CategoryHow to work the internets

Featured in BrandEins

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BrandEins is one of these rare publications that – starting the moment it appeared – made the media landscape a little better just by virtue of being there. Strictly speaking, it’s a German economics magazine, but that doesn’t do it justice. It’s more like the stories behind economic notions, entrepreneurs, ideas, all told and explained with core values and a bit of an attitude.

BrandEins January 2015 issue

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Opening up expert knowledge for social change

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tl;dr

How can we make traditionally expensive expert knowledge available for free for social causes and communities in need?

Sharing professional advice freely & openly

I make my living as a consultant, and as an organizer of conferences. Therefore I’m well aware of the prices that both organizations and individuals pay for advice, learning, and access to knowledge.

Yet, not all communities/organizations/individuals can afford to hire experts if they need input of some sort or another. Or worse, they have to resort to fake experts who seem to work more cheaply, but also deliver worse or the wrong kind of advice.

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The most interesting indie R&D shops

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Indie R&D Shops

 

For future reference, a short list of some of the more interesting independent companies, studios, design and dev shops that are engaged in invention, prototyping or research & development.

Some work mostly in software, some more with hardware or interfaces. Some more conceptual, some more product-oriented, some squarely in between.

  • Hubbub invent and build playful digital products. Berlin/Utrecht.
  • überproduct. Protyping and external R&D, in code or on paper. Berlin.
  • The Incredible Machine. Focus on connected devices/IoT. Rotterdam.
  • Near Future Lab. Thinking, making, design, development and research practice. (Several locations across California & Europe)
  • Relative Wave. Focus on software and visual stuff. San Francisco.
  • BERG London. Just included for historical reasons as they are not taking on client work after transitioning their business to build BERGCloud.
  • MCQN is all about the IoT. They build connected devices, for clients and themselves. Liverpool.
  • HardwareLabs.io turns hardware prototypes into finished products. London.

If you are aware of others that should be part of this list, please let me know.

 

Full disclosure: Many friends on this list. Alper of Hubbub and I share an office at the time of writing this. Hubbub, überproduct, The Incredible Machine and BERG London all have been involved as speakers at conferences of mine.

The year of the connected device, but consumer IoT startups face big challenges

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Over on the BoschSI Internet of Things blog, I contributed a short piece on the challenges that startups in the consumer IoT space are facing.

There is hardly any doubt that 2014 is the year when connected devices – particularly wearables – will go mainstream. Technology tradeshows and media alike are practically bursting at the seams with new products, concepts, and announcements for connected devices.

It’s worth noting that this is quite a special slice of the Internet of Things: this isn’t about the industrial internet, it’s about bringing the IoT to consumers. This is a very different story altogether, a segment with its own opportunities, challenges, and dynamics, one that exists at the intersection of various verticals – think home automation, wearables, connected mobility, personal analytics, health tech. It’s a space where the lines aren’t yet fully drawn, the terminology not yet fully evolved – which is usually a sign of a field that’s moving quickly and innovating. In other words, this is where some truly innovative and interesting stuff is happening.

Read the full text here.

Publishing a book! Connected: Understanding the Internet of Things

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Connected

Together with the long time friend and lovely collaborator Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino, I’m working on a book:

Connected: Understanding the Internet of Things.

We’re on a pretty tight schedule as we’re planning to launch at ThingsCon (2/3 May 2014).

This is what we’re planning to tackle:

The Internet of things as a term and a new industry has gone through a rapid transition from the sphere of academia (slow technology, ubiquitous computing) to appearing on national IT agendas (the UK’s announcement today of a further £50M in funding for that space). In this period of rapid development, it’s important to take stock and see the forrest from the trees. Connected will draw the landscape of short and long-term challenges and opportunities, document lessons learnt from the pioneers and showcase the most exciting connected products of the past 10 years of development.

For now, the project lives at thewavingcat.com/connected – it’ll have a real home soon. Over there, you can also sign up for news.

Excited!

ps. The image is actually a photo of Sami Niemelä of Nordkapp fame, who’s also a speaker at ThingsCon.

An Entrepreneur-in-Residence program for non-VC firms?

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Wherever you look you see corporations trying to get closer to startups, variably in terms of reputation, release cycles, culture or reputation.

One of the more common ways is to start an incubator or accelerator program, which certainly isn’t the worst option out there.

It is hard, however, to let the learnings and culture flow back from these programs into the HQ.

After some conversations around this, I think one path to explore might be temporary entrepreneur-in-residence (EiR) programs. This isn’t new, of course, and particularly in the US you can find the occasional one – usually in VC firms.

I believe that the concept makes a lot of sense for non-VC firms as well.

This should especially true for entrepreneurs who didn’t just have a massive exit (as is usually the case for the VC-EiR model): Those entrepreneurs building the next generation of hardware, for example, who bootstrap their endeavors and haven’t made it yet financially because they are breaking new ground and exploring markets that have yet to be fully defined.

So what could that look like?

  • Embed an entrepreneur in your company for 3 months. Like an Entrepreneur-in-residence, working side by side with your product and strategy team, both on their own product and at the edges of your company’s focus.
  • The EiR can heavily use their outside network, with enough wriggle room to at least maintain their own things (think 2 half-days in a week – let’s say they’d be off Tuesdays and Thursdays after lunch).
  • The EiR is paid a solid management-style salary, so there’s a financial incentive, too – after all, founders often bootstrap their own companies, so a cash injection might just be a good incentive.

And then let them roam and work with your teams, embedded, hopefully on some kind of joint project that connects your business with theirs.

Of course working conditions should be optimized to empower these entrepreneurs to play out their full potential. Small things like flexible work times and BYOD should be standard. (If you can’t handle someone bringing in their own laptop, then you’re not ready for the program.)

I’m pretty sure that this would be quite beneficial to both sides. The Entrepreneur gets to know a potential collaborator and partner, as well as a little cash injection. The corporation gets the external domain knowledge and opens up its own culture in the process, and unlocks a large new network of potential collaborators.

These are just some initial thoughts on what an EiR program could look like outside the VC context. Curious to hear if it’s been done before, or to help set one up.

3D printing in the pets toys and food industries

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Wednesday and Thursday I was in Amsterdam for a talk at PETS Global Forum, a big annual gathering of the pets toys, accessories and food industry. They had hired me to talk about the impact of new technologies (mainly 3D printing, but also the internet of things) on the pets industry. It’s an industry I knew very little about going in — before starting to prep for the talk — so I was very interested to learn more while I was there.

In a packed ballroom at gorgeous Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky smack in the center of Amsterdam, the 200 or so attendees were the decision makers of that industry around the globe.

 

The winter garden of the hotel doubled as expo hall.

 

Turns out that pet-related industries are largely immune to external market crises: People spend money on their pets, no matter what. In fact, throughout the global financial crisis over the last few years, the pets industry has been constantly growing.

That said, obviously if you’re in the business of selling plastic and metal products as well as prepared food, technology is kind of high on your agenda – hence the interest in 3D printing and related technologies.

What I tried is to look beyond the hype of 3D printing and give an honest view on the kind of impact — and the market opportunities — that 3D printing might have on these industries. No hand-wavy futurism and 3D print utopia, but very down-to-earth estimations and advice.

Here’s what I came up with:

 

The slides were made, by the way, with the Deckset app I mentioned on this blog before.

 

Of course I’m always happy to look at the impact and opportunities emerging technologies have at various industries. If you’d like to have me speak, the best way is to contact Tessa over at The Next Speaker (who represent me for these kind of gigs), and if you’d like to take a closer look at your company and its strategy, get in touch about an advisory role.