Former Quidsi Execs Launch Primary, A New Site For Kids’ Clothing Essentials

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Primary_Launch_Girls_Twirly_Pool_Tank_Navy A pair of former Quidsi execs, Galyn Bernard and Christina Carbonell, longtime employees who stayed with the company through its acquisition by Amazon.com, are today launching a new e-commerce site today called Primary which focuses on the kids’ clothing market. The two, who are both parents themselves as well as savvy marketers, believe there’s still a untapped opportunity in… Read More

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Flyp Lets You Add Multiple Numbers To Your Smartphone

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flyp3 Flyp is a new iOS/Android app that lets you have up to six different phone numbers simultaneously active on your smartphone. The first number is free and each additional “premium” phone number (a maximum of five) costs $2.99 per month (or $29.99 per year) to maintain. The Flyp app manages all the numbers, voicemail, text messages, and notifications. The app is live in the iOS store… Read More

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MoPub Founder Jim Payne Joins Board Of Ad Analytics Company Metamarkets

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jim payne Following last month’s announcement of $15 million in new funding, analytics company Metamarkets is bringing on someone new its board of directors — Jim Payne, founder and former CEO of MoPub, the mobile ad company acquired by Twitter. Payne left his full-time role at Twitter last fall, and since then, it sounds like he’s been focused on making angel investments and… Read More

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Infinit’s New Mobile Apps Might Be The Best Way To Transfer Those Pesky HD Videos

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Mail in your door French startup Infinit just released its mobile app for both iOS and Android. In addition to providing a simple way to send files to your friends and colleagues, it is now a full-fledged AirDrop replacement as well. As a reminder, Infinit is a file-sharing service that differs from WeTransfer or CloudApp as it uses peer-to-peer technology to boost file sharing between two users. And there… Read More

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Is Your Website Mobile-Friendly? 3 Tools to Help You Prepare for Google’s Next Algorithm Update by HubSpot

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mobile-algorithm-update-tools

Google is about to update their algorithm again, and this time it could have a big impact on your business. I mean, really really big. 

For context, when Google initially rolled out the Penguin algorithm update, it affected approximately 4% of global searches on desktop and mobile. When they rolled out Panda, it affected nearly 12% of English searches. This time around, Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst Zineb Ait Bahajji says that this algorithm update will be bigger than Penguin or Panda.

What’s the new algorithm update about? It will use mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal — if your website isn’t mobile-friendly, you could get dinged in the SERPs when someone is searching Google using a mobile device. 

So if you want to make sure that you’re prepared for this change, keep on reading. We’ll dive into more details on what the update will entail and give you some tools to help diagnose your site’s mobile-readiness.

What Is the Mobile Algorithm Update?

Think back to the last time you landed on a site that wasn’t optimized for mobile. Chances are, you needed to zoom and then swipe side-to-size to even read what was on the page. And when you went to go click on something, your fingers could barely select the tiny links. I’m going to bet good money that you just bounced from that page — with all the information on the internet, you didn’t need to waste your time on a website with a really poor user experience.

Google’s realized how frustrating this whole experience is and decided to change their algorithm accordingly. Soon, when someone’s searching on a mobile device, Google will serve up sites that are easy to read, make navigations and links easy to tap, have images appropriately sized for the device, and more generally, make information easy to find. (Want to see some mobile sites already doing this right? Here are 15 examples of great mobile websites.)

Back to the algorithm update. At the moment, Google denotes which sites are mobile-friendly in their mobile search results (below is an example of what that looks like). But in a few weeks, they’ll be actually rewarding and penalizing websites for their mobile experience. This will be rolled out during the week of April 21st, so you’ve got some time to figure out if your website is mobile friendly and get your ducks in a row. 

Example-Mobile-Friendly-Website

Is Your Website Mobile-Friendly? 3 Tools You Can Use to Find Out

If your website uses responsive design, like those on the HubSpot Content Optimization System (COS), your website should already be prepared for the upcoming algorithm changes.

But if you’re not sure if your website is ready, there are a number of free tools you can use to figure it out. I would recommend running your site through multiple tools as they may highlight different issues that you may need to be address. So let’s dive into some of our favorite tools below.

1) Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test

Google-Mobile-Friendly-Test

Enter your website’s URL into Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test and it will let you know if you’ve got a mobile-friendly page on your hands. If the website you entered passes Google’s test, you will see a green banner indicating the website is mobile-friendly. If the website does not pass, Google will let you know the page is not mobile-friendly and give some reasons why.

Many of the common reasons why a website isn’t mobile-friendly is because:

  • The content is wider than the screen: This requires users to scroll side-to-side to read the page.
  • The text too small: This means the user must zoom to read text on the page.
  • The links too close together: On a smartphone, links should be easy to tap with your fingers — this means that the links should be big enough and in natural location to tap. Most smartphone users hold their phone in their right hand and tap links with their thumb. 
  • The mobile viewport isn’t set: This is a little more on the technical side of things, but the mobile viewport controls the width of the page for the device. If your website displays a desktop landscape when smartphone visitors land on your page, then the viewport is not set for mobile on that page. This is an extra special case where responsive design comes in handy — responsive design will automatically adjust the viewport based on the device.

2) W3C mobileOK Checker

W3C-MobileOK-Checker

The World Wide-Web Consortium (W3C) has their own mobile-friendly test, mobileOK Checker, that provides more technical insight and recommendations for your website. In addition, they provide a severity rating for each of their findings so you can address any mobile problems with your website by their importance. This is a comprehensive and actionable tool to use if you’re familiar with some of the technical components of your website.

3) HubSpot’s Marketing Grader

HubSpotMarketingGrader

If you want to quickly analyze your mobile-readiness and the rest of your marketing efforts, check out Marketing Grader — it assess your blog, SEO, social media accounts, and mobile optimization.

To start your analysis, simply enter your website URL and email. Then, Marketing Grader will analyze your site and give you a score out of 100 — the closer you are to 100, the better your site is. In the mobile component of the report, Marketing Grader will show you a preview of your page on mobile and some suggestions on how to improve that page.

Have you used any of these tools to get ready for the mobile algorithm update? What other tools would you recommend people use? Let us know in the comments.

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Your Guide to Online Sales Tax by HubSpot

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 ecommerce guide to online sales tax

Starting an ecommerce company comes with a lot of tiny details. While sales tax isn’t exactly a tiny detail, it may be something you haven’t yet considered. Some outlets will tell you sales tax isn’t required for online sales. In many cases, this is true. Don’t take this as law, however. Instead, this short guide will walk you through the scenarios when you’ll need to charge a sales tax.

When Tax Is Required

If your business has a physical location in any way—whether a storefront or even an office or warehouse—then you’ll have to charge sales tax. The tax should be the applicable state and local tax required wherever your company property is located. If you’re only located in one state, then you’ll only charge taxes to buyers in that particular state.

If you’re located in multiple states, you’ll have to charge the taxes to buyers who live in the states where your physical properties are located. Remember, this includes offices and warehouses, so even if you don’t have a retail center, the taxes apply.

When Taxes Aren’t Required

There are a few scenarios where sales tax won’t be required for your ecommerce store. Study your situation carefully before you make a decision as to whether or not you’re responsible for these charges.

No Physical Location

If your ecommerce company has no physical location at all—no store, warehouse, or office—then you’re not required to charge a sales tax. Since most companies selling products need storage, this is a rare occurrence. Companies that sell only services online might manage to run a business with no physical location.

States Without a Physical Location

You’re only responsible for the sales tax for those states that have a physical location. If your offices are only located in one state, the other 49 will not require sales tax. If you have an office one state, four stores in another, and a warehouse in yet another, those are the only states where sales tax will be required. Remember to check local sales tax regulations for any of your locations, too.

Locations in Exempt States

Believe it or not, some state don’t charge sales tax at all. These include Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oregon. If your physical locations happen to be in these states, you aren’t required to charge a sales tax.

Selling Exempt Items

Many states don’t charge sales tax for food or clothing. If your ecommerce endeavor deals only in food or clothing in these states, then no sales tax will be required. If you sell other items, you’ll need to charge sales tax on the products that don’t fit the “food or clothing” description.

An Easy Solution

Many ecommerce platforms provide shopping carts that will calculate the appropriate sales tax for you. You may need to enter data to help the shopping cart function correctly, but once you do that, the job will be done. Research the ecommerce platforms you plan to use carefully to ensure you choose one that covers you.

Also, keep in mind that laws can change with astonishing regularity. What’s true today may not be true tomorrow. Keep up to date on tax laws in your locations, and keep an eye out for any changes that may occur regarding online sales. While you may not be required to charge tax in certain places now, that could change before you know it.

How to Build a Profitable Ecommerce Business

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Is Your Open Office Causing a Creative Crisis? by HubSpot

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open-office

This post originally appeared on Agency Post. To read more content like this, subscribe to Agency Post.

Whenever Ben walks by, he comments on the design work prominently display on your monitor. He typically thinks you need to move everything to be center-aligned. Jane — the one with the constant cough — believes that the secret to convincing a client that an idea is brilliant is to speak above a normal decibel level. And Susan’s mom packs her lunch, which usually includes some form of meat that smells like a hot dog wrapped in ham.  

Sharing an open office can be “revealing” for employees in many ways, but the main goal of these no-wall floor plans is to increase creativity and collaboration. This is why so many agencies are renovating and revising their offices to create more open spaces. 

Havas Chicago recently spent $10 million dollars to renovate its office, an 81,000-square-foot space that houses 450 employees. In creating its new digs, the company got rid of all offices and included more communal work spaces. The agency now occupies two floors instead of three.

barbarian-groupBarbarian Group’s 1,100-foot-long desk.

The Barbarian Group also redesigned its New York office last year. It decided to get rid of all desks, save one: a 4,400-square-foot table with a price tag of $300,000. All 125 employees sit along the undulating, snaking desk that provides five feet of space per person. This “super desk” was inspired by Mother London’s 250-foot concrete desk.

Another agency recently revealed its new office design, writing in a blog post that, “The complete interior renovation features sleek, modern designs in an open workspace environment to enhance creativity, inspiration, and collaboration.”

The idea seems to be that openness, shared desks, glass wall meeting rooms, and few — if any — truly private spaces increases collaboration and creativity. But what if that assumption is completely false? What if your open office plans are actually a detriment to the creativity of your staff?

A 2011 study found that employees who moved to an open office space perceived that communication had improved, but they reported that they felt less productive and creative in their new setup, citing noise and visual distractions as two of the causes.

The Rise of the Open Office

The open office concept was created in the 1950s by a team in Germany who though it would improve communication and “idea flow.” Now, almost 70% of offices have open floor plans. The move away from layouts filled with gray cubicles took off in the late 2000s — a combination of both a design trend and the rising cost of real estate.

However, the agency world caught the open office bug a little sooner, as evidenced by Jay Chiat’s undertaking to create a “virtual office” in the mid-1990s. The experiment was a disaster. One woman brought in a red wagon to wheel her belongings and papers throughout the office, while the private spaces that remained started turf wars inside the agency.

This was an extreme case with a lot of different problems, but research has shown that open offices cause decreased concentration, a result of more frequent interruptions from colleagues. In addition, the constant exposure to noise reduces performance and motivation and increases stress. Others claim that innovation and experimentation decrease due to the fact that employees feel they are constantly under scrutiny.

While companies are tearing down walls between employees, the average size of a person’s workstation is also shrinking. In 2010, the average was 225 square feet. CoreNet Global, an association of real estate professionals, predicts the average space allotted for each worker will fall to 151 square feet by 2017. When Zappos employees moved into their new headquarters in Las Vegas in late 2013, the workspace allocated shrunk to less than 100 square feet.

The open office trend is benefiting one industry though: sound masking. Cambridge Sound Management told The Boston Globe that its business had tripled since 2011, with most of its rise in business due to open office plans.

So while people are getting closer, companies are doing more to separate them, either through partitions or noise-canceling headphones. This contradicts one of the benefits of open environments: that these types of environments cause serendipity. Employers hope that a certain amount of planned chaos will bring people together, spur conversations between people of different departments, and prompt great ideas. The famous example of this is the collaboration between a chemist and a product engineer that results in 3M’s Post-it notes.

Cubicle_landHowever, the backlash to the no-walls, no-privacy environment has already begun. Some even predict a move back to the cubicle, which was introduced in 1968 as a way to solve the issues associated with open offices popular in the decades prior to the introduction of Herman Miller’s “Action Office.”

The problem is that it doesn’t have to be one or the other. Our office space shouldn’t make us feel claustrophobic, nor should we liken our workdays to spending time in a kindergarten classroom. If we’re going to make workspaces smaller, then we can expand private spaces and structure our offices to increase productivity, imagination, and collaboration.

How to Make Work Work for Our Brains

The first step is recognizing that our environment does affect the way we work and how well we do our jobs.

There are instances where collaborative spaces make sense. There are also times when we need privacy to focus. And there are ways we can structure and create spaces that actually improve productivity, collaboration, and creativity. 

1) Add a bit of greenery.

In Your Brain on Nature, the authors discuss a study that found that participants reacted faster and made fewer mistakes after viewing images of nature.

Adding landscape imagery, planting a garden, and creating more spaces with views of nature can reduce stress and anxiety and even improve health. Studies have shown that hospital patients with a room of a view heal more quickly.

Barkley, a Kansas City-based agency, has a 25,000-square-foot rooftop garden.

barkley

Google’s Tel Aviv office features an indoor orange grove.

google-tel-aviv

Venray installed a hanging garden above its conference table.

venray

2) Give people control.

Want to motivate your employees? Give them control. A study found that people are happier and more positive when they have control over where and how they work.

This could mean giving staff the opportunity to work from home, or letting them work at different hours of the day. It could also mean investing in rolling desks and chairs so people can organize their spaces depending on whom they are working with that day.

3) Plan for private spaces.

Creating comfortable private spaces is one of the best ways to balance the open office trend. Areas where no cell phones, loud music, or talking is allowed can also be helpful.

Synapse’s Seattle office includes high-back sofas that are both comfortable and private.

synapse-seattle

Migo’s office includes small sheds for heads-down work.

migo

Three Rings has a secret library.

3rings2

4) Make some noise.

Noise disturbance is an issue, especially for companies that have taken over reclaimed buildings that have high ceilings and concrete floors. Invest in a noise canceling machine, or buy your team an awesome pair of headphones.

Capital One Labs in San Francisco installed sound-absorbing panels that hang from the ceiling.

capital-one

5) Create overlap zones.

University of Michigan researchers found that when scientists worked in a space where they ran into one another in areas known as “zonal overlap,” they were more likely to collaborate. It’s not always about the proximity of people working but about how much they interact.

In building Google’s new headquarters, the architect is designing the space to increase the number of zonal overlaps. Rachel Emma Silverman of The Wall Street Journal wrote,

Every worker within the 1.1 million-square-foot, multilevel complex is expected to be within a 2½ minute walk from each other. The firm and its architect, NBBJ, looked at how fast people can walk and measured the diameter of the space from multiple angles. (An ‘infinity-loop’-shaped pathway slopes through the building, connecting employees to each other.) In addition, the floor plan is narrower than typical offices, keeping teams in sight range of one another.

Zappos adheres to this idea as well. They’ve experimented with space in its new headquarters, which they call “metric collisionable hours,” referring to the number of probable interactions per hour per acre.

When designing these spaces, think of how people move throughout the day, where they go, and what spaces would cause people to run into each other more frequently. Instead of installing a coffee pot in each department, create one destination space for caffeine addicts. 

Landsor Windsor created a lunch-room feel with picnic tables.

lansor-windsor

Grupo Gallegos’ staircase is the definition of zonal overlap.

grupo-gallegos

Wunderman’s open kitchen is a great meeting place.

wunderman

6) Design collaboration spaces.

Build areas that are specifically for collaboration. These should be placed throughout the office, so that people won’t be discouraged to use them because they are too “far” away. This will encourage staff members to get away from their desk and their computers, if even just for a few minutes. And it will cut down on chatter in the areas where people are trying to get work done.

ICRAVE placed larger work tables between rows of workstations.

icrave

What do you think of the open office concept? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

associations-networks-poster  

Cubicle image via Wikipedia. Featured image via Office Snapshots.

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Phhhoto Tops 1 Million Users

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Screenshot 2015-03-30 15.54.24 Phhhoto, perhaps the only social network to have first launched as a physical party product aimed at the enterprise, has topped 1 million registered users over the course of the past nine months. Users have posted upwards of 10 million Phhhotos to the platform. Phhhoto started back at SXSW in 2013 with an iPad-based photobooth, but instead of capturing the usual strip of four photos, the iPad… Read More

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How to Diagnose Your Funnel to Create Predictable Growth by HubSpot

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If I’ve learned one thing about companies and organizations that enjoy consistent growth, it’s that they’re maniacal about monitoring their data and numbers. They’re clear on what has to happen to achieve their goals.  In contrast, companies that don’t experience consistent, predictable growth also do not have clarity of their funnel metrics.

So, the first step to creating predictability is to define, measure and track your funnel. In its simplest form (and the reality is that no matter how complex you make you measurement system, it still boils down to this), there are three phases of your funnel that need to be measured:

  1. The top of the funnel, where the focus is on traffic.
  2. The middle of the funnel, where the focus is on lead conversion.
  3. The bottom of the funnel, where the focus is on sales and revenue.

The benefit of tracking your go-to-market efforts in such a manner is that you can diagnose problems often before they have a negative impact on your revenue results.

From this perspective, there are only eight scenarios that you could be facing. Each scenario has its own set of opportunities and dangers.  By identifying which scenario applies to you, you can then initiate specific actions with confidence.

The 8 Conditions of a Marketing & Sales Funnel

When measuring these conditions, it’s important to note that strong or weak are relative terms. The goal behind this effort is to build a structural approach to growth.  It’s not about just making a sale today, or even growing this year. It’s about being able to do so predictably, sustainably and scalably.

If you don’t have clear targets for traffic, conversion and sales, you’ll need to develop them before you can make an assessment.  For help, you can review our recent post on The 9 Metrics You Must Be Tracking to Scale B2B Sales or use our lead generation calculator.

1) Strong Traffic, Strong Conversion, Strong Sales

This is the condition that everyone strives for.  Your top, middle and bottom of the funnel are all dialed in producing the results you need to maintain your growth rate.  When you find yourself here, your primary job is to develop the early warning systems to alert you to a changing condition (oh yeah, and don’t forget to celebrate a little).

2) Weak Traffic, Strong Conversion, Strong Sales

In this scenario, you’re generating an adequate number of leads, and you’re meeting your sales targets; but you’re not driving new visits to your site and the top of your funnel is weak.  The danger here is that maintaining (let alone accelerating) your growth rate will be very difficult.

Here are the three most important actions to take in this situation:

  • Put more focus on the top of the funnel. You can do this by increasing the rate at which you are creating new content (like blogs), by ensuring your website is properly optimized or by encouraging your entire customer facing team to share your content through the appropriate channels.
  • Identify potential “kindred spirits.” These are people or organizations who share a viewpoint with you, provide complementary products/services and communicate with the same target market. Engage with these people and empower them to share your message.
  • Consider implementing a lead introductory campaign to entice targeted prospects to visit your site. It’s important to note that the focus of your campaign should be educational. If you get too salesy your efforts will backfire.

3) Strong Traffic, Weak Conversion, Strong Sales

This is a very common condition among mid-market companies and among companies that have engaged in SEO and pay-per-click (PPC) efforts.  They’re driving plenty of traffic to their website, but they’re not converting that traffic into leads.  Despite that, the company is still able to meet its sales goals.

The fundamental problem here is that far too much of the weight for making sales is falling on the sales side of the organization.  While marketing may be actively involved, creating awareness and driving traffic, those actions aren’t leading prospects to act.

If you find your company in this situation, it’s a clear symptom of misalignment between your marketing efforts and your sales efforts.  There are three underlying causes for this problem:

  • The content is not resonating with prospects.
  • The traffic is low quality, and is not attracting the right type of people.
  • The site is not designed to support the buyer’s journey and lead conversion.

Here’s what you should do in this scenario:

  • First and foremost, review your buyer personas (you have developed your buyer personas, haven’t you?) and confirm that a) the personas are accurate, and b) the content you’re creating resonates with what matters to them. 
  • Map your prospect’s journey, paying particular attention to the Epiphany Awareness and Consideration phases. Do you have the right message and are you creating the right content for each phase of the journey? If your website and marketing materials are filled with “we-do’s,” it’s a pretty good bet you’re not going to see a good conversion rate.
  • It may be time for a website refresh or redesign.  If your website isn’t built to directly support lead generation and lead management, it won’t convert. On several occasions, we’ve worked with companies who were getting plenty of traffic but little to no conversion. Within a couple weeks of a new website launch, we’ve seen conversion rates jump from under .5% to over 3%.

4) Strong Traffic, Strong Conversion, Weak Sales

In this scenario, it appears that you have a strong marketing process and a weak sales process. I see this on a fairly consistent basis with companies that implement an inbound marketing or other lead generation approach. 

Because you’re focusing on the top of the funnel and you’re generating conversion opportunities, you’re seeing your lead velocity grow; but it’s not translating to sales.

This can be the most frustrating point in the journey of generating predictable growth. You’re doing the right things by focusing on lead generation, but you’re frustrated because it’s not translating to real opportunities or sales.

The issue here is all about lead management, and there are specific actions you need to take to turn leads into sales.  Here are the highlights:

  • Use a lead triage process to assess the quality of the leads you are generating.  If you find that you’re not creating an adequate number of quality leads, then you’ve got a conversion problem.  To solve that problem, refer to the Stong/Weak/Strong scenario above.
  • If you’re generating enough quality leads, look next to your sales development approach.  Your prospects aren’t waking up every morning asking themselves, “What can I do to buy something from ABC Company today?” Regardless of how clear you think it is that a lead should know to reach out to you to discuss how you can help them solve their problems, they’re most likely not going to. You need to have an effective process to follow up with those leads and to turn them into sales opportunities.
  • Lastly, be sure to develop effective lead nurturing processes to keep your leads engaged and to support them as they continue through their journey.

As we move into the scenarios that have multiple weaknesses, I’m not going to restate the actions to take that I shared previously.  The most important thing to remember when treating multiple weaknesses is to always start at the top.  Your impulse will be to “solve for the bottom of the funnel.”  While this can lead to short-term improvement, the reality is that you’re not going to actually solve anything. 

5) Weak Traffic, Weak Conversion, Strong Sales

The most likely causes here are either ignoring the top of the funnel altogether or a lack of clarity into who you are trying to attract.  Start by defining your buyer personas and then use your blog to consistently deliver content that is valuable to them.

6) Strong Traffic, Weak Conversion, Weak Sales

Take a look at your website and sales process.  It’s likely that you’re message is not resonating with your prospects and is in need of retooling. When you’re finished adjusting your message, determine what prospecting strategies you want to implement.

7) Weak Traffic, Strong Conversion, Weak Sales

This happens when you create a very popular piece of content.  The key here is to dig deeper and figure out why a conversion path is so effective.  What’s driving the prospects behavior and what problem are they trying to solve?

From there, find ways to recreate that type of content in other areas.  We had a client experiencing this precise problem. One piece of content was particularly popular.  It was responsible for about half of their conversions and the quality of the leads was very high.

Using this piece of content, we built a series of follow up tools that brought prospects further down the funnel, leading to a free assessment.  Additionally, we recreated the approach for other content pieces. The result was stronger sales and an expanding top of the funnel.

8) Weak, Traffic, Weak Conversion, Weak Sales

This is where everyone starts. If you find yourself with this scenario, it’s a great time to implement an inbound marketing approach.

Looking to get started on improving your conversion funnel? Download our calculator today to forecast exactly what you need to adjust to hit your growth goals.

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Andreessen-Backed Teleport Launches A Mobile Search Engine For Globally Nomadic Tech Workers

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teleport-results It’s a big hairy vision — knowledge-workers freely migrate around the globe and city and federal governments compete to lure them. Teleport, a startup founded by early Skype employees around the idea of supporting an increasingly global mobile workforce, is taking another step toward that reality today. They are launching a set of iOS and Android apps that help tech workers find… Read More

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