Top Alexa Skills

We've talked about Alexa on some of our social channels, in fact, our CEO has even written up his take on technology that's always listening. Today, we just want to share how we use Alexa on a daily basis because we think she's pretty cool. 

  1. Booking Trips
    This skill is primarily beneficial if you currently use Kayak to book your trips. Alexa can actually check prices on a trip you've set. For example, you can say "Alexa, what's the best priced ticket to go from SFO to LGA?" Even cooler, if you're not sure where your next vacation is you can say " Alexa, ask Kayak where I can go for $350." Whether you're daydreaming of a vacation or know exactly where you're going, try it out.
  2. Order a Ride
    You can ask Alexa to order you an Uber or Lyft! If you have locations set in your app it's even better because you can say "Alexa, order me an Uber from home to XRC Labs." Some of you may know how precious an extra 60 seconds or so is when getting ready to head out the door. 
  3. Sports Update
    You all may know about this one, but it doesn't make us love it less. You can setup your favorite sports team within your Alexa app and anytime throughout the day you can say "Alexa, give me my sports update." When you follow different sports and different teams you don't always want to wait to scroll across their tweet's or click through ESPN, so just have Alexa give you the rundown.
  4. Wine Lovers
    Love wine? Want to love wine? Want to impress someone who loves wine? MySomm turns Alexa into your own sommelier. You can ask Wine Gal what to pair with the cheeseburger you just ordered or something a little more in-line like, "Alexa, ask Wine Gal what goes with roast chicken." You can also activate What Beer for those who prefer beer pairings.
  5. Help in the Kitchen
    MyChef is built to be your sous chef. This skill definitely requires the most effort on the users part to become useful, but once you have it setup it's pretty cool. You can add items to your shopping list, which you can access on your phone once you're at the store, you can also find recipes based on what you have available in your kitchen. Once you have all your pantry items in the app you can even ask things like "Alexa, what's expiring soon?" so you can decide what to cook first.
  6. Skill Finder
    It's exactly what it sounds like; a new way to easily discover Alexa’s newest and top skills. After all, she has over 10,000 skills and you probably use tons everyday that we've never even heard of! So you can have SkillFinder tell you the skill of the day or even what the top skills in the catalogue are.

We want to hear about the skills that you find most useful, so catch us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram to let us know!

Our Favorite NYC Spots

During the accelerator program at XRC Labs, we spent about 4 months in New York City. Although we can't say that all our favorite spots ended up being "hidden gems," they're places that we'll definitely get back to when we're visiting the city next. 

We were constantly on the hunt for great brunch, and on top of that, avocado toast [at a great brunch spot]. We finally found it at Jack's Wife Freda who came through big time. 

Pictured: Avocado toast w/ cherry tomato jam, pickled carrots, and za’atar and a side of fries. Green Shakshuka; 2 baked eggs in a green tomatillo shakshuka served with challah toast.

Pictured: Avocado toast w/ cherry tomato jam, pickled carrots, and za’atar and a side of fries. Green Shakshuka; 2 baked eggs in a green tomatillo shakshuka served with challah toast.

A few of us here at benja love to cycle, yeah, spin classes. We knew there had to be something spectacular in NYC, and boy did we find it when we came across IMAX Shift in Dumbo. This studio has built their design within an IMAX Movie Theater so you're riding right there with whatever or whoever is on the screen. We were lucky enough to catch their Music Video Ride -- highly recommended. 

Here's a shot of the studio, when it's go time the lights go down and the screen lights up your ride. 

Here's a shot of the studio, when it's go time the lights go down and the screen lights up your ride. 

You've seen the cookie dough place all over Facebook or maybe the crazy milkshake place or maybe you've been drooling over cronut's (trust us, they're all pretty great too) but there's a bakery that you just can't miss...LeVain Bakery. We've never seen a cookie baked quite this way, it's almost like scone meets cookie meets whoa. So take a stroll through Central Park, probably prepare to wait in line, and get you some cookies. 

Pictured: Chocolate chip walnut cookie. 

Pictured: Chocolate chip walnut cookie. 

We love comedy shows, and we went to quite a few in the city but none as unique as BATSU!. To start, Batsu in Japanese means "punishment". Four warriors compete in comedic challenges to avoid electric shocks, paintballs, a giant egg-smashing chicken, and many more hilarious and jaw-dropping punishments. Not to mention a friend we were with lost a challenge and had to dress up as a ballerina on stage. As if St. Mark's Place isn't lively enough, Batsu is a must if you're in the area.

Pictured: Four comedians face-off in a comedic battle

Pictured: Four comedians face-off in a comedic battle

We ended our trip by going to One World Observatory. First and foremost, this was our favorite New York City experience. To be inside a building that was built upon a city rising back up is not only extremely touching but wildly inspiring. We got the opportunity to go at sunset and the view was beyond anything we could have imagined. Intertwined with the memories and the tributes was phenomenal technology; the elevator experience, the first time you "see forever", the iPads that tell you about each building and so much more. This is an absolute must.

Pictured: (left) sunset view (right) night time view.

Pictured: (left) sunset view (right) night time view.

Thank you again to XRC Labs for hosting our office space, connecting us to amazing mentors and aiding in our continued growth and success. 

New York City, we'll be back.

Benja joins forces with XRC Labs

We have a big announcement: we're proud members of the latest cohort at the XRC Labs accelerator program in New York City.

XRC Labs is an accelerator for the next generation of disruptors in the retail and consumer goods sectors. Their mission is to foster companies and products that change the face of retail and consumer goods fulfillment in a rapidly changing marketplace using design thinking. The XRC Labs vision is to be at the forefront of change, disrupting the conventional system of supply chain, promoting the best experience for consumers and producers, and creating an ecosystem that matches partners for success. 

Enter Benja

XRC is Providing workspace on the campus of Parsons, access to capital, mentoring, and operational support for entirety of their 10-week program.

XRC is Providing workspace on the campus of Parsons, access to capital, mentoring, and operational support for entirety of their 10-week program.

We are amped to not only be a part of the program but to work alongside 7 other companies who were also accepted as a part of this cohort: 29th Century, Cartogram, CheckOut, Ella, Lacelook, Snappy, and Ziel.

  • 29th Century; for e-commerce businesses who can’t find or afford their own data analytics team, 29th Century provides an AI-powered virtual data analyst to help them make better decisions.
  • Cartogram; provides indoor location services to businesses. Built natively into the Google Maps platform, Cartogram’s software services work together to create an end-to-end in-venue experience to drive revenue, enhance customer experience, and lower overhead for businesses.
  • CheckOut; uniting online sales and conversion strategies with brick and mortar retail for a complete and immersive customer experience in physical stores.
  • Ella; positioned to fill the void in the women’s skincare market, as a female-focused lifestyle brand. Ella provides an elevated product and brand experience, sourcing high- quality ingredients tailored to the needs and identity of women.
  • Lacelook; building a powerful AI- backed visual search technology for visual-oriented products such as fashion goods – clothing, handbags, shoes, etc. – and helping consumers get real-time shop-the-look results and compare prices across brands and retailers.
  • Snappy; an app that makes it extremely easy to send a thoughtful and personalized gift but with all the advantages of a gift card – offering choice for recipients and simplicity for senders.
  • Ziel; a platform that enables any lifestyle company to expand the reach of their brands into activewear. Ziel provides a turnkey solution to bring high-quality, eco-friendly performance apparel to market. The service platform includes custom design with on-demand production

We have a number of major developments coming between now and the conclusion of the program in March, and we can't wait to share the success stories that come from this experience. 

Addressing Digital Delivery Questions

Over the course of the past year, we've successfully executed digital delivery campaigns on behalf of Starbucks, Spotify, Panera Bread, Hulu, Pandora One, and Uber. These are some of our most popular items and each time we launch one such campaign, we're inundated with some version of this question: "why does it take (period of time) to deliver a digital gift code?"

The purpose of this post is to share our new digital delivery item policy for 2017 and to explain, in complete detail, why this is a necessary step in our process.

WHY THE DELAY?

The digital delivery space - especially gift codes, gift cards, and coupons - has a collossal problem: fraud. Since these items have a high liquidity value (meaning that they are easy to sell/flip for cash), digital deliveries are common targets for fraudsters. 

The most common way that this happens is that an individual comes into possession of a credit card that doesn't belong to them - sometimes it's stolen, sometimes they guess numbers until they hit gold - and they purchase a large amount of digital delivery items. These "carders" then immediately sell the items on a secondary market for cash. 

When the original cardholder realizes what has happened, they call their bank or credit card company and file a chargeback. 2-3 weeks later, our payment processor reverses the transaction and investigates the matter which almost always results in the company losing the funds that they had sold in the first place.

This means that the fraudster gets away with the amount they were able to liquidate the goods for, the original cardholder gets their money returned to them, and the merchant is left eating the cost of the damage done. This is commonly referred to as carding. We don't like this, and our payment processor doesn't like it either, as it impacts their ability to do their job.

OUR STANDARD PRACTICE, EXPLAINED 

In addition to technology-based safeguards to prevent high-risk transactions from happening, we have instituted a fulfillment process designed to make it difficult for fraudsters to pull off a carding attack.

The simple answer is to delay the delivery of all orders for new customers by 2-4 weeks. This way, if a digital delivery item is purchased with a stolen credit card, we will likely know before the code is delivered. 

If you are an existing or previous customer, you may request a manual review by e-mailing support@benjaminapp.co. In some cases, we may be able to issue digital delivery items ahead of schedule for such customers.

As always, we are happy to address any specific concerns or questions that you may have about these campaigns. Contact us on Twitter (@thebenjaminapp) or via e-mail at support@benjaminapp.co. 

Introducing..."Gift Mode"

This holiday season we wanted to give you an easy way to shop for friends and family, so we came up with "Gift Mode". 

 

"Gift Mode" will allow you to easily switch between shopping for yourself and shopping for others just by telling us a little about the person you're shopping for. The way you do this is simple; tap in and out of the gift box in the upper right hand corner of the screen.

 

The above gallery depicts the order in which you can enter and exit "Gift Mode" (from left to right):

  1. When you first login, you're in your own profile (or will be asked to create your own profile) to start shopping for yourself. You'll notice in the upper right hand corner there is a white gift box with a blue background. 
  2. If you click that gift box, you're heading into "Gift Mode": "You're entering gift mode! Shopping for your mom, sister, or mister? Whoever it is, the more details you can provide, the better the deals we can load up."
  3. You'll then be brought to the "Interests" page for the person you've shopping for. Tell us what they're into!
  4. The last thing you'll fill out for your giftee is info about who they are? Gender and sizes. 
  5. Then boom! You'll now being seeing deals for the person you're shopping for. Swipe left to pass and swipe right to purchase. You'll know you're in gift mode because the gift box in the upper right hand corner now has a white background. 
  6. When you're ready to exit gift mode and go back to shopping for yourself, simple tap the gift box in the upper right hand corner again: "Leave gift mode? All done with shopping for others right now? No problem. just remember you'll lose this profile and will start fresh when you're ready to shop for someone else again."

On top of this, we're releasing a ton of gift-worthy deals every day. We've got some big surprises ahead, so make sure you've downloaded the app and if you'd like to subscribe to our e-mail list, click here. 

Here's a few of our favorite items to gift:

Multicolor LED Bike-Wheel Lights

Google Chromecast Media Streamer

Kaleidoscope Adult Coloring Books and Pencils Set (4-Pack)

We're excited to share this functionality with you and would love to hear your feedback. Please reach out via any of our social channels below or e-mail us directly at support@bejaminapp.co.

Happy Holidays!

Santaaaa, I know him!

We're welcoming December with open arms and getting ready for the Holiday's. Maybe you celebrate some of the Holiday's below, or maybe something else!

  • Saint Nicholas Day
  • Fiesta of Our Lady of Guadalupe
  • St. Lucia Day
  • Hanukkah
  • Christmas Day
  • Three Kings Day/Epiphany
  • Boxing Day
  • Kwanzaa
  • Omisoka

However you celebrate, we're pretty excited and want to make sure we have deals to carry you through it all. In order to start ramping up for the Holiday's though, we realize there are probably a few items you could use ASAP.

Because it's fine to have Elf on repeat starting December 1st.

Because it's fine to have Elf on repeat starting December 1st.

Not to mention, the time is always right for some hot chocolate.

Not to mention, the time is always right for some hot chocolate.

Finally, potlucks are a'coming people, time to start whipping up cookies with these holiday cookie cutters!

Finally, potlucks are a'coming people, time to start whipping up cookies with these holiday cookie cutters!

Moving right along, we've got some deals we've been holding out on (it's for good reason, we promise). Think delicious food, TV on the go and your favorite tech product that is named after a fruit.

Which leads us to our gift to you. For a limited time, we're offering 3 different discounted Benjamin gift card options:

  1. $25 gift card for only $20
  2. $50 gift card for only $40
  3. $75 gift card for only $55

The deals expire Sunday, December 4th at midnight and we're confident you'll have plenty of products to use em' up on. There's no limit on how many you can purchase, however, you can only use one per deal which really means you get a better deal on more deals, ya know?

Finally, we've got a holiday refresh coming to The Benjamin App next week. We're aiming to make gift giving as easy as shopping for yourself, so stay tuned. 

A Thankful Thanksgiving

We wanted to write a short Thanksgiving post and include some things we're thankful for. This year, our team is spread out from California to Texas to Florida and one all the way in India.

So first of all, we're thankful for safe travels and the ability to be with people we love in some pretty cool places. 

We're also thankful for family. This includes our parents, grandparents, siblings, friends that have turned into family and of course our fur babies.

We love our Goldendoodle's. Pictured above is Buddy and Rocky. 

We love our Goldendoodle's. Pictured above is Buddy and Rocky. 

Next, we're thankful for everyone who works on this holiday. Thanksgiving literally could not be possible without the grocery stores that stay open to get us the forgotten things like cranberries.

Insight into those who work on Thanksgiving. Seriously, you guys rock.

Insight into those who work on Thanksgiving. Seriously, you guys rock.

Which leads us to tables full of fabulous food. We're thankful to be fed and blessed with a wonderful Thanksgiving meal (admittedly, whether we helped cook it or not).

Lastly, we're thankful we get to do something we love. We get to skip out on Black Friday here at Benjamin because we provide Black Friday worthy deals year round. 

Skip the crazy stores and just shop on The Benjamin App.

Skip the crazy stores and just shop on The Benjamin App.

So thanks for tuning in...we're wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving! Cheers to you and yours!

A Quick Drive Cross Country

A member of our marketing team decided she wanted to drive across the country to visit family in Florida. She drove from Los Angeles, California to Sarasota, Florida, and lived to tell the tale. This is her story.

My parents recently moved to Florida and on top of that I have one set of grandparents, a grandmother, and some close friends in the state. I wanted to visit for a few weeks but figured I would need a car while I am there. Rather than renting when I wanted to bounce around the state, I figured a "quick" drive cross country would be just as easy. 

This wasn't my first trek cross country but it was my first trip on the southern route (which is mainly Interstate 10). I knew that on this trip I wanted to visit Dallas and New Orleans -- the other stops were just minor details. I ate at some stellar restaurants along the way so below I take you along for the drive via delicious food stops. Enjoy!

Stop #1: El Paso, Texas

Restaurant: Los Bandidos De Carlos & Mickey's Featured Grub: Tortilla Soup

Restaurant: Los Bandidos De Carlos & Mickey's

Featured Grub: Tortilla Soup

The picture is blurry, clearly I was in a rush to dig in. This soup was good enough that I didn't even touch the tortillas or use the sour cream -- that means it was REALLY good. Broth-based, spicy, packed with chunks of melty cheese, tortilla strips, avocado and a side of chicken for me to add (which I did). 

Stop #2: Colleyville, Texas

Restaurant: Ruggeri's Ristorante Featured Grub: Grand Marnier Souffle

Restaurant: Ruggeri's Ristorante

Featured Grub: Grand Marnier Souffle

Not pictured is perhaps the best part, the raspberry sauce. The waiter came around and asked us to poke a hole in the middle and then added this unbelievably delicious sauce. The rosé was fantastic, too but I'll be back for the soufflé.

Fun fact: I was born in Colleyville, Texas which is right outside Dallas. 

Stop #3: New Orleans, Louisiana

Restaurant: Mother's Restaurant Featured Grub: Fried Chicken, Red Beans & Rice, Green Beans, and a Biscuit.

Restaurant: Mother's Restaurant

Featured Grub: Fried Chicken, Red Beans & Rice, Green Beans, and a Biscuit.

Best fried chicken I've ever had, hands down. Each order of chicken is fried to order so it takes 30 minutes. Worth the wait. If you're into this kind of thing and you get to New Orleans, it's a must order. The sides were out of this world too: the beans were drenched over white rice and the green beans were tossed with their world-famous ham. Last but not least, the biscuit with the blackberry jam made for a flawless finale. 

Stop #4: Alys Beach, Florida

Restaurant: George's at Alys Beach Featured Grub: Salt and Pepper Shrimp

Restaurant: George's at Alys Beach

Featured Grub: Salt and Pepper Shrimp

Shrimp isn't a typical order for me - most seafood isn't, actually - but the waiter swayed me away from their pasta and said I wouldn't be disappointed here. I wasn't. The flavor was unbelievable and the dish included snap peas and I'll order anything with snap peas. The texture of the crunchy shrimp paired with balsamic drizzled brussels and mango was a winning marriage. Tip if you ever make it here: end the night with their Warm Chocolate Toffee Goo.

That's it folks - the next stop was Sarasota. 

Our Favorite Business Reads

Good to Great by Jim Collins

A top read for certain, Collins and his team conducted extensive research on an array of companies regarding how some went from good to great. Their findings really lay out the do's and don't of getting from one level to the next and why the don'ts well, don't. I was definitely shocked by some things I have done (and think I'd do down the line) in business that have proven to leave companies forever in the "good" category. Lesson learned.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

Admittedly, I picked this book up when I was digging into Alzheimer's as the author opens the book talking about an Alzheimer's patient learning to form new habits through the progression of his disease. However, I ended up taking away much more from this. If you're in sales, this book is a MUST read. It digs into the power of marketing, the power of words, the power of placement and how products like toothpaste can change a consumers daily routine with the use of a "habit loop".

How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie

About four years ago I was in a not-so-pleasant office environment. It was a divided office, with a group of "mean girls", and the situation rocked the boat. This book really does as it's titled and it's worth every single page turn. It will teach you to take a moment to view every situation from the other person's viewpoint and react accordingly. Not to mention the author, Dale Carnegie, believed financial success "is due 15 percent to professional knowledge and 85 percent to the ability to express ideas, to assume leadership, and to arouse enthusiasm among people." Entertaining read.

Outliers by Malcom Gladwell

This book does not simply breakdown how you can become successful, but really digs into the "why" of how extremely successful people came to be. Gladwell explores "how culture, circumstance, timing, birth and luck account for success." So if you're looking for more of a storytelling adventure and some fun trivia, this one's for you.

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

I picked up this book after a T.E.D. Talk about how running barefoot is really the most effective and efficient way to run and how Phil Knight was at the brink of these findings (cue Nike). I love his take that the power of many is often greater than the power of one and he humbly describes the not-so-smooth journey of his mega brand. 

Take a break from work with an inexpensive weekend in Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley is home to many of the world's largest high-tech corporations and hundreds of the world's most important garages. It was here, after all, that Hewlett-Packard and Apple launched from their family garages.

The spirit of innovation is alive and well in Silicon Valley today. It remains the go-to place for those with an idea for the next big tech innovation and is the home of thousands of startups.

From the beginning of Benja, it seemed inevitable that we would end up in Silicon Valley. After we completed the Blue Startups program in Honolulu, it was time.

Of course, as a startup getting ready to scale up, we needed to watch our budgets. We learned how to  enjoy all that Silicon Valley has to offer without breaking the bank. Without further adieu, here are the places we visited to escape the techiness of the Valley:

1. Intel Museum

Whilst you’re in the tech capital of the world be sure to check out a museum dedicated to educating its visitors on technological advancements. Intel Museum boasts exhibits on how silicon microchips are made, tech innovators and Intel co-founders Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore, and you can also learn about how the first microprocessor was made.

Price: Free!

2. San Jose Giants

Stop by at the Municipal Stadium and watch the Giants conquer minor league baseball. There’s a great selection of food and beer, and you’ll always have a good view on all of the action wherever your seats may be. What’s better than watching a fun game of baseball?

Price: General admission is usually $10

3. Rancho San Antonio County Park

If you enjoy hiking/biking and the outdoors, Rancho San Antonio County Park is not to be missed. With 3,988 acres of open space and tons of trails to explore, you can get lost in the outdoors and enjoy the views. There’s even Deer Hollow Farm, a working farm with pigs, goats, cows, chicken and other animals.

Price: Free

4. Winchester Mystery House

Winchester Mystery House is a Victorian mansion which was once the residence of Sarah Winchester, widow of gun magnate William Wirt Winchester. Today, the mansion is said to be haunted by many different spirits and is open to the public. So, if you’re a fan of all things creepy and mazes packing with eccentric architecture, you should definitely check this out.
 

Price: $22 - $46

mansion.jpg

5. Grizzly Peak

Grizzly Peak is an extraordinary summit which is a little further out from the hub of Silicon Valley, but totally worth travelling to if you’d like to experience some breathtaking views of the San Francisco skyline. For an added bonus, go at sunset to watch as the sky takes on orange, purple, and pink hues.

Price: Free

So there you have it! Silicon Valley isn't all about tech; while there's plenty of business to be done, don't forget to experience all the other activities the area has to offer.