May 15th 2013: Persuasive Game Technology

How can video game mechanics like those found in like Epic Mickey, Bioshock Infinite and Mortal Kombat help create or improve products and services in different industries? This event will take a look at this topic and pick it apart.


Utilizing Game Technology to Improve Products and Services

Join Margarita Quihuis, Stephanie Spong, Chris Bennett, Albert Chen, and Andrew Mayer for a discussion on how the use of game mechanics can help companies solve problems and create a deeper connection with customers. 

presented by SVII and Sheppard Mullin

Sheppard Mullin

How can mobile and social technologies combined with game mechanics create and improve products and services in the real world?

At this event, we will explore game mechanics and how they can be used to improve digital products, going beyond pure entertainment, to solve real world problems. This new trend is gaining in popularity and brands are reworking their digital resources. Solutions have appeared in a rich assortment of industries, including health, education, finance. Game mechanics can be used to facilitate communication, leverage common interests, create change, and locate missing persons. Some refer to this trend as serious games. Bottom-line: the use of game mechanics allow companies to solve problems, forge a stronger connection with their customers, and create a better user experience.

This event will take place at the offices of Sheppard Mullin:

379 Lytton Avenue
Palo Alto, CA 94301
time: 7pm


Tickets on sale now: $20
Margarita Quihuis
Margarita Quihuis, social expert

Margarita Quihuis (Moderator). Quihuis’ career has focused on innovation, technology incubation, access to capital and entrepreneurship. Her accomplishments include directorship of Astia (formerly known as the Women’s Technology Cluster), a technology incubator focused on women entrepreneurs where her portfolio companies raised $67 million in venture funding, venture capitalist, Reuters Fellow at Stanford, and Director of RI Labs for Ricoh Innovations. She is a member of the research team at Stanford’s Persuasive Technology Lab and directs the Stanford Peace Innovation Lab where she conducts research in Innovation, mass collaboration, persuasive technology & the potential of social networks to change society for the better. Recently she joined Social Design – a new marketing consulting firm dedicated to bridging the worlds of online engagement and offline movements. With offices in Silicon Valley, San Francisco, and Washington DC, we’re enabling businesses, government agencies, and NGOs to grow by deliberately empowering the people they serve.

Stephanie Spong
Stephanie Spong, venture capitalist and gamer

Stephanie Spong is a gamer, geek and venture capitalist with over twenty years of professional experience in financial, operating and consulting roles and a passion for the game sector. From her experience at Goldman Sachs, Citibank, McKinsey and Monitor, she brings seasoned business judgment and financial skills, and as Managing Director of Razorfish’s Los Angeles office, she gained valuable operating experience and immersion in the digital media space.  Most recently, at EPIC Ventures she established a strong reputation as an early-stage technology investor, serving as the President of the New Mexico Venture Capital Association (2007 – 2010) and board member of the Invest Southwest Capital Conference and the Rocky Mountain Venture Capital Association.  During 2010, she chaired the Phoenix-based early stage Invest Southwest Capital Conference as well as the Venture Capital in the Rockies Fall Conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Chris Bennett
Chris Bennett, game designewr

Chris Bennett is an award-winning Game Designer who combines creative ideas with social networking to reach millions of players with his credited games. With over 17 years of experience in the entertainment software industry, he has been instrumental in expanding hit brands like Diner Dash, which is one of the top-selling casual games of all time with over 1 billion downloads. Chris has talked about games and game design for broadcast coverage in media including NBC TV, NPR and the San Francisco Chronicle. He is called on by organizations such as Stanford and USAID for his game design expertise.


Albert Chen
Albert Chen, game design professor

Albert Chen is Assistant Professor in the Game Design and Development program at Cogswell College in Sunnyvale, CA.  He has led students in the development of serious games using game engines for the Boeing Company, Neurosky and Ericsson.  As Associate Director for Cogswell’s Engineering Simulation and Animation Laboratory (ESAL), he led a team that was awarded the Boeing Performance Excellence Award in 2008. Prior to joining Cogswell in 2007, Mr. Chen was a professional game developer for over twelve years and worked for EA, LucasArts, Factor 5 and the 3DO Company.  He has a BA in International Relations from UC Davis and is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Cogswell College.

Andrew Mayer
Andrew Mayer, game designer

Andrew Mayer has spent the last two decades involved with every facet of digital entertainment, and has brought his unique insights and skills to such companies as Sony, Time Warner, PlayFirst, EA/Bioware, Zynga, 2K Games, and many more. He provided the original concept and design for the wildly successful “Petz,” which has fueled a boom in digital life forms that has remained a world-wide phenomenon since its creation in the mid-90s. Since then he has integrated interactive entertainment into many major brands including Batman, Scooby-Doo, Diner Dash, Tonka Toys, Reader Rabbit, The Ellen Show, and many more. Over the last decade he has been intensely focused on new platforms and the growing mainstream audience, including casual, social, and mobile devices.

APR 17th 2013: Crowd Funding – Magic or Tragic?

presented by SVII and Sheppard Mullin

Sheppard Mullin

Everyone who ever started a company eventually spends a considerable amount of time thinking about funding. The oldest form of funding is still the dominant one, savings, friends and family. In other words, fund it yourself along with the people you know.

In the past fifty years, two more fund-raising mechanisms have emerged: professional investors (venture capitalists) and amateur investors (angels). But now the internet is introducing a new way of funding a business (or project): crowd-funding.

As one might expect, no funding method is without pitfalls as well as advantages. In this event, people with backgrounds ranging from entrepreneurial to venture capitalist will give their perspective on the pros and cons of using crowd-funding and where they think it is heading in the future.



Larry Udell, Executive Director at California Invention Center, Center for New Venture Alliance, and Intellectual Property International, Ltc.

Lawrence J. Udell serves as Executive Director of both the California Invention Center and Intellectual Property International, Ltd. He has created and taught “New Ventures and Entrepreneurship” courses for over 25 years, plus a special course on, “Technology Marketing” at the Cal-State Hayward, School of Business and Economics. He has served as a Lecturing Professor at U.C. Berkeley teaching course on Technology Transfer & Commercialization, plus other universities in the U. S. and Canada. He is an active member of the Licensing Executives Society, and is co-founder and Managing Director of the Silicon Valley Chapter of LES. He also serves as Senior Consultant to General Patent Corporation of Suffern, NY. Founder of over 30 corporations, he provides consulting to both start-ups and Fortune 500 companies. He lectures frequently at inventor, corporate and government functions throughout America and for the USPTO. Also in other countries for the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO division of the United Nations).


Justin Bailey, Vice President of Business Development at Double Fine Studios

Justin Bailey spent a dozen years in business development and strategic planning in the entertainment industry. During this career, Bailey has lead M&A initiatives, closed venture deals, setup crowd funding campaigns, and helped publishers make the transition from retail to digital distribution at Accenture, NAMCO BANDAI Games America, Perfect World Entertainment, and Double Fine Studios – where he currently presides over all business operations and is exploring how to effectively leverage crowd funding and crowd sourcing as a repeatable business practice.



Riaz Karamali, Partner at Sheppard Mullin

Riaz Karamali is a partner in the Corporate Practice Group in the firm’s Palo Alto office.Riaz has extensive experience in corporate law, venture finance, mergers and acquisitions and technology transactions.  Riaz has worked with hundreds of start-up and emerging companies, guiding them from their pre-founding stages through their angel and venture capital financing rounds, significant commercial contracts and strategic alliances to their ultimate exit transactions. He has acted as outside general counsel to many such privately held companies in a wide range of industries including Internet, social gaming, biotechnology, semiconductor technology, medical devices and consulting.


MAR 20th 2013 (Recap): Achieving Intimacy AND Reach Through Social Media

On March 20th, the Silicon Valley Innovation Institute (SVII) had a gathering on the topic of “Achieving Intimacy AND Reach Through Social Media,” hosted by the Palo Alto office of Sheppard Mullin Law Associates, where we talked about social media marketing.

It was a vigilant meeting:

That was a joke.  But we were definitely treated to some fine fare by our generous hosts at Shepperd Mullin:


The goal was to see if social media allows you to have intimacy and reach at the same time. Traditional marketing and advertising has had great mass-market reach through things like TV, radio, and newspapers, but it hasn’t had the personal connection, therefore losing a lot of the impact. This is the reason that advertising has always been a fairly inefficient medium. With the advent and ubiquity of social media, however, the possibility is out there that advertising can be much more efficient and effective through the use of personalization. While the consensus was that yes, such intimacy (and effectiveness) is possible, there was still some debate over what that actually means or whether that was even a good thing.

There was debate over whether personalized advertising can actually be considered as intimacy. One of the definitions proposed by an audience participant was that a relationship is intimate when people don’t feel the need to emotionally hide themselves. That’s a good discrete definition of intimacy (which can be hard to achieve in social media).  However, on a more gradual scale, you could say that a relationship gets more intimate as it gets less formal and more familiar, which is certainly something that can be achieved through today’s social media. The 2012 Obama presidential campaign is famous for having very informal and “chatty” email titles. This is something that they did after testing showed that the more informal emails that looked more like emails from friends than campaign emails had a much higher response rate in terms of donations per email received. The natural follow-up question is whether or not you actually want to become more familiar with your customers and the people you buy from. From a business perspective, the answer is almost always yes, because people who feel more comfortable with you or your company are more likely to buy from you.

Another related question is whether or not this demolishes the barrier between professional life and personal life. Some people really do like knowing details about artists that have nothing to do with their art (in fact, it appears that the trend is going in that direction) and other people don’t. This is one of the many reasons that you need to listen to your audience/customers/constituencies.  Other factors to consider are your personality type and what kind of business you’re in. Our incumbent lawyer, Paul S. Cowie, acknowledged that in his business, the extraneous personal details are much more often left in the background, while artists and such generally have audiences that like to get to know the inner personalities of the people they are following.

Nevertheless, even such things as getting to know your audience require the increase in intimacy, leading to the inexorable conclusion that in order to be successful in social media–whether you want more intimacy or not–you still need more intimacy. Our audience also pointed out that different parts of the internet–a.k.a. different websites–have very different cultures, which is another kind of intimacy, one born out of shared experience and history. Then if someone doesn’t respect the local culture, à la Woody Harrelson on reddit, they just demonstrate why people trust people that they are familiar with more than strangers.

After some mingle-working, our formal event started with Kathryn Gorges, from Marketing Possibility, speaking about how social media marketing fits into the arc of history.

Back when people lived in villages and never traveled far from their original home, people evaluated whether they would do business with someone based on personal experience plus reputation. With the new-found prevalence of social media, this reliance on reputation and personal experience is coming back, because people know you through your online presence. Because of that, she said, more and more work activity will be going through personal channels instead of corporate channels. This is part of the so-called “long tail” of work activity–i.e. companies will hire people for discrete projects rather than as long-term employees.

Our next Speaker, attorney Paul Cowie, disagreed with this point.

He said that because of the way that the laws work in California, the employer-employee relationship will be the dominant one for a long time, because California laws are very strict about when someone who works for you can be considered a contractor instead of an employee, and California leads the way for a lot of other states.

The main thing Paul Cowie talked about, however, was the dangers inherent in social media both for people who are employees and for companies. There have been multiple times when people have claimed that they were absent from work because they were sick or disabled and then their social media activity showed that they were lying, which led to them being fired. When these cases were taken to court, the courts upheld the right of the employers to use social media evidence for dismissals like this.

On the other hand, social media also holds some pitfalls for employers as well. One company relied on an individual’s LinkedIn account for marketing. Then when the individual left, she and the company had a disagreement on who should control the LinkedIn account. Problems have also happened when employees tweeted on behalf of their company in a way that put the company in a bad light. For these reasons, Paul Cowie recommends that every company have a social media policy covering all of these contingencies.

Our next speaker was Mark Willaman of and

He got away from the philosophical conversation to some of the more practical aspects of social media marketing. Willaman posed the question, “How can one utilize a multitude of media services to extend reach AND intimacy?” While this idea is quite a tall order due to the anonymous nature of the internet, he presented the idea that different mediums complement different types of content and allow you to cover a larger sector of consumers with a greater presence of personality. In addition to combining media, Mr.Willaman follows a “10:1 Rule” that states “for every one post about yourself (or your own company), share or talk about someone else’s content 10 times.” In this way, your audience will feel like you are giving more than taking, which results in them liking you a lot better and you actually getting better results. The reach part comes from the fact that social media (especially if you use a lot of different channels) can reach a lot of people and can reach people who are far away geographically.

The final speaker of the night was Tom Treanor of Right Mix Marketing.

Treanor stressed some of the same things as Willaman, especially that you use different channels in different ways as the channel’s culture or affordance leads. He also gave some examples of creative ways people have used social media to market themselves, like a boxer from the UK who actually tracked down someone who bad-mouthed him on twitter and tweeting about it himself. This led to a huge spike in publicity for the boxer, Curtis Woodhouse, who for a short period was getting more mentions on twitter than president Obama. The happy part of this story is that there was no actual fighting involved, and the twitter “troll” came out and publicly apologized to Woodhouse.

Treanor’s two take away points were: (1) Companies that connect the virtual and real worlds will win. And (2) companies win when they give fans experiences that they love so much that they feel compelled to share them (i.e. your fans are doing your marketing). You can see Tom Treanor’s full slide presentation here.

Ultimately, the speakers and most of the audience agreed that intimacy and reach are possible using social media, but it’s not a get-rich-quick kind of thing. It takes hard work, but it’s worth it (and necessary).

Join us for our next vigilant meeting on Wed, April 17th at 7PM: Crowdfunding – Magic or Tragic (Location: Shepperd Mullin, Palo Alto).

Pre-Registration Tickets ($20)  – on SALE NOW!