Think Big - Vision vs. Idea

visionAs some of you might know my PhD research is also all about tech startups. As part of it I talk to and interview a lot of founders all over the world. A lot of people know that most parts of a startup including a lot of the ideas change quite significantly, especially in the first years of business. However, often times there’s a core idea or vision that always stays the same. This vision is what guides the startup through the ups and downs of the real world and what keeps it on track, while dynamically iterating on and validating its business model.

On my trip to Silicon Valley in May, I realized that there’s a lot more people there that, even if they are still just working on a small first product, have a big vision behind their startup. This vision is the core of their startup and it is the core of what they are passionate about. It is what motivates them day to day and it is what people will see and feel when talking to them. The vision of an entrepreneur is their “reality distortion field”, it is what convinces their cofounders, employees, advisors, angels, and investors to stick with them. In the end it is one of the fundamental building blocks that makes a startup successful.

Here in Germany, however, I often see early stage startups with decent ideas, but lacking big visions behind them. Some founders might have lots of ideas or lots of “functionality” that they want to add to their products, but often there’s no real big goal in terms of “we want to make a dent in people’s lives”. The lack of a strong core idea is one of the reasons these startups might fail. When they get to the limits of their idea and the market doesn’t accept it like they thought it would, these startups struggle keeping alive. It is harder for them to change course, cause the limited field of view that the small idea gives them doesn’t allow for radical changes. Often times the founders don’t see how they can recycle team, technology, customers, and/or partners into a new idea. They also might miss opportunities to claim completely new business areas with their existing products. A great example for latter is mytaxi, which expanded their core product (a peer-to-peer marketplace for personal transport) to the field of intra-day-logistics by using their existing resources (taxis and their drivers) to deliver packages quickly – no drones needed.

Having a big vision is also important when pitching. It makes it easier to convince your audience that it is worthwhile listening to you. It gives your maybe still small or non-existent product a context that makes it more attractive. It shows the core of your passion and motivation behind the startup. This is even more important in short format pitches like an elevator pitch.

Our vision is to … We do this by … Here is [the product]

Conveying your vision is very close to working with the “Golden Circle” by Simon Sinek. You “start with the why”, which should be your vision, then go on explaining the how, and finally finish with the what – your product. Not the other way around!

Knowledge Worker Productivity Revisited


Nearly a year ago I published a post called Knowledge Worker Productivity (read it if you haven’t, yet). Over the last year a lot of friends told me how they especially liked this one post and looking back at what I wrote last year I decided to post an update as to what has changed in my routine since then.

First, note that I’m still kind of an information addict and read a lot for work and also in my “free time”. The information I consume might  be a bit too much for many of you. However, this doesn’t mean the tools and methods I use won’t be helpful for your purposes.

So again, like in my last post, I’ll go into a bit more detail on the tools and methods I use and how I usually use them. However, to keep this post shorter, I will omit some things I wrote about last time. So if you haven’t read the last post, go read it now.

Disclaimer: All of these are my personal preferences. It is just a selection that works very good for me (for now and until I find something better). As I work with three Apple devices (iPhone, iPad, MacBook Pro) the selection is biased towards tools that work on these, but most of them should be available on Android, Windows, or at least (mobile) Web, too. Enjoy!

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From Beijing with Love - Introducing Cool People from the Beijing Startup Scene

Bustling Beijing

I haven’t been writing as much as I wanted lately, and even this piece I’m writing on the plane back to Germany. I had planned to write more in my three-week vacation after attending a workshop on cyber security in Beijing as I still have a backlog of drafts for this blog. Instead I took some time off, slept a lot, met a lot of old friends, had good food, and even partied a little.

However, I didn’t completely switch off. Even before I went to Beijing, I was planning to get back into the startup scene there – For those of you wondering why I write “back”: I used to live in Beijing for about two years and was already a bit involved in the startup scene back in 2009, the days of Web Wednesdays and Mobile Mondays.

Anyway, I assumed even a big metropolis like Beijing must have its core events and with that some core people, who keep the events and community running. I posted open questions in startup related LinkedIn groups and contacted some of the more “central” people directly on Twitter, Weibo, or even good old Email. As it seems to be the case with most startup communities I got quite some positive feedback and open invitations for coffee/lunch. I met most of those who replied and even many more who I either met on events, in coffee shops, was introduced to by others, or even knew from before.

I will write some more about connecting startup communities globally on our newly founded Cologne/NRW startup blog The Pirates Inn.

However, on this blog, I wanted to write a little about the people I’ve met. Beijing has once again proven that it has some great people and a great community. So to start building a bridge to our sister city , I want to introduce and thank some of the people I met in the last three weeks (in order of meeting them or at least how I remember it). This could get long…

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Knowledge Worker Productivity

knowledgeThis post was inspired by some mails and discussions I had with colleagues and friends about how I cope with all the information I work with. Especially one colleague is always pushing me to make a presentation and/or blogpost about it. So first, here the blogpost and the presentation and respective slides will follow.

More and more of us are deeply dependent on information for our jobs or just out of interest. Even if we don’t call ourselves information workers or knowledge workers, some might say most of us already are. Even if not really dependent on it we get addicted to information consumption. This goes so far that people treat this addiction like obesity and recommend “information diets” or even “information fasting“. To be clear I’m a total information addict so far that my former advisor and good friend would say “Puja has two brains, one for normal life and one for all the information he consumes”. I have to say I was deeply addicted and most of it was because of RSS and that big bad number next to “unread” (similar to “Notification Badge Anxiety Disorder”). Still, I don’t (want to) believe RSS is dead (just yet). And based on the lack of good discovery and aggregation tools I didn’t want to give up all my feeds. With time, new services, and especially with the purchase of my iPad (with retina display “for better reading”) this has completely changed. Now I use a pletora of apps and tools that make my information consumption a lot lighter and more efficient. It might still be a bit too much for many of you, but then I’m an information freak. This doesn’t mean the tools and methods I use won’t be helpful for your purposes.

In the remainder of this post I’ll go into a bit more detail on the tools and methods I use (and their alternatives) and how I usually use them.

Disclaimer: All of these are my personal preferences and even if I mention alternatives (all of which I tried) the list of tools won’t be exhaustive. It is just a selection that works very good for me (for now and until I find something better). As I work with three Apple devices (iPhone, iPad, Macbook Pro) the selection is biased towards tools that work on these, but most of them should be available on Android, Windows, or at least (mobile) Web, too. Enjoy!

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Is the OUYA going to kill Apple TV, Google TV, Nexus Q, and the HTPC all together?


_Yes, I know “the idea that one product will ‘kill’ another is plain wrong”, but bear with me here. _

Today I woke up with a message from my co-blogger from gongfubrother telling me about the new game console that’s been blowing up on kickstarter having raised $2 million on its first day (they had a goal of $950,000). OUYA is going to be an open game console based on Android 4.0 with a price-point of just $99 including a nice controller that even sports a touchpad.

As PandoDaily wrote earlier OUYA is going to compete against established players like Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo, all of which have support from the big game players in the market. However, I don’t think this comparison is fair, the competition to the established consoles is just in an indirect way. Independently developed games and ported mobile games, which will be the start of OUYA, don’t compete directly with the likes of Call of Duty, MW3 or Tekken. Rather, they compete on an indirect basis for the general attention and free time of people. They even plan to include a touchpad on the controller to ease the porting of games of smartphone games. This combined with the killer price of $99 and the geeky fact that everything is open (even rooting is allowed without voiding the warranty) are the perfect settings for killing it on kickstarter, where these kind of hardware (e.g. the Pebble watch) tend to go viral very fast.

However, my first thought was that finally someone made the Google TV device everyone is waiting for. Looking at the comments on kickstarter you can see a lot of people asking for XBMC or another kind of media center integrated. From a non- or casual-gamer perspective this would be a $99 HTPC with some free and cool additional gaming functionality. The price is very competitive comparing it to the $99 Apple TV, but even more looking at the Google TV devices out there (e.g. the $200 Sony NSZ-GS7) or that crazily overpriced Nexus Q – $300 for a device that is supposed to be a glorified “social AirPlay” device without any Google TV functionality, really Google!?

Also, with its open platform the OUYA enables anyone willing to extend it with soft- and hardware as they please. Even for hardcore Apple fans (like me) who are confined in their AirPlay world it would be a perfect companion to their (even jailbroken) AppleTV. Heck, it just needs to have a simple media center integrated to connect to your NAS and be able to run some Android apps like Twitter and Facebook and you have everything you always wished your Apple TV could do. Connect it to your Smartphone or Bluetooth Keyboard and you don’t even need the controller for inputting text, for everything else the touchpad on the controller does it, too. Maybe I could even connect it to my Pebble watch and control it from there. Integration with other projects (like RunKeeper) is nothing new for the Pebble team and even without direct collaboration there’s always the Pebble Android SDK. Now think one step further and have OnLive or some other cloud gaming service on it – suddenly killing traditional game consoles could be one step closer.

Just dreaming…but this could really get awesome! What do you think?

Cologne Startup Scene - Whats Next?

cologne by night
Recently, the Cologne startup scene has been discussing how the startup ecosystem here can be further developed and what is missing to make Cologne more competitive nationally (against Berlin), but also internationally. This is how the new Facebook group Cologne Startups, which already has more than 500 members in less than two months, started.

In the last week Thomas Grota kicked of a discussion there titled “Thoughts on my balcony: ‘what’s next?’”, which is already around 100 comments long. Furthermore, we also discussed the case at the last Hacker News Meetup in Cologne (short summary can be found on Francis’ Blog). In this post, I will try summarize both discussions to give a better overview to people joining. I will quote a lot of different people, so forgive me if I forget some accreditation. If anyone misses their name somewhere please feel free to contact me. Same counts for anyone who wants their part anonymized or excluded.

First, we should mention that as Thomas wrote we already have several (co-)working places like Solution space, Coworking Cologne, betahaus, Friesenloft and the new clustehaus. We also have events like betapitch, (internationally renowned) European Pirate Summit, hopefully startupweekend Cologne soon and many more. However, there are some (interconnected) topics we still have to work on.

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