IoT is here, better get in at the ground floor

We are on the verge of something really cool: things around you will start coming online, get a life of their own. Well, at least in Amsterdam… for now.

Soon everything around you will have a sensor and you will be able to know things like:

  • Your front door will tell every time it was opened and closed
  • Your bike will tell you at all times its location or if it’s moved
  • Your boat will report back as soon as there is water inside
  • On a farm, the animal feeder will tell you when it needs to be refilled and which animals stopped eating in the last two days

And these are just a bunch of scenarios I can think of. As soon as this technology is widely available it will create a wave of amazing applications. Just imagine what problems you would solve if you could track in real time things like: movement, acceleration, temperature, humidity, air pressure, location or air composition among others.

Why now and how does it work?

The sensors aren’t new, but there’s a brand new way to connect to them. Presenting LoRaWan, a sort of Wi-Fi network for sensors/ iot which:

  • has a huge coverage – up to 10-15 Km
  • is designed for transmitting really small amounts of data (not 4k video streaming)
  • can listen to a large millions of sensors simultaneously
  • enables sensors to consume very little energy -> battery life in excess of 10 years

In more scientific (and more accurate) terms LoRaWan is “designed to provide Low Power Wide Area Network with features specifically needed to support low-cost, mobile, secure bi-directional communication for Internet of Things (IoT), machine-to-machine (M2M), and smart city, and industrial applications. It is optimized for low power consumption and to support large networks with millions and millions of devices. It has innovative features, support redundant operation, location, low-cost, low-power and can even run on energy harvesting technologies enabling the mobility and ease of use to Internet of Things.

To function a LoRaWan network needs three parts:

Enabling world wide mobility for the IoT image 2-1

  • a gateway – a receiver that listens constantly for signals from the sensors around it
  • a node – a sensor that transmits the signal
  • a platform (network server with app server) that takes the information received by the gateway, decodes it and sends it further via internet to our smartphones and computers.

So why in Amsterdam?

Because Amsterdam is already covered in LoRaWan. So, if you buy a humidity sensor tomorrow and set it in your boat, it will be able to alert you as soon as you have water in your boat. At the moment the data is in raw format, but here’s where you come in. You can build a smartphone app that uses that data to trigger a notification. You have a white canvas!!

When was Amsterdam covered?

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 22.17.48

Amsterdam was covered in LoRaWan by TheThingsNetwork (THN) a few months ago. They did that in 6 weeks with only 10 gateways. And unlike any other similar initiatives this effort was crowdsourced by the citizens of Amsterdam.

Get in at the ground floor.

At the moment everything is at the very beginning. If you want to be part of something exciting, this is the time to get on board.

Last week I was sitting with a bunch of geeks, in basement with no windows, with devices all over the table, listening to the very basics of what this network is capable of. For a second I felt like I was in the at the first Twitter meetup, when nobody knew about it yet. I felt like I would look back one day and say: “I was there when that happened”.

TheThingsNetwork Kickstarter tips

I see a great opportunity in this and I definitely recommend to anyone to check out the full potential of this.

Where to start?

As product manager you should start by understanding the technology.

As a developer you should start tinkering with the devices.

And here are some useful links to get you started:

TheThingsNetwork Amsterdam Meetup – Celebrating a successful Kickstarter

Check out the full picture gallery on Facebook

Last Firday, I had the pleasure to attend the ending ceremony of TheThingsNetwork Kickstarter project. With ˜300K raised, they got twice the amount they were aiming for. Not bad for such an ambitious project, which doesn’t come from SF but from the heart of Europe.

IMG_3996 copyAfter we all counted down the last 10 seconds before the end of the campaign, Wienke took the stage to thank everyone involved. And a shortly after that Johan gave us a demo on how to setup a gateway

and a brief introduction on how to set up a node on the TTN.

I also had a chance to talk to Marcus and found out a few important things that contributed to their Kickstarter success. Here is what I remember:

 

TheThingsNetwork Amsterdam Kickstarter tips

    • Before the campaign, Wienke and Johan were talking at events and getting people pumped about it; thus in the day of the campaign they had a big email base they could contact. Crucial!!
    • 30% of the funding came in the first 2 days
    • The majority of the backers came from NL, but they had a very international crowd in the long tail
    • Pledges stayed pretty constant/flat during the campaign, except the last day when they saw a big bump.
    • Trick: they told their backers the campaign starts at 2pm and the press 3pm, so when the journalists dropped by, they already had a massive amount of support.
    • They transformed interesting acker in study cases:

IMG_4003 copy

Grants (aka non-repayable funds) for your startup – the what, how, who, and where

Last week I had the pleasure to organize a Startup Maze Amsterdam meetup about: Grants (aka non-repayable funds) for your startup – the what, how, who, where.

Our speaker was Rik van der Wel, the owner of De Subsidie Informatie Groep, a cooperation of independent entrepreneurs specialized in government grants for Dutch SMBs. Rik started his organization in 2010, when he saw a lack of support for businesses that wanted to file for grants. His mission is to spread the word on what grants are available and making it easy for entrepreneurs to get the most out of them.

Below is a video I recorded during the presentation and underneath it you can find his Prezi slides. (sorry for the video quality.. it should be 1080p… but my gopro does not do low light…)

 

And here’s his presentation:

Dutch grants: how do they work?

Basically Dutch government will give you money as long as you ALSO make an investment in your business. Most of the times the grants allowed are in the shape of tax reductions, percentage wise from your total investment. So if you invest €10.000 you could get X% back from the state, or you don’t need to pay it in the first place. As far as I understood all the available funds come from the EU.

Dutch subsidies: who can get them?

These funds are available for both SMBs as well as for large corporations. There are interesting ways of getting money back at any level.

Dutch grants: why do they exist?

The Dutch government is willing to give grants in the form of tax reliefs and allowances to business because it helps boost the economy. The funding is available for both small and medium sized businesses but also large corporations. The Dutch government is willing to give non-refundable funds to companies because this effort helps boost the economy overall.

Companies can use the financial aid to launch their businesses, grow their businesses, hire more employees, make their business more sustainable.

Dutch grants: what are the most interesting grants for startups?

The most interesting thing for starting entrepreneurs is that you can declare your time as an investment and you can value your hours at a max of €60 per hour. So if you invest a full week of your time in your startup (remember you also need to invest in your startup) you can say you invested €2400. In a month €9600.

What is the official website for Dutch subsidies?

http://www.rvo.nl/ – good luck with it.

For more info you can always get in contact with Rick via Info@dsig.nl or through his LinkedIn profile.

 

The often-overlooked, but essential habit of successful entrepreneurs

“I was leading, but they were not watching me. They were looking down the road. Instead of their faces, I was seeing the backs of their heads. So something at Tabac was more interesting than the leader – and then I remembered the photograph and braked as hard as I could.”

As Juan Manuel Fangio was approaching that corner he was leading the race, so in theory all cars should have been behind him. It made no sense to hit the breaks before that corner. However, the day before the 1950 race, he saw a picture of a similar accident, which happened a few years before on the same track. That made him realize something is wrong. In an instant he acknowledged the situation, recalled the picture, connected the two and hit the breaks as hard as he could, avoiding a crash that could have been fatal.

I find this to be an inspiring story for all aspiring entrepreneurs out there. You see, we all love to talk about the success of people like Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and so on. But few look at the mistakes people have done on their journey to success… and more importantly learn from those mistakes.

Just like that picture that prevented Fangio to crash at full speed, entrepreneurs should find their own pics of people that “crashed” before them. I believe that in order to become a great entrepreneur you need to understand journeys in their totality, with both mistakes and smart moves.

Good luck in the startup maze,

Andi

Growth hacking, supercars and the anatomy of fast

What makes a fast car? A powerful engine, light body, aerodynamic design, turbocharger… That’s all good to gain speed, but to maintain it you’ll need something else: good brakes.

Seems rather counterintuitive right? But you see, in a supercar good brakes don’t slow you down, they put you in control. Good brakes let you turn corners faster and avoid crashing the car in front. Mere speed without control is an accident in the making.

For me growth hacking is similar to driving a super car at high speeds. We all see the sexy part of it: acquiring users, gaming the system and creating clever shortcuts. But we often forget of something essential: we need a product with an amazing user experience.

If you don’t have a product that people love, you have no control over your growth. You can add users at insane rates, but those same users… will churn faster than you can say growth hacking, and that will lead to an inevitable crush.

So yeah, we all like to talk about sexy terms, magic solutions and shortcuts. But remember that’s only part what of what you need.

Many things in life seem counterintuitive, but that doesn’t make them less valid.

How Startup Weekend helped Fabio kickstart his idea in two days

Originally from Rome, Fabio is a local in Amsterdam for quite a while now, and given his passion for biking I would say this city is great match for him.

Fabio loves traveling around world, and in part that is why he wanted to launch his own business: more flexibility (and funds) to go and explore the world.

His first step in kickstarting his idea was in 2012 at Startup Weekend in Amsterdam, a 54 h event during which people pitch their ideas, teams are formed and then each team needs to prototype and validate the idea by the end of the second day.

For Fabio this was a great experience and it created the nucleus of a team that continued working on this project for months to come… in their spare time, after work, in the weekends, on vacations. And by working on it in their free time, they allowed themselves more time to further develop the product, before quitting their jobs and doing this full time.

Fabio Tiriticco Startup Maze Amsterdam

In today’s episode we talk about the benefits of using Startup Weekend as a launch platform, the cash and sex theory, why ideas are open source and why you should ask yourself: are you building a product nobody wants?

Fabio’s pro tips:

  • don’t incorporate your startup until you make money.
  • make use of platforms such as startup weekend to validate your ideas
  • mitigate your risk by work on your idea in your free time, before you quit your job and work full time

I hope you guys will enjoy the interview and as always feedback is always welcome, either here on statupmaze.com, iTunes, Facebook or twitter.

Enjoy!

Links to the stuff we talked about in the episode:

Fabio Tiriticco

How to solve difficult tasks

Many of the things we consider to be difficult aren’t. The key to solving them is to break them smaller pieces and then keep working on those tiny pieces. Tiny steps can take you very far. 

Let’s take my case. I would like to write over 100 quality blog posts per year. Seems a lot, but if I break it down it means that I only need to write 2 blog posts per week, for a year. The key is to break the task in bite size pieces and create a steady rhythm.  54 weeks per year X 2 blog posts per week = 108bp/year

Or let’s say you would like to make $1000 per month as passive income. If you break that down, it means you need roughly $250 a week. That means you need to get ~$36 per day. If you create a valuable online product, priced at $17.99 you need only to convince 2 people per day to buy your product. 2ppl X $18 X 30days=$1080

And the great thing is that you can apply this to anything to make it more approachable. Now think about your startup. Big task ahead of you? Maybe you haven’t started yet, because it’s so big… Well, I challenge you.

Define the tasks, the effort and the frequency. Then keep going at it. Keep a steady rhythm and you will be amazed of how tiny steps will take you far.  

Fail fast, fail often, fail early – clay pots, startups and perfection

Fail fast, fail often, fail early – words we inevitable hear when talking about startups and entrepreneurship. But what does it really mean? What kind of failure are we talking about?

A few months ago I stumbled across a very interesting story about failing, which might explain the obsession with failing culture and it’s hidden benefits. This story is from a book called: “Art and Fear” and it goes like this:

“The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality.

His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pound of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot — albeit a perfect one — to get an “A”.

Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes — the “quality” group had sat theorising about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.”

In other words, when people say fail fast, fail often, fail early what they actually mean is practice, practice, practice because getting good at your startup is not different from any other capability. Making mistakes at the beginning is normal, but the more you practice the better you become. And the earlier you make those mistakes, the faster you learn.

And let me leave you with this awesome quote from Thomas Edison:

Thomas Edison Photo Quote 2

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.

Are you building a product nobody wants?

One of the most common mistakes when starting up is to focus on the solution instead of the problem. I’ll tell why but first allow me to tell you two quick stories. One about paintings and one about buffalos.

Paintings, happiness and the intricacies of human mind

Chosing a painting

This story is an actual study on what makes people happy. You can find the full TED talk here: The surprising science of happiness, by Dan Gilbert.   

In a room, the study participants are presented with 6 paintings and they are asked to order them from the most liked to the least liked. They order the paintings 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. After the experiment, they are offered as a present one of paintings 3 or 4. A rather difficult choice, because none was strongly preferred over the other, but most subjects still chose painting #3. The experimenters told the subjects they would mail the print.

Two days or two weeks later, in the second part of the experiment, the subjects are presented with the same 6 paintings and asked to rate them again… and the resulting order is 1, 3, 2, 5, 4, 6.

The painting that was rated 3 jumped to the second position in the top, and the painting that was rated 4, jumped to the 5th. “The one I chose was really better than I thought; the one I didn’t get, sucks”

In other words, people “fell in love” with their choices. And before you say anything, there’s more to the story. And this is rather spectacular.

The researchers decided to repeat the test, just be sure… but this time they did it with people with chronic amnesia, as in they forget everything within 30 min. You walk in you have a talk with them, you walk out of the room, come back in and they have no clue who you are. So, what were the results you might ask. Oh yeah, you guessed it: same results. People that have no recollection of what happened 5 min ago, did the same thing. Chose 3 and then 3 became 2. Amazing isn’t it? Of course it is, but what’s the key learning here?

Well, for me it’s clear that the process of falling in love with our decisions (solutions) happens at a subliminal level, and even if we think we are super objective, our subconscious plays tricks on us.

So now imagine if even people that suffer of amnesia prefer the paintings they choose prior, if there’s a connection at that level, imaging how strong and subtle that must be. So if you come up with a solution before knowing the problem, then according to this study chances are that as time goes by, your solution will go from 3 to 2 and from 2  to 1. You will end up building your solution just because you made an unconscious decision… without having all the puzzle pieces. Without understanding what people want.

And this leads me to the second story, with another important learning point at the end…

Buffalos, problems and banging at the wrong door

Slide04

The second story is about bufallos. Well, on the surface at least… It goes something like this:

At one point Hornaday realized that the buffalos that were roaming the great America plains were almost extinct, so he did what every respectable conservationist would have done: he went to Montana to kill several dozens of them.

Yeah, that’s right. You see, William Temple Hornaday was one of the greatest pioneers in the early wildlife conservation movement in the United States. He was head taxidermist at the Smithsonian museum and he traveled the globe hunting exotic animals and stuffing those animals for the museum. It’s sounds weird, but for Hornaday killing all these animals was a kind of conservation. He believed that by stuffing them he was preserving endangered species for future generations that might not know them. Through taxidermy he could make the immortal…

After he hunted down and stuffed around 24 buffalos he arranged them in the natural museum around a fake watering hole. As he looked at them he realized he was just a funeral director embalming the species that America was exterminating.

Again, for me this story packs another strong lesson. If we go and start working on the first solution we think of, we might spend years doing the wrong thing. Hornday, didn’t know better when he became a “conservationist”, he could not imagine another solution because his knowledge was limited… he just didn’t know better.

And same applies to other situations as well. Chances are that your first idea is not the best idea, even when you are seen as a specialist in the field, like the gentleman above.

The above fragment of one of my earlier posts. For the full story and the audio version (which is amazing) head over to A story about buffalos, problems and solutions.

Building the ghost towns of China

China-s-Replica-of-Paris-Is-Now-an-Eerily-Depressing-Ghost-2

 

Choosing a solution without understanding the problem first, might lead you on a dangerous path. A path on which you take the wrong decision based on limited information and then you become too attached to it t let it go. So what do you do? You end up building a product your customers don’t want.

Maybe the old saying “build it and they will come” shouldn’t be your motto in this case… otherwise you might end up building on a Chinese ghost town.

So how do you focus on the problem? Click here to find out.