How to Hack your Weekend

 

You never expect when it is time for you to start hacking. No matter whether you are interested in it or not, or you are a born-to-hack maniac or have zero experience, I am telling you, there is a time where you will see yourself… a Hacker! In this blog, I will share my surprising experience in two events, primarily about innovation, that I have attended in less than a week. The second event, which was a competition (a hackathon), will be the main focus.

Startup Pub – Pre-hackathon event:

Last weekend, my plan was almost like the regular “party, play, then catch up on studies and prepare for the next week”, until I attended the Startup Pub event, which was held up in conjunction with TEDx KTH in KTH’s Open Lab on Thursday. In that event, students and entrepreneurs owning startups get the chance to mingle, share their thoughts, and encourage each other to come up with brilliant ideas, as well as different ways to support innovation. Determined to take an active role in this event, I set-up my goals for the night: getting at least two important connections, and a free cider.

Startup Pub Event Banner by Excitera. Source: Startup Pub Facebook event page

Startup Pub Event Banner by Excitera. Source: Startup Pub Facebook event page

I arrive at the event, fairly on time, so despite the long queue, I got the ticket for the free drink, which means one goal was achieved. Now the bigger part was left, the real goal. The night went more interesting than expected; I was not planning to attend it fully mainly because I wanted to get on my daily swimming dose. However, two factors held me from leaving in the middle of the event:  the proper organization and interestingness, and my active participation. Both made me miss my daily swimming dose, but brought to me something more precious, and there are two reasons for that.

First, in the startup pub I met students, alumni, and professionals, all there for a common cause: innovation. Whether they were professionals with their idea rolling, students still in their journey, or graduates trying to shape their roads, it is always good to learn from and share insights with these brains. A major part of the event was the presentations of startups pitching their ideas and encouraging people to join their teams to make their ideas grow. One startup in particular caught
my attention, and was the second reason why I felt staying at the event was worth it.

The logo of Time Village, one of the presenting startups in Startup Pub. Source: Time Village Facebook page

The logo of Time Village, one of the presenting startups in Startup Pub. Source: Time Village Facebook page

 

The second reason why I was lucky to stay till the end is that I learned of a hackathon from one of the startups that were presenting. The startup, Time Village, has a service through which people share their time to practice something which they enjoy and which others are in need of. By providing a platform to find people offering services, such as cooking tasty Indian food or Italian tiramisu, and others requesting services, Time Village aims to connect these people who help each other and get the chance to socialize. The service was still in early release stages, and they wanted to improve it by creating a mobile application as well as growing the service’s user base. This is why Time Village organized a hackathon and named it Time Hack.

What Time Hacking?


Time Hack aimed to allow us as users to create the mobile app for Time Village, since the belief was that we know what’s best should it be like to appear to other users. This is related to user innovation in the sense that the product is shaped by the users, yet, only the best one becomes the official Time Village app. Through crowdsourcing, Time Village combine a great chance for them to get fresh ideas on how their service should be with the chance for the app creators to eventually intern with them and implement the finished app. However, that was not the only result we get from the hackathon.

 

Time Hack Event Banner. Source: Time Hack Facebook page

Time Hack Event Banner. Source: Time Hack Facebook page

Three days of networking, hacking, and networking

Not only did Time hack provide materialistic incentives, but also more valuable emotional ones. The main goal is to improve our experience as innovators, grow our network of both friends and professionals, and have good food, and all of this starts from the first moments of Day 1.

Day 1

The first day of Time Hack was mainly about forming teams and getting assigned the competition details. Teams were formed, and the goal of the competition that we need to build a mobile app for the Time Village service that is currently a web application. Also, there was a Growth Hacker track in which participants find ideas to make the service reach more people. A lot of breaks and mingling sessions made getting our networks stretched from the first day possible. Nonetheless, our team still managed to find time to brainstorm and plan the work for the upcoming day.

Our competing team during the event.

Our competing team during the event.

 

 

Day 2

Most of the work was done in the second day. With the plans and the ideas almost ready, we were ready to begin implementation. Throughout the day, a lot of mentors were roaming around the teams to guide them and share their experiences. The mentors came from different backgrounds: some were technology professionals that provide guidance for the tech side, while others were business professionals who helped better shape the ideas targeting the growth of the service. Also, some mentors provided feedback and tips on our presentations. Furthermore, the team of Time Village was also available to listen to our ideas, give feedback, and direct us through the thought process. And Guess what? All of these were great connections to have!

Networking in one of the breaks during the second day of Time Hack

Networking in one of the breaks during the second day of Time Hack

Day 3

Finally came the last day where the work was recapped and the presentations were finalized. The pitches were all interesting, without exception. This was fascinating yet not surprising since every participant of the event is a great innovator by heart, or at least has the spirit and mindset of an innovator. Knowing that these are the people I am getting exposed to and be connected with was joyful to me. When the announcement of the winner came and I heard our team was called, I began thankful to the fact that I did not miss this hackathon and made my weekend a regular one. Along with our prizes, Time Village was very happy to work with us, and we were encouraged by other valuable offerings. To name an example, there was a sponsoring startup named LunchBack that offers each of us the chance to connect with a professional over lunch based on our wish, which could be seeds for great opportunities.

Our team given the first prize

Our team given the first prize

Was worth it!

After the weekend, I had to catch up on my studies, but this time without the feel of guilt that I wasted time. This time, I had the feeling of pride and achievement: I have moved a step towards building a well-rounded career, full of connections and great experience. Nevertheless, that is not due to winning the competition, but to the overall experience. The joy of meeting great thinkers, whether participants of the competition or professionals, was the real value. This is because the outcome is always positive: whether it is discovering a great talent to work with on an idea, or learning something new no matter how small it is.

Concluding, I think that there will definitely be more Hackathons and competitions to explore, not to repeat the victory but to have the overall experience of networking and improving connections. I missed my swimming session, and it was worth it! What would you miss if you attend a hackathon?

I would like to hear from you about your experience in a hackathon or any similar competition (what were your expectations, what did you learn, etc.). Also, do you think Time Village is innovative? Will it pick up? I would be happy to hear your thoughts.

 

 

-Sharbel

*All additional materials are proudly stolen from http://www.impacthub.net/ website

During the ME1033 course we are talking a lot about innovation and the businesses we might or might not create. We are mentioning the steps, which could lead us to become a successful entrepreneur. But we had zero thoughts about what happens next. Where do we go? How we proceed?

Let me introduce you to one of the Stockholm business HUBs, Impact HUB: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NswJJBJZQgE

They are always welcome to meet new people and regularly throwing free lectures

impact_event

So, few words about my experience there:

Short cut about the lecture*:

This workshop covered service as the second most important part to user/customer loyalty, the increased expectations from users, how to serve users on a global base and create a seamless user experience throughout the customer journey.

Few valuable thoughts I got after the lecture:

  1. Businesses are turning their business models to service models. The main path, which companies are using, it is providing service when person needs it. Big and small players, who want to stay up to date with the current times are letting their customers to customize the provided services (Subscriptions based apps, services are good example. You are paying only when you are using them).
  2. It does not matter what and how good are you doing business. Your customers are going to look for more and more. You should be ready to add extra value to your business. (Good example is MindApps yoga app, they providing yoga guidance and also the knowledge base).
  3. If you want to grow, you have to keep in mind, that growing is about interaction. You cant just hire more people and it will work, it won`t.

Moving further, you have read that our customers are going to need more. So, how we can understand, where we are now and where to go? At this point we can use the Customer journey model:
customer

(Useful reading and a source of the picture http://customerthink.com/what_is_customer_experience_a_synopsis/)

From Awareness point to Purchase is mainly marketing and Sales responsibility, but after Purchase, the main journey begins.

If your friend is not happy with a new app or piece of technology and sharing his/her bad experience with you, most probably you will not buy the same thing and vise versa.

Were you prepared to get the feedback from the client? Does your business have service support? Are you accessible to your customer? When your customers need you? Where are your users, I mean literally, in Spain or China or around the globe? What do they need?

All this questions will pop-up the second you will get your first customer. One of the main advices that Johan provided was: How to manage global expansion if you are small? Just don’t go global!

Learn from one market, gain experience and grow your team. Learn your customers’ expectations. Do not lie to your customers, that your support is available 24/7, if it is not.

Keep in mind, that you have always work on your product, listen to your customer. Stay in touch with them.

Untitled

Hello Everyone, this is my first post on this blog site on entrepreneurship and innovation. Tomorrow we have a second lecture of Open and User Innovation and I am really looking forward to it. I have read an assigned article to us and I have analyzed it with my own understanding and concepts which I have developed so far. I think my first post should be about sharing my analysis which may help others see this article and understand it with a different perspective. Lets see what I have understood and got from the assigned article on Finding your Innovation Sweet Spot.

Product developers are always getting this advice from the Marketers that customers are always right or customers get 100% of the votes. Entrepreneurs should develop something which should meet the needs and wants of customers. They should develop products by placing themselves and perceiving themselves as their current and potential customers. But what really a person needs or wants cannot be describe or explained clearly. If it is easily explainable and identifiable, it means there is something already present in the market which can fulfil that need. This is clearly not an innovation which is desired for entrepreneurship. So if the customers can’t explain clearly what they need, how entrepreneurs can develop something according to their needs and problems. If a company tries to extend the features of its existing product little bit, it cannot be able to lure the customers to take out the money from their pockets to buy that new product easily.

One way to deal with this problem of making customers break their established ways of spending money and buy your new product no matter how much it costs, is to think out of the box. This means think for the new product service without bounding yourself to one domain. But this also rises the issue of how can we reach a best solution or develop a service or product if there are infinite different domains of thinking our service into. It can lead to coming up with an idea which can totally contradict the current position of the company in the market making it difficult for the company to pursue that product for a long time. For example, Scott Company which made sanitary paper tissues and towels went into making paper dresses for the party as being a novel and new idea for marketing. This idea helped the company with big sales and profits but the company was overwhelmed with big promotion and sales eventually and ended this product saying that it was a paper tissue company, not a dress manufacturer. Scott only used this idea of disposable paper dresses to advertise its new paper products but it lead to creation of an industry of paper dresses which was not the motivation of the company behind this innovative product.

 

 

Untitled

 

So the simple solution is that think freely far enough from existing products but keep yourself inside the imaginary circle of company’s position and capabilities in market. This is what we call finding your sweet spot of innovation. The above circle diagram shows how one can move within a circle of company’s position and capabilities using five patterns of systematic inventive thinking to develop something innovative.

Hope the above explanation helps the readers to think about innovation by binding your thinking power within a circle of company’s limitations with choosing an existing product as starting point or center of circle and moving away from the product by applying one or more out of five patterns for thinking in a systematic manner until reach your final destination of innovative product,

Regards

Amna

  1. Business Model Canvas and innovation

BMC was useful because it gives you good visual overview about your business and how the different blocks affecting to whole BMC and to other blocks. One important thing in BMC is that you should use different colours for different customer segments so BMC is clear and easy to read. BMC is a useful tool so I think I will use it in the future.

business-model-canvas-101-27-638

Picture 1. Gillette’s BMC.

Sometimes people think that an invention means an innovation which is not true. “An invention is a novel idea and innovation is the commercialization of that novel idea.” Creating a successful invention can be a lot harder and might requires a lot of money so that is one reason why big companies like Apple can create strong long lasting innovations. There are four types of innovations: technology, process, product/service and business model innovation. For me the most eye opening innovations were product/service and business model innovation because just changing those a little bit it might affect to your business income a lot. For example the right business model can be the main reason for the success, one good example about that is Spotify whose business model is totally different comparing to iTunes’ and that is their main reason for success.

  1. Approaches to Product Ideas

I liked this part because the way how you think is usually quite limited so getting better ideas you have to break the old chains. You should think really carefully what you really need and not need or how you can make your product more interesting for your customers. Variation of product attributes or functions is divided to 5 categories:

  1. Subtraction: Remove a key element.
  2. Multiplication: Copy a key element.
  3. Division: Dividing a product into components.
  4. Task unification: assign new task to exiting elements.
  5. Attribute dependency change: create new dependencies or break old ones.

Nophone was a good example about subtraction but the whole idea behind that is just a joke so is it really anymore subtraction when you remove almost all key elements? Like my friend said “I just created NoNophone which volume and weight is zero, and you can summon it by just using your imagination”. The example about camels and task unification was great because a camel is a lot more than just a carrier. Also the example about sprinklers and removing dependencies were really useful.

  1. Start Up Finance & Venture Capital

For me this part of the course was maybe the most important because getting an invention and if you want to rise it to innovation level or just get started you will need funding. Three the most common way to get funding are 3Fs & Bootstrapping, Debt financing and Equity financing. Understanding these financing opinions advantages and disadvantages generally helps you think which kind funding is good for your company. Very important part of equity financing was to know differences between angel investors and venture capital investors also when to use them, how they might affect, advantages and disadvantages.

I guess everything started when I came to KTH, only to discover that innovation is possible, and people like you are doing it!…

I’ve lived in the suburbs of Stockholm my whole life. And not the good kind. The kind where drug dealing is common and theft/shooting happens every once in a while.
But I was a good boy. I was smart they said. I got good grades and my future would be bright.

That was the view of everyone except my Father. Not because of something personal to me, but because he was not a (business-)optimist. So I grew up thinking that it is
hard for everybody except the wealthy 1 % who controlles everything. I would become a doctor, get a job/house/kids and that would be the best I could do.

Then I started at KTH and I couldn’t help but to get fascinated by the innovation that is done by “regular people” and youths. People just like you and me! Being exposed to talks and events at school, I felt that the more experienced were very encouraging. I guess I was so fascinated because I had so low  expectations.

I happily dwelved into the startup world by going to events where I found out that it is a rather small community, and everyone knows each other. Even though I was busy with studies and web design, I took the position of being a Brand ambassador for two startups. I am now the Brand ambassador at KTH for Venture Cup.

The whole time has been like a 1-year-journey in a flow state. Novelty, new challenges to overcome & room for personal development are always found in the  Startup world!

Next year, I am the project manager of Entrepreneurial Days here at KTH which you are invited to. But even earlier than that

Join me at SUP46 today
https://www.facebook.com/events/581650585306870/
(I was planning to post sooner but I was busy recruiting)

PS. You must know about Venture Cup! Far too many students have an idea but think that they are too young/inexperienced/incompetent to execute. That is most likely not the case.

Venture Cup is Swedens biggest competition for ideas and Startups where you can win 260 000 SEK. Talk to me if you have an idea, there’s tons of free support to get 🙂

EIT CLC Stockholm

Today the EIT ICT Labs CLC in Stockholm hosted a talk on innovation and entrepreneurship by Nicklas Lundblad. He is Public policy officer at Google, and also an adjunct professor at KTH.

The discussion touched on different topics related to innovation, with a focus on what Google is doing.

As Lundblad said, innovation needs to be useful, therefore it’s important to take a look at how it can be embedded in society. When innovations fail to address people’s needs, they face rejection. For example, Google Glass has been considered a failure under many aspects. The company eventually realised that they were not a viable consumer product, because there was no use case in which people would be willing to use them. On the other hand, certain contexts (e.g. medical practice, construction workers, etc.) proved to be more fruitful.

Lundblad also talked about how government policy can influence the trajectory a company takes and this is especially relevant to Google, which has been under scrutiny in Europe. Legislators argue that the company has a de-facto monopoly in the search market, while they say to be in the “information discovery market”, which is much broader and where competition is more than abundant. While definitely clever, this position only circumvents the issue at stake and I don’t think it is acceptable to have big corporations try to dictate policies and basically undermine regulations in the name of a better market. It is true that the lack of a single digital market has consequences on the entrepreneurial efforts of Europe, as Lundblad highlighted, but the solution is not as easy as Google might make it seem.

The discussion also focused on what innovation really is, and using Google’s mission statement as a reference, Lundblad concluded that it could be said that innovation really is about organising information. In that sense, Google is trying to keep innovating by moving in always new territories.

Overall, this was an extremely interesting event, that nicely touched on many topics we discussed and read about during the course.

ns_platform_3

This week in class I presented you a business idea about public transportation. My inspiration was a real-life experiment conducted by ProRail and NS Dutch , and designed by Edenspiekermann, a Dutch design agency.

They created a “LED display which provides real-time information on carriage crowdedness and other details”. Then, they conducted a three-month pilot run at the train station of Den Bosch, a city in the south of The Netherlands. People really liked the concept and “gave NS a significantly higher evaluation at the end of the trial period”.

Edenspiekermann & ProRail

Their design process resulted in a physical display, but I thought that the initial concept can be further explored and expanded, and that’s how I came up with the idea of an integrated, smart system designed to enhance public transportation in big cities, with multiple functionalities.

If you know of any other interesting innovations in the field of transportation, give a shout in the comments.