About Incubators

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There is no doubt incubators are great. Especially for young people with little experience and an idea but just as much for businessmen who newly venture into entrepreneurship. And then there are all these other people who do have experience, and embrace the help to refresh all this knowledge, get deeper into it and learn to apply it to streamline the workflow for developing their product. Aside for those who think they don’t need to join an incubator for whatever reason, there are those people who are experienced entrepreneurs but don’t have the patience to wait for being selected by an incubation program. Usually they take the time to dig into the treasures of internet, where much of what you learn in incubators can be found. Knowing how to apply this knowledge to your product is then key.

Joining an incubator has one big problem : you need to have the time and resources available to join a six month program somewhere and show all your secrets to a group of highly skilled professionals. Taking the step to apply for such a program usually implies one can meet these conditions.

Being actually accepted for an incubator program however is another matter. In seed phase it is quite difficult since often your concept is not deemed market suitable in their view and even if it is, there is such a thing as trend in technology, which will reduce your chances of being picked out if your project is not ‘trendy’ enough.

Another possible big hurdle is the requirement of being a team. If you’re lucky enough to find the right people with the right state of mind , that’s a great plus. However this is not evident and if you don’t meet this requirement some incubators won’t even look at your idea.

Last but not least making your product being understood is yet another hurdle. In many cases this is an easy one, but sometimes it is not, and when this is the case, your product is easily considered not viable, too complex, or you yourself are considered not to have the right qualities to create a successful product. They just won’t accept that some things are not easy to explain without a product demo which you may not have yet. Not everybody has the talent to make smart videos.

When I look back and see the evolution HowAbout has gone through since its conception, I believe joining an incubator would not have saved me more than five or six months in the whole process. Aside from it being impossible to have joined due to turbulent times in my personal life, it took a while before there was money to get to programming and no matter what,  that is the key to any product. Sure, some incubators provide you with some money, but then again they get participation in your start-up. You get a lot of help, but you are forced into a working schedule for six months, which can be a good thing, however sometimes products need time to ripen throughout the development process. Stress is often not a good ingredient in a creative process. Ask any creative person.

Nowadays we got a few invitations from incubators to apply, but many no longer offer financial support, which is the most important element in the stage where HowAbout is now. Wasting six months to a feel good hotshot booster is not exactly what we are looking for. Mentors are not what we are looking for either if it is only advice they are offering.  Money and people who actually open doors for us are on top of our wish list.

Conclusion : Just for the experience, I would join an incubator if the time was right. Who knows I still will after HowAbout is launched. But when life pushes you around one can only go with the flow and keep working. Don’t ever think you can not create a good product without joining an incubator. Anyone can.

Personal Life and Your Start-up

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Combining personal life and your start-up is not always easy. And it doesn’t need to be bad things that mess up your working schedule. Selling property,  moving,  buying new property,  setting up the new property,  marriage preparation, a new born baby, these are ‘good’ things that will take a significant bite out of your  precious time and may temporary reduce your involvement with your start-up to ‘the highly necessary’. Combine any four of this with the usual december holidays and you achieve a build-up of work-to-do that takes months to catch up with.

Without going deeper into which four,  it is what I went through,  but that’s not all. When a partner in your start-up changes his mind about his financial involvement due to personal reasons in the middle of this mess,  there is not only ground for personal conflict but also a drawback in the further development of the product. That is where we stand.

Fortunately there is so much work to catch up with that this gap allows to get back on track and prepare for the search for investors. With a working prototype,  a strategic plan, a business plan, a financial plan and a timeline there is a great starting point to find them.

But that’s not all. It is a good time to take a good look at your product again and see if it meets the standards you set for a successful launch. Interestingly enough in HowAbout,  I found everything was smooth,  except for the main feature of the launch version. I knew it was the one thing I hadn’t streamlined yet,  so I knew the day would come I would face this but I didn’t quite have an idea on how to realise instant photo-sharing. Until a few weeks ago. It will take some extra months of development but they will be worth the wait. And then we will launch,  finally,  with a very strong product.

A Cheesy or a Cheecky Blog?

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Blog advisors say one has to post at least one article a day to keep peoples attention. I’m going to add my two cents to this statement.

I have subscribed to quite a few blogs, and frankly, I only read them very selectively. For example when I see titles starting with ‘Five ways to…’ I get discouraged to read them more and more. The reason is that most of these articles sum up the obvious, and look more like an excuse to post something than a valuable addition to a subject. Anyone can come up with this kind of articles and not say anything that a person with common sense doesn’t already know. You’ll lose less time doing one indepth search on your subject than read such blogs I would think, and you’ll get much more valuable information overall.

Some companies offer a weekly wrap-up of their articles. Then I wonder what is the difference between one poor article a day or a stack of them once a week. A jewel hidden among them could get lost that way. To my opinion, if you have nothing interesting to say, don’t say anything at all. Better send a joke instead, then at least some people are amused. Obviously that implies you’ll eventually have to let go of ‘political correctness’ to avoid getting cheesy in the long run, and many would consider that a risk.

Some famous people with blogs post very long articles with lots of personal story that I believe more resembles fanmail, or go way too deep into their subject to keep the attention of the reader. Not all readers are fan, and no matter how rich your are, that still doesn’t make you an interesting writer.

My point is that I don’t believe the customer is more happy with getting frequent crappy reads than with getting less frequent ‘readable’ articles that bear some depth and analysis. When adding the appropriate references, an article also does not need to be long. It can be a thesis based on different reads. Adding an executive summary is a way to get around the fact that sometimes there simply is a lot to say about a subject, and keep the impatient reader coming back without reading your entire article.

I guess a solution would be to select your readers in different groups, offer some kind of subscriptions. I believe the blogger’s contact with the reader would be a lot better, and you would get happier readers.

 

 

Your fingerprint as a username

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An interesting article from Privacy News Online at privateinternetaccess.com, written by Rick Falkvinge.

Imagine you had a really strong and complex password. It was so hard for anyone to remember, that you had printed thousands of business cards with the complex password on them, and left such a card at every single object you just happened to touch. Would that be a good password?

This week, there was a story about an FBI house search where the people in the house were compelled to give up their fingerprints in order to unlock phones, which were locked just with fingerprints.

Most people seemed to be appalled at the FBI being able to coerce somebody into unlocking their phone, while pretty much nobody would have blinked at phones being seized as part of a lawful search.

How many stopped to reflect over the fact that the house was probably filled to capacity, on every object and every surface, with those fingerprints required to unlock the phones in question? That it would have been absolutely trivial to recover them from the first glass fetched from the kitchen?

Fingerprints aren’t authentication.

Fingerprints are identity. They are usernames.

Fingerprints are something public, which is why it should really bother nobody with a sense of security that the FBI used them to unlock seized phones. You’re literally leaving your fingerprints on every object you touch. That makes for an abysmally awful authentication token.

It’s true that phones can be unlocked with fingerprints, but that doesn’t turn the fingerprint into a secure authentication token. Rather, it turns the phone lock into a phone bolt, without a key requirement – an electronic bolt which one particular person can open trivially (because they carry the fingerprints on their hands) and everybody else can open with a small amount of effort (because those fingerprints are trivially retrievable and copyable). But in no way should it be considered secure, or even a lock: it’s merely something that takes less effort to open for one particular person.

Yes, of course it’s better to have a bolt on something than no bolt (fingerprint security is better than nothing). But a bolt that requires a sliding action should not be mistaken for a lock that requires a key. A false sense of security can be worse than no security in some cases.

Biometrics were never authentication tokens. They were identity tokens. Authentication tokens are secret and replaceable, and your fingerprints (your retina, your iris, and so on) are neither.

When you authenticate something even slightly sensitive with biometrics, you’re doing it wrong.

The right way to do it is to identify with biometrics, and then authenticate with a proper security token, which is secret.

Privacy remains your own responsibility.

The Multi-Functional Abbiss

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There are plenty of (free) apps on the market that can you can do amazing thing with. Some of those apps we use almost every day. However only relatively few users optimise the use of these apps.

This has everything to do with their design. Most of them gathered a large user base through the years with one primary function that people got to like and use. New functions were added gradually, but due to the familiarity of the design and the primary use for the larger part of the users, the new functions had to be stuffed somewhere within the existing design. In many cases the word ‘hidden’ is more appropriate.

And sometimes the users just don’t want to use the enhanced app for anything else than what it was originally designed for. Often because the new functions are not clear, require too many buttons or too much thinking, or because users can be very conservative and stubborn. On the other hand, the marketing department of the software often fails to draw the people into the new features by lack of an interesting tutorial, and try to get the job done with a few blinking arrows and a line of explanation on the screen.

A real multi-functional app is a bit of a gamble to create. It requires a design that is prepared for more functions, or in other words, designers have to project new functions for a number of follow-up versions of the app before they start developing it and prepare the design for them. This may sound very logical, but it isn’t. The main reason is that multi-functionality – interesting as the concept may seem – will look complex if the interface is not done right. We believe at this moment, there are very few multi-functional apps that have an interface that enables the required smooth and intuitive multi-funtional design.

Fact is, that  Apple designed a great concept when introducing the first iPhone and the app store. Many people have made good money on designing great apps, but unfortunately, most of these apps don’t communicate with each other. That is why we believe there is a great opportunity in designing a multi-functional application with a great intuitive interface and a design in which no functions are less reachable than any other. And that is exactly what we believe we realised with the HowAbout application that will be released in november. Every upcoming version will introduce new functions, so that users can roll into it step by step.

So far we have projected a 4 year release schedule, which will develop the app from an organiser with even-based photo-sharing to a full fledged… Well, you will find out as it happens.

We sure hope you will be as exited as we are about it’s release.

Update : As so often is the case with apps, we didn’t release in time. We did present a working prototype in November, but the final release is delayed. Follow this blog or our twitter account to stay in touch. It will be out within months.

The Privacy Thing

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In our May article on Google’s ‘Allo’ application, we already suggested the app looks much of a governmental spying tool on your private communications. Now, RT reports Edward Snowden is saying the same thing. Google has backed away from it’s privacy promises and given 100% availability of conversations on police requests and neglected the privacy settings of the individual users.

And recently, Facebook announced that Whatsapp data will be shared with Facebook, and since Facebook is also in the pocket of the US government, those data are no longer safe either.

Makes you wonder why people keep using Whatsapp and Messenger, although we can imagine China will be screening Wechat communication as well. Research and Snowden already pointed out that Microsoft’s Skype is also very likely to be unsafe. All togehter these three take the greater part of mobile communication in the US. As if there are no safer alternatives, it almost feels like US citizens WANT to give up their privacy.

This rises the question whether the public is simply conceding. Are we giving up privacy because the govt. can probably get our data anyway? Is this the way society is going to move forwards? With governmental efforts on enforcing the ‘cashless society’ on us, it is likely that people will end up accepting the idea that governments will be able to get to your money if they want to. Will they concede to that as well in time?

I strongly believe an alternative should be constructed where free circulation of money and communication is possible without governmental control. I believe terrorism is just an excuse for governments to getting their hands on more taxes and to control the money in case they screw up the economy. The fact that countries, states and municipalities are more and more unable to pay the high cost of the welfare state illustrates this vividly.

 

 

 

 

 

What’s in a Name?

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Brand awareness is the single most important thing in scaling your product. It takes a catchy name and a recognisable logo. Without them, it will take a whole lot more time and money to achieve this, unless you have help from a unique and wanted product. With HowAbout, I believe we have a catchy name, and inspired by Nike, I decided to give our logo a premium position inside the app.

Since the HowAbout button is the key feature of HowAbout app, I decided to make it more than just an anonymous button. Featuring our logo there would enhance the chance that it will be recognised by a factor thousand. The logo itself does not carry our name though, but since that is viewed each time you start up the app, I have no worries. Especially since HowAbout is a catchy name at itself, and fits very well to the concept of an organiser app. Sending a Powwow or an invitation to an event is quite similar to asking ‘how about a restaurant next time?’ Or a movie, going to a game, etc. That is basically how I came up with the name :’What would you ask when inviting one of your friends?’

HowAbout app in the first place is a handy, fast and intuitive way to send and keep track of invitations, complete with interactive calendar, overview, contact and group management etc. The people in your contact list are people you actually meet in person. Far away friends that you never meet will just take list space, although there is a way to share photo’s with absent friends instantly, if that is what you want to do : it’s called event based photo-sharing, and is linked to your event.

Where other apps mostly start asking ‘what do you want to do’, HowAbout starts with ‘who will you ask’. The philosophy is that you will likely already have a mood to see a person or a certain group of people when you have an intention to set something up. Since there are activities you do with one group of people, and other stuff you do with another group of people, you generally already have something in mind when you decide which people you will ask.

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That is why we like to encourage users to start making groups, and use them. Since any contact can be in several groups, you can configure every group the way you like. It’s also very practical to make temporary groups which you delete after the event. The contacts are not deleted, just the group will be.

The interface is actually created upon this principle. Using groups will soon feel very intuitive and the obvious way to use HowAbout. Dragging contacts and groups to the HowAbout button will become part of your daily routine. And every time you will see a HowAbout button anywhere, you will immediately know what it means. Isn’t that what brand awareness is all about?