Technology

Business to Interface Translation — BIT

Smartphone and tablet innovation is exploding. The potential of mobile apps is yet to be realized to its full extent. We are still researching and innovating on various ways to put the interface on digital touch screens to use.

Some of the interfaces and businesses that exist today are already phenomenal. That said, we are not just limited to screens on your phones or tablets, you have watches, HMDs, TVs, IOT and other smart devices; there’s a whole new world being built in these spaces.

There’s a huge no. of people wanting to build and need help with apps to run a business on and for most already established businesses, it has become a need. There are costs & time commitments involved along with acquiring & retaining skill to build and keep your app running.

When it’s about building an app, we mean business, Essentially building out a system that can communicate and manage a business process with an app as front end. And, when it’s business, it means money.

Driving digital products from idea to implementation involves building the product, carrying out various processes needed for sustaining, managing the business, ensuring profitability.

Most content that you read online is about idea validation, design and development/build of the app but, there is more involved than just this for turning successful. It’s quite complicated to understand and do it right and hence, there are failures.

Start

Your journey as the owner can start anywhere based on the understanding you have and it completely depends on the your background and profile and the competence of your team.

Driving digital products from idea to implementation involves building the product, carrying out various processes needed for sustaining, managing the business, ensuring profitability. Most content that you read online is about idea validation, design and development/build of the app but, there is more involved than just this for turning successful.

It’s quite complicated to understand and do it right and hence, there are failures. Failures are not the end of the world, they could be handled by thinking through with a clear detail.

Plan

How detail can it be? Really!!

If you go out and order pasta at 10 different restaurants, it would definitely taste differently at different place. We’ll a place has full right to define how their dishes should taste but, you are the one eating it. You wouldn’t like all the 10.

Or may be you will not like any restaurant at all. Working with people and getting a product out is also the same. It’s not easy to get it right. It call for the owner to be more aware and mature with thoughts and operations.

You approach someone or put together a team and define the product to get some help. Would it match what you need without your involvement? Are you clear on what needs to be expected at a sharp visual and functional details covering all the cases possible?

Well, are you completely aware of the details involved?

Videos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tO5sxLapAts and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3zc4bGkU05o should help you get the context of it. 

Things to note from the meme

There was a presentation done that exactly misses out key detail. Most Product Requirement Documents(PRDs), UI mockups, wireframes, functional descriptions, system definitions have bazillion such details that don’t come out clear!

And, one cannot define these detail unless they are clear about what is needed and a deeper understanding of various lines of work involved in building and turning profitable.

“There’s more thought while production than while conceptualizing the solution.”

A Case

For example, A button to book a Stay with an aggregator service/app:(the label of a button, state changes and transitions). Most common first thoughts about such buttons are size, shape and position but, there’s more..

A whole lot more than what just meets the eye:

  1. Label

  2. State

    1. Pressed/Touched,

    2. Idle

    3. Being Pressed

    4. Force Press

    5. Duration of Press/Touch

    6. Before Press

      1. Active

      2. Disabled

      3. Hidden

    7. After Press

      1. Success

      2. Fail

      3. Something else happened

        1. Error ? What’s the error ? What should we say to the user

          1. How do we say it ?

            1. Modal ?

            2. Toast ?

            3. Something else ?

        2. Was it really an error ?

        3. Internet went off ?

        4. Server went down ?

        5. App crashed ?

        6. Was that a bug ?

  3. Style

    1. Padding

    2. Margin

    3. Border

    4. Border Radius

    5. Shadow

    6. Icon

    7. Background Color

    8. Text Color

A label:

Let’s cut down and focus on the Label

The possible labels in the this case are Book Now, Reserve, Request Booking for the various kinds of reservation options that the business has.

At the Designer’s Desk:

It’s not anybody’s fault that our dear designers use the word Book Now on their designs. Their job doesn’t really include a responsibility for adding a dynamic label for such simple point of interaction. There are some good designers who think this through and leave a comment about it on the developer handout or a PRD.

At the Developer’s Desk:

Our dear developers on the other hand have a whole lot of action going on trying to build functional aspects, dealing with engineering challenges, killing the bugs that show up every now and then. They obviously have their own problems to deal with, relating to the product again.

With so much going on, there’s a very good chance that a developer would ignore such detail about what’s written on the button. They’d rather focus on what the button does.

To get to this point in discussion, the designer on the project had to be good, not just visually. This is where the difference between UI and UX is.

Or, the developer had to take some time to think and call this out for discussion and most good programmers do. FYI, programmers are very good thinkers… They think, they write logic, they relate things that’s their everyday job.

So, Is a product manager to be blamed?

At the Product Manager/Owner’s Desk:

Well, a product manager’s job is never complete nor the responsibilities can be thoroughly defined. But they are assumed to take the ownership of the product and any aspect related to it. In a way, this is the responsibility of the product manager to address this issue. It might be too late by the time someone identifies this issue and it would be in most cases of the startup world.

In fact, Product Managers do not exist in early stage ventures probably because the value for such a role is not understood and then, there are very few good product managers around and a good product manager can happen only with great experience with how things are actually built. Some mature companies have PM roles split across different people viz.

  • Product Marketing

  • Product Operations

  • Product Development/Technical Product Manager

But regardless, there are many chances for details to be missed:

#What if the designer didn’t have enough information about the business?

#We might want to call it common sense to know these. But, common sense is not common. It’s one’s own perception of things. If somebody working had such clear understanding, they would definitely be in a better position to create a business than the guy trying to use somebody else’s efforts to build.

#What if the developer did not pay attention to details mentioned?

#What if the product manager or the acting product manager is not capable enough?

#What if the team is so busy trying to do things with an assumption that everything is clear?

These are the kinds of issues that would fail a product during initial phases of launch. Good products are the ones that are well thought through.

Digital products deal with dynamics of design on the Front End and multiple layers of complexities data collection, available data, correlations, background jobs, various sorts of intelligence across data available, involving framework limitations, and a lot of learning and understanding across design, engineering, architecture, communications and end user experience management(UX).

“Simplicity is ultimate sophistication.”

That comes from Leonardo da Vinci. One of the best designer, engineer and an artist that has ever lived. It’s not simple to design, engineer and build something simple. It involves a lot of thinking and a deeper understanding across verticals and most importantly, sitting down and building.

What we’ve discussed here is just about a label on a button. When you are actually venturing into running a business from a screen, there would be a million other factors that play a role. Please be aware and get right help when needed.

It’s always a good practice to have consumer journeys first and a PRD that talks about various key UX specs and decisions involved by a consumer. It’s completely okay to keep things open and call out things that you do not have clear thoughts about on PRDs and figure out a way to deal with them later.

If neglected they will call for one’s own imagination, turn into disasters, wasting the time and resources involved and it hurts. You wouldn’t want to do that.

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Jeremy WebbBusiness to Interface Translation — BIT
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Why Tech Startups Should Focus on Innovation to Weather Brexit

It is important for tech entrepreneurs to pay attention to global movements, issues, laws, and changes in the ecosystem. So, it is no wonder that many entrepreneurs are worried about Brexit and for good reason.

As of now, no one can really tell how the UK’s departure from the EU will concretely affect businesses. Tech has been a notoriously fierce environment that, even without Brexit, startups face numerous challenges in terms of growth, profitability, and sustainability.

While there are arguments saying that tech would be affected less by Brexit compared to industries that rely on cross-border trade of physical goods, the UK tech industry has its own share of concerns. East London has already made a stake of being Europe’s Silicon Valley, and it had no problems attracting businesses and talent from across the continent until now.

Unlike other sectors, tech has mainly been reliant on talent. However, with post-Brexit immigration policies still unclear, uncertainty now looms over many of the cosmopolitan talents that have made Tech City their home. Attracting new talent from abroad would now be more complicated if not impossible as the government still has to define the exit plan.

A number of tech firms have already considered relocating elsewhere after the vote. The flow of investments has also been quite shaky as of late. VC investments in financial technology dropped 33.7 percent in the UK, despite being up everywhere else. But should this concern serve as a moratorium for tech startups?

Rather than be stymied by fears, startups should reframe this as an opportunity. Whether there is Brexit or not, tech firms should be striving for innovation. Regardless of whether or not the UK is part of the EU, disruptive innovation can propel any startup to success.

This is why it is critical to revisit the fundamentals of what can make a startup great.

Provide a valuable product or service.

Go back to the core principles of marketing. Is there a need you can serve? Or another way to put this: Is there a problem you can solve?

Or perhaps a more benevolent framing could be: Could you change the world for the better? No matter how you choose to frame it, your product or service should be providing something of value to someone.

Offer a fresh and unique solution.

Startups have a tendency to run with the pack. Being abreast with trends does not necessarily mean that you need to jump on bandwagons.

Take the mobile application scene. Search for a keyword and you will find scores of apps trying to perform the same function that it is tough for any of them to truly stand out. Study your audience and you may find something new to offer them.

Deliver effortless experience.

User experience is at the core of design these days. The shift to mobile created new challenges in making people interact with tech. The less effort for them to accomplish a task, the better. Optimise your product for performance, as well. Leverage the use of cloud technology to deliver content and resources faster to cater to people’s demand for responsiveness and speed.

Promise privacy and security, and deliver.

With cyber security becoming a growing concern for both individuals and enterprises, make the effort to protect customer data. This means providing high-grade encryption across all connections. You can also enhance customer trust with a Grade A+ SSL certificate, which can ensure better protection against attacks like Heartbleed and POODLE vulnerabilities, which endangered applications and customer data across the globe.

Ship a stable and usable product.  

An idea, even a unique one, is not worth much unless you can actually create the product. Avoid jamming the product with too many features, so that you do not keep pushing ship dates because of too many features.

Focus on the ones that are essential to solving the need, and concentrate on doing those tasks well. It is easier for startups to be agile compared to your larger competitors. Embrace that. Involve your customers early. Test and adjust. Do not be afraid to iterate.

Work towards sustainability.

Another pitfall for a number of ventures is starting with the end goal of selling out or getting VC funding. Have a business model. You have to figure out how you will make your money. Google did not become Google because of search alone.

Their success was being able to monetize search through ads. Mind your cash flow. The shift to subscription models means that you can have access to scalable infrastructure without having to make large investments upfront to build your infrastructure.

Change the game.

Too often, tech ventures get caught up in the adversarial mindset of trying to beat the big players like Google, Apple, and Microsoft. Is there something that these big guys are not doing? Look for those angles and opportunities and you might be able to change the game.

Brexit may have shaken the tech sector in the UK, but what is critical for startups is to remain calm. It is tough to innovate when worrying about these things.

As some of the big players may have to undergo transitions, startups that are not affected should take the opportunity to focus on innovation and strike first towards building that next disruptive technology. 

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AI Revolution

It is beyond the shadow of a doubt that The Law Of Accelerating Returns has been working in favor of human progress. Our species is exclusive to experiencing such exponential development. And statistically speaking, it’s only about to get more fast-paced. But with the wake of AI, human beings may not have to do all the heavy lifting. 

In the world of tech, AI does not lie in uncharted territory. It is no stranger to the industry. John McCarthy coined the term Artificial Intelligence way back in 1956 in the first ever conference held for AI. He believed that “every aspect of learning or any other feature of intelligence can in principle be so precisely described that a machine can be made to simulate it.” McCarthy’s Lisp computer language is still used today as the standard AI programming language and is used for a plethora of internet-based services. 

Researchers have established three tiers of artificial intelligence based on the AI’s caliber.

The first tier houses Artificial Narrow intelligence (ANI), also known as weak AI. In this part of the spectrum, AI can solve very specific problems but can’t go beyond its narrow scope it was programmed to stay within. 

The second tier is known as Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) or also sometimes knows as Strong AI. Creating AGI is a much harder task as AI on this level is as smart as a human across the board. 

And in the final tier lies Artificial Superintelligence. We don’t want to get into that right now. I may have to use words like “human” and “extinction” in the same sentence.

It is important to know about these three categories as it is important to know which one we reside in. The world currently runs on ANI and the paradigm of the market is constantly shifting because of it. According to Digiday, the artificial intelligence market is estimated to reach $5.1 billion worldwide by 2020. 

It’s advised that entrepreneurs of today best be prepared for the ways AI is going to change the face of the market. There are three major ways in which it will: 

1: AI will be used to curate relevant content to consumers by tapping into the vast and growing field of recommendation engines. Companies will begin to employ AI systems to make creative decisions. 

2: AI will be employed to optimize the marketing industry by allowing AI systems to dig deeper into questions like why a campaign succeeded. 

3: AI can be even more potent for knowledge-based service marketplaces. It can be used for things like medical diagnosis where the AI system would have to be trained with a bunch of data related to a specific field of knowledge. 

One of the biggest concerns raised against the upsurge in the use and advancement of AI is if it’ll replace humans in the workspace, in the future. And the upsetting answer to that is Yes. But as human beings, we need to understand that these intelligent agents can be used to our advantage. Instead of seeing AI as a threat, we can learn how to use it as a tool to enhance the lives of people. AI will inevitably increase the quality of services while at the same time, decrease the costs. But just as how AI will be sweeping the need of humans at existing workspaces under the rug, it will also be creating new jobs and new business sectors.

Entrepreneurs who infuse AI into their products will ultimately be the ones bringing the world closer together. 

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Jeremy WebbAI Revolution
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The Startup Killer No One Talks About

What happens when you give 2,000 companies each at least a million dollars?

Well…as it turns out, about 1,500 of them will fail. They will either slog along without growth or shut down altogether.

But, why?

James Allworth, of the Exponent podcast, has insight on this question — 

“At a high level, it’s going to be easier to start things at the bottom, but even harder to break through to get to the top. The middle is getting destroyed and that middle is what you need to get through to get to the top.”

Let’s unpack that statement.

It’s easier to build Google circa 2000, but way harder to build a company that turns into Google, circa 2017. 

Put differently — more companies can win small, niche parts of the market.

And, bigger companies can thrive with huge swaths of the market.

But, it is even harder to grow from a niche startup into a tech giant.

Hasn’t it always been hard to grow a company? What’s changed?

It’s easier to make startups that thrive in their niche.

There is more cash for startups than any time in the history of tech.

Early stage investment went from ~$2.5 billion per year in 2002 all the way to nearly $13 billion last year.

What else makes the journey easier for startups? 

Here are some key pieces:

You know what else? There are just more people making companies. The rate that US workers start new businesses is at one of its highest points in 15 years. More cash, more support and more companies. That’s the landscape for small players. If you want to go deep into why there are more startups, give a listen to this episode of the Exponent podcast.

What has changed for big companies?

It’s harder to challenge the incumbents.

Because tech giants have ballooned in size. You can use IBM and Apple as an example. In 1995, IBM brought in about three billion dollars in profit. In 2015, Apple brought in roughly fifty-three billion dollars in profit.

You can see this same effect amongst all the tech giants:

The ten biggest tech companies went from ~$9.5 billion in profits in 1995 all the way to ~$115 billion by 2016.⁵ The consequence is that they can out-spend and out-compete companies that would otherwise be a threat. Did you build the next platform for photos? Get eaten by Facebook. (Instagram). Or chat? Same deal. (WhatsApp)

Maybe you built the best, new ecommerce site to buy shoes? Or diapers? Or soap?

Get clobbered and then purchased by Amazon. (Zappos, Quidsi)

I know, these startups sold and made tons of money. Boohoo. But, for each example, there are lists full of stories from startups that got stomped by the big tech companies. 

Why are the tech giants so damn big? 

Network effects.

The internet creates a world where companies can make billions from connecting two groups who want to exchange value with one another. 

Uber drivers want passengers. Amazon sellers wants buyers. AirBnB renters want travelers. Facebook users want their friends. And, when a company becomes big enough to own a network, they become incredibly hard to challenge. Note — there are other contributors to the growth in tech profitability and size. See this a16z presentation for more.

Wait. What is the startup killer?

If it is easier to make startups that get investment, then why do so many companies fail? 

It’s all about the Valley of Death. It’s about the period in a startup’s life when it ramps up to take its solution to a bigger market. Specifically, it is the time when costs exceed revenue as the startup attempts to grow into a large, enduring business. 

You can see it here:

Sometimes, startups make the right decisions and take off.  Most of the time, they make the wrong decisions.

You can see how it happens, right? 

Everything changes as a startup scales. The customers, the product, the team, the competitors.

The Google of 2000 is not the same as the Google of 2002, 2004 or any year since. But, startups do not have time to pontificate about each change. They know there are accelerators pumping out startups to steal their market. 

And, on the other side, they know they must face off with tech giants that make billions of dollars and wield massive network effects. Startups are forced to operate with limited information while they burn tremendous amounts of cash to spur growth — all the while with other startups chasing right behind them and tech giants ready to clobber them.

That’s the startup killer.

Why bother? 

Why work with a startup when so many fail? It sucks when startups fail. I had one that flopped and it felt awful. But, we do it because there are problems that need to be solved.

We know the chance that we can help bring a solution into the world outweighs the likelihood that the startup will fall apart.

I do it because, no matter the numbers, I believe the right people, with the right commitment, working on the right problem can solve anything.

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Jeremy WebbThe Startup Killer No One Talks About
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Scaling AI + IoT Hardware: A Growth Hack

People are bad at knowing what they want in new product.

So how, then, do we scale expensive and long-lead hardware solutions for new products in uncertain markets? At Athelas we’re challenging the need to scale manufacturing through layers of process-limitation, choosing instead to focus on user and function.

Iterative methodology is powered by experimentation, consolidation, off-the-shelf integration, and a bit of Voodoo.

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” — Henry Ford.

Source: Creative Commons

Misconceptions

Our viewpoint on product is often narrow and iterative: focusing on issues with something that already exists and improving the product concept within that same context.

If a new product is to have staying power and isn’t an iterative improvement that ultimately ends in price and feature competition, it needs to change what we want and how we want it.

Since you can ask all the market questions you want and still flop like the recent Juicero juicer story, what resources do you commit to a product that is almost certainly wrong?

How much weight do you put behind what features? And how do you know when it’s good enough? In other words how do you manage massive uncertainty with conventional project management tools: scope, budget, and schedule.

The following is how Athelas is finding product-market fit in the diagnostic blood testing space through maximizing the number of product-iterations through driving hardware iteration time into Agile two-week sprints.

One of these costs $600 to purchase. Source: Bloomberg.

Iteration Limiting Factor: Mechanical Engineering

Since users need to see a product to know if it makes sense, a startup optimizes its chance of survival by controlling burn while enabling as many product-iterations as possible.

This is done through minimizing iteration time and maximizing learning from each product experiment, the Lean Startup model of Build, Measure, Learn.

Custom mechanical components will generally control the length of an iteration loop for hardware products.

The time required to design, mock-up, solicit vendors, agree to terms, order material, manufacture, inspect, integrate, test, refine, and repeat, can take months based on complexity.

The worst part is that if you have scoped the application or solution wrong, which you most likely have, the subsequent application pivot erases the effort, leaving you with lessons for next time.

Source: 52weekturnaround.com

Playing Catch-Up

The way for mechanical engineering to gain ground on electrical and software is to focus on the integration of highly-engineered mass manufactured components: cell phone components, actuation systems, and fasteners, and tie the system together with processes that enable quick-customization.

This product test can run at odds with the engineering tendency to look ahead to material and process informing design or Design for Manufacturing (DFM): optimizing your architecture based on the technical and economic constraints of these two areas.

The effort is merited, but I would argue only after product-market fit is confirmed, unless critical to the core value proposition. The inclination to complete DFM early is that manufacturing cost, which partially summarizes risk and complexity, kills scalability.

However, if you’ve optimized a product that isn’t accepted that forethought becomes wasted time and effort. Realizing the product opportunity first, the later optimization effort will be rewarded in its own right with revenue growth and eventually profit.

Challenge: Scaling Custom Housings

A challenge was tabled for our first 10x manufacturing output increase:

  • Do we really need to plan, design, and execute a solution around the various limitations of traditional manufacturing: subtractive methods including machining, etc?
  • Could we delay or eliminate all together this body of work and move directly to transformative (molding) processes at scale?

The driving force of our build project was to broadly distribute product to collect as much feedback as possible and model trends, quickly.

The thought of spending multiple-days or weeks on Design for Manufacturing that would likely be obsolete in a month, although accepted practice, seemed redundant.

Having done extensive prototyping by this point, our custom housings conformed with standard additive manufacturing terms: a few hundred dollars per part with a two-day turn.

At this price, the device would hardly be a consumer play unless we decided to significantly bleed on each sale until we reached scale.

Additive manufacturing is the standard quick-customization process for prototyping and low-volume manufacturing, but it is not great at speed, cost, and often resolution.

Segment of Voodoo Manufacturing’s Production Floor.  Source: Voodoo Mfg.

Enter Voodoo Manufacturing. Running a hedge on my subtractive path, I explored companies advancing high-speed and high-volume printing techniques.

Founded in the ocean between low-volume custom components and high-volume manufacturing, Voodoo is taking a sly approach to making custom products in a scalable, on-demand fashion.

After the collapse of additive manufacturing in 2014, Jonathan Schwartz and Max Friefeld, former MakerBot Product Managers, realized the issue with additive is that $200,000 industrial printers don’t offer much except better reliability when compared with the hobby-market MakerBot at $2,000.

Then came the realization that for one $200k industrial printer, you can establish a factory of 100 MakerBots and turn out 100x the product while hedging on reliability by leveraging your excess capacity.

Voodoo Manufacturing’s Project Skywalker.  Source: Voodoo Mfg.

Then came the realization that for one $200k industrial printer, you can establish a factory of 100 MakerBots and turn out 100x the product while hedging on reliability by leveraging your excess capacity.

Why you Need a Bit of Voodoo to Hit Scale

Voodoo offered Athelas the ability to forget about process optimization so we could prove out our verticals before locking in our designs.

Producing our custom enclosures for 80% less than those produced in an industrial printer and the ability to deliver over 100 units in as little as 48 hours instead of 7 days was a clear 10x, the bar for a win.

As we scale we can learn more about what we’ve overlooked in our market, model a solution, print in-house and test same-day, and fulfill a bulk order in two-days for user deployment. This is the first time I am aware of a startup being able to match the fulfillment capacity of a medium-size OEM, but without needing to finance large capital equipment or pay a large margin to a production partner.

The ultimate benefit for the business is that by hedging on our internal methods, we never need to hedge or compromise on our users from commitments made to process optimization, tooling, and inventory.

If you can gain the ability to forget about process optimization so we could prove out our verticals before locking in our designs.

A Final Thought

Custom mechanical components will generally define the speed of product iteration.

Additive process offerings have struggled as a scalable solution to mechanical design until Voodoo Manufacturing. By leveraging one process it allowed our business to achieve an 80% cost reduction on custom housings and find a fulfillment capability of 100s of units in as little as 48 hours.

The immediate benefit to the business is the elimination of Design for Manufacturing activities until product vertical requirements can become well-defined

This change give an advantage for integration and customer focus. The core advantage, however, is the ability to quickly and broadly deploy product for data collection without cost being a primary factor. 

This is my first post in what I plan to be quarterly insight into how we hack scale-up to drive at 10x growth. I’d love to hear your thoughts and make this a conversation. 

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Jeremy WebbScaling AI + IoT Hardware: A Growth Hack
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7 European Startups Dominating Their Verticals

Europe finds itself in an interesting position right now as it begins to look inward for progress and development.

This has not been a surprise to me. In the past six months, I have found myself in Europe three times and I have been working with several new vendors and partners there. Before 2017 I had only been to Europe once and it was for vacation. So, it is obvious that there is quite a lot of new movement, expansion and growth there.

Indeed, there’s a massive opportunity for the continent’s various tech hubs to compete globally given a prevailing mindset of sustainability. European companies are found to be open to the growth markets moving to into their countries from their viable U.S. counterparts.


Companies in Europe are gaining ground in innovation as well. In the latest innovation ranking, Europe appears to have it’s own personal Silicon Valley incubator. Technology knowledge and science, with the accompanying processes and analytics seem to be staying in Europe — and bringing the growth hacking to their own countries.

Scandinavia, the Netherlands, the UK, and Germany are leading the charge. Even Central and Eastern European countries are emerging as strong tech players in the region. Homegrown ventures are doing quite well with a number of startups starting to dominate their respective verticals.

Here are 7 European startups that I believe are perfect examples of why European startups are moving ahead in the game.

Sales AI: Growbots

How do you improve upon sales and marketing automation? Use artificial intelligence (AI). Founded in Poland, Growbots uses machine learning to automate outbound sales activities.

Growbot’s AI algorithms can create a list of prime leads from its growing database of more than 200 million contacts at more than 90 percent accuracy. From there, these Growbots can send out personalized communication to its leads. They even schedule campaigns to nurture them.

This allows sales teams to focus more on building relationships with customers and closing sales rather than get stymied by gathering and engaging weak leads. Growbots has since build up a presence in San Francisco and Cleveland aside from its Warsaw office.

The company reported a 1,200 percent growth in revenue in 2016 with a monthly recurring revenue of $350,000 in 2017. Growbots’ impressive growth helped them land a $2.5 million investment round last month, bringing the company’s total funding to $4.2 million.

Employee Engagement: Smarp

Finland-based startup Smarp offers an employee communication app designed to boost engagement in the workplace.

The platform allows organizations to build private, in-house social feeds consisting of topic-specific posts. These posts serve as springboards from which team members can engage in internal discussions and schedule social shares with their own audiences.

Smarp also features a gamified leaderboard that encourages employees to earn points towards bonuses for their social media activity, allowing companies to help their teams to become influencers-in-residence.

Launched in 2011 and growing ever since, Smarp has raised more than €5 million in funding to date. This includes a €3-million round last summer, in order to finance their global expansion.

Fintech: Trustly

Swedish payments fintech Trustly allows merchants to accept payments from customers’ bank accounts. Fund transfers are a popular means of payment in territories like Scandinavia and Southwest Europe.

Trustly enables e-commerce merchants and gaming companies to cater to this particular payment method. Recently, the company reached a milestone after reaching an annualized run rate of €3.5 billion in processed payments.

The service currently covers 29 countries across Europe. The Financial Times recently included Trustly as part of the FT 1000: Europe’s Fastest Growing Companies.

EdTech: Brainly

Educational technology company Brainly has successfully gone global from its humble roots in Poland. The social learning service builds learning communities and encourages users to help each other. It has a collaborative peer-to-peer learning.

Brainly also applies gamification principles such as leaderboards to encourage user participation. It boasts of more than 80 million monthly users across 35 countries around the world. Funderbeam estimates the company to be worth $100 million based on Brainly’s last round of funding in 2016.

Health: Clue

Clue is a health app that tracks women’s period and ovulation cycles. The app aims to help women across all age groups understand what is happening in their bodies and what they are they go through. Clue helps women of all ages, whether they are in puberty, fertility, or menopause.

Clue leverages research and machine learning to provide personalized information to its users. Recently, Clue announced a new functionality that is aimed to help users understand the impact of birth control to their health. Clue currently has a user base of 2.5 million women from 180 different countries. The company is based in Berlin.

Cybersecurity: DarkTrace

DarkTrace is a cybersecurity company that uses machine learning (ML) to identify and handle cybersecurity threats. DarkTrace is based in the UK and boasts of having experts from the University of Cambridge and various intelligence agencies working with them. Its advisory board includes former CIA and MI5 officials.

Among its core technologies are self-learning algorithms that plot “patterns of life” for all activities within an organization to better detect unusual behavior in the target environment.

The company has already proven successful thwarting threats and data leaks. It has also garnered awards and recognitions from various groups worldwide.

Internet-of-Things: Playbrush

Oral hygiene is a must, but anyone who has kids would know how challenging it can be to make them brush their teeth properly — especially on their own.

Playbrush gamifies the act of brushing teeth by converting the toothbrush into a game controller. A Bluetooth device is attached to a toothbrush which controls a variety of mobile games.

Playbrush is founded by Austrian inventor Paul Varga with help from the University College London. The company has received €700,000 in seed funding. Recently, the company signed a deal with Unilever to launch a co-branded version of the device.

Towards global competitiveness 

The rapid rise of these startups lends proof that Europe is taking its share out of the tech world. Europe is also becoming it’s own monopoly of the tech industry.

These startups show that building a product or service that provides value to a target market is a recipe for success. Exploring niche and under-serviced markets also make it easy to lead such verticals.

These facts and the vast resources for them in Europe are inspiring entrepreneurs globally. These ventures have the global potential to compete because they are dedicated to innovation, as well as excellence — and they are proving it in Europe. 

Tech ecosystems and venture capital will always find their way to new markets who have the innovation — and into new countries who are proving they have it — and they are ready.

Image Source: Pixabay

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For Startups, Automation is a Key Ingredient to Success

Startups don’t generally flop from terrible ideas. In most cases, it’s due to a lack of planning, resources, or execution.

This is because startups usually lack the capabilities, in terms of human and financial capital, that other larger companies have. The answer, as thousands of other startups have discovered over the past few years, is automation.

Automation: Your Helping Hand

As the founder of a startup, you know just how difficult it can be to scale. You have a great idea, and perhaps even a few customers, but you just can’t seem to get things to the next level. It’s like the old saying that goes, “It takes money to make money.” In order to become a bigger business, you need access to big business resources. The problem is that you lack the money, people, etc. to obtain them.

This is where automation enters the picture. Automation technology lets you do more with less by allowing you to streamline certain tasks and continue scaling without requiring additional resources. Specifically, automation affords your startup the following benefits:

  • Saves time. The first benefit most people think about is the time savings. When you’re able to automate processes that you’ve otherwise been performing by hand, you suddenly have the ability to use your time and energy elsewhere. Theoretically, you should be able to double your output in some areas.
  • Centralizes communication. “When information is scattered across multiple systems or isn’t up to date, it’s difficult to find the correct information you need,” ConnectWise explains. For example, when a client calls and needs information on a specific project, they experience poor customer service when they have to wait for 15 or 20 minutes to get answers. “Automation streamlines the communications between different departments.” So, in this case, the client would be served in a much more efficient manner.
  • Establishes standard processes. With automation technology, standardization across the board is a much more realistic goal. You’re removing people from the equation, which prevents most inconsistencies from occurring. As a result, you don’t have to deal with as many errors and issues that startups typically have to work through in the beginning stages of growth.
  • Provides enhanced visibility. Another major benefit is multi-departmental visibility. As ConnectWise explains, “Automation tools increase visibility into your business’s operations by centralizing data in a way that makes it easy to figure out holistically how your company performs, in addition to the performance of each individual team member. You can even isolate the performance of one department.”
  • Better utilization of human capital. You’ll often hear people complain about how they believe automation technology does nothing more than lay people off and keep them out of jobs. Not true. What automation actually does is allow companies to better utilize human capital and give employees more engaging responsibilities. Instead of getting stuck doing mindless, repetitive tasks over and over again, your employees can do things that get them excited to come to work every morning.
  • Superior data and insights.  Finally, automation technology gives your startup access to superior data and insights that don’t always exist when you’re doing something manually. As a result, you’re able to better understand efficiencies, recognize areas of improvement, and get to know your customers more.

If you aren’t investing in automation, you’re missing out on a lot more than convenience. You’re missing out on a chance to push your business forward and improve your bottom line. While it will require some effort on your part to get started, this isn’t something you can afford to overlook.

Primary Areas Where Your Startup Can Leverage Automation

There’s clearly value in utilizing automation technology in your startup. However, most entrepreneurs don’t know where to start. Where does it make the most sense to integrate automation? Where do you get the most bang for your buck, so to speak? In most cases, these are the four primary areas to evaluate.

  1. Marketing

Let’s begin with the area that offers the most potential for budding startups: marketing. Marketing automation, or marketing personalization as JumpLead likes to call it, is the process of streamlining marketing activities without compromising on warmth.

In the past, marketing automation was something only big businesses with ample resources could use. But things have changed. Technology has become more affordable and startups are actually using automation to level the playing field.

Your startup needs marketing automation if you’re experiencing rapid growth and no longer have the time to manually reach out to every lead; you need to simplify complex marketing processes – or you need to create a marketing and sales process that’s more measurable.

As JumpLead explains, marketing automation involves two integral parts. The first is a contact activity trigger and the second is a marketing action. When the trigger is activated, the marketing automation is then automatically executed. An example of this would be a website visitor filling out a subscription form and opting into your email list. Once the user clicks the opt-in button (trigger), a welcome email (marketing action) is automatically sent to their inbox.

There are probably hundreds of different ways marketing automation can be used in your startup. Familiarize yourself with these opportunities and look for ways to ease the burdens you face on a regular basis.

  1. Human Resources

If you think about it, your startup’s HR department heavily relies on documents, forms, and processes. It’s impossible to have a functioning HR department without them. But the problem is that these require substantial preparation and involvement. Thankfully, automation can help in this area. 

When it comes to importing documents, filling out forms and applications, and reviewing job applications and resumes, HR automation tools can do the heavy lifting for you. They’ll deal with all of the things you don’t want to handle – all without compromising quality or accuracy.

Then, there’s the added benefit of security. “When automating human resources you can choose to back up your data to online servers, ensuring that in a fire or computer failure you won’t lose years of important information,” explains Unicorn HRO, a leader in the industry. “And you’ll also get security for your company, since human resources errors can lead to tax issues, legal troubles, and unnecessary expenses.”

  1. Supply Chain Logistics

Trying to manage your supply chain can feel like a full-time job. You’re having to change orders and processes from month to month, which removes some of the consistency that typically accompanies predictability.

By integrating some sort of supply chain automation into your business, you can perform better demand and inventory forecasting, increase operational and labor efficiency, streamline the delivery of goods through things like automated order entry, and respond faster to customer and supply chain partner requests.

  1. Competitive Analysis

What few startups realize is that automation technology will also allow you to conduct better competitive analyses, so that you can understand the marketplace and what’s going on. Considering how important it is for young companies to be hyperaware of their surroundings, automating your competitive analysis responsibilities is a huge bonus.

One thing savvy businesses do is implement automated price comparisons. “Automated price comparisons are a great way to benchmark against your competitors and incorporate business intelligence into your pricing strategy,” entrepreneur Angelica Valentine explains, using ecommerce as an example. “Online retail doesn’t exist in a vacuum and treating your online space and competitors as though they aren’t there is an easy way to lose customers.”

With automated price comparison tools like WisePricer, startups can understand the competition’s pricing strategies and create their own strategies that deliver greater value to the customer. It’s not a foolproof method for success, but it’s far better than manually checking prices, which can eat up valuable hours of the day.

Put Automation to Work for You

“Regardless of whether it’s as basic as pre-scheduling a couple of social media messages, or as intricate as constructing an email marketing funnel – automation is setting down deep roots and everybody is doing it,” entrepreneur Gaurav Sangwani says. While you certainly don’t want to do something just because everyone else is, it’s usually a pretty good sign that something is worth a second look.

The term “automation technology” is quite broad. It can be used to refer to any number of tools or platforms. But, in the most basic sense, automation technology is about making life easier on you and your startup. It streamlines mundane tasks, consolidates resources, and gives you the ability to focus your time, energy, and money on high-returning tasks that allow you to scale in an efficient manner.

If you’ve yet to invest in automation technology, now’s the time. Start slow and take things step by step. As you become familiar with one tool, consider adding another. Before you know it, you’ll have an automated network of systems that gives you hands-free control over your business.

From there, you’ll discover that the proverbial sky is the limit.

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9 Steps to Take When Your App Goes Live

Launching an app is a big moment for your brand. You’ve worked for months, maybe even years, to polish your app to perfection, and once it goes live, there’s no going back. The hardest and longest part of your work may be behind you, but the next phase of effort is only beginning.

How you choose to launch, support, and grow your app once it’s live will have a drastic impact on your long-term profitability, and it all starts with the actions you take as soon as that app goes live.

Immediate Steps to Take

Make sure you take these steps at a minimum:

1. Optimize for app stores.

First, start optimizing your app for app store searches if you haven’t already. User searches are one of the best ways to get found by unfamiliar and new users, so you’ll want to be as high in the rankings as possible.

According to App Radar, there are several factors used to determine an app’s ranking in both Apple and Google app stores. Some of these shared ranking factors include the keywords and keyword phrases that are included in the title of the app and its meta information, the types of engagements and number of downloads that those apps attract, the number and quality of the reviews they attract, and social signals that inform the app’s popularity.

It’s hard to gather good reviews and ratings this early, but you can at least optimize your app name and description with keywords that are relevant to your app’s purpose (and popular among your key demographics).

2. Run live tests.

Hopefully, you’ve already run a number of tests to make sure your app was running properly; otherwise, you wouldn’t have pulled the trigger to go live. However, it’s still a good idea to share the experience that your users will have, and go through the motions that they’ll be going through.

Sign up like a regular user (yourself) and download the app to your device, and make sure everything’s working properly. Last-minute hiccups aren’t common after a series of sufficient tests, but they’re devastating enough that you should check for them just in case.

3. Make an announcement.

As Hubspot explains, press releases aren’t a “magic bullet” in marketing that will instantly make you more successful, but they will help you build some early buzz and attract some strong backlinks in the process.

Before your app goes live, you should have a formal press release strategy in place—maybe even a draft of what you plan to submit to publishers.

From there, you can use a formal distribution site like PR Newswire, or submit your release to different major publishers yourself.

4. Get social.

Social media announcements should go hand in hand with your press release. If you aren’t already on social media, now is the time to claim your profiles. And if you are, you need to start marketing the heck out of your app.

Let your users know that everything is ready for them, and if you want an extra boost, consider giving them a signup bonus, such as a discount or bonus content for their early support.

5. Thank your early users.

Your first users will be pivotal to the success of your app. If they bail, or if they have negative impressions of your app, you might never generate the momentum you need to reach the top of the charts.

But if they stick around and have a favorable impression of you, they could be the momentum that takes your app to the next level of popularity. Go out of your way to thank them—personally, if you can, and give them incentives to keep coming back.

6. Gather reviews and ratings.

Your early reviews and ratings will be the most important ones you ultimately gather. They’ll be the foundation for your app’s early rankings, and they’ll form the first impressions of your second wave of users.

Make sure you have a feature in your app to encourage ratings, and remain active on social media to keep your brand top-of-mind for anyone who procrastinates rating you.

7. Learn from the early feedback.

Take the time to read your earliest reviews as they start to trickle in, and gauge users’ opinions of your app. Have they noticed any bugs? If so, you’ll need to fix them as soon as possible. Are they unimpressed overall?

You may need to recruit some UI/UX talent to investigate what could be going wrong. On the other hand, if reviews are strong, you can take them and use them to create your next marketing push.

8. Advertise.

Speaking of marketing and advertising, you may want to invest in some early advertising for your app, such as pay-per-click (PPC) ads through Google, content marketing, or social media ads.

This practice is only sustainable in the long-term for some niches and profitability models, but early in your app’s existence, it’s a valuable tool to get those all-too-important early ratings and reviews.

9. Prepare for the next updates.

Most app developers end up pushing at least one new update every month, with some going as often as once a week. This is common practice to fix bugs, improve security, and keep up with other updates.

The minute your app goes live, you should be prepared with the next round of updates, with a strategic vision for major updates your app will undergo in the future.

The Ongoing Effort

Never be fooled into thinking that your job developing or supporting your app is done. Technology evolves at an astounding rate, and user preferences evolve with them, so you’ll need to stay on your toes if you want your app to keep making money.

Always be looking down the road at the next update, and keep investing in your app with marketing and advertising efforts. The more information you gather, and the more willing you are to adapt to new circumstances, the more likely you’ll be to succeed.

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5 Moves You May Not Have Considered for Your Tech Startup

Startups are known for the speed at which they convert an idea into a viable product. That is the exciting part. This bigger picture tends to eclipse the part where founders have to deal with day-to-day operational issues. But this part matters, too.

With so much ground to cover between conceiving an idea and launching your product into the market, you might have only considered these five things in passing, or not at all:

Working with a developer using the hybrid model

If you aren’t a developer, you’ll need to find someone else to help you turn your idea into a product. But should you hire or outsource this talent? Having in-house developers has its advantages, chief of which is working with the same member or team during iteration.

However, it can deplete your funds more quickly.

The hybrid model lets you hire developers on contract from an outsourcing agent or partner. You can manage the developers directly, pay them for the period agreed on, and choose not to renew the contract if the first version of the product fails. This model allows you to avoid obligations you aren’t ready to meet, including a monthly salary and employee benefits.

Finding unlikely co-founders in your support group

In other words, delay finding a co-founder. That is if you’re down to searching for interesting candidates on Google Search. If this is the case, then you might not have the right kind of relationship yet. Doing it alone seems to go against conventional wisdom in building startups. But it’s the same wisdom that says you and your partner should invest equally in the project. 

At this point, you are better off with your existing support group. Some startup founders stress the importance of having a spouse, partner, or best friend who can provide you with emotional support during hard times. Chances are you can rely on the feedback from someone close, too. You’d want someone who won’t mince words when your test product isn’t living up to its promise.

Protecting the source code

It is likely that licensees will attempt to request access to the source code and other materials critical to maintaining the software. Without the raw code, they have no guarantee that they can still use or profit from your product should you go out of business. On your end, keeping it secret is about protecting your intellectual property. It can be damaging to your business to let it fall into the wrong hands.

It is best to set up a source code escrow to mitigate risk on either end. In this case, a neutral third party holds the escrow materials and releases them to the licensee if and when a mutually-agreed-upon event occurs. As the vendor, you will gain the confidence of your licensees without losing control over your product.

Offer software as a service

Software vendors are not exempt from the effects of human nature. There exist elements that take others’ digital property without permission. They are freeloaders in a world of hustlers. It’s good to be aware of the threats.

Purchase-and-download product packages are more prone to piracy. These days, most startups feel more secure when they offer software as a service. Through the subscription model, they provide clients packages each with a range of features from simple to advanced. Clients need to enter their credit card credentials to complete a transaction, so the chances of theft are slim to none.

Having insurance for your business

Investing in insurance is a prudent move for anyone who’s starting a business for several reasons. There are several reasons and types of insurance to consider. You may take on a “key person” insurance for employees whose skill sets are very important to your startup. You may also choose to get protected from a potential liability claim. The insurance is useful in situations such as when a client files a suit against you because your product did not perform according to your intentions. (Yes, this has happened.)

 Conclusion

The things pointed out here are supposed to help you avoid mistakes that might cost you not only your money but also your startup. So choose well.

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LIFE WITHOUT A SMARTPHONE AND ITS RELEVANCE FOR APPS/SERVICES

Some people call me crazy and some call me jobless. I wouldn’t deny either but as someone wise said sometime way back, “When life gives you lemons you make a lemonade.” Still true today, and maybe even more relevant in business.

Currently, I’m making the best of my downtime exploring the freedom of doing some borderline crazy stuff besides writing for this amazing platform called Startup Grind.

Okay! Maybe it’s not too crazy, maybe it’s exploring — but I like the sound of it.

BACKGROUND:

Like most of you out there, I was browsing a tech site during my morning routine when I came across an article on Letgo, a peer to peer sales platform, and was curious to know what they are doing new compared to others like craigslist, ebay etc.

The timing was so perfect that I decided to see how much I could get for my used iPhone 7 Plus and I listed my phone at a considerably high price hoping no one crazy like me would exist to buy it when for few hundred dollars more you can buy a new one with better warranty and feel.

Also, I was bored with my current smartphone, a 6 month old unlocked 32 GB iPhone 7 Plus, and when you keep binge watching YouTube about the latest tech news and reviews (LG G6 and Samsung S8), you’ll be tempted to ditch your phone for the latest fad.

This desire for a new phone was also enhanced because of, and in spite of my circumstances.

These circumstances included a temporary move to Toronto exploring new opportunities which meant I had lot of time to kill and I decided to try something new.

I was so ashamed to share my craziness with my friends back home in India — because I felt I’d be judged superficially as a spendthrift.

Anyways, I bit the bullet and was looking for avenues to minimize the loss from selling a relatively new phone while upgrading to the latest.

And in that process, I sold my iPhone 7 Plus 32 GB version, went for a few days without a phone, borrowed a 5 year old phone from a close friend.

Then, bought a so called ‘limited edition’ Midnight Black OnePlus 3T on launch day assuming it will be really in short supply just a day before the disappointing Samsung S8 launch.

I returned the now really exclusive and sold out Midnight Black OnePlus 3T when I found an irresistible deal (for $50 more than what I sold my 6 month old iPhone 7 Plus 32 GB version) for a brand new iPhone 7 Plus 256 GB version.

I then I lost this phone during my impulsive last minute 4 day trip to Cancun, Mexico, and travelled 2000 miles by road to ‘visit’ a cousin in US when in fact the purpose was to pick up an iPhone 7 Plus 32 GB (yeah!

The same phone again) in a tax free state at a discount that a friend of mine who is working at Apple was able to provide seeing my agony on social media from losing a phone.

Ufff! Such a crazy journey to end up where I began huh! If not for the lost phone, this experience was completely worth it in terms of value.

EXPERIENCE:

Besides the interesting ‘upgrade’ experience, my whole world seemed kind of strange when I had no phone with me for multiple days.

I was thinking twice to step out of my house because I wasn’t sure how I could manage any transit delays or change in weather that I could so easily monitor on my phone or even get notified of changes in my calendar or kill time while waiting for something.

This experience gave me an interesting perspective on life without a smartphone, one scenario that we might come across in the future and not just in Hollywood.

It showed me how much we have become reliant on technology that it put doubts in your mind about traversing this world.

Also, I hope this story can not just potentially give you a spark for a business problem to solve but also improve your current offerings keeping the worst case scenarios (life without our tech) in mind.

STORY:

During the days I didn’t have my phone, I went to a close-by mall to see if I can get a feature phone till I figure out my next phone and I was so surprised to see how hard it is to get one these days.

I tried Walmart, Best Buy, and local carriers and all I could get is a contract option or an expensive prepaid phone that’s worth at least $60 and I felt anything above $30 is not worth the trouble because just few years back, that was what I use to pay for a basic phone while I’m travelling abroad.

So, when I realised my only options were buying something online where it would take at least 3-5 business days to get one or splurge $60 on a weirdly overpriced feature phone, I asked some of my local friends and a good friend of mine was nice enough to lend me his Nexus 4 as he recently upgraded to an iPhone 7.

Except for a dodgy battery life, this phone was perfect in every sense and I think it was on Android 6.0 version thanks to Andorid’s upgrade policy with Nexus phones.

So I was back to a familiar life with a smartphone and things seemed simple till I came across reviews of the new OnePlus 3T Midnight Black ‘Limited Edition’ phone.

It was just becoming available one day before the Samsung Galaxy S8 announcement and before mistaking the ‘exclusivity’ and availability of the phone, I preordered one just in case I was not happy with other options.

Soon I realised that I was not so happy with other options for various reasons and I was trying to see if I can continue using the ‘Limited Edition’ OnePlus 3T or go back to iPhone 7 (maybe the red colour that was newly launched!).

Anyways, I ended up buying a brand new sealed iPhone 7 Plus 256 GB version on Letgo from someone who was willing to sell it for just $50 more than what I sold my 6 month old iPhone 7 Plus 32 GB for. It’s one heck of a deal when you consider the fact that I should have paid at least $400 more for it.

I still don’t understand why this person sold it for such a low price but what I heard was that this phone was meant for one of his employees who got fired the same day. Poor him but lucky me!

I was all happy and chugged along well getting back to the Apple ecosystem, which by the way is a great tool for Apple to lock people in as I, like another crazy friend of mine who got the S8, found it very hard to move away from the ecosystem especially when you own more than one Apple device.

Maybe this is one reason why more people switch to Apple from Android than vice versa!

Within few days, the Easter weekend showed up and I was planning a getaway from Toronto as job search everyday can be so tiring. Montreal/Quebec seemed the best spot for backpacking till I was looking for vacations for another acquaintance of mine.

Soon, I ended up going to Cancun, Mexico myself as the off season round trip airfares were so low and I just felt the need of some sun at the beach.

Being the nerd who is jobless, I decided to use AirBnB and in this process I was required to use local cabs to commute from my place to hotels, from where the local tours start and stop. All was going well till I lost my phone in a cab and my happy, safe and friendly impression of Cancun bursted.

Thanks to a very supportive security staff at the hotel, I tried hard but in vain to track the taxi/my phone using security cameras at the hotel and iCloud, respectively. I realised when you switch data roaming off, all you could see is a location when the phone is turned on which by the way happened when I came back to Toronto.

Anyways, the taxi guy turned the phone off throughout my time in Cancun and hence iCloud was useless. It took me an entire day to get over the fact that I lost my phone and this time around being without a phone was entirely different from not having a phone.

Somehow I managed to finish my trip on a high note and I came back to Toronto in one piece.

As mentioned earlier, the phone showed up on iCloud few times as my SIM was still active and I didn’t erase the phone hoping the taxi guy would see my desperate bounty call.

I think the taxi guy still didn’t realize that my phone is going to be a costly paperweight as it’s in lost mode forever the moment I activated it on iCloud. Anyways, it was a lost cause, literally.

The 2nd Road Trip:

The next weekend I continued my Montreal/Quebec plan as Avis car rental offered me a healthy 30% discount for moving my reservation a week past the Easter weekend.

But before I took upon this trip, I wanted to figure out my phone scene as I’m traveling to a part of Canada that doesn’t speak much of English and I needed a navigation tool.

When I realized that S8 was launching in stores the same day as my trip, I wanted to see how the phone is in reality and I ended up buying it. It had a lovely screen and shot some amazing pictures.

Besides that there was nothing great about it. So, after a day or two, I decided to extend my road trip by a day and go visit my cousin in Weymouth, Massachusetts, USA.

No! The actual reason was to visit Nashua, New Hampshire in USA as it’s just a 5 hour drive from Montreal and I can get a new iPhone 7 Plus tax free and take up on the offer of my friend at Apple who could get me an additional 15% discount seeing my agony of losing a phone on social media.

Facebook is such a powerful tool I say!  

Anyways, I purchased a new iPhone (again!), got my Apple Watch replaced under warranty due to some cosmetic issues, visited my cousin as that trip was anyways bound to happen during my next visit to USA and traveled back to Toronto from Weymouth, MA in pretty much the same time as it would have taken from Quebec city in Canada. Life has been boring ever since then considering the craziness of the last one month.

OPPORTUNITIES:

To lay men ! I was doing a complete roundabout (from iPhone 7 Plus to iPhone 7 Plus) for pretty much nothing but being a business guy, I realized few gaping holes in our current technology.

Our apps have become too data intensive and memory intensive even though the utility has increased only marginally in the last few years.

Also, the duplicity of functions has become too much of an issue like in the case of Facebook’s messenger and WhatsApp. Both almost do the same job at the core of it but I’m forced to have both because Facebook, where most of my social life exists these days, thinks I need messenger as a standalone app and WhatsApp has become too ubiquitous to not have on a smartphone.

Anyways, there are quite a few other problems that for obvious reasons I can’t mention here (read not all ideas are dime a dozen and I wish to make a business out of one at least).

But what I would suggest to all who is either developing the next Facebook or working on a service that could become too ubiquitous to ignore by general public like WhatsApp is to actually live for a few days without these apps or service to understand how important they are to the end users.

If I can exist few days without an app/service, then I don’t see the point of that app/service.

Also, one should continue testing on legacy devices even after few years past their lifetime since a majority of our world is still living without a smartphone and that’s where the true value and potential is if you actually think of it.

Also, in case of a real emergency like a huge solar flare, which could potentially take out all networks, any app or service that is still functional with bare minimum or zero network usage could be a huge win for all. 

Now! Don’t test me on how an app or service can work in case all networks are down because I’m not sure if batteries can even power up but I hope you get the idea of contingency.

Prepare for contingency in your product development and build on a thin, lean or agile logic not just in terms of development but also architecture because the benefits are too huge to ignore.

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