M&A: Overcoming the Culture Shift Challenge

When I wrote the “Mentoring by FabMob” white paper, I was already hinting at an example of use of mentoring to facilitate the cultural integration in the case of acquisition of a new entity. I do not wish to go into the well documented difficulties that large companies face when they are merging or acquiring, how people issues come into play, and how the integration of different ways of working, thinking, communicating can put a real spanner in the works. Even though we all know it is a challenge, still very little M&A really work on the cultural aspect, and very little use mentoring as a tool for creating real human connections for a faster blend of cultures. 

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What’s Your Key Innovation Metric?

To somehow follow-up on yesterday’s post, another question that I find extremely revealing about the strategy of any company is: what’s your key innovation metric?

Here again, no room for big formulas or complex constructions. If you have to gauge if your company is doing well on innovation, what would you look at and measure? The intent is not to ask a trick a question. That being said, the question packs a deep context:

  • What does innovation mean to you?
  • How do you define « doing well »?
  • Do you have a global or a symptomatic metric?
  • Over what cycle or at what frequency are you measuring?
  • Are you giving a lagging, on-going or leading metric?

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Big Data is a Magic Pony

Imagine your company has one of the most advanced big data platform you can think of in your market. Imagine you have access to an unparalleled level of insights and forecasts about who your customers are, what they want, and how they think.

Here comes the question I’d like you to ponder for five minutes and really think about: What would you do with this analytical power?

Don’t settle for general non-opposable answers such as « Improving the value we deliver in key segments » or any other BS. Give me something real. A real breakthrough you would be able to implement because you’d have enough data to convince your board and unlock the biggest investment your company will make next fiscal year.

What. Would. That. Be?

Most senior managers I ask this question to are not able to give a convincing answer on how they would use « big data ».

That makes sense. Most of the time this dream of technology is a magical pony you think you should chase for fear on missing out on the next revolution. It is also a way to convince yourself and your team that you’re not responsible for where you are right now. That there is a something to blame that is beyond your reach.

Alas, for good or bad technology is a neutral agent. It has no purpose by itself. Even if you become the best at « big data » it doesn’t mean you’ll be the next Amazon or Google. These companies had plans before tech.

What’s your plan?

Startup F#ck-Ups

Just assessing every day how the narrative on startups has been reversed in Europe from « This is how we’re going to save the economy! » to « What is this mess? ». The message we’re not changing entrepreneurship a Startup Weekend at a time seems to be getting through. This also correlates with the growing number of tech clusters and incubators in Europe that get in touch with us.

As always the swing of the pendulum will probably go too far back on startups. But as an optimist contrarian, I trust it’s time to get back in there even more actively.

As I wrote just days ago, there is really nothing new to learn about startups launch, growth and scaling up. But seriously, how we organize the support (as private or public entities) is to be redesigned all over Europe.

One key step would be to stop trying to nurture projects at a local scale. This leads to cities miles away from one another to compete together to nest more startups than the other. That they would want to do that is understandable (local jobs, etc) but that states and the EU promote it, is madness.

Technology Subversion Means You’ve Made it

Every new startup or tech company that enters a market faces the risk that it will be hacked and its technology subverted beyond its goal.

Frustrated Tesla owners openly repair and hack their own cars:

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Western brands still misjudge Chinese market

I’m still in the ongoing process of waking up a few of my customers (and the readers of this blog) on why the Chinese market is such a specific and fast one. Three years ago, I was pointing the inexorable move of the Chinese government toward clean energies, and forecasting that by 2020 they would export green tech and electric vehicles to Europe and the US. And we are getting there.

At the moment, my concern and major interest is the huge disconnect that has built up between consumers and retail brands in the West and how they deal with the Chinese market, as a digital monster.

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Platforms’ Dark Patterns: Facebook Portal

In June, I was writing about « Platforms’ Dark Patterns » as a cautionary forecast on how the GAFA / BATX will evolve to sustain their constant push for pervasiveness in our daily lives.

Today, Facebook announced « Portal », an always on connected home camera to keep in contact with family and friends… through the Facebook servers:
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Understanding the Apple Watch

Understanding the Apple Watch is hard.

In September 2014 Jean-Claude BIVER, President of LVMH Watchmaking Division (Tag Heuer, Zenith, Hublot) famously said:

This [Apple] watch has no sex appeal. It’s too feminine and looks too much like the smartwatches already on the market. To be totally honest, it looks like it was designed by a student in their first trimester.

The main difficulty is probably to step back and remind ourselves it’s merely a moving part one of the largest consumer ecosystem on the planet. In this ecosystem, every single added device exponentially increase the customer’s value of the free and the paid services provided:

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Are we still learning anything new about startups or are we just pretending from now on?

After years of working with every kind of startup programs — read: incubators, accelerators, tech clusters, public tech transfer, universities, entrepreneurs’ networks, corporate platforms, and various EU initiatives — I keep asking myself: are we still learning anything new about startups?

For early stage startups there are basically only three things to remember:

  1. If you’re a one-man startup you will fail;
  2. Spend time working on tech and product, instead of seeing where the market has a problem and you fail;
  3. Don’t start working in English and you will never scale (that one might be blunt and would deserve a full article, but yeah, essentially this is what is going to happen).

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You’re not competing on products

A powerful statement from Nintendo of America President and COO Reggie FILS-AIME about what business they are in, and who they are competing against:

He counted the exact number of minutes per day and said that outside of the time a consumer spends eating, sleeping, working, and going to school, “all of the rest of that time is entertainment time. That’s what I compete for, minute by minute. That time you spend surfing the Web, watching a movie, watching a telecast of a conference: that’s all entertainment time we’re competing for. My competitive set is much bigger than my direct competitors in Sony and Microsoft. I compete for time. When I do that, I have to be creative and innovative in order to win that battle.” — Ars Technica interview, Oct. 3, 2018

Granted this is not just PR material, it’s a very educated positioning and explanation on the fact they don’t sell products, games or electronics. The end value of Nintendo is entertainment. Which means they compete as directly with Netflix, as they do with Microsoft or Sony. And as such matching feature for feature with other gaming consoles is not the end game, but rather a short-sighted trap.

Ask yourself: in what business are you in? How can you bring added value? And only then consider what product you would need to achieve your goal.