Hi all,
I wanted to share with you a new product that was created by a startup and that i tested last week. It is an app called “KARMA” available on GooglePlay and AppleStore. It is a digital platform for reducing food waste.Instead of throwing away food, Karma offers restaurants and grocery stores to sell their soon-to-be expiring food at discounted prices. You can buy food directly through the app and receives high quality food for less. Therefore, everybody wins and for us as students, it is a good opportunity to make some savings and at the same time get nice food from restaurants and cafes. There is more than 400 registered restaurants, grocery stores, bakeries and cafes.
It is all about timing and also geographic proximity.There is a map so it is easy to find food near you, or near the place where you’re going to.
You can find various type of food : meals,sweets,bread. Sometimes the price can be half of the original price or even less, so don’t miss this kind of opportunity. For your information, you can pay directly on the app. Also, you can follow your favorite places and get notified when there is food you can rescue. You have your own profile where you can see how much food you saved in total and how much C02 emissions you reduced.

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I believe their idea is great since thay have managed to create a simple and innovative solution on one of the biggest environmental problems in the world which is food waste. I am very sensitive to this subjet since i am studying sustainable energy and environment and i have done many research on this subject. Globally we waste 1.3 bn tonnes of food every year of a value of 750 billion USD. In Sweden alone we throw away 500,000 tonnes of food per year.
If you need more information, don’t hesitate to comment or contact me.

And keep in mind that no one can do everything, but together we can do a lot.
Thanks for reading and sharing.

Anouar Mabrouki

 

 

The course is over  and I want to thank Professor Serdar for teaching.

I believe the objectives of the course were clear: define and analyze the successful factors in technology-based entrepreneurship in order to develop a startup with a defined methodology  and learn how to analyze situations from a strategic perspectives.
All the contents analyzed during the lectures were are useful for those who want to start a new business, those who are managing an existing one but even for the students aiming to work in a consolidated company as it provided elements valid through all the business areas.

One of the main lessons learnt was to be not too much tied to the technology of the innovation. In proposing a new idea, most of the investors do not have the required expertise to understand the technology under the idea. Also, I learnt that it is not beneficial to explain all the technological details during a presentation.  What the investor wants to know is the problem, the solution proposed, how the business makes money and the costs faced. This elements  are not so obvious for an entrepreneur without a business background.

Another important knowledge acquired was that listening to the customer is fundamental for the success of the business. Firstly, it is important to establish who are the customers going to buy the products as it is not always clear. Secondly, the company has to be able to understand how the product should be to meet the customer needs. A product made according to the engineers needs is not likely at all to penetrate the markets.

Furthermore, the guest lectures provided us the practical knowledge useful to understand how a startups is run. They gave us suggestions and clarified some entrepreneurial doubts. Most notably, I enjoyed the guest lecture by Bill Schacht. Probably, as a result of the market in which his business operates, he knows how to capture the attention of the audience.

As far as I am concerned, before starting the course I had no intention in starting a new business. However, the topics faced during the course inspired me bringing myself to take into consideration the adventure of a startup. I learnt that starting a new business puts at risk great part of the life and not everyone is able to make this decision.

The dynamic approach held by Serdar during the frontal lecture was really beneficial for all of us as students: he induced us to interact and to think personally. This is what I appreciated the most. I agree on taking into account for the grading the participation both in-class and outside. However, not all the students embraced this invitation as an incentive to participate and grow personally.

Moreover, we, as entrepreneurs, must be able to think, take decisions under pressure and in short time. The teacher tried to pose us in a situation as much as close to the real environment. But the rest depends on ourselves. We must have the initiative to learn and understand the issues in-depth.  This course was a useful training for the startups world, allowing us to learn our mistakes and get feedbacks from professionals in the area. In particular, the presentation of the ideas held on the May 9th was a special event and a crucial moment for us to learn as entrepreneurs. I got important feedbacks that I hope to exploit in my future career as entrepreneur.

 

See you and good luck to everyone!

This blog post is about prototyping and more specifically about low fidelity prototypes, what does it mean ? How useful it can be and what are the limitations ? I would also point out brief discussion on the importance of feasibility study on designing prototypes. These are some concepts I learnt while studying about prototyping on some previous course and within this course and I think it’s worth sharing with you.

In simple words a prototype refers to a representation of a product. Depending on the details of this representation a prototype can be of high fidelity or medium fidelity or low fidelity. A low fidelity prototype can be just a sketch on a piece of paper or cut and pasted piece of papers to represent the prospective product. Sometimes they are also referred to as paper prototypes. At the beginning of the product design this kind of low fidelity prototypes are very useful to get quick feedback from intended users (customers) and refining the concept accordingly in an iterative manner. Main goal is to involve as many target users as possible to be integrated with the design process (also known as ‘participatory design’) for getting a better product. These low-fi paper prototypes not only helpful to get feedback it also make our job quite easy to explain our idea to intended customers.

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Fig 1: Iterative design process

Now, how it works ? Or how it can be used effectively ? A group of three people along with potential user is perfect to get the best out of a paper prototype. One of the designers or developers should take the role of a facilitator who would be mainly communicating with the user, another person should play the role of a computer (i.e. move the pages when user selects a image of button or do some other action on paper). Another person should take notes i.e. What user got wrong, what was confusing to him/her etc. After collecting feedback in this manner with several users some changes should be made on the paper prototype and repeating the process several times. As it is a low fidelity prototype it can help to do the iteration within a short amount of time and get an overall design of the desired product in an user centered way. However it may not reveal the detailed issues related to product design and development. Still it is very effective at an early stage to begin with.

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Fig 2: Paper prototype on test

Sometimes being over dependent on the prototypes without analyzing the technical feasibility can be problematic. An idea can sound really promising and may seem to be implementable as low fidelity provides only the proof of idea and basic functionalities through some sort of mimics. For example, if some one thinks about an idea involves context based services it may seem to be doable and a paper prototype will never reveal its actual technical difficulties which will arise while implementing the actual product. These type of prototypes are sometimes called cargo cult design, which seem to represent actual product but in reality they don’t. So, the designers also have to be careful about these issues. Technical feasibility should not be totally ignored even if it is quite early stage of the design.

For enthusiast reader, there is an article called “Prototyping: generating ideas or cargo cult designs?”, available in ACM digital libray:

http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1052465&dl=ACM&coll=DL&CFID=621001535&CFTOKEN=33199409

This morning, I attended a start-up event called Fuck Up Morning Stockholm III. At first, I was surprised by the choice of name for the event but later I found out that it was named like that because the road to become an entrepreneur is never a smooth journey; there are full of obstacles and failures, or you can call them ‘fucked up’ moments. This event was getting increasingly popular and it is the third time of having such talk. For today’s talk, there are 3 guest speakers invited to share their experiences:

  1. Andreas Vural – Happy Plugs

When he first started the Happy Plugs, he just wanted to solve the problem of tangled ear-phones. He then searched for the perfect material and eventually built Happy Plugs. A few key take-aways from his entrepreneurship journey:

  • Do not be afraid to start your business because of financial issues. There are always sources of fundings to look for if you indeed want to look for it.
  • In order to expand globally, you first need to establish your brand in a single country. After it is successful in one country, you can leverage on that and try to expand your brand.

After that he ended his presentation with an inspiring quote “Try and fail but never fail to try”.

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  1. Emilia De Poret – Singer, Author and Entrepreneur

IMG_8648The second guest speaker was a very passionate woman who has went through several obstacles in her life but managed to turn over a new leaf. The first stumbling block that she encountered was when she was 23 years old when she was fired from her recording company. At that point, she felt that she was a complete failure and she locked herself in her room for almost 2 weeks. Since that day on, she made a promise to herself that she wanted to be in control of herself; she did not want to be hired by anyone and that’s how she becomes an entrepreneur. If she had not experienced being fired, she would not be the successful woman she is today. The following is a few tips that she shared with the audiences:

  • In life, you are presented with a lot of opportunities but you need to learn how to prioritize and learn to say no. By saying no, it does not mean that you are rejecting the opportunity, but it means that you are making yourself to commit to an opportunity.
  • When you feel like you are at the lowest point of your life, you need to gather your strength and pull yourself out of the pithole. Believe that you can do it and keep trying again.
  • To find a suitable partner for your start-up, sometimes you don’t need to look too far away. It can be strangers in the plane, your familyyou’re your relatives. Go out and connect to people more.
  1. Peder- Tech enthusiast, Boka bord

IMG_8650Since his study at Uppsala University, he knew that he was really interested in technology field. He began working at Nord Net, a Swedish online trading application. He shared a few lessons that he learnt based on his experiences:

  • Do not ever attempt to do a lot of things at the same time. Focus on one and make it happen. He made the mistake of doing at least 7 things at the same time and resulted into lack of focus.
  • Rather than focusing on trying to get investors, try to utilize bootstrapping and focus more on building your idea and product.

He ended his presentation by giving us a quote that we must remind ourselves constantly: “Believe that you yourself are capable of doing so much more than you think.”

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Recently, while completing the Individual homework for the Technology based entrepreneurship class, one question kept popping up in my mind. Is the freemium model really a revenue model or just a marketing strategy?

According to Alexander Osterwalder & Yves Pigneur, Business Model Generation : A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers, the term “freemium” was coined by Jarid Lukin and popularized by venture capitalist Fred Wilson on his blog. It stands for business models, mainly Web-based, that blend free basic services with paid premium services. The freemium model is characterized by a large user base benefiting from a free, no-strings-attached offer. Most of these users never become paying customers; only a small portion, usually less than 10 percent of all users, subscribe to the paid premium services.

Now as I was doing the assignment, my focus was on the Internet software and services industry and for the question, “What companies are most likely to disappear in the nearest future within that industry?” I noticed that most of the companies at risk of failure had one thing in common, freemium as a revenue model.

For example, one at risk company I identified was Evernote – a service that lets you take notes of everything, which in my opinion has lost it’s focus. Instead of focusing on its core note-taking product and on converting users to the paid service, they instead spent more time pumping out new releases that often don’t live up to expectations in order to gain as much interaction with potential paying users. Freemium will widen your customer segment, potentially leading to a flood, but if your customer and business development strategy aren’t guiding your existing customers to premium users with little or no customer acquisition costs, you simply have a disaster of support, hosting, and frustration costs for customers that don’t want to upgrade. Another company I found that could be at risk is Spotify, simply because in this generation where we are not willing to pay market value for music, I won’t lie I am also among these stubborn few, pushing a customer up to a premium subscription takes an extraordinary amount of intimate knowledge about their behaviour and incentives, let alone who that customer is out of the different personas you could be targeting. Hopefully in the future generations, people will be more willing to pay for music, who knows…

Another company is Flickr – a platform for sharing photos and videos which was already acquired back in 2005 for around $25 million by Yahoo, I know Flickr can’t be compared to the unicorns mentioned above, but this is just another example to prove my point. Now Yahoo is trying to sell it off again, the photo service that was once poised to take on the the world has now become an afterthought. This one’s main problem I believe is because they sold out to Yahoo, which didn’t share the same vision as the original founders of the photo sharing service. On acquisition, the Flickr team was forced to focus on integration, not innovation. All Yahoo cared about was the database its users had built and tagged, it didn’t care about the community that had created it and like I said before about how knowing your customer is key to higher conversion rates, this was just another recipe for disaster.

I could go on and on with examples of companies struggling with the freemium model but the question still remains, is it really a revenue model or just a marketing strategy? Successful companies like MailChimp – a mailing list service, were around for 10 years before they launched a free plan. Essentially, freemium didn’t lead them to being a good business. Being a good business drove them to freemium.

With that thought, what do you think, revenue model or just marketing strategy?