If you are a VC and you are unclear where to invest then this post might be of interest to you.
Some Disruptive Technologies and ideas that startups might be working on or for which you might want to assemble a team:
WiFi and 3/4/5G have their limitations. Any alternative networking technology that can change complete industries is probably a good pick. An example would be LiFi.
Networks as a Service – Software-Defined Networks – Openflow
This area is very hot at the moment. Today’s network are very hard to configure and manage, they are very tightly-coupled with hardware, they can not be extended easily.
Anything that makes Software-Defined Networks/Openflow easy for mass adoption is going to be a winner.
Anything that allows enterprises to buy a box once and get the network software later based on day-to-day business requirements, e.g. think about appstore for Openflow.
Anything that links Openflow to the Cloud.
M2M Disruptive Technologies
Printing electronics to make sensors cheaper.
Battery-free electronics to make sensors more mobile and less expensive to maintain.
Auto-discovery sensor mesh networks to avoid paying expensive 3/4G subscriptions.
M2M appstores to allow people to reuse the work others did.
Super-easy M2M APIs/PaaS. Look at Pachube as a model to beat.
Cloud Disruptive Technologies
Niche SaaSification in which applications that are only used in small niches can be offered as SaaS subscriptions in a global way.
Plug-and-Cloud Equipment for Hybrid Cloud & Exposure (Single Sign-on, Internal data sources, Internal integrations) – on-site equipment that allows enterprises in an easy and secure way to expose their internal assets to the Cloud e.g. employee single sign-on, secure exposure of company data, secure exposure and easy integration of company applications
Plug-and-Play SaaS integrations that allow multiple SaaS offerings to be easily integrated without programming.
Mobile PaaS = mobile GUI drag-and-drop designer + no-programming back-end systems like Usergrid + plug-and-play integration with external and enterprise APIs + enterprise mobile app / SaaS stores + BYOD made easy solutions (some elements are optional)
Big Data / Data Analytics
Big Data PaaS (easy tools/APIs for complex big data operations like mood analysis, natural language processing, etc.)
Kaggle type of services but for other domains e.g. competition to create the easiest/best mobile interface or API
Kaggle + Kickstarter => competition together with crowdfunding. Who can build the best solution for this problem, gets their venture funded.
Nail-it-then-scale-it/Lean Startup type of crowdsourcing in which ideas get tested (e.g. paper prototypes, business model discovery, etc. before actual prototype) and funding is delivered bit by bit. Ideally with stock options of the funders in the new venture.
Managed enterprise software-defined networks or BYOD – services that help enterprises to maintain their networks or devices that employees bring along in a managed way hence no experts need to be hired and the service is pay-as-you-go instead of CAPEX.
Cloud + Set-up Boxes – Appstores for ADSL/Cable Modem set-up boxes, SDKs to manage large sets of consumer’s set-up boxes, etc.
These are just a handful of ideas. If you want more or need more detail, let me know at maarten at telruptive dot com. Also if you are in need of an external adviser or executive in a new venture, let me now…
There are more phones sold than PCs. In the near future there will be many, many, many more phones sold than PCs. Also most of these phones will be smartphones. Tablets are also going to surpass PC sales in the coming years.
With so many mobile phones and tablets how can the telecom industry generate new revenues?
The first thing to understand is what are people doing on their mobile. Any other industry would need to start doing surveys. However the telecom industry just needs to check their networks. This is the first possible new revenue stream. Big Data business intelligence about what mobile users are doing. Are they buying apps? From where? Are they using apps? Which ones? Are they browsing the web? Where? The data volumes are massive but the value is extremely high. Machine learning could be used to cluster different types of users. As soon as these clusters are big enough then it is possible to sell the data. The more precise the clustering, the higher the value.
If you know what customers do, then help them to do it better
Via opt-in it would be possible to actively help users. Recommendation based on similarity is possible: other users have “bought this app”, “looked at this page”, “subscribed to this service”, etc. If successful then advertisement will generate revenues.
Enable others to accelerate the mobile revolution
What would an entrepreneur need to start a mobile business? Likely 80-90% of the needs are the same:
- Find capital
- Register a company
- Find employees
- Design a winning product strategy
- Set-up a mobile presence (mobile portal, news, blog, etc.)
- Develop mobile application or SaaS (user management, single sign-on, reporting, analytics, code versioning, etc.)
- Test mobile application or SaaS
- Deploy mobile application or SaaS to different stores.
- Charge for in-app or content
- Sales & campaign management
Be the restaurant, tool shop and hotel, next to the gold mine. Do not try to look for gold. Try to make money from the gold diggers. Provide enablement services.
What would an enterprise need to manage the mobile revolution?
Everybody brings their own smartphone and tablet to work. This can save the company millions in purchasing equipment but on the other hand costs a lot more money in management.
- Enabling new devices to connect to enterprise resources.
- Securing access (storage encryption, single sign-on, etc.).
- Monitoring usage.
- Mobilizing business processes.
- Helpdesk support.
Bring your own device (BYODaaS) and mobile business processes as a service (MBPaaS) are areas to focus on.
What would consumers need from the mobile revolution?
Lots of things. Unfortunately consumers are already heavily catered for by Apple, Facebook and Google. Operators are likely to fail if they go in direct competition with over-the-top players. However operators also have a history of being difficult to work with, slow and greedy. There is no killer app. There are only some assets operators have that are still valuable:
- Who calls who? (On iPhones and Androids this asset is becoming less valuable)
- Free call forwarding (Lots of business models do not survive paid call forwarding, e.g. Voicemail in the Cloud, PBX for consumers, etc.)
- Quality of Service (every day seems more like location. A big promise but at the end somebody else found a workaround.)
- Micro-payments and micro-subscriptions (Visa, Google Wallet, Paypal & Square are heavily attacking this one.)
- Identity (MSIDN is globally unique but OpenID/oAuth and other innovations are allowing Facebook and others to offer almost global identity)
The number of unique assets is shrinking. It is now or never to make money with them.
2012 will be the year in which Apple’s mobile app revolution will be translated to every device (PCs, tablets, mobiles, signage, m2m, cars, TVs, etc.) and to the enterprise. Instead of a static company portal and an IT-driven software selection, 2012 will bring apps to the enterprise. Workers will be able to use their PC’s browser as well as a BYOD (bring your own device) to select apps from a company-wide or global enterprise app store. No longer will you have to pay for an annual license to edit a video, image or CAD drawing if you only use it twice a year. Software will be a lot more social. Not only IT will loose power, also marketing and upper management. Crowd-sourcing can allow employees to vote and rate and as such let content and opinions bubble up that might not always fit upper management’s strategy. However when used correctly the opinions are likely to beat any internal reporting system or dashboard in accuracy.
What is still pending?
Except for easy-to-use apps, inter-app and Backoffice integration is very important. Expect new “standards” based on innovative dotcom solutions in this area. Enterprise PaaS, a là Salesforce.com but often in private cloud, will move a lot of Excel and Access apps into SaaS apps. Employees will be the major enterprise app creators and no longer programmers.
Easy over training
This app revolution will focus on mini apps with basic functionality and no longer full enterprise solutions that do everything but in a too complex way.
Telecom’ s involvement?
What I described so far sounds like an IT platform and solution however it will span communication services as well. The link between IT and telecom will become very blurry. For this reason it is important for operators to be active in this market.
An introduction for telecom professionals on Cloud Computing and how to use the Cloud to generate new revenues…
Telefonica recently restructured its business units and now has a separate business unit called Telefonica Digital that is ran from the UK and has several offices around the world: Sillicon Valley, Madrid, etc.
Telefonica Digital is a clear sign that the traditional telecommunication business is no longer going to be the growth engine for Telefonica. So what should Telefonica Digital focus on. Here are five ideas. Some are already partially in progress but ease-of-use, consistency and completeness often can be improved.
1) Become the European Netflix
Google and others are likely to enter into the European market for all-you-can-eat video-on-demand, a.k.a. pay a monthly fee and see all movies, music, series, documentaries, etc. you want. Netflix is the American success story however there is still a window of opportunity to become the European one. Having great content is key in this market. However the most important competitor is not a company but a protocol: P2P. Some European countries have high piracy rates. People are getting accustomed to downloading movies and music for free. The longer Hollywood holds on to high prices in the digital age, the more chances there are that people will not want to pay any more for content. Even when all-you-can-eat service becomes available. Sometimes it is better to have every family pay €15/month then to have almost nobody pay €20/DVD.
2) Long-Tail Partner Eco-System
Open system for partners, big and small, to easily integrate into Telefonica’s back-office systems. Partners should be able to:
- charge customers and handle recurring subscriptions
- have single sign-on solutions and access to user profiles
- update Telefonica’s inventory and CRM systems without magic
- provision Telefonica’s base services (e.g. numbering plans, VLANs, etc.) in one-two-three
- long-tail monitoring and alarming
- long-tail settlement engine
- long-tail support systems
- Escrow and standardized contracts
- Standard revenue sharing arrangements in which partners get the lion share.
Having a long list of long-tail partners will boost innovation at a relatively small cost. A regular operator takes 12-24 months from idea to production launch. In the digital era, new services should be launched daily. Without partners this is impossible. Telefonica should focus on lowering the entry level so two people in their garage can benefit as well.
3) Telco & Mobile PaaS
Offer easy to use telecom APIs to key assets like billing, network quality of service, user profiles, micropayment subscriptions, etc. Allow developers to integrate these telecom APIs into SaaS and mobile apps/SaaS. Have tools to easily create mobile SaaS and native apps. A cloud-based environment to host SaaS. Have a marketplace where customers can easily buy and provision the combined solutions. Solutions to support customers that need help for solutions they have purchased.
4) M2M PaaS
Similar to Telco PaaS but for machine-to-machine and the Internet of Things. Specific hardware plug-and-play functionality, backoffice plugins for monitoring/alarming/management interfaces, etc.
5) The Paypal of Mobile Payment
Operators have a limited time left before alternative systems will disrupt the micro-payment “oligopoly”. NFC solutions, micro-payment subscriptions, mobile payment, etc. are still not standard. Mostly not because of technical limitations but because the whole eco-system wants to see a high margin business. High-volume low-margin would however change the potential of short-term success. What if a micro-subscription (€0,10/month) would leave a merchant with €0,09 instead of €0,05 or less? The window of opportunity is closing fast however…
Are you planning your Cloud strategy for the next 6 months? Do not forget Mobile PaaS on the top of your list…
What is Mobile PaaS?
Several years already people are saying mobile apps will be hot. However how many businesses do you know that are actively using mobile enabled applications? Yes there a few. If you count email on the mobile then almost all of them. However most of them have not mobilized their IT solutions yet. Most managers are travelling extensively. Working from home is becoming more popular. Being on holidays no longer means not thinking about work at all.
To the rescue comes Mobile PaaS. The platform that allows companies to mobilize everything easily. Mobilize their sales, their internal operations, their partner networking, their whole IT strategy…
Companies will want to have access to their time reporting tool from a mobile app or tablet. The same is true for approvals, travel requests, the product catalog, the employee addressbook, etc.
What should a good Mobile PaaS offer?
1) Mobile applications need to be easy to access – a single sign-on and you are able to access a virtual desktop from your mobile, your companies intranet, a mobile app that integrates into a companies backoffice systems, an HTML5 app hosted by a partner, a mobile SaaS solution, a flexible mobile business process designer/executer, etc.
2) A marketplace to buy what is already available – for those mobile apps and SaaS that are already out there companies should pay as they use or a subscription fee. Reinventing the wheel is useless. Being a single point of access will have people come back for more.
3) A mobile enabling platform – put a mobile GUI on top of companies exposed APIs. If a company has a backoffice system that has an API, then a secure API access (e.g. VPN) and a mobile graphical designer application similar to force.com but for the mobile, should allow companies to quickly build custom apps for their existing systems. A step further would be to have third-parties create client apps for those legacy systems that are still out there and sell the apps via the marketplace.
4) Virtual mobile desktop – having a virtualized mobile desktop solution for a tablet or having access to a mouse and HDMI TV would allow people on the go to use their tablet or smartphone as a computer and still access a full desktop.
5) Mobile sales enabler – allow companies to sell their existing products via a new mobile channel quickly. Mobile catalogs for a tablet, instead of paper catalogs. Google is also entering this market now with Google Catalogs. Adding open provisioning interfaces will allow one click purchasing on the go to be linked with existing backoffice systems.
6) Mobile assets and APIs – offer assets and APIs to charge small purchases directly on your mobile bill, APIs to manage a catalog for a mobile store, APIs to deploy a virtual mobile desktop, APIs to integrate a corporate single sign-on solution, etc.
It is five to twelve. Dotcoms are already active in this space. You should think about working together with some established provider that know your legacy systems and a bunch of dotcoms that you never heard of before but that can bring innovative products. The window of opportunity closes mid to late 2012. So if you plan on launching an RFI, then an RFP, selecting a vendor, implementing a waterfall project and launching by 2013 then you better not start…