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.

scenarios for the future of social media – #blogbus

eye-largeI put this presentation together at very short notice in order to facilitate asession organised by Orange Business Services for its clients. This isn’t therefore a piece of scientific research, far from that, but merely a few random thoughts put together, in the light of what my team and I go through on a daily basis as well as the conclusions from our visits in Silicon Valley (Sept 17-22, 2012) as part of the blogger bus tour (check http://live.orange.com for details as well as Twitter for the #blogbus hashtag).

the Orange Silicon Blogger Bus tourWe got invaluable feedback, visions and first-hand information straight from the horse’s mouth during that trip and this has been very helpful in order to put together this presentation.

Even 10 years after their first introduction (LinkedIn was launched in 2003!), there is still a lot of sniggering or at least doubts with regard to how social media can fit in the business space. Yet, we have established that many a company has successfully managed to use these tools (and the philosophy behind it) to integrate word of mouth marketing into their Marketing strategies. This has been the subject of quite a few presentations which I have uploaded on the http://slideshare.net/orange and http://slideshare.net/ygourven spaces, so I won’t touch on that in today’s presentation.

I will therefore take the fact that social media can be used for business for granted and jump to the part dedicated to the analysis of what I think could well be the future of social media.

note: for those who haven’t yet got to grips with the benefits of social media in business and how it can be implemented, please refer to my slideshare presentation entitled: useful social media: what social media platform for what purpose? available from our slideshare corporate space at http://slideshare.net/orange

The good old days of web 2.0, the cluetrain manifesto, the pioneering days of the social web and social web marketing, those days are well and truly over. 8 years after the term social media was coined by O’Riley, and it may seem like ages ago in “Internet/dog years” actually. Yet… because we are missing these days doesn’t make any difference. The times have changed. let’s face the music and draw our conclusions from then on…

So what is the future of Web? Will the ‘non-searchable adjacent Web’ described by Geroges Nahon replace everything, therefore doing away with net neutrality and turning everything into a commercial space? Or will users flee en masse and start joining new social networks such as app.net?

Here are my thoughts in the following presentation which I will unveil today at midday in Paris in front of our customers.

Gamification at Vlab: buzzword or real business driver? – #blogbus

eye-largeThe MIT Stanford lab was founded 22 years ago. Orange is a sponsor of VLAB and we attended a meeting on Sept 19 on the Stanford campus on the subject of gamification. Vlab had gathered a unique bunch of top international experts from Silicon Valley in order to debate this concept. Despite the fact that many think badly of Gamification, our users have explained that gamification isn’t about games but bringing gaming mechanism in business activities and this was all about rewarding and creating a great experience.

[this post was originally written on behalf of the live.orange.com blog]

1. Margaret Wallace(below)introduced the session. Margaret is the CEO and founder of Playmatics. She began her pitch by saying that games have been around for thousands of years. Her definition of gamification is “the application of games mechanisms in non gaming situations, it’s not about angry birds and such like” she said. Why bother gamification? there are a lot of detractors of gamification Margaret said; the Gartner hype cycle is placing gamification at the very top of the Gartner hype cycle “so you are here at the right moment” she added. There are many ways that games can be inserted in business, such as Nike running, Ford’s mobile app, energy orb (an orb which changes colour according to the status of the electricity grid) … even political groups are using gamification to recruit people Wallace said; Pdt Obama has a Foursquare account for instance. From then on she handed the floor to the other panellists.

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Margaret Wallace (above)

image2. Courtney Guertin (above), Co-founder of Kiip was next on the stage and he presented the concept that he and his partner have designed. The idea was to reward users, through mobile apps and disrupt the mobile app space. In July 2010 they built a demo and started sharing this idea around them. They ended up raising $ 300 k. But “raising money is the easy part he said; the difficult thing is building the business”. They then built the platform for rewards (thanks & acknowledgements). They also wanted to avoid building something “intrusive or annoying”. The business model is simple. They charge brands and users are rewarded for their engagement. Among his advice were to understand that the team is everything, and to be prepared for difficult days too. He added that brands, at the outset, didn’t realise that people of all ages were playing games. Not just kids but middle aged mothers and even people above 50 he said. Brands are now, after a few years, very knowledgeable about that and this is why gamification has got a bad name. What you really need to do is how you can create a great experience like this company that decided to change an escalator which no-one wanted to use, by turning it into a living piano; instantly people started to use this escalator for the sake of the experience that it was providing.

image

3. Andrew Trader (above), venture partner at Maveron was next. He has been part of the gamification world on both side: as part of the family team at Zynga and from the investment side too.  The value of gamification in his mind starts with the value of relationship capital. This is what – in his mind – makes farmville so relevant. One has to try and incentivise users to engage more deeply; gamification mechanisms are similar in games like Farmville and business gamification he said.

image

4. Joshua Williams  (above) from Microsoft jumped in the conversation at that time. The idea of gamification according to Joshua is “how we can get a task done in a more engaging and fun way, and less painful. To him there are a lot of challenges with gamification which are overlooked. It’s a double-edged sword but he think that it’s worth looking into.

image

5. Amy Jo Kim (above), founder and CEO of Shufflebrain said that a lot of her practice recently has been to tune reputation systems to make them more engaging. “We could call that gamification” she said. Her perspective, is that what makes games compelling is in the design; people are getting smarter faster she said. You have to design systems which have the dynamics of games she said. You have to look at the “large word of zero sum gaming” she said. She predicted we would see a lot of innovation in that space in the future.

image

3. Rajat Pahsaria (above) was last. Rajat is the founder and chief officer of Bunchball. Beyond the buzzword he said there are values to gamification such as rewarding users, enhancing the experience etc. “We have a wealth of big data which is telling us what our users are doing” he said. And this is what gamification does” he said, using these techniques which have been going for years, i.e. rewarding users.

Gamification at Vlab: buzzword or real business driver? – #blogbus

eye-largeThe MIT Stanford lab was founded 22 years ago. Orange is a sponsor of VLAB and we attended a meeting on Sept 19 on the Stanford campus on the subject of gamification. Vlab had gathered a unique bunch of top international experts from Silicon Valley in order to debate this concept. Despite the fact that many think badly of Gamification, our users have explained that gamification isn’t about games but bringing gaming mechanism in business activities and this was all about rewarding and creating a great experience.

[this post was originally written on behalf of the live.orange.com blog]

1. Margaret Wallace(below)introduced the session. Margaret is the CEO and founder of Playmatics. She began her pitch by saying that games have been around for thousands of years. Her definition of gamification is “the application of games mechanisms in non gaming situations, it’s not about angry birds and such like” she said. Why bother gamification? there are a lot of detractors of gamification Margaret said; the Gartner hype cycle is placing gamification at the very top of the Gartner hype cycle “so you are here at the right moment” she added. There are many ways that games can be inserted in business, such as Nike running, Ford’s mobile app, energy orb (an orb which changes colour according to the status of the electricity grid) … even political groups are using gamification to recruit people Wallace said; Pdt Obama has a Foursquare account for instance. From then on she handed the floor to the other panellists.

image

Margaret Wallace (above)

image2. Courtney Guertin (above), Co-founder of Kiip was next on the stage and he presented the concept that he and his partner have designed. The idea was to reward users, through mobile apps and disrupt the mobile app space. In July 2010 they built a demo and started sharing this idea around them. They ended up raising $ 300 k. But “raising money is the easy part he said; the difficult thing is building the business”. They then built the platform for rewards (thanks & acknowledgements). They also wanted to avoid building something “intrusive or annoying”. The business model is simple. They charge brands and users are rewarded for their engagement. Among his advice were to understand that the team is everything, and to be prepared for difficult days too. He added that brands, at the outset, didn’t realise that people of all ages were playing games. Not just kids but middle aged mothers and even people above 50 he said. Brands are now, after a few years, very knowledgeable about that and this is why gamification has got a bad name. What you really need to do is how you can create a great experience like this company that decided to change an escalator which no-one wanted to use, by turning it into a living piano; instantly people started to use this escalator for the sake of the experience that it was providing.

image

3. Andrew Trader (above), venture partner at Maveron was next. He has been part of the gamification world on both side: as part of the family team at Zynga and from the investment side too.  The value of gamification in his mind starts with the value of relationship capital. This is what – in his mind – makes farmville so relevant. One has to try and incentivise users to engage more deeply; gamification mechanisms are similar in games like Farmville and business gamification he said.

image

4. Joshua Williams  (above) from Microsoft jumped in the conversation at that time. The idea of gamification according to Joshua is “how we can get a task done in a more engaging and fun way, and less painful. To him there are a lot of challenges with gamification which are overlooked. It’s a double-edged sword but he think that it’s worth looking into.

image

5. Amy Jo Kim (above), founder and CEO of Shufflebrain said that a lot of her practice recently has been to tune reputation systems to make them more engaging. “We could call that gamification” she said. Her perspective, is that what makes games compelling is in the design; people are getting smarter faster she said. You have to design systems which have the dynamics of games she said. You have to look at the “large word of zero sum gaming” she said. She predicted we would see a lot of innovation in that space in the future.

image

3. Rajat Pahsaria (above) was last. Rajat is the founder and chief officer of Bunchball. Beyond the buzzword he said there are values to gamification such as rewarding users, enhancing the experience etc. “We have a wealth of big data which is telling us what our users are doing” he said. And this is what gamification does” he said, using these techniques which have been going for years, i.e. rewarding users.

5 major trends for the future of IT and the Web – #blogbus

imageThe Orange Blogger bus tour – of which I am the organiser on behalf of Orange of which I am the Director of Internet and social media – was stopping by San Francisco today and the whole day was hosted by Orange Silicon Valley

Georges Nahon delivered a very inspiring keynote today before our panel of bloggers in which he shared his vision with regard to what is happening in IT in general, and in the Valley in particular. I will begin my account of Georges’s visionary presentation by detailing his conclusions. As I always do, I have taken detailed notes of the pitch and they are made available at the end of this piece. If there is one thing that should be remembered from that pitch is that the Web is everywhere and in everything that will be happening in the future. Something which established players don’t like according to the Head of Orange Silicon Valley. However, Nahon insisted on the fact that it won’t be the same Internet we used to know.

Facebook will be “Yahooed!”

“Social” has been going through a rough patch over the Summer, with the now infamous Facebook IPO, dubbed “IPOcalypse”, IPO meaning “It’s Probably Overpriced” Nahon said facetiously. Yet, Europeans are wrong when they interpret these issues as the end of social media, Georges Nahon said in essence. Social is here to stay, and beyond, it will change everything which takes place on the Web, even though Facebook itself will probably be “Yahooed!” Georges added.

But the worrying thing I got from his pitch is that, according to his analysis, next to the World Wide Web that we all know, an increasing number of companies, including Amazon, are creating a “non-searchable adjacent Web” which sounds very much like the end of the Web as Chris Anderson announced in Wired a few years ago. I think Georges is right indeed, there is a growing concern that Net neutrality is being sacrificed for the sake of user experience. Time will tell, but there are indeed worrying signs.

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Georges Nahon, head of Orange Silicon Valley, on the first day of the blogger bus tour

Here is how I summed up Georges’s 5 trends for the future of IT:

  1. Tech is all about mobile: “Twitter is a mobile-first company” and thriving he said, “Facebook isn’t and is suffering”. 10% of Internet traffic is made of mobile traffic. Yet, 25% of US users are using the Web from mobile only, but in Egypt, this number soars up to 70%, and India is close to 60%! And 68% place their mobile next to their bed while sleeping at night.
  2. The default is now social: and social meets mobile (over 50% of smartphones connect to Facebook). Social graph (Facebook), interest graph (Twitter) and influence graph (Klout) are the new frontiers of the Web and “they are here to stay … for a long time” Nahon said. For many, Facebook is the new web (“find us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter). What is the future of search? it is social and both Google and Microsoft are working on it… “and Facebook search is coming fast” Nahon added.
  3. Another Web: At the same time, traditional web development is slowing down, and Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Mobile will continue develop their “non-searchable adjacent webs” as Nahon called it.
  4. The Cloud as a new frontier: “The new guys are Amazon, Zynga, Rackspace and even people like Google were taken by surprise” Nahon said. But there are even newer guys you may never heard of such as Bluejeans, Alfresco, Joyent and many many more. Explosive data growth is also forcing companies to develop solutions for data reduction. And “the next big thing isn’t Software, it’s data” Nahon concluded on that subject.
  5. All video will be on the Net: most players in that field are coming from the Internet world, not the media world. “We think that the future of TV is to be streamed” Nahon said. There is more innovation than ever before in that area he said. Nahon added though that the concept of app-centric TV on smart TVs wasn’t entirely convincing. Time Warner see their future in apps but another trend is Social TV (described by Nahon as “a descendant of interactive TV which never worked”. 85% of tablet owners use their device while watching TV he said. What are they doing? Social websites, Zynga, Search, Craigslits (an old web survivor!) according to Nielsen.

the future of the World Wide Web

So, what is the future of the Web? Georges Nahon highlighted 10 trends in that area too:

  1. the web is becoming data centric
  2. apps will rule consumer and entreprise innovations and html5 will infiltrate apps and web services
  3. non searchable adjacent webs will continue to develop and the web will be fragmented and site-less (mobile, apps)
  4. the web of sites is dead and Facebook like buttons are the new hyper links
  5. Real-time multi-user game cloud platforms will influence enterprise cloud technologies: the main issue will be “latency” ‘as already explained on that blog)
  6. 4G/LTE (which we all were using to day via local mifi devives) will trigger innovation
  7. mobile payment will kick off from 2015
  8. all video will be on the web
  9. Enterprise IT will shift to the cloud.
  10. Facebook will rule the web during the next 2 years and Google will be in catch-up mode and within 3 years they will be “Yahooed!” Nahon said
  11. Amazon will continue to diversify and will create more online commerce/entertainment clouds and mobile devices (tablets/phones). “Amazon is belittled in Europe” Nahon added, “and it should be considered as a major player, for Bezos is the new Steve Jobs”.

Started as an R&D organisation and evolved towards what they are today (scouting organisation). 60 people, 40 of  which are in a position to file patents and they file 20 per annum. Often, it’s about reviewing the strategy. Statement from Prussian general “no plan survives contact with the enemy” e.g. 5 years ago, no one had seen the iPhone coming. Even analysts. An none of these people has seen Apple becoming a major player in the Telecom industry => be prepared for the unexpected. There were times in which you telcos could go to the ITU organisation and get things sorted but this isn’t the case anymore.

Essentially Orange wants to get prepared for the future. One of the key elements for Silicon Valley is capital investment. In Bay Area only, venture investments represent $3.2 bn 46% of total investments in the USA (San Jose chronicle on Q2 results). Texas only represents $ 179 m (3%) despite the huge tech firms in that state. The core subjects is ICT and media but not only.

The software industry in Q2 of this year received the highest level of funding. (34 out of 39% other source) $2.37 bn i.e. 32% of the total.

Market capitalisation: Apple + Cisco +Oracle +Google +Intel have a total of $ 1,261.82 bn (IBM is only $236b or FTE $37b). What this hides is the myriad of small companies which help these companies become what they are.

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