Archive for the ‘News’ Category

31
Aug

ENTREPRENEURSHIP VOL.6. INCREASING THE CONSUMPTION OF READING

Written on August 31, 2014 by Vanessa Dezem Baida in News

Justo Hidalgo

Have you ever dreamed about accessing to your bookshelf from office, bathroom, park or anywhere comfortable for you? We are now able to access to whatever kind of information on the Internet. The freedom of accessing to books was the one thing left in the 21st century to be solved.  Mr. Justo Hidalgo, Co-founder of 24symbols, which is a beautiful online platform where the users can reach their books regardless of location, gives us opportunity to learn how he has developed such an amazing platform and got over difficulties to realise his idea.

 

 

 

1. To start with, please let us know more about your personality, background, and career. WHO YOU ARE? Why did you decide to be an entrepreneur? What kind of stories do you have behind that?

From an educational standpoint, I am a technical guy by nature and nurturing. I studied an MS in Computer Science and then, while working in startups, I got a PhD in Computer Science as well. I’ve gone from being a hardcore programmer and researcher to business-focused roles. But I always tend to the technical side, wanting to understand how everything works. That’s why, for instance, I’m taking Data Science courses now to continue thinking about how data can impact businesses. Regarding my personality… I guess it should be much better to ask the people around me ;) But I try to have a low profile, prefering to lead by example rather than having a more aggressive approach. I checked many years ago this is what works best for me when leading and managing teams and projects ;) I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I was the typical kid that was drawing comic-books and selling them to my schoolmates, or helping my mother’s business… by charging her customers and keeping a tip. My parents have always had their own local businesses, so I always felt I wanted to do something similar. But on the other hand, I saw the huge efforts they had to make both in the good and bad times, so while I decided I preferred to work in small startups rather than big corps, I didn’t have the guts to start my own company until my three partners and I pushed each other into building 24symbols.

 

2. You seem to have rich international experience in your life. How it is important for you?

Critical. I just had my first daughter and I have no idea how she will grow up and what decisions she will make, but I hope she does two things: to learn many languages, and to study and travel abroad. In my case, you need to understand the context of being a Spaniard born in the 70s: that my parents sent me to spend a summer in Chicago when I was 14 and then to study my high school junior year in Ohio (and remember, my parents were middle class, always working hard to save the penny) has undoubtedly had the biggest impact on my personal life and professional career. Personally, because you need to *live* abroad to better understand how the world works and how people really are; in addition, it pushes you beyond your level of comfort at incredible levels when you’re 14 or 15 yo. Profesionally, because speaking English has become, more than my engineering skills, or organizational capabilities, my main tool in my skill set. It was this what mainly allowed me to evolve from a hardcore engineer to an entrepreneur that moves along the border between technical and business.

 

3. The concept of 24symbols would bring about the paradigm shift in the publishing industry or would change consumer’s behavior. How did you come up with the concept?

The four founders all come from the IT industry, working in B2B companies. We share a love for technology, both from a purely technical standpoint, and also from what it can do to industries and people (hopefully for good, but also how it affects otherwise.) But we also tended to have coffee and lunch break conversations about books: management books, novels, … each of us has different tastes. So we came up with an initial idea which was to create a moonlighting project, a publisher that would bring management books from the US, translate them to Spanish and put them to market. Very quickly we realized we didn’t have enough understanding of what publishers and editors need to do :) But then one of my partners had a question: is there a Spotify for books? So we went out and found that there wasn’t, but that there were some very interesting discussions about that idea. We talked to some publishers and other stakeholders of media industries, and realized there was an opportunity. But, answering your question, how did we go from “hey, this looks interesting” to “let’s quit our jobs, our senior management and VP roles, and create a startup with lots of risks and low opportunities for successes“? :D Yes, the answer is because we love books and we’d love for someone to create this same product for us.

 

 

4. What was the first step you took in order to embody the business idea?

We had to break the chicken-and-egg problem every B2B2C company has: how do you get users if you still don’t have enough quality content, and how do you get high quality content if you still don’t have lots of users to compel the content owners? So we decided to focus on the users. Why should we quit our jobs if we found out that no user wanted a Spotify for books? We asked them. We created a web page, opened a Facebook page, a twitter account, and started to talk about our plans. Quite openly, nothing hidden. This is a video of our first mock-up, these are our thoughts about the business model, this is a presentation of our company, … and suddenly we started to hear from people who *loved* the idea, and who supported us from scratch, even if we still had nothing to show. That’s what really made us think we were unto something. This is now known as “customer discovery” in the Lean Startup jargon, but for us it was simpler: don’t jeopardize your life for something *nobody* actually wants ;)

 

5 What were difficulties at the beginning? If you had had the same amount of knowledge and experience that you have now, what would you have done or have avoided?

The timing with publishers. While the relationship with the content owners has always been good, publishing is an industry that is not accustomed to innovative projects, specially when they provide business models that are different to what they are used to. Our freemium business model offered an all-you-can-eat experience to the reader, while sharing revenues with the content owners. With what we know now, we would have started with a simpler business model for the publishers, as we do now. The good news is that when we decided to evolve our revenue model, it was the moment publishers were starting to understand how subscription works and how it could help their overall business.

 

YouTube Preview Image

 

 

6. Perhaps, people tend to compare your business model with Spotify. The idea of business would be similar but the business model would be totally different because you cannot consume 20 books a day, whereas you can daily consume 20-30 different music clips. What is the significant factor in your business model? How do you try to increase the consumption of reading?

We were compared to Spotify because of our user model, very similar to the music streaming service’s: a freemium model where people can read some books for free, with ads on the sides of the books and with some interstitial; and where premium readers have access to the whole multipublishers’ catalog with additional benefits such as offline reading. In addition, our 3-second pitch was perfect! The “spotify for books” ;) From a business model perspective, it is clear that there are key differences. Reading is an activity that requires concentration and that is not typically done every hour of the day, as opposed to music. On the other hand, reading a book requires more time than watching a movie. But what this just means is that the opportunities for engagement are different. And that users are “concentrated” on what they are reading is every app developer’s dream! This also entails that the main measuring parameter cannot be “the book”, which is a too coarse-grained entity, but “the page”, that we use to settle with publishers and to generate the metrics we use for product improvement and to report to our publishers. Regarding how we try to increase consumption, there are three main factors that affect its growth: (1) quality of the apps. I always say that being in an economy of attention, books do not compete against other books, but against any activity that takes up on people’s leisure time, like video games or watching tv series. So the first goal should be to create reading apps that make people think “wow, I want to check this out!”. (2) content. Services like 24symbols obviously require the best content possible from small and big publishers and authors. If users have a place, a hub, where they can read whatever they want, whenever they want, they will certainly find more opportunities for reading. (3) reader engagement. At 24symbols we have close to 600,000 users. This is a huge opportunity to provide additional services that increase their involvement with books, authors, or other users. We have the concept of the bookshelf, which is quite strong as anyone can create as many bookshelves as desired, and then share them, or follow other people’s shelves.

 

7. What kind of role does the social factor of 24symbols play? Why it is important?

Our motto from the start was that we wanted everyone to read whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. Since we started working with mobile carriers last year, this has become a reality. There are many people around the world living in regions where mobile devices have deeply penetrated (specially Android smartphones), but where ebooks cannot be purchased legally because credit card purchases are nowhere near what happens in the US or in certain countries in Europe. Places where in order to purchase a book from an international retailer, an international credit card must be used. Working with carriers, we take ebooks to places it was difficult for them to be accessed, with a payment mechanism that is widely used by subscribers to access other types of digital content such as music or films. Books are culture, and they should be available in as many places as possible. With our limited resources, it’s what we are trying to achieve.

 

8. Do you try to restructure the reading experience? or simply to provide better solution for consumers?

I think both goals are related. We’ve been definitely focused on the latter, which is a quite complex task by itself. But by doing it, we had to think a lot about how people access and read books; how and why they stop reading or choose new books to read, etc. Data analytics is proving really useful there, and we are making an increasingly stronger effort in that regard.

 

9. What is your goal and vision in 5 years?

Ha ha! I am sorry, I don’t believe in 5-year visions, though we get asked this question a lot by investors, analysts and the like. When working in startups, many times you don’t even know what you’re going to be doing in 3-months time. But I can answer that in 2 years I want 24symbols to be one of the international leaders in ebook subscription services, providing high quality services around the world and not only in the “standard” places. That’s my goal and my vision, as simple as it can be ;)

 

10. If you can make a phone call to 20-year-old Justo Hidalgo, what would you say to him and what kind of advice you would give to him?

You’ve just given me an idea for a blog post ;) I think everyone learns from his/her mistakes, so I would be extremely careful had I the opportunity to do it ;) But I guess I would tell “little Justo” the following: (1) take more risks. Though always wanting to start a company, it took another 3 partners for me to co-found 24symbols. Has it been difficult? Of course. But has it been one of the best experiences in my life? You bet. (2) college is necessary, but just not enough, see what else you have around you. I was one of those guys quite focused on passing every subject on time (in Spain, Engineerings are quite tough and it’s not common to pass all subjects, needing two or more examinations). Of course it’s important not to take 10 years to finish the undergraduate courses, but there are many other things that can be done at that critical time in everyone’s life: travelling, playing sports in a more professional way, getting involved in more social activities, … (3) related to (1), but learnt at a latter stage: things don’t typically go that bad, so endure. As a poet whose name I don’t remember once said something like “how hard is to suffer, how beautiful to have suffered”. As with any other startup, we went through the valley of death in 24symbols. While it was hard as hell, it was one of the most enlightening experiences I’ve ever had, being able to understand many things about how life actually works.

 

 

 s4symbols

8
Jul

WBLOGO2013WHITEBG

 

Elizabeth Perry is co-founder of White Bull, one of the most creative European conference producers focused on top tech companies. Their mission is not simply to produce events, but also to connect people, to help them on their “Pathways” to to success – including the Exit. In fact their anchor event was originally called “Pathways to Exit” (now shortened to “Pathways”) She has a degree in journalism, a background in marketing and communications, and experience living in multiple countries. Her strong passion for connection, and telling valuable stories about people,turned into founding White Bull with her partner Farley Duvall. The idea of White Bull comes from the Greek mythology, and the story of Zeus, who transformed himself into a beautiful white bull. Their sophisticated logo, utilizing the idea of the “white bull,” plays an important role in making their conference distinct from others.

According to Elizabeth, European innovation remains quite fragmented, despite an abundance of creative ideas and great technologies that come from multiple languages and cultures. Thus, the aim is to help better connect the disparate ecosystems, with an emphasis on the face-to-face, and valuable opportunities for visitors, participants, and corporations from multiple countries to establish long-lasting relationships that can help them on their journey to success – including the Exit (such as commercial partnership and M&A). In fact, over 75% of White Bull attendees, have gone on to become successful including M&A, fund raising, and corporate partnership, etc.

This significant percentage may be in large part due to the design of the White Bull conference. The aim has always been to maintain quality – not only of the events themselves with the caliber of guests, the atmosphere, etc, but also in the number of people invited, to keep setting intimate. The main “Pathways” summit (October 6-8 in Barcelona) will take place over 3 days in order to give participants a unique chance to bond. Unlike in other larger conferences, participants typically forge meaningful and personal relationships that very often result in successful partnerships.

Elizabeth’s work is significant, and she was willing to share her experience with Key Success Factors.

 

1. Why do you focus on Technology, Media, and Telecommunication? Is it because those are markets that move fast?

We focus on TMT because that is our core expertise, and because these are the areas that we believe are currently driving the most important change worldwide. … That being said, TMT is an acronym that has been used for some time. Perhaps a new one should be created!

 

2. Instead of being an accelerator, why do you focus on organizing events in order to connect people, companies, and investors?

We help facilitate connections across various domains. We believe that connecting people to help them find their way is more powerful than putting them into one particular “house” or program, with daily supervision. Entrepreneurs need opportunity and tools, not a specific or limited “house.” We aim to bring people in from across various ecosystems — where hundreds of people over multiple disciplines can help each other. We’re building a large community – without the constraints or country- or city-centric rules – of people who can connect at any time to others who can help accelerate their success.

 

3. What was the first step you took to embark on organizing White Bull?

The first step was to find a name that reflected both the vision, and the brand we wanted to build. Hence, White Bull, from Greek mythology. http://whitebull.com/lore-white-bull-whats-behind-name.

 

4. What was the biggest failure in the past and how did you overcome it?

Our biggest failure was the assumption that everyone we knew would jump on board our train, simply because they knew and liked us. Building a brand is a lot harder than that. It must include proving to your network that you mean what you say, and that you will deliver on your promise. We’ve worked hard to deliver on our promise over our 5-year history, and we’re happy to say, the brand gets stronger and stronger.

 

5 What is your revenue/business model?

Most of our revenue comes from sponsorship, and for our main event in October, we charge a reasonable fee for admission. We also work with firms in advisory roles, and as experts in communications and business development strategy.

 

6. How did you get enough amounts of people together and how did you raise the capital to invite speakers at the beginning?

Aside from Farley’s already established reputation as industry “connector,” we do spend enormous amounts of time reaching out personally, and expanding our network. We were fortunate enough to have had significant supporters from the beginning, and a plan and vision that people believed in.

 

7. What is the most important thing when you find sponsors and partners?

I think the most important thing, when we bring on a sponsor or a partner, is to be sure that it’s a whole lot more than just their logo out there. We do our best to find meaningful ways for our supporters to engage with relevant attendees and firms that can help them reach their goals. And, we count on long-term relationships with all of them.

8. When you select speakers, participants or supporters, what are criteria? What are the important factors?

Our company and our events are all about engagement. So, we select people and firms that we feel are both relevant to the industry, and to each other. And, we love great storytellers!

 

9. What are the key success factors to organize the conference do you think?

I think the success of an event can be achieved in a variety of ways. It depends on the goals. For some it’s sheer numbers. … We believe striving for sheer numbers can lead to short-term satisfaction, but not necessarily long lasting results. Some of the larger events, for example, have become somewhat diluted, even gone down hill over time. … For us, it’s about quality … and staying around for the long haul. We deliberately stay small, because we believe in the power of the intimacy we create. Instead of a mad dash to collect business cards, our attendees are immersed in the experience, and surrounded only by other c-level decision makers, who can potentially help them succeed. Over the course of 3 days at Pathways, for example, there’s the opportunity to do more than just exchange business cards. There’s also an incredible opportunity to shake hands with leaders, potential partners, and like-minded peers … to make eye contact, connect … bond. It’s the long lasting, meaningful connections we’re going for.

 

10. Congratulation for 5th anniversary!! What is your future vision and how do you plan to develop White Bull?

Thank you! This year we’re happy to have partnered with Foundum (www.foundum.com), the first online platform connecting global entrepreneurs with investors, and industry “movers and shakers” who can help accelerate their success. Foundum provides us and members of our network a whole new way to engage with the community, with tools to connect with potential stakeholders, and a place to “live” between our events throughout the year.

 

Our vision is to expand beyond European innovation, to the global marketplace, while keeping the same intimacy and elite network, creating events worldwide. It IS a small world after all!

 

11. Give some messages to young people who dream to be entrepreneur or to start something new.

The message is to build something you believe in. Stick to what you know and do it well. Never give up, never stop moving, but don’t lose sight of the personal side. Personal connections and relationships are going to be critical to your success. And, on that note, don’t be afraid to ask for help and support and forge partnerships with others who complement you, and can help you build something meaningful. (No one is a Jack of all trades!)

 

WBLOGO2013copiedBBG

 

 

29
May

Future, Innovation, Technology, Creativity

Written on May 29, 2014 by mhasegawa in News

13061_201656072156_696937_n

Shawn Pucknell is the founder of FITC, a company that produces international design and technology conferences focused on Future, Innovation, Technology, and Creativity. Since 2002, he has organized 85 events in 22 cities, including Toronto, Amsterdam, Tokyo, San Francisco, Chicago, Seoul, New York and Los Angeles. You may have joined either a conference or workshop focused on creativity or entrepreneurship – but, have you ever practiced it? Shawn shares his experience and the valuable knowledge he has gained from both his business ventures, as well as the voyage of life. This is not just a fancy story, but the story based on reality and truth. It will encourage you to not only think, but take action.

 

 1. Why did you start FITC?

Back in 1999-2000 I was a Flash developer and I didn’t know many people using the software. I felt like I was working in a vacuum, not really connected with others to talk shop. Sure, there were a few online forums at the time, but it’s not the same as face to face. Around that time, I was asked to speak on a panel at an event in San Francisco called ‘Flash Forward’, the first-ever Flash conference. It changed my life. There were 2500 people from around the world. I met a ton of amazing people who were just as passionate and interested in this new area as I was. So when I came back home to Toronto, I wanted to continue that feeling, and I started inviting anyone I could out for drinks once a month. I spammed online forums, emailed people I didn’t know, and a few I did, and these monthly ‘gatherings’ as we called them, took off like wild fire. We went from 10 people to 30, to 50, to over 100, all in the span of a few short months. It seemed that I wasn’t the only one interested in getting together to talk shop and meet others. It was during this developing community that a number of us talked about having a festival, a conference, about Flash, in Toronto. So I took it upon myself to lead it, and ‘Flash in the Can’ (FITC) was born.

 

2. Why did you decide to focus on Future, Innovation, Technology, and Creativity? Why are those important to you?

We started as a Flash conference.  I was attracted to it as it was one of the only pieces of software at the time that allowed either designers, or developers, to create something amazing. Most other tools and platforms were for one or the other, but there was always a unique creativity and vibe from allowing these two sides into the same area. Coming from an advertising background, the ‘tech’ and the ‘creative’ were always different departments, and it was frustrating personally and professionally as I always felt I was neither. I was a bit of a hybrid, interested and skilled a bit in both, but advertising companies weren’t really set up for people like me.

As the industry matured, we started to see other technology and interesting people that we wanted to include at the events, but they weren’t ‘Flash’, so we started to expand what we showcased at the event. Processing, After Effects, HTML, hardware, motion graphics, creativity, art, film, it was all cool stuff that we wanted to include. So we started calling it FITC instead of ‘Flash in the Can’ as it wasn’t just about Flash anymore. Then, after the decline in interest and public support of Flash, we decided it was time to rebrand what those letters stood for, and set out to break down what we had evolved into, what our focus was, and the new ‘Future. Innovation. Technology. Creativity‘ FITC name and logo was launched.

 

3. What was the first step you took to make FITC happen? Did you plan, build a strategy or have a mentor?

I had a bit of background starting companies, including a nightclub and a Flash development company, so I had a bit of background in starting things. But I had no idea how to run a conference, I just learned as I went. There was not a great master plan or a long term strategy, I just felt it would work, and that I could do it, and that it was something that was needed. I think that’s the key to its success…there was a need for it, an audience, a community to support it. I’ve seen other events come and go over the years and that’s the main flaw I’ve seen with some of them. As for FITC, it was key to have the support and help from others in the community, I had a lot of help with those first events, both from friends, associates, and local companies, all coming together to do what they could to help it happen and be successful.

 

 

4. It seems that a conference focused on “Creativity” was not popular when you started it. Was their difficulty at the beginning?

Creativity was always a part of it. We were bringing in well-known Flash designers like Joshua Davis, Brendan Dawes, and Erik Natzke for the very first event. But it is true that the majority of the presentations were technically focused. I think one of the reasons for this was that it was simply easier to have and find someone to present on the tech side… i.e. how to do this in Flash, how to program this, etc. Creative presenters were harder to find, partly due to the industry still being in its infancy. And also, it was probably an easier sell to get your boss to send you to a technology conference rather than a creativity event.

 

5. What was the biggest failure in the past and how did you overcome it?

One of the biggest failures was our FITC San Francisco event. We just couldn’t sell tickets to it, and still to this day I have no idea why. It was one of the strongest line-up of speakers we had ever put together, but tickets were not selling anywhere near where we had projected. It’s a very expensive city to do events, so we ended up losing a ton of money. Running events is a hard way to make a living, it’s an incredibly volatile and unpredictable industry. Anything can happen, and we’ve had a lot of crazy things happen that we didn’t see coming and had to deal with, but it also keeps it exciting and us on our toes!

We’ve done 85 events now, in 22 cities, across 13 years. I feel that our biggest success is simply that we’re still around and doing events!

 

6. How did you get enough amounts of people together and how did you raise the capital to invite speakers at the beginning?

We hustled everyone we knew to either buy a ticket or help spread the word. We worked the phones, pounded the pavement, emailed everyone, we were hungry, we were excited, and we did everything we could think of to get the word out about the event, and it paid off…we were sold out that first year.
As for financing it, my mother had past away the previous year, and I had a small amount of money from her life insurance. I was planning on using it for a down payment on a house with my fiancé and our daughters, but I instead invested it in that first event. Luckily it paid off, and I got almost all of it back.

 

 

7. When you select speakers, what are criteria? What are the important factors?

It starts with the work. What have they created, that is either technically or creatively amazing, ground-breaking or pushes the industry. After that, we look at what do they have to say? It’s one thing to be able to create something, it’s another to be able to speak about it, specifically something that has value for attendees and is not just a slideshow of your work. What is your message? The best presenters we’ve had are the ones that allow themselves to be vulnerable, to really open up to an audience and talk about it all, the good, the bad, the ugly, the failures, and the successes. It’s a lot to ask, and not all people can do it.

 

Lastly, and one of the hardest to master, is can you speak comfortably in front of a crowd. This is hard to judge with a potential speaker if we’ve not worked with them before. But luckily, we have a pretty good track record of picking amazing people to be part of FITC events over the years. We also look at how you are at the event itself. Do you talk to the attendees after your talk, do you watch other presentations, are you part of the event? Its all part of a vibe we strive to create; one of openness and sharing and having the brightest and best people a part of it.

 

8. What was the turning point in the course of expanding the conference around the world? 

After the second year, we started to get interest from people in other cities that asked about having an FITC event in their city. It started with Hollywood, then Seoul, then Amsterdam, then Tokyo, and then many others. Once we were doing a couple events a year, I realized that not only did I really love doing it, but also that I could focus all my energy on it and turn it into a full time job for myself and a small team.

 

9. Why do you focus on the live conference instead of other means such as publishing books and broadcasting the conference online? 

I’ve always enjoyed in person stuff more than anything else. There is nothing that will fully replace a face-to-face meeting. I think there is value in books and videos and other things, but it’s not the same value as a live event. There’s an energy and an excitement that comes with bringing passionate people from around the world together for a united purpose, that can’t be replicated yet by any technology. As for video, we’re continuing to explore how we can leverage that with FITC.

 

10. What are the key success factors to organize the conference do you think?
I think it’s a few things:
The Experience
We focus on the experience of each of our stakeholders, from start to finish. Attendees, speakers, sponsors, volunteers, even the staff, we look at their experience. From the first contact, to leading up to the event, to the event itself and then after, what is their experience like, and how can we make it as positive as possible.

 

My Team
There is a team of people that actually make the events happen. Working with passionate, dedicated people has allowed FITC to be successful.

The Details
We spend a lot of time on very small details. Things that most people won’t notice, but things that make everything run super smooth. As they say, ‘the devil is in the detail’.

The Content
We spend a LOT of time looking at potential speakers. Not only finding them, reviewing them, but also finding the right balance and mix for each of our events.

 

11. What is your future vision and how do you plan to develop FITC?

We are always working on new initiatives, but unfortunately nothing I can share just yet!  What I love about what we do is that it’s always changing. New speakers, new technologies, new cities, it doesn’t get stale.

 

12. If you can send a message to when you were 20 years old, what do you want to tell to yourself?

When I was younger, I struggled with what I would do when I grew up. I didn’t have a clear vision, or a specific job that I was attracted to, so I wandered and did a lot of different things. So far, I’ve had 27 actual jobs, and I’ve started 8 companies. So my message to myself would be this:

“It’s not the destination as much as the journey. Don’t sweat it too much, you’ll find your way.”

 

13. What are your priority and the most important value in your life?

I find it interesting to see how my values and priorities have shifted over the years, its an evolution for me. Right now, my priorities are to continue to pursue the areas that interest me, and to continue to offer value to people. I’m also focused on continuing to evolve both my business and the areas we cover.

As for values, I believe that people should treat others as they wish to be treated, and I have no patience for rudeness, arrogance, or intolerance.

 

14. Do you have a message to young people who dream of being an entrepreneur?

• Follow your passion. Find it. Nurture it. Embrace it. Own it. It is yours.

• Don’t waste your time with people who don’t help you move your ideas forward. Focus on finding and spending time with people who have passion. People who have skills and experiences that you don’t.
• Talk to as many people as you can about your ideas, and be open and honest as much as possible.
• Don’t work with assholes. Life is too short to waste your time with them.

• Be flexible, be adaptable, be nimble.

• There is value in the journey. It is not just about the destination.

 

 

Provided by

Masaaki Hasegawa

Tim Zahner

 

FITC21

fitc

28
Mar

1939553_435534149925309_1739002132_nVENNY is a Bulgarian DJ brought up in Tokyo. Beside she is currently going to Keio SFC, which is one of the best universities to learn business and creative industry in Japan, she made her DJ debut at the age of 17, and now spins at the most famous clubs in Tokyo. Why a young girl could have made such an interesting experience and career. What made her so different from others? Is there anything we can learn from her? She answered those questions right before her first event that will take place at Origami, which is the best club where you can feel both the arts and the music in Tokyo, Japan.

To start with, let us know more about you. How and why did you start playing as a DJ?

V: One day in my adolescence, I decided to live life like a dream. It is a long story, but simply put, for me it was what brings back the pure excitement that you experience in childhood. I started learning and practicing when I was sixteen.

In the coming week, you will organize the event which will take place at Origami, which is one of the best and the most fashionable clubs in Tokyo now. What is the concept of this event and what do you try to do?

V: The concept of the event is “Dance Music × Cutting-edge Art × Health”. What I’m trying to do is, creating a clubbing experience that is appropriate for the future. That is why I putted “2100″ in the name of the event.

Art has been essential to entertainment since long ago. Humans in the primitive age danced around fire singing songs. Public museums have existed since 15th century. And now, media arts are taking over the entertainment industries. Dynamic and programmed graphics that illuminate the shows, and 3D game softs for example. Media art, art that uses new technology, is being featured in entertainment more and more. Of course, just applying the newest thing is nonsense. The point is that media arts broaden the ability of entertainment. So, I decided to bring “Cutting-edge Art” in a “Dance Music” event at Origami.

Next, on “Health”. In 20th century people mainly focused on economic development, but gradually realised that they can’t keep going on that way. Then they started to focus on sustainability and mental well-being. Usually, partying is rather associated with self-destructiveness and unhealthiness. This tendency is particularly strong in Japan. Entertainment and Dance Music mainly exist to produce pleasure. So why not make it more sustainable? Health makes you more sustainable and gives you pleasure. This is why I added “Health” in the concept. The event is going to be held from 19:00 to 24:00, and people can sleep at home after that. There is also going to be some food, but not oily pizzas or fries. I plan on serving light meal that is rich in essential nutrients and antioxidants. It will help people not to get sick from drinking too.

The name of the event is “RAKUEN 2100″, and “rakuen” means Utopia in Japanese. My aim is not only to create a clubbing experience that is more futuristic, but also to remind people that this world could be their Utopia. Pleasure, sustainability and health all together.

 

Instead of just having a normal club music event, why do you make it combined with the media arts?

V: The reason is as stated in above, but if I should add something, just a party is okay but combined with art, it gets more charm, and it naturally matches with Dance Music because they are both strongly influenced by the digital technology.

What is the most difficult thing as well as the most significant point to make a bridge between creative people like artists and business people such as club owners and mangers?

VV: The most difficult thing is to blend these factors that at first sight don’t seem to match. Although, at the same time, it is the most exciting. I already talked about “Dance Music × Cutting-edge Art × Health”, but this time there are going to be wide variety of guests, both in age and backgrounds. It will help guests to make unusual new connections and make good synergy. Although, moreover, it is a message that Dance Music has a potential to be enjoyed by anybody.

 

In Japan, the club music industry has a sort of bad image and reputation. How do you try to overcome this difficulty?

VV: Introducing the “Dance Music × Cutting-edge Art × Health” experience to variety of people, including people that are offensive to nightclubs or Dance Music.

 

What are your future plans and what kind of ambitions do you have?

VV: I would like to be a person that can generate positive feelings in people.

 

For people who would like to be like you, give them some message?

VV: Follow your excitement. From time to time, remember that you are an essential part of the vast Universe.

9
Jan

Chloe Younes, wishes you a Happy New Year.

Written on January 9, 2014 by Eric Rivas in News

CHLOE YOUNES

The 1st term of the Master programs at IE School of Communication is gone, now the students are back from christmas vacation and during the break, Chloe Alexandra Younes, candidate of the #MCC posted a note in her Facebook account entitled, “2013 – Closing Statement <3″

She talks about her first months experience here at Madrid as a student of IE Business School, she writes in a marvelous, and very honest way… I couldn’t feel more related and so I asked her permission to share this with you guys. I hope you all like it!

2013 – Closing statement <3

December 31, 2013 at 3:18pm – Chloe Alexandra Younes “Master in Corporate Communication”

When 2013 began I asked myself a question; which went along these lines:

What am I going to do this year to flourish, to grow more – as an individual?

I decided that I wanted to excel this year. I decided to apply for my Masters.

So I did. I applied for my Masters in Corporate Communication at the IE Business School in Madrid.

As the days started to pass I began to feel frustrated with the burden and anticipation of receiving an interview, let alone an acceptance!

I eventually received THE e-mail from this highly prestigious university – which requested interviews con mi via Skype! YAY! How exciting was that?

I eventually got the acceptance letter I had so eagerly been awaiting!

I knew then and there that this was an opportunity I would not miss out on- not for anything – not for anyone.

BUT….

Before taking the decision to take that leap of faith and leave everyone and everything I ever knew – little did I know that I was making one of the finest decisions of my life. At first it was daunting. It was daunting in such a way that I had constant panic attacks; I had a zillion questions, questions which I had no answers to; I feared the unknown so bad it made me anxious.

I was afraid to leave my dogs. I was afraid to leave the remarkable people and friends whom I loved with every inch of my pumping heart. I was afraid to leave the family whom I was down-right dependent on – and to be thrown into a sphere of uncertainties.

I had no idea what Spain had in store for me.

I had no idea what sort of friends I would encounter;

Would they be kind?

Would we connect? And if so, on what level?

Today, 3 months into Masters, and one year from 2013: I stand proud to say: I did it.

I left everything behind and I did it; I left. I left Beirut. I left everything and everyone I ever cared for.

But here’s the deal: In doing so, I grew tremendously.

I have to point out though: it got harder before it got easier.

“A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there”

WAIT, THERE’S MORE…

Not only did I have to adapt to an entire new city, language and culture. I had to deal with a tough and heart-wrecking break up which at the time, thought would demolish me.

But it did not, on the contrary – it made me tougher.

It made me realize that only the strong survive.

It made me realize that when you think it’s bad, It’s not THAT bad – and when it’s THAT bad – it could always be worse.

It made me realize that you have no idea how durable you are capable of being until you are required to fight.

Resilience is key and acceptance is king.

So, ANYWAY … In taking that step, that step that had terrified me for the longest time – I became a fiercer person. I became a different person; a person I never thought I would grow to be.

So far, I’ve crossed paths with genius professors; I made the most savvy, witty and entertaining friends (SHOUT OUT TO ALL* MY FAVORITE-OUT-OF-THIS-WORLD-TO-DIE-FOR MCC’ERS). I left each class richer than ever before. I became familiar with the Spanish culture. I began learning the Spanish language! I was exposed to evermore diverse cultures and evermore diverse values; which is one of the great wonders of globalization.

And this is only the beginning. The very end of 2013, and the beginning of the very interesting journey of 2014 –

 

If I have one piece of advice for anyone today, it would be this:

Take a step outside your comfort zone – you will be surprised by the outcomes.

You will be overwhelmed with what you could accomplish.

You will grow; and what a wonderful feeling it is to grow.

 

I hope you all accomplish great things in this 2014 –

I hope you don’t forget to be RAW*

I hope you don’t forget to DREAM*

 

¡Feliz año Nuevo a todos!

“Cheers to a new year, and another chance for us to get it right”

P.S: A Big thank to my MCC’ers and everyone whose been there – for literally ROCKING* the past 3 months with me and a big thank you in advance – because I expect nothing less from such awesome* people like you – for the coming months!

Let’s do this! (I can’t tag everyone but I do mean this for everyone!)

Chloe Alexandra Younes

9
Jan

MVDM, GRABBING OPPORTUNITIES BY THE HORNS

Written on January 9, 2014 by Eric Rivas in News

MVDM - Venture LabDo the words “careers”  “networking” and/or “personal branding” remind you of something? If you are an IE student these words might sound like a broken record in your sub-conscience, and it is because of the school’s commitment of helping students and alumni to take full advantage of their professional and academic opportunities.

Right at the beginning of our program the Careers department counsels each of us on how to turn our career ambitions into personal branding expressed into a unique résumé, and so on, into a better professional with outstanding career skills. We’ve been told many times that networking can be our second diploma here at school, and a professor told us that even a church can be a great place for networking purposes. This might sound a little bit overwhelming, but is true, and personally, I love it. I think that if you want to be successful in this new, changing and innovative global environment, you should consider building a consistent and distinguishing professional brand.

IE is full of opportunities; this idea of helping us to be better professionals isn’t tied only by the Careers department, the whole Uni runs with this promise. A couple of days ago, our Dean, Begoña González-Cuesta, along Vincent Doyle, our Academic Director, announced to us, the students of the Master in Visual and Digital Media the terms and guidelines of our final project for the 2nd term.

We survived our first term and it was tough, but by far, I’ve been very happy with the whole learning experience. In December 12th, the IE School of Communication board arranged collaboration between the Master in Visual and Digital Media and the Venture Lab. We had a pitch session with a variety of start-up teams competing for our skills and expertise in order for us to work with them as Visual and Digital Media Brand Managers. Once we ranked the projects based on our criteria and appeal, our duty becomes putting in practice everything we’ve been learning throughout the program in a real, innovative and creative business project. Each group will create a full advertising campaign, a brand and corporate identity, and/or a social media strategy.  (CAAAN’T WAIT)

Hence, this partnership will be a great opportunity for us to become what we really want to be as Visual and Digital Media students, we are going to find a job opportunity in the startup that we are willing to consult, and not only that, this whole idea of creating something that will be in the market makes it a lot more exciting and fulfilling.  Right now, I invite you to grab every opportunity this new year bring, and by that I mean by the horns!

Eric Rivas

21
Sep

Future of Communication Vol.1: “HateBrain”

Written on September 21, 2013 by mhasegawa in News

the_sentinel_project

Hatebase is an open technology platform for monitoring and analyzing regionalized hate speech. This project was developed by  Mobiocracy and The Sentinel Project for Genocide Prevention. Masaaki Hasegawa, alumni of the Master in Visual Media had a chance to interview with Mr. Timothy Quinn, CTO of OMX, in order to explore the objective and the future vision of this unique project. Why do people tweet “Hate Speech”?

MH:  Thank you for taking the time. To better understand who are not familiar with this project, would you describe what is the objective of this unique project?

TQ: Hatebase is an open technology platform for monitoring and analyzing regionalized hate speech. It was built to assist government agencies, NGOs, research organizations and other philanthropic individuals and groups use hate speech as a predictor for regional violence. Language-based classification, or symbolization, is one of a handful of quantifiable steps toward genocide.

MH: It is obvious that words have strong power and impact on communication between people. Why you are focusing on hate speech instead of praise?

TQ: There’s thankfully very little risk to oppressed groups and populations targeted by praise. Just as crime statistics better inform law enforcement than the everyday actions of law-abiding citizens, and emergency room data is more useful for combating pandemics than studying healthy people walking past the hospital, hate speech is a more actionable source of data for us at the Sentinel Project in our efforts to mitigate the risk of genocide.

MH: How did you come with the idea of making Hatebrain?

TQ: We should first clarify what Hatebrain is: Hatebrain is an automated social media engine which we recently deployed as an enhancement of our Hatebase platform. The idea for creating Hatebrain was born of the need to parse large amounts of Twitter data without human moderation. Since turning on Hatebrain, we’ve accrued over 25,000 real-time geotagged hate speech sightings.

the concept of thinking photo from Shutterstock

 

the concept of thinking photo from Shutterstock

MH:  Why it is important to collect the information about location?

TQ: Location is critical for using hate speech as an early warning indicator of regionalized conflict. Without location, hate speech may be informative but it isn’t particularly helpful.

MH: Is there any tendency related to geography, time, or weather that people can tend to tweet something negative?

TQ: We haven’t attempted to correlate our data with weather or time of day, but we believe there’s a strong potential correlation with geography once you normalize for population, Internet connectivity and Twitter adoption. There’s a great opportunity here for individuals and organizations to identify further correlations by leveraging our open dataset at hatebase.org/connect_api.

MH: Is there any pattern you have found in hate speech, such as words mostly used?

TQ: A good place to look for this sort of information is in our published statistics: http://www.hatebase.org/popular (bear in mind, however, that this is currently still raw data rather than normalized data).

MH:  Why people blame on others, speak ill of someone, and often become very aggressive to say something negative?

TQ: There’s no shortage of theory on the persistence of human aggression, but it’s not implausible that aggressive behavior and externalization of subpopulations would have conferred an advantage in our evolutionary past. It’s difficult, however, to cleanly separate biological determinism from cultural, sociological or psychological factors: history is rife with examples of hate speech flourishing in environments of particular social and political instability.

MH: Like some videos and articles become viral, emotional moment and words can be infected from one person to another. Is it possible to arouse certain emotion by intentionally spreading words or speech?

TQ: The epidemiologic metaphor is apt: hate speech is most insidious when it relies upon a tacit acknowledgement of the acceptability of externalization. The disease spreads when the body’s immune system is compromised.

MH:  It seems that it would be difficult to use direct negative expression as people become more connected each other. Do you think the way to express something negative will be more indirect or ambiguous?

TQ: Unfortunately, the opposite is probably true — as our means of connecting with each other have diversified, so too have our opportunities for disparagement. If anything, social media emboldens hate speech through social feedback loops.There are very few biases which, no matter how absurd or invidious, won’t achieve validation from someone.

MH:  What would be the future project once you have achieved the objective of this project?

TQ: The Sentinel Project is currently working on our next software product, which is an open source rumour management platform called WikiRumours. Our goal is to mitigate escalation of conflict by intercepting misinformation and disinformation.

13
Sep

Shmuel RubashkinShmuel Rubashkin is the co-founder of Easybox, which connects the virtual world and the real world,  providing convenient pickup point for online purchases. Though many people just focus on the online shopping experience, such as UI, UX, and Web design, his idea improve the experience after the online shopping. He shared valuable information for current and future entrepreneurs with Masaaki Hasegawa, alumni of Master in Visual Media 2013. This is not something that you can learn from reading Harvard Business Review.

 

MH: First of all, thank you for taking time time today for us to learn about real entrepreneurship. 

SR: Thank you Masaaki for the interview. I’m excited to reach out to the IE alumni especially at this time as EasyBox is looking to other countries to provide the service and for local partners to lead the effort. I would be very happy to touch base with alumni members, receive your comments, and explore opportunities. Please contact me at Shmuel@easybox.co.il or via Linkedin.

 

MH: In order for the reader to better understand your venture, give us the most powerful important aspects of your service.

SR:In one line, we provide convenient pickup points for online purchases.

In order to get a good feeling for what aspects of the service are the strongest it might be best to start at the beginning.  When I was a student in NY I sold things on eBay to boost my income. As sales picked up, I found myself dealing with logistical issues more and more. Packages of supplies arrived at my apartment when I was out. Sending packages at the Post Office or waiting for pickups was a real hassle. I knew something had to change when packages started to get lost…

My brother David had a local store nearby. David’s business, like most businesses was accustomed to dealing with the mail. When David agreed to help, things got much easier. I was able to send and receive packages from the store without having to worry about missed deliveries or long lines. Here is a short and humorous video that demonstrates the issue.

Our mission is to make sending and receiving package a simple task that can be done from any place anytime and in line with ecommerce.

The major benefit of the service is that it is designed with the end user in mind. Customers don’t have to worry about being home or make changes to their schedules. Their packages wait for them at a neighborhood store that is open very early and late.

 

MH: To better understand, would you explain more about the revenue stream? Who pays for what?

EasyBox partners with websites and shipping companies to offer online shoppers convenient pickup points. The websites and shipping companies pay a per package fee.  Websites can now offer their customers an easier way to receive packages and improve the shopping experience and shipping companies can reduce missed deliveries and second deliveries needed.

 

MH: How did you come up with the idea of making small stores and shops your mailbox to receive packages.

SR: We realized that local grocery stores would gain the most by offering their neighbors the service as it would increase foot traffic and sales. From our pilot we confirmed that most people make a purchase when visiting a store. Consider the busy urban dweller picking up a package after work. There are always some basics needed at home like milk or bread.

 

MH: What was the first step to launch that idea?

SR: We had a chicken and egg dilemma: we needed stores to serve as pickup points but the stores wanted to see people coming into their stores. To get people we needed websites to start offering our service on their website for which we need stores. So we created a PO Box that allowed people to send us packages and we delivered those packages to the stores. This way we didn’t need websites and started with the stores. Once we had stores we were able to get the early adapting websites to join us.

 

MH: How did you convince small-size stores to partner with you?

SR: At first people thought the idea was crazy. “Informed” people said that shelf space is very expensive with major brands paying extra for premium space. While that is true our value proposition is more in line with products that bring people into the store in the first place.  But that’s not the really the pitch the works…

What really improved our pitch was when we found out that many local stores already receive packages for their best customers. They do this favor to keep their customers happy. We tell the stores we simply increase the number of people that they already do this favor for in order to gain more customers. It might seem like semantics but it’s very different than pitching a new concept versus something they already do.

 

MH: How did you negotiate with UPS?

SR: I went to an ecommerce conference and approached UPS’s VP of Marketing. I told him what we were doing and he agreed to a meeting.

I thought long and hard about why UPS would need us? Frankly the answer was not simple. UPS has more people, resources and technology than we can hope for.

At the start of the meeting, before I could make any small talk, the VP asks me so explain what you guys doing again? I tell him how I was an eBay seller and getting packages became frustrating… He tells me, “you are telling me about missed deliveries”? and starts sharing the averages about missed deliveries with me.  Suffice to say, most people aren’t home waiting for packages…

 

MH: What was the most difficult part of getting started?

SR: I think each point has its difficult challenges, first was getting a team of people that would go the distance. Co-founders need to share and own the dream and work to make it happen.

Why did you decide to be an entrepreneur instead of working for a company that would offer more stability?

I enjoy being passionate about what I do and the thought that we can improve things is exciting to me. More and more people I speak to these days are looking for work that satisfies them beyond the title and salary. We spend too much time working to ignore what we actually accomplish at our jobs. While this could also be the case in a large company, with a venture it is in our hands to make it happen.

 

MH: Israel is often described as “Start-up Nation”, do you think the location is an important factor to start a new business? Why did you choose Tel-Aviv?

SR: I think the location is important as people around you will be more supportive and willing to help. In Israel the market really needs a new service and it made it easier to launch. Additionally, the small size of the country allowed us to partner with local stores and websites without having to start by partnering with a major shipping company. On a more practical level we needed a proof of concept before we started exploring oversea options.

 

 

MH: Would you describe the three most important factors of being an entrepreneur?

SR:

  • Passion to see the idea come into fruition: regardless of reward. It is important to care that the concept happens from a deep place inside.
  • Self-starter: there are a lot things to do. The ability to stay at it and keep taking care of the most important tasks is essential.
  • Make it happen one step at a time: You need to excite people and get people on board because grand plans only go so far. Make it happen in small steps that will help build momentum for the next most important steps.

 

MH: For people who cannot take the first step to create their own business for the fear of failure, what would you say to them?

SR: Experiment: sell something on eBay or a service on Fiverr.com and see how you feel about it. Selling things online was exhilarating for me. Read The Lean Startup to see how to go about building a startup. Read the Innovator’s Dilemma to see why large companies need startups. Start a small project. Work at a startup. Ironically, starting a venture is the best investment you could make in your CV. You will prove to be passionate, motivated, able to take risks, make decisions and actually get cool things done.

 

6
Sep

Talented young vol.1: To live your own life

Written on September 6, 2013 by mhasegawa in News

alisaAlisa Ueno is producer of one of the most famous Japanese fashion brands, Fig & Viper, which is now getting attention of celebrities and young people around the world.  We had a chance to have an interview with her, and she shared the story behind her success and the secret to realize what you think.

 

 

 

 

MH: First of all, let us know about the brand’s concept and vision.

AU: We are unique and create original design for clothes. You cannot find similar products at any other places and they are products that you can enjoy, regardless of your age. Our clothes allow a person to be different from the person they are on typical days when they are working in an office wearing an uniform. We understand that we do not compete with fast fashion brands such as H&M and we differentiate our brand from them in that we are comparatively expensive for young people but worth the price. We put emphasis on originality and providing quality clothing.

 

MH: How did you come to find your own brand without any experience in the industry.

AU: When I was around 19 years old, my mentor encouraged me to jump into this field. At that time, I was working as a professional model as well as attending university and working a part-time job. I had no fear due to my age and I was not as serious as I am now. It is just that I happened to get involved in starting up this brand, to tell you the truth.

 

MH: What was the first step that you took to start your own brand? What was the biggest challenge?

AU: The first step was understanding the fashion business and where our label fit. I spent time thinking about what people were willing to pay and how to design decent, unique items. I had a great deal of knowledge in terms of the fashion industry, including fashion brands, as I was fond of shopping and often found points to improve in clothes that I bought. Thus, I aimed at designing something that I would be fully content with from the viewpoint of the buyer. My colleagues sometimes advised me to design something more commercial, from a business view point, but I never compromised on design because the label represents my personal brand value and image. Our consumers are likely to purchase items that I wear and then post on my blog. My colleagues gradually came to rely on my design. Over the course of two years, I came to understand the balance between my own preference and market demands.

 

MH: You and your brand have been on the cutting edge since the beginning and now the industry follows you. What has enabled you to achieve this? 

AU: Most importantly, compared to huge companies, one advantage is that our business has relatively less operational process and that enables us to be more creative and challenge the status quo. On the other hand, our weak point is bringing our business to scale because we only have six people, including me, except four for clerks in our brick n’ mortar stores. We manage to deal with everything. Personally, I believe that relationship and the strong bond between employees strongly influences our performance. In fact, all people in our company trust each other as if we are a family. This point is obviously different from the huge companies in which people are working as a small part of the big organization. All the people in Fig & Viper share a common vision and feel that every single behavior has an impact on the brand. 

 

MH: Though various kinds of media have covered your brand, your company does not have a formal public relations team. How did you achieve such huge media exposure?

 AU: It is because we have focused on our brand idea that I mentioned above, since our beginning, and that has made our brand quite different and outstanding in the industry that leads media to pay attention. The most important thing is doing something different from others and being interesting. Mass media are eager to know something they do not know. In fact, we have never promoted our brand and items to mass media. Needless to say, I appreciate stylists and media who have taken up our brand and I would like to contribute to their business somehow in the future by making my brand bigger.  

 

MH: You have effectively used SMS such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to communicate with the market. What effect does it have on your brand?

AU: Frankly speaking, in this industry social media currently has stronger power and influence on consumer behavior than magazine or mass media. In fact, I access the most valuable information through social media, sharing information with people around the world.  Instagram, especially, has an amazingly huge influence on our brand. For example, the reason that we decided to deliver our products to foreign countries is that a great number of people are following me on Instagram. I like the concept of social media that you can instantly connect with people all over the world and it has potential to make your business unbelievably huge. 

 

MH:  After just a couple or years your brand has collaborated with Steve Aoki, who is one of the world’s top DJs. Rita Ora has shared your brand items on her Instagram and Chili from TLC has given attention to your brand. What is the key to getting such great celebrity endorsements?

AU: It could be my personality! I think it is very important to say and share what you want and like. It is true that I have been in the environment which is closer to those celebrities than other industries but I have kept saying “I love Steve Aoki” that brought about the opportunity to participate in his brand’s catalogue as a model. This one time chance ended up bringing another  business opportunity with him, a collaboration with his brand. I just keep saying and sharing and more opportunities come to me. Beside that, language plays an important roll especially in the Japanese market, because not so many young Japanese people speak other languages, including English, and thus my ability to speak another language is obviously an advantage over others. I have never stayed in foreign countries longer than two weeks but I can communicate with people around the world in English. This shows that the language barrier can be overcome by your own effort and that is why I keep studying English. I do not want to lose any opportunity because of lack of effort. English let me connect with people all over the world. It is critically important.    

 

MH: No matter how busy you are, you keep changing guise and traveling around the world. What is the reason that the producer of Fig&Viper is always so progressive?

AU: My aim is to lead people all of the time so that they do not get bored. I do not want to be considered an old-fashioned product/ You know, you get one shot at life and we will all die someday. There is no escaping that reality. Traveling allows you to encounter people and experiences that you have never imagined. I am eager to know what I do not know and encounter the type of people whom I have never met. It is not based on some intricate calculation or strategy, but personal preference that is my character and personality. I love myself. 

 

MH: It is sometimes challenging and controversial to put some symbols which contain religious meaning into design, particularly when your expanding your business overseas. 

AU: It is true that I need to think more about the meaning of symbols that I have depicted in my design from the viewpoint of branding. Japanese consumers are indifferent about religion and symbols. For example, it is considered rude to position the cross upside-down abroad but it is not an issue here in Japan. However I respect other cultures and their way of thinking. As the brand has become global, I have studied the history and the meaning behind symbols in order to design clothes that are visually beautiful but do not offend anyone. Possibly, our next design focus will be “words”. 

 

MH: You shared an interesting expression, “Live as you would publish your own autobiography in the future”. Give some advice for people who are having a hard time being themselves.

AU: Just do it!! I think people who do not take action would not listen to my advice because they compromise with their life. I believe that it is important to design every single day to be interesting and exciting, to make the most of your own life with the limited time that we all have. You do not have to write something negative in your own autobiography.  Do not be afraid of failure and making mistakes. Your life will be happier in the end if you believe that everything would enrich your life. The most important thing is to keep an open mind and let things happen to you.

Instead of feeling envious of successful people, be a successful person. You are the person who can give up or make changes in your life.

2
Sep

Entrepreneurship vol.4: Beyond the boarder

Written on September 2, 2013 by mhasegawa in News

sokhoSokho Trinh is co-founder of Deparz, which is a new online business focused on services for Expatriates and students, offering you a chance to get in touch with people in the country you are moving to, to help you with anything you may need. He shared valuable information gained from his real experience as an entrepreneur.

 

 

1. What is your background and career path or your interesting life story?

ST: I was born and raised in France. From Chinese parents who were born and raised in Cambodia, who managed to escape the Khmer Rouge during the Pol Pot Regime in the 70`s in Cambodia. I have lived and worked in 3 continents and I can speak 8 languages. I studied my MBA at IE Business School, and before that I studied an MA in International Trade, majored in Asian Business Engineering in France. Originally I studied languages at the prestigious Grande Ecole in Paris: Langues’O and at the University of Paris XII. I also studied a term at the MBA Luxury at the ESSEC Business School, in Paris.

 

2. Why did you move to London?

ST: I moved to London for both professional and personal reasons. London is a vibrant city. I try to absorb its energy and re-use it in my life. I have a group of close friends. I live with my partner and we both enjoy meeting with our dear ex fellows from IE Business School. Above all, London offers you this magical cultural scene, mingled with a cosmopolitan crowd. This is why I would describe London as cosmopolitan and not International. Finally, this is a stunning city which may feed your ambitions – Be it personal, cultural, entrepreneurial. You may experience the stunning global start up vibe, or climb the corporate ladders.

I don’t like this city, I am loving it!

 

3. How did you come up with the idea of helping people particularly who would move to London?

ST: My co-founder and I faced the terrible pain of having to look for a decent and value for money place when we moved to London. Rents are so expensive, flats are taken in no time, and honestly, while being abroad it is almost impossible to sign a flat unless you are in London in person!

 

4. What was the first step to make the idea happen?

ST: Because we started from the pain of finding a place to live in London, we wanted to understand how a solution could be articulated around killing this pain. We started with a full business plan which, I think was probably not necessary at the beginning of our start up journey. We should probably have tried to do a light version of the business plan, and we should have focused on quickly building our prototype website. I think that, if I was asked to do that again, I would probably have used a “lean” start up approach. This first steps took us many months.

 

5. What was the biggest difficulty in the beginning stage to monetize your business model?

ST: It was hard for us to find the right quantity of clients to be matched with the right quantity of assistants. I also think that trying to monetize the site without having a proper success stories to share with the users also was a barrier to monetization. Also, what will be extremely hard is to find the point of liquidity where transactions (people posting requests and assistants responding) are going to be self-feeding themselves in a sufficient quantity to cover all our costs and eventually generate benefits.

 

6. Why this business model is focusing on 3 things: accommodation, work, and language instead of focusing on one of those?

ST: We ran the site in beta as a test during 7 months. From the data we analysed “accommodation” represented 70% of the needs expressed by our users, 20% were related to job search, and 10% to a language related issue faced by both students and professionals expatriates who are not sponsored by their companies. Therefore we decided to focus on these 3 categories, to address the pains expressed by our users, offering them an “all-in-one” solution.

 

7. Whereas the internet allows people to connect each other and to reach a great amount of information instantly, it is hard to strengthen your presence on the Internet. What is your strategy in terms of getting people scattered around the Internet together in your service?

ST: We current follow a phased approach. Even though, Deparz.com aims at being internationalized, we need to first test our concept. This is why our phase 1 is a “Proof of Concept” where we only focus on helping the French and the Spanish to relocate and/or to properly settle down in London. Once the results will prove acceptable we will extend our solution towards others markets. We plan to resort to mostly online marketing to gain visibility with the clients (people who move abroad) and a mix of online and offline to communicate with the assistants. A business development team will help find the professional assistants.

 

8. What is your future vision regarding work and personal life?

ST: I am extremely conscious about the importance of work-life balance. It simply makes you enjoy the little “joys” of your life. I like to think that I am Passionate individual, with a capital “P”.  I sing, I practice photography, and I used to act. I play badminton, and enjoy a good glass of wine with some nice Jazz music. One of my biggest passions is to travel. I visited over 50 countries. My motto in life is: “Live your life with Passion”

 

1 2 3 14