Israeli start-up puts fans on the ‘big board’

Screemo’s interactive digital screen technology gives advertisers a whole new way to connect with customers

Adir Zimerman (front right) and the Screemo team at the Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure in Herzliya (Photo credit: Courtesy)
Adir Zimerman (front right) and the Screemo team at the Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure in Herzliya (Photo credit: Courtesy)

Next week, tens of thousands of basketball fans at Nokia Stadium in Tel Aviv will have the opportunity to participate in a mass sports trivia game run right on the scoreboard., answering sports questions – with the winners getting 15 minutes (or at least 15 seconds) of fame, as their Facebook profile photos appear for all to see, as well as getting t-shirts, towels, and other tchockes.

Users will participate by using a special app that will connect them to the scoreboard, where the questions will appear. The fans who are fastest to get the right answer up first will have bragging rights, if not fame and fortune, as their Facebook profile photos appears up there for all to see. They’ll also get T-shirts, towels and other tchotchkes.

The technology to run such events has been around for a couple of years, but putting together the resources needed to run a successful game where a large crowd interacts with a scoreboard or other large digital sign has usually been more trouble, and more expensive, than it’s worth, said Adir Zimerman, CEO and co-founder of Screemo. The technology being developed by his company, said Zimerman, will enable event sponsors of all kinds to quickly set up mass participatory events for mobile and smartphone users.

“Our platform is the first that allows businesses to implement mobile screens interactive apps within days, and in many cases without the help of developers,” Zimerman said of the menu-driven system that interfaces with users and with the central screen.

“It could be a scoreboard, or a digital sign outside a store,” Zimerman said. “Many businesses have wanted to do this for a long time, but it’s just been too expensive and time-consuming, since until now each event has required writing an application from scratch.”

Screemo takes care of much of the back-end work that goes into the applications, and guides users in easily, quickly, and inexpensively setting up their mass event.

There’s no doubt that interactive digital signage is going to be very big, said Zimerman, citing a test case that the industry has taken as a signal of things to come — the McDonald’s Pong event in Sweden, where in June 2011 the fast food giant ran an interactive game that pitted players against each other, with the action displayed on a giant billboard. Passerby logged into an app developed by McDonald’s, and winners were awarded coupons for free food items. The kicker in that event, said Zimmerman, was the over-30 percent redemption rate for those coupons, considered a huge advertising coup.

“That event marked the point when interactive digital signage got on the map, and since then businesses have been looking for ways to duplicate that success,”said Zimerman. “They’ve been frustrated in those efforts until now, but Screemo will without question make it much easier and cheaper for businesses to do interactive digital signage events.”

The Nokia Stadium event will not have been Screemo’s first, with the company trying out its technology in several bars and restaurants in Tel Aviv over the past several months. But the upcoming event will be the company’s biggest so far, kicking off a new level of engagement for Screemo. “And we plan on opening a US sales channel in the coming months,” said Zimerman.

Screemo was established in March of this year, and was selected as one of 13 start-ups participating in the second round of companies enrolled in the Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure. Over 300 companies applied for the four-month program, which provides start-ups with office space, servers, mentoring and guidance from top professionals, and the opportunity to leverage Microsoft’s connections around the world for opportunities.

In the case of Screemo, the fact that the worldwide Young and Rubicam advertising agency is a strategic partner in the accelerator makes the deal even sweeter, since the advertising industry is a main target for Screemo. “There are 22 million digital screens out there in the US, waiting for interactive content,” said Zimerman. “I believe our product will be embraced by the market.”

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