Small and big companies must learn how to work together

July 22, 2016

thingsenterprisecircleThe pace of technological development remains vivid and it takes great people and sharp focus to understand what to use it for and how. Like if this wasn’t challenging enough, a new generation of internet is rapidly emerging where things are added to the people and organisations already connected. The three key deliverables from IoT are efficiency, security and sustainability and this alone will make huge impact on business and society. Almost everything will be affected why it’s vital to start work on risks and opportunities in all fields now. The only big difference from when Internet arrived is that ignorance will not be an acceptable excuse this time.

Imagine combining 3D scanning, Internet, data analytics, design software and 3D printing. What would that do to fashion, retail, healthcare and distribution? Or heat cameras, drones, Internet, cloud computing and data analytics. What could that do to fire fighting, border control, building management and search for lost people.

We are facing huge change in the magnitude of when we went from farming to industry and it’s really time to start working on all the opportunities and issues.

Most new solutions involve connected hardware which makes life somewhat more difficult. Hardware adds complexity and time, requires financing, impact the environment directly and increase financial risks. Large scale manufacturing has moved to developing countries and with that also experience and skills. It’s quite easy to see the value added by data from the connected things but unless someone connect them there will be no data. We simply will have to cope with the fact that things will stay in the physical world even if the virtual world is much easier and faster to work with. One important implication of that is that innovative and successful startups with hardware as part of their solution hardly can scale up to become global since it will take too long time. This is why we have to learn how to transform innovation in sharp startups to value creation in large international companies.

We started the hardware hub THINGS downtown Stockholm in March 2015 to learn how to make this transformation. We have some 30 carefully selected startups and Sweden’s biggest maker organisation in our 2000 m2 building at the campus of KTH Royal Institute of Technology. And we have a handful of export companies including ABB, Assa Abloy, NCC and Husqvarna as main partners. Since hardware is too broad we focus on themes agreed with our partners and these are IoT, sensors, wearables, 3D scanning/printing, automation and robotics. We have been practicing for over a year now with all types of meetings, events and workshops with our industry partners and other enterprises including Deutsche Telekom, Daimler, l’Oreal, Airbus and Nike. By now we have learnt enough to scale up our efforts and involve more startups and enterprises. The current startup community involved includes some 150 startups now and in June we launched THINGS Enterprise Circle to build a community of Swedish and international enterprises who want us to help start or accelerate their technology innovation and digitalisation efforts.

At this point it’s clear to me that efforts to learn how to transform innovation from small to large companies have to be based on processes not one-off events, absolutely common interest (i.e. IoT and hardware are far too generic but battery technology and energy harvesting or wearables are ok) and really careful selection of companies and people for workshops. The purpose of a workshop is to inspire and bring new ideas and approaches to the enterprise and the aim is to have the enterprise to buy projects and prototypes from the startups to get the collaboration going.

Small and large companies who learn how to work together in an efficient and mutually beneficial manner will be the winners in the networked society. We are determined to figure out how to make this happen at THINGS and welcome enterprises and startups who want to be part of our journey.


Startups are kids of industries

April 12, 2016

kids-835146_1280Startups is not an industry, they are kids of industries in the same way as kids are young adults. This quite simple insight provides some good guidelines for dealing with startups.

Even if you can, it’s not nice to make money on kids or startups. They need good and sometimes firm guidance, a lot of care, reasonable challenges and a lot of love to become great adults, and then they might be able to deliver some returns. But the best coaches get their kicks from seeing them grow, learn and develop, sharing their success and enjoying the feeling of having played a role in the miracle. I question anyone who see startups as a market or business opportunity by itself. I don’t include investors since their bet is to get some returns when the startup has grown up and create themselves an incentive to help.

It is very valuable for kids to be with older and experienced people since they can provide a lot of experience and wisdom. The same goes for startups – being with grown up companies in the industry they target is immensely valuable. Established companies can provide feedback to plans and prototypes, advice on choice of partners and go to market approaches and so on. But they can also pay  them little to provide a prototype, POC or study the same way my grandmother paid me 1$ to cut her lawn – a great combination of making some money, getting a reference and still do something useful for the customer. I believe, generally speaking, that this is a much better approach than giving the kids 1000$ to go figure out something great.

Technology develops rapidly why innovation requires very sharp focus on technology and application. Since building a large international company from scratch takes a lot of time it’s often a better way to integrate the innovation in an exist large company to create value. With large organisations having to bring in innovation from outside and startups having to get their innovation into established companies’ solutions, channels and marketing those who learn how to do that well will be successful. This is exactly what we try to learn at THINGS, together with the sharpest hardware oriented startups in IoT, wearables, 3D scanning/printing, automation, robotics and medtech, and our open-minded industry partners like Assa Abloy, Husqvarna, ABB and NCC.

M2M For Real

May 8, 2012

Connecting things to the Internet opens up for a new wave of innovation to society, companies and consumers. That fact has been talked about and dressed in numbers for the last couple of years. Still we see quite little action beyond connecting “big phones” and electricity meters. Something is obviously missing and I think I know the answer.

We have good enough technology available and we have been blessed with a new category of smart mobile devices with apps perfect to visualize functionality and value for people. And we are in the beginning of the cloud and Big Data era which constitutes a perfect environment for M2M-applications and the data created. Still little action.

As often when powerful technology comes to market it is too abstract for most people to see how they and their organizations will benefit from it. What it will do to their life, business and society. Our industry needs to educate people and help them see the value and opportunities of M2M solutions. It is definitely not about technology – it is about business and should be discussed with business developers, product owners and management teams.

I believe a combination of meetings and a lot of relevant examples is what it takes to create understanding and feed a creative and rewarding thought process. The examples are most often not that your competitor did this, but rather someone in an adjacent industry did something and that was the result. Meetings with theoretical examples don’t work. We have seen some of that already and it sometimes feels like people from the M2M industry tell other people from the same industry how it works. And it is still too early to provide relevant ideas “stand alone”, without face to face meetings, since the context and overall education often is missing.

The method I am using with clients starts with an overview of the market (education) and continues with discussions about problems and challenges in their business relevant for M2M solutions. This normally becomes discussions about cost savings and efficiency which is great. Further down the road we look at business cases and ROI calculations. But the true power of the M2M concept comes to play when we start discuss potential new innovative ways of doing business enabled by M2M solutions. Collecting, cultivating and leveraging the data generated. Selling services or functions instead of products. Going from product life cycles to continuous R&D. Offering customers an unexpected service or feature. Effects to the brand and new weapons in recruiting employees or customers. This is what I believe is the real power of M2M solutions and the Internet of people and things.

This is what I call “M2M for real” and I will do my best to promote this approach beyond our company. A good acid test will be an “M2M For Real” event in Stockholm which the media company Mobil Business is organizing June 20, TeliaSonera is main sponsor and where we will provide a solid introduction and status update on M2M solutions followed by a “smörgåsbord” of examples from all kinds of industries and opportunities to discuss.

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