Joining Poken!

I joined Poken earlier this month as a proud adviser to one of the best and most creative entrepreneurial team I have met in fifteen years of roaming the local scene. An object that leaves no-one indifferent, a great combination of a product coupled to an online service complementing the offer of social networking giants, Poken has all it takes to be an example of innovation made in Switzerland.

I will provide ideas and contacts to Stéphane Doutriaux and his team, helping them take the project to the heights it deserves by advising on product and business development, usability and design, marketing and branding. Poken is one of the three great ideas I have seen recently and it’s an honour to join a project gathering successful entrepreneurs like Dave and Steven Brown, Guillaume Beauverd and many others. Rock on!

Poken’s first birthday cake during a 2009 celebration!

Prezi is out of beta

Prezi is a new kind of presentation software I used a couple of times (most notably in my intro speech at Lift09). It is a nice change of pace from flat and boring powerpoints, finally an innovation in the presentation space!

Imagine an infinite white sheet on which you can position objects, texts, videos, pictures. After you dispose all information you create a “path” that the camera will follow, going from one frame to the other, taking the audience on a journey that even the best slide transitions can’t replicate.

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Prezi is now out of beta, and you should really give it a go. Only problem: it does not work with a remote and you have to present with your laptop in sight. This can be a big problem (again, see my Lift09 intro speech).

How bad design kills people

This article about the plane collision above the amazon reads like a novel, and details the “long, thin thread of acts and omissions [that] brought the two airplanes together”. The accident could have been avoided if the pilots of the smaller plane – the one who cut the left wing of a Boeing 737 carrying 154 people – had noticed a chain reaction: losing their transponder (some sort of identifier) took down the anti collision system. The warnings were “in view but unseen”.

At that moment, 4:02 p.m., the transponder quit. No chime sounded in the cockpit. Instead, a small warning silently appeared on each of the two Radio Management Units, showing an abbreviation for “Standby.” The understated warnings must have made good sense to Honeywell’s engineers, who inhabit offices in Arizona, but they were not helpful to the pilots far away in flight, who were drowning in their products. For the next 500 miles the “Standby” warnings remained in view but unseen […]

with their attention again focused on the cockpit, the pilots still did not notice that the transponder was on Standby. Another warning they missed was a small sign saying tcas off, shown at the bottom of each pilot’s Primary Flight Display, the screens they would have referenced for basic flight control had the autopilot not by law been handling that chore. tcas stands for Traffic Collision Avoidance System. It is a nested safety device independent of Air Traffic Control that converses electronically with other airplanes in flight, and in the case of imminent collision alerts the pilots of both airplanes and negotiates a solution—typically instructing one crew to descend and the other to climb. It is required equipment in almost all airliners and jets, and is considered to be so reliable that its instructions supersede those of air-traffic controllers. It works, however, only between airplanes with active transponders. In the Legacy cockpit, therefore, the tcas necessarily dropped out when the transponder switched to Standby. Again, there were no warning chimes. But as a consequence the Legacy was now flying blind to the presence of other airplanes, and was itself invisible to their otherwise functional tcas displays.


How small moments of inattention can become diabolic. Routine is a pilot’s worth enemy I guess.

Speaking at Interfacing Innovation

n61921415779_2973.jpgI will speak in Brussels on April 21-22 at Interfacing Innovation, a conference co-organized by the European Journalism Center and the European Commission to explore the history of innovation, links between education, entrepreneurship and innovation, and the social impact of technological innovation. The speakers lineup looks intriguing, many journalists of course, but also some architects, graphic designers, researchers, entrepreneurs, etc.

Check the conference program, and if you would like to attend contact the organizers.

Hands-on future

What happened in the sotware industry – young guys waking up with an idea, ending up changing the world from their sofa like it happened with Google, Amazon, Facebook, etc. – is now happening in the tangible world. Things like Arduino are enabling hackers and creators all around the globe, and what was possible with software (easily assemble code to create new applications) is now possible with objects (see Youtube for examples).

Lift France 09 will talk about this fundamental shift with a program centered around three main topics:

Changing Things: Towards objects that are not just “smart” and connected, but also customizable, hackable, transformable, fully recyclable… Towards decentralized and multipurpose manufacturing, or even home fabrication…

Changing Innovation: Towards continuous and networked innovation, emerging from users as well as entrepreneurs, from researchers as well as activists…

Changing the Planet: Towards a “green design” that reconnects global environmental challenges with growth, but also with human desire, pleasure, beauty and fun…


This will be an exciting conference (first events are always special) and tickets are selling at only 350 euros until March 25, with 40 tickets reserved for students at 100 euros. Check the conference venue, buy some sunscreen, and prepare to meet amazing pioneers and creators on June 18-20 in Marseille!

Buying Swiss companies

I did an interview for Why Geneva yesterday, and was asked what my opinion was on the current situation of innovation in Switzerland. I think that:

  • The world finally realizes how innovation functions, and that good ideas can happen anywhere.
  • Switzerland, with a high quality of life, a creative and educated workforce, access to capital and veteran entrepreneur, this country has all that is needed to produce successful ventures under this new paradigm
  • As I wrote earlier, there is a new found dynamism, that I explain by another change: being your own boss is now safer than working for a big corporation. If business slows, you can wake up at 5 instead of 7 and try to make things better. If you work for a large bank, there is maybe one of your 80’000 coworkers at the other side of the planet doing something that will kill the company, and you can not do much about it.

Funny thing is that I just got an email from Dominik Grolimund who merged his project Wuala with LaCie. I think this is only the start, large companies will integrate more international projects in their operations, not only start-ups from the silicon valley.  And we have some gems like Poken or FontSelf that will, one of these days, also make the news.

Congrats to Dominik and his team!

On stage with Tim Berners-Lee

That was certainly one of the highlights of my young conference organizer career, 3 hours of conference with Tim Berners-Lee, his old accomplices, and a bunch of young and creative guys representing the future of the web. 182 minutes of video that will tell you a lot about how the Web was invented, and where it is going.

All the people who attended and that I had a chance to talk to left completely amazed by how intact the passion still is in all these guys’ hearts. It is always a privilege to meet a true genius like Tim (a couple of weeks after hosting Vint Cerf at Lift09), and you can now relive the event in your sofa thanks to the CERN. Check it out, it is one of these videos really worth watching.


Rechargeable in 10 seconds

This could radically change computing, electric cars, mobile phones, etc etc. Batterie that can be recharged in 10 to 20 seconds, based on a “simple” an iteration of existing technologies, so it could happen very fast!

MIT engineers have found a way to make lithium batteries that are smaller, lighter, longer lasting and capable of recharging in seconds. The team [revamped] the battery recipe. […] Using their new processing technique, the team made a small battery that could be fully charged in 10 to 20 seconds.

Link (via the amazing  UNU-MERIT I&T Weekly)

Ask your questions to Sir Tim Berners Lee

Two weeks after welcoming the father of the Internet at Lift09, we have another legendary figure coming to Geneva tomorrow: Sir Tim Berners Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, a story that started exactly twenty years ago when TBL handed a document to his supervisor Mike Sendall entitled “Information Management : a Proposal”. “Vague, but exciting” is how Mike described it, and he gave Tim the nod to take his proposal forward. The following year, the World Wide Web was born.

The event, hosted by the CERN and organized in cooperation with Lift, will be webcast, streamed both by CERN and the French newschannel from 14:00 CET. For broadcasters: Eurovision will broadcast the event at 19:00 CET.

You can also ask a question to Tim Berners-Lee, and vote for the questions you like. I will relay the top three questions to him at the end of his keynote speech around 16h20. It is your chance to ask a question to the inventor of an invention that has reshaped your daily life, and maybe even created your job?

Vint Cerf on the Lift09 stage. I like this picture, it summarizes my conception of the role
of a conference organizer: on stage but not monopolizing attention, making sure things
go smoothly. Photo by Ivo Naepflin