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Author: Tomasz Pilewicz

How Start-ups Disrupt Insurance Business?

Recently researched insurance providers acknowledge that their business is undergoing massive disruption. It occurs due to insurance technology (InsurTech) start-ups, which overcome regulatory issues quicker,  understand platform economics better, dig out market insights deeper, and deliver customer experience not available before.

What is there for insurance holders?

If you are a car owner who pays their car insurance each year and doesn’t drive that much, you might feel insurance prices are a little bit unfair for you. Metromile proposes pay-per-mile car insurance model, which results in less money spent on insurance for those who drive only occasionally.

Extensive drivers might be interested in comparing vehicle insurance offerings in their area before they decide which one to purchase. Everquote provides such quotation, comparison and connection of drivers with insurers in their areas.

Goji also aggregates insurance company’s data in once place and presents you low price insurance options based on your car, driving profile, and needs.

Drivers, who insure their cars, but want to avoid situation when issuing insurance claim is needed might appreciate Zubie. Zubie promises to make your car exploitation smarter by enabling scheduling maintenance alerts, providing trip analyses, and delivering driving style feedback for greenhorn drivers.

Benefits offered by companies are also the domain of InsurTech disruptors. This area might be particularly interesting for companies eager to attract and retain employees, for whom personalization of benefits portfolio matters. Liazon enables employees to configure their non-financial benefits mix including health, lifestyle, saving plans, and of course insurance items.

Stride Health enables employees to optimize and manage health & dental services on their mobile devices, and also offers concierge and preventive services aiming at discounts and savings for their customers.

Those who travel with their valuable items could be interested in Trov. Company offers on demand insurance for damages, losses or thefts for laptops, tablets, digital cameras, and music instruments.

Insuring cars, travels, real estates or business activity might not be easy, and people often need solid advice with human contact. Therefore Coverhound, PolicyGenius or Finance Fox along with identification of insurances matching customer needs provide you with time of licensed advisors to walk you through them. As advising on particular insurance product could be biased by commission fee received by advisors from products sold, these companies transparently explain how they remunerate their advisors.

Some InsurTech start-ups focus on single product and specific type of customer. On of such is Ladder Financial providing value for customers interested in personal insurance. Artificial algorithms of Ladder Financial deliver initial insurance quotation matching person’s profile and needs within blink of an eye. Issuing insurance policies takes place online and is backed-up by existing, reputable insurance companies.

Quotations of personal insurance policy on demand, which take into account vide tapestry of people professional profiles are offered by Next Insurance.

What is there for insurance carriers?

InsurTech start-ups haven’t forgot about companies thattraditionally have been offering insurance policies.  EIS Group for example offers a multi-line insurance platform, which fosters customer’s relationship management (CRM) of insurance carriers. It’s modular in design and support processing policies, billings and claims, offer analytics, and enable engagement with customers within whole insurance lifecycle.

Acquisition, retention and growth of customer base is essential in every business. For companies that use call centers in daily operations with their customers Cogito offers solution enabling real-time analysis of phone conversation to provide immediate guidance for better engagement and connection with customers.

One of the most important parts of operations management in insurance business is claim management, which relates to request to insurance companies for payment relating to insured incident, damage, or loss. Snapsheet offers technology that enables settling claim between insurance holder and insurance carrier in virtual environment.

As claims to insurance companies are often unjustified, and might be an object of frauds, Shift Technology provides insurance carriers with artificial algorithm analyzing insurance claims to prevent such situations.

As insurance business in essence is about managing calculated risk, some carriers might appreciate proposition of Cloudcover with virtual risk diagnostic analytical tool and real-time risk visualization panes enabling advance risk analytics.

Calculating risk is crucial to determine insurance policy terms. Therefore in certain types insurance use drones or satellite images, which enable to predict certain events impacting on risk. Orbital Insight for example offers analysis of millions of satellite images at a time, which can support anticipating crop, or oil shortages, predict deforestation and other natural and social disasters.

What is there for InsurTech start-ups?

InsurTech start-ups require good orientation in regulated environment to hone their MVPs and run pilots of their products. Innovation ecosystem stakeholders, which might be supportive here, include company builders or start-up accelerators partnered with insurance companies. One of InsurTech company builder is FinLeap, which seat is in Berlin. FinLeap provides access to specific technical consulting, development platform, stakeholders’ network, and also up to EUR 5 mln seed financing.

One of star-up acceleration programs focused on InsurTech is Huge Thing organized in Poland with application deadline at 2nd of April 2017. 10 start-ups qualified to the program will experience mentoring from one of the biggest financial institutions in Central and Eastern Europe and travel to Berlin and London. They’ll also be able to apply for EUR 45k equity free investment within the program.

What will be the next InsurTech big thing?


What Lean Start-up is About?

In recent years lean start-up approach gained recognition and has been widely used by entrepreneurs and start-ups offering products and services that have not yet been tested on the market.

So what lean start-up approach is about?

According to H. Love, author of The Start-Up J Curve, ideas represent only 5% of the total value of a new enterprise. What counts more than the original concept of the product are iterations  and customer feedback, which is worth more than customer sales. Therefore key idea of lean start-up approach is to expose early version of your product  to potential customers, to gather feedback, and to implement  rapid and possibly waste-free adjustments of your initial proposition to create something that is closer to what the customer really wants.

According to lean start-up approach the first step to create initial customer demand is to establish your Unique Value Proposal (UVP). UVP is nothing else than a list of problems that your product will solve for your customers, or the difference it will bring to the way customers problems are solved right now, and answer to the question why people should pay you for it. Once you create such a list you can interview your future customers.

To understand deeper what concrete aspects of your product  will satisfy your customers, you can use simple questionnaire or a Kano model, which provides structured framework for analysis of importance or each of your product’s  attributes. Results of analyses based on Kano model determine which attributes of the product  are responsible for “wow” factor, and which of them could be the source of frustration if not tackled properly.

Another approach often used in marketing of new products is conjoint analysis, which enables to holistically measure importance of your product attributes. Results of conjoint analysis will determine how important is each attribute and what trade-offs you can afford.

Once you establish your UVP you are ready to create Minimum Viable Product (MVP) that, according to lean start-up approach, is the first visualization of your UVP. In other words MVP is the first prototype, or even a mock-up consisting of schemes, pictures, slides and videos you can use in further interviewing and gathering feedback from your future customers.

Ash Maurya, author of Running Lean, Iterate from Plan A to a Plan That Works recommends lean start-up practitioners to work with future customers from the very beginning. In terms of minimum number of interviews with your future customers Ash Maurya recommends to meet with at least 10 prospective customers to talk about UVP—problems and challenges you plan to solve and planned features of the solution—and then, with another 10 once you revise your first UVP. After that, you should be pretty well equipped to create your first MVP, which you also need to demonstrate to at least 10 prospected customers to gather their feedback enabling you to revise your first MVP.

After these meetings you should revise your UVP according to feedback received, incl. adding, eliminating, or modifying certain features. In lean start-up approach you open up and talk to customers as much as possible to observe how they interact with your MVP so you can polish it before market launch.

Lean start-up approach can be useful in wide tapestry of businesses. Ash Maurya applied it to write his book. Once, approached by readers of his blog who suggested that he should turn his

posts into a book, he contacted some of them and interviewed them on problems that the book should solve, and the blog did not. He created UVP by organizing workshops to gather feedback of more blog readers, who were potential customers. Then he wrote book in stages—first chapters of the book were his MVP. They have been released at early stage of final product creation, so he gathered feedback and reworked the chapters before final publishing of the book.

There is plenty of resources you can use while practicing lean start-up approach.

To find prospected customers and get into interaction with them  you can use, for example, LinkedIn, Ask Your Targeted Market. D. Olsen, author of The Lean Product Playbook How to Innovate with Minimum Viable Products and Rapid Customer Feedback recommends to use Mechanical Turk or TaskRabbit, which enable you to effectively outsource part of task related with iterations around MVP.

Once UVP and MVP are tested, and your product iterated, improved, and released you can derive from other lean start-up methods to grow your business. Ash Maurya advises to track and fix the barriers your first customers encounter as soon as possible, and to ask them for referrals, endorsements, and testimonials of your product. The last two can be published on your website to build greater credibility and traction of your business.


What is Your Break-Even Point?

What is one of most frequent questions investors ask start-ups after hearing the pitch? It is the question about the break-even point. Is there a simple way to calculate it? Yes, there is. Let me show it to you.

The break-even point is the number of products, services or solutions that you need to sell to generate enough revenue to cover all fixed and variable costs. Anything going beyond that number will be your profit. That’s why investors are so interested in this subject.

Calculation and analysis of break-even point will help you to determine whether the volume of products, services, or solutions you assume to sell will result in profit or loss. It will also tell you what is the minimum volume of your offering that you need to sell just to be profitable. Knowing your break-even number will also strengthen your business plan. So how to simply calculate it?

The first step is to determine what are the costs of running your start-up and creating its market offering. Start-up costs, in principle, consist of fixed costs and variable costs. Fixed costs are costs incurring regardless of how much you sell. These are the expenses you need to pay every month, even if you sell nothing. They include expenses related to renting you space, paying the loan you took to start your business, insurance costs, and utilities costs, such as access to broadband or your website hosting fee.

Variable costs in contrary to the fixed ones are represented by expenses depending on how much you sell in defined period. They include manufacturing costs of a single product, service, or solution, and certain overheads, which are operational expenses such as advertising.

To finish your break-even point analysis you’ll need one more thing—the price you are going to charge the customer for a single product, service, or solution. I’ve already elaborated on some of the pricing models in one of my previous posts.

Having all those things in place (fixed and variable costs of your business, and single price of your product, service, or solution) you are ready to calculate your break-even point.

So how does the formula look like?

Break-even point equals to fixed costs divided by price of your single product, service, or solution less variable costs. In calculation format it looks as follows:

Break-even Point = Fixed Costs / (Unit Selling Price – Variable Costs)

Let’s see how it works in practice and assume that you plan to run a small business of preparing and selling customized stickers, which fits the trend of mass customization by allowing clients to personalize their mobile phones.

In step 1 you estimate your fixed costs. Let’s assume its EUR 3000 per month. It includes fee for renting space for your activity, fee for utilities, fee for running your website, and a salary for your one employee (assuming you are hire someone regardless of demand for your offering, or it can be your management salary if you are going to run operations in person).

In step 2 you estimate your variable costs. Let’s assume it’s EUR 2,5 per manufacturing 1 sticker. It includes costs of direct materials you used for its preparation, incl. special paper and set of inks.

In step 3 you need to estimate the price of the product you are going to charge. After performing market research, incl. analysis of prices of your competitors you plan to sell stickers at price of EUR 10 per 1 piece.

Now you are ready to put your numbers into break-even formula:

Break-even point = EUR 3000/ (EUR 10-EUR 2,5) = EUR 2500/EUR 7,5 = 400.

What the number 400 means?

Selling 400 designed stickers per month will enable you to cover you both fixed and variable costs. If you sell more than 400 designed stickers per month, you’ll make a profit, and if you sell less, it will mean you are losing your money.

Now you might be interested in how to estimate the profit you are going to make by selling more than your break-even number. To estimate that you need to use the following formula:

Profit equals sales revenues less fixed costs less variable costs multiplied by number of units sold. In calculation format it looks like this:

Profit = Sales Revenues – Fixed Costs – (Variable Costs x Units Sold)

So you know that you need to sell 400 stickers to get to break-even point. Now you are interested in how much profit you’ll make if you sell 500 stickers in a month. Before we’ll go to calculations let me just explain that sales revenues is the total number of EUR from your sales activity. In other words it’s the number of what you sell multiplied by the price you charge.

Profit calculation looks like this:

Profit = (500 x EUR 10) – EUR 3000 – (EUR 2,5 x 500) = EUR 5000 – EUR 3000 – EUR 1250 = EUR 750.

What EUR 750 stands for? It’s the profit you would make by selling 500 stickers in a month after you covered all fixed and variable costs related.

And what would happen if you’d put number of stickers sold into the formula? Your profit would be exactly 0! It means that your break-even formula works.

So, now after getting basic concept of break-even and profit you are ready to think on how to make your business case attractive for you and investors you pitch.

Knowing that the profit is triggered by fixed costs, variable costs and the price, you can think whether and how you could reduce both fixed and variable costs and increase sales revenues by charging more for what you sell.

If after reading on break-even point formula you still feel a little bit fuzzy, you can use one of online calculators available here (don’t forget to use double click when entering your numbers).

If you’d like to deepen business case preparation beyond calculating the break-even, take a look at HBR Guide to Building your Business Case, which in addition to break-even, explains basic concepts of return of investment and payback period, and more advanced ideas, such as net present value or internal rate of return.


What Valuable Service is not yet Being Provided ?

What valuable service is not yet being provided? Answering this question is the first step toward creating a company that don’t have to bother with competitors. Peter Thiel asks this question often in Zero to One. Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future, which provides wide array of unorthodox rules underlying creation of natural monopolies by start-ups.

According to Peter Thiel monopoly is not a pathology, or an exception, but a company that is consciously planned to achieve and sustain leading position at the market. Context for bringing attention of Peter Thiel’s readers to monopolies relates to reflection of the author on contemporary stat-up’s market choices. Pether Thiel believes that every big, existing market is a bad choice for a newcomer is a bad choice, and a big, existing market with rival companies is even worse.

Therefore author introduces and thoroughly explains logics and reasons of success of contemporary monopolies, these are companies with significant market shares in what they do, such as Google, Airbnb, or Uber. In that context category of competitionless monopolies might have particular importance for start-ups aspiring to status of unicorns.

So what differs unicorns companies from the little ponies? According to Peter Thiel one of the most important rules is that the technology, which company aspiring to be a monopoly wants to introduce to the market, should be at least 10 times better than its closest substitute. Creation and protection of intellectual property related to such technology is the first step of competitive advantage based on a monopoly status and enabling to outperform competitors. Another factors actively contributing to creation of monopoly are combined effects of economies of scale, company’s network and its brand.

Peter Thiel shares loads of valuable tips, which founders of start-ups can take into account in order to build and maximize their value. According to Peter Thiel founders should have a lot of common experiences prior to set-up of the company, and should think of management team consisting of not less than 3, but no more than 5 members. It’s also important that its CEO pays themselves no more than USD 150 thousands per year. The team, built by founders, should consist only of people, who can fully engage in company’s activity, except external accountants or lawyers of course. There is no place for part-time employees or remote working during the stage when company wants to build its value exponentially. Monopoly status aspiring start-ups should know why they do something important, and why anyone else is not doing it. This is the basis to attract first employees, who don’t have to be offered with high salaries, but non-financial compensation as well, including share in equity in the company they build. According to Peter Thiel such approach to compensation makes long term engagement of first employees more plausible. It’s also important to clearly define areas of responsibilities of new employees. Clear definition and assessment of performance against results in clear area of responsibility enables to avoid conflicts of interest between employees.

Peter Thiel also shares on distribution channels of start-ups products, services, or solutions; and introduces concept of customer acquisition costs being always lower than the customer lifetime value. Only high price of offered good justifies high marketing expenses.

Peter Thiel reveals insights on rules that Venture Capital firms use to make their decisions on investments into prospecting start-ups. One of such rule is that Venture Capital firms can only afford to invest in companies, which return on investment might exceed value of whole Venture Capital firm. Author makes a comment, that because of such a strict rule, there are no other rules.

It looks that, as a partner in Founders Fund, Peter Thiel sticks to what he claimed in Zero to One. Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future. Founders Fund carefully selects and invests in start-ups, which are not popular, difficult to assess, and bear high technology risk, but create their own place at the market.

Before launching Founders Fund Peter Thiel co-founded PayPal, which in 2002 was acquired by eBay for USD 1,5 bln. In 2005 he joined board of directors at Facebook and was one of the first external investors. USD 500k he invested into Facebook turned in almost USD 400 mln during first public offering of the company.

So, what valuable service is not yet being provided ?


Connected Vehicles and Internet of Logistics

How to surf on edge of next industrial revolution and profit from convergence of communication, energy, and transportation infrastructure?

In The Zero Marginal Cost Society J. Rifkin explains tremendous shift in new forms of communication, energy creation and distribution, and transport and logistics resulting in  new industrial revolution that is happening now. According to J. Rifkin the changes we observe will converge to general purpose technology–Internet of Everything, which will be a platform consisting Internet of Communication, Internet of Energy, and Internet of Logistics.

J. Rifkin proves that in competitive markets, in order to win the market share, companies will have to continuously increase their productivity, and simultaneously decrease the marginal costs and prices of the goods and services sold. As a result, the marginal costs will be brought to near zero, what means they will not be subjected to the market forces we know today, and companies will have to learn how to profit from sharing economy and lateral economies of scale.

J. Rifkin provides great deal of insights for start-ups and start-up accelerators, which plan to surf on edge of next industrial revolution by helping existing market players to transform. As we all know, Google and Apple maximize usage of their technologies in existing vehicles and develop driverless technologies themselves to win Internet of Logistics. But let’s take a look at what other vehicle industry players do to catch up with new economy paradigm.

BMW  enables drivers to have remote access to their vehicle. My BMW Remote App enables you to check whether your car is locked or not, when you are not sure to have it locked when getting out. It also allows you to sound the horn, flash the lights, and turn on auxiliary heating or ventilation.

Daimpler, Audi, and also BMW in 2015 together purchased Nokia’s digital maps business for USD 3,1 billion to leverage connected cars solutions they work on. Now Mercedes-Benz offers mbrace – a digital concierge package that will help you out with dynamic route assistance in traffic or bad weather.

General Motors offers apps such as MyChevrolet, MyBuick, MyCadillac and MyGMC, which enable its owners to locate the nearest dealers, or schedule car maintenance, and also  find free parking spots. Another app of General Motors – OnStar leverages both geolocalization and big data to offer coupons for Exxon and Mobil gas station, and help you book  hotel rooms while you drive.

Toyota – which recently invested  USD 1 billion  in Toyota Research Institute (incl. research centers near Stanford University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology) -works on open source infrastructure, and develops solutions in telematics to enable safer driving experience. The former one  are also the cornerstone of digital innovation strategy in Mazda.

If J. Rifkin is right about Internet of Logistics, above-mentioned companies, leading in transportation industry, will soon find followers, and other transportation business players will look for solutions enabling them to adapt, distinguish, and compete. It might result in new, unexplored marketspace for transportation and logistics oriented start-ups.

Considering nearly 2 million of companies registered at Angels List, specialization in transportation and logistics seem to be less exploited by start-ups than specialization in energy and communication. Intensity of rivalry in this sector might be, therefore, lower than in the other, densely occupied sectors. On the other hand, because of industry regulation standards and high safety requirements, there might be a need for institutional support for start-ups entering transportation and logistics area.

Luckily there are more and more start-up acceleration programs that  specialize in transportation, logistics, and supply chain. Such accelerators are Dynamo Accelerator from Chattanooga, US, or The Logistics Tech Accelerator organized by RocketSpace with Lufthansa and MAN focused on solutions for smart warehouses, transport, and trade. The Logistics Tech Accelerator’s application process for start-ups opens in September 2016, and plans to kick-off in January 2017 in Vigo, Spain.

So ask yourself, what valuable company in transportation and logistics nobody is building yet.





Place Where Investors Pitch the Start-ups

If you are tired of perfecting your business plan and honing your pitch instead of focusing on growing your business, VentureFund.io might be just the right solution for you.

Motto of VentureFund.io is “Grow, don’t pitch. Let your data do the pitching”. The data VentureFund.io has in mind relates to quantitative evidence of customers demand of your product or service, and of how it fits the market. In start-up world such evidence is called traction.

VentureFund.io is a digital, web-based platform providing data analytics compatible with Google Analytics, Stripe, Mixpanel, Braintree, and other interfaces, which measure traction of users of your business. What VentureFund.io provides extra is enabling investors that are registered on the platform to see your growth, what may trigger them to contact and pitch you.

VentureFund.io can also coach you in better understanding of traction through dedicated dashboard it provides to present new users acquisition (also those coming from referrals), activation, retention, and sales conversion. Nowadays traction is used by investors as indicator to assess start-ups growth potential and investment risk, therefore you might find it valuable to understand its principles well. You can find more on its fundamentals here.

The platform is worth to be considered by early stage start-up developing software, or hardware driven by connected software, especially in areas of mobile applications, e-commerce, software as a service, or two-side market platforms. Such start-ups should be easily compatible with what VentureFund.io requires from its users.

Unique value of VentureFund.io is to enable start-up founders to focus on growth and scaling up the business in very first stages and simultaneously to enable tracking this growth for potential investors. It might save time for preparing, polishing, and mastering of business plans and pitches. It might not perfectly substitute a direct meeting with investors where you can often count on honest feedback, however it might prepare you well for such a meeting.

On the other side of the platform there are investors, who like VentireFund.io, as it enables them to discover, follow and pitch to early stage start-ups. The rule of VentureFund.io is that it’s investors, not the start-ups, that have to make the contact first, what is quite a change in paradigm of contemporary start-ups-pitch-world.

The platform was founded in 2015 and have gathered around 200 VC firms, investors, and start-up accelerators. Its founder, Clarence Wooten explains the rationale behind this new way of raising seed funding here.

Investors might also like Mattermark, which makes sense of data about start-ups and companies growth, and can personalize the results according to your search criteria. Mattermark might be interesting especially for seed funds, VC funds, and investment portfolio managers, who look for fast growing companies, have clear expectations about investment opportunities, and would simply not like to miss them. Mattermark can be also supportive in developing B2B and partnership relationships for companies, and through generation of leads contribute to growth of those, which target well.


Internet of Things and Next Industrial Revolution

Internet of Things (IoT) is a phenomenon that is expected to transform manufacturing, healthcare, energy, transportation, and other sectors ofeconomy, which is expected to reach value of USD 11,1 trillion by 2025.

What IoT is about? In a nutshell IoT refers to ability of hardware, software and sensors to collect and exchange data through networks and deliver services enabled through it.

What differs IoT from current machine-to-machine (M2M) communication is going beyond simple data exchange to advanced data usage resulting in various applications.

IoT fields of exploration are linked with electronic devices and refer to e.g. build-in sensors in vehicles leading to decrease in energy consumption, weather forecasting impacting home heating systems, monitoring of human vital signals for preventing diseases, and many more.

At this moment, part of IoT value proposals being worked out can be found at Angel Lists, which collected almost 2500 start-ups focused on IoT area.

IoT is a cornerstone of wider phenomenon that in public discourse is called Industry 4.0. Industry 4.0 refers to the next wave of industrial revolution, which is happening now, thanks to the exchange of data between devices, incl. manufacturing technologies and also cloud computing.  Industry 4.0 creates aan opportunity for start-ups to foster interoperability of machines, devices, and sensors, increase quality and transparency of information being exchanged, creation of assistance systems for aggregation and visualization of information collected, and execution of accurate decisions basing on them.

More insights on value looked for in Industry 4.0 era can be found in McKinsey’s report here. A lot of IoT enriching materials have been published by Cisco in form of white papers and case studies available at their website here.

IoT is supported by numerous start-up acceleration programmes and government agendas around the world. Current open start-up acceleration programmes incl. Plug and Play IoT Accelerator from Silicon Valley with ongoing call for applications, Techstars IoT Accelerator with multiple applications scheduled for 2016 in US, or ABC Accelerator in Slovenia with call for IoT oriented start-ups with deadline of 31st of July 2016.

European Commission also fosters IoT with focus on integration and creation of open platforms leveraging its usage. Under Horizon 2020 programme European Commission announced dedicated call for research and innovation projects with particular IoT focus with EUR 35 mln budget. The call is planned to be opened on 8th of December 2016 and closed on 25th of April 2017. As in all Horizon 2020 co-financing programmes participation requires creation of consortium of entities from at least 3 European Union countries. Funding rate covered by European Commission is up to 100%.

What is your favourite application of IoT, worth to explore?

How are Trends an Innovators’ Friend?

Trias de Bes and P. Kotler in “Winning at Innovation. The A-to-F Model” present a unique, structured approach to organizing process of innovation in corporates. They distinguish different roles and responsibilities in the act of entrepreneurial discovery, one of which are creators. Creators have important role of identifying and channeling macrotrends, trends, fashions, and novelties into exploitable business opportunities. How these social proofs differ to teach other, and wat are their examples?Trias de Bes and P. Kotler argue that many inventions turned to be failures as they didn’t took current trends into account. Therefore the authors recommend reflection on macrotrends, trends, fashions and novelties deriving from sociological research to exploit business opportunities embedded in them

The basic distinction between macrotrends, trends, fashions, and novelties is how long they are expected to last.

In the example of macrotrends, they last from minimum 5 years up to 10 years, however it is rare that they’d last over 10 due to changes of priorities and life purposes of generations. Examples of macrotrends include usage of smartphones, digitalization of newspapers, or increase of ecologic awareness.

Trends last from minimum 1 year up to 5 years, and can relate to phenomena such as smart gardening, social media, or electronic vehicles.

Fashions are something that last minimum one season, as in case of footwear and outwear up to one year, as in example of other products and services. Fashions relate to movies of the year, book and audio bestsellers, or extremely holey jeans as in Poland in 2016.

Novelties last up to one month, sometimes even less, like a week or two. Novelties often relate to sport, cultural, political and media events. An example of novelty, in the day of writing this post, are UEFA EURO 2016 or World Youth Day being organized in Poland between July 25th-31st 2016, which will result in short time boom of sales of event related gadgets incl. souvenirs, keychains, pictures, T-shirts, or stamps.

If you pay attention, look really closely, and are aesthetically skilled you can turn macrotrends, trends, fashions and novelties into business with platforms such as Threadless, Spreadshirt, or Betabrand.

The most crucial thing in exploiting the trend is to identify them at relatively early stage of growth. So how do you do that? You can build a network of trusted observers of trends indicators, like DDB agency did in form of SignBank service, which enables adding observed phenomena to dedicated database by the agency employees from all over the world. Other sources include social media and blogs, which you can leverage using dedicated tools. One of such tools is Google Trends enabling analysis of frequency of appearance of defined search queries in Google search engine. Another one is Technorati, which enables you to browse through the blogs dedicated to particular topics and narrow down the most relevant ones. Reputation.com is the tool enabling you to follow reputation of defined people, companies and brands, incl. discussion taking place in social media. You might also like Wordle, which enables generating clouds of words from the text you provide. Worlde gives greater prominence to words that appear frequently in the source text of blogs with Atom or RSS feeds. Sentiment 140 will be interesting for those, who’d like to know positive and negative opinions published on Twitter that are related to defined word put in Twitter search engine.

Tools supportive in trends identification incl. also solutions of Appinions or Institute for the Future, which we mentioned in our previous posts.


MOOCs for Start-ups and Entrepreneurs

If you believe in self-directed, flexibly scheduled learning to upgrade your skills, this post is for you. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are online interactive learning courses, which significance in recent years has boosted. Thanks to MOOCs anyone and everywhere can experience learning from world top class universities on broad, or industry-specific issues.

What’s more, MOOCs in the most of cases are free of charge, however require real time commitment for pre-readings, watching learning videos, and solving quizzes. In exchange for this you can satisfy your curiosity, enrich your resume, and with investment of small amount of money get certificate of completion.

MIT Open Course Ware provides portfolio of MOOCs, which entrepreneurs and start-ups might particularly derive from, ranging from finance and law to operations and strategy. You can also find technology development oriented MOOCs of MIT, including course on circuits and electronics, which considered as pretty popular. You can learn from Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania on launching your start-up, growing strategies, digital marketing, social media and e-commerce. One of the most entrepreneurial colleagues in the US, Babson College provide you with course on leading like entrepreneur.

I find MOOCs as cost-efficient learning form for entrepreneurs, start-ups, and teams they develop in scaling-up stage. You can inspire your team to self-directed learning by sharing your insights from MOOCs, which you have just finished, or encourage for starting a new one together. In the end who would not like to go to MIT, Wharton or Babson with you?

MOOCs also provide you with safe environment of testing interest in defined topics with no serious financial commitment before a deep-dive decision on starting immersive form of education like full time studies.

Even if MOOCs don’t provide you with real interaction, and networking opportunity, as traditional teaching methods, participation in them is considered as more than studying a textbook, or reading a specialized blog. Therefore all you need to do now is to pick up your MOOC, and share your learning reflections with us.

If you are not sure MOOCs of what university you’d like to enter, you can use Coursera, or edEX to browse worldwide resources of MOOCs by entering key-words for topic you are interested in. This approach I particularly recommend for industry-specific start-ups. Event relatively narrow topics related to life sciences, or energy don’t belong to something MOOCs could not cover.



How Facebook Nurtures Start-ups?

Have you wondered how Facebook attracts and retains growing population of mobile technology start-ups?

FbStart is start-up corporate accelerator of Facebook levaraging development and growth of early stage start-ups working on mobile applications.

Facebook together with partners such as Adobe, Salesforce, MailChimp, Hootsuite, or UserTesting offers package of tools, services, mentorship, and community opportunities designed to grow mobile applications.

FbStart particularly looks for mobile developers that intend to launch their applications and are associated with venture capital firms, start-up accelerators, and start-up incubators partnering with FbStart. FbStart is also open for applications from developers with experienced with launching applications in Apple and Google Play application stores.

Majority of benefits related to support of FbStart lasts up to one year, however start-ups being enrolled to the program for more than one year can still count on mentorship and community opportunities related to access to portals, forums, meet-ups and events.

FbStart also creates opportunity for any organization that would like to become a partner in investing and developing mobile-applications-oriented start-ups.

FbStart boosts position of Facebook as two-sided market platform, and strengthens its position of “dominant design”, which will distinguish it among other social medial platforms, and also possibly attract and retain its users. Initiative is also incredibly interesting from the point of view of further growth of Facebook, especially in already highly saturated markets. One of the business strategies for growth in such markets is “long tail” strategy resulting in delivering personalized and customized content looked  up by diversified groups of targeted customers, which start-ups joining FbStart can contribute to.

FbStart became popular worldwide thanks to its FbStart Apps of the Year Awards, which recognizes the most successful applications among the program members. Start-ups applying for the award are assessed according to the following criteria: growth and engagement, experience and design, efficiency at scale, and leveraging Facebook platform.

Awards of the FbStart Apps of the Year Awards total up to USD 150 000.

The last winner of FbStart Apps of the Year Awards is RadPad, start-up from Los Angeles, US, affiliated with one of my favorite US start-up accelerators – Amplify.

Los Angeles by the way recently develops forms of start-ups support ecosystem, which are extremely intriguing to observe and explore. In addition to Amplify, which belongs to top start-up accelerators in US alongside with Y Combinator, 500 Startups and Techstars, Los Angeles leads Teen Startup Academy – a 7-weeks teenager’s oriented start-up acceleration program, where  teenagers after school classes learn to develop and scale-up their business ideas.

Teen Startup Academy is led by professional instructors and sharpens skillset of nascent entrepreneurs with curriculum encompassing basics of programming, designing, pitching, and other aspects of creating and leading a new venture.

Local entrepreneurship ecosystems such as in Los Angeles maximize entrepreneurship potential of big spectrum of local community.

In that context awarding FbStart Apps of the Year Awards to start-up from Los Angeles is not a surprise.