be approaching “twittercal” mass. To help avid users and newbies alike, Sarah Milstein, MBA 10, has co-written The Twitter Book, a comprehensive guide to using this 140-character social networking medium.

“Twitter is very simple, but the hashtags, the shrunken links, and the retweets can all be confusing elements when you first start out,” notes Milstein, a newly minted graduate of the Evening & Weekend Berkeley MBA Program. Milstein works as cochair of the Web 2.0 Expo and general manager of TechWeb, a network of IT news and product review sites. Her co-author is former boss Tim O’Reilly, whose O’Reilly Media hosts the Web 2.0 Summit and Expo and published the book.

More than simply a manual on functionality, The Twitter Book outlines Twitter’s unique culture and social nuances, looking at what makes the medium valuable and efficient for businesses. Milstein offers suggestions on how to turn Twitter into a top referrer to your company’s website— through compelling headlines rather than mundane tweets like “new blog post.” She also offers tips on how to use the search function to peek into the minds of customers, competitors, journalists, and other constituents. Any Twestions? Tweet @SarahM for help.

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