Archive for the ‘Innovation’ Category

Well… [Google|Microsoft|Facebook|Amazon] could do that…

I’ve heard this three or four times over the last six months, not only with ChannelLauncher but with other companies that are getting off the ground in Tampa. Originally my response was (at least when this was said about ChannelLauncher) to defend. “Yes but here’s our approach…”  It’s become clear to me that the people stating this don’t understand innovation and have probably never read Crossing the Chasm. Here’s how this plays out. Small company grows into big company. Big company focuses on larger and larger clients. The smaller clients get left behind, their needs aren’t met and begin to look for alternatives. Tiny company builds tiny product for tiny group of clients. Tiny company improves on tiny product and becomes larger company with larger product and starts eating away at big company’s core customer base. Big company acquires said company. This is always happening. Now my response to “Google could do that.” is to ask what the person saying this actually does. Regardless of the response, 90% of the time I can say in complete honesty that Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, you name it, they already do it. You’re an investor? Google does that [Google Ventures]. You’re a business consultant? McKinsey does that and is bigger than you’ll ever be. You’re a social media expert? @MissDestructo does that and has more followers than you do. The fact is this, yes a [insert fortune 500 company name here] could do this. But is it cost effective for them to really go after your potential clients? It may in fact be better for the large company to let you build the market and get the clients – then acquire your business. So the next time someone tells you “Google could do that” you can, if you’ve done your homework and understand the market, tell them it’s more cost effective for Google to acquire you. See what their response to that one is.

 

The Most Daring of Ideas

In March, Paul Graham wrote a post about the top 7 most daring startup ideas. At number 4 was “Internet Drama” which discussed how video content delivery will be changing consumer’s viewing habits. He also identified two ways that this was likely to play out – either Netflix, HULU or a similar platform will continue to aggregate content from studios or a platform will provide streaming a-la-carte programming along with out of the box subscription services. The latter is exactly what ChannelShift does for video content providers. In my opinion, video distributed over Netflix or HULU builds the brands of the aggregators, not the content producers. It also makes it difficult to grow an audience and recognize increased revenue as a result. So what’s needed is a platform that allows video content with high production value (i.e. not cats swinging from a fan) to get to mobile, tablet, IPTV and ConnectedTV’s quickly and through a subscription payment method to consumers. Precisely what we’ve built with ChannelShift.

When I started the company a year ago I had no idea that it would be called the most daring of ideas. What I did see was the need for a company that focused specifically on what was happening in streaming technology and that could make it simple and profitable for companies to get access to it. So to me, it’s only  a daring idea if you don’t break it down into smaller pieces and then start knocking them out. Face your most daring ideas head-on, I promise you it’s the most rewarding of accomplishments.

Falling DVD Sales

In this month’s issue of The Deal, way back on page 48, there’s a discussion of how “Disruption has been rearranging the media landscape…” There’s a brief paragraph “…falling DVD sales, insufficiently counterbalanced by … digital sources like Netflix Inc.” Essentially the article is pointing out a number of sub-sectors that are suffering at the increased pace of innovation and disruption. The overall DVD manufacturing industry is projected to decline at about 3% annually for the next 4 years. That’s a net loss of about $1 billion from now until 2016. To me, there’s plenty of room to disrupt in this market – clearly there’s demand for content from consumers and on top of that the medium they’re accustomed to using is slowly disappearing. The streaming video market is an obvious choice, that’s why I started ChannelShift. But what other opportunities exist? Kid’s interactive programming like LeapFrog. Try this – Google ‘cdrom interactive instruction’ and see what comes up. You should get about 12 million results. What we need are companies that help this content get in front of an audience that is accustomed to immediate gratification. With the bandwidth going into homes now there is no reason a consumer has to wait for a shipment of DVD’s. All we need are companies to make it happen.

TV 4.0

Smart TV 4.0Still struggling with seeing the need for smart tv’s? They’re cool, have lots of features, price points are dropping and screen sizes are increasing. But that’s not enough. I think we’ve got it all wrong – surfing the web or porting Android apps to them isn’t where this should be going. That’s a disconnect for me, people typically use a laptop or a mobile device for those purposes. Instead, think home integration. What do you want to do when you’re watching TV and don’t want to get off the couch? Those are convenience items for consumers, services that we’ll conceptualize and bring to market. What do you order, have shipped to you, and then watch on TV? Those vertical’s are ripe for disruption over smart TV’s. That’s where this should be going. Surfing the web on my TV? No. Sorry.

Envision the Future.

I was at ITS2011 in Tampa last week watching Carlos Dominguez give a presentation about innovation and how the best companies approach it. After giving a handful of examples he asked the crowd “How many of you take time out of your week to actively envision what the future will look like?” Out of the entire crowd, perhaps 5 raised their hands. That’s absolutely horrendous. My parents used to say “What will they think of next?” We’re not in that age anymore. It’s up to us to think of what’s next. At a time when ideas are a commodity and technology is relatively cheap, anybody can come up with and start to build “what’s next.” Five people raising their hand for looking into the future is ridiculous, especially at a technology summit. It should be everyone’s job to examine their own lives and those of their family members and ask “What is too complicated today? What tools do I want to see come to market that make my life easier, more connected, or more effective?”

If you’ve ever tried opening a restaurant in Tampa you should be able to come up with at least two services that would make the process faster and more effective for the restauranteur as well as the City of Tampa. How much of that could also scale to other cities? Probably several. Those are products. That’s the future. It’s not the next Facebook but it’s cost savings for municipalities in a time when they’re looking to cut costs and gain efficiencies.Where else would you start looking?

At ITS2012 can we please have 10 people raising their hands?

Thought Rut.

For reasons I can’t get into, I’ve been struggling with the decision to pivot my business model over the past week. I’ve had three alternate product concepts in reserve just in case the situation developed and I needed to use them. But when the time came I found myself asking “What does this product do that’s unique and that my potential strategic partners can’t do for themselves?” What I had didn’t quite pass this test. The concepts I had were not strong enough to stand on their own because a potential partner could just throw tons of money at it to solve it. Typically when I’m in a situation like this I’ll do the 20 Answers exercise. Some progress but nothing ground shaking. Out came IDEO’s Method Cards. A few hints at things but again, nothing. I spoke with others that I’ve done product development with. Nothing. That’s actually not true, I helped someone with a new feature on one of their products. Tastes great but it’s less filling. Keep looking. Blanking out while looking around my office, I saw Creative Whack Pack cards on a shelf. These were handed out a couple of years ago at my previous role but I always considered them a little too elementary to actually work with. Well, time to suck it up and get back to fundamentals. Quickly flipping through the cards I dismissed every one of them. Until I hit on “Exaggerate.” That one passed the gut check for some reason. Exaggerate the idea – blow it way out of proportion. I took that and re-did the 20 Answers exercise. After about 90 minutes I had the answer. It was feasible, unique in the market, and has a workable revenue model. I’m back on track and that’s what I’m running with for DEMO Day.

When you find yourself in a thought rut and no new ideas are formulating – go back to the fundamentals. Look at things you dismissed before, look in places you thought were too easy, silly, or just dumb.  Go back to Crayons and paste if you have to.

Entrepreneur: Day 102 (Tracking Progress)

There’s times when you’re heads and down pounding shit out that you forget how much progress you’ve made. At one point I was keeping track of stuff to do (aka “Action Items”) with Things on the Mac but about 30 days ago stuff started happening so fast that I didn’t even have time to enter them. At some point I started to get overwhelmed and thinking nothing was happening fast enough. That’s when I stepped back and took a couple of hours to make note of everything we’ve done. To be certain the “to do” pile is bigger than the “done” pile but there’s things in the “done” pile I thought would take a year to finish. The overwhelmed feeling disappeared and I got my ass back to work. It’s a necessity to keep track of what you need to do, but seeing what you’ve done will get you through the rough spots.

Also, a bit of thanks to the following people for direct support or encouragement: Stephanie (for setting the bar WAY high for work ethic!), Marvin Scaff, John Morrow, Miss Destructo, Joel Lopez, Prof Bill Jackson, Daniel James Scott & Gazelle Lab, WaltonDesigns, Brantley Smith, Adam Crall for sage advice, Douglas Lee Miller for listening to me rant about entrepreneurship and innovation, Dishtopia for relaxing tea (in a doilie free environment) and to 717 South for refuge and great martinis.

And for those of you that are curious, we should be ready to announce some of what we’re working on within the next 90 days…

Entrepreneur: Day 49 (Backups)

Contingency PlanIn 13 years of overseeing databases I got caught without a backup exactly one time. Luckily it was for a dev system and it wasn’t a catastrophe but it did remind me of how important they are. Actually, they’re not just important, they’re your ass if things fall apart. Same goes for products. Your optimal way to go-to-market may not always be open to you. In that case you’ll need contingencies. Say for example that the primary feature in your product, the feature that distinguishes it from your competitors, can’t be implemented. Do you go to market anyway and hope for the best? Hopefully not. Do you wait until you develop a new capability or feature and then release? Or do you release without the feature and release the new capability as soon as it’s ready? It’s one of the last two options, but it’s all up to you to figure out. One of our possible contingency plans is shown here.

There’s No Such Thing As Ketchup

Actually, there is. But I’m actually referring to “catchup” as in the type of activity you do to catchup to your competitors. At this point the “next big thing” could just about be any-thing, why in the hell would you spend your time building what your competitors have already done? I’m a huge fan of Scott Adams (it won’t be long before I’m asked to take this down) and this one from December of ’09 pretty well sums up how futile this strategy is. If you don’t have any ideas but can execute, GREAT! Team up with someone that has great ideas. Don’t know anyone like that? Go to BarCamps, CodeCamps, Front End Developer Conference or even a StartupCamp. If you’re in Tampa or the surrounding area then you’re in luck because all of these events are either coming up in the next few months or are looking for people to help launch them. If you want to get involved then please let me know and I’ll make sure you get in touch with the right people. At a minimum get out there and see what people are working on because it’s interesting, it’s fun, and above all it’s ORIGINAL!

Entrepreneur: Day 18 (Pitching)

Don’t pitch ideas, pitch results. And never say “I’ve got a great idea!”

I’m working on two separate types of presentations – one for investors and one for strategic partners. For investors the key points are how much money can we make, how fast can we expect a return, what’s it going to take to get there, and what results we have so far. For partners it’s how do we support the brand and improve the consumer experience. In neither case will I discuss how good the idea is. Instead I’ll be pushing what we’ve accomplished, how we scale the solution, what our next steps are and where we are according to plan. That’s what is in both types of pitches although they’re both aimed at different audiences and have vastly different expected outcomes. So if you’re getting ready to pitch the next big thing, focus on what’s in it for everybody but you.

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