Tag Archives: Berlin

Mobile Marketing Magazine – Issue 19, March 2015 – 2015: The Year Iteration, Not Innovation is Key

Written for the 18th edition of Mobile Marketing Magazine. See the full issue here.

So the New Year hasn’t quite brought the ‘new you’ that the mobile industry might have been looking for, instead we all seem to be focused on delivering, or perfecting, those innovations we’ve all been talking about since that fated ‘year of mobile’.

With sales halted on the current version of Google Glass, plus wearables like Nike FuelBand resigned to the scrap heap, it’s clear that smart device-makers are doing some soul-searching. Despite several new launches at CES, Apple’s Watch, set to launch this Spring, is really the only wearable on everyone’s mind.

But check out the Uno Noteband for something a little bit different. The device, which has just completed a successful crowdfund on Indiegogo, comes pre-loaded with Spritz fast-reading software that promises to help you read a 300-page book in 90 minutes. This might be the key to keeping your New Year’s resolution to read more books, while Bond could be just the app to help you keep those promises of regular contact with family and friends, enabling you to set regular reminders to reach out to certain people, on whichever platform they want to hear from you.

It’s clear the handset market is still hot though, with Chinese upstart Xiaomi sealing its position as the world’s third-best selling handset in 2014, and rousing investment rumours from big players like Facebook. The company, founded in 2010, has just unveiled a couple of handsome handsets that are shorter, thinner, lighter and much cheaper than the iPhone 6 Plus.

Although failing in its bid to get a slice of the Chinese device market, Facebook just made an interesting buyout in the form of Wit.ai, which could accelerate voice-controlled functionality in the social giant’ products. Facebook’s enterprise efforts are also a hot tip for 2015, if businesses are willing to part with their data of course!

Behind the scenes, Qualcomm has been working hard on improving the processing power of our much-loved smartphones, and its Snapdragon 810 is now coming into production in Windows and Android devices like the LG G Flex 2. This means better data speeds, longer battery life and optimised support of 4K, or ultra-high-definition, video.

And this is perfect timing for what’s becoming our all-video culture, with visual feasting set to represent 79% of all consumer internet traffic in 2018, up from 66% in 2013. With everyone from Facebook, Youtube, Amazon, Netflix, Instagram and Vice all vying your attention in this fast-growing media space, prepare for the definition of TV, the ad spend and the metrics to change dramatically.

And where would video be without, next gen video: virtual reality. Gamers are clearly the big winners in the growth of VR, and mobile games are already tipped to outsell consoles this year. But advertisers, too, will start to make virtual reality pay. Although the Tesco store walkaround was pretty awkward, companies like Chrysler are turning a ‘behind the scenes at the factory’ slot into a truly cinematic experience, with the help of Google Maps and Oculus Rift.

And where there’s ‘bells and whistles’ tech, there’s now a real drive to create the products and services that help every day. Covering everything from assistive technologies for people with disabilities, to ‘quantified self’ applications like Health from Apple, 2015 is surely the year that health products, and health data, become awesome. In Berlin, MiMi is using smartphones to help make hearing aid technologies accessible to all. Peak Vision is likewise bringing cheap eye tests to the developing world via its smartphone app.

And where there’s small data, there’s bigger data, the likes of which is helping smart city innovation trickle down to smart towns. MK:Smart is a £16m project currently smartening up Milton Keynes, proving that projects like this can be done on a smaller scale. The company behind this was just bought up by Huawei, while Samsung Ventures has invested in London-based IoT startup Everythng, so it’s certainly a battleground to wtach going into 2015.

Keep an eye on eye-tracking and facial-recognition tech, long-tipped to come into mainstream usage, save the creepiness factor, plus even more mobile-first product customisation, like that just announced at BBC News. Mobile money, yet again led by Apple, is also likely to become ‘just another thing we do’ come New Year’s Day 2016. But don’t think about that now, there’s a whole year of improvement and iteration to do first!

Mobile Marketing Magazine – Issue 19, March 2015 – Y Business Accelerators Attract Big Brands

Written for the 18th edition of Mobile Marketing Magazine. See the full issue here.

Since the launch of Y Combinator back in 2005, the business accelerator space has truly come to life, with 2013 marking a record year for new programmes opening their doors. Y Comb’s first cohort included one of the internet age’s most interesting success stories – online news platform Reddit– as well as mobile location startup Loopt, which was bought for $43.4m in 2012. The world’s first tech accelerator also gave early backing to Airbnb and Dropbox, now both multi-billion dollar companies.

SEE-DB, created to profile each new and hopeful innovation hub, lists 227 programmes worldwide in 2015, which have supported 4,274 business, celebrated 245 exits totalling $3.4m, and seen $7.2m raised. And they admit that’s probably not even the half of it. Competition for certain accelerators can be high, Telefónica’s Wayra has received more than 29,000 pitches worldwide and has an admission rate of just 1.6%, but in an increasingly crowded accelerator space, most new programmes are now going down the specialist route. Female Propeller for High Fliers in Dublin only accepts female-led startups, while the EyeFocus Accelerator in Berlin is dedicated simply to innovation in eye care.

Many of the UK’s highstreet brands are now flocking towards this kind of innovation as an alternative to things like in-house R&D or M&A activity. Companies are using the accelerator model to help with technological innovation, or build an ecosystem around a specific product, like the Nike+ Fuel Lab. Some, like Disney, have opted to sponsor existing programmes, in this case, TechStars, while brands like John Lewis, Barclays and Telefónica, have all put their name above the door on their relevant offerings.

In January alone, a new accelerator has been launched in London by delivery firm DPD, in partnership with tech fund L Marks, to help it innovate around logistics and fulfilment. As the cost of doing business in the digital age drops, starting an accelerator and supporting startups looks like an increasingly resource-efficient strategy. And if you’ve attracted and interviewed the right teams, you may have a new supplier, or even a new business unit in your midst.

But, there are risks, and unanswered questions around the model: how do you distinguish the unicorns from the donkeys? How do you make strategic decisions about your direction given the little data there is on offer? Are accelerators too focused on companies that offer the clearest, short-term hope of success, meaning more complex areas are left untouched? And how do you actually turn a profit? Y Combinator took five years to start making money – perhaps that’s why Tesco set up its Rainmaking Loft as a co-working and events space, rather than an accelerator programme.

What differentiates your accelerator is becoming increasingly important, whether that’s by mission – are you for good or for profit? – whether you have a specialism, or how the project is funded. The quality of learning resources or mentors, along with the time and equity commitments, are also key considerations for startups that are looking to get involved. And accelerator owners are still ultimately trying to understand what success looks like for them, and how they measure it.

Unilever Foundry

Founded: May 2014

Specialism: B2B marketing programme working with Unilever marketers through partnership with Collider accelerator in the UK, plus more worldwide

Length of programme: 3 months

Funding structure: No equity taken. Unilever pays 50% of pilot project cost, with the remaining 50% paid on delivery. Following this, the project may be taken on for investment by Unilever Ventures.

Projects: Unilever creates briefs for its existing brands across different geographies, asking relevant companies to apply to solve a specific business problem. As of July 2014, five Collider startups had signed revenue-generating deals with Unilever brands.

John Lewis’s JLAB

Founded: March 2014

Specialism: Retail technology accelerator with dedicated space within the Level39 fintech hub at Canary Wharf.

Length of programme: 15 weeks

Funding structure: £12,500 investment for 4% equity. The winner of the JLAB programme receives up to £100,000 investment and a chance to supply John Lewis.

Projects: Five projects made it into JLAB 2014, giving them access to John Lewis’ retail infrastructure, plus internal and external mentors. Location-based tech provider Localz, which uses iBeacons to send relevant information to smartphone users while shopping, won the first JLAB.

Telefónica’s Wayra

Founded: 2011, March 2012 in the UK, totalling 14 established across Latin America and Europe

Specialism: Looking at areas including cloud services, financial services, M2M, digital security, e-health, mobile applications, social networks and e-learning

Length of programme: 9 months

Funding structure: up to $50,000 for 10% equity, with $23m already invested

Projects: Wayra has accelerated nearly 450 companies across 20 different industries, which have gone on to raise more than $70m from other sources. 80 of the programme’s alumni are now working with Telefónica in selling, pilots or trials.

Samsung Accelerator

Founded: July 2013 in California, September 2013 in New York

Specialism: Looking for products and services that can enrich the lives of consumers. The startups do not have to make their products exclusively for Samsung.Length of programme: There is no fixed duration

Funding structure: There is no fixed amount. “We understand each product has different timelines and resource requirements, and we work closely with our entrepreneurs to determine what they need to succeed,” Samsung says.

Projects: Samsung does not have an application process or deadline, instead offering experienced entrepreneurs the opportunity to approach them with their idea. The programme has kicked off in the US, where all of its current projects are in stealth mode, with a goal of getting them to market within one to three years.

Microsoft Ventures UK

Founded: California in June 2013, now operating across 7 countries including China, India and Israel

Specialism: From coding to gaming, advertising to online dating, Microsoft is simply looking for great ideas and skilled teams.

Length of programme: 3 months

Funding structure: London applicants receive up to £75,000 prior to entering the programme. Microsoft takes no equity and offers free workspace, mentoring and access to its business ecosystem.

Projects: Globally, 80% of the 240 graduates across 7 accelerators have raised an average of $1.9m in funding within 1 year of finishing the programme. London-based alumni Caribu got a mention during Apple’s recent keynote event.

Nike+ Fuel Lab

Founded: April 2014

Specialism: Builds on the work done through the 2013 Nike+ Accelerator program, developing digital services for the 28m-plus people that use FuelBand, plus expanding its audience by partnering with companies like MyFitnessPal.

Length of programme: 12 weeks

Funding structure: $50,000 per team

Projects: Although the company announced after 18 months it would stop selling its FuelBand fitness harware, it continues to work on the software ecosystem. It’s not clear where the project has got to.

What the brands say

“As part of our 150th anniversary celebrations last year, we launched our first ever technology incubator, JLAB,” says John Vary, IT Innovation Manager at John Lewis. “We have been ahead of the game in omnichannel retailing and our JLAB incubator was designed to help nurture the next generation of technology startups, while helping ensure we remain on the cutting-edge of retail change.

“We had five finalists but the overall winner was Localz, a startup business specialising in micro-location technology. Their technology gives customers the opportunity to take advantage of some enhanced services using their smartphone based on their precise location. For example, it could automatically offer to trigger a customer’s Click & Collect order to be picked as they enter the shop. We’re going to start trialing this solution very soon before rolling it out more widely if it’s successful.”

What the participants say

“We chose Wayra because they are a global accelerator with offices around the world with an excellent reputation,” says Daniel Reina, CEO and co-founder of app discovery startup Tappx. “They offer investment support, offices, metrics, mentors, legal and financial support, and internships. You also benefit from a close working partnership with Telefónica, and a wide network of advisors. It was a strategic decision for us, mobile app discovery is a global market and we needed a global partner.

“You have to be able to juggle multiple things at the same time, pitch at a moment’s notice and do a lot of networking. Being part of an accelerator means you have more work and responsibilities to meet the expectations of those supporting you. In return, you have a wider network, which is an invaluable resource to a company that needs to grow rapidly, but you are always busy and need to work hard. We also learn from the other companies participating in the programme, it’s its own intensive MBA.”

What are the other options?

So perhaps the corporate accelerator isn’t right for every brand – but what are the other options?

The Pop Up Agency

“We solve briefs in 48 hours,” says Zlatko Corluka, co-founder of The Pop Up Agency, which came out of work done by the team at career accelerator Hyper Island. “The client is not expecting a fully functioning app or a website after this time, but something that you can start implementing or producing the next day.

“Innovation is almost always the factor and they often come to us to try new ways of working. We could be called in to accelerate a project, to think of new markets for an existing product, to create or launch a new product, and much more. Before settling down in London, we did a world tour where we worked with everyone from Facebook, to Coca-Cola, and some startups in Berlin. From this we got great knowledge of how different markets and industries around the world work, something that clients really appreciate.

“Often our clients already have one or more agencies working on their communications, but they’re not always happy with what they get. From what we have seen and heard, the value of the end product isn’t matching with the time and money spent on it.”

EY Startup Challenge

Some large companies, like Ernst and Young, have opted to create short competitions in order for them to engage with startups around a specific business problem, in this case, the ‘right to be forgotten’.

Sedicii has developed and patented a technology that eliminates the transmission, storage and exposure of private user data during identity verification. They won the six-week EY Startup Challenge from a shortlist of seven tech startups.

“We wanted to work with EY because they are focused on delivering real commercial outcomes for their customers that use new innovations that startups can provide,” says Sedicii’s global commercial director Richard Coady. “From this programme and working with the EY team, Sedicii benefited from having access to and engaging with EY clients in verifying our solutions and introducing them to our innovative technologies.”