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CO Everywhere: the story behind BlockAvenue’s pivot

CO Everywhere has launched to bring hyper-local data to your fingertips in an extremely relevant way, pivoting from their year as BlockAvenue. Founder Tony Longo tells us about their journey.

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CO Everywhere launches, excites the internet

We’re pretty jaded around here – we’ve seen a lot of startups come and go, and have gotten thousands of founders and public relations professionals reaching out about how their app or invention is going to innovate the world so hard it’s going to implode. It’s mostly bull. Hyped up bull. Despite that critical line of thinking, we were enthusiastic about the 2012 launch of BlockAvenue which launched for people relocating, so it catered to the real estate industry, which is where founder Tony Longo has his roots.

BlockAvenue was a location-based analytics company focused on providing consumers an intuitive platform to help better understand everything there is to know about a location, leveraging over 50 million data points such as crime, sex offenders, transit options, local amenities, restaurants, schools and a proprietary social layer to provide its BlockScore across the United States. But BlockAve didn’t die, it has recently expanded their offering to be useful to anyone, whether they were moving or not, and their rebranded and relaunched offering, CO Everywhere has been an overnight hit, especially in the tech community.

And so CO Everywhere was born

Longo explains that BlockAvenue was their first attempt to help people better understand location. “Our approach to this was almost entirely real estate focused and we wanted to help people who were moving (buying or renting a new home),” Longo tells AGBeat. “Well, as we were building and testing the product internally, we noticed the habits of how we were all using the app and the ideas started to form. Is this a product I only want to use when I move? No way. I enjoy learning about new things in my neighborhood, everyday. Who else does this? There has to be a product out there that does this for me? And there, is where things began.”

The company started with four main data sources: Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare and Yelp and has already hit 1,400 data sources and say they are still adding more. Longo enthusiastically recounted how he and his team circled the roofline of a restaurant thinking CO Everywhere would pull back all of the Foursquare tips, Tweets and Yelp reviews on that particular restaurant. He said that it did, but then, “what we didn’t expect is the tidal wave of ‘other’ information that had gone on inside the walls of that restaurant (Border Cafe in Harvard Square). We are still in awe…”

Getting CO Everywhere to market

“Go to market plans are always tricky and on this one we took a very different approach,” said Longo. “We really believe in our product (like, really believe in it). It amazes us as consumers everyday. The platform is inherently social as most of the content is from social API’s and it has many use cases, so our belief is that if we build something solid that it would take a life of it’s own via sharing.”

Longo added, “Our focus to go to market was actually not about marketing or exposure – it was about design and we went the extra mile to design an attractive product that once people saw it, they would give it a try.”

The app is already being used in over 60 countries, just one week after launch.

How has the pivot fared publicly?

Companies often fail at something, so they add a shiny button, call it new and “pivot,” but we’ve been impressed that CO Everywhere is a rare example of a legitimate pivot that massively improved an already quality idea and led to a hit.

Longo says the company pivot, which also came packaged with a new brand is being received very well. “For those who kept tabs on us and followed BlockAvenue, they get it. For those who did not know about BlockAve, CO, is simply just a new consumer app that helps them do something they could never do before. ”

Should your brand attempt a pivot?

Should others follow CO Everywhere’s lead and pivot their own company? Longo said, “My advice for startups who are hesitant to pivot – if you are even slightly considering it – do it. Most companies do it anyway, they just don’t announce it. Pivots are not only fine, they are awesome, just one thing, if you are going to pivot, make sure the product you bring to market is 10 times better than the last!”

Social Media

Zillow launches real estate brokerage after eons of swearing they wouldn’t

(MEDIA) We’ve warned of this for years, the industry funded it, and Zillow Homes brokerage has launched, and there are serious questions at hand.

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Zillow Homes was announced today, a Zillow licensed brokerage that will be fully operational in 2021 in Phoenix, Tucson, and Atlanta.

Whoa, big huge yawn-inducing shocker, y’all.

We’ve been warning for more than a decade that this was the end game, and the company blackballed us for our screams (and other criticisms, despite praise when merited here and there).

Blog posts were penned in fiery effigy calling naysayers like us stupid and paranoid.

Well color me unsurprised that the clarity of the gameplan was clear as day all along over here, and the paid talking heads sent out to astroturf, gaslight, and threaten us are now all quiet.

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Social Media

We watched The Social Dilemma – here are some social media tips that stuck with us

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Here are some takeaways from watching Netflix’s The Social Dilemma that helped me to eliminate some social media burnout.

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Last weekend, I made the risky decision to watch The Social Dilemma on Netflix. I knew it was an important thing to watch, but the risk was that I also knew it would wig me out a bit. As much as I’m someone who is active “online,” the concept of social media overwhelms me almost more than it entertains (or enlightens) me.

The constant sharing of information, the accessibility to information, and the endless barrage of notifications are just a few of the ways social media can cause overwhelm. The documentary went in deeper than this surface-level content and got into the nitty gritty of how people behind the scenes use your data and track your usage.

Former employees of high-profile platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google, and Pinterest gave their two cents on the dangers of social media from a technological standpoint. Basically, our data isn’t just being tracked to be passed along for newsletters and the like. But rather, humans are seen as products that are manipulated to buy and click all day every day in order to make others money and perpetuate information that has astronomical effects. (I’m not nearly as intelligent as these people, so watch the documentary to get the in-depth look at how all of this operates.)

One of the major elements that stuck with me was the end credits of The Social Dilemma where they asked interviewees about the ways they are working to eliminate social media overwhelm in their own lives. Some of these I’ve implemented myself and can attest to. Here’s a short list of things you can do to keep from burning out online.

  1. Turn off notifications – unless there are things you need to know about immediately (texts, emails, etc.) turn it off. Getting 100 individual notifications within an hour from those who liked your Instagram post will do nothing but burn you (and your battery) out.
  2. Know how to use these technologies to change the conversation and not perpetuate things like “fake news” and clickbait.
  3. Uninstall apps that are wasting your time. If you feel yourself wasting hours per week mindlessly scrolling through Facebook but not actually using it, consider deleting the app and only checking the site from a desktop or Internet browser.
  4. Research and consider using other search tools instead of Google (one interviewee mentioned that Qwant specifically does not collect/store your information the way Google does).
  5. Don’t perpetuate by watching recommended videos on YouTube, those are tailored to try and sway or sell you things. Pick your own content.
  6. Research the many extensions that remove these recommendations and help stop the collection of your data.

At the end of the day, just be mindful of how you’re using social media and what you’re sharing – not just about yourself, but the information you’re passing along from and to others. Do your part to make sure what you are sharing is accurate and useful in this conversation.

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WeChat ban blocked by California judge, but for how long?

(SOCIAL MEDIA) WeChat is protected by First Amendment concerns for now, but it’s unclear how long the app will remain as pressure mounts.

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WeChat barely avoided a US ban after a Californian judge stepped in to temporarily block President Trump’s executive order. Judge Laurel Beeler cited the effects of the ban on US-based WeChat users and how it threatened the First Amendment rights of those users.

“The plaintiffs’ evidence reflects that WeChat is effectively the only means of communication for many in the community, not only because China bans other apps, but also because Chinese speakers with limited English proficiency have no options other than WeChat,” Beeler wrote.

WeChat is a Chinese instant messaging and social media/mobile transaction app with over 1 billion active monthly users. The WeChat Alliance, a group of users who filed the lawsuit in August, pointed out that the ban unfairly targets Chinese-Americans as it’s the primary app used by the demographic to communicate with loved ones, engage in political discussions, and receive news.

The app, along with TikTok, has come under fire as a means for China to collect data on its users. U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has stated, “At the President’s direction, we have taken significant action to combat China’s malicious collection of American citizens’ personal data, while promoting our national values, democratic rules-based norms, and aggressive enforcement of U.S. laws and regulations.”

This example is yet another symptom of our ever-globalizing society where we are learning to navigate between connectivity and privacy. The plaintiffs also pointed out alternatives to an outright ban. One example cited was in Australia, where WeChat is now banned from government officials’ phones but not others.

Beeler has said that the range in alternatives to preserving national security affected her decision to strike down the ban. She also explained that in regards to dealing with national security, there is “scant little evidence that (the Commerce Department’s) effective ban of WeChat for all US users addresses those concerns.”

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