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13 August 2011

The three metrics of a startup

We all have way too little time on our hands, and when starting a business, time and focus will shift further. The success of your startup has three sources: focus, focus and focus. So instead of making a complete dashboard (something that I do however recommend in most cases), there is a minimum of measurement your startup needs:

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8 June 2011

Customers in the cloud?

This week, I am lucky to be able to attend both the New York Internet Week and the Cloud Computing expo. On both events, I felt again that the customers have become the one element that is not in the picture.
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25 May 2011

Best entrepreneur in town!

If you would as me today to divide starters (end entrepreneurs for that matter) in two divisions, my first choice would be to see who is becoming an independent craftsman on the one side, and the entrepreneurs willing to create “a company” on the other side. This article is not about who’s right or wrong, but I wish to express my concern for entrepreneurs, especially in the Flanders area, that believe becoming king of the village is the highest possible objective for their new company or venture.

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13 May 2011

It IS still a startup!

Great chat last week with the proud manager of a young company, that has made the gap in becoming profitable now. Not easy, and really a great achievement.

Bit strange however when he told me about all the changes he would now make in the company… Read the rest of this entry »

13 April 2010

European telcos want to charge Google


European telecommunication giants are preparing to fight Google over the data traffic and bandwidth that is consumed due to YouTube videos, according to a new report from the Financial Times. Their goal: to have Google pay them for the bandwidth YouTube and its other websites consume.

The metaphor of the bullfighter comes to mind. The enraged bull (or a herd of bulls in this case) storms – with bloodshot eyes – towards the red cloth. His only goal is to hurt or kill his fluttering menace, his only weapon: brute force. The fearless bullfighter plays along and taunts the beast a little more. When the thousand kilos of bovine meat have closed to a mere few inches, the matador swoops away, raises his sword and elegantly, but decisively, stabs the beast between the shoulderblades. The fight is over. The bull has become victim to its own rage and shortsightedness.

So too will the story go for tradional telcos. Yes, they are absolutely right: internet companies like Google move gigabytes of traffic through their copper pipes. And they *should* be paid for this! The enraged telcos stab furiously at Google; frustrated because they still don’t understand internet business and only see their revenues and margins decline. All they know is how to charge for landlines and interconnections, and by God, that is what they’ll do. They’ll charge Google more than they ever charged before!

And Google will pay them… and play them; and it will take ownership of the consumer. For Google, it will be a bargain: pay the telcos for bandwidth usage, and then turn around and offer their services plus connectivity for free to the consumer! Instant lock-in. Google will stab the telco by taking the end-user away from them. For every Euro they demand from Google, they’ll loose hundreds of Euro’s in end-user subscriptions. Worse even: as soon as Google has control over enough end-users, they will be able to play the telcos against each other. Telefónica, France Telecom and Deutsche Telecom will have to earn the *right* to provide internet access for Google… And that will be the end of the bullfight; until another matador comes along and challenges the incumbent.

It is the typical herald of innovation and change. Just as an upcoming breeze announced the arrival of Mary Poppins, so too can we deduce the arrival of imminent change by the giants and incumbents who put their heels in the sand and try to push their old model more violently than ever. Was it not Einstein who said: “Stupidity is trying the same thing again and expecting a different result…”?

31 July 2009

Open innovation – or just joining forces?

Last week, the news about the teaming up between Yahoo and Microsoft was all over the news. As if two companies trying to copy the behavior of a third one would lead to a dramatic change (more on that later). Most European news agencies overlooked an event that can change the world much more. The MSFT-YHOO deal seems to be about capitalist forces joining for destruction, while the second one is using the forces of capitalism to be a constructive part of global society. Oddly, Bill Gates is involved in both events…

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28 January 2009

The Belgian railway operator Infrabel has shown the perfect example of quick and flexible business thinking, full commitment on customer service… and utter and blatant stupidity.

In response the earlier problems with train tardiness and customer complaints about lack of information, the company has released -a mere few weeks later- a new website. allows travellers to quickly lookup expected arrival times of trains and informs the customer about issues and calamities on the railway infrastructure.

Sounds great, and it would be, if the website were at all usable on a mobile device! With powerful smartphones and high speed mobile networks, I can understand that Infrabel hasn’t developed a separate website for mobile phones, but the least they could do is check compatibility with some of the most common devices. The issue is the neat-o Javascript textfield that helps web-users find the right train station through autocomplete. This textbox doesn’t work on my HTC (Windows Mobile 6), nor on my girlfriend’s Blackberry…

So, the key takeaways for Infrabel (and others): 1. Ask yourself: who are your customers? 2. Where and when are they using your service? 3. Build solution. 4. Check that solution meets criteria 1 and 2!
(unless of course, your just aiming for a publicity stunt and not really trying to help customers…)

1 October 2008

Richard Stallman says cloud computing is a trap

There’s been some buzz on the web about GNU founder Richard Stallman’s statement that cloud computing is a trap and that Web-based programs like Google’s Gmail will force people to buy into locked, proprietary systems that will cost more and more over time. Many of the Free software advocates seem to agree and so does most of the Slashdot crowd (which, as we now, is entirely representative of the world’s geek opinion ;-) .

Stallman’s point is that in cloud computing, information is not free (‘free’ in the sense of liberty, not ‘gratis’). The application provider has full control over your data and you don’t have unlimited access to it. If the supplier should go bust, you lose your data. He argues that people choose convenience over freedom. I argue that it is becoming impossible to keep all your data at home and that often data becomes more valuable when it is kept by others.

First of all, we accept similar systems in other domains without thinking. If we were to follow Stallman’s train of thought, all of us would have to keep our money at home, take courses in investment banking and trade our shares and bonds ourselves to get a 3% return on our savings. Oh, yes, and we would of course need to buy vaults to protect the cash from disasters such as fire or burglars. It is not only more practical to bring it to the bank, it is also safer and it becomes more valuable.

The same goes for data: more and more business models are built on the concept of user-generated data and the increase of its value through the network effect. YouTube would be non-existent if people kept all their videos at home.

The main difference between data in the world of cloud computing and our money in the bank is legislation. Now I’m usually not an advocate for additional laws and rules, but our data is becoming almost as valuable as our money, so it should be protected by laws. One of the things the current financial crisis has learned us is that governments will go to great lengths to protect the money of the common man. If they would see that the common man’s data is equally important, then they could take appropriate measures to keep it free as well…

9 July 2008

Microsoft on evolution of the partner program

Alisson Watson gave an overview of the Microsoft Partner program of the last five years, as an intro to announce the changes that can be expected in the next months. The changes in the program are around:

  • people ready:
    • the way customers decide
    • the way partners market
    • the way microsoft markets
  • differentiation: Microsoft confirmed again that they are willing to help differentiate partners better. These days we have three levels (registered, certified, gold certified) of partnership in several competencies. It became clear again that Microsoft will work further to help customers choose the partner that can help him best. The main measures for this concept will be around customer satisfaction, technical and business dept, the investments made in the business.
  • profitability and growth
  • evolve with “software + services” (or “S+S” as it is referred here)

More information has been made available to the customers of The Antena Group.

8 July 2008

Microsoft in the (mobile) small business area

In a keynote on how Microsoft partners can address the small and medium businesses (SMB), the focus shifted very quickly to the opportunities in mobility.

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