Creative (and financially interesting) solution to handle telemarketers

Idea of the month from the only guy in the world who gets calls from marketers and, after one minute, goes “tell me more”…

“Fed up with the constant barrage of unwanted calls, Lee Beaumont decided it was time to take revenge. He turned the tables on the cold-callers by setting up his own premium rate phone number – and has since pocketed £300 as a result. Mr Beaumont said he was inundated with calls to his landline from salesmen, especially those offering help with compensation claims for mis-sold Payment Protection Insurance, so decided to make them pay to speak to him.”


Did Kodak get it too much?

The Kodak story is used over and over, including by me, to illustrate how a great company can completely miss a change in its environment and become irrelevant in a few years. Here is a completely different view, making the point that Kodak’s failure comes from trying too hard to understand the new world – losing focus in the process.

The classic story of Kodak’s downfall is that it just didn’t get it. Kodak built film cameras, and made money on the film, not the cameras, and was so obsessed with this profit stream that it completely missed the tidal wave of digital photography and the internet, and thus ended up in the ash heap of history.

The reality is much more complex. As an illuminating Harvard Business School case study shows, Kodak executives understood the threat extremely well, and from the very start. As soon as computers came along – not even the internet, computers – people at Kodak understood what it meant. You know, they weren’t drooling morons.

And when they understood this, they understood that they had to disrupt themselves to survive into the next century. Kodak spent billions of dollars of research and development into digital imagery. They bought a large photo sharing site in 2001. They spent the 1990s and the 2000s trying to find a way to combine their cameras with computers and the internet, and to build software and services to try to enable that.

So, what happened? Well, what happened is that the next step for digital photography wasn’t the internet. It was point-and-shoots. Canon and Fujitsu and other companies came out with really good, simple to use point-and-shoot cameras at the right price point that people loved. They didn’t have fancy photo-editing software or photo-sharing sites, but people didn’t care, because they were good cameras.

Kodak completely missed the wave of point-and-shoot, and that’s what caused it to crumble. Instead of, like a smart company, pouring billions into software and services R&D, Kodak should have been clueless and poured billions into camera R&D.

In other words, Kodak was so focused on disrupting itself and not falling into the trap of the innovator’s dilemma that it lost a grip on its core business: making good cameras. It turned out that in order to remain relevant in the internet age, a camera company didn’t have to turn itself into a photo-sharing website. It just had to make good cameras.

Kodak wasn’t “clueless.” Kodak didn’t “not get it”. It “got it”, and that was the problem. It “got it” too much.


I’m not sure I come to the same conclusion. I would not say Kodak got it too much. Kodak was aware changes were coming (a positive for which they certainly don’t get enough credit), they tried to adapt (one more point for you Kodak people). But they based their strategy on the wrong signals. The market didn’t demand  a complete reinvention (going into new businesses like photo sharing, etc), rather an update of what the company was doing well, i.e. capturing pictures in a qualitative, effective and economically efficient way.

What’s cruel about this whole innovators dilemma thing is that the signals you should completely reinvent yourself (think: Nokia’s transition from a rubber and forestry company to a mobile phone company) really resemble the signs its “only” time to update your products with the newest technology.

All these things are really easy to analyze on hindsight. But as Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry says in the above article, “one should always be humble when saying ‘coulda, woulda, shoulda'”.

1953, when television was the new media

I just watched Arte’s Mystères d’archives on the filming of Queen Elizabeth II coronation (link). It is a milestone in the history of media as it was basically the first global event to ever be broadcasted live on television. The queen is pictured as a true visionary, the world’s first monarch to use this young and emerging medium to help spread her message beyond UK borders.

To me this was a reminder that our “old medias” have, not long ago, been the emerging ones. Television in the 50s was what social media is today: a new ground, a place to experiment, learn and iterate. Did television have a business model back then? Probably not. To start with, there were no audiences. France had only 68 televisions for the whole country.

Yet early adopters understood there was something worth exploring, that could grow into a larger media. What’s also interesting is to see how those early adopters have been rewarded: the UK monarchy has seemingly become the worlds most powerful reigning family.

Here is what history tells us: there is a lot of value in learning the rules and intricacies of an emerging media before everybody else does. You might want to remember that next time someone asks why you’re spending so much time on Facebook …

Interview on the Swiss National Radio (part 2/2)

Part two of my discussion with Mathieu Chevrier is now available. Some of the things I quote in the interview:

  • What happened to media, invoking the ideas explained by Clayton M. Christensen in the Innovator’s Dilemma.
  • How one of the biggest asset of the younger generations is the capacity to learn, but also relearn and unlearn, as explained by Alvin Toffler.
  • How the only regret of the former Intel CEO is missing on the iPhone:
    “Even Otellini betrayed a profound sense of disappointment over a decision he made about a then-unreleased product that became the iPhone. Shortly after winning Apple’s Mac business, he decided against doing what it took to be the chip in Apple’s paradigm-shifting product.”
  • The rise to power of curators, and the opportunity it means for journalists.
  • Tim O’Reilly:
    “Policy should protect the future from the past, not the past from the future.”
  • The guy who disconnected from the internet, who thought it was making him unproductive, lacked meaning, and was corrupting his soul. And who was wrong.

Job opening: tour the world looking for the best startup in 2014

Seedstars World has posted what is very likely the coolest job offer of the year. In 2013 it’s Alisee De Tonnac and Pierre-Alain Masson who toured the world (20 cities) to find the world’s greatest startup. In 2014 it could be you! If I was a bit younger, if I didn’t have kids, these guys would have gotten my application 🙂

Seedstars World Team Member 2014
You must be thinking your love for traveling will be curbed with a new job, because that will demand you to be static at one place. Well, the good news is here. Seedstars World Startup Competition is scheduled to happen in February 2014. Swiss-based company Seedstars has taken an initiative to find the best tech/ web/ mobile startups in the world. They are looking out for a team member who is willing to travel around the world in emerging countries (all inclusive), organize worldwide event with great visibility, meet awesome startups, investors, entrepreneurs and so many wonderful people across the world. You will be given the responsibility of preparing and shaping the 2014 edition. You will be in charge of selecting the countries to travel and keep moving for 6 months. Organizing various pitching events in various cities of the world, getting connected to regional partners, bringing together a world class jury for the event and select the best startups.

Apply here.

My yearly state of technology and society interview on the RTS

Today at 10am I am on the Swiss national radio in their Médialogues show, interviewed by Mathieu Chevrier for the second part of our yearly state of technologies and society discussion.

Last week we talked about how “e” and “not e” are merging (ecommerce = commerce, elearning = learning), established players are trying to prevent new technologies to emerge, what the Edward Snowden saga teaches us about transparency, control of the internet, and global governance, the importance of personal data and consumer naivety, how technologies are furthering the economical and cultural dominance of the USA, the changing context in which we use our technological tools.

One thing I forget to say – when discussing how most governments made their biggest mistake of the 20th century by not investing more in new technologies – is how smart the Chinese have been, by forcing the emergence of local companies for strategic services like search (Baidu) and communication (Sina Weibo).

Every year I always look forward to this particular intervention, because radio is the last media that gives people time to really go deep and touch on big ideas.

You can download last week’s show here, and listen to today’s one here.