09/5/13

Passwords: This Necessary Evil [infographics]

computer-large-newPasswords are ubiquitous. We all use them and despite the fact that we keep grumbling that they aren’t good enough, we still rely on them in order to protect our most precious information like bank account details, personal and electronic commerce details and such like. What I learned today while looking at Ken Peterson’s infographics is that passwords, as it were, aren’t a new invention. They were created with WWII for cyphers and were adapted in 1972 to become the classic passwords as we know them. Yet, however important, passwords are still misused by users who use the same passwords for multiple sites (73%), use the same passwords for all their sites (33%), or even use the word “passwords” and other niceties as a secret code. all sources for stats are quoted at the end of the picture.

03/7/13

crowdfunding: Sticknfind raises 1 million dollars via Indiegogo – #mwc13

This piece was originally written on behalf of the Orange Live Blog during a Press trip at Mobile World Congress 2013 last week

No, you aren’t dreaming! 1 million dollars were raised by Sticknfind by Jan 2013

No, you’re not deaming! The SticknFind startup raised closed to 1 million dollars on the Indiegogo crowdsourcing platform.

And The founders of SticknFind are no rookies either for they have been pioneers of Bluetooth products since 2003 and 2004 and they have been working for the automotive industry and have won many awards since then declared Jimmy Buchheim in his introduction yesterday. He and his teams have also developed the Blutracker project in the past can track various items within 2,500 ft range also funded through Indiegogo ($180,500 were raised for that project) as well as Meterplug, an intelligent plug which measures your real electricity consumption and displays the consumption in local currency (close to $128,000 on Indiegogo too). “This has been a very successful company” CEO and founder Jimmy Buchheim said. He started the new company in early December: “it wasn’t easy” he said, but he looked very pleased with the funding he got from the crowdfunding platform. Indeed, I know of few people who wouldn’t be happy with that!

Jimmy Buchheim, SticknFind CEO and founder shows the SticknFind tracker

why go through crowdfunding?

“The most obvious way, apparently, was to design our product, produce it and pitch it and then sell it to some industrialist, but this wasn’t easy for us to do. So we decided to go the crowdfunding way because the input from the users is sometimes more valuable than what you can get from a company” Buchheim said. He added “industrialists want to change the product to suit their needs and not that of their clients, and talking to VCs ends up with having too many cooks in the kitchen and this is how it starts to get bad!”

So, what is that innovation which users have found worth investing one million dollars into?

  • First and foremost, it’s about an “amazing tracking feature” to put it in the words of Buchheim’s: “a lot of Intellectual Property went into the tracking mechanism” he said. What it means is that it gives users the ability to measure very precisely where an object is located : “the resolution is amazing, the system is able to measure very short distances”,
  • Secondly, the find it feature which enables the sticker to send a notification if the paired object comes into range. Users get alerts on their phone if they leave the object behind them. You can place the sticker on a camera; on your car keys etc. and you can even measure the temperature of an object too (this would, for instance, tell you whether the object is outside or inside),
  • Thirdly, the easy zooming capability enables one to find keys in a 150ft (45 metres) range but SticknFind was able to extend that reach to 300ft (90 metres). Based on feedback from users, they produced prototypes with 3 different manufacturers. “It took us a lot of tuning” Buchheim added, “they are made of very small parts and it required extensive work but we eventually identified the right kind of plastic so as to find the right mix [i.e. neither too rigid or too rubbery] in order to increase the reach”.

SticknFind will start shipping next week. The company started production last month, that is to say early compared to their initial promise (end of March), and the device will be available from retailers in April. This is the first generation of trackers, Buchheim said, “we are creating a new market and it will trigger huge applications. People and companies are losing a lot of money with stuff they lose” he said. What of generation 2 then? “It will be even smaller”, Jimmy Buchheim promised,h “you could even have it on your toothbrush!” in said in jest.

“This is the true Internet of things” Buchheim declared. The price for 2 stickers is $49 and $89 for 4 and there will be packs of 10 available. The app will be free and available on Google Play and IOS and it will be working on the Blackberry Z10 too (April release). And the battery lasts for two years so won’t even need to change it that often. A free SDK will be released to developers. The SDK will also be made available for Mac OSx (by March) and Windows 8 (from April onwards).

There are many applications for SticknFind, including industrial applications such as the keeping of inventory (100 and even 1000 items can be working at the same time the SticknFind CEO said).

The system, because it uses Bluetooth 4.0, only works with newer phones (Iphone 4S or newer or Samsung Galaxy SIII etc.) but no additional accessory is required to make it work. “The only way to make the battery work for 2 years was to use the new generation of Bluetooth, otherwise it wouldn’t have lasted more than a few days” Buchheim declared. As for security, pairing is limited to devices when they are 1 m apart and “you have to tap it to activate it so that it’s safer”.

This technology is really innovation at its best, it fill in a requirement, is available right now, and is both simple and ground-breaking; no wonder they raised so much money from Indiegogo.

02/14/13

The true colour of brands and true nature of infographics (1)

today’s selection is…

Thanks to my favourite stumble upon gimmick for finding new content and subjects, I discovered this very interesting piece of infographics about the true nature of brands according to their colour. I do not know what these graphics, beautifully crafted by the way, “[tell] about your business” as the headline says, but I certainly know what it means about the way that we read, understand and are influenced by pictures. A long time ago (2003), I published a piece on my  visionarymarketing.com website by Giancarlo Livraghi, an Italian publicist and the author of a book in Italian entitled “the cultivation of the Internet“. Giancarlo, in that piece, was describing what he called PowerPointis, a concept he had come across while seeing Colin Powell use pictures to convince the UN that the war on Iraq was justified. His point was that most of Powel’s pictures were fabricated but weren’t questioned because it’s hard not to believe pictures. This theory was accredited later in a Hollywood film based on a true story (Green Zone - 2010). I will re-publish this very important piece in a forthcoming post.

Imago ergo sum …

Infographics, mostly those like this one which are beautiful and laid out with excellent taste, go straight to the point and are easy to grasp. They are emotional and aesthetic. They appeal to our feelings. Besides because they are so simple and didactic, they are taken at face value, so much so that no one dares point out that they could be wrong. All you need is a click of the mouse and hey presto! The picture is multiplied and shared throughout the world. It is no longer cogito but imago ergo sum (see this piece in French).

Yet, infographics are also simplistic and exaggerated. They save time but at the same time, pictures tend to deprive readers from their critical eye. Most of the time they are non representative and show surprising results. They often refer to “a study the world’s top 100…” (Brands in this particular case) but who selected the sample? What are those brands? Who commissioned the study? Where are the results to be found? What methodology?… Such questions are and will remain, most probably, unanswered.

ING-orange-account

ING Orange account doomed to failure? not so not so…

A close look at the details underneath is even more enlightening. I just focused on the orange colour for a reason (disclosure: I work for Orange). As this colour is used by the company I work for, I’m very happy to realise that it is popular for high-tech according to this infographics and that the colour code is consistent with the brand values which we all like. I also read that this colour is said to be unpopular for banking whereas ING has been using this colour-code very successfully not only in the Netherlands but throughout the world and especially in the US where it is well known and associated with this colour.

I do not need to go any further. Looking at a nice picture like this makes me think of looking at a horoscope: it’s fun, entertaining, slightly puzzling, but this is not knowledge. Knowledge requires sources. Knowledge, requires contradiction. Knowledge can use pictures; but it certainly can do away with infographics.
true-colors1

01/8/13

New Innovation Blog Launched

news-largeA few years ago, I used to be a regular contributor to bnet in the UK but the site pulled out of the European market in 2010. Fortunately, a new project has just been launched and I’m very happy to embark on it. It is named innovation generation and it is sponsored by our peers from Alcatel.You can find my first piece on that blog under the following title: Governments Ease Into Cyberspace. Below is the announcement for the new website; stay tuned for more info …

We are living in a truly connected world. That’s something most people might take for granted when they make a phone call or watch TV, but when you consider how a wireless network brings books to your e-reader, an Ethernet network keeps your savings account secure, and a cloud holds most of your online identity, it becomes a pretty powerful proposition.

It is the services that run on these networks that are the lifeblood of society, and the potential for innovation here is limited only by our own creativity.

Enter Innovation Generation. It’s a generation that’s not confined to baby boomers, Gen Xers, or smartphone-toting Millennials, but rather encompasses everyone living in today’s globally connected society. Our goal here is to explore the potential for personalized, interesting, and, of course, innovative new services that can increase the quality of life and work for end users while also increasing the value of the service provider in the process.

How are service providers delivering these new services to businesses and consumers? How can they get more from their infrastructures than they already do? What are the opportunities for business model innovation? How can service providers improve the customer experience?

These are just a few of the questions we’ll strive to answer on Innovation Generation. If you’re a global communications service provider or enterprise IT leader, Innovation Generation is your guide to navigating the challenges and opportunities in creating innovative business opportunities for your company and your customers. Here, we explore innovation at all levels of today’s connected businesses, from software to services to groundbreaking business models – with an eye on what’s practical, what’s clouded by hype, and what’s going to help the bottom line.

These are services that are transforming industries like utilities, transportation, the public sector, healthcare, oil and gas, manufacturing, defense, railways, and even the government. And service providers are at the heart of it.

via Innovation Generation – Named Documents – About Us

12/6/12

social media API war goes on unabated (reblogged from Gigaom)

eye-large_thumb.gifHere is an illustration for today’s talk at the French Association of Marketing on the future of social media and a sequel to our discussions with Dalton Caldwell in San Francisco last September.

What the Instagram fight says about Twitter as a media platform — Tech News and Analysis

Instagram says it is removing the ability for Twitter to embed photos because it wants users to go to its own website instead of Twitter’s to see that content. Other media companies should probably also be asking themselves similar questions about their relationship with Twitter.

Remember when Twitter was just a free and open conduit for whatever content its users wanted to distribute? Those days are long gone now, replaced by Twitter’s desire to control and monetize as much of its platform as possible, and as much of the content that flows through it. The latest skirmish in this ongoing battle came on Wednesday, when Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom confirmed that the service has removed support for Twitter’s “expanded tweets” feature, and therefore photos won’t be showing up in Twitter any more. While Instagram’s relationship with Twitter is complicated, its reasons for doing this should make other media companies stop and think about how they use (or are being used by) Twitter as well.

As noted by Nick Bilton in a New York Times piece and by my colleague Erica Ogg — and confirmed by a post at the official Twitter blog — what Instagram has done is to remove support for the expanded view of tweets that shows up on the Twitter website and in its official apps. These tweets have a special pane that displays excerpts from blog posts and news stories published by certain partners, or photos and videos from certain external services. Twitter originally launched this as something called “expanded tweets” but it has since become a much more ambitious platform called “Twitter Cards.”

via What the Instagram fight says about Twitter as a media platform — Tech News and Analysis.

09/19/12

Rocketspace ‘s Logan: “even Russian companies go to the US to conquer the world!” – #blogbus

Duncan Logan, founder of Rocketspace is originally Scottish and moved to San Francisco some time ago. His first venture didn’t work but 20 months ago, he then decided to found Rocketspace. Rocketspace could be described as “offices as a service” Logan said. He confided to our team of bloggers that he had read the Lean Start-up and he tested the principles he’d found in the book by creating a fake company and posting an ad on Craigs’ list. He got something like 10 requests by companies in 12 hours. Then he tried again by adding that only tech companies are wanted and he got 15 responses in 12 hours. That’s how Rocketspace, start-up accelerator in downtown San Francisco, was born. Today, Duncan Logan delivered his vision of why the Valley is the world’s most exciting place for high tech entrepreneurship. 

[note: this piece was originally written for the Orange Live Blog which I manage and created]

image

Duncan Logan, founder of Rocketspace delivered his 360° view of entrepreneurship

a start-up accelerator in downtown San Francisco

15 companies are hosted by Rocketspace, and there is space for 150 people. According to Logan, this is the largest “tech accelerator” in San Francisco. “30% of companies hosted here are from overseas who want to mix with the ecosystem in the Valley. 30 other co-working spaces exist but this one is dedicated to tech companies” Logan added. Spotify was hosted here for instance, but there are also companies at seed money stage.

“Overseas companies have too broad offerings” Logan said, “US companies have narrower offerings and they therefore, they are much more focused; because it’s such a huge country” he said.

co-working spaces have nothing to do with real-estate

Within about 6 weeks from creation, it dawned on Duncan and his teams that “real estate has nothing to do with co-working, and that it was all about the eco-system. It’s all about speed here, most start-uppers don’t care about privacy” Logan added. As a matter of fact, most of them don’t worry about building a sales team either. ‘The real trend behind Rocketspace Duncan said is that before, you would have to raise a lot more money and spend more time on getting yourselves organised, now you don’t”. So how much would you need to get started? “Under half a million dollars” he responded “and after 15-16 weeks, they can have large numbers of customers without spending too much money” … that is in case it takes off, but the system is such that investors know what to expect.

young people don’t want to commute … nor get into an office

“Over here, young people don’t want to commute, they don’t want to own cars, so there has been a real emphasis for young companies to be based in San Francisco [rather than Silicon Valley which is an hour away from the City] and this is why real estate prices doubled in 18 months!” Duncan Logan added. Besides, “the valley is more about infrastructure start-ups (i.e. cloud computing, storage and servers etc.) whereas “the City is about young companies” he said.

image

“Tech founders aren’t very social”

Most of the companies here are at “A” stage he said. For most of them, the risk is on the entrepreneurs, VCs are always pushing for more evidence of future success, and when you are a first time founder you have to think about what business can be financed vs. trying to build the most amazing business” Logan said.

the 3 pillars of Rocketspaces’s business

Now we hit what was the most interesting part of the meeting. Logan delivered his vision for Rocketspace and described what makes it special. “We see ourselves as a kind of platform” he said and he described the 3 pillars of Rocketspace’s business:

  1. access to capital: close relationship with business angels, venture capitalists and Rocketspace have a very good view of deal flow, Logan said. Specially for outside companies, this is essential
  2. access to talent: MIT, Harvard, Stanford etc. “talent is one of the overriding factors” Logan said. “We nurture those relationships in order to bring talent to new start-ups and we can do this for nothing” he said
  3. access to customers: this is an “enormous growth item for Rocketspace” Logan said. Large companies like IBM or Microsoft are connected to the Office Space and this is what makes it possible for start-ups to connect to that ecosystem. “Smart companies are engaging with start-ups early in the process. They will come in here and they will say ‘we have a real interest in mobile payments’ for instance and we’ll start to shortlist maybe 4-5 start-ups and this is a very symbiotic way of doing business he said. IBM is working with dozens of start-ups for instance, and Rocketspace is constantly organising demo days and start-ups networking events. “Kodak, Blockbusters etc. took a different approach and refused to change the way they worked and they aren’t here anymore” Logan said.

“There are probably 250 very exciting companies around the world” Logan said, and we’d like to have them at least for Rocketspace for a year. This is our goal for the next 10 years.

How do you do networking?

We have four floors and 2 next door. We do a lot of dinners. “Tech founders aren’t very social” Logan said. We have up to 20 people at dinner and we have all the VCs that count at these dinners he said. There are 10 events going on every night on average in San Francisco and there are a lot of opportunities the entrepreneur said.

“We are not coaching hands-on like an incubator. Obviously it’s all our interest that they succeed. We never publicise who is here. We are fiercely independent. We give 3 contacts for bankers, VCs, partners etc. Rocketspace refuses to take sides.

A lot of this has a lot to do about how companies are getting funding. “VCs are aggressive. They probably see 250 companies before they invest in one. Yet, once they do they are pretty nervous. By the time a start-up is raising money, there will be up to 3-4 VCs competing with one another. So once they are committed they are pretty aggressive. It’s so hard to get in for them… Yet, for start-ups it can take them months before they can find an investor” Duncan Logan added.

I don’t think there is too much money, but the amount of money required to start a new company has dropped the founder of Rocketspace said.

why is Silicon Valley different?

There are great start-ups in UK, France and other places. But when you are in football you have to be in a environment in which you can rub shoulders with top class teams otherwise you don’t know whether you are good at the game or not. That was Logan’s way of explaining  that the premier league is taking place in Silicon Valley, this is where you compare yourself to the best companies. People like Reid Hoffmann (founder of LinkedIn), you understand that they have a different understanding of the world Logan said.

but there are other reasons why …

Scale is the issue, mostly in Europe (where there are many languages spoken and smaller numbers of users who are culturally very fragmented). Indian and Chinese companies can scale Logan said. We see copycat ideas happening in certain places like China and India and “they can crack America!” he said. You have to be in the sort of size like dropbox, airBnB etc. and India and China can achieve that kind of scale and found multibillion dollar companies”.

“Even Russian companies” he added “when  they want to conquer the world, come to America!”.

plans to expand to other countries?

“US immigration laws are ridiculous” Logan said. “We are tripling our size here in San Francisco but  it would make sense to have a Rocketspace in Europe (it could be London or Berlin) and one in Asia” Logan added. Plug and play tech centre  (where we are headed to now) were the pioneers he said, but their mentality is very commercial, and there is an obligation to fill the spaces. Roketspace sees themselves as very different from that.

09/19/12

Rocketspace ‘s Logan: “even Russian companies go to the US to conquer the world!” – #blogbus

Duncan Logan, founder of Rocketspace is originally Scottish and moved to San Francisco some time ago. His first venture didn’t work but 20 months ago, he then decided to found Rocketspace. Rocketspace could be described as “offices as a service” Logan said. He confided to our team of bloggers that he had read the Lean Start-up and he tested the principles he’d found in the book by creating a fake company and posting an ad on Craigs’ list. He got something like 10 requests by companies in 12 hours. Then he tried again by adding that only tech companies are wanted and he got 15 responses in 12 hours. That’s how Rocketspace, start-up accelerator in downtown San Francisco, was born. Today, Duncan Logan delivered his vision of why the Valley is the world’s most exciting place for high tech entrepreneurship. 

[note: this piece was originally written for the Orange Live Blog which I manage and created]

image

Duncan Logan, founder of Rocketspace delivered his 360° view of entrepreneurship

a start-up accelerator in downtown San Francisco

15 companies are hosted by Rocketspace, and there is space for 150 people. According to Logan, this is the largest “tech accelerator” in San Francisco. “30% of companies hosted here are from overseas who want to mix with the ecosystem in the Valley. 30 other co-working spaces exist but this one is dedicated to tech companies” Logan added. Spotify was hosted here for instance, but there are also companies at seed money stage.

“Overseas companies have too broad offerings” Logan said, “US companies have narrower offerings and they therefore, they are much more focused; because it’s such a huge country” he said.

co-working spaces have nothing to do with real-estate

Within about 6 weeks from creation, it dawned on Duncan and his teams that “real estate has nothing to do with co-working, and that it was all about the eco-system. It’s all about speed here, most start-uppers don’t care about privacy” Logan added. As a matter of fact, most of them don’t worry about building a sales team either. ‘The real trend behind Rocketspace Duncan said is that before, you would have to raise a lot more money and spend more time on getting yourselves organised, now you don’t”. So how much would you need to get started? “Under half a million dollars” he responded “and after 15-16 weeks, they can have large numbers of customers without spending too much money” … that is in case it takes off, but the system is such that investors know what to expect.

young people don’t want to commute … nor get into an office

“Over here, young people don’t want to commute, they don’t want to own cars, so there has been a real emphasis for young companies to be based in San Francisco [rather than Silicon Valley which is an hour away from the City] and this is why real estate prices doubled in 18 months!” Duncan Logan added. Besides, “the valley is more about infrastructure start-ups (i.e. cloud computing, storage and servers etc.) whereas “the City is about young companies” he said.

image

“Tech founders aren’t very social”

Most of the companies here are at “A” stage he said. For most of them, the risk is on the entrepreneurs, VCs are always pushing for more evidence of future success, and when you are a first time founder you have to think about what business can be financed vs. trying to build the most amazing business” Logan said.

the 3 pillars of Rocketspaces’s business

Now we hit what was the most interesting part of the meeting. Logan delivered his vision for Rocketspace and described what makes it special. “We see ourselves as a kind of platform” he said and he described the 3 pillars of Rocketspace’s business:

  1. access to capital: close relationship with business angels, venture capitalists and Rocketspace have a very good view of deal flow, Logan said. Specially for outside companies, this is essential
  2. access to talent: MIT, Harvard, Stanford etc. “talent is one of the overriding factors” Logan said. “We nurture those relationships in order to bring talent to new start-ups and we can do this for nothing” he said
  3. access to customers: this is an “enormous growth item for Rocketspace” Logan said. Large companies like IBM or Microsoft are connected to the Office Space and this is what makes it possible for start-ups to connect to that ecosystem. “Smart companies are engaging with start-ups early in the process. They will come in here and they will say ‘we have a real interest in mobile payments’ for instance and we’ll start to shortlist maybe 4-5 start-ups and this is a very symbiotic way of doing business he said. IBM is working with dozens of start-ups for instance, and Rocketspace is constantly organising demo days and start-ups networking events. “Kodak, Blockbusters etc. took a different approach and refused to change the way they worked and they aren’t here anymore” Logan said.

“There are probably 250 very exciting companies around the world” Logan said, and we’d like to have them at least for Rocketspace for a year. This is our goal for the next 10 years.

How do you do networking?

We have four floors and 2 next door. We do a lot of dinners. “Tech founders aren’t very social” Logan said. We have up to 20 people at dinner and we have all the VCs that count at these dinners he said. There are 10 events going on every night on average in San Francisco and there are a lot of opportunities the entrepreneur said.

“We are not coaching hands-on like an incubator. Obviously it’s all our interest that they succeed. We never publicise who is here. We are fiercely independent. We give 3 contacts for bankers, VCs, partners etc. Rocketspace refuses to take sides.

A lot of this has a lot to do about how companies are getting funding. “VCs are aggressive. They probably see 250 companies before they invest in one. Yet, once they do they are pretty nervous. By the time a start-up is raising money, there will be up to 3-4 VCs competing with one another. So once they are committed they are pretty aggressive. It’s so hard to get in for them… Yet, for start-ups it can take them months before they can find an investor” Duncan Logan added.

I don’t think there is too much money, but the amount of money required to start a new company has dropped the founder of Rocketspace said.

why is Silicon Valley different?

There are great start-ups in UK, France and other places. But when you are in football you have to be in a environment in which you can rub shoulders with top class teams otherwise you don’t know whether you are good at the game or not. That was Logan’s way of explaining  that the premier league is taking place in Silicon Valley, this is where you compare yourself to the best companies. People like Reid Hoffmann (founder of LinkedIn), you understand that they have a different understanding of the world Logan said.

but there are other reasons why …

Scale is the issue, mostly in Europe (where there are many languages spoken and smaller numbers of users who are culturally very fragmented). Indian and Chinese companies can scale Logan said. We see copycat ideas happening in certain places like China and India and “they can crack America!” he said. You have to be in the sort of size like dropbox, airBnB etc. and India and China can achieve that kind of scale and found multibillion dollar companies”.

“Even Russian companies” he added “when  they want to conquer the world, come to America!”.

plans to expand to other countries?

“US immigration laws are ridiculous” Logan said. “We are tripling our size here in San Francisco but  it would make sense to have a Rocketspace in Europe (it could be London or Berlin) and one in Asia” Logan added. Plug and play tech centre  (where we are headed to now) were the pioneers he said, but their mentality is very commercial, and there is an obligation to fill the spaces. Roketspace sees themselves as very different from that.

07/9/12

4 suggested business models for Facebook to make money with its platform

imageby Alban Fournier (http://www.value2020.net)

QQ ID: 1557637787

Alban Fournier is a graduate from Essec Management School in Paris. He has proficiency in Management, Change Management, Marketing and Consulting services. He has worked on various engagements with Schneider Electric and Tencent, the leading Chinese Internet company.

value creation and monetization at Facebook: to succeed, other revenue streams than advertising and app revenue share should be developed now

For many, including Google, Facebook is a distraction from regular Internet surfing. The Palo Alto-based social network company firm has developed an engaging experience for users which creates some sort of addiction to the social network: almost all your “friends” are here and such a sheer volume of users is not available anywhere else.

currently Facebook data is available for free

Facebook offers its service in exchange for the right to capture and collect a huge volume  of demographic and preference data from its users. That data is extremely valuable to brands. Marketers and advertisers can use the data efficiently because it is detailed and personal.

the social graph … a core asset

The social graph is a core asset of Facebook representing people and the connections they have to everything they care about. Today, the social graph, or profile information database, is not used for business with third parties outside the Facebook website: Facebook has prevented its business partners from using the data it provides to approach users exclusively within Facebook. Through the social graph, it is possible to find and match data across different groups of people. It is also possible to produce a graph of preferences and identify people who share a common liking for a brand.

The Graph API presents a simple, consistent view of social graph objects (such as people, photos, events, and pages) and the connections between them (friendships, likes, and tags) (Facebook Inc, 2012). The Graph API also enables partners to read and write data into Facebook. Through “Facebook Connect”, a protocol also allows businesses to make all the features currently found on Facebook available on their own websites. For instance the “Like” feature, allowing user actions to show up on people’s profiles, publish actions across their friends’  newsfeeds etc.

a huge volume of data

Facebook is now building an ever bigger volume of data on how its users interact with sites within and beyond its walls. The feature called “Facebook Connect” is a win-win mechanism: the firm gives brands access to Facebook’s users’ real names, email addresses, profile pictures and friends lists. In return, the brand shares the activity of its Facebook users on its brand web pages. Both Facebook and its partners can improve their understanding of users’ habits across the world wide web.

automatic opt-in!

The Open Graph Protocol allows third-parties to access most, if not all, of a Facebook user’s data as long as he has opted in via the privacy settings. Yet, please note that by default all users are automatically enrolled into the Open Graph Protocol (Open Graph protocol, 2012)! [editor’s note: therefore it’s not opt-in]

The volume of participation is a critical component. With the right level of engagement and participation, a social circle may influence another social circle to participate in an external offering, whereas previously, I mean without a “friend” connection, that level of comfort to engage with an external site may not have existed. Brands have the opportunity to track and offer incentives for people promoting their brand.

building the semantic web

Facebook might be able to build a web ecosystem where a user’s needs can be anticipated, understood and personalised for them: it is called the semantic web. The social network firm did understand the opportunities of collecting user data on their interests much more than we could have expected.

Yet, as of today, Facebook is mainly an advertising platform but its business model of Facebook should change from a pre advertising-based model to a combined business model covering: advertising, revenue sharing, merchant, and infomediary services.

1. advertising model

Facebook sells ad space on its site. Like other Internet firms, it is offering personalisation options in online advertising. Facebook helps its clients target their ads at specific groups of Facebook users, based on elements of users’ profile data. In the online-advertising ecosystem, the brand or individual is able to collect metrics and analytics. This means that the brand or advertiser can predict the impact its campaign will have. This demand of brands for users’ data is crucial for Internet players.

One of the issue with the advertising model though is that it is prone to fluctuations due to the economic situation. With the current crisis, Google’ revenues were impacted with a light decrease in advertising revenues in the first half of 2009. However, the main challenge for Facebook is the behaviour of its users: advertising on smartphones seems less efficient than on computers. On the other hand, advertising on tablets shows some results and the growth will come from such devices too.

2. revenue-sharing model: applications and virtual goods

Facebook is getting a percentage of the revenue it generates with applications hosted on its platform through revenue-sharing agreements with developers who created and own the application. Facebook hands over a few categories of public profile data (such as sex, age, location etc.) to the app makers, enabling them to personalise the end-user experience. In 2011, Facebook got 12% out of the revenue coming from Zynga thanks to a 30% revenue share with Facebook (SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION, 2012).

The business of micro transactions for virtual goods is booming. When users purchase virtual goods using Facebook payment infrastructure, the firm receive fees that represent a portion of the transaction value. The opportunity for Facebook is not only in social games. Taking the example of Tencent, virtual goods can be used for many other purposes like avatars and other online benefits internally or through other business partners.

According to the report of Strategy Analytics called “Virtual Worlds Market Forecast 2009-2015” (Gilbert, 2009), the worldwide revenue generated from the sale of virtual goods is forecasted to increase to $17 billion by 2015. Facebook currently requires the integration of a payment system in games. The firm should seek to extend the use of online payments to other types of applications and mobile tools in the near future. Its App centre will come handy.

The use of a virtual currency like Facebook credits (editor’s note: Facebook credits were discontinued in 2012 but will soon be replaced) makes easier micro transactions of real and virtual goods over the Internet. Those credits could be used both within Facebook and on partner websites. The decision to have credits in local currencies should accelerate the use of micro payments over the platform.

3. Infomediary services Model: anonymous social marketing?

Facebook could start charging for access to its user data. User data is potentially highly valuable. Facebook collects a rich set of information from its user profiles. Each profile contains not only the user’s demographic data, but also data about the user interests. Every action adds an additional piece of information: adding a friend, liking a brand, looking at a page or a video…The tastes and buying habits of the users and connections (or “likers”) are much better indications of what the user is likely to buy than are its demographics (i.e. age, sex, and location data…). As a consequence, selling anonymous user data is a good way to make money sharing knowledge of people interests, those people being potential buyers of products.

Application developers could have to share a higher percentage of revenue in order to benefit from user data.

Facebook could dissociate its users’ data from its platform and license it to web data brokers or directly to large CPG businesses, once all personally identifiable information has been expunged. External marketers and advertisers might also be interested to use the data to target ads or other content at potential customers either online or offline. A marketer from CPG firms such as Procter & Gamble or LVMH, could compare this combination of demographics and preference data, and determine similarities with people who have bought their products previously.

The sale of users’ data is a good and easy way to quickly monetise Facebook’s assets. Besides, market insights is another source of cash that could be created through Facebook. With its huge database, the firm can sell specific insights matching the needs of its clients.

4. Merchant model with e-Commerce Transactions: Facebook can become a key tool in the purchasing decision process

E-commerce is expecting opportunities to leverage the existing platform thanks to: a massive logged-in user base; insight into users’ interests; and the network’s ability to generate “word-of-mouth”. Facebook should therefore seek to build payment relationships with consumers; and promote its existing billing system. With the amount of volume of activity and users the firm has at its disposal, extending the current business model with its existing customers is easier and faster (Zhenga Lindgardt, 2009).

The firm should therefore be able to charge a fee based on a percentage of revenue sold through the platform. The knowledge of actual tastes and preferences of Facebook users makes the social network very attractive for the discovery of products and services, and online purchases. Provided Facebook sorts out and improves its mobile strategy, mobile commerce could its first source of revenue as early as 2020. The firm could indeed charge a fee per store and asks for a percentage against each transaction (1%-3% according to the product or service). We can expect Facebook to become a link between a brand and a potential customer through his or her history.

For most users, Facebook is able to carry out the promise of personalisation better than any other e-merchant and deliver a purchasing experience around the data it owns. At the time of decision to purchase or not a product or a service, the social connection gives confidence in buying if the perceived value and benefits of the products are recommended by “friends”.

Nobody knows what the future holds for Facebook, and even though the task is difficult and risky, here are two cents and a projection available from my site at value2020.net

follow in the steps of Tencent!

As a conclusion, as explained, Facebook Inc. is likely to generate much more revenue from user data through mobile & tablet commerce, and infomediary services in the years to come. The profitability of the firm could increase in case the company follows the path of Tencent, one of the world leaders in the business of micro transactions. The business of virtual goods is growing and highly profitable: Facebook should take advantage of this kind of opportunities.

Bibliography

Facebook Inc. (2012, May). Core Concepts – Open Graph – Tutorial. Retrieved May 29, 2012, from Facebook Developers: http://developers.facebook.com/docs/opengraph/tutorial/

Gilbert, B. (2009, June 1). Virtual Worlds Market Forecast 2009-2015. Retrieved January 21, 2011, from Strategy Analytics: http://www.strategyanalytics.com/default.aspx?mod=reportabstractviewer&a0=4779

Open Graph protocol. (2012, March 22). Open Graph protocol. Retrieved April 12, 2012, from Open Graph protocol: http://ogp.me/

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION. (2012, February 1). REGISTRATION STATEMENT ON FORM S-1. Retrieved May 27, 2012, from SEC: http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1326801/000119312512034517/d287954ds1.htm

Zhenga Lindgardt, M. R. (2009, December). Business Model Innovation. Retrieved April 23, 2012, from BCG: http://www.bcg.com/documents/file36456.pdf

Follow me on Twitter: @value2020

this piece is also available from http://value2020.wordpress.com/2012/06/28/value-creation-and-monetization-at-facebook/

05/24/12

Verizon: using crowdsourcing to get products right – or wrong

A few weeks ago in San Francisco, I attended the fiftieth Blogwell presentation since the beginning. Laurie Shook is portfolio leader at Verizon, a leading US telecom operator. She is a product marketer who uses social media, not a social media expert and she even describes herself as a “marketeer with a passion for Social Media” on her LinkedIn profile.

Verizon’s Idea exchange was developed in July 2010, as a place for customers to exchange ideas about services and things that customers would like Verizon to do. The platform provides means for ranking ideas. It is “semi-anonymous” Laurie said and “gives the idea to people that they can speak freely” she added. In a nutshell, it is n opportunity for Verizon clients to express themselves and “it’s also a great opportunity for marketers” Laurie said.

HD TV high on the agenda

“Many customers comment on HD TV and mostly on TV programs. “They said for instance that they’d like to see certain channels in HD or hide channels which they aren’t subscribed to and Verizon subsequently implemented that option” she said.

verizon-laurieshook

There are all kinds of ideas on that platform though and some of them are content related. Customers vote and propose ideas and sometimes they even propose to vote against ideas which they oppose.

913 ideas received 280+ launched

Laurie went on describing a business case study:  the “IMG 1.9” plan; IMG is the abbreviation for “interactive media guide”. “There is one release a year, it’s a lot of work and once we’re done, we involve 100 customers before launching it” Laurie said. “Last summer [2011], we extended the HD channel guide, hid unsubscribed channels, added DVR chapter selection and made the channel guide softer and easier on the eyes. That was based on feedback : ‘made fonts bigger, change the background etc.’”

Yet, even though a majority “loved the ideas”, things weren’t so easy since there also were other users who were “very vocal and critical”. Some didn’t hesitate to post comments such as “you really screwed up your tv guide” Laurie said.

what do you do with negative feedback?

The next question is familiar to any marketer in charge of communities. “what do you do with that kind of feedback?” Should you ignore it, or make it a priority? Laurie’s answer makes perfect sense:

“You don’t respond immediately. Sometimes, people are pissed off with change and you have to wait for the dust to settle. Acknowledge the status and wait. However, the post became popular, and even the most popular on the platform” Laurie went on.

facilitation tips from Verizon

She admitted to not finding this very pleasant but you have to bite the bullet and you also have to respond she said. Here are her recommendations:

  1. “Cool you jets before responding” (remain cold-blooded, there is no need to heat up and start an online battle)
  2. “It’s best not to respond immediately and to respond with the medium” (i.e. Idea Exchange rather than choose another tool)
  3. “a personalised response is necessary” such as “I’m sorry you are not of the same mind … and we will work to make you happy again”

are early innovators biased?

“Maybe it was an execution issue or a community bias, whereby people who join forums are early innovators and do not represent customers. Maybe the rank and file TV viewers aren’t represented?” Laurie went on “but when that guy commented, we had more people joining”. Laurie suggested that there was some sort of Hawthorne effect in reverse and that conclusions had to be drawn from that experiment with regard to crowdsourcing and how much hindsight you should introduce when conducting such projects.

on the positive side

Beyond this bias, there are some positive conclusions to be drawn from that experiment Laurie added. Here is what she thinks has worked for Verizon:

  1. faster customer feedback (before Idea exchange  there were disconnects but you didn’t know why or how or how much. “With direct feedback, you know immediately and you understand much better” she added)
  2. nuances of customer opinions are highlighted
  3. there is an incentive for more focus on customer priorities
  4. there are customer expectations of “Internet time” and this forces a large organisation to do things more quickly

Laurie added that “this example is strictly consumer-orientated, and that Verizon business is working with customer advisory boards, in a much more face-to-face format”.

02/28/12

e-health happening at last and coming to our homes #mwc #mwc12

This post was originally written for the live.orange.com blog, reporting live from Mobile World Congress in Barcelona

E-health is no longer a dream and we had further evidence of this at Mobile World Congress today in Barcelona while visiting the “connected house” pavilion. And guess who’s behind this in terms of communications? Orange of course (disclosure: I work for Orange). Let’s zoom into these solutions of a very very near future in which our health and namely that of elderly citizens will be (ethically) monitored and surveyed at a distance.

image

Qualcomm is an interesting company. Its history goes back to the late 1980’s a time at which it was doing m2m (machine to machine communications) for the transportation sector under the omnitracs brand name. The early 1990’s saw Qualcomm moving into the mobile chips business (in actual fact, they even produced handsets before selling that division to Ericsson) for which it is known to all but their recent move is a radical one and it’s called Qualcommlife. Qualcommlife is an independent spin off from the main company with a funding of $100m (out of the total $500m which are part of the Qualcomm VC fund) I was told by the Qualcomm representative on their stand at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Qualcomm life launched towards the end of 2011 and has now signed an agreement with Orange regarding its brand new NET2 platform, as depicted in the press announcement on the Orange.com website.

health monitoring made easy

imageHealth monitoring isn’t completely new I must admit. I remember our first demos at Orange labs in Paris more than 7 or 8 years ago! Yet this technology is slowly and surely becoming mainstream and this is made possible through the understanding that users want technology to get the job done and not spend hours fixing the wifi or bluetooth interface of their phone. This is exactly what NET2 is doing for you: “grandma doesn’t want to fiddle about with the wifi so we had to build an intelligent device which would pair automatically” the Qualcommlife representative declared. The Net2 gateway (which will be powered by Orange from a network point of view) is meant to do just that.

NET2 is a platform which enables patients to connect their devices (weight scales, blood pressure monitor, glucose monitoring device, …) directly without any complex pairing procedures. “All you have to do is plug in the gateway and it will find the patient’s device automatically Qualcommlife said.

But there are more than many ways of connecting to your GP than the NET2 gateway: standard mobile devices, embedded devices are also possible. You may even connect your treadmill to a remote monitoring device and record your data as seen in the following picture taken in the Connected House pavilion.

image

At last, here is a simple and promising way of enabling remote health checks, enforcing the remote monitoring and the surveying of patients with a diabetes or a heart condition for instance, in a seamless and easy way. At the end of the day, “national health authorities might even be enticed to encourage the development of such systems in order to enforce country-wide health programs” the Qualcommlife representative added.

This is a major step forward and one more proof that innovations take approximately 10 years to settle and disseminate.