Twitter, tweets and business

When I ask you whether you are already tweeting on Twitter, do you think about ornithology? Or do you think about collaboration and microsharing?

If you belong to the first group, I highly recommend the watch this video, where all is explained about Twitter and the use of it in business.

Thanks for the tip Shwen (via Twitter, of course)

Slideshow 2.0

See the clip first before reading further.

Imagine that you want to start a service, a service that already exists. Let’s say, slideshows. There are tonnes of programs available on the PC or Mac, and an equivalent number online. So how are you going to compete? How are you going to diversify? And more importantly, what will be the business model? That’s what the guys and girsl at Animoto were up against. They did have one thing in their advantage; they were all coming from the film industry so the knew a thing or two about how to present images.

Animoto says in their tagline: ‘The End of Slideshows’. And it’s true. Although I can make nice slideshows in iPhote, some people may even be able to make nice slideshows on a PC (just don’t mention teh word PP, please…) but they all kinda look dull. OK, Ken Burns effect is sort of cool and it makes your slideshow more vivid but it wears off once you have seen it too much.

Also, making a slideshow, eerrr, nice slideshow can be painstakingly cumbersome. Import a picture, set in and out points, edit the movement… It takes a few hours before you master it and have some result. If you want to make it really cool (like the one you just saw) just add a few hours more to the equation.

So, take an existing service and improve it considerably, How does Animoto tackle this? First, ease of use. I don’t know if you believe me, but making this slideshow took me about 10 minutes (including making coffee): uploading pictures, adding some text, choose a song, push a button, drink coffee. Animoto analyzes your images and your music (although they say they do that…) and based on the outcome they create a slideshow. Which brings me to the second point: they make a really, really cool slideshow. Well, in my opinion they did a pretty good job.

 

animoto

 

So what’s the business model? Very web 2.0-ish. You can create for free (yeah, free = good = web 2.0!) a 30 seconds clip. Just upload some pictures (or get them from your Flickr account) choose a song in their library (or upload your own) and push a button. In no time you have your 30 seconds photo-videoclip. But that’s just to wet your appetite.

Of course, 30 seconds is way too short and before you know it you see yourself buying credits to make a full-length videoclip, including the option to download the file. Costs? $3 per video or $30 for an annual subscription so you get unlimited slideshows. Expensive? Not in my view. And then the ease of use comes back. With a few clicks (and a PayPal account) you have bought your credits and off you go.

So taking an existing service with lots of available options on the marketplace, think it through carefully and pimp it up like hell. That’s how Animoto did, and that’s how you should be looking at services too.

Year’s end: time for some reflection

oddreflection1It’s that time of year again. Having visited your family and survived the turkey again, and in a few days a New Year’s celebration with Dutch oliebollen en cheap champagne. Time between Christmas en New Year; a mental vacuum in which you are forced to think. To think about the things you did, and didn’t. And why.

For me 2008 was one of the most inspiring years of my life. Suddenly becoming really responsible for a human’s life is breathtaking. The birth of your child can not be compared to anything else. Ever. Seeing her growing up and recognizing little things in her about yourself is fun and confronting at the same time. I can’t stop wondering in what kind of world she will grow up in. What about health, climate change, peace? And on a less heavier subject, what kind of technologies will she use?

For DigiRedo it was a moment of truth. In 2007 we had some interesting projects, but we were both still on the payroll of our employer. This year, René stepped out of his day job so things were becoming more serious. We had to make some money. Well, the good thing is that he stepped out 1st of April and has not been sitting still ever since. Long days of hard work, for the both of us. Our efforts in 2007 were getting some traction and many prospects became customers. We did some great projects, such as the Afya project in Tanzania, or participating in an expert panel group with some big guys such as Google in New York. Let’s not forget some amazing congresses we went to: Plugg Conference in Brussels, CMS in Nijmegen, National Marketing Day, Web 2.0 and our all-time favorite, the New Media Expo in Las Vegas. Not only did we acquire a lot of knowledge and new ideas, we met some great people too. 

Looking back I can truly say that I did not expect things going so fast. I learned many things along the way, most notably:

  • Get a very clear vision for your company and a strategy to get there. Stick to it. We as DigiRedo truly believe that companies can achieve so much more in communication when they use new media (preferably with us).
  • Finetune that vision and related strategies and tactics somewhere were you can not be distracted. It’s too important to get distracted. We plan a session in the middel of the forrest twice a year for this. Can you believe it, two days without internet?
  • Having said that, always look for opportunities and don’t be too stubborn to change your tactics. But keep faithful to your vision. We have wandered around too, changing our structure, products and services along the way. But the vision remained.
  • When you do business with a partner: talk, talk, talk. Having a (right) partner can bring you to unchartered heights, but sometimes it is not easy to deal with. Two personalities, often strong ones, might conflict so now and then. The only way to sort thing out is to talk about it. We have been doing ‘appraisel interviews’ with each other twice a year. We discuss our co-operation and each other’s way of working. We make plans for the future.
  • Divide the roles there are within your company with your business partner. You can’t do it all. And some people are better in some things, while others are better in other things. And remember; there’s always some work you don’t like. Be it accounting or filling in tables for your milage. Get over it.
  • When you make plans, stick to it. A difficult one. Sometimes plans are lost in the battle of the day and before you know it yet another week has gone. I can personally recommend the concepts of Lifehacking and Getting Things Done. Great stuff which helped me a lot. And o, don’t forget to use some of those wonderful Web 2.0 apps out there.
  • Talking about it: Time Management. If you want to set up your company, work for an employer and find yourself being a daddy so now and then too, you better organize yourself to squeeze every second out of the day like a lemmon. See my previous point for the concepts I use.
  • And finally: have fun. A lot. Because we must not forget that the reason we did it in the first place is fun. 

Have fun with the cheap champagne, thanks for reading our blog and see y’all in 2009!

Erik

DigiRedo co-blogger of Med 2.0

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shwen-_-the-dirty-dutch

 

The good thing about having an opinion is that at a certain moment people will start asking for it. So did Shwen. You all remember Shwen from our trip to Las Vegas where we coincidentally met each other and realized that we shared the same passion for Web 2.0 and the pharma business. Now, back in the Netherlands we keep in touch and are even working on a shared project. Life can be  surprising sometimes. 

A while ago Shwen asked me to be a co-blogger on his blog Med 2.0 where he writes about all things health and web 2.0. Of course I couldn’t refuse such invitation. It took a while but today I posted my first piece. One of my resolutions for next year is to seriously start blogging.

Innovation, global warming and ICT

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Googling, podcasting, Facebook… nice but it does consume a lot of energy. Our society can’t live without ICT, but it does contribute to guaranteed wet feet in half of the Netherlands (you know, almost 50% of our country is below sea level). In Amsterdam only 80% of all ICT companies are located and they consume together some 20% of all energy consumption in our capital city. Sufficient reason to stimulate innovation in this field. And so Digikring Groot Amsterdam (a public organization for digital media companies in the Amsterdam area) organized  their Innovation Award.

Since we believe in ICT (duh) and we suddenly feel more responsible we have decided to sponsor this initiative.

On October 16 on the Science Park in Amsterdam the second edition of the Innovation Award was held. This year the theme was ‘ICT and CO2’ and about 40 national companies had sent in their ideas or concepts. Of those 40 concepts a jury nominated 6 companies divided into two categories to pitch their idea to an audience.

Catetgory 1: ICT neutral innovation

  • QUCOM BV with the ECO server – a low energy server
  • 4M88 BV with Distribute – a P2P solution for computer centres which makes servers redundant
  • Student Council University of Amsterdam – a CO2 neutral computer classroom

 

Catergory 2: ICT and CO2 innovation

  • The Green Garage with Tire on Pressure – a mobile service with an advanced software system checking and correcting the pressure on tires.
  • EIXs with the Energy Consumption Optimizer – software application calculating the energy consumption per student in a school and compare it with other schools.
  • Waleli with P-ace – a real-time location-based system to find free parking spots in Amsterdam (nooo, do we have a parking problem in Amsterdam?)

 

See the participants and the winners in the following video (Dutch):

 

SPOILER ALERT for English readers:

Winner in the category ICT and CO2 was Waleli, in the category ICT neutral was the ECO server. In addition, 4M88 took away the public prize.

Second software vendor: Awareness Inc.

awareness

Sometimes companies design their websites in such a way that it actually results in an action from the visitor and hence in a lead for sales. I was searching the internet for social media articles and I stumbled upon a white paper written by a company called Awareness. This company is specialized in software for communities, basically the same as Jive Software I wrote about in an earlier post.

If I wanted to obtain the white paper I needed to fill in some contact details (that’s why they create white papers – but I’ll write about white paper marketing later). They seem to use it how it is supposed to because three days later I received an e-mail to discuss possibilities of their platform. They were lucky since we are actually looking for such a platform.

Yesterday we had a phone meeting with this company, and these were our findings:

  • Awareness software is chosen as one of the 7 platforms in a recent research by Forrester on the use of social media within companies.
  • Awareness has an open API so it can be used to enhance the platform
  • It’s built solely as a SaaS (Software as a Service, meaning that it runs on their servers and you don’t have to install anything on your computer.
  • It integrates with Identity Management, so you don’t need to have different usernames and passwords other than the ones you have at Intervet.
  • You can set permissions for categories, for creating content and for editing content.
  • They have a basic template for an innovation platform.
  • There’s no realy project management function.
  • If you want to take a part of your content external you need to build that from the beginning.
  • There’s no representation in Europe.

We clearly explained that their price might be just a bit prohibitive to continue since we are in the first phases not looking for 100,000s of users, just 50 or so. We need a platform which can grow with us (and yes, may be in the future to several thousands).

To be continued..

We’ve come a long way

Around 1994 was my first confrontation with a Mac. Coming from the Commodore  Amiga world I was desperately ‘lost’ in the entire ‘PC’ world, a world which was forced upon me by the university, companies, friends and family. No icons in this world, no pull down menus. The first attempts of Microsoft to create a GUI with Windows 3.1 were at first pathetic. But I had to go with the flow. At least to be able to make some research papers for my study.

And then came the Mac. It was a small Mac Classic, snoozing on my desk at Janssen Pharmaceutica in Belgium (the entire company was on Macs then). It could do pop up screens -called windows-, there were pull down menus and even a metaphore for the desktop. I was sold.

From that day onwards, till today I have never looked back and owned several Macs. You have to know that now it’s OK to own a Mac. Actually, it’s pretty cool. But in those earlier days you were an outcast, a true loser supporting a company on the verge of bankrupcy (which was actually true at that time).

The battle between the two camps (Windows vs. Mac) was fierce and last till today. One weapon Mac bashers loved to throw at you is shouting that the ‘Mac was a toy’, with all those colorful icons and strange form factors.

Well, we came a long way, didn’t we?

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