October 23, 2013

If you cannot keep up with one blog? Start another!

If you cannot keep up with one blog, it might not seem like a super tactic to start another... Anyway, if not exactly started, we have lately published more frequently to our company blog at blog.tapbookauthor.com.

Wanted to mention it here, in case you wanted to have a look. Not that I have a lot of traffic, but to paraphrase my philosophy regarding exercise: Any additional traffic is better than none at all.

And about that "not keeping up"-part, I actually have managed not to be all that far from my original goal of posting maybe once per month (OK, sometimes not really close either). I do admire people like Fred Wilson posting something quite insightful each and every day, but that was never my goal when starting blogging. And that the focus of the posts here have shifted a bit from lean project management and into entrepreneurship is just fine and reflects my current focus at work, which was exactly what I promised to do. OK, probably thinking and writing too much right now - will stop. :-) Would be cool if you checked out the TapBookAuthor Blog.

September 24, 2013

Correct, Clay? At least in theory.

In a well-written post titled "What Clayton Christensen got wrong", Ben Thompson uses the iPhone as a proof that the theory supporting the disruption-from-below pattern might be wrong. He puts forward that the faulty claims of Christensen are:

(1) Buyers are rational & every attribute that matters can be documented and measured
(2) Modular providers can become “good enough” on all the attributes that matter to the buyers

The grouping of his first two items into (1) is intentional and lets me come to my quick response right away:

(1) Non-functional attributes are of course important to buyers, even professional ones[1]. This is kicking in open doors. Just because Clayton Christensen is not good, or at least has missed here, at predicting just how important they can be, it does not really make the theory wrong. Brand counts. Feeling counts. (And why touching the iPad 1 screen still feels superior to the very newest Android tablet is a mystery to me, but that is a side track!) I'm no expert of rational choice theory, but accounting for these non-functional attributes does not make it less rational in my use of the word - and if the theory is to have any use modelling consumer behaviour, for sure such non-functional elements must be factored in as attributes in some way. If not, it would be useless for this purpose.

(2) The good-enough-curve[2] for mobile phones, a product with usage patterns very personal and frequent, might be pretty high. So iPhones may still not over-serve their customers as much as Clayton Christensen thought they would in the interviews mentioned, thus the theory as such can be correct. Maybe the high positioning of the curve is particularly true in countries with strong buying power, but another piece of anecdotal evidence pointing to the same being the case for developing countries is how smartphone penetration is increasing there (not yet so much for iPhones, but relatively speaking $100 Android devices are also put pretty high on the list to make the cut for many of their recent purchasers!).

I've heard Clay Christensen speak on the topic a couple of times (a long time ago, but I still recall it with joy), and he does not really claim this is the only pattern of paradigm shifts - which means it cannot really be proved wrong by providing counter-examples as such, if it still accurately describes (and maybe even predicts) others.

It is very useful to point out, as I tried to do to the students in my Entrepreneurship class today - leading to one of the students reading Ben Thompson's piece with plenty of great references, that it cannot be used as a simple acid test for new ventures. It does not have to be a disruptive innovation to succeed - and planning to disrupt an industry segment is easier than doing it anyway. Thinking about it is still useful for positioning the product and learning which segments will appreciate your value proposition.

In my opinion it is bold to claim at this point that Apple will never fall into the trap of marginalizing their real market over time, by only focusing on the top end. In some of the old examples in The Innovator's Dilemma, there were "genius CEOs" (and they were, at the time!) focusing on the high end of the market for improved profits. Of course right now, with 5Ss and 5Cs flying out of stores of the rate of 9 million over one weekend (AAPL stock price was up the day of this blog post because of this), it seems Apple is far from in that situation just yet.

[1] - The claim that professional buyers are extremely rational might be about as misleading as saying consumers are not. It all depends what you measure into that value. What is the value of the McKinsey brand for a strategy project and is not some of that irrational and/or unconscious? Why does Coke taste better than the white label variant sold as as a store chain's private label, even though they cannot be separated in blind tests?

[2] - I'll borrow Clayton Christensen's own illustration of this from a guest lecture at MIT Sloan back in 2007:

What I called the "good-enough-curve" is that dotted red line of average consumer performance utilization of a product.

August 26, 2013

Teaching what cannot be taught?

Today I started a teaching gig in Entrepreneurship at NITH again. Hopefully it is going to be good fun (at least for me) and I try to make it as practical as possible. The students will work out their own Business Model Canvas and hopefully get experimenting (they are going to hear me quote Steve Blank's "get the heck out of the office" more, in fact I said it twice already...) for real as soon as possible.

Some groups have already founded companies, while for others it will remain mostly a normal school subject. It will be a challenge to make it interesting for such a diverse group of people, but like I said in my intro, I truly think (even if it may sound a bit cheesy) that if they'll give it all, it will for sure make it the best school subject they ever had, and it might even be life-changing if they come out in the other with a successful company founded.

The group is a bit large, so the final pitch/presentation is going to be done via handing in a video. Goods and bads about that, but will be fun to see what the students come up with. I told them "screen capture of your presentation with voiceover is fine", but I certainly hope some of them will take the opportunity to get a bit more creative.

Trying to explain stuff is at least a good way to force yourself to think stuff through, which is also my main motivation for doing these gigs (besides fun and what one might call the CSR side of it - the pay is truly awful). And this semester I will be doing much of the same exercise my students are doing, but for real with my own company (as mentioned in the previous post, I will be going to a tech incubator in Palo Alto with TapBookAuthor this autumn). After the best summer in 30 years in Norway weather-wise, let's hope I'll experience the entrepreneurial equivalent this autumn both with my company and my students.

PS. My answer to my own rhetorical question, if you can really teach entrepreneurship, was that I can at least try to teach them a bunch of techniques that will be very useful for them as entrepreneurs...

July 29, 2013

Preparing for a whiplash - or on being "venture worthy"

An excellent post from Fred Wilson today on taking investor feedback (which can, indeed, give "feedback whiplash" - as Fred nickname it! - and make you change too often without proper consideration and evidence). My favorite passage is this one:

Investors have their own agenda. They want to invest in "bigger ideas" and "larger outcomes". When they tell you that your idea is too small, they may be talking to themselves, not you. Do not make their problems your problems. This is your business, not theirs.

And to this I would like to add that you usually have only one company, while they have a portfolio. You have to decide for yourself if you want to aim out of the ballpark or if other strategies can give you a more comfortable risk/reward profile. Being the CEO of a nano-sized (now micro, maybe - we are a total of 7 FTEs now across Norway and Romania) for four years, I know my answer so far has been to play it just a tad more safe and being profitable every year since the start.

That being said, we are likely going to work on making TapBookAuthor.com more "venture worthy" ourself this autumn, with a month in a tech incubator in Palo Alto as part of the cure. 

Preparing for a whiplash.

April 30, 2013

Do not tidy up, just don't mess

I met a guy this weekend that was so impressed after inspecting a German factory that will produce machines for them. He asked the guy showing him around what was the secret behind tidying up so well.

He got this answer: We don't ever tidy up. We just don't mess.

And I think he was not even close to joking. Gotta love ze Germans.

In terms of project management and creating software, and maybe life in general - but that might be a tiresome effort, doing it right the first time is something we all strive for. Maybe thinking about not having to clean up the mess can make us get it closer to right, at least?

March 18, 2013

Bologna next week

Just a super quick note: I will be in Bologna for the children's book fair next Monday and Tuesday. I you would like to have a look at our TapBookAuthor authoring tool for iPad, Android and Windows 8, let me know and I will be more than happy to show you!

We have recently signed with the last of the four largest publishers in Norway and are more than ready to get a few international customers aboard!

February 19, 2013

This is the future

Last night I walked past a bus stop after checking that the next bus was in 6 minutes and that it would be better to walk to the junction 400m further down the road to take another bus from there.

But how did I check this? (I did not check the cardboard route table for sure and this was not one of the stops with the live digital display.) In steps, I:
  • Pulled out from my pocket a device with four times the screen resolution of my first PC and the computing power of a full room of gear not that many years before that
  • Started and began using an app in less than ten seconds
  • Pressed "Nearby stops"
  • Got real time data on the whereabouts of the bus while still walking past the bus stop
So even if there is a lack of flying cars, this is the future we were thinking about as kids - I am pretty sure of it. And it was only after walking hundred meters past the bus stop I did the reflections leading to this blog post, so it felt like a very natural and non-advanced use of technology. Almost Ubiquitous, if wanting to buzzwordify this post a bit...

Being a technology optimist, I think this everyday observation gives hope that we will find both useful and entertaining ways of using technology in the months and years to come. We have seen nothing yet.

January 29, 2013

Bet(t - ) it will be good

Bad wordplays aside, just a quick note to tell that I am going to Bett in London this week. Pocket full of nice new brochures, hoping to meet interesting people and more than ready to do a quick demo of TapBookAuthor.com if you are going there too...

So it better be good (OK, I will stop now). See you!

January 8, 2013

Happy Last Year

OK, two things first before writing the post: First and foremost, happy new year and best of luck for your projects, people, products and passions (the less known 4Ps?) in 2013! Then, if you have even a hint of allergy towards self-promotion, stop reading. Really.

Still there? I am going to share two great things happening to our product and team at the tail end of 2012. First, we got external recognition when we won an entrepreneurship price from a leading Norwegian legal firm. Apart from nice flowers and even nicer honors, this gives us some free legal advice which will be very useful when getting our first international customers.

Below are myself and partner at Wikborg Rein, Torleif P. Dahl - as well as those mentioned flowers.

Second, we landed two leading Norwegian publishing houses as new customers for our tool, making the total number of customers reach the great number of four (!). I am not joking, but I am also not joking about it being great. With these lighthouse customers secured, we are looking very much forward to demoing for smaller publisher as well as international ones. If you happen to be a potential user of the tool reading this, drop me a line to book a meeting.

Looking forward to a great year in 2013 as well - on our part we have lot of exciting things up our sleeve for the TapBookAuthor / ePekebok tool (push messages and Windows 8 apps prototype support are two items in the Q1 list of new functionality, with unlimited undo across sessions and interactive graphs and questions/tests on the list of autumn 2012 highlights). Happy last year. Happy new year!