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Archive for the ‘Innovation’ Category

Last year I got excited when I saw news telling that there will be new mobile service at the skiing resort we were planning to go. You know, while seeing all the hype exactly ten years ago, it’s about time for those services to emerge. Branded as Levi Digit the promise in the story was to give relevant special offers, table reservations, maps and all other information to your mobile.

Now six months later, while actually being at Levi, the skiing resort, it was time to test what they had to offer.

It starts all quite fine. There are ads for the mobile service in the resort magazine as well as in the ski bus. Cool. I enter mobi.levi.fi – a bit too long address for mobile use, but it’s doable (no, m.levi.fi does not work).

First thing I notice is that’s all in Finnish. No English version available. Oh no. Well luckily I happen to understand this language, but the tourists don’t.

The list of the sponsors looks promising. The mobile operator Sonera must have made sure the mobile service is really cool, and hey, Carlsberg could have some location-aware special offers for great skiers!

“Sää” is Weather in Finnish. Let’s see what’s the weather tomorrow.

Not too bad for skiing weather. But this does not tell me should I go to the slope in the morning while it’s still in good shape, and whether I can still cross-country ski in the afternoon.

All right… let’s not make too quick conclusions. I try the remaining pages for general information and slope information. Must say I’m quite disappointed.

Conclusions are clear. This “service” is clearly done by an “ad agency”. No doubt about that.

Hey, remember our Mobile Wizard? What would The Wizard do? Let’s assume our Mobile Wizard for Levi™ would already be ready.

When arriving to the Kittilä Airport, the Wizard greeted me with a welcome message and directed me to the Airport Bus, which I of course could reserve and pre-pay with my mobile.

Mobile Wizard for Levi™ is a multi-platform mobile application for those visiting Levi skiing resort. It’s primary purpose would be helping tourists to take everything out of a vacation here. And for local businesses it would be the most important marketing tool ever invented.

Mobile Wizard for Levi™ features

  • All services a ski-traveller needs, in a single easy-to-use application (in her own language)
  • Wallet Wizard, leave wallet at the cottage (so you don’t lose it) and pay with your mobile
  • Friend Wizard, know where your friends are right now (and hide yourself, if you got lucky)
  • Hot Spot Wizard, know where you should be if you like things hot
  • Weather Wizard, including relevant user-generated weather reports for Downhill Skiing, Cross-Country Skiing, Snowmobiling and Bar Hopping
  • Reservation Wizard for restaurants and other businesses, including Coupon Wizard to get special deals and discounts (or VIP treatment!)
  • General information concerning slope and ski route condition, including User Generated Feedback
  • Event Wizard, with special benefits for Wizard users
  • Local Business Wizard, with Coupon Wizard  – find any business or service you may need

Technical speaking Mobile Wizard for Levi™ is

  • An application for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Nokia or even a for a browser
  • A multi-lingual for end-users
  • Manageable in each store with a single Apple iPad
  • Compatible with any skiing resort

So is this reality or a vision? If you run a Skiing Resort, or sponsor one, please contact us for to find out how to get this done before your competition does! It’s all about a transactional service, not “mobile marketing”.

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Part 1 of this blog entry is here.

So you’ve got this busy life as well? Probably have quite a few gadgets and electronic devices around you. Sometimes you feel it takes too much time to learn to use the full potential of those devices. Sometimes they just make life more complicated than it should be, let alone updating those devices to the latest software. Of course if you have a Mac (as I do) and a Nokia phone, you know that there is no need to update the software (as it’s only possible with Windows). If you are having difficulties with these issues, think about your mother, and how she’s doing all that (she’s not).

You are in your car, driving as it is raining like never before. And you know your carpool passenger is waiting for you, in the rain… Even though the Wizard tells you that there are umbrellas for sale three hundred meters ahead, you know that by the time (according to the navigator, 3 minutes) you get to your passenger, she does not need it anymore.

As you’re approaching the carpool passenger, the phones confirm that you are meeting the right person. You can see how she looks like, and she can see (in her mobile phone) how you and your car look like. Her phone also show your “reliability status” – which is fine. You pick-up the passenger, your phone tells you how to navigate to the drop-off location, she confirms her Wizard a safe arrival and you continue to your own office.

While approaching the office, the security gates are opened automatically as it detects your safe arrival. While walking the stairs upstairs, the Wizard has a message from Jobita. You were asking for babysitters, remember? You have three offers, you pick one that your friends have used and you confirm a deal. One worry less, great!

During the day, in the meetings, the phone does not disturb you with messages you don’t want. Family messages have priority, however (thanks to Fambit service) – so you know when to answer your daughter’s call. And if you happen to forget about the next meeting marked in your calendar, the Wizard tells you when to leave to be on time, and even gives you the public transportation route plan if you wouldn’t have a car with you as you have this time.

It’s almost six o’clock. As you have agreed to meet your wife soon in a restaurant 10 blocks away, you call her to check with her everything is ok. You drive to the restaurant, the Wizard in your phone tells you the best parking options (based on real-time information from other users) and you easily find a parking place. You pay for that, naturally with the mobile phone again.

You have a nice dinner … and whenever you wonder what’s going on at home, you just check the life video feed from home. Cool. As it turns out to be a really memorable moment for both of you, you ask the waitress to take a picture with your phone. The Wizard knows what to do with the photos. It’s sent to your Life Album, as well as to your daughter’s phone. Soon the phones gives her feedback to the picture… obviously she would like to be with you. Oh no, maybe next time.

That’s it, an imaginary story what all a mobile phone could do to make your life a bit easier. As you can see, there’s no rocket science involved. All this is perfectly doable. Bits and bytes are available in some applications, maybe, but they are not really part of anybody normal life yet.

What do you think? Do you have better ideas how this should go? Let us know, feel free to comment!

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As part of the Venture Bonsai concept, we shot the first five elevator pitches today in Helsinki.

The idea is to make two videos for start-ups looking for funding: one public 100 seconds video and another 5 minutes non-public video which can be shown to potential investors.

To our knowledge, this is the first time elevator pitches are really made professionally.

Same questions were asked from each entrepreneur and if the answer filmed did not go well enough it was shot again. All the aspects of each answer were fine-tuned towards high quality of the message.

The filming itself was done by a professional as will be done the editing.

Looking forward seeing really cool videos next week!

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So you’ve got this busy life as well? Probably have quite a few gadgets and electronic devices around you. Sometimes you feel it takes too much time to learn to use the full potential of those devices. Sometimes they just make life more complicated than it should be, let alone updating those devices to the latest software. Of course if you have a Mac (as I do) and a Nokia phone, you know that there is no need to update the software (as it’s only possible with Windows). If you are having difficulties with these issues, think about your mother, and how she’s doing all that (she’s not).

The question of the day is the following: Why is managing life so complicated even though you have all these gadgets (or maybe because of that) that should be helping you? How should they help you?

Play a game?

Let’s envision a day how things could go if you would have what I call “Life Wizard”.

Let’s start with your mobile phone. It already 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

You wake up in the morning. It’s 6:45. You walk to the kitchen and take a quick look of your phone to see if you have any messages (yes, some people really do that). Now the Life Wizard knows that you are awake. It can also detect the movements and audio around it.

You grab your iPad, along with the breakfast and read the personalized news. There are certain benefits reading news on a device like this. It’s more local, more up-to-date and more relevant just for you. If your wife reads the news on the same device, the news may look different. And oh yes, even ads are customized for you.

While reading the news, an alert window pops up and wants to confirm something.

Are you are ready to leave in half an hour to a meeting marked in your calendar?

There are no worries with the weather, the traffic on the freeway is normal (traffic jam, as normal) so you may want to activate the carpooling in order to use the carpool lanes and avoid the bridge toll. You say “yes” and keep reading. Now the Life Wizard knows where you are going, what time, how and which route.

Rest of your family is now joining you for the breakfast so you put away the gadget. Time to talk person to person 🙂

Just before you leave the house, you remember that you don’t have a babysitter for the evening. No problem. You tap the screen of your iPad (you could really do it with your mobile or computer as well) and post an ad to Jobita. Outsourcing tasks to reliable people couldn’t be easier. The Wizard knows what you need, what time, where and what are the requirements for the candidates. Off you go!

You hit the road. Your navigator knows where you are going, and how to get the ride-sharing passenger onboard. Well, that’s because the Wizard told that, there is no need to enter the same information again.

The phone rings. It’s your Wizard calling. Well, using a mobile phone while driving is forbidden but hands-free audio is still ok. It’s about  weather this time, there is heavy rain ahead. So your passenger is going to be wet.

(more…)

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Yesterday I tweeted about a simple question.

So far I’ve received 15+ excellent comments.

Initially and based on discussions with some fellow (active) entrepreneurs I was of an opinion that we are mainly missing the people (entrepreneurs) to make the idea into action.

This line of thought was justified as we all know there are more ideas than what we can implement. Many of the ideas should, honestly, never be implemented. And many of them are just copycats, yet another facebook-youtube-socialmedia clone which is a pity. Even after these taken away there are many more great ideas than people to implement them. In this light it seems almost funny how desperately (still) some people value just the idea (or an idea in PowerPoint slides).

On the other hand many people, again initially, were of an opinion that you can actually find money if you have a really good idea. The money just may not come from your home country, in this case Finland. There is no real Venture Capitalists left in Finland, and the angel investor community is not very large nor truly active, yet. Luckily at least Veraventure is doing good work to get this changed.

I made earlier a little poll which says many (academic) people skip entrepreneurship as they either don’t have a business idea nor a team.

This week a Finnish business magazine Kauppalehti Optio published a cover story of 80 young people born in the 80’s, the people who are our future and who are going to take over. Guess how many of those persons were entrepreneurs? One. There is hope that some of those classified as “students” still could become entrepreneurs…

The responses to my tweet mainly said, however, that we are missing money and financing. There were also good comments about timing and luck, no matter how good the idea is. For example our idea of mobile carpool service (year 2002) was given no serious attention in the Finnish VC community (luckily the angel investors in Finland, Italy and The Netherlands trusted us) but this year two young students won Venture Cup with the idea of mobile carpool. So it’s also about timing, seven years later. See also a briefing to the subject here. As a side note I would say that if Nokia really would like to “think different”, they should use this Ecolane technology to enter mobile carpool business before Google or Apple do. Disclaimer: I’m a shareholder in both of the companies mentioned.

One thing what I’ve been wondering – if having not enough entrepreneurs is NOT the problem – why as there so little active serial entrepreneurs? I mean those who have tried at least once, possibly succeeded and become a driving force of another start-up with all that experience? Many of those people seem to be now in a more convenient “advisor” role. As one of the active entrepreneurs I respect, Marko Parkkinen, said this week: “After failing in the recent start-up, I was at one point almost desperate enough to become an employee, but luckily I run out of battery in my mobile phone before I said ‘Yes'”.

As one active entrepreneur friend of mine said, “At the first stage of ‘making it big’ the lack of true entrepreneurs makes the start-up market very small. Money matters only after a start-up has started its journey – if there was all the money available, but no real motivation to make ‘my/our company big’, I doubt there would be much success.”

However, I do belive that funding is a key element in building new success stories. Early this year  we start building a new initiative code named “GrowthOS“.

“GrowthOS is an ecosystem for entrepreneurs to build online presence enabling them to receive funding from one or more private investors as well as facilitate all the activities before and after the investment has taken place. Extensive use of web-enabled communication, reputation building and other tools offer a unique platform for private investors to follow, communicate with, invest in as well as follow or participate the development of those startups they mostly believe in.”

If you are interested in the GrowthOS ecosystem (it’s going to be Europe-wide), feel free to contact me.

But coming back to the main question: “Which one of the following is the most critical and the least supplied resource: ideas, entrepreneurs or money?”

What do YOU think?

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Build Your Own Dream Team

Build Your Own Dream Team

Last week I blogged about comparing the movie industry and the software industry. The feedback given in the comments and in real world quite rightly focused on the two actual problems (and areas to learn from): defining what the “production” should be and how to get a team to implement it.

The question last week was “So what can we learn about this concerning the software industry?”

First of all, it’s not that easy (of course not!). But as we have to start somewhere, let’s shoot this out.

  1. Lesson Number One is to implement processes and methods to ensure that the customer need is understood. Communication is the key, especially as it might be (as it is) that the customer does not know what she wants in the first place. And that changes anyway. The concept of “shared unified understanding” is quite important, as well as how to achieve and maintain it.
  2. Lesson Number Two is that each project (“production”) may be different. So you may need different skills each time. No company can successfully employ all the possible skills on payroll and function effectively. The Dream Team is different each time. Would like to watch a war movie, a love movie and a documentary done with the same actors, same person acting as a war hero and the most lovable lady? Most likely not.
  3. Lesson Number Three is the Crew Commitment. Even if you have the best possible definition of the project, and the best doers available, you can fail if the team does not commit themselves to this production. You need all the help from each team member in order to find and manage all the issues that there will be. It is impossible to micro manage all this (even though it may have been possible in the factories last century). To a certain extent being afraid of failure would help to get better results. Social (group) pressure to get things done properly in order to avoid consequence (whatever they are) could help here?

So what can we (as software industry) learn from the movie industry…?

Beside the above mentioned issues, re-engineer your thinking. The future is not in the big software companies, it’s in the networked ecosystem of best doers of each field. There is certainly work to be done in the way we make sure “what you get is what you wanted” but also on the field of setting up the dream team for each production. And managing network of experts (maybe globally) calls for different kind of managing talents than the traditional models. You need to get the Crew Commitment in place. It’s just the question of time when this will be done by somebody!

But what about marketing? Is it any importance in the software industry (like it is in the movie industry)? Of course. It’s easy if you’ve got a customer who came to you and buys a custom project from you (even in that case it’s the question how they found you). But if you are a startup, what can you learn from movie marketing in this field. Comments, knowledge and best practices are welcome – we’ll discuss this next.

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Movie Production

Movie Production

I recently had a very interesting discussion with Antti Sipilä, a producer from Luoda Production Oy. As he is a professionally trained movie producer, and I’m myself coming from the software industry, we were comparing the similarities between these industries. The question was, can the software industry learn something from the way movies always have been produced?

The first question is why should we even discuss this matter, what’s wrong with the software industry anyway?

Not necessarily anything. There are few interesting issues here, however:

  1. Do we utilize a model where we can get the best possible resources for each production (software project) we do?
  2. Do we respect and motivate the individual talents needed for a production… a project, to achieve best possible results in the given timeline?
  3. Why doesn’t the software industry respect deadlines?

Let’s start by describing the way how the movie industry works.

The first group in our focus is called the scriptwriters. This profession is specializing in writing the scripts, the actual idea of the whole thing. Sometimes the script is based on a book, sometimes not. You can think about these guys as the ones who write Business Plans in the software industry, in a way. The scriptwriters themselves do not go after each script on their own, in order to produce a movie, but they sell it to somebody. There are specialized agents shopping for these scripts. The buyers typically pay few hundreds of thousands of dollars for a good script. The buyers then develop these scripts further, and it can take years before a script goes further, if at all. Sometimes the scripts are even combined in order to create one better script.

When a script is ready for the next step, it is sold to a Movie Studio. It’s the factory that will produce the movie. One team can produce about 20 movies per year, taking care of the production and marketing alike.

Producing the movie needs talents, many different kinds of talent. And the talent set required for a movie can be each time different. The studios do not actually keep all the possible talents on the payroll, nor utilize only the talents they have on their payroll. They hire the actors and all the other talents and skills (such as light expertise) on a per project basis. There are specialized Casting Companies who find and contract these talents. Many famous movie stars have their own agents who take care of this process on their behalf.

The movie production can start when

  1. The script is in the shape it can be turned into a movie
  2. There is a movie studio producing it
  3. There are all the actors needed to implement it
  4. The studio has arranged financing for the movie, which could be done also with crowdfunding model

Each movie production is (or should be) a master piece of project management. As each actor and other resources needed cost money all the time, all the steps are well planned and go in parallel, including marketing and distribution. If there are unexpected changes, as there always are (like rain for a scene meant to be sunny), changes are done on the fly to keep the train going. Deadlines are respected, this is built-in feature of the industry. If some person will not do her task in the deadline agreed, she will not be respected by the others. Actually, nobody really wants to be the one who caused the delay of the production, and that also motivates everybody. Being will prepared for one’s role is always part of the success, and people take this seriously. The Crew Commitment is important!

On the other hand, the timelines (often defined by the Assistant Director) must be realistic in the first place, which takes experience to master. We discussed this long time with Mr. Sipilä and it was obvious that the respect of the deadlines, intensity of team work and mutual trust and respect are the core values for any successful movie production. Individual talents are, as we all know, respected highly and this is indicated for example by showing a long list of them at the end of movie. It’s like the Hall of Fame, and you want to be there.

As the movie industry is “hit driven”, the success or failure can often be measured for example by the sales of the first weekend. There is of course a long tail and other longer term revenues, but this first weekend often gives indication how it will go. The marketing and distribution actions are well planned and executed, nowadays utilizing many different media channels, like the Internet and mobile phones In order to control this the movie studios often own the delivery channels (like movie theaters and ticket offices) in many countries.

So what can we learn about this concerning the software industry? That will be covered next week, stay tuned!

… and comments are very welcome, thanks!

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