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.

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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.

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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.

real influencers in social media may not be those who you think! – #blogbus

On day 3 of the blogger bus tour we had the opportunity to meet face to face with two young start-up managers from San Francisco based Social Chorus an “influence marketing” company named Social Chorus. We were able to spend a whole hour with them and discuss influence, influencers, people-powered marketing and … “the power of the middle”, a concept which I have found particularly appealing.

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Nicole Alvino (above) is SVP and co-founder of Social Chorus, she was “employee number two” in the company. Bobby Isaacson (below), senior Manager, implementation has been as Social Chorus for about three years now (he admitted “feeling like a dinosaur” which sounds strange for such a young man) and does business development that is to say that he sets up partnerships with other companies, in order to be part of their ecosystem.

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Social Chorus (the company was in fact renamed in February 2012 and is the result of the merger of youcast  and the halogen media group) is a social marketing/influencer platform. The main problem the company is solving is that it is virtually impossible for customers to figure out whether influencers are really influential.  This is in essence, what Social Chorus is about: it provides both a tool and service for finding influencers (they might not just be bloggers, but also power twitter users  for instance. There are two offices, one in New York City and one in San Francisco.

NYC and SF: a world of difference…

To European eyes, those two cities might appear very similar but in fact, according to Bobby and Nicole, they are very different. New York is more about media and advertising and agencies, whereas Silicon Valley and San Francisco have always been, at least since the seventies onwards, more about high tech. But this is not all. Mentalities are also very different. Bonding is more difficult in NYC, a very large metropolis where, according to our discussion, people and companies tend to keep things for themselves, rather than share and get together in Californian fashion. And this is what makes all the difference. As I described in my post about Rocketplace, a lot of what happens in Silicon Valley is down to the ecosystem. San Francisco has a leg up in that game. Only Boulder, Colorado and Austin, Texas are adopting the West Coast spirit our hosts both declared.

social media at the forefront of investment

Start-up investment has changed too according to Nicole. “2 years ago, investment was more into media and advertising, now it’s a lot more about social media” she said. This is changing the ball game, Nicole said, “now that agencies are becoming more social they are tending to move over to SF”.

topical and brand influencers … not who you think

Social Choris is aiming at “brands wanting to become more human and having relationships with influencers” Bobby added. But how do you identify them and how can you tell they are really influential? “it’s a combination of art and science” Bobby went on. “There are topical and brand influencers” he said. Social Chorus will traditionally tap into its 1.5 million influencers database but they might also use Kred and Klout. Sometimes the best influencers are niche bloggers through .

social media influence: the pyramid metaphor

“Imagine a pyramid” Bobby went on: “PR handles the celebs, super fans and topical bloggers are in the middle and at the bottom, you have the vast majority of fans and readers who click and comment”. They might not be bloggers, they could just be twitteres for instance. Social Chorus’s focus of the solution is measuring the impact of a conversation with influencers. Manage the relationship over time.

the “power of the middle”

As soon as I can, I will also post a video interview of Nicole in which she explains that most brands are wrong to focus on just the top celebrities. “This can become pretty expensive soon” she said. I would also add that celebrities are often too self-centred in order to be generous. All middle tier influencers on the contrary are more open and more prone to become brand advocates because they will want to develop a relationship in the long term with the brand.

only 10-20% of agencies are ready to do that for themselves

Social Chorus is working with agencies like Edelman, Ketchum and others. It’s mostly agencies who are delivering this service to clients, but there are a few clients like Gatorade for instance who do this for themselves. “What we find is that the interest in that space exceeds the knowledge of how it works” Bobby declared. As a result, only 10-20% of the brand on average are willing to do this by themselves.

One of Social Chorus’s biggest challenges though is to hire developers; there is a lot of competition for developers. A very skilled developer in the valley can be paid $100 k and even up to $ 200 k if he has very special skills it’s commonly said here. As a matter of fact, as an entrepreneur told me at an after work party last night: “the developer in question might even be paid more than the project manager he reports to!”.

Social Chorus can operate over 3 different countries: UK, US and Germany. They will soon launch a new version in 2013, which will extend the service to other countries.

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]

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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.

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.