Ready, Set, Startup at Muru-D. You’ve Just Got the Weekend

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We_are_looking_for_Atlassians_of_the_future_-_Annie_at__muruDNow that the dust has settled on the first intake of startups into the Muru-D incubator, the team are ramping up the next round of startups. But the thing is, you’ve now only got the weekend to apply.

The startups who secure a spot at Muru-D benefit from six months of tailored support designed to get you ship shape:

  • Bootcamp is a week long intensive that covers the basics
  • Milestone mapping sets out the agreed reference points between your startup and Muru-D
  • Mentoring is on-going and includes Telstra and external experts
  • Networking focuses on getting your business investor ready

It’s a competitive arrangement, but if you think you have what it takes (and if you think this kind of incubation can help you and your business), then get cracking. There’s only a weekend standing between you and opportunity.

 

Bye, Bye Buyosphere – A journey of disruption, disrupted

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Focusing on the customer journey is never easy. After all, customers are fickle, transitory, loyal and contradictory. I am somebody’s customer. You are. We are all somebody’s customer. And being a customer is an emotional experience. We buy on whim, impulse or trigger. We may plan, research and save as long as we like, but decisions can be swayed by friends, connections, a good salesperson. Or even a lingering smell.

But knowing this doesn’t make easy for businesses – even marketers don’t make it easy for marketers. With every click, interaction and purchase, with every review, tweet, blog post or call, connected consumers like us are shaving away the stubble of established brands. We are eroding the protective layers that brands have built up over time to insulate themselves from us.

We know this has been happening for some time. It is a shift of power in the buying process away from brands to consumers. It is digital disruption in its purest form – connected consumers tapping into the opportunities and power of the internet to out flank the efforts of brands. And helping us to chart this disruption – indeed helping us to move from idea to practice, has been Tara Hunt, author of (amongst other things) The Whuffie Factor, coworking pioneer and theorist (in a very accessible way). In many ways, Tara has been a harmonising voice in a technology dominated world – reminding us that its the people that matter most.

Tara’s 2009 presentation on vendor relationship management has influenced the thinking of many (or even found its way into the thinking of many surreptitiously), including myself. But never content to let ideas percolate in isolation, Tara  went beyond the theory into practice, bootstrapping and launching Buyosphere, a fashion suggestion and style matching website. I can remember signing up myself, wondering how it may work out here in Australia. It was an idea ahead of its time.

In late 2012, after growing and struggling to scale, Tara stepped out of Buyosphere, taking a role with Toronto based communications and engagement company, MSLGROUP. As she explained at the time, “If we were going down, let’s go down in a blaze of glory. Or at least with a product we could be proud of.”

Yesterday, in classic style, Tara shared the next stage of the journey – saying goodbye to Buyosphere:

Once upon a time there were three startup founders who had a dream. They were going to build something that solved fashion search. And they spent 3 years of their lives, their entire savings and pretty much all of their energy on it. Fortunately, they built something great and learned a whole bunch. Unfortunately, they ran out of money, time and energy and had to go back to work and once they abandoned the site, it never took off. xoxo Buyosphere. We love you.

Watch this video and you will hear the very personal, emotional and exciting journey that Tara and the team went through. It’s the journey that so many of us take – or wish we had taken. And while I too, feel sad, to see from a distance, that Buyosphere has ended, I also feel great hope. There have been lessons learned and friendships forged. This is a story of disruption, disrupted, not destroyed. And I for one can’t wait to know what’s next – not just from Tara but from all who build on her experiences.

Twitter Kills More of Its Darlings-Tweet Analytics for All

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In writing, you must kill your darlings.
— William Faulkner

Ever since my first reading, I have loved William Faulkner. His genius leapt through the page to punch the reader in the throat. And while this quote about murdering your darlings – your favourites, your supporters, your most dearly treasured – can truly be attributed to him is doubtful. But when it comes to creativity, there is a certain dramatic logic to it. After all, it’s easy to learn to love something that you have struggled to bring to life. And for the reader, that struggle – in the reading – is also acknowledged. We read in struggle or defiance as much as we read in love. So when an author kills her darlings, the characters, situations etc that she created, the reader also shares in the loss. The drama. The agony. And the surprise.

And this is the great reward.

But when I see this approach applied to businesses – especially to startups – I baulk. In this always-connected world, it’s a struggle to create something new, useful and easy to adopt (unless it’s a puppy). It is hard to “cut through”. Hard to build an audience and generate traction with a cynical community. And it is hard to attract customers, scale through your technical challenge, attract funding and talent, and build a culture that empowers employees, attracts customers and satisfies stakeholders.

In short, the challenge is in creating a participatory ecosystem with enough value to go around.

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With this in mind, I greet the release of Twitter Analytics with a smile AND a shrug.It is great for Twitter users who have an interest in data, impact and so on, but it is yet another anti-ecosystem move. It’s like LinkedIn’s recent decision to close off API access to sites such as Nimble. On the one hand it makes sense. “Consolidate. Be all things to all people. Own the platform.” But on the other hand, it’s limited and limiting. It’s an attempt at monetising without an ecosystem vision. And it is an affront to the users who have invested not just in the platform (Twitter, LinkedIn and yes Facebook too), but in the ecosystem as well.

In some cases our investment has been made in dollars, but that usually pales into insignificance when we evaluate our time, effort and process commitments.

Now, there is no doubt that Twitter Analytics will be useful because it provides people like myself with access to powerful data analysis tools. I dare say, eventually, it will evolve into a suite of tools that I can pay for too (more ways to monetise).

But the release of Twitter Analytics will stop external growth and investment in the Twitter ecosystem. It means that the plethora of businesses (large and small) that have sprung up thanks to the goldmine of real-time data available through social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and yes, even Google+ have one less reason to be. And thousands of less customers to attract. On that list will be everyone from Tweetreach to Hootsuite.

But the bigger challenge that comes with killing your darlings, is that they are not yours alone. And when you turn on something your customers love, you lose a little bit of that love that we had for you. And eventually, as with all disruptions, there will come a time when something or someone newer and shinier will come along. That’s when you – Twitter – will want every ounce of loyalty to play out. But by then you’ll have squandered it.

If I have learned anything from the world of software, it is that ECOSYSTEMS WIN in the long run. And if you really do want to change the world and be part of every person’s digital life, the likes of Twitter and LinkedIn would do well to think big – not just for themselves, but for all their stakeholders. Kill your darlings by all means, just make sure your aim is true.

Why Do People Leave Jobs?

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When I begin working with clients I work to understand what their ambassadors think about them. I look to their customers and suppliers to get a sense of what is working and what is not. But there is no better source of insight than a company’s employees. These are the people who are actively engaging and promoting the company every day. They are the face of the brand and are – in many instances – the custodian of customer experience. If an employee is having a bad day, your brand is likely to feel the impact.

This infographic from Bamboo HR is based on interviews with over 1000 US-based employees. And they look not just at the reasons that people leave, but the conditions that make people unhappy. Because unhappy employees perform worse than happy ones. No surprises there, right? But there is a substantial difference between an employee who is unhappy and a company culture that MAKES people unhappy. And far too often, the reasons that people are unhappy is not to do with the people that they work with, but the conditions that they work under.

Take a look at the statistics in this infographic. Do these situations worry you? Do some of these apply to your business? Do you even know?

There are ways to fix this and it may be easier than you imagine. Let’s chat!

 

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Disruption from the Medieval to the Digital World

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vatican-libraryOne of the most exciting and interesting projects I came across during my time working with IBM was the digitisation of the Vatican Library. A great humanist project, the Vatican Library was created during the Renaissance when books were literally hand crafted. Scribes, illuminators, binders and printers would work together to create objects that were as beautiful as the content.

It was Nicholas V (1447-1455) who decided that the Latin, Greek and Hebrew manuscripts, which had grown from 350 to around 1,200 from his accession to the time of his death (March 24 1455), should be made available for scholars to read and study.

On his death, Pope Nicholas V (1447-55) gifted his extensive personal library to the Vatican. Containing Latin and Greek codices as well as secret archives of the Popes, these three collections formed the basis of what would become the Palatine Library under Nicholas’ successor, Sixtus IV. A dark and damp space accommodating shelves, desks, benches and a growing collection, the knowledge contained in these spaces soon burst forth.

VaticanLibrary Under successive popes, the collection grew. Sixtus V rebuilt the library, adding frescos, large bright windows and benches. Of course, as was the custom of the time, each volume was held fast by a solid chain. There were strict rules about reading and copying but books were also loaned. The records of these loans are still in existence. They’d make fascinating reading in their own right.

But the flow and accumulation of knowledge could not be stemmed. This new, beautiful library was soon flooded, with books washing out of the main rooms and into hallways and adjoining rooms. The torrent could not be stopped. In fact, it was bolstered by the Pope himself. Pope Clement XI (1700-21), for example, actively acquired manuscripts and volumes from all parts of Asia, effectively establishing the Oriental Collection.

But not all these acquisitions were completely free of drama or controversy. One of Nicholas V’s first contributions to the library was the secret archives of the Vatican. Now covering over 1000 years of history, the Archivum Secretum Vaticanum separately houses  a treasure trove of precious documents on 85km of shelving. Furthermore, some of the acquisitions have raised eyebrows over the centuries:

For example, the first 6 books of the ‘Annals of Tacitus’ were known to have been stolen from the Monastery of Corvey. In the early 16th century Pope Leo was able to acquire them, and fully knew the circumstances. In 1515 he made printed copies of the manuscript, and ‘graciously’ sent a set of the ‘printed’ books, specially bound, to the Abbot of Corvey. [You can now see translations of these on Wikipedia.]

This, of course, raises questions around ownership, copyright and ethics. But it goes deeper – to the root of power, knowledge and human experience. It impacts identity and community and touches our foundational institutions no matter whether they are educational, political or cultural in nature. Understanding the flow of this far reaching impact is how we identify the fact that we are living in a state of disruption. Elizabeth Eisenstein, in her discussion of the impact of the invention of the printing press outlined five impacts of this “new media”:

  1. Experts coming under pressure from new voices who are early adopters of new technology
  2. New organisations emerge to deal with the social, cultural and political changes
  3. There is a struggle to revise the social and legal norms — especially in relation to intellectual property
  4. The concepts of identity and community are transformed and new forms of language come into being
  5. Educators are pressured to prepare their students for the newly emerging world

Today, we face this same torrent of disruption. This time, instead of hard, physical and space-consuming books, the disruption is driven by the accumulation of data. But we don’t have the hand-picked curatorial power of the Vatican Librarians. We don’t have a carefully crafted, focused collection. We have a vast sea of bits and bytes loosely connected by strings of relevance, some social cohesion and meaning and an electricity and data grid that spans the planet.

Eric Schmidt from Google famously stated that we now create as much information in two days as we did from the dawn of civilisation up to 2003. A princely figure worthy of any Pope. The Vatican Library pales by comparison:

In September 2002 the new Periodicals Reading Room, where the most important material is available to readers on open shelves, was opened to the public. At present the Vatican Library preserves over 180,000 manuscripts (including 80,000 archival units), 1,600,000 printed books, over 8,600 incunabula, over 300,000 coins and medals, 150,000 prints, drawings and engravings and over 150,000 photographs.

The Vatican Library was conceived as a vast humanist initiative. And it is one that has stood the test of time. But in this push to digitise every aspect of our lives, I wonder whether we are missing something important. As Ben Kunz suggested, there is somethind deeply personal and decidely human about our relationship to books and knowledge.

After all, our memories are deeply tied up with these dusty old objects that haunt our lives. And no matter how many blog posts or videos we produce, they never have as much impact as a table thumping tome. Just think, for example, how many businesses have disappeared or merged over the last 20 years. How many of them will still be here in 1000? Amazon may rise and fall, but I’d lay money on the fact that the Vatican Library will still be there in 3014.

Candy Everybody Wants–Even Accountants

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Let me start with a confession.

Many years ago – a time lost in the mists – my first job was as an accountant. Actually, it was as a “trainee accountant” – I studied at night at worked by day. It was a hard slog – and it wasn’t a job that I loved. Eventually I ditched that work/study combo for the much more lucrative opportunity to make theatre and write under the auspices of a degree in the Arts (ahem). But I have always had a grudging affinity with accountants.

But I will be honest – it’s a conservative profession. So when it comes to social media and branding, accounting and accounting-related professions are behind the 8-ball. After all, we trust them with our money, our taxes and what we would consider our financial future – so we rightly expect a degree of decorum. Risk aversion. Security.

So when accounting software business, MYOB comes out with a sassy promo like this, you have to sit up and take notice.

What do you think? Are you loving your job this much?

Forget the Internet of Things. Think the “Internet of Me”

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How_do_life_events_change_your_audience_and_how_do_you_map_it__admaforumIt’s easy to get excited about devices – about the latest, newest and shiniest phone, band, tablet or watch. It’s also cool to think about how internet enabling our other devices makes our lives better, more efficient or simpler. Internet enabled TVs for example, play in this space. Same with internet-connected refrigerators, light bulbs, or air conditioning. They come with cool names like Nest or Emberlight and sit under the ever expanding category of “internet of things”.

And there is more. Way more. There are scales like Withings that connect to your home wifi to upload your weight and BMI ratings. There are wireless speaker systems like Sonos that pipe streamed music into the location of your choice. There are voice activated home automation systems, barbeques and crockpots that cook on command and even deadbolts that keep your home secure yet know when you approach.

But they are all distractions.

Because it’s not really about the internet of things. It’s the “internet of me”.

Just as the size of mobile phones have collapsed while their power has increased, the same will occur with digital sensors. Just look at the mCube accelerometer that’s only one millimetre across. Accelerometers are the technology that measure movement and vibration. If you have a mobile phone, you have an accelerometer. They are the things that detect that you are picking up the phone, walking or driving (or moving etc) up a hill or down it. They are used in your car to trigger air bags in a car crash – and there are hundreds of other uses.

But the most interesting thing about this latest, small version is what it means for technology – it allows it to disappear. Just think, no one wants to wear Google Glasses because they are ugly, clunky in interface and intrusive in a social environment. It’s as if no one in the Googleplex thought for a moment about the social use of technology (surprise, surprise, they’re all technologists) – and by “social” it is about the three important social outcomes explained by Tara Huntdoes this get me made, laid or paid?

And at the heart of this focus is one thing. Me.

It’s time we forgot the “internet of things” and started thinking the “internet of me”. And then, maybe, we just might (not) see these technologies turning up in a fabric nearby.

And that’s when it will all get very interesting.

It’s Gruen for Innovation – That Startup Show

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What is a startup? How is it different from a small business? And what role does innovation and/or technology play in a startup?

These are some of the first topics addressed by the new “entertainment startup” web-cast show, That Startup Show. Hosted by Dan Ilic and streamed live, the show takes a leaf out of ABC’s The Gruen Transfer – a smart, funny and insightful panel drilling into focused topics interspersed with clips and live pitch sessions.

Panelists Bronwen Clune, Alan Noble and Sebastien Eckersley-Maslin, provide an industry perspective and Dan Ilic does a great job of keeping the conversation flowing. They take live tweet questions from the crowd and cover a vast range of topics in a very short time.

This first episode marks an important innovation in the development of the Australian startup ecosystem. It’s “StartupAus” beginning to tell its own stories at scale. And that can only be a good thing. Looking forward to Episode 2.

Influence: Be the First to Give

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In the digital world we are fascinated by influence. We want to know who has influence and we want to know who is influenced by whom. We strive for influence in our personal and professional lives and we reject the overt nature of influence that impacts us through advertising and messaging (even though it still affects us).

Robert Cialdini’s book on Influence is a must-read for marketers. His six principles of influence work together to connect intention and action and are vital to the success of any marketing activity. However, in digital and social marketing, the focus tends to rely on just two elements – social proof and liking. It’s partly why we often feel marketers and brands are “yelling” at us online. There is a simple antidote to this:

Be the first to give.

In this infographic from Everreach, summarising the six principles, they call out that proactive use of reciprocity as a “weapon of influence”. Working this way creates a faster and more immediate bond between brands and their customers. More importantly, it sets the scene for the remaining elements. So, next time – before you ask someone to buy, think about what it is that you can give.

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Disrupt Your Strategy – Planning for Audiences not Generations

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I have never been a fan of demographic profiling. Sure, this information, at scale, can reveal certain things about a population – and this can be useful to understand whether there might be a connection between our age and (for example) our propensity to over-eat. Or contract disease. Or buy new cars every four years.

But populations don’t interest me. They feel like a dead weight around my sense of, and interest in, humanity. Instead, I prefer audiences – which is perhaps why I studied theatre rather than statistics.

It’s also why I am continually fascinated by digital technology and transformation – and it is why social media continues to attract the attention of people, corporations and governments. For digital transformation is not just about bringing the non-digital world online – it’s challenging the very nature of what we consider “our selves” to be.

As marketers, we are constantly drawn to the idea of demographics – the cashed up profiling of the Baby Boomers, the anxious, try-harder Gen X-ers and the slacker Gen Ys. But like any generalisation, these labels are easily unpicked. There are plenty of Baby Boomers who are slackers and plenty of cashed up, power wielding Gen X-ers. And Gen Y are just starting to flex their creative, financial and intellectual powers – and there is more goodness to come. Rather than simply relying on this style of profiling, we should be working harder to understand these audiences. We need to map their behaviours, attitudes and interests, not just their age, sex and location.

This is why I quite like the work that marketing automation firm, Marketo, has done on Generation Z. And while, yes, they have started out with the age-focused label, the research carried out by agency, Sparks and Honey, reveals the patterns of behaviour, interests, attitudes and insights that can help build a deeper understanding of this audience. While the data reflects a US-based audience, there are cultural parallels that are useful indicators such as:

  • Do-Gooders – an interest in making a difference in the world
  • Shift FROM Facebook – Facebook lost its allure when the parents arrived. Gen Z are embracing newer platforms like snapchat, secret and whisper
  • Creation trumps sharing – Gen Z embrace the prosumer ethic of digital media creativity.

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But to really understand this “Gen Z” audience, I would go further. I wouldn’t stop at the age of 19. I would ask:

  • Why would my brand be relevant to audiences exhibiting these behaviours
  • Why would these audiences choose to purchase my product/service/thing
  • Which values embodied by my brand augments the life, behaviour, experience or purpose of this audience
  • How do these behavioural profiles help me understand my customers regardless of age / demographics

And when it comes to planning, insight and future proofing your brand, I’d look to opportunities to self-disrupt your strategy. Ditch the path of lazy profiling, put the work in to really understand your audiences, and then invite them into the process of creating a brand that has a purpose. Start by delving into the data behind the Sparks and Honey research (below) – and then work on your own business by starting with the audiences you rely upon.