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.

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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.

Happy Holidays!

I would like to take this chance to wish all of my friends, family and readers a very merry Christmas and all the best for 2012. Thanks to all of you who have taken a minute or two of your time to read through some of my scribbles. I would especially like to thank those few who have commented and joined the discussion.

There’ll be some interesting posts coming up in early 2012. For example I will be covering my trip to Silicon Valley, so stay tuned.

See you all next year…

1955 – 2011

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do” – Steve Jobs

I would like to extend my condolence to the people who have been left without a husband, a father, a friend, a mentor, a colleague, an inspiration.

You left us a world that is more creative and fun.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” SJ 2005

First post…

Okay, it is August 7 12:12 AM and I’m about to write my first post. Nothing fancy or insightful, but surely something in a long list of first’s that are about to come.

What I basically decided a couple of weeks back was that I’ll start blogging about my own start-up (first that I’m involved in) that is currently shaping up and also the start-up community and environment that I belong to at any given time. Currently I’m in Oulu, Finland, but in a week or so I’ll be heading to Copenhagen (first time there) for a semester of entrepreneurial studies at Copenhagen business school.

My plan is to write about several topics related to start-up’s and how I got involved in the first place. I’ll also offer some insight based on what I have learnt during the journey that I have taken with my fellow co-founders (a first for them too).

I’ll just end this post with something I read in the book “The unbearable lightness of being” by Milan Kundera; “What happened but once, might as well not have happened at all”

Following this, I’m sure all the first’s here and the first’s to come, will be followed by second’s and third’s and other’s. Some of them more successful  when others are bound to fail. However, this has been a beginning to something new and we just have to see where it ends up.