Archive for February, 2013

Collaborative Economy: Brand Edition


A few days ago, I announced that I’ll be leading a research effort to understand the impacts of the growing Collaborative Economy trend.  I also listed 200 startups that are in this space (and a few big brands).  For those who are new to this topic, there’s an unstoppable wave of people trading, renting, and borrowing all kinds of services and goods.  The disruptive impacts to brands are potentially very high.  Consumers are already buying and trading among themselves, often without purchasing items directly from the brands themselves.  Companies that don’t pay attention to this trend are leaving themselves in a state of risk, as technology and society continue to quickly innovate.

[To stay relevant with this unstoppable trend, every corporation must evaluate a business model of products as a service, marketplaces, tapping the maker movement and crowd collaboration as market behaviors shift]

This trend has some major impacts for our social understanding of commercialism, materialism, and marketing.  Yesterday, I was with some young entrepreneurs who mentioned that the “American Dream is not about ownership of products, but just access to them.”  Renting, borrowing, and trading to live the lifestyle they want, with no worries, is suitable for their personal and vocational lives.  For example, my long-time tech contact, entrepreneur, and friend, Andrew Hyde, only owned 39 things in an attempt to simplify his life.

Recent history is littered with companies that didn’t adapt to this Collaborative Economy model.  From Blockbuster to Netflix, from newspapers to Craigslist, a few were able to harness this change.  Much of the media has deployed a variety of methods to curb peer-to-peer sharing.  As part of my research method, I like to lean on the community to source examples and case studies.  The following list contains examples of companies which have harnessed Collaborative Economy tactics to supplement their business strategy of innovation.  Here’s what I see:

Collaborative Economy: List of Brands and Corporations
Right now, at the start of this list, there are five companies, all in the auto space. I’ll add to it over time, as this trend takes off.

  1. BMW Drive NOW Premium Car Sharing by BMW i, Mini, and Sixt
  2. Volkswagen Quicar Car Share by VW (Hanover)
  3. Peugeot Mu Mobiliy Services Rentals
  4. Daimler Car2Go Sponteneity on Wheels
  5. RelayRides Uses OnStar technology, partnered with GM
  6. Toyota Rent a Car: Offers a wide range of cars to be rented, at dealer, Feb 2013
  7. Barclays Cycle Hire: Barclays, a Financial Services firm offers Bike Share (2010?)
  8. BarclayCard Ring crowdsources many functions, including content and crowd determines where profits go, more from Lithium.
  9. Minneapolis and ST. Paul have a bike sharing program sponsored by Blue Cross and Blue Shield, called Nice Ride
  10. Radiohead gifts media, asking consumers to pay what they want, (2007) hat tip Nico Ibieta
  11. Dodge Dart Registry:  Crowdfund your next car
  12. Ford now was crowd sharing in Germany (submitted by Ford’s Scott Monty)
  13. Walmart considers having customers ship their own products (Submitted by Joe Chernov)
  14. Google rents Chromebooks for $30 (Submitted by Ned Boyajian)
  15. Enterprise Ride Share and Vanpool for individuals, employers, government. and has also acquired car sharing IGO in Chicago
  16. Patagonia is now partnered with eBay (Commmon Threads) to foster a marketplace of used goods for sale, and also partnered with Yerdle to support swapping –instead of buying
  17. NBC partners with Yerdle as a media partner for one year to promote idea of reduced consumption from brands, and instead swapping
  18. Virgin Airlines partners with to enable social matching of guests who want to carpool after a flight
  19. Citibank sponsors Citi Bikes in NYC, my coverage here
  20. Microsoft Windows taps into crowdfunding, paying 10% down and asking for others to chip in. Via Stefano Maggi
  21. ScotteVest promotes used goods to be purchased and sold on eBay
  22. Two community banks partner with LendingClub a peer to peer financing site
  23. Retailer West Elm features Etsy creations in their physical stores, I was able to see this first hand in Palo Alto
  24. A number of companies, like REI are cooperatives that have shared ownership and or a democratic governance system.
  25. Enterprise Holdings purchased Zimride from Lyft, July 2013
  26. Quirky and GE partner in co-ideation and working with crowd. Thanks to Dan Mallin for link.
  27. Regus and Zipcar (Avis) partner, Aug 2, 2013 (hat tip Dave Frankland)
  28. ING co-working space in downtown Toronto (hat tip Howard Hecht)
  29. Marriott experiments with Liquidspace for rapid booking. On Sept 23rd, Marriott and Liquidspace double downed their bets making lobbyist a collaborative workplace.
  30. Lincoln Motors partnered with CustomMade to allow the maker movement to create custom artifacts for new owners. Added Aug 2013, program started spring.
  31. Comcast has invested $1m in Maker’s Row.  Publish date, July 2013, hat tip J.T. Ramsay
  32. Google Ventures invests $258 million into Uber, (hint: Google Mine, and self driving cars), August 2013
  33. W Hotel has partnered with DesksNearMe, added August 2013
  34. Ikea has encouraged ride sharing in Canada and France, added August 2013, hat tip Juho Makkonen
  35. NFL has partnered with Uber to curb drunk driving athletes, Sept 2013
  36. eBay launched SecretGuru in UK, a services marketplace, in Oct 2012, hat tip Juho Makkonen
  37. B&Q, a home improvement retailer in UK launches neighborhood sharing, called StreetClub, hat tip Juho Makkonen
  38. Retailer, Argos, launches toy swapping website, hat tip Juho Makkonen
  39. EasyJet airlines launches a car sharing service called Easy Car, hat tip Juho Makkonen
  40. General Electric launches partnership with skill sharing startup  SkillShare, hat tip Juho Makkonen
  41. Home Depot rents delivery trucks and tools, hat tip Lou Gutheil
  42. Uber partners with GE in promotion in SF with Delorean cars
  43. UHaul investor club allows for peer to peer lending based on assets (videos dated 2011)
  44. Kaggle, a marketplace of top global scientists is tapped by GE, AllState, and Merck
  45. Razorfish, a digital agency, provided free bikes (that Tweet) at SXSW in Austin 2013 called Use Me Leave Me. (thanks Adam Helweh)
  46. H&M takes in older clothes and provides store credit (hat tip Ruth Bender from WSJ)
  47. Uber partners with StubHub (owned by eBay) for game day.
  48. Nordstrom and Etsy partner for original hand crafted goods to be sold at retail scale, (Feb 2013)
  49. Toyota releases a new 3 wheel I-Road, intended tob e shared –not bought.  Oct, 2013, hat tip, Dan Ziman
  50. Nokia released 3D printing software files to encourage people to print out their own phone cases.  Many use Shapeways (thanks Duanne, from Shapeways)
  51. MasterCard sponsored NY’s CitiBike bike sharing program, as a Preferred Payment Provider (May 2013)
  52. Shapeways, 3D printing as a service, is a successful spin out and investment from Philips.
  53. GE and TaskRabbit team up for free delivery, under the Brilliant Machines campaign (Oct 2013)
  54. Fon launches a wifi router that’s designed to share.  It produces a second signal for all Fon customers, via Facebook connect. (Oct 2013)
  55. Patron offers Halloween revelers a safe ride home, by partnering with Uber (Oct 2013)
  56. Samsung taps crowd innovation startup Marblar for crowd innovation and partnerships with Samsung. hat tip Vivian Wang (Oct 2013)
  57. Ikea launches second hand marketplace, encouraged used goods to be sold –rather than bought anew. hat tip Juho Makkonen
  58. Western Union partnered with Airbnb for international payments
  59. TOMs launches a marketplace featuring 30 makers for social good
  60. Uber partners with GM and Toyota to get more cars on road –in exchange for price discounts
  61. Uber partners with Ford to provide free rides, and promote a new vehicle.
  62. Uber partners with Home Depot to deliver Xmas trees on demand in Dec 2013
  63. Uber and Paypal partner at LeWeb, Dec 2013 to give entrepreneurs a unique place to pitch
  64. Philips is partnering with Indiegogo to host this competition and help bring your ideas to life through crowdfunding, including $100,000 from Philips.  Hat tip Lisa Gansky
  65. Kelly Services and oDesk partner, Dec 2013
  66. Thredup and partnered for recommerce
  67. Walgreens and Taskrabbit partner to deliver cold medicine, Jan 2014 (link via Mike D Merrill)
  68. Hotels like Hyatt, Kimpton Hotels are now renting jewelry, hairspray, waffle irons, and clothes (link via Collaborative Labs)
  69. Home Depot and Quirky partner to co-innovate new products for Home Depot shelves. (Youtube date, Sept 2013)
  70. Uber and Pepsi partner for Superbowl celebrations to bring a half time show to your local corner in NY (Jan 2014)
  71. Uber partners with the Cosmo hotel in Vegas, providing ride and room from LA to Vegas (Jan 2014)
  72. Rent a Runway partners with Cosmo hotel for dress rental (Dec 2013)
  73. Uber and Mastercard partner for 2014 Valentine’s day (Feb 2014)
  74. Ford and Techshop celebrate one year of partnership for employee innovation
  75. Virgin Airlines partners with Circleup for crowd funding of consumer packaged food on flights, hat tip Lisa Gansky, Feb 2014
  76. Hasbro enables customers to 3D print toys in partnership with 3D systems, Feb 2014
  77. Westin rents workout gear to hotel guests
  78. ENI, an energy company in Italy lead a car sharing effort, press release, submitted by Luca Gatti
  79. Comcast works with Airbnb to upgrade properties, submitted by JT at Comcast, April 2014
  80. Boating Manufactured Brunswick partners with Boatsharing company Boatbound, submitted by Lisa Gansky, April 2014
  81. Walmart offers trade in of pre-owned goods, offering access over ownership, March 2014
  82. Many more B2B examples from Juho, the CEO of Sharetribe (white label marketplaces), who’s provided many-a-links.
  83. Add a brand or corporation to this list, by leaving a comment below

Opportunities for Corporations; Your Business Model Will Change
The brand business model will need to completely shift.  My thesis is that for some retail and CPG companies to sustain, they will need to extend their business models to rent and allow for bartering.  That’s right, I’m going to explore future use cases where Walmart, Macy’s, Gucci, Nordstrom, Target, Apple, BestBuy, Audi, P&G, will offer products for rent or lease –not ownership or consumption.  Service based companies like Manpower, Kelly Services, HRBlock, may all need to develop methods that allow for independents to be involved in workforce, extending the model to peer to peer based services market where they take a margin cut.  Even the hospitality space is impacted, expect companies like Hyatt, Marriott, Hilton, to not only rent rooms at their hotels, but to certify individual home owners houses to be rented out on second market exchanges like AirBnb or create their own market.   In most radical use cases, brands may give away products for free as gifts, in expectation for donations, a promise for customers to come back later, or to receive a barter, or for no reason at all.  Crazy?  Not really, consumers are already doing this, and businesses must often model consumer behaviors to stay relevant. Lastly, assume there will be lots of acquisitions of startups to corporations, again, here’s my list of startups.

If you’d like to get involved with this research, please do the following:
I’m an industry analyst, which means I conduct research, and publish reports, see my Body of Research to learn more.

  • Add to this list, by leaving comments below, of companies that are adopting Collaborative Economy strategies
  • Request to be interviewed in this research report, on this web form. (I’d love to interview brands, even if anonymous)
  • Share this post with your colleagues, clients, and executives.

(Note: If I may be so bold, Altimeter Group, where I’m a partner and owner, we practice Open Research and publish reports at no cost, rather than use a subscription model)

Oscar TV Ads Failed To Integrate Social –A Missed Opportunity for Converged Media


This year, marketers were focused on promoting their owned corporate website. Of the few that promoted engagement with social ads, even fewer integrated paid, owned, and earned.

With 39m American Oscar viewers in 2012, a majority of them are viewing them with a second screen (mobile/laptop/tablet) in hand, disappointingly, most TV ads failed to use paid media to trigger these discussions, indicating that Converged Media of paid owned earned is not consistent in today’s marketing quiver.  A few weeks ago, we conducted similar analysis of SuperBowl ads, and found a greater degree of integration, including cross-channel integration with Hashtags (31% incidence) from TV ads to trigger online discussions.

Last night, at the Oscar’s, integration from the 58 TV spots to the second screen was paltry at best, with a high reliance on advertising corporate URLs, an odd play given that most know how to use Google search to find websites.  While many a brand was active in emulating Oreos “Real Time Marketing” by using pre-created photoshop templates, it felt contrived and forced. There’s a thriving discussion, from Jay Baer on the contrived impact of Real Time Ad Failures, and David Armano gives pause to share his perspective as an agency working with Kellogg who were deploying real time ads –despite no TV spot.

Data highlights

  • We analyzed 58 TV spots, from award kickoff to end (not red carpet).
  • About 75% of all ads integrated cross-channel integration, with a majority promoting URLs
  • While 17% of ads integrated Facebook, and 14% Twitter, they didn’t promote a specific URL, most focusing on the social network icons.
  • Hashtag integration was a mere 13%, (Superbowl ads were over double that at 31%) a missed opportunity, given the amount of second screen activity in this media heavy space
  • Samsung pushed the hashtag #galaxyatwork four times across their many ads, and purchased promoted trends on Twitter.

Most Oscar TV Ads Integrated URLs –Social Integration lower

Marketing Efforts of Note
This year’s Oscar ads were contrived, forced efforts of brands and agencies running after the Oreo’s halo from Superbowl.  Of note, JCP connected both there emotional TV spot, and tied it with Twitter engagement and even sent gift cards to Twitter followers that gave a positive reaction to the ads.  Kellogg’s Special K deployed real time images in salute to award winners (Life of Pi), even without a TV spot, which limited their overall reach and opportunity to trigger engagement.  Stella Artois had several photoshop templates that created Gifs that recognized winners, but didn’t push the content to the next level.  AdWeek highlights how Oreos extended engagement from Superbowl to Oscars.

Converged Media Workflow
Above Diagram: Here’s one way brands should be integrated paid, owned, and earned, in a Converged Media manner. While most Oscar ads failed to complete this, JCP earned high marks, Read the full report.

Concluding Remarks:
Real time marketing was experimental at best, with many brands still trying to develop their playbooks for the second screen.  Brands failed to integrate their paid media with social media, missing out on opportunities for the content to engage and resonate.  Next year, expect greater integration between all the elements of paid, owned and earned, which we call Converged Media.

Update: There’s a discussion on my Facebook page, critiquing the ads.

The Master List of the Collaborative Economy: Rent and Trade Everything


My next Open Research report (see my body of research) will be about the Rise of the Collaborative Economy.  If you’d like to be interviewed for this upcoming report, please fill out this submission form.   In my career as an analyst, I often list all the players in a category, announce a formal research effort, then publish a series of analyses, as part of my continuing methodology.  In this case I will also be presenting my findings as a speaker at LeWeb, whose theme, “Digital Hippies” is directly related to this trend.  Thanks to friend Loic Lemeur for triggering this idea.

[Collaborative Economy Defined:  A digital system that manages the coordination of buyers and sellers who offer or exchange used products and remnant services]

[Market impact: These startups enable the crowd to get what they need from each other –rather than go to corporations]

The Three Categories of Collaborative Economy Markets
Within this market, there are multiple use scenarios.  Right now, we see the following three categories:

Market Type Description Examples
First Collaborative Market Manufactures and business owners that are now offering products for rent or barter BMW and Toyota have made motions to offer cars for rent from their lots – beyond selling them.
Second Collaborative Market Often denoted as the “Used or Second Hand” market a consumer may offer to rent or lease of used products or remnant services. Lyft allows for any consumer to act like a taxi, and pick up members of the service.  Craigslist and eBay (disclosure: client) empowers the selling of used products, worldwide
Third Collaborative Market Barter, gifting, or non-currancy exchanges of used products or remnant services. Toyswap allows parents to exchange toys with other parents, rather than purchase products that their kids will outgrow. Giftflow encourages users to ask for what they need, then to help others in the future, paying it forward

Market Rises: Media Attention, Over $2billion in Funding
There’s been remarkable media coverage on this topic as vendors like AirBnB, Lyft, Uber and TaskRabbit have gained the media’s attention.  Pushbacks against this category have emerged in San Francisco, as well as in Amsterdam, as unofficial places of rent.  We don’t foresee this space going down, as a cursory analysis indicates that there’s been a whopping $2 billion in venture funding across a sampling of 200 startups within this category.  A spinoff from the consumer social networking category, this movement will have significant runway before true winners are determined.

Disruptions to CPG, Retail, Service Industry, and Governments
There are potentially extensive disruptions for companies that create products or services.  If this trend continues at the current speed and trajectory, it may force retail and product-based companies to acquire startups within this space or to offer products in their own stores for lease or barter.  Furthermore, governments could be displaced if the barter economy rises.  Tax revenues are diminished as people share products with no money exchanged.  We’re also seeing new forms of nontraditional currency emerging, including peer-to-peer BitCoin, which is not backed by any central bank or precious metal.  It’s backed by processing power.

How You Can Get Involved with this Research

  1. Submit a startup in the comments below
  2. Request to be interviewed for this upcoming Open Research report in this web form.
  3. Share this post with others.

List of 200 Companies in the Collaborative Economy
Using the spirit of this space, I contacted a TaskRabbit (thanks Rachel) to conduct significant research from a variety of sources over 22.5 hours to compile a list of startups in this space.  This database will be the primary source of a sample which I’ll use to parse trends and data for my upcoming report.

Update:  Many of these examples and specific language were from the Collaborative Consumption Hub, to which I failed to provide full attribution (my fault) upon first publication of this piece.  Please see the many resources available there, including their many service offerings.

Update: March 26: They’ve built a dynamic directory on their website, which you should visit.

  • Personal Services
    • Rent a Friend Rent a friend for family events, social, business, workout, companionship
    • Hire A Boston Wingwoman Your WingWoman will put YOU in the spotlight (help you meet women in a social scene).
    • Airtime The platform for great video conversation
  • Miscellaneous Services
    • Nanny in the Clouds Changing the way young families fly by connecting them with an in-flight nanny
    • Wello Bye Bye Gym, Hello Convenience
    • GetMaid Instant booking, effortless payments, and exceptional home cleaning at your door within two hours.
  • Car sharing
    • Uber Everyone’s Private Driver
    • Zipcar Wheels when you want them
    • Sidecar Connects people with space in their car to those who need a ride
    • Lyft Your Friend with a Car
    • GoGet Get going fast. Never look back.
    • WhizzCar Wheels on Demand (Singapore)
    • Autoshare Keys to Wonderful (Toronto)
    • Stattauto CarSharing – Munich Germany
    • CarSharing CarSharing Austria (operated by Zipcar)
    • Zazcar Car Share Brazil
    • City Car Club Book, jump in, drive away…
    • Cambiocar CarSharing
    • Autolibre Car Share – very small cars, maybe electric with battery packs and stations around France to recharge. No English translation
    • Enterprise has purchased IGO carsharing in Chicago
  • Car sharing (from big automobile manufactures)
    • BMW Drive NOW Premium Car Sharing by BMW i, Mini, and Sixt
    • Volkswagen Quicar Car Share by VW (Hanover)
    • Peugeot Mu Mobiliy Services Rentals
    • Daimler Car2Go Spontaneity on Wheels
  • Peer-to-Peer Car Sharing
  • Bike sharing
  • Ride sharing
    • Zimride Grab a Seat. Save money and meet people heading your way.
    • Nuride Get rewards for greener trips
    • Liftshare Travel Together UK
    • Jayride Travel A to B with Jayride – UK/Ireland, AUS, NZ
    • GoCarShare Life’s a journey…share it
    • Carpooling Join the leading Global carpooling network!
    • Caronetas Smart Rides – Brazil
    • DuckSeat Ridesharing for Events
    • Avego Welcome to Avego, your ride sharing network
    • Amovens Find ridesharing partners
    • Tickengo Click to get a ride
  • Solar Power
  • Toy Rental
  • Textbook Rental
  • Art Rental
    • Learn about and collect the worlds greatest art
    • Artsicle What’s Your Art Style?
    • TurningArt Art that speaks for you
  • Fashion Rental
  • Movies
  • General Online Rental
  • Peer-to-Peer Rental
    • Zilok Zilok Rent anything, On-line! Rentals from Businesses and Individuals.
    • Neighborgoods Save money and resources by sharing stuff with your friends
    • Rentoid The place to rent anything
    • Ecomodo The marketplace of good returns
    • HireThings Hire in what you need, hire out what you have
    • Rentalic Rent anything anywhere (site under construction for another month)
    • RentStuff A RentalCompare Company
    • Open Shed Why buy when you can share?
  • Neighborhood Rental/Share/Market
  • Unique Eperiences
    • Gidsy Find Unique things to do
    • Vayable Book an experience when you travel
    • Sidetour Challenge the Ordinary
  • Peer-to-Peer Travel
  • Errand/Task Networks (general and professional)
    • RedBeacon Trusted Pros for a Better Home
    • Expert Bids Submit your bids. Get proposals and reviews. Save time and money.
    • Crowdflower “The World’s Largest Workforce – large, data-heavy projects broken into small tasks, distributed to < 1.5 million on-demand global contributors”
    • Taskrabbit Outsource Errands or Tasks at the Touch of a Button
    • Zaarly Life is short. Do what you love.
    • Airrun It’s everyone’s personal assistant.
    • Mytaskangel An online marketplace where people connect to get everyday tasks done in their local communities
    • Gigwalk Gigwalk connects businesses with the best people to get work done anywhere
    • Airtasker Find people to help you around the home and office.
  • Social Food Networks
    • Gobble Personalized Dinners Delivered
    • Grubwithus Never eat alone on Grubwithus
    • Eatwithme Food. Photos. Writing.
    • Wok+Wine Wok+Wine is the world’s most effective serendipity machine
  • Storage Networks
  • Parking Spots
  • Shared Studios/Workshops/Workspaces
    • 3rd Space Studios 3rd Space Studios benefit from large spaces and studio members with a range of disciplines
    • Techshop Build your dreams here
    • Newworkcity Working for yourself doesn’t have to mean working by yourself.
    • Studiomates STUDIOMATES is a collaborative workspace of designers, illustrators, bloggers, writers, and developers.
    • Bees Office Work alongside amazing people!
    • Coloft LAs startup hub
    • Desksnearme Need a space to work?
    • Deskwanted Find your ideal working community
    • Opendesks OpenDesks helps you find, share, and manage places to meet and work
    • Desksurfing Coworking spaces around the world
  • Social Lending
    • Zopa Get a loan today
    • Prosper We connect people who want to borrow money with people who want to invest money
    • Lending Club Investors earn better returns, borrowers pay lower rates
    • Enterprise Den The marketplace for success
    • Qifang P2P Lending for Chinese Student Loans
  • Social Currencies
    • Ven It’s time for a new kind of money
    • The Liquidity Network Developing a complementary currency for Ireland
    • Timebanks Building equality and caring community economies through inclusive exchange of time and talent
    • Letsystems Local exchange trading system
  • Taxi Sharing
    • Taxi2 Share. Get there.
    • Taxistop More with less…
    • Weeels More riding, less driving, no parking
  • Bartering
    • Ourgoods A barter network for the creative community
    • Itex Connect. Trade. Save.
    • Bartercard The card that works for you
    • Tourboarding How to stay and play in China for Free
  • Crowdfunding (investments, not loans)
  • Gardens
    • Urbangardenshare Urban Garden Share pairs together eager gardeners with eager gardens
    • Landshare Connecting growers to people with land to share
    • Yardshare Front yard, side yard, & backyard landscaping ideas & garden design pictures shared by homeowners and landscape contractors.
    • Servicevines Cherry pick the best landscapers from your back yard
  • Skill Sharing
  • Big Marketplaces
  • Free/Gift Exchanges
    • Freecycle Changing the world one gift at a time
    • Giftflow Give what you can. Ask for what you need. Pay it forward.
    • Ziilch Where good stuff goes free
    • Exchango Welcome to the freeconomy!
    • Freally An online community that help you save money and environment.
  • Used Electronics
  • Swap Sites for Books/Media
  • Swap Sites f0r Baby Goods/Toys
    • Toyswap Swap, Buy, and Sell New and Gently Used Toys
    • Thredup Just Like a Consignment Shop – But All Online!
    • Kinderado (formerly Tauschteddy) Second hand children’s clother for parents. From parents.
  • Clothing Swaps
  • Pets
    • Rover Find your perfect dog sitter
    • Dogvacay Board your dog in a real home
  • Education/Language
    • EduFire A social learning community
    • Udemy Udemy helps students make moves
    • Myngle Language lessons that come to you
    • Glovico A social network where people from developing countries can offer their services as language teachers
    • Livemocha Creating a world without barriers

Summary and Next Steps
This trend is just getting started.  Expect many traditional business models to be disrupted as these startups and large companies adopt new methods for deploying and consuming goods and services. Don’t expect more than 20% of these startups to survive, as categories will expand and collapse in the traditional innovation environment.  I’ll keep a continued focus on this market trend over the coming future.  Please leave a comment with your thoughts and submissions.

Quest for the Digital Fountain of Youth Awakens “After Life Technology”


Apple WorldImagine your great-grandchildren interacting with your likeness on a daily basis, all derived from your Facebook media, Vine videos and your personality from your Tweets.

Humans, both poor and rich have continued to seek out the greatest quest since the dawn of mankind; how do we stay alive in this world?  Fortunately, (or not fortunately) new technologies are emerging both now, including some fascinating developments by leading think tanks, including Stanford.

[After Life Technology emerges to store, replicate, and even reanimate the deceased based on the digital data we’re emitting every day]

Whether you find it creepy, narcissistic, or a thoughtful way to connect with future-generations, this is a choice we’ll all be forced to reckon with. Should we shutter accounts? Allow them to be memorials, with or without comments? Allow data to be used to digitally reanimate us? There’s even impacts to corporations, as employees who are public in social channels who will eventually leave this plane, and a communications plan will need to be erected to deal with both the grief at a human way, but also how their personal, or hybrid (work/personal), or corporate social media accounts will be used.

[Even employers need to plan an after-life policy for employees using personal social media for business purposes]

Scenario Matrix: Deceased Employee used Personal Social Accounts for Work Purposes
Currently, Altimeter has found that there are hundreds of employees in many companies using personal social accounts for work. We also find that corporate accounts blend and merge with personal accounts, making the blue between personal and work, sometimes indistinguishable. The following matrix breaks down some likely scenarios that could occur:

Scenario Details Ramifications
Family of deceased mandates content to be removed IP created at work is owned by company, yet employee may have used personal social accounts IP created at work is often owned by company but now as people use personal social accounts, who owns?
Deceased employee has content set to publish on timer Deceased employee has content on timer, set to publish in coming weeks, potentially conflicting with announcement strategy, messaging and general confusion. Does company have ability or right to alter settings or access login credentials?
Digital reanimation efforts on former deceased employee A digital reanimation company seeks to activate likeness of former employee, including using content created around workplace IP ownership at question, including potential monetization of reanimate likeness
Family requests social media accounts The family requests access to social media accounts, except they were created at work, and span both personal and work life Questions cause legal action due to IP, personal information rights, privacy, with variations at every country
Family has access to corporate social media accounts Using Lifelocker, the deceased has turned over access to social accounts that deceased employee used during work. Ownership is not clear, as the account spans personal and professional usage.

While immature, there are several impacts to society, business, family, law that should give us all pause to consider, here’s a running list of what I’ve observed:

Impact to Society

Impact to Individuals
Impact to Family
Impact to Employers
  • Corporate Social Media Policies Post-Life: While I don’t see much online, companies must also develop social media policies on how hybrid accounts (personal accounts that are branded with company, like (LionelAtDell) will be used, or not used.  Could public social media content created at work be used by third parties including the family, or future digital reanimation companies?
  • Most employment contracts indicate that all content created at the company (on company networks, or software) is owned by the company. What right does a company have to use that public facing social media content, after an employee passes on?
Impact to Social Networks
Future Tech: Digital Reanimation
  • Future: I visited the Stanford Virtual Reality lab last month, and was able to hear from the Professors who have a simulated lab that they’re already starting to experiment with aggregating Facebook photos to recreate faces.  They could easily do this for the deceased.
Technology Providers
  1. Legacy Locker:  Allows for the loved ones of a deceased to manage the social media accounts, ecommerce accounts, banking accounts, and more, through a one-stop management tool.
  2. _LivesOn:  Slated to launch soon, this tool would provide Tweets post-life for deceased to communicate with those around them based on analysis of your existing twitter content and behaviors.
  3. Microsoft Research is conducting an experiment called Life Bits and is capturing an individuals full life on digital record, to understand how to use this technology in a number of methods
  4. was created to help people build a rich profile of information that preserves their essential, unique qualities for future generations and family members.

A New Industry Will Slowly Emerge to Digitally Reanimate The Deceased
Expect a new industry to emerge that offers the following services:  Estate planners factor in social media accounts, and blogs and websites, as part of the estate.  New software emerges to allow people to opt-in to have themselves digitally communicating with their future kin for generations. In a few short years, expect new virtual reality and simulation software to aggregate and analyze a deceased photos/videos from social networks, and replicate their face, mannerisms, in a way we are most familiar with.  In the not-so-radical future, expect that future generations will be able to have the capability to replicate you in a virtual manner, based on the digital trails we’re leaving behind by the gigabyte.

Assume technology will advance to digitally reanimate us, individuals, families, officials, employers must plan for this inevitable future now.

(Photo Credits used under Creative Commons by Raffaello)

Social Media Crises Has Many Points of Failure



by Alan Webber, Jeremiah Owyang, Altimeter Group Analysts.

Yesterday’s Burger King brandjacking was an important reminder to brands and their agency and software partners about how vulnerable social media accounts are.  These forms of attacks are increasing in frequency, such as Jeep’s recent twitter hack. Surprisingly, Altimeter Group’s research has found from analyzing 50 crises that 76% of crises could have been minimized or avoided had companies been prepared internally –external hacks are not the most common threats.  While the press and media was quick to jump to conclusions that the Burger King account was “hacked” (with various daunting fingers pointing at McDonald’s and Anonymous) most threats come from inside –not external forces.

Multiple Points of Failure:
Below, we’ve compiled a list of potential points of failure, that all companies must prepare for. Anyone of these alone or combined could bring down the whole house of social cards.

  1. Management: Lack of password control. Burger King didn’t know who had access to the account or to the passwords. It is possible the same password was used across multiple accounts. Passwords need to be changed on a periodic basis.
  2. Breach: Organized hackers can comprise any system. An organized hacker can find multiple methods of intrusion including passwords, social engineering, software, or apps.
  3. Breach: Rogue employees or agency members (current or former). Without knowing who had access to the passwords, it is impossible to know if the account truly was hacked or if it was an a rogue employee, either current or former.  Many social software systems are not tied to Active Directory or LDAP systems.
  4. Training and education: Lack of skills inside the organization. It isn’t clear that BK had the internal skills to actually manage the account, so they became dependent on an external firm. BK was highly dependent on an external agency to actually manage and control their twitter account.
  5. Software: Security of Social Media Management System Software. Though it isn’t clear, it is possible that the SMMS system employed by BK could have been hacked. This could have led to other failures in other social media systems.
  6. Software: Twitter and Facebook Apps.  A number of apps on the Twitter and Facebook platform may have multiple forms of data access, which could yield information that could yield passwords, API access, or sensitive information.
  7. Software:  Twitter and Social Networks susceptible.  Twitter and Facebook themselves are targets from multiple intruders seeking to compromise systems. Recently, Twitter is under target from Chinese hackers as was Facebook, last week.
  8. Security: Network Intrusion. General network or firewall intrusion through online, network infiltration at corporate, mobile phone, agency, or even at Twitter corp.

Conclusion: Action Steps for All Brands and Agencies
Companies must analyze multiple points of failure and develop safeguards at each of the above listed steps.  Start by sharing this checklist with internal legal risk and compliance teams, and operational social media teams, including agencies.  Develop a process to test these at a regular basis and conduct social media fire drills with all constituents.

Additional Resources:

Update: Minutes after posting this, Jeep was also hacked, and account is back to normal. Burger King and Jeep show brandly love.

Discussion: What other points of risk are not listed above?  We’d love to hear your comments and additional points.

Future Proofing: Ten Ways Big Companies are Staying Agile


Sunset yoga (Cropped, sourced)

A CEO of a new startup in Silicon Valley confided in me over beers that he said it’s easy for startups to disrupt big companies as they’re so busy internally fighting themselves. He’s right, I mostly see companies in internal battles and struggles over resources and power, leaving them exposed to outside startups. Coincidently, may of the startups I see disrupting large companies are composed of ex-employees who recombine as they know the weaknesses to exploit these larger companies, damning!  To stay Future Proof, I’m seeing at least ten trends larger corporations are applying in the last year to stay lean and agile.

Ten Ways Big Companies are Staying Agile:
While there are limitless methods on how companies can innovate and stay agile, I wanted to share from my perspective what I’m seeing as I visit large corporations and spend time with startups.  I included some color on what I see working –and what’s not working– and  I encourage your comments below to share your perspective, so we can collectively grow.

  1. Hire and Acquire:  The most obvious way companies are injecting innovation and agile culture is hiring innovators.  I’ve friends that are recruiters in a variety of large companies, and they’re often going for top performing college grads, but I hear of them now sourcing highly educated talent in China and India with interesting results.  Over the last year in the market I closely watch, companies like Adobe, Oracle, Salesforce, and Google have acquired startups: Context Optional, Vitrue/Involver, Buddy, and Wildfire, respectively.
  2. Shifting Market Categories, Applying Agile Development Principals.  Over the last decade the Agile Development method hit the tech scene by storm, forcing big box software players to be overrun by rapidly iterated products launched on a daily basis.  We’re seeing companies evolve outside of their core offering and beverage companies like Coke, Amex, RedBull are now becoming media and lifestyle companies, and they continue to quickly release content, new products, and services at a rapid pace.
  3. Removing Excessive Middle Management.   Successful companies often become bloated.  In an effort to allow the executive team the ability to stay strategic, they grant a middle layer of management to emerge to look after the working teams.  Over time, internal kingdoms emerge and battles over turf occur, segmenting the company, and causing duplication of resources.  Many large companies are under going restructuring, including this large software company in Silicon Valley.
  4. Sourcing Ideas from Employees Outside of R&D Dept.  Innovative companies are providing programs that inspire employees –even those not in R&D– to submit ideas and allow them to be funded.  Using internal web-based submission tools, some companies enable other employees to vote on top ideas, resulting in a governing team to fund the internal initiatives, such as at Dreamworks, and discussions on modern management websites.
  5. Conducting tours in Silicon Valley and Innovation Centers: On a periodic basis, I hear of executive teams from East Coast, Europe, Mid West taking tours in Silicon Valley, stopping by the usual suspects like Facebook, Google, Twitter, Stanford to understand innovation cultures.  These tours are great at injecting fresh perspective into traditional mindsets, but can often leave executives feeling like they’ve seen a movie of children’s play.  The upcoming movie on the Google “Internship” will caricature old business vs new.
  6. Enabling Employees to Conduct Passion Projects:  Large companies like Google (50k employees) have structured time for engineering team to have dedicated time to conduct experiments in areas of interest.  They grant these teams dedicated time to innovate; 20% of their time for innovating Google experiences, and 10% on “Passion” time to focus on anything related to their personal lives.  In my campus visits, I’ve slowly seen gardens emerge, which are now becoming digitally monitored and solar enabled.
  7. Fostering Outside-In Innovation.  One method we’ve seen over the last few years is companies offering up collaborative areas for customers, partners, faculty at universities and beyond to get involved in innovation.  In particular, P&G has hosted an innovation lab, and has launched several initiatives to allow for innovation of their products to emerge, and their agnostic to where the ideas surface from.  Many companies have launched innovation platforms, such as Intuit, Dell, Starbucks, enabled by tools like Salesforce Ideas, Get Satisfaction, Pligg, and UserVoice
  8. Enabling a Fail-Forward Culture.  On a recent visit to Facebook, who now boasts over 4k employees, there are propaganda style posters all around campus that encourage employees to fail fast, and fail forward (pics of the newly minted campus).  The encourage projects and experiments to quickly iterate, and launch several times a week in an agile manner.  I’ve seen larger companies on my internal visits have executives who tout their culture is ready to experiment and be on the brink of digital disruption.
  9. Sanctioning Innovation “Tiger” Teams.  At the largest companies I’ve been inside of, I’ve seen small “Tiger” teams assembled that are granted permission to build new products and services outside the walls of the regular company.   While I don’t think this addresses the root problem of a large corporation becoming stagnant, these CIO and CEO teams are given full reign to create something new, in hopes of developing a new product.   As long as there’s a process for these smaller teams to assimilate their findings and products back to corporate, this process can work.
  10. Investing in Physical Innovation Labs. The absolute common trend I’m seeing is non-tech companies developing innovation labs.  These dedicated areas are inspired to allow employees, executives, and customers collaborate on building next generation services.  Several non-tech companies have setup innovation labs in Silicon Valley, including AMEX, Walmart, although most companies have them scattered among the world.  I’m managing a running list of Tech and Media Innovation Labs, in which you can review or add to.   These dedicated labs show promise, as long as they’re integrated with the rest of company, and demonstrate business results.

Those are the common trends I’m seeing at large corporations, stemming from internal management changes, to developing new relationships with outside market. I’d love to hear from you in the comments how you’re seeing companies maintain agility. Update, there’s an interesting discussion thriving on my FB post.

Photo Credits: Yoga Sunset, Photo by GrahamKing, used with Creative Commons Licence