A Great Simian or just a Monkey

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watson financial chatbot

We built a Watson Powered Financial Companion

I have wanted to share this for a while and it never seemed to be the right moment. Well, here it is! This started as a vision a while ago, originally based on an idea from my brother-in-arms Carl and together we brought it to this (Peter & Svante not to be forgotten as co-conspirators as well).

This is an IBM Watson-powered cognitive financial companion for your complex financial life.

The video walks you through a day in your life with your financial lifestyle companion.

Above, in the video, is your financial companion that wants to inject value in every transaction you make and improve your complex financial life.

The simple background is that our personal financial lives are complex and scattered all over the place, the customer experience is usually really bad and we are constantly ripped off by fees / bad advice. Today with cognitive platforms like IBM Watson and more intuitive user experience through chatbots and other methods, we can actually improve our financial lives with products like this one. One important thing is to actually empower the users and not only capitalize on them.

It is powered by IBM Watson APIs and a lot of nice mojo from our team.

impossible foods burger (photo from Impossible Foods)

We need to change what we eat!

Lets change the way we eat or we will destroy the planet. We need to act now and food tech could be a large part of the solution for a better planet. Food innovation has already found ways to replace meat and eggs with plants and also insects.

Animal agriculture and livestock is the biggest environmental problem we have!

Not all of us are aware on how bad the situation is for our planet, and even if you are aware, you might not know that the biggest problem is that we eat too much meat and eggs. This is a bigger problem then all the transportation and CO2 emissions that everyone is talking about. We need to decrease the amount of food from animal significantly, that is a fact and all researchers and studies agree. The numbers wary in studies and research, but between 10%-35% of total global emissions (GHG) is what most studies say can be traced to meat agriculture, of those 80% is from livestock. It is not CO2 that is the gas in this sector, it is CH4 (methane) and N2O (nitrous oxide). .

This is not meant as a doomsday post, rather the opposite. Naturally there are companies and entrepreneurs that have realised this and started to find solutions to this problem.

We need to eat differently

Few of us want to give up eating hamburgers, a nice steak, baking bread etc. Since I have a hard time seeing all of us becoming vegans, we need to find other ways, and we need to act now! 

What we need to do is to find replacement for meat and eggs. Not only replace the taste, but also the ingredients, since they are important for our well being. Mainly it is about replacing protein. 92% of the plants on our planet has not yet been analysed, we are now starting to find out that we actually can do some really cool things with plants (see below), but also many insects have significantly less impact on the environment, so crickets are starting to be a trendy bug to eat.

80% of the worlds population already eat insects, but it does not happen that frequently in the western world, maybe we should change that. One of the worlds best restaurants actually have crickets on their menu. The Copenhagen, well awarded, restaurant Noma, serves pancakes with fermented crickets.

When we visited our Thai friends near the Laos border, the family had their own crickets farm so obviously we had to taste. I was about to post a photo of me eating, but it is not in favour of the post to give you a hint. Below are two pictures from that trip, the first one is how it was served (just fried in a pan with some spices and herbs) and the second one is from the cricket farm.

Food tech

How to replace eggs?

Hampton Creek is a San Francisco based company that create products like cookie dough and mayonnaise to be able to replace eggs, more products will come over time.  their products are sold on Whole Foods and others. Hampton Creek have made it possible to get bread to grow while in the oven and make omeletts tasty as well as great mouth feel. Pretty amazing. The below TEDx talk by the Hampton Creek CEO Josh Tetrick, is not a product presentation but rather about how bad the chicken industry is, well worth a watch.

How to replace meat?

Several companies have produced meat replacement products. Some do it based on plants, which naturally is the best, others do it by using real meat cells.

Memphis Meats does it with meat cells, but I am more in favour of making it from plants. That is what Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods does. In the below Beyond Meat video they explain how they do it.

https://youtu.be/RSDiCoEag9s

Naturally we want to continue to have our burgers etc and the top picture is how a burger from Impossible Foods looks like (photo credit to Impossible Foods).

Protein?

Above examples on how to replace meat and eggs are solved by innovation and research of plants (except Memphis Meat), but we also have other areas that provide a much lower environmental footprint even given that they are living things, that is insects and especially crickets. This is nothing new, we have been eating insects since the very beginning of time I assume, but lately we have been to posh for it in the western world. Well, now is a good time to change that. One way to apply insects is to create a protein flour from crickets. This what Bitty Foods does. the CEO Megan Miller also held a TEDx talk, this one in Manhattan, where she describes why and what they do.

A piece of honesty

I consider myself a fairly average individual with a decent intellect and I am also fairly involved and interested in trying to contribute to protecting our planet and keeping it safe for the generations to come. With that said, I admit that I, up until recently, had no clue to what extent the animal agriculture and livestock impacted our planet. Since then I have gained an interest and trying to decide what I, as an individual, can do. This both how I eat as an individual / family but also how I might be able to contribute in a bigger way.

If it was new to me, it is most certainly new to many others as well.

watson ecosystem

Watson Ecosystem, how it works

IBM Watson Ecosystem is a partner program for companies and startups to leverage IBM Watson services. It is also a community, semi accelerator and VC. Monies, where I am a co-founder is a part of the IBM Watson Ecosystem.

Watson Ecosystem is the first partner program I have seen out of the Big Blue that puts both IBM and the partner in the same boat. It is a win-win situation. This for several reasons, I will go deeper into each and every one of them, but a quick list looks like this:

  1. Pure revenue share. If we succeed IBM succeed.
  2. Legal Agreements that are clear with deliverables defined. Never seen such good and straight forward agreements from IBM before.
  3. Dedicated team, both technical and business from the Watson team that really helps and are dedicated especially to you.
  4. A clear process on how to work.
  5. Free access to Watson services and parts of Bluemix.
  6. Potential Joint marketing and PR activities.
  7. Potential financial injection from the Venture Capital arm of Watson (a $100M fund currently)
  8. Potential access to client and the IBM sales-force.

How to become an IBM Watson Ecosystem Partner

This process is for me still a bit blurry. When I tried to submit the formal way with Monies, the site was out-of-order and did not accept any submissions. So I had to use other methods and found a way to get in the door and then I guess we followed the internal IBM process and evaluation with the result of us being approved to join the IBM Watson Ecosystem. The ordinary process does probably look something like this (we only shortcut #1):

  1. Submit your company on the “Join the Watson Ecossytem“-site.
  2. Get contacted by IBM for initial call
  3. Fill in the “Ecossytem Onboarding Partnership”-form (I think it was called Alignment Form when we did it). This docucument describes your business, state, funding, business model, products and how Watson is aimed to be used.
  4. Get Approval / Rejection
  5. If Approved join IBM Partnerworld as an ISV and sign the Watson Developer Agreement.
  6. Get an assigned Watson Solution Architect and a Watson Engagement Manager.
  7. Convert your Bluemix account to a Ecosystem Bluemix account and then start coding, no time to loose.

The pre-requisits and what it takes t be approved are also a bit blurry, but this screenshot might give you and indication at least.

watson ecosystem pre-requisits

How does the overall process look like when you are a part of the Watson Ecosystem?

watson ecosystem process

In the Watson Ecosystem Community you have a dedicated dashboard for your progress and it is also possible to network in the community even though the activity is extremely low, which is too bad actually. There are some supporting documents, guidlines and presentations to help you out.

This is our current progress. Monies currently in the middle of our PoC / Prototype phase.

ibm watson ecosystem

The deliverables are continously followed-up in weekly calls with your Watson Engagement Manager and your Watson Solution Architect. The team we have seems to be a great pair of Watson individuals.

How is it to be a part of the Watson Ecosystem?

Silly headline I know, but since there is not that much info available and not that many companies in the Ecosystem it might be of interest.

To be clear, Monies are currently in the middle of the process of building our first product so I do not have the entire picture yet.

How many companies are in the Watson Ecosystem? Numbers vary. I currently see numbers between 299 and 500. In Sweden it is only Monies and Ericsson and total in Europe 24, for Asia the total number is 11. It is hard to verify the exact numbers, but it is at least an indication. The wast majority of Ecosystem partner are in US. Also worth noting that large global companies like Accenture, Ogilvy / Mather and Softbank all are Ecosystem partners as well.

Is the Watson Ecossytem and IBM startup-friendly for real?

This one is hard to answer. The easy answer is both yes and no. On the surface and in the agreement, the process etc I would say they are startup friendly. In terms of documentations, forms and to some extent technology…they are the same ol IBM. Also when you work with the Watson team in NYC, it is smoother then usual, but it is still obvious that Watson is a part of the Big and very blue IBM. See next section for further details.

What can be improved?

To be clear, I really like the Ecosystem and by no means I want this section to drag this post into a negative spin, but without constructive suggestions on improvement I do not think this post would be taken serious anyway, so….

Lack of startup and entrepreneurial skills

I would say that the biggest disadvantage is that it seems to be too few individuals on the IBM Watson Ecosystem side (and Watson in general) that have actual experience from working with, or have prev built startups. This is a huge drawback. My suggestion would be to recruit heavily in this segment. I get the sense IBM is recruiting young (aka startup friendly people, but that does unfortunately not mean they have the recuired experience needed) externally and senior staff is recruited internally (the oclassic IBM person in suit and all). If this is a good strategy? I would say no. My simple suggestion is, recruit indivuduals that are entrepreneurs, have built startups prior, but see the potential in Watson and feel the urge to join and make a difference by helping others build really really cool things with Watson.

Regional and local presence / knowledge

Another big disadvantage is that it is very much a US play only at this stage. The knowledge and experience from other parts of the world seem to be limited. It would be great if people from the other regions would join and facilitate the Ecosystem partners from their regions. I still think they should be based out of NYC mainly, but local / regional knowledge is never to underestimated.

Watson Ecosystem vs Partner World

This will be a short section. The Ecossytem is nothing like PW. Most of the bad stuff is out and the good parts are still there. The Watson Ecosystem is a partner program on at least somewhat equal terms, I cannot say the same for being a Business Partner in PartnerWorld. Formally I think the Ecosystem is connected or is considered legally a subcategory to PartnerWorld or similar, just guessing. The IBM Watson Ecosystem is a huge step forward in terms of IBM Partner Programs. Keep it up!

What does it cost?

Simply put, it costs hard work and dedication. It also cost you some dependency on IBM, since Watson is an IBM technology that mainly lives on Bluemix. The program is free to join when approved and it does not cost you any money to be a part of the Ecosystem, this with one cavet though, which I have had a few not-so-happy conversations with IBM about. During 2015 they learnt that a some partners do not deliver after they have entered into Commercial Agreement, but still enjoys the benefits of being a part of the program and by that (after a Commercial Agreement is signed) can use IBM in branding and communication, this without bringing in any revenue to IBM. This IBM wanted to correct and during 2016 they have put a small (?!) fee in place if no revenue is generated after the Commercial Agreement is signed. This I can understand, I cannot say I fully agree with the result of the 2015 performance and the implications it has on the 2016 Ecosystem members, but all-in-all not a biggie I would say. The fee is also waived if revenue exists above the fee level.

Naturally IBM needs revenue from Watson and this is done via a 70/30 revenue-share (if a fully Watson dependent application) in your favor, so similar to Apple et al. Straight forward and good business model imho.

Summary

Watson Ecosystem is the best partner program IBM has to date. If IBM keeps focusing on IBM Watson as they do, the Watson Ecosystem will be a core companent in that success.

Photo Credit to Henrik Johansson and his photo “Landscape is changing” from Flickr.

Dinewhere

Great Simians is announcing a new studio company, Dinewhere

Dinewhere is a mobile app (and later webb) that will solve two things:

  1. Restaurant discovery
  2. Great prices
  3. Includes only curated better casual and fine dining restaurants

Dinewhere will be released to a limited group in September and dependent of the result from that group, to the hole world as soon as possible. Do sign up to be one of the first to try Dinewhere out.

Discover only those great restaurants

How many times have you not been in the office or at home and though “Where should we eat tonight?”….and always end up at the same restaurant as you usually do. In 30s you want to find a restaurant that suits your need and also be able to book a table at that restaurant. You have tried Yelp, Foursquare, Open Table, Tripadvisor, Google etc but the variety is to wide, too many choices. You just want the a great casual or fine dining restaurant in the area you want and then book it. Well, that is Dinewhere.

Dinewhere will offer a curated list of great restaurants for you. All curated by the team as well as by the users. Filter and sort by location, type of cousin, area, ratings etc. Simply no bad restaurants.

With just a few clicks you will have made the booking.

Fine dining at a great price

This is as straight forward as it gets. We will offer great discounts on the restaurants we have partnered with. Only the best restaurants at great prices, sounds kind of nice doesn’t it?

We will have those great prices for all restaurants that are available in Dinewhere. Also it is for the entire menu, so no fixed menus or just on some choices.

Too good to be true?

With the risk of sounding as a sleezy salesperson with that headline I still believe that above two points of value delivered will be a great product that really solve two problems. They are also totally independent of each other.

For some, the discovery feature is the greatest value. To find a great restaurant really fast and since it is curated you know it is a verified great choice.

For others, the price Dinewhere can offer compared to what you would pay if going without doing the reservation through Dinewhere is in it self a great value proposition for the app. Eat fantastic food, have a great experience and pay less.

The name Dinewhere?

Dinewhere will be a global product. The team will launch in Singapore first, this to be close to the users and the restaurants (since it is a Singapore company) and to be able to iterate when the very first beta is launched. As soon as possible Dinewhere will aim to launch in Hong Kong, Tokyo, Shanghai, Barcelona, London, Paris, Stockholm etc. No committed plan in terms of cities is in place yet, so stay tuned for the decided list.

With this in mind the name and especially the URL becomes kind of a fun game with words. For Singapore the URL will be: dinewhere.in/singapore and for Hong Kong it will be dinewhere.in/hongkong etc.

Dinewhere is a product that will help you find a great place to eat at a really great price. Dine where?

Zendesk IPO a success

Congratulations to a great IPO Zendesk, but also to Singapore based Zopim that got $10.9M in shares in the $30M acquisition

I do not regularly write about IPOs and companies that go public, but as a long-time customer and fan to Zendesk and as they also is a, by origin, a company from Denmark it is close at heart to write when something actually turns out as good as Zendesks listing on NYSE.

Even Instagramed my Zendesk T-shirt

Even Instagramed my Zendesk T-shirt.

As a summary Zendesk raised $100M through the IPO and climbed almost 50% the first day of trading (for stock info on Zendesks site). In the turmoil after several not as successful IPOs it is great to see an enterprise startup (even though they have been around for some years) have a successful start.

If you have not read about this yet anywhere else it is most probably for the simple reason that Zendesk is an enterprise company and not a social company without a distinct business model, rather a company that have had a clear business model for many years.

Zopim from Singapore probably also happy

According to the S-1, Zendesk acquired Zopim as well as earn-out ($5M in upfront cash and $13.9 in earn out after 2-3 years) with the structure of some upfront payment, but also with $10.9M in common shares, those shares are currently wortht $20M. If it is a good deal for Zopim is probably not yet seen, since common stock usually have a lock-in on 6 months (do not now the details in this specific case).

Zopimi is one of the bigger exits from Singapore and was also Zendesks first and only acquisition.

Why I do not like MVP – minimum viable product

I will be blunt, for me MVP is a glorified way to build a product that lacks both revenue-model as well as business-model.

It is all about tech geeks that want to build cool stuff. An inside-out approach. Some might succeed, but millions will and have failed!

I have probably already pissed quite a few startups and entrepreneurs off by writing the excerpt like above, but let me dig a bit deeper and explain what I mean with this. First a Wikipedia definition of MVP.

The minimum viable product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.

My biggest problem with the term is that it focuses on minimal and not on viable. I love products that are maximum and viable. In that way I do not mean that they are too complex or hard to learn (the classic example is SAP), but rather that a product in my view is like an onion, in layers. It is not only tech, it is everything from relationships, business model to choice of technology. By just hitting keys to produce code, I actually think the road to success will be longer, when lean etc is supposed to be quicker.

I sincerely think that every product should solve a problem and that a vision on the problem solved must be a part of the core of the company. This is the same reason why I have a hard time with the buzzword pivot, see my rant about Pivot in my earlier blogpost. The road to the end-goal is most probably not a straight line, but the goal to solve the problem and by that help others to a better life (or what ever it could be) is a major thing to keep focus on.

Focus vs distraction

We all know how important it is as a startup to keep focus and even here I see potential distractions with the MVP concept. You try out the MVP on a subset of potential customers and they might reject it, you go back to the drawing board and update the product accordingly, and the clients reject it again. Now you start to realise that the product actually does not solve a problem, you just have a damn cool piece of tech, now what? You probably try to find a new market for your brilliant piece of tech, but is that really the best way to go, find a market for the thing you have build, this instead of building something for a market you know exist?

Also from a company point of view this might be interesting. The companies that are most interesting is a product with low market risk, but high tech risk. So when solving a real problem it is more likely that you actually also get attention from investors etc. High tech risk with high market risk is naturally not a top priority to invest in for investors on a regular basis.

Yes, I am a boring B2B guy

MVP it is very often technology driven. That is all good, but since I have a background in the B2B segment it does not make sense for me. To start and develop a product without doing the homework on the market opportunity? and how to sell it and to whom? I can see the popularity of MVP in the age of social and all these snazzy apps without business models.

B2B and MVP

What I have realised is that the enterprise segment is much cleaner and much straight forward. This due to several reasons:

  1. To pay for value is natural
  2. A typical B2B customer is more loyal

If a product does not fit your need or created value, you are out and it will be hard to get back into the account (if you are not IBM, MS, Oracle etc). This gives that you do not want to screw things up early and a MVP approach might not be the best. To add even more on top of that B2B and enterprise clients are much more loyal, so if you do make it and get an enterprise client, they are likely to stay around. Retention in todays subscription-model based world is of essence. Great customer satisfaction = great retention = grew revenue.

So should we go back to the waterfall model?

For gods sake, no. I just think that a more complete beta or v1 is a more viable approach when approaching customers with a product that you want them to pay for one day. Iteration and to listen to customer feedback as well as to pursue your own vision for the product does not conflict with me not liking the MVP model.

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h3>Never mind the buzzword

I just think that a product of today can be developed in a lean way without the MVP approach, the tools available today makes the process of building a product efficient. When you have a vision and a problem to solve (or similar), do your due diligence and market research. Then involve customers as early as possible to validate your idea and to get buy-in. Start to build relationships and the execute the hell out of your business. That should do it.

And when I come to think about it, don’t even care about all the buzzwords, rather just create your 10 slide deck (product, team, marketing and financial) and then just focus and execute on that. A much cleaner and buzzword-free approach.

Also want to put in some credits to this post. Peter Lindberg and Jonas Nockert are two persons that have heavily inspired me to write this. An important note is that they do not agree with me on everything and maybe even disagree with most of it, but they have sincerely inspired me with their knowledge and insight on the subject. Thanks to them and other that I have discussed this with.

Startup Asia 2014

I have been wrong, very wrong. And I am extremely happy about it!

For two days I have been at the Startup Asia 2014 conference here in Singapore. I had low expectations, without a reason I must admit, and in so many ways I am positively surprised.

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h3>The Startups

There where a huge bunch of startups mingling, in booths, on stage, battling in the arean and pitching investors. the quality of the startups was over all well above expectations. As a Swede I have a tendency to look for design and technology execution. And Asian (in general) do not have design as a key priority. Many of the products were very beautiful and with a very intuitive design. Also the technology execution (to the extent that I was able to judge that) was well above expectation. Impressed.

What also impressed me was how aggressive the startups where. Since I had an Investor badge hanging around my neck, I was approach many many times, sometimes in very aggressive ways and some where even pushing other out of the way. This was a really positive experience. The determination and dedication is everything.

Only one thing really bothered me. The local focus. I would say that the Singaporean companies are the ones who think most locally. This even with products that are global in it’s genes. This is a really big issue. During these two days most failed to have great answer to my question to this and only one passed flawlessly, and that was a startup that involved physical products and personal delivery, but she sincerely understood the potential and how to execute on that strategy, impressed (follow up meeting already booked).

One other thing that is a bit worrying (please note that it is just a reflection and not a statistically proven theory). Many of the startups I talked to who was funded by government grants or other government supported funding, gave me a feel of comfort. They lacked the spirit and attitude and also felt a bit too safe. It was like they did not have the pressure to make things happen. As a startup I think that is one of the most important things, focus and make things happen fast……if not you are out of business. Fat and happy is not really compatible with startups.

The sessions

To next year I would recommend to bump up the authority of the speaker a notch. The first keynote speaker was a guy from Vietnam how talked about running a company in Vietnam and how big he was in Vietnam. All good, but either the business nor the execution was that interesting. It is certainly a great company, but as a keynote I would have put the Razor CEO on the prime spot instead. Or any other star that has taken over the region or the world, not only his domestic market.

There was some interesting sessions, but too few highlights and way to many downers. The Tech In Asia staff did a good job as interviewers, it also gave some sincerity to the stage, since it was their own brand and their own conference. The team doing the interviews where also very different. Willi with his direct and on the border to rude (which often was more fun the rude) interview style that at least often got some interesting answers, Gwendolyn with her grace and passion and also Vanessa Tan with sincerity and informative questions. Well done!

Conclusion: Bump up the speakers, keep the interviewers.

Pitches from startups

This was the outstanding most exciting experience of the event. I think in total I got something like 30 pitches during these two days. 20 by being approached on the fly and 10 during the speed dating. I was a bit concerned about being the last company out the door, seemed like the session of death, almost like being the last speaker at a conference. Would the startups still be alive or awake? had all of the startups done their pitch to too many investor prior to us? Since we are new to the market, will people know about us enough to prioritise us compared with others?

The answer is simple, we had the best slot ever and some really good startups pitching. A huge benefit of being last was that we could stick around and actually let a few other (without queue numer) pitch as well. One of the best pitches was from that part. First follow up meeting tomorrow at 09.30. Thanks also to Darren and his team who managed the speed dating. Not only during but also his responsiveness prior to the event.

We have a few follow-up meetings and who knows what that will lead to and will most certainly be joining the speed dating next conference as well.

Conclusion

I much better event then I ever would have imagined. Great startups, great people, great product and a great execution of the event. This event will grow even bigger until next year and already looking forward to it.

I was wrong about the quality of the startups, I was wrong with my low expectations on the event, I was wrong on the attitude of the startups.

Heartware – makes your life better

Think if a product could tell you to avoid things that your body reacts bad to or if you want to know what triggers your anger, or to identify things and places that makes you happy. That is all something that Heartware can help with.

Heartware is an impressive product, even though still in early prototype stage, Heartware could actually make your life better. The potential for areas when Heartware really can create value is huge.

A few examples:

  1. Individuals with disabilities like autism, stroke, dementia etc
  2. Military personell to track reactions, emotions, stress etc
  3. Fitness training, how did you feel before, during and after the training.
  4. Improve work performance by predict your patterns to avoid stress etc
  5. Save your happy moments, camera takes photos when you are happy and also stores the location
  6. …..and as you probably realise, many more.

The basics about Heartware

Kerbie HeartwareHeartware really changes how wearable tech is perceived. While many companies focus on the hardware, Heartware focuses on the value provided to the end user. This is simply by providing the things you do not already know. No hardware on it’s own will do that. Heartware uses the hardware as an enabler to collect as much data as possible about the person wearing the device. It is what is done with the data and the models that are applied that will make it successful. The predictions and recommendations as well as alerts to caregivers, family (first two primarily is used for medical reasons) or just to your self to let you now that you should avoid certain things or the opposite, things you should do to improve your life.

Heartware not only collects a vast amount of data from your body, it also takes photos. Since photos are best seen when put in context, the Heartware camera only takes photos when your emotions (or other data points) go out of range. This so you actually can see the moments that you were happy or angry and maybe what triggered that. The use cases can be many, but just to explain the spectra. If you play with your daughter and are very happy, you probably won’t take out your camera and shoot off a few shoots, you simply do not think of it, the same while just talking to your better half or when out for a walk in the forest, things worth remembering, but easily forgotten, not anymore.

Secondly it can be used for people with medical disabilities. As an example if you have a family member who has autism, that person often might have difficulties expressing feeling and when feelings are strong it is hard to explain what triggered this. Heartware can now support these situations very well.

I have followed the team and am sincerely impressed with what they have done so far, so I can just imagine what they will do in the future with this product. Also, all examples and thoughts above is my own, and might not reflect the market approach the team has in mind, so consider above thoughts from an excited fan of the team and product.

If you are interested in following the Heartware journey, just sign up at the Heartware site and you will get notified as soon as things evolve.

Heartware – A way to understand yourself better

Great Simians at Startup Asia

If you are a startup and in Asia do come and pitch Great Simians at the Investor Speed-dating at Startup Asia on Thursday, both me and Carl will be there and we sincerely look forward in meeting a lot of startups and great fellow entrepreneurs.

For more info on the event, visit the event page for Startup Asia in Singapore 2014.

Also looking forward to listen to some interesting speakers at as well. Especially looking forward to the session from Mr Teo Ser Luck, Minister of State, Ministry of Trade & Industry as well as the talks on specific countries from entrepreneurs from those countries such as Japan and Myanmar etc.

Also the entire Wednesday afternoon that is focused on hardware will be interesting. One of the speakers is the co-founder of Razor that I anticipate will be the first really big exit and IPO from Singapore. Expected to be above 1BUSD range when listed on one of the stock exchanges in US (yes, probably US and not in Singapore, probably due to demand I guess).

There are also some sessions on Bitcoin in Asia which will be interesting I hope.

But most of all I am looking forward in meeting tons of people and see a lot of new startups. If you are a startup that are looking for funding, do look us up or come and pitch us at the Startup Investor Speed dating session. Our slot is on Wednesday 2:30PM.

Photo from Tech In Asia

Don’t glorify the word Pivot

Last year pivot was the buzzword no 1. Startups who came to the conclusion that they where on the wrong track simply change their business model to do something else.

Now I start to see people around the web that tries to build an image of pivot to be something else. Something that has been around for ages. Let’s takes this list as an example, it is posted on the Guest blog by Martin Zwilling.

  1. Zoom-in pivot. In this case, what previously was considered a single feature in a product becomes the whole product. This highlights the value of “focus” and “minimum viable product” (MVP), delivered quickly and efficiently.
  2. Zoom-out pivot. In the reverse situation, sometimes a single feature is insufficient to support a customer set. In this type of pivot, what was considered the whole product becomes a single feature of a much larger product.
  3. Customer segment pivot. Your product may attract real customers, but not the ones in the original vision. In other words, it solves a real problem, but needs to be positioned for a more appreciative segment, and optimized for that segment.
  4. Customer need pivot. Early customer feedback indicates that the problem solved is not very important, or money isn’t available to buy. This requires repositioning, or a completely new product, to find a problem worth solving.
  5. Platform pivot. This refers to a change from an application to a platform, or vice versa. Many founders envision their solution as a platform for future products, but don’t have a single killer application just yet. Most customers buy solutions, not platforms.
  6. Business architecture pivot. Geoffrey Moore, many years ago, observed that there are two major business architectures: high margin, low volume (complex systems model), or low margin, high volume (volume operations model). You can’t do both at the same time.
  7. Value capture pivot. This refers to the monetization or revenue model. Changes to the way a startup captures value can have far-reaching consequences for business, product, and marketing strategies. The “free” model doesn’t capture much value.
  8. Engine of growth pivot. Most startups these days use one of three primary growth engines: the viral, sticky, and paid growth models. Picking the right model can dramatically affect the speed and profitability of growth.
  9. Channel pivot. In sales terminology, the mechanism by which a company delivers it product to customers is called the sales channel or distribution channel. Channel pivots usually require unique pricing, feature, and competitive positioning adjustments.
  10. Technology pivot. Sometimes a startup discovers a way to achieve the same solution by using a completely different technology. This is most relevant if the new technology can provide superior price and/or performance to improve competitive posture.

This is not something new or something related to pivot or lean for that matter. This is common sense and also part of basic leadership as well as in the foundation of building a company. Not related to either pivot or lean.

The bullets above are great and every startup should have them in mind, but to try to glorify pivot by making these bullets connected to the word pivot, that I do not understand.

If my name would be Karl Pilkington I would fly in as the new superhero Bullshit Man and call it Bullshit.

Eric Reis the front figure of lean startup have said this:

Pivot = A change in strategy without a change in vision

Course correction would be a better term and to stay with the vision but iterate the strategy is not new either. The way towards the vision is almost never crystal clear, so the change in strategy will most certain happen many times during the lifetime of a startup.

Let me finish this post with a quote by Adeo Ressi of Fonders Institute:

It truly is always darkest before the dawn in entrepreneurship. Don’t throw in the towel even when it seems the worst… It’s part of the journey of success.

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