I’ve been watching with great intrigue the growing groundswell of the Occupy Everything that is directly challenging the economy, business, and the market. My business partner Charlene Li and I and the rest of the Altimeter analysts have been watching and discussing this growing movement, and want to learn more.
We conduct research (like this report on crises) for many of the large corporations that the movement is directing their energy at, and want to better understand this as this movement at this time is offering an ongoing dialog through their protests.
To learn more, Altimeter’s Charlene Li and myself (and other colleagues) will head to the movement to meet the protesters to engage in dialog and learn more from them their goals Sat morning in SF at 10am. We invite other business leaders (we’re business owners too) to join us, to engage in dialog and learn.
If you can’t attend (or too bashful to do so) please use me as a conduit, what questions would you want me to ask the protesters? Leave a comment here on this blog, or join the discussion on my Google+ feed.
I hope to engage in a civil conversation and learn more, as we continue to watch how business continues to evolve.
Left Image: Startup Alley features 200 emerging startups, I talked to as many as I could.
In my quest for ABR (always be researching), the Three Web Strategy Spheres, I had a day to focus in on the technology sphere (the bleeding edge of it) to connect with a handful of the 200 emerging garage startups at Techcrunch Disrupt yesterday.
Trends: Emerging Startups Show Innovation –Despite Most Will Fail:
It’s been fun attending the Techcrunch events emerge from Michael’s backyard in 2006 to the now international events where thousands descend, here’s the high level trends:
The air smelled like “opportunity”. with many entrepreneurs filled with passion bring forth their projects, some who travelled from around the world (there was even an Israeli row) to share their work. It smelled like geek. What’s that? A bit of bad breath, body odor, within this male dominated scene.
There was marketing everywhere, even in the urinal. From street teams, phamplets handouts, ninjas, and other circus acts, the one that stood out was how one startup Fee Fighters put branded screen urinals with their logo and saying something like “you’re pissing away money”.
PR Opportunity: Their positioning from startups needs lots of help. I strolled down the aisle with one VC friend of the 200 startups, we noticed they had ridiculous company names missing vowels and cutesy logos. The biggest set back, is the lack of positioning or even tag lines. A majority of the banners lacked a descriptor of what the company did. This is a big opportunity for PR firms to assist this early market.
Lots of companies doing the same thing. I saw many startups that did the same thing, with just a slight variation on which data element they will push on. I asserted that strategic marketing and early influencer adoption will be key to push them over the edge. However colleague Christine Tran correctly suggested that several sites have gotten early influencers on them such as Quora, EmpireAve and Google+ and have not received mainstream attention.
Bubble? Not this part of the market. It’s not a bubble (over-inflation despite lack of revenues) as entry costs are so low. The NYT asserts that Disrupt felt like a bubble, but as someone who worked at Exodus in 2000 I don’t think so, why? Startup costs for these emerging startups are so low, with many just needing 50k seed fund they can get up and running. However, if we’re discussing valuation for the established startups, that’s a different story.
Most will fail. Overall, many of these will never make it, and few would be considered by enterprise class buyers due to volatility and lack of service, support and security.
Startup Gems: What Caught My Eye
Despite that I’d guess less than 5% of the 200 startups will make it, here’s a few that caught my attention:
Over Saturation of SoLoMo Startups
Feature sets are a mobile application sorting data based on proximity data and immediate social graph:
Sonar.me finds who’s near you and prioritizes by your social graph, (people you know) and recommends what to do. (pic)
Holler is social network for local events by @allnick who recently sold his Facebook blogs. This startups focus on finding spontaneous events from friends, which I imagine could work in an urban setting. (pic)
Similarly I met Doweet (pronounced “Do it”, see what I’m saying about company names?) which was founded by at 15 year old Israeli, Unlike plancast, which is public data Doweet is prioritizing mainly by your primary social graph (pic)
Lastly, I also met Smolk Signal (again with the misspelled names) which has more public data offers a similar feature yet is situation on Google maps as an overlay to find hot spots of popular local events.
Startups for Bigger Business Rare But Unique
It’s important we look at both B2C and B2B technology and here’s a few that are for businesses to use, with a focus on enterprise class (companies with more than 1000 employees)
Datasift, also more established, aggregates social data then provides a toolkit for data modeling, and output. think Pipes with far more features for modeling and output. (pic)
Mancx offers a unique feature that enables sales teams to post public questions (likely anom) where they can put a bounty on an answer and crowd source answers. Common questions could be around competitive data, suppliers, contacts. (pic)
Established vendor Badgeville (i’ve done a webinar with them) was a winner from the previous Disrupt, and continues to integrate gamification features with enterprise class clients.
Assorted Sundries Keep it Interesting
Here’s a few interesting things I saw, or got tours of to watch
Former Digg founder Kevin Rose discuss his upcoming startup Oink which will provide ratings and reviews for all consumer products, then sort by location priority likely with contextual marketing. Oink is one of the companies to come out of his development garage called Milk. I joke that Beef and Leather will be the next product set.
Altimeter hosted our second roundtable lead with our newest hire, Chris Silva (blog/Twitter) who’s our newest analyst at Altimeter focused on Mobile Strategy. Chris also stems from Forrester, and was an analyst there focused on mobile, he was actually one of the trainers in my new hire orientation.
Above: Mobile Proud! Roundtable attendees show off their personal devices at the Altimeter Hangar.
Attendees consisted of representatives from startups, mobile app vendors, large device manufactures, brands, social web companies, and media creator: Almost Savvy, Appconomy, Ascentium, Avere Group, Box, DoubleDutch, FrontRow Antics, Janrain, LiquidSpace, Logitech, Mekanism, MIT/Stanford Venture Lab, Moxie Software, nvidia, Oracle, Pansonic, Quantinto, Ready to Go Information Technologies, Responsys, Retailigence, Rocket Fuel Inc, SAP, Seesmic, Social Guides, Sony Electronics, SPdL Marketing Strategies, Stanford University Dept. of Athletics, Tagwhat, The Estuary, LLC, and [wire]stone.
I kicked off our roundtable series (our last one was on Gamification) to foster a community discussion so we can all learn from each other, and the key findings will be shared in our Open Research reports. I personally learned a lot from the smart attendees about their visions on the future of the space, and we had a few laughs over a few beers along the way.
Groups were divided into three distinct mobile use cases for discussion:
Enrich: I see this as driving leads, sales, and conversion using mobile devices, both for B2C and B2B.
Engage: Lifestyle and contextual related content that isn’t only about transacting revenue but instead about providing greater value
Entrust: Enabling workforces and business partners to use mobile technology to improve their work in a safe, scalable, and secure manner.
We were tasked to define the challenges in each use case, define current state of maturity, and ideate on future use cases. In nearly all cases, the groups came back indicating a host of challenges in this relatively new(er) medium, often stemming from a lack of understanding. Secondly, most groups believed that maturity was low, often stemming from disparate technology, data, and a focus on shiny. We ideated on the future and the “minority report” vision of contextual content where devices fade into the background was a semi-theme.
Here’s some of the key captures with captions:
Groups were anointed to work the Three Mobile Use Cases: Engage, Enrich, Entrust
State of Enrich: “Terrified CMO”
Future of Engage
The WikiWall, where attendees can leave their thoughts, click to see full size
Altimeter Researcher Jon Cifuentes leads a roundtable discussion
Roundtable 3 takes on Enrich
Community sharing in the round
Discussion stirs with Nvidia and Esther Lim, captures highlights via iPad
In the larger round
Culmination of the larger group, partial view
Mobile discussion in the Cloud Nine lounge.
Susan Etlinger, Altimeter and Shawn Myers, Responsys
Last night, Altimeter hosted a first in many public roundtables on disruptive technologies. Twenty highly engaged folks that ranged form skeptics, brands, gamification vendor provider (Empire Avenue, Badgeville, Zynga, Gigya) to players of these games. The 1.5 hour discussion discussed how these platforms work, explored business models, how brands can get engaged, risks and challenges, and discussed how case examples are emerging. We had a mixture of Altimeter Roundtables are designed for everyone to participate and explore, challenge, expose risk, and discuss the future of disruptive technologies, and we did just that, below are the event highlights:
Above: Lively discussion on the topic of Gamification for consumers, brands, startups at Altimeter’s HQ, The Hangar
While we were able to live stream for attendees (Scoble, Chris Pirillo, Jim watched and tweeted and called in) we were not able to record the session, you can see some of the tweets tagged #EAshare, and here’s some of the highlights:
Opportunities Abound –But Benefits Not Clear
I lead an interactive Q&A with Empire Avenue (my take here) CEO, Dups, kicking off the event, and the primary focus of the roundtable, and we discussed how the platform works, and his vision. However, we quickly invited Ali from Intel up to share his needs from a brand perspective which were to engage with customers, focusing on reach and advocacy. We explored other potential use cases involving branded goods, couponing, and use brands like Coke as examples of companies that would want to get engaged. Of course, it was important to discuss what’s in it for the users of these tools, stemming from entertainment, connecting with others, or even increasing visiblity and repuation as we heard from Chris Salazar. Dups announced that their second iteration of the API will be released in a few weeks and that Ford will be offering branded virtual goods soon on the platform.
Concerns on Platform Interoperability
We explored head on some of the challenges and concerns, and Kristie Wells brought up requests for reputation and influence (even points and potentially badges) should be shared cross platform, but we could sense that could create business model conflict unless Badgeville or Gigya cut deals with Empire Avenue for brands like Intel to make these reputation pieces portable. I suggested that influence and repuation is already portable, even if the data is not transferrable and suggested that Scoble shifted his blog influence to Twitter, and then Twitter influence to Empire Avenue just by shifting his community. Teens in Tech founder Daniel Bru pointed out there are new startups emerging that allow for the transfer of these virtual goods, like Klip that will soon emerge.
Skepticism: Questioning on Burnout and User Desire
A few curious attendees indicated that they were skeptical but attended in order to learn new points of view, which we embrace. There were some vocalized concerns that if gamificaiton platforms don’t quickly shift reputation, points or badges to a transfered value like coupons, premium content, or other real world tangible ability some of these platforms would die out. One of the key findings is that the gamification of influence (like Empire Ave) isn’t for everyone, and many people are not driven by reputation and badges –they just want to connect with others and communicate.
Experimentation for Early Adopter Brands Will Yield Case Studies By Years End
We’re in the early days, I’ve only started to hear about this space about 6 months ago from Esther Lim (she’s been on the speaking circuit on the gamification topic), although reputation features in social media have been around as early as Technorati started to track blogs. Many interactive marketers and media professionals see the opportunity for brand engagement, loyalty, and eventually advocacy, there are still a lot of questions if the investment makes sense –it’s not clear to most if it increases consideration or moves revenue needles forward. We’re already seeing brands that are already socially engaged jumping into the gamification jungle, and we’ll see experimentation in 2011 and a few case studies of success, although most experiments will not win. Expect that CPG, consumer electronics, and retail/hospitality to be the first industries to move into this space, although B2B tech has already deployed gamification for internal learning purposes, like Cisco’s sales team at sales events.
See the first ever branded good in Empire Avenue: The “Altimeter”
We’re intrigued to the be the *first* company to have a branded good on this emerging platform, and will use this experiment to learn how other brands can apply this tactic. Physical attendees received the first ever branded virtual item inside of Empire Avenue, the Altimeter, which you can see on my Jowyang Empire Avenue profile, (or if you’re not on the game see this screenshot). Aside from branded affiliation the virtual Altimeter provides Net Wealth Increase of 50.00/day –adding value beyond just a badge.
This was the first in our ongoing series of Roundtables, we want to sponsor community conversations to advance the industry, and our research efforts for our clients. Want to attend an Altimeter Roundtable in the future? We’ll hold these every few months at our San Mateo office, The Hangar, follow our Altimeter Group Twitter account to stay informed.
How should companies prioritize their social business efforts?
That’s the very question we’ve been asked to tackle at today’s conference at Bazaarvoice’s Social Commerce Summit (live stream) here in Austin, Texas. This room of 600 web strategists and social strategists (on brand side) are making key decisions for how companies will interact with their customers. My goal? To help these strategists at the world’s largest brands how companies must prioritize their social business efforts for the coming years.
We know through research that many companies are struggling to scale, the “1:1 customer conversations” do not scale, and the looming requests from business stakeholders only make the social business program more daunting as interest grows.
We recommend that companies quickly invest in these five scalable social business programs:
Get into Hub and Spoke and develop a Center of Excellence.
Leverage community for first tier marketing and support.
Integrate both in the customer lifecycle as well as your corporate website.
Launch a formalized advocacy program.
Invest in Social Media Management Systems before you lose control.
I’m writing from a Jetblue flight from Austin back to Silly Valley, it’s a great chance for me reflect on what happened in the last few days at SXSW and sober up both from last night’s party and the excess of stimuli –they both require some detox. First of all, this is the type of event people love talk about when they’re there, but those who aren’t there may find the noise excessive. I’ll try to boil down the key things I observed, caveat, this is just one person’s perspective, leave a comment with your experience.
SXSW, Bigger Than Ever
Attendance was up, many rumored that it was up around 30% over last year, which was also growing. There were so many events and panels that even spilled out of the traditional convention center to neighboring hotels some as far as 6+blocks up hill at the Sheraton. The attendees trend a similar look: often younger than older, stylish glasses, blinking device in hands, the occasional ironic tattoo, and glossy shimmer of sweat from last night’s drinking binge.
Panel Content: Hit or Miss
While I didn’t attend many panels, several folks mentioned to me the quality of content in panels was very hit and miss, often dependent on the quality of the moderator to draw out insights and guide the panel. Because SXSW deploys the scalable way of voting up panels to determine who will speak this leads to panels that have popular speakers (but that doesn’t guarantee the best speakers) or topics that are liked by the mainstream. Fortunately, given the vast assortment of panels, the opportunity to find niche topics is available, providing you can easily get to the physical location. Colleague Susan Etlinger blogs how Deb Schultz lead an insightful session on the ‘manners’ of the internet and social web. I think it was Robert Scoble who said that the best content at SXSW will just appear on blogs later, so Ill continue to keep a watch out for the panels that were a “hit”.
Yet Parties, Events, and Dinners Galore
There were many, many parties and events, even during the day. During the evening there were several events, parties, and dinners all happening consecutively. In particular, the Social Business crowd was assembled around the All Hat (pics) even held by David Armano and Richard Binhammer off campus, the Corporate Social Strategists and those that serve them were present, this was the market I serve, and was glad to see them all. To me this was the best event, as it was off campus, a mixture of dialog, meet and greeting, and good food and music, great mixer. I heard that the SocialMedia.org (formerly SMBC) event was a great mix for Corporate Social Strategists who glean a lot of value from peer to peer interactions.
Influencer Outreach: Samsung, Chevy, AMEX, Apple, Pepsi.
One of my mottos is to ABR (Always be Researching) and I did just that for clients. In fact, several brands were present, and sought to reach this influencer and early adopter crowd, notables include:
Samsung hosts bloggers, and showcases electronic products. I spent time in the Samsung blogger lounge, which was well attended by influencers, and featured product demos and their tweeting fridge. One nice treat was Guy Kawasaki was giving away signed books, Enchantment, (which I read and recommend) at the blogger lounge. Also, Samsung brought the social media space to their own devices and worked with Jess3 an information design firm to showcase hand-selected curated tweets in their large airport-styled screens for passerbys to see what the zeitgeist was of the event. I even was a panelist in an impromptu “unpanel” on the topic of curation.
Chevy doubles down on this influencer market. Last year, Ford had a strong presence at the event, which likely drew the interest of General Motors, who I learned was the sole exclusive sponsor for the show, I’d estimate that buy out certainly be in the millions as they had integrated branding, product demos, charging stations, sponsors of the Techset party, and had inter-city rides available to anyone using their vehicles. Ford was not present this year, nor other auto-manufactures. See Twitter exchange between myself and Scott Monty who commented on spending, here, here, and here. (Update: Chevy’s Mary Henige has updated me that Chevy has a 3 year exclusive sponsorship with SXSW for the automotive category)
Apple pops up a store in downtown. Apple assembled a “pop up” store in downtown where lines went around the block to purchase the iPad 2 and hours extended to the wee hours of the night. The store was a former Gold’s gym, and was assembled virtually overnight to serve this specific market. I saw several proud owners of this shiny device with colored covers touting their purchase at a variety of venues, it was the hot physical product (see friend David Berkowitz with his orange topped one). I experimented with it and believe the features to be evolutionary, but not a major upgrade, that being depending on new software to emerge to take advantage of the cameras such as augmented reality gaming, or new forms of video conferencing.
Pepsi tells their story. Other notable brand out-reach booths was Pepsi’s touchdown station that let people recharge and learn about the variety of products. Clearly an influence play, as Pepsi as a lifestyle brand isn’t directly related to ‘interactive’ that SXSW sports.
No Technology Winners –Although “Intimate” and “Hyper Local” are Trends to Watch. I was at SXSW when Twitter, Foursquare ‘broke out’ in previous years, yet this year there were no clear winners our ‘breakout technologies’ that I saw from the space. Why? There’s an over saturation of products due to low barriers to entry –while innovation certainly isn’t stifled the number similar or ‘like’ products is hard to swallow.
The closest to it was SMS chat tools with a small social group of friends like GroupMe and Beluga were being used by this early adopter crowd, even the press picked up on some of these trends (thanks Julie Viola for the link). Secondly, I asked my network what technologies to watch for and saw some adoption of local Q&A tool LocalMind (screenshot from iPhone). This tool allows you to ask very specific question “where are the cleanest restrooms in this hotel?” and it shows it on a localized map.
In both of these new toolsets, they are less about mass broadcasting to your network like Twitter and blogs, but are more about intimate discussions with your most immediate circle and localized content down to the building that you’re present at.
So that’s my perspective: This year, SXSW was great for networking. New technologies trend towards smaller personal networks and hyper localized content, but I didn’t see any clear winners, at least from my limited perspective.
Please leave a comment or link to your experience so we can share what we heard.