Alex Ross is the cofounder and CTO at Enplug.
Tell us a little about yourself. Describe your job, how long you’ve been doing it, and how you got into this field.
I’m the CTO of Enplug, which I co-founded with a team of 4 in 2012. I’m a self-taught developer with a background in finance. I had my first “big break” when I took a job as a web developer for a financial company while studying Chinese language at UCLA. I had the opportunity to single-handedly build the entire back-end system the company still runs on today, from sales to operations. By the time I finished college I was in love with programming and haven’t looked back since. I jumped at the opportunity to start Enplug because we had a young, talented team tackling a stagnant industry using original technology as our competitive advantage.
What is Enplug?
Using our Plug n' Play software, businesses can turn any HDTV, display, or projector into a smart screen which runs apps developed for our platform. Live social feeds, digital signage, HD videos, weather, digital menus, digital directories, and more can be downloaded onto any display. Users can control all aspects of their display in real-time through our web dashboard and mobile apps. Our platform also features an SDK, allowing developers to create apps that enhance the in-venue experience.
Our most popular app is the Live Social Feed which serves as a Twitter wall, Instagram wall, Facebook wall, Yelp feed, and Foursquare feed, displaying social media posts mentioning a specific @handle or selected #hashtag in real-time. The app also features automated filtering tools and a social media dashboard that provides a one stop shop for managing your social media.
How can the marketing industry use Enplug to create better results for its agency or clients?
Our live social media display software starts the conversation between a brand and its customers. It drives incredible engagement for brick-and-mortar clients of any type, from retail to bars and restaurants. On average, we see organic social media engagement increase at least 500% within one month of setup. Often times, engagement increases by an order of magnitude. You’d be amazed by the number of people post something as simple as “Hi Mom #Toyota” just to get their message on the screen. There’s something magical about the moment when customers and their friends see their instagram photos, tweets, or checkins in real-time in front of their peers in the real world.
We turn typical social media strategy on its head: Rather than advising our customers to post regularly on social media to build a following, we recommend they focus their efforts on re-engaging with customers who have posted to their social display. The key for brands is that the users engaging on social media in this scenario are high quality existing customers, and when the brand responds to these customers over social media it’s able to build a authentic online following. These customers are traditionally difficult to identify on social media, but by engaging with the social display they’re put on the brand’s radar. This results in a much higher ROI and more genuine experience for everybody involved than typical social media strategy.
What changes in your industry made you realize that your product would fill a void?
Hardware costs for TVs and small form-factor computers have both dropped tremendously, making it cost-efficient to set up clean, attractive digital signage. Software providers for digital signage haven’t kept up with the pace of change and there is no clear leader in the space. Furthermore, existing software providers have lackluster support for social media engagement, do not have mobile-friendly management tools, and feature antiquated user interfaces. On the social media side, most businesses now accept it as a core marketing channel but are struggling to find an effective way to tap into it.
We saw this as an opportunity to create attractive, easy-to-use software with a low barrier to entry and compelling effectiveness driven by deep social media integration. Our plug-and-play software is leveraged by marketing teams at large corporations and mom-and-pop store owners alike.
Describe 1-3 core features of your product/service?
Our Plug n' Play software can be shipped anywhere and plugged in for instant use. All you need is internet connection and an HD TV or display. Then, just plug in through any HDMI port, and you're ready to go!
Our software offers digital signage alongside social media, among other functionality. Digital signage lacks meaningful engagement and residual marketing value, which our social feed app provides.
Developers can create custom apps using our SDK. This gives businesses and 3rd party developers the ability to create anything. We’re creating an standard platform for public computing.
How do you see your industry evolving in the next few years?
I expect we’ll see many more intelligent displays in the real world as hardware prices continue to drop precipitously, lowering the barrier to entry even further. As social media continues penetrating into our lives, we’ll probably see more interesting use-cases for real-time engagement in new places as well. Ultimately, I expect we’ll see extremely innovative uses of public displays once the distribution of a single platform becomes large enough, as iOS or Android did for mobile. At Enplug we call that growth trend “public computing”, a parallel to mobile computing.