Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Share, Stream, Pin, Post, Tweet - Repeat

We recently pondered zero rating and how it almost forces start-ups to use social media as a means of marketing here. Sure, freedom of choice is vital, but would it not be in the best interest of B2B start-ups to get on the bandwagon and do their thing through social media? Probably, here is why.

It is booming

brand awareness - Frederick Achom Blog
more budgets target social media
In the past few years, social media has become colossal. Most of the largest industry players in the world have started implementing special teams and budgets targeted at social media marketing. Although LinkedIn is generally considered as the more professional social media stream, other platforms are not lagging far behind in usefulness when it comes to social media marketing. Campaigns these days include Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, YouTube and more.

Brand awareness

Before the Internet became the megalithic machine it is today, brand awareness was usually achieved through saturating the market with advertising material showing off your brand. Nowadays the market is a lot bigger but luckily it is also faster, easier and often cheaper to get your name out there. Re-tweets and re-shares travel globally every day; why not make your name one of its passengers? An easy place to start is with friends and employees - excellent brand ambassadors, free of charge. There is no trick to it, just get your message out there and ask for it to be shared.

The personal touch

Besides the personal aspect of friends helping your business along, the Internet's social media platforms can add a surprisingly personal element to marketing campaigns. In the days of direct mail companies and marketers relied solely on what can fit into an envelope and through a mail slot. By being active on social media platforms, potential clients can become intimately acquainted with company culture, ideals and objectives. For an even more personal touch there is one of the most powerful marketing tools around: video.

Investors love social media

Angel investors and mentors carefully select the brands they choose to back before opening their pockets. Wouldn't it be ideal if you could try before you buy anything? This is exactly what these intrepid investors do with online research. A large portion of the vetting process happens through investors signing up to follow potential investments' social media streams. If a business uses its social presence to show progress and positive client interaction, it immediately increases interest. The Internet is also often where initial interest is sparked.

It is big, very big

Incredibly, this is just the tip of the immense iceberg known as social media marketing. Without even looking at how useful groups, forums, SEO and other aspects of social media can be it is clear that this is a powerful tool for start-ups, not to be missed out on.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Going Green Takes a lot of Green, Unless you Lighten up

Going green is a great idea - Frederick Achom Blog
Going green is a great idea
Going green is a great idea but many companies are finding it impossible to start implementing green policies because of cash constraints or budget allocation issues. Despite the long-term savings to be made with putting sustainable practices into place, the initial outlay comes at a high cost. For the average cash-strapped start-up that has all it takes but has not quite made enough of a mark to afford the luxury-essentials, going green has to wait. The same applies to companies that are capital constrained or have firm policies about how money can be spent. This is not the case when it comes to the innovative tech start-up Enlighted.

Are you enlighted?

Enlighted is on a mission to make buildings as energy efficient and comfortable as possible. The company provides people-smart technology that automatically responds to environmental factors and makes the required adjustments. This means installing sensors and state-of-the-art gadgets on fixtures that figure out exactly how much or how little heating, cooling or light is needed and turning it on, off, up or down based on findings. Think: intelligent lighting and temperature control, lower bills and you have it. What's more, it gathers and analyzes all the data collected to give occupants detailed feedback - ideal for future planning. Surely such a clever gizmo is also very expensive? The most impressive part of it is that it really is not - no catch.

Light up my life

It is possible that Enlighted was once one of those cash-strapped tech start-ups because these guys really get how hard it can be for companies to go green. By collaborating with a global finance firm this company came up with an incredibly sensible market offer. Selected companies are offered a comprehensive solution with zero initial capital outlay. How it works is that Enlighted takes out a loan on behalf of the customer for the equipment and installation cost. Monthly repayments are calculated as a percentage of the actual savings made by installing the tech so customers immediately start seeing a reduction in bills. This means that savings are being made, even while the system is being paid off. What a bright idea.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Wearable tech - What's Next?

Sci-fi fans out there will be able to tell you all about trans-humanism, tech implants and cyborgs. These themes are all richly featured in popular science fiction. This is where the implausible ideas from the recesses of author's imaginations take flight on screen and in novels. The newest trends in wearable tech do make one wonder just how closely fiction is to fact lately. Let's have a look at what is on offer these days.

Mobile tech on the Move 

FitBit certainly not a fashion accessory
certainly not a fashion accessory
Just the other day the FitBit was a mind boggling bit of kit. Albeit useful, it was nondescript and certainly not a fashion accessory. FitBit has not only become an everyday item but the company has also taken a progressive leap and joined up with fashion designer Tory Burch to create a range of fitness monitors camouflaging as designer jewelry. This immediately brings to mind mobile phones masquerading as earrings. Could that be the next best thing? We are already not far off with Bluetooth headsets and other Bluetooth products.
When the first wireless Bluetooth headsets arrived on the market it was an instant hit for motorists and mobile phone users on the move. The Amazon wearable technology trading area now offers Bluetooth gloves. Sure it is a gimmick, but it is a fun one and has a dual purpose in keeping you warm while you are chatting away. The newfangled Amazon hub also offers a Bluetooth Beanie and other wearable tech items like the WiFi video camera snow goggles and a selection of Smart Watches.

Smart Fabrics, Also Known as E-textiles

Incorporating electronic and digital technology into clothing has a variety of uses. Pilots and truck driver's fatigue levels can be monitored, as can the heart and respiration rates, temperature and posture of sports people. Governments can keep track of soldiers in battle and parents can keep track of children. Even more futuristically fantastic is the NASA developed memory-storing e-textile. This nano-engineered material hopes to make objects made with it remember useful information. For example a chair would retain the memory of its last occupant and reshape itself when the same person comes into contact with it again. Now this certainly sounds like science fiction and not fact, but restive memory is a patented reality.

The Future is Right Now

Other wearable products include the iSwimBand which prevents children from drowning, Edison's Smart Turtle baby monitoring device and of course Google Glass. According to Wearable Technology Conference director John Weir, experts are predicting that the industry will be worth over $8 billion by 2018. With astounding forecasts and an increasingly exciting product line-up, the 2015 Wearable Tech Show promises to bring more jaw-dropping developments than ever before.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Digital Divide

Zero rating means subsidized access from mobile providers to selected areas on the Internet as a means of gaining increased subscription rates. A Virgin Mobile deal offers unlimited access to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest for $5 a month. Music lovers love T-Mobile for their zero data unlimited music streaming service. It offers tunes 24/7 through all the top services like iTunes, Spotify, Pandora and iHeartRadio.

Is there space left on World Wide Web for start-ups?
Is there space left on World Wide Web for start-ups?
Revenue the mobile phone providers lose out on by handing out free or below cost data is more than made up by increased subscription rates and the returns that come with other services used. Mobile phone users get what they need for free or at a small cost, providers get more business - a winning situation for both parties. It all sounds great, but as with most things advertised with the four letter f-word (free); there is no such thing as something for free. Here the losing party is Internet-based businesses and in particular start-ups.

How zero rating affects start-ups

Subsidized access makes the already popular apps more popular and leaves less room for start-ups to get their share of the market. To get in on the action, tech start-ups have to include the widely held social media streams as part of their marketing plan or simply lose out on a chunk of the market. Social media areas like Facebook are closed off versions of the Internet, not just social tools. You can shop, play games, gather information and do marketing - all in one area. In a MerchantCircle survey it was discovered that 65.7% of businesses use Facebook as a marketing tool. Think of a bag of popcorn in the microwave, the kernels slowly start popping up one by one and then it all goes crazy. Just like that Facebook users started popping up all over, and fast. The difference is that Facebook is an apparently never-ending bag of popcorn and its explosive personal user-base is closely followed by its business user-base.

What is a start-up to do?

The solution is clearly for businesses to get their Facebook profiles up there; start groups, join groups, Tweet, stream, Pin etc.

Unfortunately there is one problem with this, choice. Most start-ups would like to reserve the right to freedom of choice, and rightly so. It has become such an issue that the Subsecretaria de Telecomunicaciones of Chile made a ruling that zero rating was in violation with net neutrality laws and banned it as of June 2014. Not many countries take the stance that Chile has and social media subscription rates continue to skyrocket. Whether mobile providers will take a step back and stop the trend of subsidized access, only time will tell. Until then, hopefully there still is a space on the World Wide Web for start-ups.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

You are on the Internet Right now - and you are not Alone

Over two billion people are connected every single moment of every single day and the numbers are rising. Around 3.6 million Google searches were made in 1998 throughout the year. By 2013 nearly six billion Google searches were made every day. There is a whole of questions being asked around the globe.
Who answered these questions B.G. (Before Google)?

Are we alone?

are we alone - Frederick Achom blog
are we alone?

Google's first official year in existence is 1998, but before that, people were getting into the habit of typing things into technological devices. The very first text message was sent in 1992. Today more text messages are sent in a single day than the number of people on earth. The point is that technology is growing really, really fast and spreading just as quick. Another interesting statistic is the number of Internet devices. In the mid 80's there were around a thousand of these contraptions knocking about. By 2012 the numbers were approaching ten billion and according to Morgan Stanley, this number will be as high as 75 billion by 2020.

So, everyone is on the Internet...not!

With numbers like this, surely the Internet is everywhere, right? Wrong. There is a barren wasteland of no Internet in less developed places all over the world. Ethnic groups in remote areas around the globe have no access at all and in some areas the Internet is only accessed by improvisation. In parts of Africa e-mail is received at a central point, printed out and delivered to regions with no coverage while other information from the Internet is broadcast on local radio stations. Tedious and simple, sure, but that is just for now. News hot off the tech press says that pretty soon Google will be taking care of those poor Internet-deprived souls too.

Imagine balloons floating around in the stratosphere 20km's from earth sending out Internet signals to everybody, including to those isolated tribes in New Guinea, India and South America.

Does it sound like (loon)acy?!

This is exactly what Google is working on with their quest to make the World Wide Web truly worldwide with Google Loon. The WiFi beaming Loon balloons have been tested in New Zealand, and have provided a Brazilian school with much needed Internet access. The reasons behind doing this could be entirely altruistic but is more likely to be financially driven. Perhaps Google is planning on offering ISP services or simply hoping to achieve increased revenue due to increased exposure. Who really knows why and who knows if they will be successful in this very ambitious venture. What do you think? Is this idea another Google great, or simply loon(y)?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Old World vs. New World

Two places are popping up in start-up news lately - the city Berlin and the country Brazil. While these places are geographically and culturally miles apart, there is common ground when it comes to business.

investors looking at Berlin
investors looking at Berlin

Old world Berlin making waves

Super low rent is only one reason for entrepreneurs to launch start-ups from the über-cool Berlin. Start-ups in the German city like the hugely successful Zalando and its backer Rocket appear to be motivating other investors to look at Berlin more favourably. ResearchGate moved from Boston in the US to Berlin and has Bill Gates as an investor. Although nothing is concrete as yet, these companies are considering IPOs, as are other tech firms situated in Berlin like Mister Spex and Wooga. Also to be found in Berlin, the food ordering company HelloFood aced the award for the 'Best E-Commerce Start-up 2014' from some 800 European contenders. With an unemployment rate of over 10%, Berlin could certainly do with the boost a tech start-up wave brings.

Is it sunnier down south in the new world?

Brazil is rumoured to have spent at least $13 billion on the World Cup. This is in comparison to the puny $1 billion South Africa spent on the previous World Cup. Surely there is no shortage of money for funding start-ups? Maybe. As always Brazil is a country of contradictions. While mobile technology is booming and digital intelligence is on the rise, people are also taking to the streets in protest of the large sums of money spent on the World Cup. According to Sergio Borger from IBM Research in Brazil, the innovative new technologically fuelled eco-system in Brazil is a breeding ground for entrepreneurial opportunities. The country appears to be one of the best business environments. According to the UN, it has the seventh largest economy in the world and the indisputably largest in South America, despite its reputation for corruption and violence.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

What is Growth Hacking?

The term 'growth hacking' was coined by a blogger called Sean Ellis in 2010. It is a marketing method that combines social networking with critical thinking and throws creativity into the mix. It is becoming an integral ingredient to lean marketing and therefore particularly useful to start-ups.

Growth Hacking can Grow Your Business

One of the biggest problems start-ups are faced with is a lack of capital. Not having unlimited funds to hire marketing wizards and not having enough experience with traditional marketing to do it in-house has caused many a start-up's demise. Marketers and advertising agencies are aware of the value of their expertise and charge accordingly. The ideal situation for any new entrepreneur is to find a way of making existing technology, like their online presence, work as marketing tools or to have built-in marketing tools in the actual product. In other words, let the business grow itself through itself.

Does this sound complicated?

It is not complicated, really. A simple and simply great example of a marketing tool built into a product is Twitter. When Twitter started out, they had a problem with retention. Although new users signed up by the dozen, not many became active. Instead of spending a fortune on jacking up their conventional marketing, Twitter took a different approach. First of all they figured out the problem, which was that users were not likely to be active if they didn't have people they knew on Twitter to interact with; to get users to start interacting, Twitter had to get their friends and family to join. This was achieved with a technical, creative and practical solution; they built in the functionality of 'Suggested User Lists'. Just like this simple and extremely effective growth hack, you can leverage growth hacking to build your business, even with limited funds.

A Pinch of Creativity and a Dash of Tech Savvy

Many of the most renowned websites use growth hacks to create brand awareness and improve profits. Social networking sites Facebook and Pinterest both used exclusivity as a launching pad to getting the numbers in. Dropbox used a referral program that gave out free storage space for every signup and Hotmail added a tagline in every signature, on every email sent by their 20 something thousand subscribers inviting recipients to sign up. Whatever product you are punting, start by looking at the systems in place. The first question to ask is: 'How can this be automated to my benefit?' Instead of spending money on Adwords or ad agencies, try to figure out how to reach your target audience through creatively using technology. Research Organic SEO methods; research keywords, look at what competitors are doing in their social media streams and blog, blog blog. If this doesn't get the desired results, look at hiring a growth hacker at a fraction of the cost of an ad agency.