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Want to offer something on a membership basis? MemberMan wants to help

(TECH NEWS) MemberMan is not just a member directory and event calendar, but a robust and streamlined interface that encourages social networking between members.

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Simplify your membership

As a member and event leader for an outdoor social organization ten years ago, one of the club features that kept me engaged was the organization of its members and events. A co-founder had created a membership and event database that made it fairly easy to sign up as a member as well as for events. For the technology available at that time, it seemed quite innovative.

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Now members expect more – not just a member directory and event calendar, but a robust and streamlined interface that encourages social networking between members. Currently in beta, MemberMan is a membership database software that seems quite capable of meeting and exceeding those expectations.

One platform to rule them all

MemberMan allows administrators to customize the membership application, payment, and renewal processes, as well as contact management. Users can log in and use a CRM style interface to connect to and engage with other members within their group. The monthly pricing seems quite reasonable compared to other member tracking software, and is based on the number of admins as well as a generous number of members.

MemberMan promises to be a robust solution supported on Heroku with its web application built with Ruby on Rails and PostgreSQL database backend integrated with other systems.

The origin story

What impressed me on my first visit to the MemberMan website itself was the blog. I expected the posts to consist of hard pitches for the software as is the case with other product and service sites’ blogs. I was quite pleased to be proven wrong, as each article was informative, relevant, and of great value to the target audience – and not a single self-reference or redirect to “buy this product.”

I was then intrigued by a mildly inconspicuous chat icon in the lower corner of the screen. I decided to test the MemberMan team’s responsiveness during their beta phase through their live chat which was supported by Intercom.

Their chat program uses the Intercom, and in under two minutes I was engaged in a pleasant conversation with founder and creator Ryan Heneise, an entrepreneur with a passion for charities.

With an educational background in organizational leadership, Heneise has worked with nonprofits for most of his career. He grew up in Haiti where his parents and grandparents were missionaries. His grandparents founded the Haiti Hope Fund which supports education, health clinics and the arts, in a country where eighty percent of people live in poverty. Heneise carried on his grandparent’s legacy after they passed away by working with the Haiti Hope Fund.

Heneise has since become a software developer and entrepreneur, and in 2008 created Donortools, a database tool for donor management. In regards to his development of MemberMan, Heneise stated, “I’m thrilled to be working on another app that helps organizations be even better at serving their members.”

The future of MemberMan

After noticing that organizations of which he was a member would let his membership lapse without reminder of renewals, he began researching what membership tracking software was available and found very little. “I realized why,” Heneise stated, “It was time for someone to build something better.”

Heneise’s main goals for MemberMan are to increase member engagement by providing a private online community and self-service portal for members, decrease member “churn,” and increase member retention by preventing members from accidentally lapsing.

“I wanted a tool that would help me to become more engaged in the organizations that I’m involved in. I wanted to be able to connect with fellow members in a meaningful way online. And I wanted it to be fun, unlike the drudgery of using an ordinary database.”

In my role as an event volunteer coordinator, I have used and been unsatisfied with various tools including spreadsheets, Microsoft Access, VolunteerHub, and Shiftboard. I am quite interested in the applicability of MemberMan to organize and retain volunteers for events throughout the year, and foster a more robust and engaged volunteer community.

#MemberMan

Debbie Cerda is a seasoned writer and consultant, running Debra Cerda Consulting as well as handling business development at data-driven app development company, Blue Treble Solutions. She's a proud and active member of Austin Film Critics Association and the American Homebrewers Association, and Outreach Director for science fiction film festival, Other Worlds Austin. She has been very involved in the tech scene in Austin for over 15 years, so whether you meet her at Sundance Film Festival, SXSWi, Austin Women in Technology, or BASHH, she'll have a connection or idea to help you achieve business success. At the very least, she can recommend a film to watch and a great local craft beer to drink.

Tech News

Students say free coding school wildly fails to deliver

(TECH NEWS) There’s a serious barrier to entry into web development so a free coding school launches, but students say it isn’t delivering on their promises.

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Coding bootcamps

Technology changes quickly and so does the skillset requirement by companies. Many people are finding themselves in the stage of their career path where they may want to try something new – and not surprisingly, make a nice salary doing it. The launch of coding bootcamps (starting with Code Academy and 2011) has been touted as the solution to educate those on a missing skillset and setting them up for well-paying J-O-Bs.

Coding bootcamps, now up to 95 full-time coding academies in the United States, offer job seekers training in an area where they can move in to a new career and also meet to provide much needed talent to employers who need people who can code. This doesn’t usually come for free though. Average coding bootcamps (6 months) can cost up to $21K with the promise you will land a high paying salary at the end of it. There are also many universities providing coding boot camp classes.

What does it mean when a free coding school launches (with the intent to provide an educational opportunity to those who maybe don’t have the funding for a large investment and/or the ability to take out more student loans) and simply asks for a portion of your starting salary once you land that incredible new Developer gig?

Sounds like a great idea. This meets the market demand for interested people to learn a new skill set and be ready for a new career in software development. Shouldn’t we be asking how easy it is for these folks to get hired after the program? The challenge with the Lambda School is that their curriculum and UX for online learning is in development.

While they intended to meet people where they were with an online platform (offering flexibility to the students and teachers), it has left a little bit to desire by its participants. The learning opportunities are constantly changing. The teachers are also not always available and most likely have other full-time obligations or employment.

Many students were left disappointed that they didn’t feel the education matched expectations and didn’t see how they were going to be able to be hired in to roles that would allow them to pay back the tuition. So much so they sent requests to get out of their signed contracts and halt the program.
It goes without saying that anything new has its challenges and businesses can only move so fast.

No matter how fast technology changes, we are humans and have certain human behaviors. Employers want to see real-world experience so even if you’ve taken classes, the candidate must be willing to do things above and beyond the class (volunteer projects and networking for sure). While we root for Lambda School to be a legitimate solution for those how may not have the budget for a full-time coding school, it might be worth the time to let them sort out their curriculum challenges and consider building up your skill set in this area in other ways.

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Tech News

Defense startups are getting beaucoup bucks from the DoD

(TECH NEWS) Some tech companies are getting large venture capital because the Department of Defense is looking for new defense startups.

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military looking defense startups

While private investors remain wary of funding defense startups, they are still keeping an eye on the possible venture opportunities. Meanwhile, the Pentagon is hoping domestic investors will increase spending into these startups in order to compete with China’s strategy of creating private equity firms to invest into foreign technologies.

A major reason for the growing interest by venture capitalists is the shift in focus from traditional weapons to tools for information warfare, meaning software and tech systems. Defense startups are creating products that may have multiple benefits outside the DoD.

Changes in the defense venture landscape are slow with all three parties learning how to benefit from one another. Startups realize working with the DoD is a “mission-driven objective” as stated by Ryan Tseng, founder of Shield AI. “We went into this eyes wide open, knowing full well that to the venture community, the math doesn’t make sense.”

However, there are several big investor players already in the game. Andreessen Horowitz, a top-tier venture fund is banking on the economic sustainability of defense startups in the future. They’ve already invested in Shield AI and defense tech company Anduril Industries. Additionally, the Founders Fund, another big name venture firm led by Silicon investors Peter Thiel, Brian Singerman, and Ken Howery is investing in Anduril and goTenna after successfully backing SpaceX and Palantir Technologies.

Defense companies’ emphasis on tech could be the answer to challenges usually associated with DoD investments like competing against dominate manufacturers with steady government contracts and long procurement cycles. U.S. Code 2377 stipulates that commercially available items be considered first in procurement efforts. If defense startups can enter the market, they will also stand a chance of winning government contracts over bigger, traditional companies, thus diversifying the playing field.

But until there is a greater guarantee of a payoff, investors are likely to remain skeptical. The possibilities for this new generation of defense companies is going to needs some more wins to prove the future is in their corner.

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Tech News

Goal-based project management tool simplifies your work life

(TECH NEWS) If you are struggling to keep tasks straight then this new tool Qoals allows for a simpler and more straightforward way to accomplish goals as a team.

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Qoals pitch

We all have goals – whether they be personal, professional, financial, etc. Anyone can set a goal, all it takes is having a thought and assigning it a certain level of importance. However, not everyone completes their goals due to the oft difficulties and confusions associated with execution.

Like anything else, if there’s a will, there’s a way. A new way has been found in the form of Qoals – a simple and straightforward tool that helps you to get aligned around business goals instead of an endless wall of tasks.

The ability to complete goals is done through: setting goals, adding tasks, collecting things, and tracking progress. With this, everyone on your team has access to this information to keep tabs on what’s happening.

With setting goals, you create and prioritize your goals, letting your team members know which ones are most important at that time. Goals can be prioritized with tabs such as: long term, short term, and urgent. By adding tasks, you can add and assign tasks to set a clear path in order to complete set goals.

In collecting things, you collect resources related to your goal and keep them in one safe place (again, this is accessible to your whole team). This doesn’t require uploading files, but simply including links to resources to keep everything easily accessible. Finally, by tracking progress, everyone on the team can see where you’re at with your goals – which saves time with the follow ups of “how’s Goal X going?”

Why did Qoals develop this goal-oriented approach? “It’s about time we simplify things,” according to the official website. “Get aligned around goals and let everyone know what’s important for the business. Add goals under various projects and start adding tasks and resources to make that goal happen.”

Additionally, Qoals boasts that this provides users with a birds-eye view of what’s happening with their team, allowing them to be more human-centric. You can create unlimited projects, set and track your goals, collected everything related to said goal, keep the discussion relevant, access your tasks with one click, stay connected to your team, and see what’s going on at a glance.
Qoals is currently in beta.

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