Thursday, July 1, 2010

Social Web Services & Paragliding

Can we help you secure 2 million euros in venture funding?

They say a good paraglider is an old one. I have done some paragliding and I would like to go on a specialist course that involves deliberately collapsing your wing – sometimes resulting in the pulling of the emergency shoot. After the course some people give up; since they realize that what they thought was a solid wing can so easily turn into a pocket handkerchief. But there are benefits for those who manage to gain the confidence and skills to right a problematic situation – it could literally be a matter of life and death.

But most paragliding accidents occur as a result of bad choices regarding the weather, the location and required skill levels. After a long drive to a beautiful location it can be very tempting to fly even if the weather conditions are not quite right. At this point you need someone with a cool head to say; let’s sit down, have a picnic, and review the situation.

Since last November Zipipop has been providing concepting and strategic consultancy to startups – particularly in relation to social media. And we warn our clients that the process can potentially be as disturbing as a collapsed paragliding wing, as we endeavor to pull their concept to pieces. However, we do so in a structured way using an analytical process we developed inside Zipipop. We also do a lot of question and answer sparring with the clients; since one of the key roles of a consultant is not to provide information, but to help people understand their own thinking more clearly.

This can be a grueling process, since we are frank and don’t pull our punches. However, the point is not to destroy or dampen spirits, but to help eliminate problems that could become much more costly to fix at a later date. In a way it is a bit like army training: first we break you down and then we build you up again, so that you are stronger, fitter and even more determined to succeed.

But if the client has the right attitude the process can be a lot of fun – since it is a stimulating intellectual roller-coaster ride of brainstorming and idea tuning. We now divide initial sessions into positive and negative – so that we can get the best of both perspectives. And it is crucial that both parties listen closely to each other and respect each other’s expertize at all times.

One client that understood this process was Zokem, with whom we had the pleasure of working with from November 2009 to February 2010. Together with Zokem, KoppiCatch and ArcticStartup we helped moved their “core” offering away from a struggling* social media mobile application aimed at automating status up-dates to Facebook, Twitter, etc, towards the idea of a mobile analytics start-up – their USP is their cutting-edge software for collecting all mobile phone usage data. Initially we were referring to the new concept angle as “Google analytics for your personal life”.

This new approached seems to have helped them in securing 2 million euros in venture funding. We obviously can’t claim credit for this, since the Zokem team is very bright, experienced, and determined; but it is fair to say that we played a significant part in this strategic shift. After our involvement, Meri Kupiainen (co-founder) sent us a thank you email saying:

“You have done an amazing job with us. I must say that this is something that we definitely had to do at this stage, and later might have been too late.”

If you are brave enough to undergo a full Zipipop analysis, we could potentially help you define and refine your concept so that you too have a better chance of raising funding.

* An improved version of the initial consumer offering still exists under the new name of Zoki – Your social assistant. It is promoted on the main Zokem website as a case-study for Zokem’s mobile data gathering capabilities. Zipipop also create the Zoki logo and slogan and gave advice on how it could be developed. The service, however, faces many significant challenges, but the basic idea of a context aware digital assistant that analyses your daily activities and can genuinely help out (be it in your social or daily life) is very compelling; and will no doubt come of age as the technology and analytical experience improves. Who knows, if Zokem becomes the Google for mobile analytics they might just have the resources to make this part of their dream become more of a reality : )