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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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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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Crowdfunding puts people and money together

You’re an entrepreneur, raising money for your start-up but you’ve hit the wall? Looking for angel round funding in the range of 50,000€ to 200,000€ is not easy if you don’t already have a working product along with some cash-flow and growing number of other requirements. And Venture Capitalist aren’t interested anymore. Some people even say the Venture Capital (VC) model is broken. That may not be exactly true. They just aren’t investing in your start-up. Or maybe in no start-ups at all.

The financial crisis has had a severe impact on the venture capital industry and the funds have largely stopped funding higher risk areas of innovation. Many venture capital companies have woken up into a reality where the VC model is just not working anymore (and some of them focus on other things, like maximizing the management fee).

According to research by Deloitte, funds are reducing their overall investment, supporting existing portfolio businesses and shifting investment focus to later-stage businesses that are either profitable or close to profitability.

“We’re seeing reduced investment levels as firms either invest smaller sums in very early-stage companies, or invest traditional sums in fewer and much later-stage companies. The middle ground has been largely vacated.”

On the other hand, there are new kids in the block who can potentially redefine the game. People like Paul Graham (Y Combinator) as well as Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz (Andreessen Horowitz Fund) are introducing new funding vehicles for certain kind of start-ups. The problem is, that is not enough, and they are quite local. What if your start-up is in Europe or in Asia?

Recognise yourself from the above? Don’t worry, raising money for a good start-up is still possible. It just may come in smaller amounts from more sources. It’s now called Crowdfunding. And it’s not only for start-ups, actually.

Crowdfunding in a Nutshell

Crowdfunding is an alternate approach to get investments for a start-up. It’s not actually a new idea as it has been developed over the last decade, mainly in the film and music industries. Unlike traditional models which rely on large contributions from one or two institutions, crowdfunding is based on raising small sums from many people. Instead of raising 300,000€ from three angels (100,000€ each), you collect 10,000€ from 30 private investors.

Crowdfunding isn’t going to replace venture capital, private equity, debt finance or stock-markets. In many ways it’s an evolution of “friends and family” and “angel” models, just operating with greater transparency and on a larger scale. It may even turn out to be an essential and complementary part of the financing tools needed to cultivate and grow new businesses.

But What’s the Actual Problem?

Number of traditional investors interested in start-ups who are looking for money in the range of 50,000€ to 500,000€, has decreased rapidly. It is also true that in today’s world more can be done with less money (“the old 5 Million euros is nowadays 500,000€). Investments in this category are high risk investments with potentially high return. But most of the companies will fail. That is only one reason why traditional investors are moving (and have already moved) away from this category. When alternate investment vehicles are invented to fill the gap, also the traditinal investors will benefit as they can this way have more companies in the funnel for additional investments.

Is Crowfunding The Solution for this?

A successfull crowdfunding solution has to solve many problems in order to be a feasible alternative for the start-ups and investors alike. There is an obvoius need for process simplification (de-mystification) and standardization concerning documents such as Term Sheet and Shareholders’ Agreement. An initiative in this field already introduces a Standardized Term Sheet acceptable by both entrepreneurs and investors. Trust and transparency are also probably some of the biggest issues. How do you create trust in the online world? How do you manage the communication with so many stakeholders? There will most likely be new innovative solutions for all of these challenges in the near future. The change is inevitable. Additionally, private investors can invest 5,000 € euros in ten start-ups, instead of putting 50,000€ to one single company, effectively decreasing their risk as well.

Case Trampoline Systems

Trampoline Systems, a London-based social analytics business, is already using crowdsourcing approach to finance its growth. Trampoline is raising £1 million from up to 100 investors with a minimum stake of £10,000. This is most likely the first time a technology business of Trampoline’s scale has used the crowdfunding approach. The effort has been quite successful as in the first two weeks they raised £330,000.

Not everyone can become a Trampoline investor. The Financial Services Authority (UK) puts some limits on what you can cannot do. For example, one has to be certified as high net worth individual or as a sophisticated investor (details are here).

What’s Next

I’m expecting to see things happening in this space within a year or two. There is no reason why this could not happen (despite possible obstacles set by authorities, for example). There are a few interesting additional aspects into this. For example, having so many people as investors may enable you to use them as advisors or contact makers.

So what do YOU think about this?

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Innovation in the big corporations is in crisis. This is obviously no news to many of us. Either there are not enough innovations in the company (typically due to corporate culture focusing on maintaining the Status Quo) or alternatively, there are too many of them. This is the case with Nokia which has in the recent years spent hundreds of millions of euros (if not more) in inventing new ideas, researching many of them, trying out some and patenting quite a few. For one reason or another, many of them have got “no-go” decision for any further action.

Technopolis Ventures, a subsidiary of a Finnish public real-estate corporation, has made an agreement with Nokia to offer some of these left-over innovations for Finnish Start-ups in Oulu and some other selected cities in Finland. Sounds too good to be true? Read on!

Nokia Outsources Finding the Golden Eggs to the Finnish Startups

Nokia Outsources Finding the Golden Eggs to the Finnish Startups

The project itself has been launched already some time ago in Oulu, the home city of Technopolis. Today there was the first marketing event for the project in the capital area. The concept is aiming to find an alternative way to commercialize innovations, the traditional way being focusing on inventing new technologies within VTT (state-owned research center) or in the universities. The new idea is find a way to commercialize ideas born within large companies (such as Nokia).

The idea is good, maybe even excellent. The project is taking place in next three years (2009-2011). The total budget is 5 M€ and is paid by Tekes, the participating cities and companies. The amount of money seems somewhat small if they really aim to get 100 projects/startups involved.

The ideas now available cover some 60 Nokia-selected  innovations in the fields of Near-Field Communication (NFC), Environment, Health Care, Location-Based Services (LBS), Mobile Security and Future Internet Services.

There’s a catch, however. There is no free lunch, right?

The companies willing to take advantage of this must have a Finnish VAT number. Technopolis Ventures will match the companies and available innovations in the Nokia innovation pool. After evaluation and screening by Technopolis Ventures, and signing the NDA and contract with Nokia, the funding can be applied from Tekes. It is currently unclear whether the company actually MUST look for Tekes funding or can it also do without.

There were few interesting questions asked in the event today. Here are some examples:

Q: Can I get in touch with the original inventors of an innovation at hand?
A: Maybe, it depends.

Q: Can we see the list of the innovations available?
A: No, you have to provide some keywords describing your own idea (or company business) and we will see if there are matches with the available innovations.

Q: Inventing new ideas and innovations is easy. What about Go To Market strategy and help concerning that?
A: As Finland has one of the best innovation systems in the world, it will take care of that… (Note: This answer was given in a sarcastic tone)

Q: As Nokia keeps parallel rights to everything they “give away”, does it mean that Nokia can at any later time do the same thing than the startup?
A: Yes.

Q: Are there any restrictions concerning the exit phase of a company building its business on one of these innovations?
A: Yes, for example Nokia may forbid selling the company to a Nokia competitor (definition of this remained unclear).

You can also take a look of the Presentation Slides (in Finnish).

Nokia Technopolis Innovation Mill (Process)

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I don’t actually know a lot about about the Hollywood movie business. Well, I’ve seen quite many, I’ve been to Hollywood, I know few people in the business and I’ve read about creating movies. Still I thought I’ve learned few things that keep me wondering the possible similarities between two things: 1) Creating and publishing a successful movie (“a hit”) and 2) Creating and publishing a successful web site (“a hit”).

Here’s what I had in mind. Both need a script how it should go, both need a good team to get it implemented and both need somebody to pay the cost initially and success of both is measured by usage volume.

The terms we use are of course different. In software business we have a “business plan”, that’s our script. We have our team, preferably a dream team which are known as actors in the movie business. I think both get money from something we call “investors”. Measuring the success, however, is not a matter of the few first days only in software business, right? The first impression does matter, however.

Both businesses are “hit driven”. Most cases fail, and investors make money with the ones that succeed. And most importantly those who write good script become famous and/or rich not to mention the best actors who are well known and wanted to the next potential big hits.

So why don’t we do the following in order to create successful net stories:

  1. Create an environment or ecosystem where entrepreneurs can create those stories such a way that potential investors can be convinced to fund it even before you have the dream team in place. One question is that does the script writer also need to be the director (ie. business plan writer/concept owner need to be the CEO)?
  2. Include in the above mentioned ecosystem a mechanism to build your own dream team (with the money from the investors) to implement this project (which has a deadline, release date and so on). The best people should get their compensation which should be high enough to let them focus on several interesting projects without being stuck to a single project for 10 years.
  3. Run the implementation such a way that it is controlled, you have a flexible way of changing the “actors” if they do not deliver and the good ones get the credit.
  4. Release the mov.. service and switch to maintenance mode (or to development of Episode #2).

I think I could make my my living pretty good by writing those scripts and publishing those within a working ecosystem like this. At least dreaming about that kind of possibility keeps me awake.

So what would be the top ten reasons why it would not work and what do we need to do in order to fix those?

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I don’t actually know a lot about about the Hollywood movie business. Well, I’ve seen quite many, I’ve been to Hollywood, I know few people in the business and I’ve read about creating movies. Still I thought I’ve learned few things that keep me wondering the possible similarities between two things: 1) Creating and publishing a successful movie (“a hit”) and 2) Creating and publishing a successful web site (“a hit”).

Here’s what I had in mind. Both need a script how it should go, both need a good team to get it implemented and both need somebody to pay the cost initially and success of both is measured by usage volume.

The terms we use are of course different. In software business we have a “business plan”, that’s our script. We have our team, preferably a dream team which are known as actors in the movie business. I think both get money from something we call “investors”. Measuring the success, however, is not a matter of the few first days only in software business, right? The first impression does matter, however.

Both businesses are “hit driven”. Most cases fail, and investors make money with the ones that succeed. And most importantly those who write good script become famous and/or rich not to mention the best actors who are well known and wanted to the next potential big hits.

So why don’t we do the following in order to create successful net stories:

  1. Create an environment or ecosystem where entrepreneurs can create those stories such a way that potential investors can be convinced to fund it even before you have the dream team in place. One question is that does the script writer also need to be the director (ie. business plan writer/concept owner need to be the CEO)?
  2. Include in the above mentioned ecosystem a mechanism to build your own dream team (with the money from the investors) to implement this project (which has a deadline, release date and so on). The best people should get their compensation which should be high enough to let them focus on several interesting projects without being stuck to a single project for 10 years.
  3. Run the implementation such a way that it is controlled, you have a flexible way of changing the “actors” if they do not deliver and the good ones get the credit.
  4. Release the mov.. service and switch to maintenance mode (or to development of Episode #2).

I think I could make my my living pretty good by writing those scripts and publishing those within a working ecosystem like this. At least dreaming about that kind of possibility keeps me awake.

So what would be the top ten reasons why it would not work and what do we need to do in order to fix those?

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