A Wrap-up of LAUNCH Mobile and Wearables

October 27, 2013 Paula Kwan

When noted entrepreneur and VC Jason Calacanis asked us to sponsor LAUNCH Mobile, it was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up. At the inaugural LAUNCH conference dedicated to exploring the next level of wearable and mobile technology, Jason would bring his product, industry, and speaker expertise to the table. Moreover, the speaking roster he had in mind consisted of some of the world’s most interesting technology leaders.

Here are some of the presentations that stood out for me:

Power Lunch – Fashion & Retail

I hosted a Power Lunch with panelists Dorian Howard from Milk Honey Shoes, Elena Silenok from Clothia, and Alisa Gould-Simon from Pose. This was one of many topics being hosted simultaneously by other moderators. We dove right into a discussion of the top marketing tactics for each of these retailers, and all stated that Facebook and Pinterest are their best sources of traffic and engagement.

On top of that, these panelists shared a specific technique for retailers on Pinterest: Do-it-Yourself (DIY) graphic for nails or makeup would blow up on Pinterest and get heavy user engagement as long as it was four steps or less. The panel also debunked a myth: the referral discount strategy (e.g., refer your friend for X% off your next purchase) is not always as effective as one would think.

The final portion of the Power Lunch revolved around my question, “What do you think we’ll see differently in online retail in the next two years?” The answers revolved around five main points:

  • Increased transparency and education among advertisers to help evolve advertising software
  • The impending launch and anticipated impact of MCX (consortium of retailers collaborating to usher in mobile payments)
  • The integration of fashion and technology (wearable technology will become fashionable)
  • Omnichannel commerce integration, geofencing
  • Personalized experience, customized products

These retailers are adapting well to the ever-increasing pace of technology and using it to their advantage. However, they’re far from the only companies that are pushing the envelope. The way we consume content is changing, and media startups are also evolving.

The feedback from the audience was extremely positive, stemming from the level of interaction they had with these successful entrepreneurs, and the direct, open questions focused on how to build a business online: a drastic difference from dry lecture-style sessions at conferences.


Circa co-founder and CEO Matt Galligan likened Circa to the president’s brief or the “CliffsNotes” of news: it’s very easy for a reader to consume because the news is written and formatted for mobile. It does this in a process known as “atomization:” focusing on the story’s specific details and breaking it down to its core elements.

Rather than having to read through a full article, users are provided with the basic points that comprise the story. As the story develops, new points are added for events that users can get notified about or check-in with later. Circa’s content scales exponentially because old points can be used for future stories.

These short and sweet releases have corresponding spikes in traffic, which engages users effectively. Circa stays concise by having its writers keep tone and voice out of its points. As Galligan said, “Readers have a right to be informed, not influenced.”

Galligan announced at LAUNCH that Circa will be coming to Android, being already available on iPhone.


Swell is a news radio app that adapts to listening behavior, but instead of giving users a variety of choices, it only gives them two: play or skip. Swell is designed to minimize the cognitive load a user needs to use it (an evolving trend in mobile).

It gets smarter as it is used more; for example, Swell tracks when a user skips certain radio stations and avoids those ones in the future. Conversely, when a user stays tuned to particular stations, it will bring those up more frequently in playlists. Swell’s ultimate goal is to enable the user to “just hit play.”

Swell is also joining the ranks of those using the widely-embraced card user interface on its mobile app (other projects using it include Google Glass and Twitter). The level of detail on the front of the card is limited; however, if the user is curious, there’s more information on the back of this virtual card.

Closing Thoughts

Asides from these keynotes and demos, quite a few other entrepreneurs demonstrated their wearable technology innovations (a few of which were covered by the Wall Street Journal). Filip, a voice watch and locator for kids, is one of these devices to take the spotlight at LAUNCH. Filip was a hit amongst attendees, and Calacanis said it may perhaps be his favorite wearable of the conference. The LAUNCH Conference was a great opportunity to peek into some of the minds of the world’s technology leaders, such as Lyft, Tinder, Motorola, Pebble, and more. Wearable and mobile technology are spreading like wildfire, and changing everything from the way we listen to radio to the way we consume news.


Connect with Paula on LinkedIn.

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