Category Archives: ENG

A red (and angry) bird stands out from the crowd

Peter Vesterbacka, Mighty Eagle at Rovio Entertainment Ltd. shared his thoughts on branding at Thought Leader’s Talk event at Startup Sauna on Dec 17th. Having recently celebrated the 5th bird’s day (hatched out Dec 11th 2009) Angry birds is probably the fastest growing consumer brand ever with 2,5 billion downloaded games. They are proud to continue the success of other cool, red brands like Coca-Cola and Santa Claus.

Birds

The Angry Birds Story started in game business where the challenge is to differentiate in the abundance of game offering. Peter’s advice is to do things differently. Difference can be in small details like red color that stands out. Creating impression with the brand is equally important. Angry Birds provokes a question on why the birds are angry. This leads to a compact answer that is a story in itself: because the pigs stole their eggs.

Staying focused is essential for the Angry Birds brand. Rovio has two key things: the fans and the brand. (Yes, just two is enough for them. Was I the only one waiting to hear about the third key thing because we are taught to hear three things, not just two?)

When the brand has been established, it also has to be leveraged. When launching Angry Birds animations Rovio leveraged their existing stronghold: the games that people had downloaded to their digital devices. By updating the game software to include a “View” button they had a ready-made distribution network in use.

Another example on leveraging the brand was Angry Binds branded soft drinks that create habits: drinking reminds of playing and the game reminds of the drink. In China Rovio had leveraged local Moon Festival by creating seasonal Angry Birds game around the theme and selling Angry Birds branded moon cakes. People around the world learned about the Moon Festival through the game and Rovio had again managed to do things differently by bringing a Chinese event to Europe rather than just taking a game to China.

There was a question from the audience on Rovio’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities. Peter regarded CSR as an integral part of making good business. Consumers make choices based on how the brands bear their responsibility. Making good business as part of everyday business is eventually much more sustainable than glued on top charity that does not match with company’s other values. 

I asked about protecting the brand. As the value of Angry Birds brand increases, how do they keep up the exploring spirit and prevent from becoming overly protective. Peter’s answer was beautiful as it was so focused: creating great experiences for the fans makes the brand stronger. Stay focused and you will always know what to do.

Reflections of virtual reality on the real world at Slush 2014

Hilmar Veigar Petursson (CCP Games) was the first presenter for the Games track on Slush Black Stage today. He discussed how virtual reality will change gaming and much more. To start with he set an ambitious target to create virtual words that are more meaningful than life. He made a statement on games being more about emotions than about digital constructions and backed his claim with a slide full of different emotions and feelings that people have reported during gaming. Veigar also provided evidence on virtual reality having reflections in the real world:

  • the value of virtual reality items (destroyed) in a game can be measured in real currency
  • in the gamer communities the successful players are more important than the game developers
  • people are inspired to change their looks to resemble a character or avatar in a game
  • many couples originally met in a game

Olli Sinerma (Mindfield Games) took a technical viewpoint to virtual reality. His target setting was to develop a world that you can go in. Today graphics are no more an issue but the challenge is to manage simulator sickness that arises when the virtual reality projected to the eyes does not match the reality that the body is feeling.

Olli emphasized the importance of the feeling of presence and freedom in virtual reality games. All objects that are visible in the game should be possible to touch, move and operate as in real life. He used an example of throwing a basket ball in a virtual room. It is equally important that the virtual reality sounds real as it is that it looks real. A virtual basket ball needs to make different sound depending on what material it hits and from which height it is dropped.

After listening to the presentations, I spotted a game company’s stand where the rollup had a picture of a fox jumping in the forest. Under the roll-up they had brought some autumn leaves. This was my favorite marketing trick at the show today. Very simple, cost nothing and made a true difference by generating an association.

stand_at_slush_2014

Did volunteers build Stonehenge?

Last week I had an opportunity to visit Stonehenge. Surprisingly, it is only a two hour bus drive from London Victoria station. Multiple tourist service providers offer half a day trips from Victoria to Stonehenge and back.

Walking around the monument and listening to the audio guide I was wondering if volunteers built Stonehenge. There was no mention of slaves being used for the construction work. But how the workers were motivated? How was the motivational speech at the Project Stonehenge kickoff? “Friends, let’s put up a giant stone ring for future generations to come to wonder and admire! You’ll carry and shape the stones and I’ll tell you how to mount them.”

Stonehenge

Way or another they managed this project and there the stones still are, the admiring visitors walking around in a large circle around the monument. It’s only a two hour drive from London Victoria. Strongly recommended, if you have a chance to visit!

Artistic experiments with an empty head

Some years back I went to an art course By Riikka Mäkikoskela. Two lessons that have stick in my mind were are ones that started not from innovation or inspiration but from an empty head in front of an empty canvas.

In the first one we were asked to use charcoal to color the paper all black. When this was done, we started wiping out the blackness with cloth and an eraser. I remember throwing a piece of shammy leather against the paper. Dropping off the leather left a shape of a rose on the black paper.

For the other exercise we were requested to bring a soft pillow with us. This was not for sleeping against the table but for crumbling the pillow into an arbitrary shape and making pencil drawings of the shadows on the pillow. Something like finding imaginary characters from clouds in the sky except for that the pillow was stabile compared to continuously re-shaping clouds.

Initially these seem to be invalid approaches for any serious business where analytic thinking and reasoning are the driving forces. On the other hand, many great inventions have been born by accident. When the results are not matching with the expectations, the expectations should be moved aside for a moment to openly think what the results could be used for.

Open mind

Hypervoice challenge at ICT Innovation tournament 2014

I participated ICT Innovation Tournament on Otaniemi, Espoo on Oct 21st – 22nd. The event was organized by Finnish Federation for Communications and Teleinformatics, FiCom and Innovaatiomestarit.  The idea of the two-day tournament and the preceding pre-game was to come up with new ideas around the given tournament challenges.

ICT innovation tournament 2014

The participants were provided with seven corporate initiated challenges to work with. Our team of two persons worked on the Ericsson’s Hypervoice challenge. Hypervoice means recorded voice that can be tagged, sampled. searched, shared and authenticated similarly to hypertext documents.

From innovation perspective the challenge had certain reverse engineering characteristics. The solution (hypervoice) was given and we were expected to come up with a problem with which this solution would fit. This must be somewhat familiar situation with everyone working with engineering solutions.

The combination of Ericsson and voice was interesting in the sense that both mobile and fixed operators have long ago focused on developing and providing data services whereas voice has become a smaller niche of the revenue pie.

To solve the challenge, we came up with a proposal on applying the hypervoice concept to university lectures, enhanced with social media communication. The expected benefit of the proposed solution is to decrease the student graduation times via more active participation at the lectures and thus decrease education costs.

The tournament says proceeded in a fast phase. We worked together with Ericsson’s coaches and judges who both provided us feedback and set new intermediate targets during the tournament days. Overall this was a positive and energizing experience, a two-day rush from rather vague idea to a five minute business pitch at the end of the tournament. As one of the participants said, a certain level of chaos is a mandatory ingredient in all innovation competitions. Looking back I agree with this. A drop of unclarity and inconsistency free the mind for new ideas much more efficiently that a strictly organized event would be able to do.

An army of seeds at “Kiasma goes Kunsthalle” exhibition 10.10. – 16.11.2014

Startups are often pictured as sprouts.

But where are the seeds? The “Kiasma goes Kunsthalle” exhibition at Kunsthalle (Taidehalli), Helsinki presents Simryn Gill’s work Self-Seeds (1998).

Quoting the exhibition guide: “This work consists of over six hundred seeds, pods and cones that have tiny plastic toy car wheels under them. The materials refer both to the artist’s childhood environment in Malaysia, and to Australia where she moved as an adult. Gill’s art often challenges the way things are pigeonholed in everyday thinking. When a cone is furnished with a set of wheels, the boundary separating nature and culture is broken in a surprising and playful way. Natural objects establish a community, a culture of their own.”

Seeds on wheels

Gill’s work is a marvelous parade of less than ankle sock high natural enclosures on wheels. And look at the growth potential that they are carrying, ready to grow plants and trees up to tens of meters high! I have pictured just two of them. You can experience all the 600+ at the expo until 16.11.2014.

In this world, are we coming or going?

This fascinating piece of stairs can be found at the western side of Lasipalatsi building in Helsinki. You can even spot them on Google maps. Search for Lasipalatsi and zoom in. The stairs are visible at the wider end of the cutted cone shaped roof of the Lasipalatsi building. There is a movie theater under that roof.

Lasipalatsi stairs on the wall

Is this an architectural trick designed to enliven the long, white wall or is it just a quick fix to solve an internal problem externally? The two doors are simply two doors, not any grand entrances or exits. If they were originally a quick fix, I do not mind. The construction is still fascinating.

Notices on the drawing: The ladder as well as the handrail are white in real life. / I took the original photo in early spring, on the first day when it was possible to eat at an outdoor terrace without freezing to death. There was a seagull flying above the building but I was too slow to catch him in the photo. You can imagine him high up in the blue, blue sky.

Why sharing beats reporting 6 – 0?

Why writing reports is generally disliked whereas sharing is becoming more and more popular?

1) Reporting is about filling in forms.
Sharing is about ideas and creativity.

forms_ideas_455_241

2) The one who reports has to do it at a certain time.
The one who shares can freely choose when to share.time_455_242

3) Reporting is done because it is required.
Sharing is done because one wants to do it.

required_want_455_189

4) Reporting is primarily pursuing the receiver’s interests.
Sharing can be applied to pursue the sharer’s own interests.

interests_455_228

5) A report is expected to have a certain length.
Shared content can be ultimately minimal.

length_minimal_455_173

6) Reported content is expected to be serious.
Shared content can be fun.

serious_fun_455_170

Sharing 6 – Reporting 0.

How to make an investment decision in 7 minutes?

Via a customer case I had an opportunity to attend Seed Forum International pitch training in Helsinki on Sept 5th. It was a tough yet rewarding day. The trainer, Steinar Korsmo, President & CEO Seed Forum Global together with the jury headed by Katri Liekkilä, Training Manager at Aalto Small Business Center walked the training participants through a learning path towards high quality investor pitching.

Have you ever wondered how investors can make even initial decisions on whether to investigate a company further based on a few minutes pitch presentation? They will be able to do this if the pitch has been constructed as Seed Forum advices to do. We were taught to present the key aspects of the company in a way that matches with the investor’s mindset.

pitching_455_581

If R&D means working in a laboratory whereas sales and marketing means reaching out to customers an investor pitch gets one major step further out from the cozy company home base. When pitching to potential investors the company business as a whole becomes the sales item that needs to be promoted. Compared to a traditional product or solution presentation, the scope an investor pitch is much wider reaching out to market potential, business model and budget figures.

Seed Forum has concluded through experiment and experience that seven minutes is an optimal length for an investor pitch. Given a three minutes slot the presenters tend to prolong the presentation over the admitted time and given ten to twelve minutes they tend to finish earlier than needed. So that’s why the seven minutes.

Back to the question in the heading of this post: how to analyze a company’s business opportunity and the team within 7 minutes? This is where the magic lies in Seed Forum training: they have defined the value drivers that the investors expect to be hearing and the order in which the facts need to be presented. A “scalable business model” is one of the mandatory requirements. Poor scalability would ruin the growth potential and thus make the company uninteresting for an investor having a rapid exit in mind. A global customer base, rapidly expanding global market, recurring revenues, patent protected innovation and the first mover’s advantage are also perfect additions to the pack.

Is this all easier to say than to implement? Surely yes, but the role of the Seed Forum training is to teach how to make the best possible pitch from the ingredients that are available in the company. Evolving from a startup to an investor ready company is a story to be written by each company by themselves.

Are you interested in attending? Check Seed Forum calendar at http://www.seedforum.org/calendar.