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A Neste Surprise, A Nimble Timesaver & A Rock & Roll Product (Team); Here’s What’s Trending In Tech

green pod

Neste’s Green Pod; in this column’s view, an unlikely contender for first prize in the company’s “pre order the future” competition.

Inspiring public spaces; ever get tired of working in them?

If your answer to this slightly bizarre question is yes, I find the bright sunshine, happy, laughing people and creative thoughts distract me from my real goal of achieving a kind of bland, functional mediocrity, then get ready for an even more bizarre solution.

A Finnish company called Neste, “a pioneer in oil refining and renewable solutions for cleaner traffic and industrial products”, has launched an internal competition, called “Pre Order The Future” which invites entrants to submit prototypes of product and service innovations.

One out of every five entrants will be selected for further development during 2016, before the product is rolled out in the spring of 2017.

The “Greenpod”, made “primarily” out of renewable materials, is, “a multipurpose capsule for both work and leisure that can be set up nearly anywhere in an urban environment.”

The release reassures us that the pod “doesn’t just look cool”, which is a relief, because the Neste “Greenpod” doesn’t look especially cool, but more like the bottom of a giant biro pen, or a scale model Swiss RE building.

It does provide charging stations for all your devices, block out surrounding noise, and use facial recognition technology to identify people and give them access to their private files, however, and, at a stretch, it could be useful in Winter?

What isn’t explained is how you would get the pod to the public space in the first place (it doesn’t look like it folds neatly into a shoulder bag), why you would want to sit inside a giant capsule in the middle of Central or Hyde Park, for example, and how you would persuade park security that it was ok to erect an 8ft x 10ft shard of ballpoint whilst everbody else makes do with a towel and picnic basket.

Still, the Greenpod is just one entry in one of 5 categories, “Future of Public Spaces”. The other 4 are Future of Mobility, Learning, Entertainment and Travel, and advocate the intelligent and innovate use of modern technology to try to incorporate renewable energy and materials more into our everyday lives.

The “Subo”, for example, a modular learning kit to help children discover more about renewable chemistry, and the “Renewable Travel Ticket”, that allows one to travel on routes that use renewable energy only, seem eminently more workable ideas than the “Greenpod”, but it is the public votes that will decide who wins, guided by a jury consisting of Neste Executive Vice President Kaisa Hietala, CEO Matti Lievonen and Prince Ea, a spoken word artist and YouTube star who has joined the project as chief “futurologist”.

All 3 will be providing their own views on each of the projects across all 5 categories. If they need to take time out to “blue sky” in a crowded place without running out of battery on their smartphones, they’ll know what to do at least.

app data gapComputer Says Slow; Is The App-Data Gap Making You Less Productive?

They do say a good workman never blames his tools, but “they” can be a mischievous bunch at times. After surveying more than 3,000 business and IT professionals worldwide, Oxford Economics and Nimble Storage have finally confirmed what we always suspected. It’s not our fault we’re unproductive – it’s our computer’s fault.

Two thirds of those questioned (and 76% in the US) felt that slow applications at work “significantly impacts” their ability to perform at their optimum level. Half believed they wasted at least 10% of their working day waiting for their slow computers to respond to their demands.

This works out at around $7.5bn annually of workers time lost in the US alone due to the poor performance of computers. And once again, it’s email that workers value above all other applications. Slow email was cited as the number one reason for declining workplace productivity, and “the most critical business application for their companies overall competitiveness and service to customers”.

Not bad for a communication tool that has been around 20 years, without having ever really changed. Good luck to anybody trying to supplant email – many have tried, to date, none have even come close to succeeding.

Only half of IT professionals felt the performance of their email stacked up and provided “above average” or “outstanding performance” to their end users. Perhaps what’s needed is some kind of app that can coordinate ball-scratching, gossiping by the water cooler and getting coffee with peak email down times. Or perhaps we just carry on regardless.

Will we still be using email in 20 years time? We will probably still be using it when we are living on Mars and using fifth generation Oculus Rift to “visit” the family back home.

Increase Your Product Teams’ Productivity To Produce Better Products?

The Forward Partners team, fronted by Nic Brisbourne, he of The Equity Kicker fame, know a thing or two about building startups. The failure rate amongst early stage ventures will always be high, mainly for systemic reasons, but by following Forward Partners posts and advice to the letter any founder, providing their underlying idea has some merit, will give themselves a fighting chance not only of survival, but of success. Just ask Lost My Name, Lexoo, or Edge Retreats – all Forward Partners alumni who have gone on to achieve good things.

The Path Forward is Forward Partners DIY guide to founding and running a successful startup, from inception, to ideation, product market fit, traction, marketing, fundraising and so on.

Every member of their team contributes mini-essays on their special subjects and the overarching framework contextualises it all into a very useful resource for the solo-founder, who are Forward a Partner’s speciality; they take promising solo founders with great ideas from the pitch stage right through to seed-funding or Series A, and beyond, finding them team members and co-founders etc. in the process.

Before you build a product, find out how your customers want it to work!

This week’s instalment is about “What Makes A Great Product Team”, by Dharmesh Raithatha, Product Partner.

Great products need great product teams, he says. First and foremost, the team need somebody constantly feeding them information about the customer. That person, or persons, initially, will be the founding team but over time it may be worth appointing a specialist to the role.

The specialist can then ensure that user testing is carried out, that every member of the product team meets or interacts with customers, and that there is a constant supply of feedback filtering back to the team, from minor service request style niggles to open ended questions about the nature of the product and how it ought to function.

It’s no longer enough to build a useful product; it must be beautifully designed too. That means having a thorough understanding of UX and UI, and knowing precisely, down to the smallest detail, exactly what you are going to build before you starting building it.

If that sounds dull or restrictive, remember you are building a useful product for your users, not a spaceship out of Lego. In the final reckoning it has to actually work.

The product team must be fast and responsive, ready to deploy quickly and with the minimum of fuss. Like a “fighter pilot”, the team must be able to interpret data and analytics at breakneck speed and be ready to respond to it in an innovative and productive fashion. For this reason, the team must have excellent tools for obtaining data and metrics.

Finally, the team must be driven by outcomes e.g. increasing number of users, introducing popular new designs, not output; an appropriate development process, and a shared vision and mission.

To discover how this magic can be achieved, read the full article (link above).

And finally!

Crowdfunding platform Seedrs has announced that it has helped fund more deals in June, 17, than in any month during 2016. Food delivery service Pronto, “Uber for beauty” blow LTD and “Airbnb for beauty” Hiyacar have all hit their targets, whilst celebrity crowdfunding fan Andy Murray has made 3 further investments via the platform.

The question is, will Murray invest as actively in a post-Brexit “United Kingdom”, or will he opt instead to back some kind of alliance of left and right involving London, Scotland and Gibraltar? ScotLunG perhaps? There’s a chance his considerable wealth could end up “anywhere but England”. It’s to be hoped the latter expression doesn’t catch on, or become a slogan.


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