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

of entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley –#blogbus

eye-largeOn day 4 of our Blogger Bus Tour, we met with Carlos Diaz, the CEO and founder of Kwarter and Guillaume de Cugis, CEO and co-founder of Scoop’it, two French entrepreneurs who left their country in order to take their venture to the next level and … change the world! (this post was originally written for the Live Orange Blog)

Kwarter, how it all started

imageKwarter started off with sports. The idea is to use your mobile in order to connect and comment, hangout. There is also a gamification (see my Vlab piece on that subject) angle of using such kinds of applications while watching TV and changing the user experience: the more you engage, the more you get points and also credits and eventually, you are able to redeem your credits to get t-shirts and other freebies.

The start-up decided to tackle sports as their first topic (Fan cake, the first social game to be edited and released by Kwarter is just about that) because “just watching TV isn’t enough anymore. The trend seen in Silicon Valley is to turn each passive experience into an interactive one”. The focus is on American sports only at the moment: American Football, Hockey and Baseball … but it should be a piece of cake (sorry, I couldn’t resist it) to extend it to European preferred games such as football and handball.

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[Carlos Diaz, CEO and founder of Kwarter]

Diaz, the founder of Bluekiwi Software, whom I have known for years and I was very happy to see again in San Francisco, started the company in Summer 2011 and did a quick prototype which helped him raise  seed money very quickly. All this is very classic, although many start-uppers tend to forget about it; the name of the game is: prove the concept quickly, put together the technology, build the user engagement model, and find the business model … fast. Things have to go fast in the land of the Gold Rush.

a pivot around the initial business model

“The first idea was to have our own application and build traffic based on our brand. The ten next years will be about Gamification” Carlos Diaz added. In 2011 they Kwarter’s pilot was turned into a platform for other brands because they realised that they had to do this for others, not under their own brand. A few weeks later, they signed a deal with Turner and Bud Light; just that! Turner will kick-start its operation about the Baseball playoff. And we are not talking about small business but “half million dollar deals!”.

Diaz – like many others we saw in Silicon Valley – has managed to make his company pivot around its existing business model and hit the bull’s eye. Well done!

big corporations doing their shopping

“I was really amazed at the way on how large corporations were shopping for innovation in the Valley” Diaz went on. “What we do with Turner will be very disruptive: whatever you do will be displayed on the screen. For instance, as baseball players will be displayed on the screen, an overlay bubble will be shown with comments from Kwarter such as “20% of people believe this player will do a home run!” Baseball fans won’t have to wait for too long for the launch date will be October 5th, 2012.

Twitter (but not Facebook) is paying for TV channels to use its service

“So far we see the Twitter mentions on TV. But Twitter is paying broadcasters for this” Diaz said. “This is why Facebook isn’t seen on TV because Facebook refuses to pay for that kind of display”.

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setting up one’s business in the Valley

Is it easy to set up a business here when one comes from Europe? “Sometimes I feel like Silicon Valley is like Disneyland” Diaz explained facetiously. “People are very naïve and they think that building a business is easy but it’s not. Just being turned down in Europe isn’t sufficient to launch a good company in the States” the French entrepreneur added.

“in 1999, Silicon Valley was a boring place!”

De Cugis said that “in 1999 and 2001 Silicon Valley was a very boring place. It all changed with Social Media, when some tech tsars became stars. It took me two years to adapt to the way of doing business here. After six months you realise that if you want to be part of this game, you can’t be part of it because you’re not part of the ecosystem and I started getting very frustrated. Then I realised all this was for real and I adapted to the way I needed to think of this as a real business. One year isn’t enough, it takes two years at least. And partnering is one thing but you need to have a good reason to come here.

living in the Valley is expensive, taxes much higher than France

“This is a difficult move” Diaz went on. “Personal life is very expensive here, even more if you have kids. A house with 2 kids costs $6,000 per month! Taxes are a lot higher than even in France. And this is because life is so expensive that people want to get very fast. This is why people want their projects to take off in such a hurry. People are very focussed on their jobs but they sort of work round the clock and have no vacations. Here there is nothing apart from tech, everyone is in high-tech. Even the salesman from the AT&T shop wants to start his own start-up”.

Scoop’it, from Toulouse to the Valley

Scoopit also went to NYC and hesitated between NYC and Silicon Valley. In NYC, the tech scene is competing with a lot of other things though. “If you go to the local Starbuck’s there, there are few chances that you will bump into a tech entrepreneur” De Cugis explained. “Here it’s a small city, there are only 700,000 inhabitants. You could go to a meet-up every night. And all that happens in Soma, you don’t even need to drive up to Silicon Valley.

setting up your business in Paris is a mistake

Although many would disagree, Diaz declared that “founding your start-up in Paris is a mistake, unless you are into Fashion or if you want to become a leader in your own country. All successful French start-ups (e.g. Meetic, Priceminister,…) aren’t known by anybody here. In order to do something to change the world, to be a game changer, one has to have a large market to start with” Diaz contended.

changing the world is hard

Yet, changing the world is hard… even in the Silicon Valley, and if believing in one’s dreams is important, one needs to avoid pulling the wool over one’s eyes. This, in a nutshell is what I withdrew from that passionate exposé by Carlos and Guillaume.

Discovery Channel on Shark Week at Blogwell: “enthusiasts are doing our marketing”

2e38becbe35159151b804730c513a87bDiscovery Channel were the 3rd presenters in track1 of Blogwell on November 9 in Philadelphia with Amber Harris and Gayle Weiswasser delivering the presentation. Shark week is one of the longest running television events (23 years!). How do you  bring innovation and bring it to another level for Discovery? was the question that our presenters had asked themselves.

This year was to celebrate the “’national holiday” nature of Shark Week and it was rebranded “happy shark Week”. The company started a campaign against shark finning and partnered with the Georgia Aquarium with a live-stream from the aquarium.

Social Media Strategy

Social Media is all about communities added Gayle. So Discovery Communications didn’t have to invent anything but work with the influencers, the very enthusiastic people “who were doing [their] marketing for [them]”. Discovery Communications then went on a ton of monitoring in order to identify and engage with the right influencers.  The week took place on August 6th, but they tried to make the event live throughout the year thanks to Social Media.

Tactics

Digital PR managed to impact major online portals, and used street marketing with a building in DC with a Shark in it: People would stop and take pictures of the building and report on it. The presenters discovered some very active enthusiasts who would wear their tee-shirt and post tweets about that on Twitter. The focus was on Twitter. People were encouraged to create some videos on Youtube and post them by themselves, showing themselves in their “Shark Week” tee-shirts. They were offered to upload them to the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week Video Challenge YouTube channel.

There was no official Facebook page, but Discovery Channel was able to claim that page and set and official Shark Week page on Facebook. Video drove a lot of traffic online. The ‘adopt a shark’ campaign also enabled people to make donations.

The results were impressive

No wonder with such an impactful theme, but one has to admit that the numbers are really great: 14,000 online media and blog posts and #sharkweek was a worldwde Twitter trending topic the 1st day of Shark Week and there was over 91,000 Shark Week mentions between Aug 1-6 which resulted in 100 million potential impressions (Tweetreach.com). Somewhat facetiously, Amber mentioned “that the Radian 6 curve showing the traffic had the shape of  a shark-fin!”

What worked according to the presenters was the complementarity of digital and real-life PR, the partnerships and the Twitter engagement. However, they had mixed results with the photo contest with only 28 photo entries, showing how hard it is to get people to cooperate. Facebook was a bit disappointing but the real issue is in what Amber added: “You don’t know what goes wrong, you could do everything right and still it wouldn’t work”.

One of the things that made it for that project is that the company culture at Discovery is very much geared towards innovation according to both presenters and that there is never any push-back on anything. “Everyone has been very supportive” they said, and Amber adds that, more broadly speaking, “everybody in the company should have a vested interest in Social Media” and all of them should help make things work.

What matters is that people collaborate

Gayle concluded with what I consider pearls of wisdom: “Social Media is nothing” she said, “what matters is that people collaborate and keeping things as open as possible”.

SAP on its SAPPHIRE annual event: “SAP wanted to take this live event and make it virtual”

SAP is one of the founding members of the Social Media Business Council. On November 9, SAP was hosting Blogwell, SMBC’s open event dedicated to social media in which each presentation (8 in total) is delivered by a SMBC member. The opening presentation by SAP was dedicated to spicing up events with social media. SAP began working on its community 7 years ago, and it now comprises 2 million members. This community is about engaging with clients and starting conversations.  The SAP presentation was delivered by Brian Ellefritz, Global Social Media Marketing at SAP. Brian is a former Cisco representative and joined SAP to head their global Social media team. He is a seasoned Internet expert.

Very few in the audience had tried live video when Brian asked the question. So this kind of Social Media usage added to live events is still very new to many professionals (note: Orange Business Services is doing this quite regularly in all regions, check the http://orangebusiness.posterous.com live blog for details).

Context

Sapphirenow is SAP’s most important sales event, it’s about a decade old. In 2010 SAP organised two events in Germany and Orlando at the same time, that was quite ambitious. Social media took a big part in that event.

The objective was to treat the audience as peers, not recipients and showcase SAP as a savvy user of social media. They had done something the year before but they wanted to move beyond that in 2010. SAP wanted to “take this live event and make it virtual”.  “SAP had more bandwidth than CNN” during that event Brian added.

The social media Ambassador concept

Influencers, customers, partners were going to be active pushing the news that they were being told. SAP also wanted to talk to those who couldn’t be there. The way it played out was that most of the content was pushed to Twitter in realtime. The stream started in Germany in the morning and was taken over by Orlando in the afternoon. The Sapphirenow twitter feed was central to that event. Giant touch screens were also implemented.

The ambassador programme was started 2 months in advance. 6 topics were selected, and 6 ambassadors per location were recruited. They had to have large followings and had to be comfortable with social media and have a set of skills which fit in the programme. The initial expectation was 2 blog posts a day. Flip cameras were given and SAP explained what their expectations were. “permisssion forms” were signed and social media business cards were handed out to people as a courtesy. An audit was given to an impartial agency in order to “assess whether that was impactful or chaos!”

The outcome was 1.5 million views in Twitter reach (tweetreach.com), 41 blog posts written in 3 days, 152 videos were uploaded and 15,506 video views generated.

Lessons learnt

  • Picking personal or business account was an issue
  • Broad diversity of skills, it was very challenging (some didn’t know what Twitter was)
  • hastags were an issue (should we have one, one per topic etc.)
  • video “live” blogging: the camera team was just overwhelmed with too many cameras being brought to them and it was chaos
  • Once underway, “it’s just like one giant mashup !”
  • over time, we “stopped concentrating on the number of tweets and blog posts and starting enjoying the live experience” Brian added

The “1.5 million reach” Brian added when asked about what numbers really meant “is when management stops asking question” and the value is when you stop talking about the numbers and when people and managers start seeing the value in the energy and dedication put behind the event and the endeavour.

(At long last) WordPress.com enables social media sharing on posts and pages

Earlier this month, WordPress.com, on which this and all my other blogs are hosted, decided to implement social media sharing buttons as a permanent feature of their online platform. I dote on wordpress.com personally, it’s simple and stupid, forces you to focus on content, not waste your time with useless plug-in gimmicks and is fast and furiously efficient (you get indexed in search engines in a matter of minutes).

Yet, there had been growing concerns among my readers that someone preaching social media was in fact not put his money where his mouth was. http://getsociallive.com/ had provided a reasonably user-friendly workaround but that was no match for other wordpress blogs – hosted and managed by their owners – which offered many possibilities in terms of sharing on all social media platforms, facebook, Twitter and Digg being the main ones. So, somewhat reluctantly, I was considering moving my wordpress blogs to my own server, which was possible, but which I regarded as an unnecessary burden and task.

And then I caught a glance of that WordPress announcement (a little link at the top of the dashboard) almost unexpectedly: WordPress was – at long last – making sharing avaible on its wordpress.com platform!

So now you can see retweets on posts and pages easily (make sure you do select the ‘posts and pages’ options otherwise your tweets and buttons won’t be accessible from the main home page of your blog for instance) and share stuff on other platforms too including digg and reddit.

So here is a graphic representation of the “share it” function as implemented by WordPress, right beneath each piece which you have published. As this feature is somewhat hidden here is the process explained to our fellow wordpress.com owners : go to the dashboard of your wordpress.com blog, select the ‘settings’ main menu on the left, then click the ‘sharing’ option. icons have to be dragged – in your order of preference – within the bow in order to appear on your posts. If you still can’t find it, use the following link and replace XXX by your wordpress username : http://XXX.wordpress.com/wp-admin/options-general.php?page=sharing.

My readers will not only stop taking the mickey off me now, they will also dash to open their own WordPress.com blog, to which premium features such as domain name registration and redirection are now attached.