Posted by & filed under Customers, General, Product development, Startups, Technology.

We crowdsource innovations, product development, R&D and customer interactions. We are not replacing anything, we just provide the wisdom of thousands of people at the cost of fraction of a internal development team.

We follow the Lean Startup methodology, but from our strategic partners perspective it looks more like design thinking. We have copied some of the best practices from Google, Stanford and the ideas of analytics-driven and customer-focused product development. We go way beyond just posting the separate ideas on yellow stickers on the wall. Together with startups, we provide our partner companies ready and validated concepts to choose from. Post-it notes are excellent combined with some research and validations, but in most cases it really takes companies nowhere today. Average successful startup has 4-7 pivots. Consumers’ behavior changes faster every day and teams should learn and adjust the product based on the learnings. Only very seldom can we nowadays have step-wise process, but several simultaneous processes affecting each other with fast changes.

We bring customer and developer insight from over 500 persons per project. Because it’s their own business, they have done a lot of research themselves. What company can afford to mobilize such a huge amount of people for innovating, product development, R&D and customer interactions? Certainly many big companies do it all the time, but the expense is 100 fold compared to an accelerator program.

One has to let loose a bit to succeed in the future. Nobody can control the consumers – predicting the future usually goes wrong. At least with faster implementation of learned behavior and needs, organizations could provide more competitive products. If you plan for years to come and focus on implementation, that’s a sure way to fail. If you react based on learnings from open collaboration with your business ecosystem, you still can fail or succeed. However, if you fail, the failure is minimal compared to old school operations.

By opening up company’s ecosystem, learning is faster, financial overhead and risks are lower, and the number of of new product ideas is far greater than before. And we are talking about validated ideas, because quantitative assessment is crucial for us. I have to say that I am a fan of  Mika Aaltonen’s work at Aalto-Strax.  One thing they point out is the idea of not defining what success will look like in the future. Every company should be prepared to keep the door open for unplanned successes. Working with fast-moving and creative startups is one of the best ways to stay on top of the change and take advantage of the new business opportunities.

I was lucky enough to get a co-founder with solid scientific background from research backed by the Finnish Academy. Topi has also developed 100+ products for the biggest companies as well as for startups. Together with him we are creating a product factory producing learning and new revenue streams to large corporations. This creates also a laboratory and a collaboration environment inside the large corporations for the startups. The end-goal is of course to create the next airbnbs, twitters and facebooks. A win-win-win factory.

Antti Kosunen (twitter.com/AnttiKosunen)

 

Posted by & filed under General, Startups, Technology.

wearable tech

Yle Media Startup Accelerator Themes, part 1: Wearable tech. In the coming weeks we’ll feature some of the themes at Yle Media Startup Accelerator Program and share some interesting things that have caught our attention. See also the list of the themes on the application page

Wearable technology has been one of the hot topics lately. Health related innovations have been the key driver in the discussion, but especially media services seem to hold a lot of promise for every day use. Already some media and technology companies are testing how they can offer new ways to consume content in new wearable devices. The early experiments with, for example, fitting an RSS feed to wearable devices, don’t offer much additional value offer basic mobile devices. Still, we can already see that wearable tech has the potential to become a very important media consumption and creation platform.

Some of the most interesting things seem to be happening around connected watches. For example, Google’s Android Wear together with Google Now shows how in the future just by looking at our wrist, we can easily glance contextual and hopefully always relevant information and content. Of course, there’s going to be intense competition by the technology giants in the hardware as well as in the software platforms, so there should be a lot of opportunities for innovative startups to take advantage of they can offer.

Another interesting media-related opportunity is how wearable tech will enable new ways to create content. New wearable devices, such as Google Glasses, let you record your activities with photos, videos and location data. Combined with physical measurements and other real-time information, there will be entirely new opportunities for doing news stories or just sharing personal experiences.

Do you have a great idea for combining wearable tech, media and content? Remember to apply for the Yle Media Startup Accelerator by August 15th.

– Topi Järvinen (twitter.com/topij)

 

Posted by & filed under Customers, IPR, Product development, Startups, Technology.

LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman was talking about startups when he said that “You jump off a cliff and you assemble an airplane on the way down.” There always seems to be too little time, people, money or something else for doing all the things that seem necessary. Even though that may be the fact of life for any startup entrepreneur, some of the hardship may be self-inflicted and unnecessary.

It’s probably true that you learn the most when you make mistakes. Also, startups shouldn’t fear making mistakes when trying new things and approaches. Having said that, I think it makes sense to try to avoid some of the most typical mistakes that provide very little value and concentrate on some new ones that create new learnings.

Below are some thoughts in no particular order on the kinds of things or even mistakes that I think startups should avoid. Some I’ve learned first hand the hard way and some I’ve seen to happen in the tens of startups that I’ve worked with.

Don’t start with a org chart

If you don’t have customers and revenue, but you have an organizational chart with VP’s or similar, you are most likely spending your time on the wrong things. There are some official roles that need to be there, such as a CEO, but even that should not be the same as a CEO in a big company (you know, mahogany chairs, corner office, secretary, etc.). Certainly, startups need to agree on roles (“Tom has the main responsibility for marketing, Pekka for tech” etc.) in order to get things done. Still, the founders need to spend their time learning together what the actual business will be about, not worrying about organizational boundaries and the chain of command.

Don’t  make a 12 month roadmap and stick with it

A lot of times success in big companies is measured in part by being on time and on budget and delivering the project roadmap. If you are in an established business and you can predict, for example, demand with high certainty, this makes a lot of sense. Eric Ries has a great definition for a startup: “human institution designed to deliver a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty”. In other words, it’s good to make snapshots of what you think will happen, but always expect change and be prepared for it.

Don’t do too much before you really know what your customers want

Startup founders need to have a great deal of passion and confidence in their idea. Sometimes they may get carried away in this and believe that success is just around the corner only if they just add a few more features.  More often than not, you can’t make a bad product into a good one by adding more features or optimizations. For example, if you cannot attract customers for your iPhone mobile app, you are not likely to be any better off by adding the Android app. Or if customers are not interested in your product, adding new payment methods will not increase your sales. Make sure your customers love your core product and use the new features to accelerate the growth.

Don’t take your fancy spreadsheet exercise as a portrayal of reality

It’s always good to turn your idea into numbers, because it’s a great way to test the business logic behind it. The problem with these spreadsheet exercises is that too many times the founders see it as a proof of the business model and as a real forecast for the business. For big companies with a lots of data points and historical evidence, this may be a plausible conclusion, but for startups it is not. Just think about it: you make the assumption that customers love your product so much that they want to tell about to 10 friends, 50% of which will do the same, 20% of those will buy your paid product that costs $3.99. After some viral rounds you end up with a great business with millions in revenue. Logical? Yes. True? Impossible to know. Now, instead of rushing to investors with this plan, you should rush to your customers to validate your assumptions and logic. Do they have the problem you’re solving? Are they using or even paying for something else for the same purpose? Do they love your solutions? Would they they recommend it and to whom? Etc.

Don’t try to build several businesses simultaneously

Entrepreneurs see ideas and opportunities everywhere and that’s a good thing. The hard part is usually when you have to decide what to do right now and what to leave behind – at least for the time being. It’s easy to see, for example, your technology as a potential solution to many different problems and target segments. Usually the reasoning is that it makes sense to leverage the investment for different use cases. Again, possibly a good idea, but not at the same time. Startups need to spend all time and effort to learn what is the problem and build a unique solution as fast as possible. Also, even if the underlying technology is almost the same, the business logic and the way you’d run the company may be very different. Just consider how different, for example, sales, marketing or customer support functions are for a B2C and B2B companies.

Don’t ask for an NDA everytime you talk to someone about your idea

Feedback and talking to potential customers and partners are the lifeblood of startups. Without them very little learning will happen. If you require an NDA (non-disclosure agreement), you will loose many opportunities to learn. Also, think about how unique your idea itself is really. For example, before Facebook launched in 2004, there were already tens of companies offering social networking services over the internet (for ex. MySpace, Friendster etc.). In other words, the idea wasn’t unique, but how they did it was. If you really think that you have some unique intellectual property that should be protected, submit a patent application. That will protect you much more and it will also look good in the eyes of the investors.

As always, your experiences may be different. In the spirit of learning, I’d like to hear if you agree or disagree or if you have in mind some other mistakes startups should avoid. Finally, my apologies for all the negativity. Next time I’ll try to find a more positive spin :-)

— Topi Järvinen (twitter.com/topij)