Revolutionary Measures

Bye bye angels, hello Kickstarter?

There’s been a lot in the press recently about crowdfunding site Kickstarter. Electronic paper watch Pebble raised over $3.4m for its smartphone linked timepiece while the first Kickstarter scam – trying to get backing for a non-existent video game has just been uncovered.


Kickstarter (Photo credit: Scott Beale)

At a time when money is tight Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sites look like the perfect way for startups to raise cash. Essentially you pitch your idea to a receptive audience of people that want to be able to buy your product – and they fund your development in return for a small stake. Your product gets validated by the market, future sales are generated and you get backing – what could be simpler? It also provides another opportunity for public relations agencies to extend their reach by using press and social media campaigns to build a buzz and drive people to their client’s Kickstarter page. 

However while Kickstarter is great for certain types of products, it can’t replace more traditional types of 
funding. First off, the Kickstarter audience is comprised of early adopters – the type of people that are going to spend $150 on a watch that links to their smartphone and are happy to pledge money to get it built. It won’t work for mainstream products that need to appeal to a more conservative, mass market demographic.

Secondly, startups need a lot more than money to succeed – they need help, connections and business advice from people that know what they are talking about. This is something that angel investors and VCs both provide over and above cold hard cash. Otherwise the risk is that companies raise the cash on Kickstarter but then can’t make best use of it as they run into technical, marketing or sales issues that outside advice could have helped with.

So while Kickstarter is a good (and cheap) way of validating your idea for startups building physical products it can only be part of the story – if you want lasting success you still need to knock on doors, make the contacts and do the hard work. 

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May 2, 2012 Posted by | Marketing, Social Media, Startup | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Mining the future

Seal of the Central Intelligence Agency of the...

Image via Wikipedia

As someone with a history degree I’m a firm believer that the past gives us real clues as to how future events will pan out. Just take a look at the current war in Afghanistan and how learning from the failed Russian (and even Victorian British) invasions demonstrate what tactics are likely to work.

Essentially what it comes down to is access to as much data as possible, and being able to organise this into meaningful information, draw conclusions and act on them. And where’s the biggest source of open data in the world? The internet. So I wasn’t surprised to see a recent piece in Wired on a Swedish start-up called Recorded Future that mines the web for information in order to predict events.

Recorded Future works by collecting and analysing a combination of mainstream news, official announcements and social media in order to draw conclusions. It only analyses 25,000 sources via RSS feeds but Recorded Future’s key USP is a powerful algorithm that takes this unstructured data and analyses it, looking for patterns and relationships. Essentially it does what a skilled analyst would do, if they had access to a huge amount of data and processing power.

While a relatively young company, Recorded Future has powerful backing – the CIA’s investment arm In-Q-Tel (IQT) has put money in, and there’s a lot of interest from financial speculators and hedge funds, looking to predict future stock market moves.

And for me that’s the disappointing thing – while it is going where the money is, predicting the future should be about much more than spies and share prices. Imagine using the software to map potential humanitarian disasters before they happen so that action can be taken early. Or looking across disciplines to bring together disparate health information in order to predict treatments for common diseases. So while I wish Recorded Future, and competitors such as Wolfram Alpha, Quid and Blekko, well, it would be nice to see them used for the common good as well as making a quick buck.






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November 7, 2011 Posted by | Marketing, Startup | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Duke Nukem tweet is Forever

Duke Nukem Forever 2007 teaser screenshot

Image via Wikipedia

You’d think that PR professionals would have realised that both (a) social media is now a key channel for talking to the press and wider audiences and (b) it is public and once in cyberspace will be there for a long, long time.

But no, following negative reviews of the new Duke Nukem game, US PR agency Redner Group publically tweeted that, essentially, those that gave bad reviews wouldn’t get copies of the next game. The agency quickly realised its mistake, took down the tweet but not before it had been captured by the likes of Wired. The result? Duke Nukem’s publishers 2K has fired Redner, losing the agency its largest client.

What amazes me, beyond the poor judgement in not realising a negative tweet would be picked up, is that this is really poor PR practice. One of the primary functions of PR is to promote a positive image of a client, and in many cases that involves long term relationship building with journalists that may not understand or like your client or what they are doing. Taking your ball away is not only petty but counterproductive as well as it reinforces press perceptions. That for me, is the biggest lesson that PR people need to realise after the Redner debacle.


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June 21, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment