Thursday, October 15, 2009

We won the NWEN First Look Forum!

Amidst a room of 50 - 60 of the Northwest's best Angel networks and VC firms, Jamen knocked it out of the park with two great presentations yesterday!

The format was this. After getting accepted into the First Look Forum, an annual group screening put on by the Northwest Entrepenuers Network (NWEN), 50 companies were screened and whittled down to a burly 12 company group. These 12 would then get whittled down to 5 companies and then of course one holy winner ;).

This group of 12 got further screening and then yesterday all of the companies got a chance to give a 3 minute presentation to the room. This was a pretty awesome thing to see. All of the companies there had great presentations that were concise, well thought and were addressing a serious problem. But after seeing Jamen give his energetic and beautiful presentation (ahem grossly obvious self pat on my back), I was confident we would get through to the final 5.

Sure enough, we got the chance to give our 10 minute presentation and this is where things got hairy. Jamen did a fine job of speaking to all of the slides he got through but ended up leaving a few slides unseen. But even without those slides, the Investors thought that Findood had the most compelling problem and awarded us the winner!

So what did we win? By far the coolest thing we got from this experience was exposure to all of these awesome Investors. But aside from that we get a whole bunch of services, free screenings to Alliance of Angels, Kerietsu and Zino Society. And to top it, off we get a free year of office space and some awesome furniture from WRF Capital and Working Spaces.

After a long year of ups and downs Findood has finally been recognized for all of it's hard work. It is a long road forward, but this is quite a nice pit stop.

Thanks to NWEN for this experience and all of the people who voted for us. Also thanks to TechFlash for the nice article here.

Back to work!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

NRA Show Recap

By Matthew Wall

Buzz around the NRA (National Restaurant Association) Show this year is mounting. In tracking hits on Twitter under 'NRA Show' we've counted over 650 Tweets in the last week. This speaks to the growing influence social media will continue to have on trade shows.

I love these shows and the people you encounter, the trends you witness. It is energizing to witness the way the industry comes alive. It is also important to note the way business is evolving in these economic times of strife.

My position with has been allowing me the opportunity to connect with so many facets of the industry and literally connect with the heartbeat of the industry. I am continually enthralled at everything that is progressing and developing and I am surprised at how often undercurrents and trends in the industry will just jump to life and into the mainstream.

That said, below is our recap of the buzz, trends and news around the show. I've broken it into three categories (Social Media, Economy, Innovation/ Trends) for easy reference. Please comment below as well with thoughts and ideas, or things we may have missed.


Twitter and Blog Stats

As I stated earlier we have tracked over 650 Tweets on Twitter over the last week regarding the show. Also worth mentioning is the fact that over 3,500 blogs have been published about the show in the last week alone.

Social Media Marketing Presentation

Among the 65 presentations at the show, there was one that caught our eye, "Word of Mouth Marketing for Chains and Multi-Concept Operators." Although Findood could not be there, some others were. You can find a great review of what was covered done by here.

Web 2010 and Social Media Ideas

I have personally found Robert Scoble to have some valuable insight on where we are heading with integration of social media in a companies web presence. He is starting a company called 'Building 43' which is for people who love the internet and the way technology is evolving. I am personally excited at the potential for him to give us great examples and insight into how mainstreet businesses will be able to generate business and customer loyalty through social media. He has written a great blog about the Web 2010 here.

He includes a great example of a yogurt shop right around the corner from the Facebook office called Fraiche, where tons of Facebook people go, and yet they have no social media presence to generate excitement among the people who frequent their shop the most. Give the blog a read, it is worthwhile.

Food Channel Blogs and Tweets Show

The has extensive coverage of the show on its website. It is actually an incredible amount of material and is done very well. Included below are links to several of their best pieces.

Top Ten Things Seen on Saturday
Top Ten Things Seen on Sunday
The Power of Viral Marketing (Blendtec)
Food Channel and NRA Show on Facebook


I was interested to see how the show would address the state of the economy and the impact on business. It was front and center during the Sunday Keynote session. Read about the session here.

Nations Restaurant News has also been covering this and you can see their article on the keynote here.

The move to online management and resources continued at the show. It seems that the newest technology out there has been online schedule management. One that caught our eye was Schedulefly.

Also take a read of this article by the Gourmet Retailer titled 'Coping with the Economy'.



Crocs was out showing their newest styles of work shoes, highlighting the ergonomic fit, comfort and slip resistance of the Crocslite material. They are also easy to clean. Find the article here.

Distilled Spirits:

One of the fasting growing trends (according to the NRA's What's Hot Survey) is definitely distilled spirits. More to come on this in some upcoming blogs as New York just formed a Distillers Guild this year. Findood has the privelege of being in close proximity to one of the hearts of this movement (Oregon now has over 20 Distilleries and Washington State will grow from 3 to 7 this year alone). The growth is quick and local distributors are beginning to carry West Coast Distilled products. Costco is also carrying (or will be soon) local distillers in Oregon and California which his sure to follow the path that wine has carved. Need Proof? Head down to the SE side of Portland next time you are there. 11 Distilleries within a 10 minute drive of eachother with bars like the Green Dragon exemplifying the value of offering local drinks to its customers.

What did we miss? Have comments on what we shared? Please comment below.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Jones Soda GABA gets back to Guerilla Marketing

By Matthew Wall

Jones Soda Co. launched its latest product in February of this year at the Expo West. Made with PharmaGABA, Jones GABA is set to extend its positioning with this healthy energy drink. Said to increase Focus and Clarity, GABA has become incredibly popular in Japan in the last decade. (

“Jones GABA is a revolutionary, great-tasting beverage,” said Joth Ricci, chief operating officer of Jones Soda in an official statement. “It has a rare distinction in the functional beverage marketplace. Its benefits can be felt within five minutes and have been shown to last for hours. Jones GABA helps people feel more relaxed and focused, allowing them to perform at their peak.”

Health Mad describes the benefits this way: “As any psychology major knows, GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is a key neurotransmitter that regulates brain functionality. Among other things, GABA is a natural calming agent.” (Health Mad:

Having proven its success in Japan, Jones Soda is set to capitalize on the North American Market with its exclusive rights to PharmaGABA in drink form. Between 2004 and 2006, sales increased five fold in Japan reaching total sales of $122 Million US in 2006. (BevNet:

This is good news for Jones Soda Co. who reported year over year revenue decrease of 25% in Q1 of 2009. Promotion allowances and slotting fees increased slightly by roughly $150,000 and finished product case sales declined by 30% offset only slightly by the release of JonesGABA. (Food Biz Daily:

Jones Soda is well positioned to see GABA through and see large success. With the economy bearing down, carving out budget for new product promotions is difficult enough. But Jones has the leg up with their experience in Guerilla Marketing.

Here are a few things Jones is doing right:

Targeted Rollout: Pilots are beginning early spring on about 5 University Campuses to promote the benefits of Jones GABA in study, focus and clarity. Jones plans a product rollout at up to 40 campuses this year alone timing promotions around finals.

Brand Ambassadors: Jones has always had a particular knowledge of how to transform dedicated customers into Ambassadors. Students on University Campuses may be given samples to hand out. Also Jones Soda has already run a contest with Zooppa to spark viral videos featuring Jones GABA (view the winning ad here: Finally with people like the producers at Fallon shamelessly shouting the benefits of Jones GABA, there is no way the product will find its niche (Follow the Fallon Blog here:

Rollout in Canada is expected later this year. Currently the product is available at Metropolitan Market in Seattle. Make sure to try this product when you can. I enjoyed it, particularly the apple.



Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Biochar? What the heck is Biochar?

Today's technology post is actually about a not so techie technology.

According to Google technology is defined as: "the practical application of science to commerce or industry".

I love wired and I am a frequent reader of everything new and sexy in how-to apply science to create new businesses. But the ideas that really get me, I mean the ones that launch me out of bed in the morning (much to the chagrin of my lovely girlfriend) are those old ideas the really old ones that find new life and rebirth in a modern age.

I think Biochar might just be one of those.

But first, what the heck is Biochar? (according to wikipedia) Biochar is charcoal created by pyrolysis of biomass.

Charcoal - I get that - its what makes my grill delicious in the summer (that and a tasty beverage). Biomass, simple enough, plants and other gunk that comes from biological material. But pyrolysis? Ok, that is the key. Well, (again Wikipedia to the rescue) it is the decomposition of one material into charcoal using heat.

This is pretty cool, we can burn plant matter, and we get the triple threat.
  1. Sequester Carbon
  2. Produce surplus energy (that is green)
  3. Improve biodiversity and crop yields
The first two make sense, as you burn the material you get energy, and what is left is carbon from the original plant in the very stable form of charcoal which might sit as such for 100s if not 1,000s of years. But the third one takes a bit more explanation.

According to well informed friends of mine in Seattle the idea behind number three is that charcoal makes a great home for soil-positive bacteria. Think of it like a frat house for bacteria - dirty, yes - but they seem to just replicate under every nook and cranny.

Fill the biochar full of bacteria and sprinkle it over the soild and voila you get health soil, and the carbon is sequestered for a long period of time.

But what about the numbers? Well, this is where I fall short. I can't find reliable numbers anywhere on the internet for what this is capable of.

How much does it cost to setup an infrastructure for creating the char, filling it with bacteria and planting it again?

How much carbon can be sequestered and how big an impact would that make?

How much energy do you get from this process and in what form?

What are the negative impacts of burning all of this biomass? Does it put particulate matter into the atmosphere? If so how much, how dirty? etc.

Pretty cool, people have been burning their crops for centuries... and it just might be one of the keys to tackling climate change, soil erosion and biodiversity all at once. But it is still a new idea and lacking in firm numbers to back it up.

Please please please leave comments? Do you know anything about biochar? Can you fill in some of the questions above? Drop me a line...

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

First Domestic Truffle Oil Released at Northwest Foodservice Show

I was privileged to stop by the Oregon White Truffle Booth at the Northwest Foodservice Show ( That’s when I found out that this was the first time the product had been displayed at any show.

I was given a sample of the truffle oil on a crostini whipped with cream cheese, and was swept away in the midst of lush flavors akin to a walk in an old growth forest, a break in the middle, some spice on the back of my tongue and that ancient, legendary truffle flavor jumping throughout the finish.

It was a pleasant surprise and one of two highlights for me at the show. Stopping by the Peterson Company Booth is always a pleasure as I get to tour the finest cheeses from throughout the world. But this was just such a surprise, their booth tucked away in the back corner of the show, quietly allowing people to experience the first domestic truffle oil.

Oregon White Truffle Oil is certain to experience popularity ( Served in any myriad of ways, this would be my must have appetizer in a Friday evening meal. This oil is also sure to become the sultry dessert with red wine on a romantic evening.

The oil has already been featured on NPR’s “Michael Feldman’s Whadya Know” show, and had a great review in Saveur magazine:

“…though many producers augment their product (truffle oil) with a chemical compound that mimics the truffles’ taste and aroma, making for a more potent but less refined taste. WE PREFER THE PURER CHARACTER OF ALL-NATURAL OILS LIKE THE JOEL PALMER HOUSE OREGON WHITE TRUFFLE OIL, WHICH CONTAINS THE ESSENCE OF OREGON TRUFFLES (It’s the ONLY truffle oil currently sold in this country containing domestically grown truffles).” - Saveur Magazine April 2009

This product is not to be missed, and can be ordered online at the website:

Jack Czarnecki has undertaken a labor of love by hand-crafting the oil in small batches. Jack is a “noted wild mushroom cooking authority and award-winning cookbook author (James Beard Award - “A Cook’s Book of Mushrooms” - 1996). (”

His experience and love of truffles shines here.

“Truffle oil is a finishing oil used to enhance foods by adding to them after preparation.
The oil adds nuance and subtlety to any dish to which it is added. However, there are certain ways I like to use the oil which really brings out its unique character.

• Truffle oil on pasta in cream sauce
• Truffle oil on risotto, especially porcini risotto
• Truffle oil on carpaccio or thinly sliced specialty meats
• Truffle oil blended with drawn butter for lobster or crab
• Truffle oil with flashed-seared foie gras
• Truffle oil over scallops seared in sweet cream butter and slivered endive
• Truffle oil over gnocchi with parmesan

• Truffle oil vinaigrette with arugula

• Truffle oil whipped with cream cheese on crostini
• Truffle oil mayonnaise (”

I will be trying out some of these recipes this weekend, and so should you.


Monday, April 6, 2009

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Typography On the Web

Hey folks,
This is The Design Tzar with the first installment of "Wake-up and Smell the White-space" a weekly design post.

First I should mention that this post is going to have a tinge of irony since it is about typography on the web and yet I am using bloggers' default type settings. Luckily someone over at blogger has a good eye so it looks pretty decent anyways. I should also mention that the goal of this post is to give quick, practical methods to enhance your type rather than a dissertation on the proper use and execution of the subject.

Why should you care about your type? Simply put, because people won't read it otherwise. There are loads of studies that show people retain more information and are able to read quicker and more relaxed if the type is "set" well.

So what are some good rules for type? This is a little bit of a longer conversation but in the spirit of having you finish this post I will take a stab at brevity.

First, give your type room to breathe.

Type on your web page should have generous margins, padding and most importantly a good line-height. A good rule of thumb is to make sure you have 140% line-height compared to your font size, and as far as margins and padding go, use your eye, but be generous.

.bodyText { font-size: 12px; line-height: 17px; }

Second, watch your character count.
This is very important and yet very few web designers knowingly employ this rule. In general your character count should be in the range of 45-70. Getting outside of those numbers on either extreme is a baaaaad thing. Ever wonder why you get exhausted while trying to read or edit an essay or paper written in word with a small font. It's because those lines are way too long. And remember character count includes spaces and punctuation.

Third, maintain high-contrast in your text.
That is to say don't put light text on a light background because obviously it is really, really annoying.Type is meant to be read, so make sure it is readable...please. Also an important side note: black on white is preferable to white on black (of course we all break this one sometimes).

Okay now we are getting into the duh rules, and if these seem novel to you, well... (be nice Jarod) well then keep reading!

Fourth, keep your fonts to a minimum, and be consistent.
Part one. Don't have more than three fonts on a page and keep an eye out for contrasting styles (serif vs. sans-serif). The other half of this rule is try and be consistent with what fonts you are using and to what purpose on the site, an easy way to make sure you are doing this is by defining your font or font-family in the body style.

Lastly, colors, sizes, weights, italics, blah blah blah.
This rule is very simple. If you are feeling inclined to add any of the above to a line of type...ask yourself what purpose is it serving. Always try and balance simplicity with information-heirarchy. That is to say, if you are going to use italics for a subheading, than don't worry about making your sub-heading 34px. Likewise if your headings are going to be large, they probably don't need to be bright-blue as well.

And if ever you are inclined to break any of these rules, ask yourself what you are gaining from it. And then sign up at your local art institute and see if you can't channel all the creativity into some DADAesque montage that criticizes the role of greed in a modern capitalist society, with the use of christmas lights.

The Design Tzar

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Techie Tuesday (on Wednesday)

I figured I would share some interesting tech tidbits. Actually I am going to try and share these each week on Tuesday, so check back for good techie tuesday news and thoughts.

My first one is about CADIE - Google's newest artificial intelligence creation:

Well actually this was really their latest April fools joke. Which makes it now 2 years running that it has taken me most of the day to figure out that they were trying to trick me with their april fools jokes! b@st@rds!

Does anyone remember the send it in the past Gmail trick? Yeah that one got me, oh it got me good. I was so excited last year that i actually blasted it out to everyone i know as a good example of how google's engineers just really understand US, the people who use their products.

OK, but I digress, I am actually hear to talk about the would-be CADIE and whether such a thing could be possible. Well the truth is maybe, but maybe not in the way you think.

According to Google the make-believe CADIE (who actually says a whats up to an old professor of mine Dr. Norvig - no seriously his name is Peter Norvig and he is the head of research at Google) is based on "a significant breakthrough" in how to approach "reinforcement learning" problems. People may not realize just how close to reality some of these topics really are - so I thought I would write a short spot on some current topics in AI and more importantly how it relates to our lives.

What the heck does that mean? Essentially it means that they have a way of taking data and learning what about it, then reinforcing what they have just learned by studying a similar set of data again.

Its kinda like slapping your kids wrist everytime they reach for the candy jar. Except that kids usually learn - most kids usually learn (*cough* Jarod... ) - to stop reaching for the candy jar. Whereas most computers reach for the candy bar A LOT - they just really want to make sure you are going to hit them before they decide it is a good idea to truly stop trying to get that candy.

The goal is to create algorithms which can figure out this whole candy jar business in just a couple of wrist slaps - and better yet extrapolate that since your mother told you not to eat candy and she told you not to drink soda that you might get a similar wrist slap for drinking too much soda as eating too much candy.

Well I am not going to get into a discussion about the meaning of intelligence. I will leave it up to you guys to decide if this would truly constitute intelligence. But one thing that is interesting, is to think about how good computers can be at faking intelligence. One of the classical tests (the Turing Test) of intelligence for a computer was whether or not it could converse with a human being and fool the human into thinking it was a human as well.

Then, of course, right after we decided that it was a test worth beating, we went and solved the darn problem and in less than 250 lines of code (if you are not a developer just read - very very little work)!

This is all important because we want to think about what a CADIE-like program might be able to do for us.

Well here are a few things, if a computer were able to learn in the way that CADIE is, it might be able to figure out what food products stores like yours were purchasing and recommend which products you should be looking at. If it were REALLY intelligent it might suggest to a food manufacturer just which food buyers they should market a given product too, it would be like the perfect marketer playing match maker between buyer and seller (in fact these are a couple of the crazier things we are working on at Findood).

In fact we all get functionality like this today from Amazon (people like you bought this product, don't you want to buy this product too?). However, what would be truly revolutionary about CADIE would be that reinforcement and extrapolation part. The part where the program doesn't just look at people like you, but also looks at people that are a little bit like you and other people who are also a little bit like you but in different ways, and then learns and extrapolates what applies to you, because after all we are all at least a little bit special. Seroiusly there really isn't anyone else out there quite like you or me, and it would be amazing if the next time your support call were routed to India it was actually routed to a computer that treated you as unique as you actually are... just an april fools, or is it?

thanks for reading.

PS Do you have questions about how to use technology in the work place? If so, send me an email elliot AT and let me know what questions you have, I will be happy to discuss them here.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

findood is here

In an effort to have an intelligent, memorable brand we have changed the name of our website. Findood is the answer. So far the launch of this brand has been very successful. People have commented on the playfulness and intelligence of the logo and we hope it will be representative of what we think is the website that's going to change the way business is done.

More news to come as we develop this new site at a break neck pace. Some of our plans for the new site is a slick and innovative product catalog, company to company messaging, an industry news feed, and much more.

Be sure to check back regularly as we get closer to our private beta.

The guys at findood.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I will be headed out to Pike Place Brewing on Thursday for their Valentine’s Chocolate event. It sounds like turnout will be great. I am excited to meet the local chocolatiers who will have all of their romantic confections out on display.

While I was at the Fancy Food Show this year, there was a real emphasis on chocolate confections with chili peppers. This was a great product that I found. The owner has been a chef for over 20 years. I got an inside look at the most surprising product of the show…
Custom chocolates made specially for the Grateful Dead. Who would have thought? Fully decorated with skeletons, and absolutely delicious. Lillie Belle Farms has earned its reputation. If you have a chance, you definitely want to try this product.

Thanks to Beer Girl for the heads up on the Thursday Event. Here is the flyer as well as the list of companies who will be there. They will be on hand to sample their beers, wines, chocolates and mead.

Carter's Chocolates

The Chocolate Box


The Pike Brewing Company

Trevani Truffles

Frans Chocolates

Theo Chocolate

Ritrovo Imports

Click Distributing

Claudio Corallo Chocolate

Merchant du Vin Corporation


Sky River Mead

Noble Wine Company

Badger Mountain Vineyards/Powers Winery Clear Creek Distillery

I’ll be back with pictures and news of the event.

The Importance of having the Entire Product Catalogue Visible To Buyers

I was able to meet for dinner with the head of sales at Real Foods Company on Friday night. We had a fascinating conversation discussing how important it is for manufacturers of food products to have their entire catalogue visible and available to buyers in 2009.

“You know Matt, I am always amazed at my meetings with buyers from different retail grocery chains. I work really hard to discover their needs and then put together sales presentations that speak to those needs. But regardless of how much preparation I do, there is always something that I have that they are looking for that gets missed.

I was reminded of it again this week, when I hosted a buyer at our manufacturing facility. We were producing another order while we did the walk through together, and they saw the product, and told me that they had been looking for a product just like that for months.
It just goes to show that you can never completely meet a buyers needs. This is encouraging. But at the same time, it is rare that a buyer ever has time to come to our facility and see our entire product line. This week I sold several extra products, simply because the buyer saw our entire catalogue.

I think in 2009, as everyone is really trying to pinpoint the needs of customers and find a place for their products, it is simply that much more important for manufacturers to have their entire catalogue available and to find new creative ways to intrigue buyers enough to look through them.

Looks like it is going to be an interesting year. It seems that there is still plenty of room for so many of the great products out there, and many people willing to buy them. But it will be up to the industry to innovate how its products grab both consumers and retail buyers attention.

The long tail of niche products will be more relevant than ever, as long as each niche serves a real need for consumers. This year it won't cut it to dive in make a sale, and then call back a few months later to resell the same product. Visibility through relationship will be essential.