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Archive for December, 2009

Imagine a bit easier life. Think about all the things a virtual assistant in your phone could do? What would it be?

Let’s go one step back in the history. In 1999, Nokia Released the first WAP phone (Nokia 7110). It was supposed to offer wireless data services enhancing our lives. As a pioneer, the road was tougher than that. See one of the press articles from 1999 (in Finnish, sorry).

Seven years later Apple releases the first iPhone. As a consumer product, iPhone came much close offering all those data services envisoned in 1999. But where are all the applications for daily life management?

Mobile phone is (or could be) a unique life management tool as it ‘knows’

  • who you are
  • who you know
  • where you are (and where you should and should NOT be)
  • where you are going to be
  • who you communicate with

What would you like to have in your phone? Which application would make your life easier? Click here to give your answer.

And Happy New Year everyone!

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Three days to go. As the year is about to end, it’s time to look back and learn from this year.

Jobita – Market Place for Jobs

Year 2009 was the launch year of Jobita, formerly known as Tikitagi. Late March we launched the prototype of the service. Jobita is an Internet tool for local service professionals (and those who want to become those) as well any individual to market their skills and manage the assignments. For consumers Jobita is the easiest way to find qualified doer for any task at hand, either at home, at the office or for example on the boat.

It was a great learning experience, later also leading to concept called “gasellizer” – more efficient way of producing software with outsourced resources.

Already in January I wrote about using True Identity instead of pseudonyms. We are proud to announce that Jobita.fi is the first of its kind to truly support True Identities. Jobita is working together with NorthId on this. It’s called “Nettihenkkarit” in Finnish, loosely translated as “Online Identity Card”.

End of October we launched the totally rewritten version of Jobita, initially only in Finnish language. During the first two months of existence, the number of members and posts increased rapidly.

Creating Software as it always Should Have Been Done

Software Industry is relatively new as industry. Therefore it is no surprise that it is still facing many fundamental challenges, such as understanding the customer problem and turning that into a successful business. Together with few other people from the industry we worked on a concept called “Gasellizer”. One of the observations was that managing the specification process is still a major headache for most of the developers, and no, Agile methodology as such is not an answer for this. It’s more question of “User Defined Features” or uDef’s as we call them. Simply put, there is a need for recording, and managing as the needs evolve throughout the process, the users’ need with their own words.

One way of approaching the problem is learning from the movie industry’s way of operation.

And it is always great to learn from those who have already done it in real life (lessons learned from Mårten Mickos, ex-CEO of MySQL).

Entrepreneur is the Most Critical Resource

This discussion is going on all the time: “there is not enough money for the start-ups”. That is absolutely true. In order learn a bit more about the actual problem, I tweeted and blogged about a simple question “Which one of the following is the most critical and the least supplied resource: ideas, entrepreneurs or money?”.

As was to be expected, there was a lot of support for the answer of “money is the missing link”. However, the poll made revealed that the majority of the people thought actually that we do not have (good/experience/etc) entrepreneurs to implement those ideas. Nobody claimed that we would not have enough ideas. I am 100% of the same opinion, we don’t have enough entrepreneurs. As many of the supporting organizations and tools fail to understand this most fundamental question, also many of the solutions (no matter how well-meaning) do not touch and help the actual problem.

Simply put: as long as we do not have enough those entrepreneurs who will use the money available to build succesful and brave enough success stories, we will not have successful software companies. Period.

Crowdfunding is the Modern Way of Raising Funding

Okay, in the previous chapter I claimed that the most critical missing resource is the “entrepreneur”. It does not mean that getting funding would be easy, not at all.

Raising money for an idea or early stage start-up never has been, nor will be, very easy.

There is, however, always the possibility of looking for new solutions for the problem. One of the hottest ideas right now is “crowdfunding“. I wrote a small article about that in August. According to the polls made, this kind of funding is well received by both entrepreneurs and investors.

There is a new exciting company working on the concept of crowdfunding, GrowthOS. If you are member of LinkedIn, you can apply for GrowthOS group. Check out also an interesting opportunity to get a really high quality video pitches for your company.

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We are testing new kind of production for high quality video pitches in February, 2010 (in Helsinki).

The thing is as follows: many startups (and actually other companies as well) have a need to produce video clips for investors, customers and other stakeholders. Typically there are two main options here:

  1. Produce it yourself, typically ending up with pretty low quality production due to lack of time and experience
  2. Outsource the production to professionals, ending up with probably high quality video but it easily costs more than 10,000 €

We have drafted new way of doing this process.

  1. We are using professional television producer and editing facilities
  2. We have created “standardized” templates and scripts what’s on the video and what needs to be filmed
  3. Participating startup gets instructions how to prepare, we have on-stage coach helping and filming is done “as industrial process”
  4. Editing is done by the professionals and the results are going to be fabulous!

The scripts will take care of asking the right questions, focusing on the right things and getting the message clear. And unlike traditional “elevator pitch” done in one shot, editing will help to make the video deliver the message properly even if you would not be so experienced in doing this.

In this pilot we will create two videos: 100 seconds “teaser video” which the startup can distribute publicly and another, 5 minutes version with more details (for a financing round) and that is to be given to selected investor candidates only.

The cost per company is going to be less than 1,500 €, the potential value for these being much, much higher. As it is commonly known that investors only have few minutes per startup to make up their mind (Go or No-Go), this will greatly help to make the great first impression. The second video sent for those gives more details and then you’d be already arranging a meeting.

There are six places available for the first session, half of them are gone already. If you are a Finnish startup  (or know somebody who is), and are interested in this then hurry up. Deadline is around beginning of January.

You can see some production examples (for television, not startup pitches yet) here.

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I must confess that I didn’t get this right first time either.

When starting my Tikitagi company March 2008, I did take care of the web domains and such. Only after bringing aboard our respected advisor (ex-eBay lawyer) we paid attention to the trademark issue. As the plan is to expand outside Finland with our service, it would be important that we can expand with the name we have selected.

The first thing he did was checking whether we had our name registered. It wasn’t. He also noticed there was another company in Belgium which had almost the same name (Tikitag, just the “i” missing from the end). I immediately filed for the trademark registration in Finland and hoped for the best. There was practically no way knowing if Tikitag had already filed national trademark application as well. They do not show up immediately, neither do the European Union Community Trademark registrations so we could only hope for the best.

As it turns out, the other company (Tikitag) finally had filed their application six weeks later than we did. So we had the national priority for the The Community Trademark. That one has to be filed within 6 months of the national trademark in order to have the priority advantage. We filed for that on November 5th, 2008.

To our great surprise, and before we could even offer our trademark for them to be bought (which we thought we should do as Tikitag was owned by Alcatel-Lucent), they made a surprise announcement in February 2009:

On February 15, 2009, we will launch several new features and applications for consumers, businesses and application developers. Additionally, due to a trademark issue, we have decided to change our name. These changes will NOT affect how you use the service or its associated web site. It is simply a branding change in order to avoid any disruption in the current use and future growth and development of the service. The only small change will be that a new PC or Mac client will…”

The new name they chose was “touchatag“.

So what do we learn from this?

First of all, if you are a startup and want to one day (if not already) make your service international, pay attention. It really does not make any sense to build your service with one name in your home country, and then change it when you go international. There are of course cases where also that may work, but you lose a lot concerning branding and recognition.

Second, in some cases trademark matters more than patents concerning your startup’s valuation. So as soon as you’ve made up your mind concerning the name of the company, take care of the trademark. And if your investors haven’t asked about this, they should have. It’s good to have trademarks in order also in your “vendor due diligence” at the stage when you prepare for searching for funding.

  • Check that the most important web domains are available
  • Check that applicable twitter name is available (you may also want to reserve words in other services, such as Facebook)
  • File the national trademark application (it’s easy to do, you don’t need any external experts for this, necessarily)
  • Within 6 months, file the international trademark application

It is true that you can just start using the ™ sign without registering it. After some years you in a way earn the trademark, art least so that it should not be possible for others to own it. But why wait so long and take the risk? The sign for “registered trademark” ie. ® can only be used if it actually has been registered.

It always surprises me how even experienced marketing agencies can mess these things up. Some people still remember how Finnish Telecom company changed the name to “Sonera“, paying hundreds of thousands of euros for the new name and look&feel. Only to find out that the web domain sonera.com was already taken! And it still happens, companies pay agencies big money to invent new product names, only to find out that the domain names are taken so the either have to get another name or pay a lot for the domain.

After “winning” the right for our dear Tikitagi name we decided, however, to change our name! After all the trouble we thought it makes sense to have a better name anyway. So we changed the name to Jobita. And registered all the necessary things, now with the routine already.

So what happens if you do have your trademark registered and somebody comes to the market with similar name? If they are in the same product/service category than you, they shouldn’t be able to use the name, but you better consult your lawyer. If the other company is a big international company, you might also get lucky and sell your company to them. It can also turn out to be a problem, as big companies have a tendency to calculate that you don’t have resources to attack them. So “Sue us” might also be an answer from them.

And oh yes, do you happen to be in the RFID/NFC business? I could sell you the Tikitagi brand, already almost associated with that business. And the brand is protected all over Europe!


Read Full Post »

I must confess that I didn’t get this right first time either.

When starting my Tikitagi company March 2008, I did take care of the web domains and such. Only after bringing aboard our respected advisor (ex-eBay lawyer) we paid attention to the trademark issue. As the plan is to expand outside Finland with our service, it would be important that we can expand with the name we have selected.

The first thing he did was checking whether we had our name registered. It wasn’t. He also noticed there was another company in Belgium which had almost the same name (Tikitag, just the “i” missing from the end). I immediately filed for the trademark registration in Finland and hoped for the best. There was practically no way knowing if Tikitag had already filed national trademark application as well. They do not show up immediately, neither do the European Union Community Trademark registrations so we could only hope for the best.

As it turns out, the other company (Tikitag) finally had filed their application six weeks later than we did. So we had the national priority for the The Community Trademark. That one has to be filed within 6 months of the national trademark in order to have the priority advantage. We filed for that on November 5th, 2008.

To our great surprise, and before we could even offer our trademark for them to be bought (which we thought we should do as Tikitag was owned by Alcatel-Lucent), they made a surprise announcement in February 2009:

On February 15, 2009, we will launch several new features and applications for consumers, businesses and application developers. Additionally, due to a trademark issue, we have decided to change our name. These changes will NOT affect how you use the service or its associated web site. It is simply a branding change in order to avoid any disruption in the current use and future growth and development of the service. The only small change will be that a new PC or Mac client will…”

The new name they chose was “touchatag“.

So what do we learn from this?

First of all, if you are a startup and want to one day (if not already) make your service international, pay attention. It really does not make any sense to build your service with one name in your home country, and then change it when you go international. There are of course cases where also that may work, but you lose a lot concerning branding and recognition.

Second, in some cases trademark matters more than patents concerning your startup’s valuation. So as soon as you’ve made up your mind concerning the name of the company, take care of the trademark. And if your investors haven’t asked about this, they should have. It’s good to have trademarks in order also in your “vendor due diligence” at the stage when you prepare for searching for funding.

  • Check that the most important web domains are available
  • Check that applicable twitter name is available (you may also want to reserve words in other services, such as Facebook)
  • File the national trademark application (it’s easy to do, you don’t need any external experts for this, necessarily)
  • Within 6 months, file the international trademark application

It is true that you can just start using the ™ sign without registering it. After some years you in a way earn the trademark, art least so that it should not be possible for others to own it. But why wait so long and take the risk? The sign for “registered trademark” ie. ® can only be used if it actually has been registered.

It always surprises me how even experienced marketing agencies can mess these things up. Some people still remember how Finnish Telecom company changed the name to “Sonera“, paying hundreds of thousands of euros for the new name and look&feel. Only to find out that the web domain sonera.com was already taken! And it still happens, companies pay agencies big money to invent new product names, only to find out that the domain names are taken so the either have to get another name or pay a lot for the domain.

After “winning” the right for our dear Tikitagi name we decided, however, to change our name! After all the trouble we thought it makes sense to have a better name anyway. So we changed the name to Jobita. And registered all the necessary things, now with the routine already.

So what happens if you do have your trademark registered and somebody comes to the market with similar name? If they are in the same product/service category than you, they shouldn’t be able to use the name, but you better consult your lawyer. If the other company is a big international company, you might also get lucky and sell your company to them. It can also turn out to be a problem, as big companies have a tendency to calculate that you don’t have resources to attack them. So “Sue us” might also be an answer from them.

And oh yes, do you happen to be in the RFID/NFC business? I could sell you the Tikitagi brand, already almost associated with that business. And the brand is protected all over Europe!


Read Full Post »