Alumni News

New Resources Launching to Help Businesses and Developers Thrive on Messenger


Posted by Facebook on June 29, 2017

At Messenger, our business partners and developers are always top of mind for us because they build and offer the experiences that the 1.2 billion people that use Messenger every month have come to love and depend on. It was with them in mind that we’re excited to announce some new tools for these valued partners to help them create the absolute best experiences possible for Messenger. Today we’re launching platform feature recommendations and a directory of platform development providers.

Platform feature recommendations is a focused checklist for sharing clear and actionable feedback to our developers. This new resource will show which platform tools a bot is currently using and then suggest additional tools and features based on best practices we’ve observed in our ecosystem. Once a certain number of people use a bot, we’ll email a list of recommendations:

  • Core features— crucial for onboarding and setting expectations for an experience
  • Add-on features— tools that can expand the capability of a bot

We hope that this kind of focused feedback will help our developer community build the most engaging and useful experiences on Messenger. For more on platform feature recommendations : Introducing Messenger Platform Feature Recommendations for your bot.

The directory of platform development providers is a resource for businesses to find providers that specialize in building experiences on Messenger. These providers offer services and solutions from one on one messaging to automation at scale. With this directory, businesses can connect with providers across the globe and work together to drive successful business outcomes on Messenger. We will continue to evolve the directory with new capabilities & providers as they emerge on the Messenger Platform. All providers listed have experience managing conversations between people and businesses that comply with Messenger Platform policies.

Businesses can find the following providers in the directory here.

We hope these two new resources will help our business partners and our developer community continue to build one-of-a-kind experiences on Messenger. We continue to be amazed by the variety and usefulness of the 100,000 bots and counting on the Messenger platform, and we never get tired of seeing new experiences launching every day.

Let us know what you think of these new tools and keep building!

Selly integrates CRM with AutoManager DMS

Selly Automotive


Selly Automotive’s customer relationship management platform has been combined with dealer management systems software from Los Angeles-based DMS provider AutoManager, Selly announced on Tuesday.

“For the past eight months, we have worked very closely with AutoManager to be thoughtful about the independent market and create an integration that will eliminate the need of double entry,” Selly Automotive founder and chief executive officer Zach Klempf said in a news release. “This integration reinforces our commitment to providing integrated solutions for independent and buy here, pay here dealerships.”

 Selly Automotive said the integration of AutoManager’s DMS, DeskManager, allows sales data to be exchanged on a bi-directional basis.

The integration also aims to eliminate redundancies, as well as increase dealership efficiency, according to Klempf.

 “We’re excited to team up with Selly Automotive for CRM in effort to offer a fully-integrated DMS system to our customers,” AutoManager president and chief executive officer Kami Tafreshi added.

“Now we’re able to offer a complete suite of products to our dealers with the most competitive pricing in the industry.”

For more details, dealers can contact Automanager directly by visiting or calling (800) 300-2808.

Smart Yields in first round of Vatican’s inaugural accelerator program

The Smart Yields team, from left, Isar Mostafanezhad, Vincent Kimura, Justin Hedani and Michael Rogers. Credit Tina Yuen PBN.

The Smart Yields team, from left, Isar Mostafanezhad, Vincent Kimura, Justin Hedani and Michael Rogers.
Credit Tina Yuen PBN.

By Anna Hrushka, Pacific Business News
Posted on June 8, 2017

Honolulu-based Smart Yields has made the first round of the Vatican’s inaugural accelerator program, called the Laudato Si’ Challenge.

The ag-tech company was selected to participate in the first part of the two-part program, called the Fellowship. Companies participating in the first round are paired with a mentor to speak with weekly.

A set of companies from the Fellowship will then be selected to receive funding and go to Rome for the full accelerator.

According to the program’s website, companies selected for the accelerator in Rome will receive mentorship and equity funding over a two-month period.

“Companies will provide participating startups expert advice and support on their business strategy, communications and marketing strategy,” the accelerator’s website said, adding top companies from Silicon Valley will support the startups.

“Companies receive mentorship from tech-centric professors, entrepreneurs and investors to set and reach milestones,” the website continues. “Experts in community leadership, business and environmental stewardship evaluate all of the applicants and select 12 startups which are the most transformative, impactful, scalable, sustainable, feasible and profitable.”

The 12 startups selected for the program will head to Rome to participate in the accelerator from July 13 to September 9.

Volta charging stations now open at The Promenade Bolingbrook


By The Times Weekly
Posted May 30, 2017

Bolingbrook – Two free charging stations for electric cars, powered by Volta, are now installed at The Promenade Bolingbrook near Gordon Biersch on the north side of the property and on the pathway to Bass Pro Shops.

“We’re seeing more and more of our diners, guests and shoppers driving electric cars, and we’re thrilled to be able to provide them with free charging stations,” said Tom Castagnoli, The Promenade Bolingbrook general manager. “Volta is the largest, free, electric-car charging network in the United States and our installation of two Volta charging stations is another way of thanking our shoppers and visitors.”

Volta’s revolutionary platform allows drivers of electric vehicles visiting The Promenade Bolingbrook to charge for free (limited to two hours per car) while they are shopping or dining. “With Volta,” according to its website, “everyone has an outlet for taking action to make the community better.”

Based in San Francisco, Volta’s mission is to use technology as a force for social change where community services, including free electric car charging, are underwritten by companies with a vested interest in the community. The startup currently operates more than 100 free electric-car charging stations in five cities around the country. Volta sets up free charging stations at retail centers at no costs to the hosts.

Watch Alchemist Accelerator’s Demo Day right here


By Samantha Stein, TechCrunch
Posted May 23, 2017

Watch as Cohort 2 alumnus MeetingSift participates in Alchemist Accelerator’s Demo Day!

AI-driven meeting collaboration platform that delivers deep actionable insights from meetings across the enterprise. Team: Alex Bergo, PhD (Expert Collab., NLP, ML), Viil Lid, PhD (Collab. tech., HCI, Analytics).

Read the entire article here.

Malibu High parents, students speak in support of filtered water stations


By Lauren Coughlin, Malibu Surfside News
Posted May 23, 2017

A variety of sustainability initiatives were discussed during the Thursday, May 18 meeting of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education.

While not a part of the board’s formal discussion item, several Malibu High parents and students spoke out in support of water filtration systems.

“This topic was a natural part of the conversation on the sustainability item on the agenda, as well as the item regarding deferred maintenance at our schools,” Gail Pinsker, community and public relations officer for the district, noted in an email to the Surfside. “The board heard about FloWater filtration systems during public comment and facilities staff will be looking at this as they continue to plan for the installation of filling stations at MHS and consider at other sites.”

Parents have been campaigning for filtered water availability at Malibu schools since last year, but the May 18 meeting appeared to be a turning point, with several board members speaking in support of the projects, too.

Mindy Peterson, one of the Malibu High parents who spoke at the meeting, said “it really felt like a groundswell.”

“It’s incredibly frustrating because we’ve gone now the entire school year and haven’t been able to provide clean, fresh water for our students,” she said.

Peterson said past systems were of concern due to maintenance needs, but the FloWater systems are freestanding units which are rented, freeing up some of the past liabilities that she believes were cause for concern among district officials.

Peterson added that funding has also been secured since last fall. Cornucopia Foundation, the City of Malibu and the Malibu High School Class of 2015 have offered funds toward water stations, she said.

The FloWater system costs $99 per month, per unit with a five-year commitment, plus costs related to filter changes, Peterson noted.

MHS parent Jennifer deNicola also spoke on the topic, and said seeing the students’ passion for sustainability was inspiring.

“I was inspired by the students’ passion and knowledge about what we all can and should be doing to protect our planet and our own health,” she said in an email to the Surfside. “These students give us all hope that protecting our environment will be the forefront of the future when they are running our cities and our country.”

Environmental Club member and Malibu High sophomore Lars Peterson was among students who spoke in support of the systems.

As a student-athlete who plays baseball and water polo, he said access to water is important, but he said many students think the Malibu High School water fountains are “pretty disgusting.” Currently, the students’ other option is to buy bottled water.

“The way it is is pretty unfair so I really think they should push to install these units to make it safe for everyone to drink the water at Malibu High School,” he said.

FloWater water is alkaline and electrolyte enhanced, with filters for sediment and carbon. The water also travels through a coconut carbon filter, providing a unique taste.

“Utilizing a system like FloWater or any other could be reviewed and approved as a consent agenda item as part of purchasing requests,” Pinsker stated. “We understand the high level of interest by students and staff to have these units installed as quickly as possible, and the preference that they include filtration.”

The district is also awaiting results from Los Angeles County Waterworks District No. 29 in regard to the quality of tap water at Malibu schools.

Emergency Streamer That Saves Lives on Shark Tank – See Rescue Streamer


By Jeremy Alexander, Huffington Post
Posted 4/24/17



The second entrepreneur into the Shark Tank this week was presenting his business See Rescue and was seeking $200k in exchange for 20% of the business. He has developed a portable streamer that can be extended in emergency situations so that you can increase your visibility for rescue.

As for his numbers, it gets a bit interesting. He licensed out the product years ago and the licensing group saw $15Mill dollars in sales over 15 years. Now the license has expired and he has taken it back. Even without the financial backing of the licensing group, he saw $200k in sales last year and $250k this year. The smaller version sells for $78 and the large one sells for $118.

First of all, I was really disappointed in the Sharks’ hesitation to get involved with this product. I understand their reasoning, but this is a proven product. Since it’s creation it’s saved 4 people’s lives. And that might not sound like a lot, considering it’s over the course of almost two decades, but I’d argue that it would be thoroughly proven if it had only saved a single person’s life. I can’t even imagine the feelings this entrepreneur had when one of those people personally thanked him for saving his life.

Anyway, like I said, I understand their reasoning. The biggest problem they had was with the challenges that would be presented with a strategy that targets a consumer market. The enterpreneur didn’t get into this too deep, but I feel like the only reason they Sharks would be so concerned about this is because much of the 15 years of licensing was focused on military contracts. The entrepreneur didn’t explicitly say that was the case, but he did mention that they had done military contracts in the past. Perhaps there is some clarification on how much of their business was done on those contracts that got edited out for time.

Other than just straight retail, the entrepreneur was also hoping for a path toward a mandate to include this product on lifejackets and in emergency kits. Personally, I think that should definitely be a major focus for his business. Mark is right though. That’s such a binary path. You either succeed and make millions, or you fail and make nothing. So although I think that’s the right path for him to go down, it’s not a path that excites investors. It’s far too risky.

All this being said, I think this product is amazing. It literally saves lives and has been proven to work. The military approves of it and I entirely agree that it needs to be included on all lifejackets and emergency survival kits. So good luck to this entrepreneur. He needs to keep pushing this out as far and wide as he can so more and more people can benefit from it.

Anyway guys, that you so much for watching! Please, please, please comment down below. I would love to see your thoughts on See Rescue. Don’t forget to like, favorite, subscribe, all that jazz. But until next time, I love you guys and I’ll talk to you later! Bye!

UNUM – Five Simple Things You Must Do If You Want To Succeed On Instagram

By Joel Contartese, Forbes
Posted April 20, 2017


Instagram has recently made quite a few changes to their platform, including live stories, carousel posts and shoppable photo tags. These changes all provide new opportunities for brands to monetize the platform.

Assuming you’re new to Instagram, or just haven’t had much luck yet, let’s start with the basics. Below, I’ve listed five simple but useful tips to help you achieve your Instagram marketing goals.

1. A Cohesive Instagram Grid

The first step is to lay out your photos in a way that not only makes people want to scroll through your grid but also incentivizes them to follow your account. If your page is messy and there is no consistency in your messaging, then all of your growth efforts will be wasted.

 You can create a free-flowing Instagram grid by sticking to a photo positioning strategy. Make sure you don’t overuse certain colors, patterns or filters to help keep your grid easy on the eyes. Instagram is a fast-paced platform where aesthetics play just as big of a role as the substance of your content. I recommend an app called UNUM, which allows you to create a grid and visualize it prior to posting.

2. Engaging Captions

An image catches the eye, a caption captures the mind. Writing a captivating caption begins with understanding the “give before you take” rule. Not every caption needs a call to action — some can purely be educational. Providing value is more important than asking your followers to do something.

 For example, when posting an image of a healthy recipe, do not ask your followers to click the link in your bio to read more. Instead, include the full recipe with instructions on the actual post. This will give the user a feeling of trust with your brand and encourage them to tag their friends.

3. Consistency 

A posting schedule you can actually follow is a must. Think of all the different content variations that align with your brand and your consumers. Create a posting schedule that allows for 2-3 posts per day and tackles major aspects of your ideal customer lifestyle. An Instagram feed should not only be product/service based. Providing value is essential to growth and retention.

4. Follower Engagement 

There is nothing more exciting than having your favorite brand respond to your comments, like your pictures or comment on a photo you tagged them in. Whether a user is asking a question, raising a concern or even complaining on your page, always address it.

The worst thing you can do is leave unanswered comments, delete complaints or block people. Social media gives people a voice. Encourage it and you will see results. Attempt to take it from them and they will go out of their way to spread negativity about your brand.

5. The Emotional Connection

Oftentimes new brands get caught up in the idea that professional photos are the only way to go. I’m here to tell you that this isn’t true. You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars to have quality content. On many occasions, users will create it for you. Not only is this cost-effective, but it also fosters one of the most important components of any social media strategy — the emotional connection.

 User-generated content is very valuable; it provides others with the validation or “social proof” they need to consider your product/service. In fact, 92% of social media users trust user-generated content more than traditional advertising.

These five steps will help ensure you have a strong foundation onto which you can build a successful Instagram strategy.

UNUM – The Apps Every Instagram Fanatic Needs To Have On Their Phone

By Sabrina Carder, Elle
Posted April 20, 2017


Talking of Instagram themes, are you a bit of a neat freak? You know what we’re talking about, the squares have to match perfectly, you’re a sucker for everything being matchy-matchy. Plus, you’ve had sleepless nights because your feed was looking ever so slightly ‘off.’


Sound familiar? Then you need UNUM, an Instagrammer’s best friend.

The app is a layout tool, which has the same configuration as Instagram. It allows you to upload potential images into the grid and play about with their placement, meaning you can create that perfect Instagram theme. Yeah we know, it’s a perfectionist’s heaven.

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