Friday, June 30, 2006

Syndrome of the perfect green apple (again)

There's an interesting interview on Guy Kawasaki's blog with the CEO of a business called MyPleasure, which is "dedicated to providing the finest adult toy shopping experience possible" (quoted from their site). What prompts this post is this answer of MyPleasure's CEO:

"We tend to do exceptionally well in the “red states". At first, we were a little surprised by this, but this actually makes a lot of sense. If you are living in a conservative community in the South, for example, and you want something to enhance your relationship, where exactly are you going to go? Even if there is an “adult bookstore” or something of the kind in your state, it is probably quite a drive and most likely in a bad part of town, and you are unlikely to find a sales person who actually knows anything about the products or you would want to talk to. Also, you probably want to avoid running into your neighbor or your minister."

Red states in the US, in case you had not guessed, are states voting for the Republicans (or GOP), the party of the current President. Interestingly the GOP is positionned as the party of morality and traditional values. In view of the info provided by the CEO of MyPleasure, I come to wonder whether the GOP is not in fact the most potent factor of neurosis and psychological disorders in the US simply because it amplifies the disconnect between what people think they must look like or do to be "acceptable" or "honorable" in their local societies and what people actually want for themselves.

From a marketing perspective the insight provided by this case is simple: never assume... ever!

From a social and political perspective, I guess it may be time for all of us to meditate on the syndrome of our societies to seek "perfect green apples". By this I mean that we pay more attention to the way people, products, companies, animals, food... look than to their substance. That may be why...

  • job offers contain unrealistic / unnecessary requirements

  • candidates lie on their CVs

  • marketers lie about their products

  • performance indicators are consistently manipulated

  • project support offices exist in big corporations

  • the art of politics by the people and for the people became a line of business reserved to an elite serving special interests

  • the Peter principle remains consistently valid in big corporations

  • merit is irrelevant in many parts of our society

  • a good product without excellent marketing fails

  • vaporware became a discipline for at least one big software company

  • people who never paid any attention to nature nor to people all of a sudden portray themselves as champions of durable development and charity initiatives

  • the same politicians remain in the spotlight for decades

  • ...

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Daring, amazing Jajah... again

234x60_04_3Yesterday I received an email from Frederik a guy working for Jajah with whom I have had a couple of email exchanges in the past. Today, David another friend based in Luxembourg sent me the same information and I guess I have several comments about this bold initiative and about the marketing methods used by Jajah.

About the initiative: it's really bold because it actually positions Jajah very strongly vis-à-vis:

  1. traditional incumbents in the telco business: why would I use good old Belgacom, the national legacy operator of Belgium, when I can have free international telephony using Jajah?

  2. incumbents of the previous InfoTech wave in the telco business: one of the reasons I kept using Skype was because it gave me free Skype-to-Skype telephony + chat + SMS... In fact, here Jajah simply matches what Skype is offering, but IMHO it is not strong enough yet to displace Skype that I still consider as a great service (and therefore keep using along Jajah). As an aside, I would say that Skype could actually very easily offer exactly what Jajah is offering by using their conferencing system to establish phone-to-phone conversations pretty much like Jajah does, but only using their client application (which remains a big difference between the two solutions).

So looking at it from the perspective of the business model, of marketing strategy and of the commercial approach to seize a market, I am really amazed at what Jajah is doing. As a user / customer I am delighted, needless to say... and I do not necessarily care about the return to Jajah's shareholders, although I am indeed very sensitive to their plea that they are offering something and hope I will be using more of their services in exchange (I will, because I like what they do and I like the way their services work).

Now, about the marketing methods used: it's great buzz marketing and I remain absolutely amazed at the way Jajh is generating noise, getting in touch with people who speak about them, encourage users to share opinions... I know wome people out there feel quite angry with those methods that they consider as unfair and manipulative. And yes, they can be, but in my opinion, as long as there is no attempt to "buy" my opinion or to force my public position about Jajah, I don't see a problem. In fact, for me the topic of Jajah's market entry is interesting enough to be analyzed. Anyway, since they sent me the press release they issued, let me put it in this post because I know it may be an inspiration for a couple of my start-up customers out there... and that's actually also a good contribution from Jajah's people: showing how to do things when one wants to achieve proper market entry with a new offering ;-)

Download jajah_press_free_calls_0606_en.pdf

Football World Cup Ethnology

TeamgeistFootball (soccer for my US friends) is not really my cup of tea although I enjoy "good" games (see below for my definition of "good"). The fact is though that soccer is interesting to analyze in order to get insights about the way we, humans, function.

I guess one can be quite disdainful with this very popular game, but in
fact it is worth observing and thinking about it a bit more. Observing
players, coaches, assistant coaches, the public, referees,
journalists... gives us interesting insights into our human condition.
It's a bit like the very funny ethnological observations contained in
this slide-show that was sent to me by a friend. Download and enjoy!

Download Footballteamtactics_M_.pps

Now a few words about a "good" game...

A good game is one where:

  1. players actually play football not theater

  2. teams try to achieve their goals and create interesting situations not to destroy the opponent's game and waste time

  3. referees apply rules with good old common sense not in a bureaucratic fashion...

  4. the public has fun watching the game, not fighting and destroying stuff

  5. human respect is part of the process because no "result" is worth achieving with violence

In a way a "good" football game is like a "good" company or a "good" government: focused on what matters to create better customer / user / citizen experience. And perhaps it could become better with less rigidity and conversatism: for example it may be time to start using technology for referees to make better decisions... In football too progress and innovation can be good.

Amazing how many things can be said about what the critics sometimes call a "stupid game where idiots push a leather ball"... Even the ball itself has its story and we humans like stories,don't we? That's certainly something the marketers of this event understood very well...

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The worth of social welfare

20060623_hopitalsteelisabethAfter a hectic period I am back online and catching up on my projects. A couple of weeks ago my Mum had a serious health problem and was admitted to a Brussels hospital. So that's were part of my focus has been and I must say how impressed I am at the challenges of managing such public health facilities. It must be a huge endeavour and I can tell you it is priceless to feel confident that the health system is good enough, passionate enough, serious enough to help someone you care for recover. That prompted me to think about the worth of European social welfare systems. By and large, their contribution is unaccounted for in traditional metrics of wealth. This is not about how many Euros of turnover a hospital is making; it is about how much well-being it provides to people regardless of their ability to pay for the medical services or not.  It is about the relative peace of mind it provides to the relatives of those who are ill when they have to be working while their loved ones are being taken care of. These things are priceless. Now the question begs: how do we keep financing that in the current economic context with the present state of public finances? What's the real worth of existing social welfare systems and how should it be measured? These may be questions worth answering before trying to bring all those systems under the fold of the private sector. The examples of the UK and the US is worth studying too... Places where a citizen has a right to remain in good health that is proportionate to their monetary net worth. Food for thought.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Antivirus comparatives

Good summary of study comparing the performance of popular antivirus programmes: the bottom line is that, as Gentlesecurity's CTO says, "in order to ensure that at least all known pieces of malware are detected you have to install dozens of AVs :-)"

read more | digg story

Positive coverage for Jamendo

As you know I have been following Jamendo for over half a year now, doing some work on their business model and business plan. In the process I also became a member of the community and I discovered quite a few jems in the music published on Jamendo. Today, I am really excited with some very positive news from their tour in the US and from their participation to events for start-ups in Europe. Let me quote this bit from this blog:

"Company: Jamendo < >
Customers: from Google Ads
Competitors: Magnatune, Soundclick, Snocap.
Key Judge Question: As an artist what does the deal look like for me?   
Monetization: Ad sales, Media Partnerships, Revenue split with Artists 15% of commercial use licenses.
Business Challenge:  Bringing the model to the US.
Quick Take:
The have exponential growth, and like all communities that add value to
their users, they seem to be growing very fast via word-of-mouth.  The
business model is also refreshing and should go far.
Would I invest: Yes."

The following links are also interesting to visit if you want to learn more about Jamendo.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

When legacy media get it

A couple of weeks ago I worte a little piece about the BBC and how they seem to really have a strategy to leverage their position as traditional media and make the most of all the good stuff of the web. This is an intersting additional indication: to me it sows that the BBC wants to become truly interactive instead of being a passive broadcaster. It wants to move from a "one institution to many users" model to a much more dynamic and interactive way of dealing with content and its audience. To me these guys look like they're on a very good path to the future of media.

From Digg:

BBC News has introduced a new feature that allows you to see in real-time which stories are most popular with readers, and levels of traffic from across the globe. I want to see more of this on other sites! Link to actual traffic monitor is:

read more | digg story

Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Very interesting security product

SP32-20060607-090614I have been trying out the personal edition of a security product called GesWall produced by Gentlesecurity, a company based in Luxembourg. I met the guys who developed GesWall. I decided to try the personal edition of the product and will also run tests on the server version.

The personal edition is really great and it protects my machine from intrusions and malware using an innovative approach: what GesWall does for me is to isolate suspicious applications and processes from the rest of my machine, allowing them to run without letting them impact the machine itself. I tried running BitTorrent and Skype in isolated mode; the applications run fine and anything they produce in terms of files stored on my machine will also be isolated by GesWall Personal Edition. SP32-20060607-091236Here’s a screenshot of BitTorrent running in isolated mode, while downloading music from Jamendo (of course). The files it saves on my machine are automatically isolated by GesWall; GesWall allows me to use those files in non-isolated mode.

In fact this product allows me to dynamically manage my machine’s security without requiring any updates of virus or malware data files, nor any complicated configuration from me as a user. Great stuff.

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Les Temps Modernes : Musical modern times from Ehma (Belgium)

I have been using Jamendo for over three months and I just love the musical discoveries the platform offers. My latest is an album called "Les temps modernes" by a band called Ehma who are from Belgium. Now, the funny part is that I live in Belgium but was able to discover Ehma only through Jamendo; in fact that is also the power of the web and I think it disproves the assertions of many who believed technology isolates people. Anyway, enough about the greatness of the web: go listen to Ehma because it's really worth it. Enjoy!

Friday, June 2, 2006

Fascinating day and food for thought

These days I am in Luxembourg and I am working on very interesting projects, a couple for early stage ventures and one for a more established business that has an enormous growth challenge ahead. Yesterday's sessions were great; the discussions dealt with business models and the strategy of having free versions of software products on the market.

All these sessions provided good food for thougt to me; you know how strongly I feel about good work being done on a company's business model and strategy. While doing some personal research I found this interesting post. Here's a quote:

"Give your service away for free, possibly ad supported but maybe not,
acquire a lot of customers very efficiently through word of mouth,
referral networks, organic search marketing, etc, then offer premium
priced value added services or an enhanced version of your service to
your customer base."

The author also insists on the necessity to keep all features provided in the initial free version totally free in future version. I am not sure I fully agree with that because in some cases entrepreneurs do not know at first how to differentiate free versions from charged versions (in which case it's better to adjust the offring as things become clearer with the product).

Viral marketing

I have been working a lot on buzz and viral marketing lately; great space and a fantastic innovation in marketing methods and practices. In fact a small revolution because the concepts of one-to-one marketing and micro-segmentation that were developed a few years ago are now usable in the field.

Influence marketing (buzz, viral, word-of-mouth...) is a great response to
the drop of efficiency of more traditional methods and I think these
methods are also particularly well suited tomarkets like teenagers and to product launches.  However, I think it requires some pretty clear rules like disclosure by people participating to a buzz campaign and absolute freedom for buzz participants to say whatever they feel is adequate, fair and honest about the offering being promoted. Just an exciting field.

Here 's a film that I found quite funny that was released a few hours ago by Culture Buzz.

Thursday, June 1, 2006

About the VC model and fitting startups

I came across a great blog with lots of interesting content written by a VC who is also a technologist with grey hair (in the Valley since the early eighties). Since I have a couple of customers who are in the startup or growth stage, I thought I'd give these links here:

Excellent food for thought. Enjoy.