Yes, 2013 has finally rolled around. It has taken a year, but here it is. So, this is the best time to wish all of you a great 2013 in which you can fulfill your dreams and chase even bigger ones. The year in which your startup will succeed beyond your expectations. And the year in which you will learn you can be more than you have ever imagined before.
I believe 2013 is a year of endless possibilities. You might think that most of the big successes have been achieved, but I strongly disagree. Yes, Facebook is a huge network and it is going to be hard to take over that position. But nothing is impossible. That is why I would like to share my list of areas in which you can be very successful in the coming year and change the world.
Lets just be honest. Since the invention of the car, not much has changed. I know you will all attack me on this statement, but hear me out. Since the invention of the car, the moment we started moving was the moment our ‘regular’ life stopped and life on the road started. Yes, we have mobile phones in our cars these days, so we can connect to others outside our mobile environments. But there are so many opportunities that are still left open. And just fitting a tablet with 3G to your dashboard is not going to nail it. I believe there is a huge market to make our time on the road more and more part of our ongoing life without restrictions. Waze has started something, but that only allows interaction while navigating. I believe that one of the biggest shakeups in social networks will come through a service that allows me to be as connected on the road as I am at my house or my office. And that will do that in a way that allows me to still be fully concentrated on driving or riding.
Television and performing arts
In 2012 we have heard a lot of talk about second screens. Allowing you to discuss what you see with countless others that you might or might not know is a step towards building television to be a better experience. However, there is so much more. I am really looking forward to the first creators that understand that even though people are sitting in front of their ‘box’ to be entertained, they are still willing and able to participate. And yes, this goes beyond voting for the next one to leave the show. The same goes for performing arts artists. There has been much talk about how people are becoming less interested in theatre and smaller shows. Big movies and big musical productions still seem to be doing well, but there is so much more to be had in this sphere than the regular sit down and shut up mentality. I am looking forward to startups that are going to be tackling this approach to make full interaction a much easier possibility for these parties.
Yes, I can now use an app to wire my money to someone. Really, is this the amount of innovation we were waiting for? I believe there is more. After all, there is much more to my money than ‘parking’ it at a bank. I believe there is a huge opportunity for startups that help us use our money in a positive way again. Perhaps even leaving the complete current banking system behind. After all, so far, banking seems to be about putting money somewhere you trust and having the expectation that you can retrieve it at any time. Perhaps with a bit of profit (interest) if we are really lucky. But is that the end of it all? Back in 2009 I talked to bankers and explained to them that I did not see a reason for regular banks to be very successful anymore. Why? Because I can get all the services they offer at other -online- provides. Whether it is making payments, storing money for later use (saving), lending money for large purchases or investments or lending others money to multiply it. The only factor that seems to keep the banks in place is legislation. But I believe that there are great opportunities out there that allow me to do more with my money and have more fun and effect from it than I currently can. And in ways that allow me to relate to my money and my opportunities in a more social framework.
Every phone now has a decent camera. Every laptop has a webcam. And we are watching more online video now than we have ever done before. I know video is a challenging place to be. Some people feel uncomfortable making a video, but I believe there are many opportunities for us still to be explored. I believe video will become a much more important factor in every day life in the near future than we can imagine right now. There still are countless opportunities for video interaction whether real time or not. Video is an avenue that has only been explored as far as we dared to go. And nobody really saw it fit to travel further than the properties that we already knew. Obviously Loïc Le Meur‘s Seesmic started out as a video commenting system and failed to get that off the ground. But that almost seems to have been the most interactive mainstream video startup attempt yet. So, there is a lot of room there for improvement.
As we are all becoming more and more obsessed with our health, there are great opportunities there as well. Obviously there already are great apps out there that help you loose weight, get fit, run a marathon or outrun zombies. (Sorry.) But there is a multi, multi, multi billion dollar health industry out there that spans the whole wide world. And that is an industry that scares all the governments all around the world as everyone sees the cost of health care rise beyond understanding because of people getting older and older. It is one of the biggest budget challenges that governments have at the moment. And we could make it a lot cheaper if we were able to integrate all our modern technology into tracking your current health, predicting possible problems and offering preventive treatment.
Just five rough areas in which I think there are huge opportunities that I hope to see startups get into in 2013. However, this list is not complete without mentioning context. I know Robert Scoble and Shel Israel are writing a book on the subject and rightly so in my opinion. It is time that we all realize that whatever we build should not be functioning in a vacuum. It should look at the environment in which it is used and pull in information from that environment to make your experience better. Google Glass and Oakley’s Airwave are interesting examples of how external information is combined with digital services to turn whatever you are doing into a much better and much more complete experience. Five years ago, I talked to one of the founders of Layar who told me that “if you are building anything that you are not putting a geotag on, you will be obsolete soon”. His idea about this might not have become reality in the way they had expected, but there are so many outside factors that we are able to combine with services now, that we have to conclude that using context in the right way is going to be changing our online experience completely once again.
So, how can these tips help you beat Facebook? In reality, every single one of them might trigger a revolution that is bigger than Facebook is. Remember, Facebook has only been around eight years and pushed other huge players off the market. Any of these factors, whether it is our mobile life, our entertainment experience, the way we interact through video, how we ‘play’ with our money or how we work with our health can change the way in which we interact with others completely. If the experience is different enough, the social experience is awesome enough and the vision users catch while using it is one they love, it will overtake current day networks. The only thing you need to be able to do is to see beyond the canvas that is there at the moment. See beyond the timeline, beyond the folders and albums that make up social networks. See the people, see their goals and loves. See what motivates them beyond the visible. And you can be on to a winner for 2013.
You might think that this is a given. Really, advertising is about showing people how much you are liked by your audience. Right? Well, not always. Very often you see little things slip into images that are used in advertising that might give you a different idea. When I was in Paris for LeWeb I spotted a poster in the Metro that suggests that 2 out of 3 people do not like the Galaxy Note 2. I am not sure whether they just do not like the phone, or whether they dislike it being on Orange. But if one pulls the other two towards the phone, the other two become distinctly unhappy. (Photo courtesy of Christian Mehler who gracefully travelled around Paris on the metro for two days to take this picture for me. Thanks!)
However much you might laugh about it, this is reality in advertising. So, if you are advertising your business or your product, just make sure that it makes me feel like your product is something that I really want to have.
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So, the world is shocked. Or is it? Dropbox pulled off the same stunt in July ’11. Facebook has been sharing your content for their revenue for ages. And most startups are looking for ways to monetize the data on how you use their services. We need to accept that there is no free lunch on the internet.
Though prices of online storage and online technology have been steadily dropping, there still are costs involved in running any internet service. And as everyone is continually asking how you are going to be monetizing your fantastic idea, there is a good chance that you will be coming up with something along these lines as well.
The unfortunate part is that Instagram is now missing out on another great option for monetization. The PRO account. Why did instagram never create a paid account that I can use to share my content? Why did they not allow me to pay them to make their services profitable? And today it is too late. Yes, I have used instagram quite a lot over the past months. But as so many others, I will be removing my account and my images through Instaport. And offering a paid service now is too late. That should have happened before the change of the terms and conditions. Sorry.
If you are working on your startup, please keep this lesson in mind. I know Instagram has got many users, and possibly only a fraction will leave, but it is a trigger that might become the end of rising star Instagram and turn them into a bread and butter startup. So, if you are providing your services to your users for free, please make sure that your monetization will never depend on you selling on their content. Because people never like others to make money off their work.
Seriously, the Beatles have sung it so many times that anyone that sees the title can probably hum the tune to it. However, marketeers still do not seem to be able to understand that it is the truth. Especially in this age of social media. Money cannot buy you love. However hard you try. And lately we have seen many trying. Over the past weeks, Shell has often turned up in my Facebook timeline. They are talking about how wonderful they are. How much they care about the world and the environment. And only a day or two ago they posted the oil companies’ equivalent of the old boys game “who’s got the biggest”. (See image.) This morning I was greeted by the results of all their money spent. Three of my friends have liked their page. Pathetic.
So, I went to take a look at their Facebook page. It is a site describing Shell in all its glory. Like the sites of so many large companies, you could call it a corporate display of narcissism. The subjects adressed are Shell, and Shell alone. If they address any other subject, it is solely from the Shell point of view. Where working on a less pollutive environment has become about the Shell eco challenge. And even regular oysters are turned into a Shell product. To be honest, it does not matter how many dollars you spend on Facebook marketing, the general outlook does not trigger me to be a Shell fan. And it shows. For a company with over 90,000 employees and almost 500 billion in revenues, a mere 2.5 million Facebook fans should not be something Shell is excited about.
I could understand if you, and Shell, would come up with the argument that its business is fuel. Nobody loves fuel. It is something you put in your tank whenever you want, wherever you are. And that is a reasonable case to make. However, that whole process changes when you put love in it. When you love your customers. When you talk to them. When you address the things that they feel are relevant to them.
I know the comparison with coffee is going to be a big step. But for many, coffee used to be like I described fuels. At some point in time you will be craving a cup. You need it and you bought it whenever you want and wherever you are. And then Starbucks came along. They made buying coffee a rewarding experience. They put the love in it. And if you go to their Facebook page, you see that they care for their customers. This morning when I went to their page, they had just used a customers’ picture as their cover photo. They talk to their customers and address their issues. They even allow their customers to vent their thoughts towards Starbucks. When I visited their page today, there was someone who posted about how Starbucks does not support the military. And 107 comments below the post where from fans defending their shop and setting the record straight. Why? Because they love their shop and their coffee. The 33 million likes prove that point.
If you want to be on Facebook, remember one thing. It is never about the likes. It is about your attitude towards your customers and potential customers. Because your Facebook Page (or your Google+ page, or any other social network page or account) is not about YOU, it is about THEM. And if you remember that, your likes will come. Because they care about you, because you care about them.
It is a week after day 2 of LeWeb in Paris. And when I went to LeWeb I had Jeroen voor ‘t Hekke tell me that Scott Harrison was someone I had to see on stage. Needless to say that I was running around like crazy that whole days and I never got to see him. I saw a picture of Mercy Ships‘ Anastasis pass by on a screen somewhere in a room, but that was about it. Today I chose to sit down and watch his talk. If you have not seen it, I urge you to watch it.
This morning, I left my TV inspired. Scott went out and did something that I have been talking about for the past year to a number of charities. He has done something that many charities can do, but either are afraid to or cannot see function in their particular situation. He has brought the charity back to the people. By splitting income between the money needed to do a project and the money needed to run the organisation, he has made Charity: Water a much more transparent place. By giving GPS coordinates for every single well dug. For putting the donors name on the plaque that sits at the well. But mostly by having ordinary people ‘own’ the project. By allowing people to decide that they are going to be helping 5, 15 or even 1500 people get clean drinking water. And then enabling them to raise the funds to do exactly that, without having to worry about what will be taken off that budget as overhead for the organisation.
I truly believe we can change the world. And there are many who show us. Scott’s example is one that we can easily understand. But now we need to put it to work. 800 million people do not have clean drinking water. And then there are thousands of other things that we can do every day that keep us alive and healthy that other people do not have. Get inspired. Set your dream and go for it. I know this has got me thinking.
Watch the video below. And tell me, where will you be in a years’ time and whose live will you have impacted?
I bet that my title already triggered something in you. You must have had this experience as well. I know I have. Today has not been the first time, nor will it be the last I’m afraid to say.
Last week I spent the week in Paris for LeWeb. And as you do, I lug around with a lot of equipment. I carry a laptop an SLR, a couple of lenses, some chargers, phone and all kinds of small stuff in a nice backpack. And I am sure the backpack always is taken care of. Either it is in a secure area or it is with me. And when it is in a secure area, I often lock it to something as well. Just to be sure. Anyway, none of this has helped me in this case.
I was carrying my little Holga HL-C lens for the Canon EOS. It is a fun lens that allows you to shoot lomo images with your regular SLR. A good thing as I have quit carrying multiple camera’s around to events. And I love the pictures it shoots, so I decided to bring the lens to Paris. However, with the lights being low inside, shooting with an F8 lens is not very easy. So, in the end I ended up not using it. I remember showing it to someone on Tuesday morning at the venue, but I believe I put it back in the bag and left it there until I left. However, when I wanted to get it from the bag on Thursday, it was not there. So, here is the trouble. I had it on Tuesday, it is gone on Thursday and I don’t know where it has gone or how it happened.
This is the point where I often call my insurers. After all, you are never sure whether your insurance covers it or not. I explain what is going on and they return with a negative result. They cannot cover it. But then the whole thing goes weird. If I would have noticed on Tuesday night that it was lost, or if I would remember that I still had it on Thursday morning, everything would be great and they would cover my loss. So, the trouble is not that I might have misplaced it myself or someone might have taken it. The problem is in the 36 hour timeframe that I was lugging my bag around but never noticed that the lens was gone. Never mind the fact that I would not be using the lens due to the light conditions being unsuitable, so I never needed to take it out.
This would almost trigger you to lie. To be dishonest, just to cover the 36 hour gap. As I am sure nothing happened in between. Oh well, that is insurers for you. So, if anyone remembers seeing my Holga lens on Thursday, that would be awesome. 😉
Ok, LeWeb is great. You might have figured that out by reading my previous post. But I love it. Unfortunately, due to what I am doing at LeWeb, I find I have much less time to write blog posts than I would like to. So I decided to just give you a quick recap of some of the things that made my day yesterday.
As LeWeb warmed up for the second day, I sat down with a startup that pitched their service to me. It was a good conversation and they told me that they left with a great view on how to improve their startup’s strategy. Later that morning I was at the main stage long enough to see Marko Ahtisaari launch the new Nokia 620. Soon after, I was talking to the Nokia crew and Marko. It was great to work out a way to have Marko spend half an hour with the official bloggers of LeWeb. It was a great session where bloggers could ask any questions and Marko answered all of them. Regardless of how difficult they were. Then I met a friend who wanted to pitch her startup to Robert Scoble. Having made it happen, that left me time for a walking pitch with another startup after which I made my biggest LeWeb mistake so far. We sat down in the hallway for about 5 minutes so he could show me their service on his laptop and we talked about live blogging. A guy across from us got interested and he was included in the conversation. I saw his face and I distinctly remember seeing him before. So I told him that I was sure I had to know him, but that I had no clue what his name was. After a while he introduced himself to the other guy as “Matt” and it dawned on me. I had not recognized Matt Mullenweg of Automattic and WordPress. Ooops. Even though we had dinner with a small group of people in 2010. That is what you get if you are running around like mad all day. And it was going to stay that way, because before the demo was finished, I was joined by the industrial designer of the Lumia 620 and some of the technical minds behind it. They spent another 45 minutes with the official bloggers to show the new devices and explain why certain choices were made in the design process. But what struck me most was the passion and enthusiasm of the team. They know Nokia has lost a lot in the smartphone market, but for each of them personally, that what drives them to try to build the best phones they can think of.
To be honest, the two hours after that just flew with people that wanted to meet and making connections between various people that I believe can work together to achieve great things. It is awesome to see how happy people are when you can put them together with other great people.
At the end of the day, I fell into a chair up in our blogger lounge to unwind and hear how bloggers enjoyed their day. And really, it was just great to be in a chair for more than five minutes for the first time since 9am.
I hope that you will have as inspiring a day today as I had yesterday. If you have questions about LeWeb, let me know. I’ll try to answer them. If you want to be inspired about social media, look up Ramon DeLeon. While I was writing this, he did an awesome presentation of what they have done for six Domino’s Pizza in Chicago. I am not sure when the presentation will be out on the YouTube channel, but when it is, you need to watch it.
As most of you will know by now, I am currently in Paris at LeWeb. Interestingly enough, I have been at main stage for about an hour and a half now, and I have just been listening breathlessly. There have been some great speakers and some great subjects. But for me, the thing that has been most important so far, is not the internet of things. It is the way life and technology are getting closer and closer together. The internet of things might seem far away from the comfort of your life and your home. However, within half an hour we have seen so much already. At first we got comfortable temperatures in our homes, through the intelligent Nest thermostat. After that we have seen live interaction with technology through your brain changing fonts in emails to show your mood, or controlling other things through your thinking. And lastly, we have seen Mars Rover Curisosity land and explore a new planet. From your home to the future for the world. It has been here within half an hour. And most importantly, I really feel it shows how we are connecting every day life and technology. I know there will be people out there that are nervous about this. Will we get implanted chips? Will we be controlled by whatever? Or are we moving towards big brother and 1984? But I believe that connecting technology has huge opportunities to enhance our lives in ways that it serves us and helps us live our life in better ways.
Did this trigger you at all? I hope it did. It sure has triggered me to watch more closely. If you want to watch more closely as well, click below to see the live stream. Enjoy!
Sometimes that is the choice you need to make. Having a successful business often is about choices as trivial as the one in the title. Even though you might have the perfect business that draws people from afar for your unique personality and style, or that unique product. But to lift your business from an average business to a great business, sometimes you just need to make basic choices. Like leaving your lunch.
Yesterday I walked into a large retail store. I was interested in a purchase involving a lot of cash and frequent return visits when I would be spending more cash to keep my initial purchase in great condition. The sales team of seven sat on a table and was having their lunch. I was the only customer in the store. I browsed all their products and did a slow walk around the store. And the only time one of the salespeople stood up from the table was to answer a question from a mechanic -who obviously take their lunches at another time in another part of the building.
The trouble was not with the fact that they were on their lunch break. The problem with this is that I left. And I left disillusioned. Because as a customer I am worth less than their lunch. Their coworkers are worth more than their lunch, but as a customer I have no value to them whatsoever.
Today, choose. Choose to make your customer feel special. By doing little things like giving him the attention he needs.
Yes, we are gearing up for LeWeb Paris again. Personally, I am looking forward to visiting one of the greatest conferences in Europe. And the great thing is that you can be there too. Obviously I want to encourage everyone to buy tickets, but if you are a blogger, you might have another way.
If you think you can add unique coverage to LeWeb, then you might be the blogger we are looking for. If you love writing about conferences and spreading the word on everything you have heard, then you might be the blogger/podcaster/vodcaster/etc we are looking for for LeWeb.
What will LeWeb’12 be about? Watch this video, then go on reading.
What do we expect of official bloggers? We are looking for people that:
Have a passion for content and reporting;
Commit to attending and covering the conference (it’s in English) on their blog (any language);
Have significant reach and influence inside their community.
And naturally, they have to have a proper, publicly accessible and established blog or postcast. And by the way, having huge numbers of followers on whatever social network does not make you a blogger. Blogging does.
(An official blogger will receive tickets to LeWeb’12 for free. Every blogger will need to cover their own expenses for visiting the conference.)
Stephanie Booth, Frédéric de Villamil and myself will be going over all submissions as they come in. This takes time. Please allow us to take that time. Each blogger we select to become an official LeWeb’12 blogger, will be contacted by us personally and directly.
And now, sign up if you feel you meet our criteria!
I love people. I love how the internet has enabled us to connect to people in ways we could not imagine 20 years ago. I love the people I have become friends with through the internet, through social networks and through internet conferences. I am enthusiastic about startups. I enjoy seeing people follow their dreams and building startups that make a difference in the world. However, there is a problem. More and more, I meet people who want to get into the internet world to make quick money. They are internet specialists, social media experts or they start a quick startup with the sole purpose of becoming an overnight billionaire after an Instagram-style exit.
What are the posters you had on your wall when you were a kid? What were your dreams about? It seems to me that we are bringing up a new generation on a money-infused diet of social network founders, rock stars and television personalities. With a purpose of making as much money as quickly as you can, to then be able to do whatever you want. And to be honest, that is bad news for the world we live in. After all, the internet is not a problem that we need to solve.
What we do need to solve are problems on a much bigger scale. Things like feeding more and more people in a much better way. Finding solutions for society to live as comfortably while using fewer resources. Lifting worldwide healthcare to a very high standard, while bringing down its cost. Bringing pollution levels down and addressing worldwide environmental issues. That is what will allow us to breathe, eat and sleep every day.
To achieve that, we need people with a vision for all kinds of engineering. People that can ignore the boxes that we have been in and start fresh. Personally, I feel that we need to inspire our younger generations not just to code. We need to inspire them to explore the marvels that engineering can offer them. Not to fit into the major engineering firms of the world, but to start anew. To build new companies that do things that we thought were impossible before. Things that solve problems.
I have always loved cars and speed. Which means that I have also always loved Land Speed Racing. No, land speed racing will not solve the problems in the world. But a poster of the technology behind a land speed racer on the wall of a child, might urge them into engineering and then trigger them to move on to the greater problems of the world. I used to have a plot of the Space Shuttle on my wall. And chassis drawings of desert machinery. Just because I was awestruck by the design and engineering that went into them.
There are new pioneers in this world that are there to inspire others with their engineering projects. About a year ago, I wrote about Solar Impulse. The plane that has now been around the world in various legs. I loved how Bertrand Piccard told me that it is not about the plane, it is about starting a movement and inspiring people to think beyond current conventions. Watch the interview here.
Yesterday, when catching up with land speed racing efforts, I came across Bloodhound SSC. And I agree with what Richard Noble is saying in a video of Bloodhound SSC, his latest attempt of breaking the land speed record and lifting it to 1000Mph. It is not there as a personal toy, it is there to inspire others.
Thanks Bertrand and Richard. I’ll be thinking about what I can do. And you?
Yesterday, Michael Sippey wrote an extensive blogpost on the new Twitter API on the Twitter developers blog. It talks about delivering a consistent Twitter experience as its main motivation. But in between the lines, there seem to be secondary goals. Goals of a much more strategic nature that can influence the way we are using Twitter across the board.
Naturally, the blogpost starts off with changes to the authentication process (security) and the new way in which rate limits are set. (Those limit the amount of requests your application can make through the Twitter API.) And that is al good and nice. It is pretty positive news, as it promises improvements for all of us. However, then it turns towards changes to the developer rules of the road. And this is where it gets tricky. For one, everyone now has to adhere to Twitter’s Display Guidlines. Those determine that a tweet should look the same regardless of where it is published. Which will influence a lot of the third party clients we now use to send and receive tweets. Beyond that, every new application needs to be certified by Twitter, giving them control over the whole channel. In other words, you might have an awesome idea that you can build on the back of Twitter, but if the boys at headquarters believe it is not in their best interests, you might never gain access to the Twitter API.
One of the most interesting decisions by Twitter is where they require developers to work with them directly if you need a large amount of user tokens. It is all brought in the most positive way possible, but in the end, this is where the restrictions for third party apps come into play. If you believe you will ever need access for more than one million users, you need to work with their developer team. But if you are building something that captures the home stream for a user, you need Twitter’s permission to build it if you expect it to go over 100,000. Obviously they say they will not be shutting down applications, but they do state that you can no longer grow beyond that 100,000 users point without their permission. Clients that currently have over 100,000 users can grow to twice their current size, before they too need to go to Twitter for permission to grow bigger.
This smells like control. But it gets worse. They then get into the ecosystem story around the whole thing. And at the end of that, they more or less publicly state that services like Storify, Favstar.fm are in a quadrant that they do not want to have third party apps in. So are pure Twitter clients like Echofon and Tweetbot. And that is where control really grabs a hold of Twitter HQ.
Is it imaginable that Twitter wants to go the way of Facebook? I believe so. Between the introduction of Twitter Cards and the limit to the way you can use Twitter, this seems to aim to keep the customer solely at Twitter’s website and official apps. For those of you who have not heard, Twitter Cards is more or less a preview of links posted as you would see on Facebook and Google+. Obviously, Twitter already added photo sharing last year. If you combine that with having to go through the Twitter site or specific applications for use, then you are in control of a platform that allows better advertising hence more income. Also, you might keep more people on your own service than moving towards Facebook’s timeline, as they get all their information bundled at one place just like Facebook.
Personally, I am not a fan of this approach. And I doubt whether it strategically is a good one. Twitter grew on the back of the third party apps that allowed easy access in the way people wanted to use Twitter. In fact, the way users have used Twitter, has never really been the way in which it was planned by Twitter in the first place. And that is what made them big. Twitter only wanted single sided statements online. Users wanted conversations, users invented hashtags and retweets to facilitate those conversations. Twitter has picked up on some of them, but has overruled others.
This is going to be an interesting race. Twitter has a huge following, but will it stay with Twitter as it apparently tries to grow into a network that can rival Facebook and Google+ etc. for the users’ attention? Specifically as Twitter seems to always ignore the users’ requests and follow a slightly different course. What are your thoughts? Let me know.