EXCLUSIVE: @cheerUpdates app Update V2.0 a sneek peek

In the spring of 2016 at Worlds, cheerUPDATES attempted to raise the stakes in the Allstar Cheerleading information game by creating its own APP. When version 1 was launched it was described as a test version for one competition (Worlds 2016) to shape the future of the app. There were also promises of many updates coming in the near future (if all went well with the beta test.) You can read my initial blog post about the app in April 2016 here: Is paying $5 for the CheerUpdates APP ridiculous?

As Worlds approached, sales of the highly anticipated app soared. The expectations of the app (which at the time was basically a beta version) soared as well. It was an extremely bold move considering the cheer world would be watching and any glitch or flaw would be exposed and talked about. CheerUPDATES did their best to set expectations on what the app would do on the initial launch. Unfortunately, many folks did not get the memo and were either misinformed or had unrealistic expectations.

Here were some of the criticisms of the app

  1. Scores did not load or were not updated in a timely fashion.
  2. The app was ugly, many did not like the font or design of the app.
  3. Many could not read the entire score as the app wrapped to the edge of the mobile screen and cut off numbers. ( This was fixed quickly)
  4. Most of the reviews in the app store complained about buying the app for Summit and it not working. (Well this is self-explanatory Summit does not include Worlds teams)

Some of the criticisms were valid, some were not. In response to the scores not updating in a timely fashion. CheerUpdates is held hostage by disputes and scoring hold ups. The scores were updated as soon as they were received. In some divisions at Worlds, that was literally a day later ( in some instances or divisions) this will never change in the app or on twitter. Even on the CheerUpdates twitter account you rarely get all of the scores from every division. As you already know, CheerUpdates will post a photo of the score sheet as they receive it (via twitter).

One important thing to keep in mind with cheeerUPDATES. When they post the performance of a team in real time on twitter that is not the official breakdown or listing of deductions from the judges, that is what cheerUPDATES sees within the performance. It is CU’s own opinion, not actual scores or deductions from the judges. (many people miss this concept). This is significant because users need to understand that what you see on twitter immediately following a performance is NOT the actual scores from the judges.

In regards to the app being ugly. Ok, it was. I am guessing they were focusing on functionality and capabilities not how pretty it looks for the first phase.

I have been told the app version 2.0 is in the final stages and is going to be launched soon.If you have already paid for the app,you are good. The update will push in the upcoming months. If you have not yet purchased the app and are interested, I will go through all the updates and new features and functionality step by step below.

(The views you are looking at are the perspective of the admin. Once launched the view for a user may vary slightly once launched) 

  • The app is NOT UGLY ANYMORE!!! (Of course, this will always be up for debate) but it looks much better.

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  • You will now be able to subscribe to a PROGRAM , DIVISION OR TEAM.
  • The app will also keep track of all levels 1-6. Whether you love to keep up with the Mini Level 1 teams or your favorite IOC6 team. cheerUPDATES has you covered. Disclaimer: UNLESS PREVIOUSLY NOTATED FULL LOWER LEVEL COVERAGE IS NOT A GUARANTEE cheerUPDATES is working on expanding coverage but similar to Worlds coverage, not every single comp will be covered with the levels 1-4, but the major comps you can expect will be covered.

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  • You will also be able to receive push notifications on the app when your favorite Program, Team or Division have updates.
  • It will handle complicated situations such as split and combined divisions. Displayed below on the right is an example of bid announcements Full Paid Partial Paid At Large etc…

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  • The app will also keep a history of performances , bids and results starting with the 2014-2015 season so you can see the history of you favorite program team or division. This will enable you to view who won the major competitions the previous year, what competition your favorite team or rival won their bid etc..This for me is a huge value add. For those who do not like researching on thousands of old posts on twitter or plundering through websites for previous years results this is a God send.

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Bottom line, if you have already paid for the app, good news you are going to get a powerful upgrade that will hopefully provide the value you expected from your $5 purchase. The update will happen late October or November just in time for competition season. If you were waiting on the sidelines, this may be exactly what you were expecting from the app. For some, it still may not be enough to persuade the twitter savvy from the free twitter feed. I for one am excited about the potential and see that for my minuscule $5 investment the app saves me time and provides convenience for this upcoming exciting season. For others, the jury may still be out. I guess that begs the question.

The blessings of taking risks and trying new things.

One year ago today, encouraged by some special parents, I released the book trailer to Welcome to Mintland. I remember being so scared and intimidated to share it with everyone. It was important for me to set the tone of what the book was about and the magic I hoped to capture. I still even now agonize about the details of everything. I knew once I released the trailer there was no turning back, the book would have to be released. It was a very scary time for me.
The day I released the trailer. Welcome to Mintland was over 3/4 of the way completed. I had no idea what I was doing or how I would actually get this book published. I still to this day do not know what compelled me to write it. I needed to take a break from writing and decided to create the book trailer (again a first for me). It took me many many hours to get it right in my head and then transferred to video. After I created what I thought captured the essence and tone of the book. I gathered up enough courage to share the video with a trusted friend. After watching the video my friend said nothing, she just covered her mouth and broke down in tears. It was then I knew, the story of this magical team needed to be completed. Her reaction validated my instinct that this team and this story was something that may not happen ever again. The team being so young and naive had no idea what they had accomplished together. Looking back it all just seemed like a blur as everything simply fell into place as it was meant to happen.
As this story ages, it will continue to live on. My hopes are a few kids and parents read the story and are inspired to try new things. Hopefully, the message they take from the book is that if you believe in yourself and others you can accomplish ANYTHING no matter what your age is. Set a goal and go for it. If there is a bump in the road set a bigger goal and go for it! If someone tells you every day that you are special, that you can be the best in world and you dare to believe it, special things will happen.
The Finished Trailer From the Book Welcome to Mintland
For the next few weeks, we are donating all proceeds of sales of the book to the Louisiana Cheerforce GoFundMe Campaign. If you would rather donate straight to the cause in lieu of purchasing the book please do!
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Many of the former Peppermints ask me every day how many books we have sold for the flood victims. As I mentioned earlier, my hope was that the story would live on to build life long memories and create inspiration. I always tell them every little bit helps, but they will never know the devastation that happened. They feel good knowing their little story is helping people and that was the intent, as the spirit of the book will live on through them for many years to come.

Is paying $5 for the CheerUpdates APP ridiculous?

Being the week of AllStar Cheerleading Worlds, there is no better time to announce one of the biggest game changers in Allstar Cheerleading. Earlier this week CheerUpdates started teasing something big. With many showcases going on before Worlds, this announcement had everyone scratching their head. This is always a big week for announcements and exciting info. What better time than now to launch?

The growth of CheerUpdates has been astounding. To think how much information is shared on a competition weekend should literally blow your mind. To say that the audience reached is similar to what the Super Bowl generates is not an exaggeration. The audience generated by this information in undeniable. All of this information we receive for FREE via Twitter.  Unfortunately, most of us take all this information for granted. The amount of work and attention that go into streamlining all this information is impressive. Twitter has its limitations as a mass information vehicle. Is there a better way to help you find what you are looking for quicker? CheerUpdates thinks so, and they have built an app to take information to the next level.

Many figured out the tease the day before on Tuesday 4/19/2016 and rushed to the app store but nothing was there. Many woke up on April 20th and found the app in the app store. The initial reaction when most saw the app in the store was: FIVE DOLLARS? Five dollars? I mean seriously are you kidding me? The question then becomes, is the five dollars worth it? There was not much to go off of in the app store. No Reviews, No screen shots, Nothing. What does this thing do? Well, below you will find out. I will walk you through step by step what I found upon purchasing the app this morning.

 

Once you purchase the app. You will log in with your Twitter account. The app will ask you for permission to send push notifications for privacy reasons. (good move). Upon logging in you will see the homepage which currently looks like this.

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At this point, it is pretty simple and straightforward, not much to see. You will notice a MENU button at the top left. Upon pressing it you will see this.

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Once in the Menu if you press the “COMPETITIONS” Button you will see this.

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If you press the “Worlds comp” you will see this.

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This is where the magic starts to happen. It does not take a genius to figure out how valuable the organization of this information is. Think about how you currently have to sort through following your favorite division. Endless scrolling and sifting through thousands of tweets and retweets and manually trying to memorize where everyone stands in the division decoding abbreviation after abbreviation due to the character limitations of Twitter. THIS FOR MOST CHEER FANS IS PRICELESS and in my opinion worth tons more than $5. Once you press the division you want to follow you will see this screen. File_001

At the time of this blog post obviously, there is no WORLDS information loaded YET. You can see how it is going to work by looking at the screen. It is broken down by day, also noted will be if the team has an At-Large, Partial Paid or Full Paid Bid.

The first question I asked myself? Will there be a delay in the scoring? Will it take longer to get the information via the app than on TWITTER? My sources say as soon as the scores become available CheerUpdates will apply them to the associated team and will auto order the standings based on incoming scores in the app. How cool is that? Some other features you do not yet see, but need to know about!

  1. Cheer programs will be stored and added so as to easily select them for each event over the course of the year. 
  2. The app will also store competition scores and results during the course of the year for easy access to track how your favorite division (or team in the future) is progressing.

I have also been granted access to some screen shots that will help demonstrate what the app will look like once filled with info. This should give you a better idea of what to expect in the future and for your $5.

In conclusion, my opinion on this app is that for $5 it’s an absolute no-brainer TAKE MY MONEY. The future possibilities of where this app could go are endless. There is also currently a “Bid Declarations” selection that is obviously blank at this point. I am sure more info will come soon on that soon. If I can read into what it is there for, you should be able to assign bids to teams etc. How cool would it be to be notified once your favorite team earns a worlds bid (in the future)?

I like that at this point, it is clean and simple. I feel the biggest mistake many  new app makes is they try to jam too many capabilities into one app and it becomes clunky. CheerUpdates understands what their audience wants and has done a great job responding to the needs of the audience. Hopefully, the app will overcome the limitations that twitter brings by opening up a new era in information exchange for Allstar Cheer fans. For that reason alone, I am supporting CheerUpdates and donating my $5 to this cause. Early indications are that this app is currently exploding in the app store right now. As this goes to press it is the number 1 paid sports app and climbing the charts with a flash. WOW!

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My thumbs already fall off refreshing my phone trying to keep up with all my favorite teams at competitions. Heck, most of us gladly pay for a cable TV bill that is 20 TIMES more expensive than that PER MONTH! I guarantee you most of you use thumbs more on your phone trying to keep up with CheerUpdates more than you watch your TV.

How this app will work for the first time remains to be seen. We have all shelled out much more for streaming competitions where performance is up or down. Ultimately, the choice is yours. In answering the question, “Is paying $5 for the CheerUpdates APP ridiculous?” Hopefully, I have helped you understand the early answer to that question is a resounding NO. Please feel free to share your opinions in the comment section below. I would love an honest dialogue or ideas on where this app should go next!

Overcoming the fear of failure and accepting accountability…..

failure-300x243In previous posts I have eluded to the scary part about joining a startup company. Playing entrepreneur is one thing,  jumping in head first and going all in is completely another. Knowing the failure rate of an early stage startup is something a person needs to understand before making this jump. Many cities have a challenge finding good talent in the startup world. Recently the CEO of Rivalry Jon Birdsong eloquently described the situation in Atlanta HERE. With the mix of tight funding, a talent crunch for tech and environment of the unknown makes for a serious uphill battle.

Understanding the risks is one part of the equation. Accepting accountability for the success or failure of your product or efforts is also part of the deal. What happens when you start hearing about the realities of your baby (product). Failing Fast is important and shifting the direction of your concept is vital to the survival of the company. Even if that means the demise of a role within the company. Typically, the person on the front lines gathering intel and feedback from customers is typically the person who can figure out the direction of the product the best. Most of the time this should be the CEO or Biz Dev person.

When your company feels it is ready to take the product to market, do so aggressively do not be passive. Get the product in the hands of everyone that will use it. There will be many opportunities for feedback either from what customers tell you or more importantly what they don’t tell you.  The devil is always in the details. If you run into to many barriers of entry it may be time to go back to the drawing board. One major signal is a pricing objection. If you are getting in front of a bunch of people and never get a price objection, that is a strong signal that you need to pivot .

Let me elaborate, when you are consistently arriving at the price negotiation stage with your customers it means you may be on to something.  If you are not getting here this means the customer does not see enough value in what you bring to the table or they have a similar solution that they do not see the value in changing from. Overcoming objections and learning from them is one thing. At some point, the product needs to sell itself. Keep in mind that potential customers are eager to get to the price stage if they want the product. It is typically the only stage in which they have control of the situation it is a very important stage that will tell you a lot.

Accepting accountability in any organization is a big part of personal and professional growth. With limited seed funding available, that may mean making some tough choices as development costs will take priority over everything else, as they should! If you do not fit in to developing a better product (technically) for the customer, this may mean you need to step away or your position will be eliminated. This is a reality, as it should be in any position in a startup or in the corporate world.  For many people this is a tough pill to swallow. I have struggled with this portion for years. For me, if you are stagnating at a cube in a corporate environment and not adding any value collecting a pay check I would challenge you to step up.

This means many things for many people but you will know your boundaries, try to cross them. Ask a question in a meeting, take on that new challenge that you know you could do but don’t think you will be called upon. Do Something! If you fail, good for you. Learn, Grow and know that you tried to make a difference. You will be much better for it, trust me I fail a lot.

What else is involved with the fear of failure? What are some of the factors that are in play? How much risk is too much risk? How do you hedge the risks you take? I would love to hear from you.

Cheers,

Eric

Finding myself in Atlanta…..New Digital and Culture challenges

Moving from Chicago to Atlanta was a very cool experience. Don’t get me wrong I absolutely loved Chicago and still do. Atlanta has something about it that feels like you are a part of building something. It is kind of hard to explain. Atlanta to me is still trying to find it’s charm and has yet to define itself. It is a city of transients and transplants. The explosive growth of the late 90’s has completely changed the landscape of the city. When I first moved down to Atlanta I found a new career outside of advertising. the company was a physician recruiting firm. It was a very exciting role. Basically I would go into hospitals and larger universities in the Northeast to educate CEO’s and VPMA’s about what they needed to do to recruit physicians. To sit in a board room at Harvard and Yale and educate them on why they could not get physicians to come work for them was fascinating. I learned a ton traveled alot but with the news of my first born on the way traveling three weeks out of the month was not going to cut it.

I was looking for a culture where I fit in. I loved the team environment. I truly enjoyed coaching and teaching people new things. The best part of leading a team is finding what makes people tick and pushing them beyond their boundaries. I was really looking for a new challenge in the digital world. It was something I was very passionate about and had a knack for teaching people the digital world with relative ease. Even the most hardened legacy salesperson proved to be my biggest challenge. I sought out those folks to convert them into believers. I figured, if I could get them on board the rest would follow.

I started a new role at the Atlanta Journal Constitution. I really did not know what to expect as the group recently went through a pretty tough re-organization but wanted to build out a digital revolution. The group was very upfront with me that this new role would be a big challenge as customers as well as the salesteam were very resistant to change but they both needed to be converted. I jumped in head first into the challenge….. one of the most exciting times in my career was about to happen and I had no idea where to begin… the rest to be continued….

Learning the Art of the Pivot

I am going to suspend the history lesson for a moment. I wanted to share some comments on the art of pivoting . In the corporate world being able to pivot can take years if not decades. Notable exceptions are of course Apple , IBM etc.. In a startup you sometimes will have to pivot and pivot quickly. A very good example of recent pivot came from Groupon. Basically a pivot is to change the course of a product or service based on the needs of your potential or current customers. This modification may take place based on feedback from customers or a new feature added to an existing product that changes the course of the business model.

I found many times in the corporate world people would often times get frustrated when an obvious opportunity evolved from changing a legacy business model. Often times senior management was unwilling to “rock the boat” or try new things. This typically leads to a slow and painful death for the company or its growth and often times leads to employees leaving.

I am learning that it is ok and very necessary to pivot. I have been fighting the urge to hold on to an original business model and try new things to see how they resonate. It was the way I was raised in the corporate life. It is ok not to pivot sometimes for a tried and true proven model. There is certainly something to be said for holding to your core values as a company, but not in all cases see Kodak and many others.

We recently may have stumbled on to a potential home run at Flashissue  by listening to our clients needs. One thing to remember about a pivot. Not all pivots are successful. Listening to the clients needs are paramount that will typically lead you to a successful product change. Holding on to an old inefficient business model never serves the client or the company well. Learn to listen, learn to change and be nimble or you in turn are learning to fail. Not all great ideas succeed but you will have a better rate of success by executing on the needs of your clients.

Any other thoughts I may have missed? Have you ever observed a pivot in the corporate world that worked?