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  • feedwordpress 00:09:02 on 2015/11/18 Permalink
    Tags: brand advertising, digital marketing, , entrepreneur, evonexus, , , innovation expert series, , , lyft, mark bowles, mobile advertising, mobile apps, on-vehicle advertising, , reinvention, , sharing economy, , , wrapify   

    Innovation Expert Series: Wrapify 


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    Innovation Expert Series: Wrapify

    In this week’s Innovation Expert Series interview, we’re getting up close and personal with the CEO and Co-Founder of Wrapify, James Heller.

    New to RE:INVENTION’s blog? Our biweekly Innovation Expert Series features interviews with key executives at small to midsize companies, like Wrapify, that are notably disrupting, transforming, and innovating within their respective industries or markets.

    Wrapify LogoWrapify is building a disruptive Internet of Things (IoT) crowdsourced advertising platform that connects drivers and brands to create powerful on-vehicle advertising. The company pays drivers $400 to $600 a month to temporarily “wrap” their cars with mobile ads while providing meaningful metrics to brand advertisers via their app.

    Wrapify’s business model, which has been compared to Uber and Lyft, capitalizes on the “sharing economy” (aka the “sweat your assets” economy). Wrapify graduated early from San Diego tech startup incubator EvoNexus and the team has relocated to San Francisco. The company is in-part funded by Mark Bowles, a well-noted San Diego serial entrepreneur.

    ************************************************************************

    RE: For those folks who aren’t yet aware of your startup, can you give us a brief background about yourself and Wrapify?

    Heller: I have a heavy background in B2B Digital Marketing and I have a passion for speed. Out of Home advertising has always fascinated me and I think the sharing/crowdsourced economy needed a market leader to pave the way for individuals to earn extra cash by advertising on their car.

    Wrapify is a disruptive advertising platform connecting drivers and brands to create powerful on-vehicle advertising. Through its proprietary mobile application and technology, Wrapify gives drivers an easy source of extra income, plus the power to choose the marketer and “look”: full, partial or panel advertising. Brands receive the security of control and benefit of trackable results. Ironclad controls ensure Wrapify’s powerful and intuitive platform protects both drivers and brands, while every member of the Wrapify Network ecosystem passes certification before they touch and transform a vehicle. Wrapify is the easiest way to make money on the road short of finding it in the street.

    RE: Where did you get the original inspiration for your idea? Do you recall the initial idea spark™?

    Heller: I assumed this concept already exists, but I later found out that many have tried and failed. We believe we have the missing component that this basic concept needs to be socially viable while also providing brands with the feedback loop they need to entrust that this is a positive way to get brand impressions in real life.

    RE: It’s tough to get from initial spark to implementable idea. Did you utilize any specific “lean startup” techniques to develop/test/launch Wrapify? If yes, how? If not, why not?

    Heller: Yes, I believe we subscribed to the lean startup methodology. We created an MVP (minimum viable product) and tested our hypothesis before we closed out our seed round. We were bootstrapped for many months before we raised a single dime.

    RE: Did you utilize any “design thinking” techniques? If yes, how? If not, why not?

    Heller: I am a big believer in less is more. Simplistic, minimalistic design is a core component to more than just the way Wrapify looks on the surface, we take it into the supply chain of our business and even many of the processes that power the lifeline of the business.

    Wrapify Team Members in Action

    Wrapify Team Members in Action

    RE: Describe your company’s biggest challenge to date. How did you deal with it? What did you learn from it?

    Heller: So far, getting big, national advertisers to leverage our platform and realize actual value and brand lift has been our #1 focus. Petco, Quest Nutrition, TriNet and Harrah’s Resorts have all experienced the power of our platform and are coming back for more.

    RE: How does your team promote internal and external innovation?

    Heller: If you are touting your breakthrough technology, internal and external innovation is not a choice, it’s a necessity. We are constantly looking for new ways to empower our drivers and provide value to our advertisers via innovative technologies added to the platform. Internally, we are constantly questioning why an age old practices are still used. Comically, we do everything we can to be a fax free, paper free company. Ha!

    RE: Have you found yourself having to pivot or reinvent aspects of your business since you started? How have you done so — and managed change?

    Heller: We are constantly making small pivots to achieve product/market fit. We monitor how our drivers leverage features within our app and the requests we get from advertisers quite regularly. One of my rules is, if three different people complain about or raise awareness to an issue with a feature, that’s enough to take action to make a change. Don’t wait for dozens or even hundreds of people to tell you your product sucks. Listen close to the early signals and make a change.

    RE: If you were forced to choose, which do you think is MOST important for a company’s long run success in your industry: great product, great people, or great execution?

    Heller: All three are critical but if I were to order them from most to least important; I would put execution first, people second and product third. It’s near impossible to execute if you don’t have the latter two.

    RE: What do you think is most important for your company to do in order to keep up with the rapid changes in technology?

    Heller: Don’t get so immersed in the microcosm that is your business to not notice the innovation and new technologies emerging outside your business.

    RE: So…what’s next for Wrapify?

    Heller: Stay tuned to find out!

    That’s a wrap on RE:INVENTION’s Innovation Expert Series interview with Wrapify. Many thanks to James Heller for sharing his insights. Look for our next Expert interview in two weeks time, right here on RE:INVENTION’s Everyday Inventive Blog.

     
  • feedwordpress 05:30:46 on 2015/10/28 Permalink
    Tags: community-run business model, Crowdfunding, , expert interviews, , , , , international startups, , , Kickstarter, LoRaWAN, Playstation, , reinvention, smart cities, smart city, Sony, , The Things Network,   

    Innovation Expert Series: The Things Network 


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    Innovation Expert Series: The Things Network

    RE:INVENTION’s Innovation Expert Series features interviews with key executives at small to midsize companies that are notably disrupting, transforming, and innovating within their respective industries or markets.

    The Things NetworkIn this week’s Innovation Expert Series interview, we’re getting up close and personal with Wienke Giezeman, the passionately disruptive co-founder of The Things Network.

    The Things Network, an Amsterdam-based startup on a mission to build a global community-led Internet of Things (IoT) data network, could create abundant data connectivity and turn “smart cities” from an idealistic dream into a reality. The ambitious startup successfully crowdsourced a city-wide Internet of Things data network in Amsterdam earlier this summer. Now they are on a mission to connect cities across the world with the help of their new Kickstarter campaign.

    ************************************************************************

    RE: For those folks who aren’t yet aware of your startup, can you give us a brief background about The Things Network?

    Wienke: We are building a global free and open Internet of Things data network. We managed to cover the city of Amsterdam with this network in six weeks. Four weeks later, we had inspired cities around the world.

    We used 10 LoRaWAN gateways for €1200($1325) each, funded by the people of Amsterdam to cover the entirety of the city.

    Based on our feedback from other cities, we realized that the cost for a single gateway was still too high for this to truly scale so we went and designed a gateway that cost only €200($220) per gateway.

    RE: The Internet is buzzing about how The Things Network is poised to spur Smart City landscapes. Can you explain what a SMART CITY is for our readers? In your opinion, what makes a city SMART?

    Wienke: Smart city is a fancy term for a city that is digitally connected and has a lot of components connected to the Internet and each other. Our lives get better if we get a better understanding of what the state of the city is. Is the air clean here? Is the light broken there? Is this trash can full? The quality of urban living can be increased significantly if we get a better understanding of what the state of a city is and when we can make better decisions based on that information. Our network can act as the glue to connect the information to the smart decision makers.

    RE: Where did you get the original inspiration for your idea? Do you recall the initial idea spark™?

    Wienke: The initial spark was when I saw LoRaWAN, the technology that is used by this network. It has 10KM reach, can connect up to 10,000 devices and the devices have very low power consumption so they can be placed anywhere just running on a battery. I first saw the technology at the IoT Meetup in Amsterdam and was immediately struck by it’s capabilities. In general, it looked like one of the first true solutions for all the promises people had put on what the Internet of Things should be able to deliver.

    The Things Network Co-Founders in Action

    [THE THINGS NETWORK CO-FOUNDERS IN ACTION]

    RE: It’s tough to get from initial spark to implementable idea. Did you utilize any specific “lean startup” techniques to develop/test/launch The Things Network? If yes, how? If not, why not?

    Wienke: No, we just went for it. We were not “lean” at all. Initially we (me and Johan) were just two people who wanted to create a proof of concept, too small to consciously apply any process to it. You just do, learn and then you are there. Then working with the ten volunteers from our local meetup, when we covered Amsterdam with gateways, that went so fast, everyone fairly naturally found their role. You could call it “lean” in terms of the fast and fairly efficient way we turned it around, at the same time, I wouldn’t think of it as a consciously lean process. I believe real breakthroughs are rarely the result of applying process first. They tend to be chaotic, however you need to be the right type of person to be comfortable with the creative chaos and speed in such a project.

    RE: So you instinctively, but not purposefully, used a little bit of “lean” in terms of operational efficiencies. Did you utilize any “design thinking” techniques? If yes, how? If not, why not?

    Wienke: No, at the moment we work on the technology push. The only design we apply is for the hardware devices we produced in beta before the Kickstarter. They are very first stage proof-of-concepts. They work well, but are not necessarily pretty. That’s not our focus at this stage.

    We have the strong belief that if we provide abundant data connectivity good things will come from that. So a rigid and sustainable network comes first.

    It is obviously very hard and distracting to work on a network with so many possibilities. The amount of awesome ideas and use cases coming our way are unbelievable and inspiring. The Internet of things has been suffering from a chicken and egg problem for a while, with the applications on one end and the infrastructure on the other. We decided to first build the chicken.

    RE: The Things Network seems to be a rare example of the combination of having both a highly impactful product and amazing execution. Which do you think is more important for long run success: product or execution? Or both?

    Wienke: Both. A car needs a motor and it needs fuel. For now execution is really key. We need to tell the world our story because we need people all around the globe to understand the potential of this vision. The product is at the center of this. It needs to be compelling. Ease of distribution is another element, this is where Kickstarter is such an amazing tool and it is playing its role very well for all of us at the moment. The third aspect is community of course. This is who we are doing this with and they are playing the most important role in this. Look at Google, Facebook, Uber — big ideas that need to scale are so dependent on how they can scale through people and how useful they become for them.

    RE: You’ve chosen to utilize a community-run business model for The Things Network. Why so? Do you think a community-run business model will impact your ability to scale or make money in the long run?

    Wienke: It is fairly easy to scale an open community-run model. There are no contracts and you can copy our code. The community members all personally benefit from what each are doing and help out each other as well. Isn’t that just awesome! It has way less managerial overhead. Think about it — everyone has a phone, but no one has to update their operating systems themselves. Our modern systems have become so automated, that managing communities is heavily automated and runs in the background, as much as it is personalized. We see it as a benefit for the hardware distribution and scale. In the long-run is another discussion and business models tend to circulate around the software, not the hardware. For example, Sony made huge losses on their Playstation 4 disk drives. The model was not to make money on the hardware. They still run a very successful gaming platform.

    RE: It seems like LoRaWAN technology coupled with your community-run business model have the potential to disrupt the entire telco industry. How do you think telcos will cope with this new disruptive idea of building networks?

    Wienke: For now it is not a threat to the high-bandwidth networks. But if we follow Moore’s Law we can predict that it will just be a matter of time, before it is true competition. In terms of speed of deployment and scalability we did probably scare them a bit with this social experiment we call The Things Network.

    RE: You reached 75% of your Kickstarter campaign goal within the first 100 hours – and it looks like you are ticking towards 100% today. Congratulations! Why did you choose to launch a Kickstarter campaign now? Any big “A-has!” or surprises?

    Wienke: Because everybody knows Kickstarter and not everybody knows The Things Network. Our initial target audience is highly represented there and it is their number one preferred platform. We are doing very well. At the moment of writing, we’ve reached 93% funding and we were featured on Kickstarter today. We have picked up more cities around the world and are adding new communities daily.

    As it is our first Kickstarter, we are learning every day. The shipping costs were an issue but we had very understanding feedback from the backers and worked very hard in the first 24 hrs to find a better solution that would make everybody happy. We proposed giving everybody who orders a gateway a free UNO. It was great, to be able to have an actual conversation with the backers and we are happy we found a solution quickly. We are trying to be as communicative as we can despite being a small team managing the campaign, conference talks, our developers forum and supporting our global communities, whilst working on the backend software doing all of this as best we can. Big learning process, but the communication tools that didn’t exist 10 years ago are an amazing help managing a project as ambitious as this.

    RE: So…what’s next for The Things Network?

    Wienke: Covering the world to help see IoT truly take off the way it is supposed to. The next step is to make sure we are represented in every large city in the world.

    We’ve had an amazing start so far. We haven’t even seen how big the Kickstarter campaign could be in 20 days. There are many things to do already, with the communities growing so fast. If everything goes well, in about 20 days we will be producing all the wonderful devices we raised money for — and that’s when the real work begins. If you want to take the lead in campaigning for your city, we can set you up with a page LIKE THIS. We are recruiting local initiators. SIGN UP HERE and we will get back to you shortly.

    Many thanks to Wienke Giezeman (and his co-founder, Johan Stokking) for sharing insights during this week’s Expert Series. Look for our next Expert interview in two weeks time, right here on RE:INVENTION’s Everyday Inventive Blog.

     
  • feedwordpress 18:42:11 on 2013/12/09 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , Kindle, Mayday, , reinvention, transformation, XBOX One   

    Looking Ahead to 2014 


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    Looking Ahead to 2014

    There are more than enough posts about predictions and trends for 2014 out there to entertain your mind. I’m not one to make predictions. I prefer to set the agenda. Two things I will talk about in this post to look forward to the next year: connected experiences and how we think about innovation.

    Let’s Talk About Connected Experiences

    While most of the discussion in 2014 will still be around the hot topics of Big Data, The Internet of Things, 3D Printing, and other buzzworthy topics; what holds these things together and can’t be easily replicated is an overall connected experience.  Organizations will still look at all of the hot topics as separate pieces, to see how they can integrate them, and this is usually how it starts: you starting testing in isolation until you figure out if works for you.

    But experiences are more fluid and connected than ever. The recent advances in sync technology that the XBOX One brings to the table is a leading indicator on how devices are connected experiences. You can bring them with you anywhere. And, while tablets and smartphones will become pervasive touch points in those experiences, the human element will not be replaced. People still want to have contact with people, if it makes sense.

    Amazon shows that they understand this better than ever with their Mayday feature that comes with the newest breed of Kindles. Whether they got it right or wrong isn’t the point. What they are saying is that they want to have contact with customers, and will be available with one click when the customer needs them. This is thinking ahead of the game, and just comes to show how they are “retail”.

    The Key Takeway Here

    The conversation about emerging technologies should be around the connected experience and outcomes for customers, not the benefits for an organization. Your point of view should define what to do and what not to do.

    To look back is to look forward. The saddest thing about 2013 is that the word “innovation” keeps getting diluted. It is now a marketing ploy. Before the end of the year, and every day after that, companies who are serious about innovation should ask themselves this question: how can we be the only ones who do what we do?

    The answer to that question isn’t about Big Data, or any other “hot topic”, it is about what are you enabling customers to do. How are you transforming them?

    People don’t remember specific features, they remember the experience had. Companies are confusing a product upgrade with innovation, and to believe that changing one thing is enough to make a splash is short-term-ism at its finest. A recent post on the Wall Street Journal has pretty much put it in perspective how executives are looking at innovation: “something that is innovative to them”.

    The Right Way to Think About Innovation

    The right way to think about innovation is this: how are we transforming customers? How are we helping them be innovative?

    This is a different way of thinking about value proposition; it’s about developing human capital. Not simply delivering a product or service “because that is what companies do”. Companies that believe that out-featuring competitors is the way to innovation riches are kidding themselves. You might feel that way in the short term, but you are simply adding more wood to the fire that creates a thick screen of smoke that distracts and annoys people.

    Customers, people, users, are experiencing more chaos than ever. Too many choices are creating noise in their lives. This is a huge opportunity for both startups and established companies to make an impact in people’s lives. The sooner you rethink how you look at innovation, the faster you will orient your efforts towards really thinking about how you might transform them.

    To finish, I’ll leave you with this last thought: the more you say you are innovative, the less innovative you are.

     

     
  • feedwordpress 18:07:46 on 2013/11/12 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , idea generation, , , , metrics, reinventing research, reinvention, reinventiveness, Steve Jobs   

    Market Intelligence: Steve Jobs vs. the Rest of Us 


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    Market Intelligence: Steve Jobs vs. the Rest of Us

    Most of us have heard about the aversion of Steve Jobs to marketing research, who felt that it limited true innovation. He had an unwavering confidence in his own opinion and instinct over what marketing research might tell him – an approach that obviously served him extremely well with Apple and Pixar. Jobs, like Edison, Disney and other famous innovators of that breed, possessed an uncanny ability to conceptualize beyond the present and take
    society to new unimaginable frontiers. Unfortunately, the rest of us need to innovate and reinvent with strong empirically derived insights about the marketplace. So, with all due deference to Steve Jobs, I would like to express my respect and thanks for the discipline of marketing research, and the extensive tool chest that comes with it – a tool chest that has become amazingly expansive with digital technologies.

    Well-conceived and executed marketing research enables the rest of us to make smart, fact based decisions, and reduces the risk associated with introducing faulty products, services, market penetration strategies and campaigns. I have been frequently confronted with the challenges posed by marketing research skeptics: “It takes too long.” “It is too expensive.” “Am I just going to learn something I already know?” The fact of the matter is that well conceived and designed marketing research does not have to be any of these, especially today with the digital capabilities available.

    Let’s consider secondary research. The Internet enables marketers to efficiently conduct competitive assessments at little or no cost. Prior to the Internet, a business would have little choice but to purchase either a stock or customized industry report to capture information about the competition. Now, competitive websites tell us a great deal. We can also employ social listening tools that allow marketers to monitor consumer chatter occurring about competitors as well as their own company. Search engines quickly point us in the direction of the statistics and market intelligence we need on target markets for a new innovation or business reinvention endeavor. Big companies and start-ups alike need this information to develop addressable market assumptions for business plans and to obtain funding.

    Primary research (e.g., surveys, focus groups, diary panels) has received an incredible boost from digital formats. Most marketing research agencies today offer online services, which allow for very cost efficient sampling, surveying and data capture. Also, this data can be quickly uploaded into sophisticated modeling designs to forecast marketplace uptake. Additionally, companies, such as Survey Monkey, have grown in popularity because they allow virtually anyone to conduct a survey, with a sample provided by the marketer or purchased at a very low price from the provider. Survey Monkey automatically loads the data into easily understood tables and graphs and information is available on a 24/7 basis.

    Marketing research in the digital age is faster and more economical than ever. Not unlike research conducted prior to the digital age, it needs to be conducted with a plan, the knowledge of how to ask the right questions to address the problem, and the ability to build insights from the data that lead to actionable and sound strategies. Sound marketing research helps us to avoid the pitfall of bringing to market an offering that may otherwise be destined for failure. So, give thanks for a discipline that can give you peace of mind and a good night’s sleep.

     
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