Words on design (takeaways from Autodesk)

The aim of any company is to create two reactions:

  1. WOW
  2. Uh-Oh

You want to create the WOW reaction in your customers and their customers. You want to surprise them time and time again by being awesome, crazy, unexpected, special, simply great and unbeatable.

You want to create the Uh-Oh reaction in your competitors and their customers. Similarly, you want to take them by surprise time and time again by being awesome, crazy, unexpected, special, simply great and unbeatable.

Mimicking competition won’t create WOW, nor will it create Uh-Oh. What it creates is commodities. We all know that commodities are next to zero in value and there is quite frankly nothing sexy about being a commodity. So why not do something of value? And further why not do something your competitors can’t or won’t do? The catch is that today, features and how you make or do something hardly separates you from your competitors. You need take a closer look at design to create something that is a WOW and an Uh-Oh and simultaneously something your competitors can’t do.

Take for example the iPod. It was hardly the first portable consumer mp3 player and since its launch there have been many attempts to overthrow its position. So what made it a WOW to millions of consumers and an Uh-Oh to all its competitors. I’m sure you guessed already. Yes, I’m talking about design. The iPod was a masterpiece of design. It actually combines several forms of design that makes it almost impossible to copy. It is a product design, a fashion design, a marketing design, a business model design, a manufacturing design, a business system design and so on.

Looking at the iPod it is easy to see that there is a clear distinction between tactical design (making pretty things – design as a noun – attempting to compete with features or looks) and strategic design (form and function from a user perspective – design as a verb – competing by separating yourself from all other actors). This is quite the same as attempting to compete in terms of price, there will always be someone willing to do it cheaper. Similarly there will always be the new model that is prettier, faster, lighter, shinier etc. So be and think different by looking at different forms of design. Figure out how design can make your competitors look like commodities.

Design is to companies what sunglasses are for Neo or what a special ring is to Frodo. You just shouldn’t separate them.

Seed, Startup, Growth, Transition

This trip to San Francisco and Silicon Valley has definitely been an opportunity of a lifetime to learn from people who have done it. Before the big finale, Disk 2012- life in 4D, innovation tournament with Autodesk, UC Berkeley Haas Business School and InnoCoop, it is time to reflect on some of the meetings we have had with entrepreneurs here.

We have been fortunate to meet teams that are in different phases of their business. First, Pedicine, a company creating a new and innovative way to manage your medical data globally is working hard with exploring the opportunities related to their idea and developing the company. At this stage it is important to find the right people who can take the company to the next level and attract other people to get involved.

Today we had the privilege to meet with the guy behind Appington. Appington is a company which is revolutionizing the way how advertisers connect with customers through apps. Instead of annoying banner ads, Appington has brought the traditional audio advertisements to mobile platforms by embedding ads into the user experience. The company is currently working with first customers and working hard to create more traction. At this stage, getting as much feedback and insight as possible from potential customers and target groups is irreplaceable. Most founders waste time here thinking about (and creating) elaborate business plans and business models, but the truth is your plans are going to change so rapidly that keeping your presentations and documents up to date is a waste of time. Create a hypothesis, validate it with your target group and iterate when needed.

Betterdoctor, the company I talked about last time, Is possibly a little bit more established than Appington. The company has been successful in creating traction both in terms of getting doctors to join the service as well as getting customers to use the service. Currently the company is looking for external financing options in order to grow the company and secure a larger market share. read more about the growth stage of Betterdoctor from my earlier post.

Finally, looking at a fourth stage of young companies, we can see a transition from being rapidly changing and in some situations chaotic to being established and more mature and structured companies. This is pretty much where Luxus (especially its San Francisco office) is. Luxus focuses on combining a strong knowledge in marketing with their exceptional skill set in different technological and SaaS solutions.At this stage of the company, it is important to bring in people who are able to manage and navigate the company in its transition while continuing to generate growth. Here, finding the right partnerships can help companies avoid hurdles in their attempt to become stronger players in their field. It will be interesting to see how Luxus is able to scale their business with the help of their technological innovations.

Getting back to where I started from, tomorrow at Disk, we’ll be working with collaborative design challenges in order to create new and cool ways of thinking about design and where it can be applied. I’m sure that the past meetings have worked as a great primer for the tournament. I’ll give you all a summary of the outcomes of the challenge later.

Valley Venture Capital

The first few days in San Francisco and Berkeley are almost over and a lot has been going on so far. After having a jet lag day with football and a Finnish sauna in the shady parts of Oakland, we got our first chance to meet up with a local (Finnish) entrepreneur. We had the privilege of talking with Ari Tulla from Betterdoctor. We met him at Foundersden, which is a co-working space / startup hub in the heart of San Francisco.

Betterdoctor is a company that is solving the problem of finding a doctor near to you that fits your insurance plan. the problem is that no service combines the data for, doctor specialty, accepted insurance plan, quality verification and availability.

We talked about several topics but an interesting discussion was about VC-money around here. Basically what makes a deal is a good idea, a great founding team (with advisors, lawyers and partners) and basically having built your company in a reasonable way from the beginning. Technology isn’t the key and nor is your idea. Up to 70 % of good teams end up doing something different from what was planned on day 1. Also what Ari thought as crucial is your first VC. If he/she is good, other VC’s will follow.

Guy Kawasaki has similar insight. Below is his VC wish list but do check out his blog for more details.

  1. Build a real business
  2. Get an intro
  3. Follow the 10/20/30 rule
  4. Show traction
  5. Clean up your act
  6. Disclose everything you can’t clean up
  7. Acknowledge / create competition
  8. Tell new “lies” (Be original)
  9. Don’t fall for old tricks
  10. Under promise and over deliver

HEL – SFO

I promised you all some coverage from my and my friend Matti’s trip to San Francisco and Silicon Valley. We’ll the first leg of the journey is completed. We have safely arrived at Helsinki-Vantaa airport despite all the car wreckage on the roads (yet another whiteout in Helsinki and Finland). Apparently all flights are departing normally thanks to Finnish snowhow (smart eh). Looking forward to all the meetings and events that have been scheduled for the next two weeks. Several lunches and dinners with Finnish entrepreneurs and a couple of innovation events to come.

I’ll try to dig up some nice thoughts about being an entrepreneur in the big league and share the comments and insight here. So stay tuned.

Going to Silicon Valley (update)

Just a quick update on my trip to Silicon Valley.

So as I said earlier, I’ll be traveling to Silicon Valley early this year. The trip has now been booked for 28th February – 12th March. Me and my friend will be visiting some start-ups, getting to meet some cool people and also taking part in some innovation activities that will take place during our stay. Of course we will have some days off too (we will go to hockey games etc.)

I’ll be covering the entire trip right here on my blog. I’m not promising updates every day, but for sure there will be a couple of posts during the trip.

Stay tuned…