Stumped with Making a Career Out of Your Major? How About a Startup?

At an institution synonymous with its medical school and engineering programs, outsiders are often surprised to hear about the breadth of entrepreneurial ventures Hopkins students are involved in. The school quietly fosters a dedicated environment for students to create business ventures in the real world. The opportunities are quite diverse, from the popular Entrepreneurship & Management minor, to FastForward and JHTT, two groups of Hopkins inventors, entrepreneurs, and investors who aim at bringing technological innovations from the lab to the commercial marketplace.

A student in Professor Kendrick's class dons the sumo costume during the JHU Career Fair.

A MindSumo representative dons the sumo costume during the JHU Career Fair.

In addition to these school-sponsored initiatives, there is an extensive list of unaided Hopkins-born entrepreneurial startups that are just as poised to strike the commercial market. One prime example of such a company is MindSumo, founded by grad Keaton Swett, who majored in History and minored in Entrepreneurship and Management during his time at Hopkins. The vision for MindSumo was to create a unique opportunity for students, specifically in the computational and analytic fields, to showcase their talents in practical scenarios, shifting the focus of a job or internship interview from a single piece of paper (the applicant’s résumé) to a portfolio of proven skills.

Companies sponsor challenges for students to provide their own creative solutions to real business problems. Winners are chosen by the sponsor company to receive cash prizes, interviews for jobs and internships, and accolades to tout in their search for future employment. Since its humble beginnings, MindSumo has already attracted 30,000+ student users as well as dozens of top-tier companies in a vast array of fields (Google, Zappos, and General Mills, to name a few).

Although Keaton has since moved headquarters of MindSumo to California, he remains in close contact with his alma mater. He has lent his time, effort, and his company’s reputation to Leslie Kendrick’s Advertising and Integrated Marketing Campaign class, which is tasked with garnering new sign-ups and awareness for the company on the Hopkins Homewood campus and at other area universities.

Students might feel nervous about starting their careers, but Keaton and the dozens of Hopkins alums who have started their own companies are proof of the limitless opportunities that can come as a product of a Hopkins education.

Learn more about MindSumo at For more information about MindSumo’s campaign on the Hopkins campus, please contact either Lauryn Capers or David White at

Don’t Pay for That: The Student Economy.

Innovation starts at home

While studying for a marketing exam the other night, I was reminded of the true definition of economy: the management of resources required to run a business, household, or government. Though it’s on a much smaller scale than the U.S Treasury, I realized that my small home on Guilford Ave has its own economy. My roommates and I supply the home with toilet paper, food, labor, rent, and other supplies and services to keep it running. Because we’re staying at the house, we’re able to go to work, pursue our degrees, and have a place to sleep at night. I only start this post in this manner to say the home is an economy, and you can treat your household like a business to save as much money as possible.

Don’t Pay for That

Having lived essentially paycheck to paycheck for the past seven months, I’ve noticed a common trend: the less I spend, the more I have for essentials such as raw chicken and parking tickets. Shocking, isn’t it? Fortunately, Mother Nature Network contributor Melissa Breyer has compiled a list of 15 Great Things you can Get for Free, and I’d like to share the highlights with you today.

  • Textbooks are way more expensive than they’re worth. When publishers release barely modified, “new” editions each year, the new edition leaps in price, costing you as a student hundreds of dollars. Breyer recommends using Project Gutenberg to find free ebooks, but you could also search for international editions of textbooks (which are much cheaper than the domestic and may contain the exact same content), or simply use Google to search “filetype: pdf “textbook name” to land a free book.

    Project Gutenberg has saved me in literature classes throughout high school.

    Project Gutenberg has saved me in literature classes throughout high school.

  • Education has been made more easily accessible by the Internet. Sites such as Khan Academy and University of Reddit have free online classes that individuals can take to expand their knowledge. If you want to learn a language, sites such as Duolingo, in which a user completes language challenges to advance his or her skills, is also a good match. For a Mother Nature Network list of free online educational institutions, please click here.

    Use Duolingo to learn a new language!

    Use Duolingo to learn a new language!

  • Cash is sometimes more expensive than it’s worth because of ATM fees. Many of my friends in college are not from the Baltimore area, and they have to pay ATM fees if they wish to withdraw money. You shouldn’t have to pay to get your money, so take advantage of cash back when making purchases with your debit card, start a local bank account in your city, or use the app ATM Hunter to find your bank’s nearest fee-free ATM.

    The ATM Hunter App for iPhone and Android can save you money when you want your money.

    The ATM Hunter App for iPhone and Android can save you money when you want your money.

Leave it up to our mothers to help us run a household with as few costs as possible. Please comment below with the ways you save money around the house!

– David

My Movie Internship: Hollywood Is Just As Business-Orientated As Wall Street.

Many people overlook the fact that Hollywood is just as business-orientated as Wall Street. From a strictly business perspective, a movie is a staggering—and very risky—investment: producers and studios can pour hundreds of millions of dollars into a single production in hopes that the revenue generated from ticket sales, home-video sales, merchandise, etc. will turn a profit. Investing in a movie is precarious because of the underlying notion that no one can predict whether or not a movie will be good, and if it is good, if audiences will want to see it and purchase tickets. In order to dilute the risk factors, then, studios rely on securing high-profile celebrities and creative teams, reverting to known blockbuster genres, remaking classic hits, and making sequel after sequel (Saw 7, anyone?).

Unsurprisingly, box office sales are the primary way a movie earns money, and most movies earn close to 50% of their domestic gross in their opening weekends. The rare exceptions are the movies with strong legs, like Gravity or Avatar, which hold well in the marketplace for continuous weeks. Thus, luring audiences into the theater that opening weekend is especially critical, and consequently studios carefully deliberate release dates and spend huge amount of money marketing a film. In fact, most tent-pole movies (a movie, usually a blockbuster, that ‘holds up’ or balances out a studio’s financial performance, e.g. Despicable Me 2 or Harry Potter; they’re often expected to turn a profit in a relatively short amount of time) can have advertising budgets comparable to their production budgets. That is to say, if a movie’s cost is $80 million, it could have close to that in marketing efforts behind it. Additionally, if a studio knows a movie is going to be a flop, and they generally do, they might increase or decrease the marketing budget, either to make one last push to persuade audiences to see the film or to cut their losses. Securing a strong opening weekend turnout is also the reason why movies with widespread critical acclaim publicize their reviews early, while studios with flops on their hands tend to keep poor reviews under wraps until the last possible moment in order to prevent them from discouraging audiences.

From trailers and posters to TV spots and other publicity efforts such as Comic-Con parties and online presences, creative advertising attempts to both raise awareness about the movie as well as highlight it as worthy of the ten-dollar ticket price to see it on the big screen. A film’s trailer is without question its strongest advocate, and as such, most studios begin creating a trailer months in advance of its release. Studio executives work with the filmmakers as well as with external production companies (known as trailer houses) that specialize in either print (the poster) or audio-visual (the trailer) media to design a campaign that positions the movie in a particular, meticulously crafted light. Everything from the music and dialogue to the font of the copy (text) to the emotion the trailer evokes is highly scrutinized and debated because the trailer is not only the first glimpse audiences will have of the movie, but also, if constructed successfully, the most influential marketing tool.

Executives begin researching the campaign by reading the film’s script and watching trailers for similar movies. They study those trailers to understand what worked well and what did not, but to see how other marketing departments have approached a related topic: what angle on the story did they take? Was the focus more on the visuals or on the story? How much of the plot was revealed and in what ways? While they are researching, executives meet with filmmakers to decide how they want to advertise the film, read the script, and look at dailies. Dailies are visuals (both photo and video) of everything that has been filmed, uncut, on a single day; as filming progresses, the quantity of dailies increases and the executives have more footage to work with. The creative process really begins here, when executives work with trailer houses to select and edit the footage, piecing together the trailer that aligns with their vision about how they want the film to appear. The trailer houses send a number of versions of each cut of the trailer to the executive, each with varying music, copy, visuals, etc. The executive then considers what works well and what needs to be changed, and the trailer houses then make the edits. This editing and re-editing usually lasts several weeks. Once the trailer is ready, and the filmmakers have given their approval, the trailer is usually screened before several test audiences of various demographics. These test audiences comment on not only whether or not they like the trailer, but if the trailer is effective at accomplishing what the studio intended, e.g. was the film’s plot clear? did the jokes work?  When the trailer is finally ready, it ships, or is released.

Timing the shipping of trailers is crucial, as there are often specific movies to which the executives want them to be attached or accompany. Attaching a trailer to a movie means that the trailer will always play before a certain movie in the theater; the term comes from when the actual 35mm film of trailer would have to be physically attached to the film of the movie. Perhaps the most well-known recent instance of this was Warner Bros. attachment of Man of Steel’s teaser to The Dark Knight Rises. Studios can also vary attachment based on theater type, i.e. if you go and see the newest Thor in 3D, you would have been treated to a five-minute sneak peak of the upcoming Captain America. This strategy is more commonly exhibited with IMAX screens, as an added incentive to pay the higher ticket price. If a trailer accompanies a feature, it will often play before that film, but it doesn’t have to. Studios work with theaters to have their trailer shown before a movie, but the theaters have the final say and usually make their decision based on the expected audience of the film playing and the release date of the advertised film. In other words, the theater might not choose to screen a horror trailer before the latest Pixar film. This is why if you see a movie in theaters more than once, there may be different trailers before it each time, or if you see a movie at a different theater, there will also be different trailers.

While premiering a trailer in theaters remains the most common approach, in recent years studios have begun exploring other avenues by which to do so, such as on late night talk show’s (Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy trailer premiered on Jimmy Kimmel), during major television events (Universal’s Neighbors, the new Seth Rogen comedy, first aired its trailer during the Roast of James Franco), or at events such as Comic Con. This strategy is becoming increasingly popular, as with certain events or television programs, studios can target a more specific demographic. With the ability to watch trailers anytime online, the timing of shipping the trailer might appear to have lost some of its importance, but the opposite is true. The Internet can create immense hype for a film when a trailer is released and shared across various social media platforms, and studios need to time this hype to prevent it from coming and going too soon.

– Andrew Townson ’14 atownson@jhu.ed

Selfie Nation

A few years ago, I would cringe when I saw a selfie posted on a social media website, immediately thinking of the selfie bathroom pictures that frequented Myspace. However, the selfie has surged in popularity, with self-taken photos and videos being utilized as a tool for self-promotion and expression. Even Oxford Dictionaries highlighted the trend when it proclaimed the selfie to be the 2013 word of the year.

President Obama's famous selfie at the Nelson Mandela memorial

President Obama’s famous selfie at the Nelson Mandela memorial

Companies have released a wave of selfie marketing campaigns, aiming to transform their customer relations by focusing on individual experiences with their products. Instead of producing professional and poised photos, brands have tapped into user-generated content. Raw and unedited evoke feelings of trust, as consumers rely upon each other to identify new deals, brands, and trends.

Coach has launched a particularly successful selfie marketing campaign with its #coachfromabove hashtag. Customers are encouraged to share pictures of their Coach shoes around the world on Twitter and Instagram, with the possibility of being featured on the official company website. Other companies, such as Applebee’s, are using self-taken videos as a promotional tool. Applebee’s is giving customers the chance to be featured in national TV commercials by posting their reactions to new menu items on Vine with the hashtag #BeeFamous. Even museums have caught onto the selfie trend by promoting this past January 22 as #MuseumSelfie Day, sparking fun and ridiculous selfies posted by museum enthusiasts across the globe.

A selfie of Eminem with the Mona Lisa

A selfie of Eminem with the Mona Lisa

However, some selfie campaigns have drawn mixed reviews, such as Dove’s selfie film for their Campaign for Real Beauty. In the film, women exhibited self-portraits and wrote complimentary notes to one another. Although the video promotes redefining standards of beauty, critics have scoffed that the video is contrived – and obviously so, as the video is ultimately designed to sell Dove’s beauty products. Many selfie videos are artificial and contrived, such as the Turkish Airlines YouTube video featuring Kobe Bryant and Lionel Messi. The two athletes have a staged selfie shootout, and the fun and successful video has over 130 million views.

Celebrities have also come under public scrutiny for posting too many selfies on social media. In reponse to critics, James Franco wrote a defense of the selfie for the New York Times, emphasizing that the selfie is a legitimate and powerful tool for self-promotion. He wrote, “selfies are avatars: Mini-me’s that we send out to give others a sense of who we are.” Over the past year, I’ve come to terms with the selfie. I’ll send selfies to friends on Snapchat, and even upload a selfie to Instagram or Facebook every once in a while.

One of James Franco's many sefies

One of James Franco’s many sefies

A selfie I took in Havana, Cuba by the Malecon

A selfie I took in Havana, Cuba by the Malecon

Do you use selfies on social media? Should businesses continue to use selfies in marketing campaigns, or do you think there will be a new trend that will redefine social media marketing in 2014?

– Kara

How the Internet and Advertising Technology Destroyed Newspapers.” dedicates itself to “chronicling the decline of newspapers and the rebirth of journalism,” and tracks an ever-growing list of newspapers that have gone bankrupt since 2007 when the site began. Dozens of revered daily newspapers have closed their doors in the wake of one of the most pronounced cases ever of technology disruption of an industry. All newspapers, especially those that focus on local news, have faced shutdown or drastically downsized operations.

The reason for this decline has less to do with the fact that readers consume news on their computers, tablets, and phones as most people suspect. Readership numbers are not down; if anything, total reader numbers have surged since the internet has made content more accessible for local newspapers. Rather, the decline has occurred due to fundamental issues of supply and demand of “advertising inventory,” which represents total, sellable available advertising space. The internet, as well as advertising technology, has created infinite advertising inventory in a world that previously had a finite amount inventory, all of which sat with newspapers and magazines.

Newspaper Advertising Revenue
In 1994 if a brand wanted to reach a national audience that reads news, or on a specific day (rather than a weekly or monthly magazine), that brand could advertise on either The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal, and to an extent The Washington Post and USA Today. Advertising inventory to target newspaper readers was scarce, and limited to these newspapers with a broad reach. Newspapers contained a fixed amount of pages and square inches that could house advertisements, and with this limited supply came a high price for advertising space, and incredible power and influence for these newspapers. Rumors of the golden age for advertising salespeople include tales of newspaper ad salespeople being entertained, perversely, by brands that hoped to be moved up a “wait list” for advertising placements. Life was good for newspapers.

As the internet grew exponentially in the late 1990’s, so did the amount of advertising inventory. Any person with an internet connection and a blog was technically a “publisher,” and could procure content to a large audience similar to a newspaper. With more content came more advertising inventory, and suddenly major newspapers were no longer the sole purveyors of this finite source of advertising inventory. Advertising inventory could be found everywhere on the web. In 2003, Google opened the advertising floodgates by creating a network called “Adsense” that allowed publishers (even your roommate with a video game blog) to sell advertising space, and in a way that would be more “targeted” than newspapers. An advertiser that only wanted to advertise to video game buyers could do so a lot more efficiently by running on your roommate’s blog than he could on, say, the Wall Street Journal.

With these innovations, in an extremely simple “supply and demand” scenario, the supply of advertising inventory surged, so the price of advertising space dropped considerably. Much of this expanded inventory came at the hands of Google Adsense and a few other networks. Surprising to some, roughly 95% of Google’s revenue (which was $50 billion in 2012) comes from advertising. Google is, at its core, an advertising company.

Because the value of advertising units has plummeted, newspapers today simply drive less revenues, whether print or digital. And the unfortunate newspapers with operations that require higher prices for advertising sales than the market was paying, found themselves underwater and on possibly Hit especially hard were the local, smaller newspapers that could not attract advertisers the way that larger, farther reaching newspapers could.

In the next article I will explore how advertising technology, despite bringing an industry to its knees, is now rewarding and leading a resurrection for premium newspapers that have a strong brand and broad reach.

Tripp Weber graduated Johns Hopkins in 2009 with an International Relations major and Entrepreneurship and Management Minor. He currently works as an Advertising Manager for the New York Times.

– Tripp Weber

Ron Daniels and Phil Spector on the Johns Hopkins 10 by 20 Initiative

This semester, I took my first leadership class in the Entrepreneurship and Management department– Leading Change with Doctor Smedick. Throughout the course, we evaluated various theories of leadership, assessing individual leadership traits and institutional systems that affect change, and our in-class discussions often gravitated toward the challenges facing Johns Hopkins. Throughout the semester, we interviewed various leaders and reported our findings to the class, and for one such assignment, I teamed up with Simon Osipov and Chris Alvarez to interview President Daniels and Phil Spector, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives. In the interview, we focused on the Ten by Twenty vision for Johns Hopkins through 2020. The document synthesizes the aspirations of stakeholders from across the university into ten succinct goals to be accomplished by 2020, serving as a guiding post for the university’s initiatives and providing a benchmark to measure success over the rest of the decade. The ten goals are classified under four major themes: one university, individual excellence, commitment to our communities, and institution building.

The ten goals are:

1: Selectively invest in those programs and activities that will advance significantly our core academic mission

2: Strengthen our capacity for faculty-led interdisciplinary collaboration and launch a set of innovative cross-cutting initiatives that will contribute substantially to the world of ideas and action

3: Enhance the impact of Johns Hopkins Medicine, the Bloomberg School of Public Health and the School of Nursing, as the world’s preeminent academic health sciences enterprise by deepening collaboration among these entities and with disciplines in other parts of the university and across the globe.

4: Build Johns Hopkins’ undergraduate experience so it stands among the top ten in the nation.

5: Build on our legacy as America’s first research university by ensuring that at least two-thirds of our Ph.D. programs stand among the top twenty in their fields.

6: Attract the very best faculty and staff in the world through a welcoming and inclusive environment that values performance and celebrates professional achievement.

7: Enhance and enrich our ties to Baltimore, the nation and the world, so that Johns Hopkins becomes the exemplar of a globally engaged, urban university.

8: Strengthen the institutional, budgetary, technological and policy frameworks necessary to set priorities, allocate resources, and realize the highest standards of academic excellence.

9: Reinforce our position as the leading university recipient of competitively funded federal research support, while increasing the amount of annual research investment from other sources with appropriate cost recovery.

10: Develop the resource base necessary to support investments in key academic priorities.

In creating the Ten by Twenty document, President Daniels drew upon the university’s rich history to inform his vision for the future, as he emphasized, “The Ten by Twenty document brings together conversations we have been having about the university’s future for the past 137 years.” Three of the four major themes – one university, individual excellence, and commitment to our communities – were drawn from President Daniels’ inaugural address in 2009, as he has used these principles as the pillars of his leadership. Drafting the document itself was an enormous undertaking, as Phil Spector stressed, “Creating the document itself was just as complex as implementing strategies to realize those goals.” After writing an initial draft of the document, President Daniels and Phil Spector held over 35 consultative meetings, incorporating feedback into revisions of the document.

To successfully enact change, President Daniels engaged various stakeholders, ensuring that multiple views were reflected in the final document. Demonstrating the principles of systemic leadership, President Daniels’ effectiveness as a leader is largely derived from his ability to tap into and mobilize networks across Johns Hopkins. Before joining Johns Hopkins in 2012, Phil Spector worked in Washington DC for Senators Corzine and Clinton. In this position, Phil Spector gained invaluable experience in addressing multiple and often competing interests, as he related, “Issues often cut across the government, and to work effectively in this multi-dimensional environment, I had to harness power across the institution.”  As the Vice President of Strategic Initiatives, Phil Spector has applied this knowledge to Johns Hopkins, recognizing the importance of pulling levers across the institution to tease out new ideas and create sustainable change.

Each year, President Daniels will publish a public annual report, which will use both qualitative and quantitative metrics to assess the university’s progress in achieving the ten goals. Not only will the reports increase the transparency of the university’s efforts to realize the vision by 2020, but it will also serve as a method to hold leadership at Johns Hopkins accountable to the university’s stakeholders, as President Daniels stressed, “I have staked my leadership upon it.”  The annual report can also serve as a method of praising the accomplishments of Johns Hopkins.

In John Kotter’s eight step process for leading change, the sixth step was generating and celebrating short-term wins. Although the annual report will serve as a method of identifying improvements, the President often seizes other opportunities to interact with the community and celebrate the university’s endeavors. In October, President Daniels ran in my sorority’s Halloween themed 5K, which raised funds for the Read, Lead, Achieve’ initiative. Dressing as superman and achieving the best time in his bracket, President Daniels brought enthusiasm and spirit to the event, supporting Pi Beta Phi’s contribution to the seventh goal of enhancing the university’s commitment to communities. This past week, President Daniels spoke at Lighting of the Quads, an incredible Hopkins tradition that brings together students, faculty, and staff together outside of Gilman Hall. Before the start of finals season, the stunning fireworks serve as a reminder of the success of the university, as our collective efforts for excellence will enable us to achieve the ten goals.

Ron Daniels and his wife, Joanne Rosen, at the Pi Beta Phi 5K

Ron Daniels and his wife, Joanne Rosen, at the Pi Beta Phi 5K

Gilman at the 6th annual Lighting of the Quads

Gilman at the 6th annual Lighting of the Quads

The ten by twenty goals are ambitious yet realistic, setting high expectations that can be achieved by 2020. Rather than aiming to be ranked the number one university by 2020, the fourth goal is to be a top ten undergraduate university, and the fifth goal is to have two-thirds of Ph.D. programs be ranked in the top twenty in their fields. Progress has already been made on accomplishing the ten goals. Michael Bloomberg’s gift this past January will fund new professorships that link at least two schools together, with the aim of integrating multiple perspectives.

After reflecting on the interview with President Daniels and Phil Spector, Chris, Simon and I realized that the Center for Leadership Education acts as a bridge within the university, linking students from multiple departments and backgrounds. The students of our Leading Change class represent multiple majors, from English to Neuroscience, as well as a variety of student organizations and interests. In our time at Johns Hopkins and our pursuits after graduation, we all share a common goal to be effective leaders. Phil Spector emphasized that during the consultative meetings, the word “entrepreneurial” was often brought up to describe the spirit of Johns Hopkins, and I agree that this spirit pervades all aspects of the university’s culture. With our entrepreneurial and innovative spirit, I’m confident that we can accomplish the ten ambitious goals by 2020, and I am excited to see the progress that Johns Hopkins makes over the next seven years.

Which of the ten goals affects you the most as a stakeholder of Johns Hopkins? Would you add any goals or make any revisions to the document?


Brands Should Do Their Market Segmentation Homework.

When we see a TV commercial, an advertisement in a magazine, or any other kind of marketing campaign, we never imagine the amount of work that goes into it. We only get to see the final product, and we imagine artists and creative directors working together to develop it. What we don’t realize is the research, the analysis, and other behind the scenes processes that take place before the creative process can begin.

One of these little known processes is market segmentation. Market segmentation is a process where a marketer places prospective buyers into different groups based on their needs and how they respond to a marketing action. The purpose of market segmentation is to determine segments and target markets in order to develop a marketing program. Identifying segments and a target market is crucial for marketing success because if marketing actions are too broad or try to encompass all potential customers, it can end up not influencing anybody. By breaking consumers into segments, marketers are able to target groups of people with similar behavior and buying patterns in order to try and maximize their profit. It becomes much easier to suggest effective and efficient marketing actions once a target market is identified.

A great example of a brand that learned the importance of marketing segmentation is Gatorade. Between 2008 and 2009, Gatorade sports drinks suffered a 10.2% decrease in revenue and a 12% drop in operating revenue. While there could be many reasons to explain this loss, a marketing blunder could be a major factor. In an attempt to broaden their target market, Gatorade launched their What is G campaign, which included many iconic professional athletes and a voiceover by rap artist Lil Wayne. This campaign ended up being too broad and did not focus on a target market. Gatorade tried to appeal to everybody, but ended up influencing less people than they would have if they had done their market segmentation homework.

On the upside, they seem to have learned their lesson. Currently, Gatorade targets two narrower markets: High school athletes, and professional athletes. Gatorade promotes its G series towards younger, high school aged athletes while promoting its Pro series to professional athletes. After segmenting the market, Gatorade was able to start recovering sales.

Gatorade has a website for Moms of athletes.

Gatorade has a website for Moms of high school athletes.

There is a lot of work that goes into creating an effective marketing campaign that is typically not seen. Marketing researchers and analysts work hard to maximize the probability that marketing actions are successful before such actions are taken. As seen with the Gatorade example, the effects of missing a step can be disastrous to the company.

– Candice