Archive for Enterprise from United Kingdom

10 videos from eConsultancy roundtables

by on July 28, 2009 at 7:16 pm

econsultancyFrom eConsultancy:

A few weeks ago Econsultancy hosted the Traveling Geeks roundtables in London, where the US digerati turned out in force to discuss and debate trends and issues.

The Geeks – featuring the likes of Craig Newmark, Robert Scoble and Susan Bratton – found that there is far more in common between the UK and US than is sometimes suggested, albeit with some notable differences (“fear of failure”).

The UK-based attendees included Poke’s Iain Tate, lastminute.com’s Marko Balabanovic and Steph Gray from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

After the roundtable discussions had taken place we shot a little bit of video, where we interviewed a bunch of the attendees to figure out what they’d learned from the day. Do check them out…

View the interviews on the eConsultancy blog

Ribbit for Salesforce.com

by on July 28, 2009 at 12:00 pm

I met up with the guys from Ribbit in London at BT’s offices earlier this month.

We saw the latest developments for the consumer market as well as Ribbit for Salesforce, which is a recently launched application from BT Business that features voice-to-text conversion. Ribbit for salesforce

Ribbit for Salesforce saves time and improves productivity for sales professionals and other mobile workers by making it easier for them to record customer information on the move.

Says BT’s Sandeep Raithatha, “think of it as an online personal sales assistant.”

Sandeep at BT

Available in both the US and UK markets, any Salesforce.com user can now dictate notes and memos verbally on their mobile phones.

If you hover over any of your messages, they’re converted into text. If a call comes into your mobile and you miss the call, they flow into Salesforce.com.

Ribbit’s technology takes the message and converts voice to text. It also assigns it to a sender and their account.

“The notes are transcribed and flow directly into Salesforce.com and into the user’s inbox, eliminating the need to type updates, increasing user productivity,” says Sandeep.

The solution simplifies sales management by storing and organizing voicemail as email in Salesforce.com, categorizing leads, contacts and in-progress deals.

All voice messages are delivered as SMS or email, so users can respond or forward immediately without dialing into voicemail.

British Telecom is the first supplier to integrate voice with the CRM solution Salesforce.com through a cloud computing platform.

Ribbit has dragged the phone world over to the web world, whether it be for Salesforce or applications that can be used by consumers. It’s independent of VoIP.

Says Ribbit’s Crick Waters who was over from Silicon Valley during our visit, “we’re not just VoIP, so you can opt to take Ribbit on Skype, MSN, your mobile phone or over the web. We let the system figure out how to get in touch with you.”

Crick from Ribitt

He adds, “our objective is to make it easy to adopt for anyone.”

Econsultancy’s CEO on Innovation & Social Media

by on July 27, 2009 at 10:21 pm

Econsultancy logo We spent some time with the Econsultancy folks in London during our recent visit, which included a series of roundtable discussions.

Here’s a piece on their blog which touches on innovation through the recession. They’ll also be hosting an awards ceremony specifically around innovation next year.

They have had a Members Forum on their own site for over ten years and are active on LinkedIn and Twitter as they have found these platforms to work best for their target market of digital marketing and e-commerce professionals.

A few words from Econsultancy’s CEO and founder Ashley Friedlein on technology and social media.

Says Ashley, “we have over 10,000 followers on our Econsultancy Twitter account now, which is mostly automatically created tweets from our blog.”

Ashley_friedlein

Staff members also have professional twitter accounts, such as Editor Chris Lakey, and they’re starting to create more targeted feeds for their jobs.

Ashley says of their use of Twitter in a Q&A I did with him, “we use Twitter for a number of things. Partly just to drive traffic to our site, which is then monetized via advertising and membership; partly to drive more inbound links to improve our search rankings as a lot of Twitter activity migrate to blogs; partly for customer service where we respond to customers directly on Twitter; and partly for product and service development where we use Twitter to listen to what people want.”

On LinkedIn, they are members of over 80 digital marketing focused groups. For example, the Digital Marketing group, with over 16,000 members, is run by eConsultancy staff, as is the Marketers on Twitter group.

They use these groups less to drive traffic and to market to directly but more for ‘rifle marketing:’ targeting people they’d like to speak at their events.

I asked him, “what do you think are the most important changes in terms of technology implementation for you in the past year?”

Ashley says that the major change has been the complete rebuilding and relaunching of their website and web platform, which included a move from a Microsoft environment to Ruby on Rails. Another more in-depth interview about their relaunch and the unfortunate SEO implications they experienced as a result of the site migration.

“The area that we’re most excited about in terms of what our new technology platform allows us to do,” he adds, “is around data and APIs and the services that this allows us to create.

Services which add value to our site and external sites via syndication of content, functionality or data both into our site, and out onto other sites.

For example, we are already using the Twitter API to automatically post our blog content to our various Twitter accounts as well as import, and show on our site, what is being said about eConsultancy on Twitter in real time.

We’re using this for live event feedback too and plan to roll it out as a feedback and review mechanism for our reports and training too.

We’re also using the Google Analytics API to be much smarter with our analytics and starting to tie the quantitative data that GA provides us with to the qualitative data we get, say, from user surveys. This allows us to start to understand not just “what is happening” but “why.”

We’re also working on exciting new services, using the GA API, to automatically deliver great insight and reporting to our advertisers in our Digital Marketing Supplier Directory.

Things like the Google Charts API, is also giving us ideas for vastly improved user interfaces and ways of showing data in a more compelling and useful way.

And increasingly we’re using our own APIs to provide our clients and members with completely customised versions of our proposition. So, our site and content becomes a true blend of our knowledge and their knowledge.”

I asked him what kind of innovation he needed that doesn’t exist today. I laughed at his first response: a special gadget that turns one hour of normal time into five hours’ worth of time.

He says, “our biggest challenge isn’t coming up with ideas or innovation, but it’s having the time and resources to implement those ideas. And, knowing how to prioritize our ideas.

Perhaps the hardest challenge now is less around technology and more around user experience and user interfaces. It is really hard to come up with brilliant user interfaces to make the mass of content and information we have, let alone all the other stuff we could aggregate, easy and useful to interact with.

So good interaction design, and good copy, are as hard as they’ve ever been, and even more important. Further innovation in user interface design would be good to see.”

Below a few shots during our Econsultancy roundtable event.

EConsultancy roundtable lunch (2)

EConsultancy roundtable lunch

Updates From the Folks at Think London

by on July 26, 2009 at 4:23 am

Thinklondon A few updates from the folks at Think London.

A topic which is currently hot in is clean tech. London’s Mayor Boris Johnson (one of THE TIME 100 Most Influential People) has declared he wants to make London the ‘electric vehicle capital of Europe.’

Many of Think London’s clean tech clients, such as Tesla Motors, are setting up in London because of the Mayor’s clean tech and renewable energy policies.

They are planning quite a few events this year in the US, all based around business opportunities for US companies and the London 2012 Games. See the event schedule.

Another interesting development they are seeing, is the amount of Chinese companies setting up or expanding in London. They seem less affected by the economic crisis ‘angst’ and see it as a great opportunity to invest elsewhere.

Big Chinese financial services companies are particularly keen to set up or expand their operations in London, such as China Construction Bank and China Merchants Bank.

And, Think London is adopting all the social media tools to keep tabs on and in touch with people. More from them in the coming weeks and months.

Thinklondon social media

Companies must go where their customers are

by on July 22, 2009 at 10:19 pm

Traveling GeeksCompanies are using social media to “be where their customers are.” In this panel, sponsored by Omobono and East of England International, up in Cambridge on Friday, Susan Bratton talks about this important change of orientation which more and more companies are putting into practice.

Earlier, in London, some of us had similar conversations with companies who are implementing social media strategies to be in closer touch with their customers. One of the companies I spoke with, in a conversation held under Chatham House Rule (meaning “not for attribution” or “off the record” in US press terminology), the head of customer support told me he had opened a Twitter account, reviews around 500 tweets a day, and helps between 10 and 50 dissatisfied customers resolve problems they’d been having with his company. This apparently takes him only a small amount of time (an hour or two, from what he said) and generates a huge amount of goodwill at very low cost, for his company.

I’ve been advising my clients for at least the past year to not worry about “attracting eyeballs to their web site” but instead to focus on making there presence felt “wherever the customer lives online.” In the case of my customers this means setting up Facebook fan pages and Twitter accounts, and then using those to engage in genuine conversations with customers – not one-way marketing-speak.

Oops, almost forgot – listen to what Susan has to say about all of this!

She calls it Social Influence Marketing and it has three core components: 1) Social Listening; 2) Participation; 3) “Appvertising” (Give-to-get).

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Social Media forces immediacy of customer support

by on July 22, 2009 at 4:37 pm

Traveling GeeksA theme that came up again and again during our London/Cambridge Traveling Geeks tour was that social media, and especially those that provide “immediate” access to company representatives (such as Twitter), are really changing not only how fast a company can respond to customer questions and problems, but are relocating (dislocating?) where the control of the customer relationship resides within many companies. Twitter provides 24/7 access to company representatives (if they’re actually online), and it shifts the decision point or the point at which the company takes responsibility for a problem, outward from the PR department and “C-level” executives (CEO etc.) to the actual front lines where the company’s employees are talking with the customers! Here’s what Robert Scoble said about this in a roundtable held in Cambridge on Friday. The sponsor of this session, Omobono, also has put up a page about the Traveling Geeks visit.

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London’s Accel Partners’ StartUps Share Why They’re Great

by on July 22, 2009 at 5:35 am

Alfresco logo I met with a number of Accel Partners portfolio companies in London recently; the industries ranged from enterprise content management to virtual games for kids.

Alfresco’s CEO John Powell’s core competency for the past 20 years has been working with enterprise content management systems that help you power companies. “Open source is a model we want to use,” he says, “we want to make money, but we also want to make a difference.”

It’s not all viral for them. Powell says they do invest a lot in brand awareness and marketing and although they launched the company in the U.K. in 2007, they are currently running businesses in five European markets.

WeeWorld The one woman CEO in the room was Wee World’s Celia Francis, whose company offers a virtual world for teens with a massive mainstream appeal.

More and more educators and researchers are seeing that social play is important throughout a person’s life, particularly through adolescent teen years, when teenagers are trying to learn to navigate their way in the real world.

Their previous service Wee Me has 29.5 million registered users, so based on that stat, there’s still room for the virtual world to thrive. For their newer service Wee World, which is extremely visual, they currently get two million uniques, 90% are return visitors and 85% of those are from the U.S. Why? “Because it’s important to win in the U.S. market first,” Francis says.

They’re also trying to expand their reach in the U.K. and the rest of Europe. 90% of the traffic is organic through word-of-mouth and the other 10% is from people who are making a Wee Me on partner sites.

She describes the service by using one example of life in Wee World, “you can get yourself a pet dog, and every time someone pets it, it evolves and grows. Teens can also make up their own games on the site.”

Apparently 70% of their audience changes things in Wee World every day. “We’ve added trophies, quests and ways you can accomplish things,” she adds, which adds achievement layers on top. It’s a combination of socialization and expression.

The two companies I was most intrigued by and had a chance to spend more time asking questions was Wonga and Mind Candy, most known for their brand Moshi Monsters.

WONGA FINAL FINAL Wonga CEO Errol Damelin is originally from South Africa, so we had a lot to talk about.

Wonga provides short term loans ranging anywhere between five days and a month. Says Damelin, “we want you to repay your loan quickly and, unlike many traditional sources of credit, we’re not about stringing repayments out for as long as possible. Our service is designed to put you in control of your cash flow, for those times when an unexpected expense catches you by surprise.”

Social marketing is limiting because people don’t want to tout that they need money. That said, there’s clearly a market for this service and not just in the U.K., which is where their focus is today. They’ve been live for a year and are focusing their efforts in the early days, on building trust, which is based on three core principles.

Damelin adds, “we get a significant amount of our traffic through word-of-mouth, which comes from us over delivering, being consistent and treating people the way people want to be treated. At the end of the process, did we deliver and would you use us again?”

Unlike most lenders, they enable you to choose exactly how much money you want to borrow – down to the last pound – and for exactly how many days. Wonga doesn’t force you to borrow a fixed sum you might not need, nor do you accrue interest for longer than necessary.

The amount you apply for and the length of the loan naturally affect the cost of repayment too, so you can make adjustments until you’re happy with all elements of your application.

One key difference with Wonga vis a vis a credit card or overdraft: you must commit to settling your Wonga loan quickly. They actually make their money when you repay them on time, not by continually extending a growing line of credit. They don’t endlessly roll their balance from month-to-month and no further funds are made available until your existing loan is repaid.

Wonga is not a typical internet lender. Because they have a sophisticated credit reference system, all application and payment is entirely online. Their technology allows them to assess applications in seconds and select people whom they believe are able to repay them.

He adds with a smile, “the lending business has been calcified and static for years, but over the past couple of years, it has liquified, which has created a lot of new opportunities for us.”

I also shot some video of Damelin on site in London, so be sure to listen to his pitch in his words.

Moshi monsters At Mind Candy, the parent to Moshi Monsters, they make multimedia games. “Playing alone is fun, playing you’re your friends is even more fun but playing with people from around the world is the ultimate,” said CEO Michael Acton Smith.

“The coming boom of the next two years are games for everyone else, like games around subjects that are more mainstream, such as dancing, fashion, sports, and virtual pets,” he says.

Moshi Monsters is a little bit like Facebook but for kids, but you can also create your own custom monster. Apparently 7-11 year olds is the prime audience for virtual pets.

The heart of the game is called stealth education. There’s a puzzle palace where kids can play and compare their scores with each other.

“We’re trying to adopt adult behaviors and make them safe and usable for the kids space,” said Smith.

There’s also a Friend tree and every time you add a friend, your tree grows. Kids can leave post-it notes on their friend’s walls and create their own puzzles and then rate each other. They’ll soon be launching a news feed, so kids can get a personalized view of what their friends are up to.

They launched a little over a year ago, and within five months, the site became cash flow positive. They currently have over 4 million registered users, a 1 million of those users signed on in the last month alone.

Viral? The early traffic was but not the big spike in the past couple of months. They just doing some TV advertising and it’s paying off.

A third of their traffic comes from the U.K., a third from the U.S. and the remaining third is from the rest of the world. 70% of their audience are girls and revenues are growing at 75% month over month.

I shot video of Smith at Accel Partners, where he talks not just about their growing in popularity service but their experimentation with marketing in both traditional and non-traditional outlets so be sure to tune in.

Huddle and Spotify Talk About Their Services

by on July 22, 2009 at 4:58 am

Huddle’s Andy McLoughlin and Alastair Mitchell and Spotify’s Shakil Khan talk about their value-adds for the consumer. We chatted in central London earlier this month. Tune in below for their stories in their own “voice.”

Getting Ahead with the WOW Factor

by on July 21, 2009 at 5:11 pm

From this week’s London Evening Standard on branding and getting ahead with the WOW factor. As Amazon’s Jeff Bezos once said: “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

Why Zynga Is Worried about Playfish

by on July 20, 2009 at 6:07 pm

[Cross-posted from TechCrunch]

When I wrote my BusinessWeek column on Zynga a while back, every venture capitalist in the Valley told me that Playdom was the company’s biggest competitor.

After all, it competes game-to-game, with similar mob-style and
poker games, and was said to be doing the same revenues as Zynga with
much higher profitability. (As my column pointed out, Zynga’s revenues
are more like double Playdom’s—and since I’ve heard the discrepancy is
even greater.)

As you’d expect Zynga’s CEO Mark Pincus pooh-poohed Playdom as any
sort of threat. But tellingly, he said the company he was worried about
was UK-based Playfish. So, while I was across the pond, I decided to
see what the fuss was about and sat down with Playfish’s founder and
CEO Kristian Segerstrale. I came away convinced this was one of the
hottest companies to watch in the UK. Here are five reasons why.

1. Not “The UK Zynga.” Playfish is very much running its own
race in this market, and this may be a case where distance from the
Valley is actually healthy. It doesn’t try to compete on specific games
with Playdom, SGN, and Zynga. For instance, it doesn’t have a mob game,
the most popular genre right now, and it doesn’t have a poker game,
Zynga’s top earner. “That’s such short term thinking,” Segerstrale
said. “Something is wrong if your route to success is copying
competitors’ games.”

2. Platform Development Doesn’t Have to Mean Half-Ass Development.
Playfish is not about building a game in a week or so and throwing it
up on Facebook. Playfish spends six months to a year designing a game,
and they’ve only produced seven of them. While everyone else talks up
how quickly and cheaply you can build a game on social networks,
Playfish still employs the same artistic discipline of a console game
with a Wii-like look and feel. The plus with platforms like Facebook
and the iPhone isn’t speed to market for Playfish, it’s easier
distribution and greater social engagement.

3. Traction. The painstaking design process appears to be a
hit. Every one of Playfish’s games has been a top ten hit on Facebook.
Across all platforms, those seven games have yielded 100 million
installs and 30 million monthly uniques, says Segerstrale. Playfish
pays “practically nothing” for customer acquisition and makes money
through virtual goods, ads and premium versions of games.

Playfish is profitable and hasn’t spent a dime of its recent $17
million funding round. That’s gotta be some top line given Playfish has
200 employees across several offices. In fact, TechCrunch Europe’s Mike
Butcher speculated that
Playfish could be the $1 million-dollar-a-month Facebook app maker,
back in September 2008. It certainly puts the company in an enviable
position given the paucity of venture funds in the UK.

4. Proximity to the Valley Insiders via Investors. While
Playfish enjoys distance from the one-ups-man-ship or developer
poaching of SGN, Playdom and Zynga, it’s connected into the Valley
where it counts. One of its main investors is Accel—also one of the
main backers of Facebook. Yes, that matters. (See Sequoia
Capital-backed Google’s purchase of Sequoia Capital-backed YouTube.)

5. Segerstrale Knows Games. This is the fuzziest one, but
also probably the most important. As a CEO, Segerstrale comes to this
industry from a different point of view than Pincus. Pincus has said he
was never really much of a gamer—Segerstrale on the other hand has
loved games since he was three years old playing Pong with his older
brother. He always got a visceral rush from playing, especially with
other people. So he’s spent much of his career working towards two
goals: Decoding what makes a game “fun” and deconstructing the concept
of a “gamer” so games are just something everyone plays.

His first attempt was at mobile, thinking that with phones in every
pocket, everyone would essentially have a game console. Indeed, the
company he cofounded, Glu Mobile, went on to a successful IPO. But
gaming was still a niche activity on phones.  There were too many
barriers set up by the telcos and it wasn’t as easy for people to find
and download games. Facebook turned out to be a much greater platform
for this kind of democratization of gaming because users could market
games to one another.

Segerstrale’s macro theory is that we’re in the first shift of a
move from physical games and goods to digital ones, and from games as a
product to games as a service. It’s a theory that seems right-on to me.
For one thing, we already saw it with the transition from enterprise
software to software as a service. For another, sales of console games
are down 20% year-over-year according to NPD, while comScore says
social gaming is up 20% year-over-year. It’s nice to see a CEO who can
articulate not only a product vision, but a clear industry vision.

All the positives above aside, I’m still not convinced that
Segerstrale will succeed in his mission to democratize games. I still
mainly use Facebook as a way to connect with friends, not to build
virtual restaurants and I don’t necessarily see that changing. In fact,
Facebook has so de-emphasized apps in its new all-feed iteration, I
spent nearly an hour trying to find a listing of games, before someone
finally told me it was on the throw-away bottom bar of the profile
page. And by emphasizing the social stickiness of a game, there’s a
chicken-and-egg risk that the games are boring for people who don’t
have enough friends already playing.

But these are execution risks and every promising startup has them.
When it comes to business model, financing, vision and product,
Playfish is certainly a formidable competitor to Zynga. With hundreds
of millions in real dollars already swarming around social gaming, this
will be fun space to watch.

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