We’ve been at it for over a year. It’s taken far too long but this week we launched our first product. Please welcome Demand Beer into the the fold.
When my co-founders of The First 65 and I sat down in the very early part of 2011, ideas were thrown around in abundance- so much to excite us about the promise of the digital world. One of the shiny topics we debated was “The Big Bang of F-commerce” (F for Facebook, btw)
We concede: there hasn’t been much to celebrate yet. But then most brands have served nothing more than their E-commerce offer framed in Facebook. We don’t think this is F-Commerce.
In fact, we are yet to see anything earth shattering in the F-commerce space and that’s why we decided to do something different.
We think F-commerce is about sharing a buying experience. It should be about clubbing together with a few friends to buy something together. How about a gift?
We created a platform called PlainSocial.com. The proposition of implementing PlainSocial is a real cracker! It’s a marketeers’ dream to have multiple people involved in a single sale: a powerful word of mouth amplification.
Take DemandBeer.com for instance: A case of cider delivered to the recipients door costs £40. Find 20 people and all they have to do is contribute £2 each. Hardly felt by each contributor’s pocket – the recipient feels loved by all their 20 friends and in so doing we manage to reach 20 people in this single transaction. We’re pretty convinced that the whole ordering process is so frictionless that several of the 20 people will return when left scratching their heads for a gift for someone.
Why not give it a try? Until the 18th October 2012, we are running a promotion with the The 3 Beards in London. Just give the Facebook app a test drive (no purchase is necessary) – check out how to enter here. We’d love to hear your feedback so please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
I’m going to be bouncing our app idea off the Don’t Pitch Me Bro community in London on Thursday 4th October – If you’re in London join us from 7-11pm at Wayra’s HQ – tickets are still available (at time of writing) (donate what you can afford)
A guest post by Steve Poland on Techcrunch caught my eye the other day. Steve is toying with seeding a fund to play in the already overcrowded early stage VC space. The post isn’t only about the criteria for investment contained on the post-it note but rather about how
It’s easy to get trapped and excited by the startup world we read about through the looking-glass of TechCrunch
He goes on to explain that if you want to start a startup the best thing to do is to study the problems that exist in the world today and create a solution for one of them. It’s a post worth reading.
Let’s just focus on the post-it note though. Many ideas find their way into my inbox and I almost feel like attaching this checklist to my email auto-responder. In my experience the biggest issue lacking from these opportunities is the Easy Path to DISTRIBUTION which is pretty much linked to a SOLUTION being marketable or not. Rarely do business pans have credible and affordable distribution plans. Your product might be the cure to a real-world problem but how are people going to discover your product?
Apart from anything else, this post-it note is the best framework for a business plan I’ve seen in a long time.
The early adopter in me has an insatiable appetite for all things new, fueled by the rapidly changing online landscape. I’ve never been a conference groupie but after attending Dreamforce in San Francisco in 2010 I changed that view. I left Dreamforce energised and ready to craft a new development team: The First 65 – I was convinced that scalability and agility was no longer a constraint to building an online business. Sadly Dreamforce 2011 clashed with our eldest daughters birthday so I missed it. With Paris being on our doorstep, I opted to attend Le Web this week although only managing to squeeze-in two of the three days having to return for the ever important school nativity play.
There are banks of official bloggers at Le Web, producing an enormity of valuable coverage which I encourage you to consume, so please don’t expect that from me. In this post, I’ll share my reflections on the event, particularly because I found it impossible to share anything during the conference, on Twitter or otherwise, due to the extremely weak, unreliable and mostly unavailable WIFI at Le Web: oh bitter irony.
The theme of Le Web 2011 was Social, Local, Mobile (SoLoMo) and it’s easy to wrap your head around these – they pervade the current online landscape and will do well past 2012.
Have a look at the programme – a great lineup indeed – my top 6 sessions FourSquare, AirBnB, Google, Flipboard, Evernote and Bill Gross
1. Dennis Crowley, Co-Founder & CEO of FourSquare explained how with the help of their user community, Foursquare have managed to collect a data set of over 30 million venues and I admire them for having survived the challenges of the data acquisition phase of their business. Users that have stuck by Foursquare through this phase are beginning to see the value of the service that comes out of the recommendation engine and it’s easy to understand the foursquare proposition to retail outlets.
2. I enjoyed listening to Brian Chesky from AirBNB talk very passionately about how he built their business in response to a personal need to let out space in his apartment in order to pay his rent and how he had crafted the IOS app with design and beauty and simplicity of user interface as a priority. He dealt with the subject of their unfortunate security breech in an open and trustworthy manner. He really made me feel that “Scratching your own itch” is one of the better routes to launching a business.
3. Despite Eric Schmidt, the executive Chairman of Google, presenting on Day 1 – it was Marissa Mayer who talked about Google’s priority to local that interested me more. Marissa is the guardian of Google’s investment in mapping and this considerable investment will give it immense power in the local market. Her poignant point was that social powers local and local powers social. The two go hand in hand and that is why Google, to me, is positioned so strongly in this battle. Of course there was much talk about Google+ vs Facebook and it’s for this reason that I think it’s far too early to write-off G+ and Android, for that matter. Android will always have the edge when it comes to local/mobile because it is poised to benefit from Google’s edge over mapping. I enjoyed references to the Google X driverless project and totally understood the argument that a computer would do a much better job at processing all the signals that humans currently have to process behind the wheel.
4.Flipboard has just launched their iPhone app (I’ve been a massive fan of their iPad app) They’ve managed to raise $60m to build their IOS apps and Mike McCue, CEO, honesty and openness about their struggles with Android and their total commitment to design and experience made this an impressionable session for me. If you haven’t yet downloaded the Flipboard iPhone App you should do so.
5. Evernote’s co-founder and CEO Phil Libin made you really feel like you could trust Evernote with your memories and his session really reinforced the success of their brand. “Give your customers the chance to fall in love with your product” he said when talking about the Freemium model. I enjoyed watching the demo (one of the few that worked during the day) of Evernote’s two new Apps – the Evernote Hello App and the Evernote Food app.Evernote Hello is designed to help you remember people. It does this by storing contact details, but more importantly by linking the when, where and who with the person’s name.The second app, Evernote Food, is all about documenting and sharing memorable food moments. Evernote has created a very successful platform on which to develop and opens up many opportunities for developers to use Evernote’s memory engine through their Trunk API.
6. Bill Gross, Founder & CEO, Idealab session was entitled “Learning From Failure: 20 Years of Entrepreneurial Lessons in 20 Minutes” and I encourage you to look at his slides. I was blown away by his experience and insights.
So what are my take-outs?
You’ll know me for being a bit of an Apple fanboy and a loyal iOS groupie. Up until now I’ve tried to get closer to Android having recently purchased a Samsung Galaxy II and found it a very disappointing device mainly because I’ve undoubtedly not given enough time to learning Android (the point is I never had to learn iOS – it is so intuitive even my 4 year old knows how to operate it) but Le Web has helped me accept that all three operating platforms (iOS, Android and Windows Mobile 7) will be contenders in any business’ quest to reach consumers. What I heard more often than not, was speakers admitting that they had only launched on iOS because they had found it so much harder to develop on Android. (Apple makes it easier for developers generally and Android’s case is complicated by multiple screen sizes and variations of device that need to be catered for). I also accepted that Windows Mobile 7 is going to be a real contender especially now that you have slick devices like the Nokia Lumia that I enjoyed playing with. Windows Mobile 7 is also going to have the edge when you consider it will seamlessly integrate with the Xbox and Kinect.
Wanting to launch an App?
Given the potential of all three mobile platforms, in the perfect world you should have all three covered. Even the likes of Flipboard, Instagram and AirBnB are struggling to release on Android. (read this bit of Techcrunch coverage to better understand the iOS Android war) If you’re a small business with an idea for an App I strongly advise you to follow the HTML5 route. HTML5 empowers apps to run in browsers across mobile platforms. Admittedly, they are constrained slightly but you should look at what Linkedin and Facebook are managing to achieve with their HTML5 web-based mobile apps before thinking that HTML is too much of a major constraint. There’s also the advantage of not having to cut 30% of your app revenue to the platform provider and equally you don’t have to jump through the app store hoops (particularly in the Apple Apple Store). I can’t say Le Web has changed the direction of my thinking on any of this but it has concreted the HTML policy we adopted early in the strategy at The First 65.
Lastly, despite still feeling that Facebook is an extremely important market place and should not be ignored, I learned little from their slot and felt slightly uninspired.
Let’s talk about the conference itself:
With the €1,700 Le Web attendance fee in mind, I’m afraid Le Web was just not slick enough for me. Granted, my expectations are calibrated by Dreamforce10 (a circa 30,000 attendance), I still refuse to accept why Europe can’t do as well. Live Demos rarely worked on stage. Everyone blamed the poor internet connectivity, most presenters had to beg for their slides to be projected on stage and often media lacked soundtrack. This left delegates cringing in their seats in nervous anticipation. I felt very sorry for many of the presenters who had travelled long distances. Loic Lemur is obviously a well respected peer in the Silicon Valley scene and certainly a charismatic person; this he must be to attract the speakers (particularly those across the Atlantic), but, to me, he comes across as a bumbling, inexperienced and awkward . Even though Loic is resident in San Francisco, I find his English doesn’t do him proud and limits Le Web from getting the best out of the interviews, and let’s face it there were some extremely senior speakers and Loic tended to interview the biggies which I found to be a pity.
Europe has long been trying to emulate the Silicone Valley start-up culture no harder than the recent efforts in the UK. What was evident from the lineup of speakers was that the bulk of the noteworthy ones had flown across the Atlantic to be with us. I had expected to see a few of the European tech “personalities” that I had been so vocal about making Europe the new tech-hub but they were conspicuous by their absence having managed to prize their way into San Francisco with their European campaign-cries still ringing in my ears. Disappointing.
Le Web 2011 was good for me from an idea generation perspective. I didn’t spot any game changers but perhaps 2012 will give us an opportunity to consolidate on So-Lo-Mo as the general uptake of mobile devices continues and the services we early adopters have been excited by experience some main stream adoption.
Disappointingly, I left Paris with nothing new to excite the early adopter in me but I have to admit attending Le Web has energised me. For online opportunists: opportunities abound and the barriers to entry have never been lower. All is good in the online world!
Below follows a post from my personal blog about how we could create a Digital Hub in Woodbridge, Suffolk. I prepared the document as part of the consultation process initiated country wide.
Woodbridge Library: a Digital Hub. Let’s Race Online.
We are all unsure of whether Suffolk County Council is in the position to continue to fund the Woodbridge Library expenditure of circa £300k per annum. There is now an urgent need to reduce costs and/or turn to alternate funding models to preserve and enhance the current service provision. The threat to continuity of service is of great concern to the local community (not necessarily limited to the current library users)
As a current user of the Woodbridge Library (only, however, on behalf of our young children) my observation is that there is an opportunity to tap into a demographic of user that isn’t currently engaged in this community hub: those that create and consume media digitally (online). If we were to bring this demographic into the user base of the Woodbridge Library, we’d create a subsidiary revenue stream, and support structure of digitally inclined people who would both help with the ongoing running of the existing library services (stacking books, staffing help desk etc) as well as help create a critically needed Race Online 2012 (see below) presence in Woodbridge
Out of town Suffolk has a poor reputation for the provision of higher speed broadband. There are currently few “digital spaces” for owner managed businesses who have harnessed the power of digital to meet, work and build a “startup culture” network. Woodbridge Library has a wonderful new purpose-built building including a conference room in it. I have discovered that this room is for hire at a charge of £35 per half day. It can accommodate 25 guests. It’s modern, beautifully appointed and light and airy. This charge may initially sound understated but I later discovered that there is no provision of internet! – neither cabled or wifi anywhere in the Library. Should this required internet facility be offered, I can see no reason why the room would not be in great demand and command a daily rate way in excess of the current one. Not only that, but the occupancy would rise dramatically. I am yet to see the room in use by any group other than the library staff. Not only would the room be a fantastic facility but would increase the footfall to- and user base of- the library.
Building a Digital Hub in Woodbridge
In terms of the above and whilst the provision of internet (both cabled and wifi) would be a great way to boost the library revenue stream I feel that the space described above could be used in a more meaningful way both boosting the revenue stream and creating a digital hub in Woodbridge expanding the user demographic of the Library to create a pool of progressive digitally inclined volunteers who would support the current and proposed community initiatives. If the room were to be used to create a members only hot desking work environment the Woodbridge Library could become a digital hub in Suffolk. Paid membership would entitle users to access a “hotdesk” in the facility for up to 10 hours a week – booked online on first-come-first-served basis this facility could produce up to £10k per month (roughly 120 members of £80 per month)
The setup cost would be minimal and involve purchasing workstations: this could be sponsored by one of the private digital agencies in Suffolk.
Race Online 2012 – A community initiative in Woodbridge
Going forward it is critical that those who have been digitally empowered help those who have been excluded (for whatever reason: social, economic or lack of knowledge/empowerment/confidence/facilities). The Library’s support base continues to be threatened by the Digital Divide and rather than fight it, the Libraries need to embrace this and play a central role in bridging this divide. Race Online 2012 is a national campaign to give Britain’s socially and digitally excluded equal access to life-changing power of technology – founded and championed by Martha Lane Fox – the UK Government’s digital champion (see http://raceonline2012.org )
What better way to transform the Woodbridge Library into a digital hub – creating a precious revenue stream to preserve the existing services but also to recruit a new digital demographic who can also help in the Race Online initiative?
A group within the Suffolk Digital Community would be fully prepared to develop a comprehensive plan if the above achieves any traction. It goes without say that this would be a project for the community by the community and would be funded by the volunteers.
Do you agree with me? Could you help with a strategy like this? Please comment below and let’s rally some support please.