Posts Tagged ‘Web2.0’

I’m calling a ‘time of opportunity’ for London/UK internet startup industry

July 15, 2009

I’m getting very bored of being told we’re no good at Tech startup’s in the UK. I’ve calmed down since reading Paul Carr’s I’m calling a ‘time of death’ for London’s internet startup industry” Guardian article, so this post won’t be a rant.  Admittedly Paul’s post is amusing , however he paints a very negative and bleak picture. If Paul is to be believed there’s no future for London/UK Internet startups. However, I believe there is hope and the UK Tech startup industry has great strengths.

Paul’s a journalist who once lived in London and is now housed in Silicon Valley. He believes The London internet industry is increasingly, and terminally, screwed”. If Paul is to be believed shouldn’t we just give up! Why bother if  there’s no hope. While we are here lets cancel the 2012 London Olympics because the Beijing games were exceptional. There’s no way London could be the same. Just as we’re not Beijing, we are not Silicon Valley.

beijing_olympic_opening_ceremony_drummers

The Awesome Beijing Olympic opening ceremony drummers!! (Image source)

The investment funds sloshing around The Valley are huge compared to UK/European funds. The VC’s and Angel’s in the UK/Europe also tend to be much more risk adverse. Although these factors are changing  in the US with the credit bubble bursting. The UK’s limitations doesn’t mean we can’t produce a wonderful Olympics or make world class profitable web apps, we can. Huddle is a great example. Their ranked as one of the globe’s top 50 startups. Bebo is an excellent example of a very healthy trade sale. Sage a global leader was once a UK startup. The list of great UK startup goes on. Mike Butcher of Techcrunch Europe did a splendid job of correcting Paul on London’s startup profitability.

I and  many others agree that the Web 2.0 bubble is coming to an end. But the end is not death, it’s change. The Internet continues to deconstruct entire industries: advertising, music, newspapers etc. This change brings new potential innovation opportunities for existing and aspiring entrepreneurs alike. The Tech community has always been about and embraced radical change.  We are more adept at change than many other industries including Paul Carr’s Newspaper sector which Mike Butcher also pointed out.

The underlying Internet market continues to grow strongly. Ecommerce sales growth remains healthy even in the recession and the use of web applications are forecast to increase massively. The future of software is going to come from Internet based SaaS services and Open source. Again we have world leaders in the opensource sector with UK companies like Canonical and Alfresco. As entrepreneurs shouldn’t we take advantage of change to bring new opportunities. Or as Paul suggests should we give up hope and all the strengths that we have in the UK.

3 ways to spot Startup opportunities

February 20, 2009

Our story thus far..

I left employment back in 07 to do an MBA in Entrepreneurship with the UK’s Top Entrepreneurial University. I loved every MBA minute. When I finished I convinced one of my best friends, Simon Oxley, to leave his well paid corporate job with all its benefits to start a business. We really did ‘burn our ships’ as we did not know what we were going to startup in. We left ourselves no choice, no retreat!.

tn-burning_ships

However, we did have alot of experience in the Tech industry and knew we wanted to sell b2b.  We looked around and could see Web2.0 was moving into companies with Enterprise 2.0.

To get involved with this emerging trend we built and launched an Enterprise 2.0 informational website. The website proved to be great experience but did not and was not going to make us money.We decided we wanted to develop software but we needed to work out what we were going to build. Reflecting back I think we spent too much time figuring out what to do. It seems that this is a common problem for startups. We now know what we are going to do with our Aware Monitoring service.

Spotting Startup opportunities

My MBA and on the job learning experiences have taught me many things on what,  how and where to find startup opportunities:

  1. Using prior knowledge – Market experience is a wonderful thing. It brings deep understanding of customer problems; insider knowledge of the competitive landscape; awareness of market changes and there impact’s. This knowledge can be harnessed to identify new and emerging opportunities in a given marketplace.  Warning: care needs to be taken that the opportunity is a ‘gap in the market’ and there is in fact a  ‘market in this gap’. Many market gaps are unfilled because they are a unprofitable. There is also no such thing as the ‘perfect opportunity’ and competition is inevitable.
  2. See opportunities in Change – Change brings opportunity as I discussed with my ‘5 career alternatives for start-up founders during the recession’ post. This change can be driven by technology, demographics or government policies. The famous academic Joseph Schumpeter refers to technological change as ‘Creative Distruction’. However to realise the opportunity these changes bring, startup founders must have the ability to turn a idea into reality. ‘Talk is cheap’ as they say.
  3. Social networks – Even when you’ve found that world changing opportunity that’s only the beginning. An opportunity needs to be tested with friends, soft prospects and real target customers. It must be sold. Because there is no such a thing as the perfect opportunity openness to  new ideas must be maintained. New improved sub opportunities may present themselves as the initial opportunity unfolds. An idea changes as you talk to your social networks and attempt to sell to real life, paying customers.

Our  opportunity search..

By September 08 we had refined all our ideas into four final opportunities. I still think these are good opportunities with great potential and will share them with you. Please prove me right and turn these into a real business. The challenge is not just in knowing where an opportunity lies but in the implementation. Paul Graham of Y combinator lists a ton of opportunities saying ‘imaginative people will take them in directions we didn’t anticipate. .’

  1. Tagging software for unstructured data i.e. photo’s, files, etc (problem: information overload)
  2. Climate change website/portal/Social network (Change: behaviour change forced by the world’s increasing temperature)
  3. Virtual conference platform (Change: forced decrease in travel because of climate change)
  4. Preventative web systems  monitoring (Change: more reliance on web systems)

We’ve taken the 4th option with Aware Monitoring.  We’ve also speeded our pace up. It’s been a neck breaking last four months: we’ve committed to an opportunity; wrote and presented a business plan,; built a prototype; started full development; found a product name (with matching URL); got a logo and now this week we have a Launch page. It starting to feel real and the SaaS market is showing signs of blooming in the down turn 🙂

Beginners guide to Twitter: Do’s, don’ts & etiquette

February 12, 2009

Yes, Twitter’s gone mainstream in the UK and USA, moving from geek to the street. The UK ‘s much beloved Stephen Fry now has 187,000 Followers!! The Web2.0 tech Superstar Kevin Rose 88,000 following is now looking puny compared to the heavy weight celebrities. Poor old Twitter is going to fall apart now with all this new traffic. They could’nt cope before!! I’m a Twitter newbie and want to know the Twitter do’s, don’ts and  etiquette.

stephen_fry_iphone_twitterer1
Mr Fry The Twit..ter

I’ve held back on Twitter for a long time, preferring the old fashioned Jedi way of Blogging. Even the die hards like my blogger friend Bill Ives are getting in on the Twitter act. Now I’m signed up on Twitter (http://twitter.com/nickpoint) I want to learn how to Tweet. Searching around I’ve founds lots of hints and tips to answer my questions:

twitter-bird

How do I get more Twitter follows?

Ryan Carson recommends: re-Tweeting; speaking at events; making new real world friends and write blog posts to increase your Twitter following. Easy, huh! Kevin Rose adds 10 more ideas: Fill out your Twitter bio;  put links to your Twitter profile everywhere e.g Digg, LinkedIn, Facebook, blog, etc; Tweet about your passions in life; tell everyone about your Twitter id e.g tell your Mom about Twitter.. 😉 ; Tweet pictures; Start a contest; watch and learn from other Twitterers; look for hot topics and track your results.

What’s a re-Tweet anyway?

‘”RT” or “retweeting” is simply taking a twitter post from someone else and forwarding (rebroadcasting) it to your followers. Retweeting can be a great way to add followers, as it pushes your @username into foreign social graphs, which in turn results in clicks back to your profile. Make sure to track your retweets using retweetist.’ Kevin Rose

What can go wrong with Twitter?

Apart from the frustrating down time, but hey it is a free service, Twitter can end up taking alot of time. More than your overflowing email box it seems. I read Jim Connolly’s Marketing blog. He’s got 23,000 Twitter follows and has just thrown in the Twitter towel. He’s been spending (‘wasting’) two and a half hours each day on Twitter! Most of this was Twittering with people he did not know. Like the chief techno geek Robert Scoble Jim is moving to FriendFeed instead.

Like email flame-mail Twitter can have a negative impact. Known as Twittercide!! The advice is don’t lose your temper and stay calm, try to defuse conflicts and look for a mediator when necessary. Unlike one to one email Twitter is open for everyone to view and judge. The marketing and startup guru Seth Godin warns people about using Twitter because it’s easy to be misunderstood.

How can I use Twitter as a marketing tool?

The mega marketeer marketing tool for his website. Click here for Guy’s advice. Companies like Virgin Blue have very successfully used Twitter for marketing. It looks like Twitter will turn into even more of a mainstream marketing tool over time now.

I think Twitter has great mainstream social and commercial potential. However, care needs to be taken on what is written , how much time is spent on Twitter and who is followed. Hey, you never know Twitter may even end up as the standard office tool and also replace SMS Texting in the future.

New media channels: Weakness, opportunity or threat?

August 6, 2008

The way we communicate and consume media is changing. This is affecting old media channels and creating an explosion in the media market. According to a report (download) from Ross Dawson last month the growth in the global media and entertainment market is set to grow from $1.7 to a massive $5.4USD by 2024 (in todays terms). The report was part of Ross’s Future of Media Summit 2008, which Seth Yates did a good review on.


Publishing has come along
way since the old wooden press

New media has brought a change in market dynamics with more consumer choice in how/where we consume and share information. This change is breaking down old media markets. Existing firms are being forced to try and communicate with potential new generational and innovative customers through new media. However Enterprise firm’s social network communities and external corporate blog initiatives don’t seem to be working. This lack of success has reduced the number of larger firms externally blogging according to a report ‘2B2B Blogging Takes Nose Dive’ from Forrester and reviewed by Gavin O’Malley. In addition most corporate on-line community sites are failing according to a report by Ed Moran of Deloitte and review by The Wall Street Journal.

Miguel Gonzalez believes that ‘Corporate culture discourages the kind of openness needed to make a blog — corporate or not — worth spending time reading’. I think the issue may stem from customer engagement and employee trust. The challenge to firms is to be risqué as shown by successful blogs. These blogs present a personal view which can be deliberately controversial to spark conversations. This spreads the word and thus the link. Yes, it’s viral marketing at work again but by a real person and not from a faceless marketing department.

Being controversial is not normally associated with speaking your mind as an employee, with the exception of journalists. Even they are known get in trouble when stretching the truth a little too far. Some firms ban their employees from expressing any opinions on their personnel blog in reference to their industry. This seems a little dragooning but you can understand business fear of reprisal from customers should an employee make front page news. Firms also fear that employees may inadvertently give away secrets to competitors. All this control is probably borne out of a lack of trust in employee’s judgement because of our current hierarchical command and control management systems.

What’s the next innovation after digital printing- Social Media?

Are blogs and new media channels going away? Almost certainly not and overtime they probably will move more into the mainstream. A good but long review ‘Beyond Blogs’ by Stephen Baker and Heather Green from BusinessWeek concludes: “Even if the bubble bursts (Web 2.0)—and we predict it will—the power of social media to transform our businesses and society will only grow.”. I agree, change and evolution is inevitable. So is developing a effective new media strategy important for large firms? Defiantly, because as Ben Parr says social media is about ‘customer retention and growth’; ‘which meets company’s one overarching goal: to increase profits.’ As always the challenge is change and the need to change is getting ever more pressing.

White lines that lead to Innovation adoption

March 28, 2008

winnersdontusedrugsimage.png
I would like to thank you, even though I don’t know exactly who is listening, for putting my blog on the Goggle map. My Nickpoint site is 4th on the list of 2150 hits with Wikipedia’s definition of Nickpoint holding the number one slot. What addictive fun this Internet stuff is..

nickpointin4th2.jpg

Teenagers, part of ‘The Y Generation’ and to be our future leaders, started heavily using SMS texting when it first came out. Do you remember the days when we did not have mobiles…email…..fax machines…………our own computers……………………..land line phones? Or the Internet, how did we survive without it! There are some parallels to be drawn between technology innovations, teenagers and the rest of us in this brave new world of Social Media. Enter twitter, another of the new wave of web technologies, which seems to have been adopted by the technology geeks for a coke max effect IM (Instant Messaging) on web enabled devices including new generation mobiles. Twitter sits somewhere in between frequent SMS texting and group emailing on a micro blogging platform and it is reputedly ‘one of the fastest-growing apps in the history of the Internet.’ says the influential Robert Scoble.

If we take a look at Rogers 1960’s innovation curve we can see how technologies such as SMS texting and the other technologies have moved through into the mainstream. In fact SMS texting has become so ‘ubiquitous‘, as our very clever friend Simon Wardly would say who writes alot about innovation and commoditization, that it is used and relied upon by many mainstream businesses for customer communication. For example, we now receive Texts from our credit card companies, gyms, couriers, etc. Twitter and some of the other new Social Media technologies have the poetical to move through into the majority just as SMS texting has.

rogerinnovationcurve.jpg

Yes I know this is a dusty old graph but it is still considered by many to be classic. I am reading Geoffrey Moore’s 1999 ‘Crossing The Chasm’  which is a classic book all about marketing software within the innovation curve and very useful for technology start-ups like ours.

Tom Davenport of Harvard University referred to the mob effect of Twitter at a seminar on his blog. Davenport generally questions the value to business of some of these Social Media technologies, however remains interested and optimistic. Web2.0 has certainly created an innovative testing ground based on free usage, ad funded and attracting users by making the application enticing, even bordering on addictive. However I do not know which, if any, of these new technologies will go mainstream and mainstream in business, I only ask the question. As Socrates said “I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think.”.

So, in the words of Grandmaster Melle Mel’ White Lines…Visiondreams of passion….Blowin through my mind….And all the while I think of you….A very strange reaction…..For us to unwind..The more I see the more I do. ‘, for all those 80’s teenagers and Internet addicts.

You read, I write

March 23, 2008

I was going to wait until next week to write about Economics in a planned and structured fashion, however I have had ‘a moment of clarity‘ thanks to you. Economics you say, well how dull or perhaps how exciting.  The Economics will have to wait until another day. The shocking thing is what you guys are doing on a Easter Bank holiday reading blogs and my need to blog immediately. Here’s the proof of the number of blog reads on my site for the last week with a relative high number at the weekend:

blog-stat-mar-08.jpg
My point is that the new social way of behaviour on the Internet is very open and instant. This is me, here is my career, here are my colleagues, here are my friends, here is my family, here is my diary..here is what I think. And here is a graphical measure of how interested other people are in us and what we are doing. The next version of the Internet (so called Web2.0) is an expression of the self and then active participation in a community. By participating we become involved, by being involved we are drawn into participating further, thus me writing and you reading during our holiday.