The Dragons’ Den

About a month ago our team, Hi-Phive, participated in our first Dragons’ Den at Kingston University. As part of our Design Thinking for Start-ups module, we have to create a real start-up, and this was our first chance to show it to the world.

As I explained in a previous post, we created a three in one shopping bag called Edamame Pod. Here is our design (created by our talented designers Whan and Apeksha):

edamame_1

As part of the Dragons’ Den we had to pitch our idea in front of a panel of judges. There were some marking points that we had to address in five minutes.

DQjlo3qWsAARwao(Pic by Alice Comi.  Twitter: @comi_alice)

First we had to deliver an elevator pitch to explain in a few words what we were selling and how it worked. To make it more interesting we tried to put a twist on it, we thought of using role-play to show the problem. We made a small play showing the problem we were addressing and how our product could help solve that problem. We had a good reaction to that, it was short and concise. We had to practice a lot though but it came through.

Then we also had to address the problem and target group specifically and explain the reasons for that. After that it was time to explain the product itself and the key features. For that, we had a prototype just to get the judges and audience an idea of how it could work and what it may look like. Although it was not a full MVP (minimum viable product), it was good to have something tangible to show.

Lastly we had to talk about the market and the customers, who would they be and why.

We had a good response of the judges and we were overall happy with our presentation. I think it was a memorable one. They gave us some pointers to think about like the materials and the market as well as price. We are definitely putting all that into account to move forward with our product.

It was an amazing experience and opportunity to learn and practice in a professional environment.

Go Hi-Phive!

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Hi-Phive, our first start-up

As part of our Design Thinking for Start-ups module we had to team up in groups and create a product or service as a real start-up.

Our group, consisting of five very creative women, coming from dance, design, film and marketing world decided that we wanted to do a service. One that had to do with performing arts and making a change in society.

We started brainstorming and came up with a socially conscious theatre based company. It all sounded great, we had the skills and the experience, as well as the passion for it. Then we were asked in class to create a Business Model Canvas. Then it started to sink in the reality of it. As you put everything into something tangible and something very specific that helps you see your business very clearly, you start to see the flaws and the pros.

What we realised is that maybe our service was a B to B instead of a B to C. But also that we were thinking of what we wanted to do but we were not necessarily solving any problems. So, instead of thinking about a problem first, we thought about what we thought was a good idea. We were not using the lean start-up method on thinking about the customer and the problem first. Luckily, we realised this as soon as we starting developing our business model canvas. Then, it was time to pivot, before we even started.

We decided to look for a problem. We wanted to create a product based on our own needs as independent students. Whenever we go grocery shopping we need to take a bag, or pay for one if we forget. And if you have, lets say, meat, vegetables and cleaning supplies, you don’t want them together, so you have to take more than one bag. Then we came up with the idea of Edamame: a three in reusable shopping bag for all your needs.

edamame_1

With Edamame, you can carry three bags in one and not worry about forgetting to take more than one every time you go out. It even has a pocket for credit cards, cash or keys.

We were very comfortable and confident about this product. And the great part is we worked as a team when realising that our first idea was not going to be viable for now. We used several methods of design thinking like brainstorming, observation, prototyping. And we decided to pivot completely when realising we weren’t solving any problems for our customers.

We should never forget that the customers are the key to every business, it could be a great idea, but without any customers, it doesn’t matter. Then, it was time to prepare our pitching and presentation for Dragons’ Den!

 

Bringing Stranger Things to London

A few months ago I was walking around central London when I saw a big line forming in front of a food truck. As I got closer, I saw it had the Stranger Things logo on it. It was in fact an activation for the Netflix show as they were about to release their second season.

In case any one of you don’t know, Stranger Things, is a Netflix series released in 2016. The synopsis: “When a young boy vanishes, a small town uncovers a mystery involving secret experiments, terrifying supernatural forces and one strange little girl” (Netflix, 2017). It is based on TV shows and movies from the 80’s, so it has that nostalgia feel that made the show very successful.

Netflix was releasing their awaited second season at the end of October 2017 and they used London as one of the cities to promote the show, in my opinion, in a very original way.

The show has a character, Eleven, who loves waffles. She is one of the most beloved characters of the show. So Netflix put waffle trucks all around the city during the week of release.

It was a fun way to not only have people tweet or post pictures that led to promotion for the show but what I found interesting was how they brought the show to their customers. They gave viewers an experience and they made them part of it by sharing something in common with one of the characters. They thought of their customers, which sometimes with shows or movies is hard to get because it seems to be a one way medium with no interaction. By the way, the waffles were free!

Another thing they did was to partner with a major brand, Topshop. They basically turned their Oxford Street store into a Stranger Things museum. Every floor had an installation or something related to the show.

As the ad says: “Immerse yourself in iconic moments of the show”. This again I think is a great marketing strategy. And a way to bring the customer to the world of this show. The most immersive thing they had was one of the displays of the stores, facing the street, had a lab that you could be part of an experiment. Thus emulating one of the iconic scenes of the show. As you may have guessed, there was a long line to be a part of it. Again, bringing the audience (customer) straight into the world of the show.

Netflix must have spent a lot on this activation throughout the city. But what I find interesting is how more and more this TV shows and movies are trying this experiences with their audience. As I said, sometimes film and TV can be a one way media but this just makes us feel part of it. The customers are getting smarter and traditional advertisement sometimes doesn’t work. The more transmedia a content can be, the better. But always, always, thinking about the customer.


References:

Stranger Things Netflix. https://www.netflix.com/title/80057281

Oxford Circus tube station gets ‘Stranger Things’ makeover.
Available at http://www.nme.com/news/tv/oxford-circus-tube-station-stranger-things-makeover-2153296#VHmCzKsRPErwbxbR.99

Stranger Things collection for Topshop sees fans queuing on Oxford Street in the rain. Available at: https://www.standard.co.uk/fashion/news/stranger-things-collection-for-topshop-sees-fans-queuing-on-oxford-street-in-the-rain-a3663821.html

 

The Lean Start-up Principles

As we learned through the Design Thinking module, the customer is the main character in any business.

The Lean Start-up principles are:

  1. Use validated learning
  2. Engage in rapid experimentation
  3. Reduce product development cycles
  4. Measure actual progress (without resorting to vanity metrics)
  5. Learn what customers really want

If we think about it, all of these steps involve the customer. The first is to learn what the problem is, what do customers want and need a solution for.

The second one, is to experiment, to try out the product or service. Launch an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) to test it in the market, it could be a reduce market, but it’s important to test it as soon as possible.

Now it’s time to reduce the product development cycles. This means to make the MVP better as fast as possible. This will avoid wasting time and resources while making the product better incrementally (Blank, 2013).

Then it’s time to measure the progress. Taking into consideration the customer, getting feedback to see if it actually works and if the target group is the right one. It could be that the product is a solution but for another target group or market. This is linked to the fifth principle: learn what the customer really want.

This last one is the basis for the lean start-up methodology, it’s always about the customer. The customer is the one that needs to be in the focus. Sometimes we have an idea that we think is amazing and that will change everything but by testing it you may learn that this idea is great but that you may have no customers that need this. Then it’s time to pivot, change, evolve or even “kill your baby” and start all over again.

Hey, at least you learned fast and didn’t waste as much time or resources.

Here is a quick video explaining the lean start-up methodology easier:

 

Happy testing!!!


References:

Blank, S. (2013) ‘Why the Lean Start-Up Changes Everything’, Harvard Business Review. Available at: https://hbr.org/2013/05/why-the-lean-start-up-changes-everything (Accessed 10 Jan. 2018).

Comi, A. (2017) ‘Starting Lean: MVP and Value Proposition’ [PowerPoint presentation]. BS7708: Design Thinking for Start-Ups. Available at: https://canvas.kingston.ac.uk/ (Accessed: 10 January 2018).

What is the Lean Startup? Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_a3s0IXSuxY

 

Key elements for Managing a Creative Business

As I start writing this end of the year reflective blog, I think to when we first started the semester and our MA, a merely three months ago. We came a long way since then. This is a little recount from Managing a Creative Business module.

Let’s start with Business Models. I’ve heard about business models before, as a film producer, you have to create your film’s business model in order to obtain funds and present it to financiers or people you want to collaborate with. But I never knew how to do a business model for other type of companies. That’s what we learned to do with Osterwalder’s Business Model Canvas (2010), a simple, easy way of turning your ideas into a business. Well, nothing is easy, but is a simple way to “map” your product or service and see at first, before you start anything, if it’s viable. It also helps you to understand what you would need to make it happen, your costs and resources and the most important thing, if this is this something that creates value for your customers.

One of the most important lessons we have learned as workers of the Creative Industries is on the subject of Intellectual Property. It is only one of the most important sources for making money in any of the creative industries. I’ve learned, throughout the years, a lot about Copyright and how to protect yourself in the film industry, what you need to have as a producer. But as any other law, here in the UK, things differ and it is important to look into each country that you are working with.  As a film producer, we deal a lot with copyright, since film is a collaborative business, and usually as a producer you are the one in charge of exploiting the rights, let’s say the owner. But something that we learned, and that we need to have present, is to always identify the copyright holder for anything that you want to use. This can be a long process but it’s worth it, otherwise don’t use it.

One of my favourite things that I learned this year was on the lecture of New Venture Development. I was really surprised to learn that according to CBinsights, the main reason a startup fail is because there is no market need. And that is the main thing I learned with this lecture, our business needs to solve a problem for a specific customer segment but again, it’s not that simple. You need to think that maybe if there are no competitors it’s because there is no market need. So it’s quite complex to create a business. I quite enjoyed learning about the lean startup method (Ries, 2011). I even think that the base behind it, to test and pivot if needed, can be used in the film industry quite well. I will definitely try to have it in mind when creating any audiovisual product.

Let’s go back to business model for a second. Once you have it, it is time for the Strategy. This is quite difficult and complex to explain. During several weeks we were put to the test by playing a Business Strategy Game in groups in which we were competing with other members of our class. We had to run an athletic shoe company, making decisions each week, to keep our business running, while trying to win the game. At first we decided what kind of strategy we would apply and we stuck to it. The problem was that we only had the strategy in mind when making decisions and we didn’t think about the market and competitors. And if there is one thing we learned about the strategy, and business in general, is that you need to adapt to the changes. If it means changing strategy or rethinking it, then that is what you should do. But we learned a lot and we had fun “competing” with the rest of our classmates. And we definitely have a better understanding of strategy and how it needs to be reevaluated every once in a while.

Our next topic was Brand Management. As we learned, a brand can certainly be many things. It can be an identity, a name, a representation, a symbol, a design, an image, amongst many others. During class we had the opportunity to create a brand for ourselves or the company we wish to have. We had to recognise three main items:

  • Frame of Reference: What goals the consumer can expect to achieve by using your brand.
  • Points of Parity: Once the frame of reference is chosen there are minimum requirements that need to be met so that consumers see your product as a credible player in that industry. From time to time, these points of parity need to be reevaluated.
  • Points of Difference: It means the way a brand is different from another in the same field. And according to Keller et. al (2002) there are three types of brand differences; a message can be targeted by considering the brand performance associations, brand imagery associations and consumer insight associations.

I created my brand by thinking of my ideal production company. We had to create a map of our business by having in mind these three items above and then we had to present it to the class. It was a great experience and it made me realize I have a several points of difference to offer to my customers as a producer. I will definitely keep developing my brand, both personal/professional and my company.

One of my favorite topics was Advertisement. As I explained in one of my blogs, I have a love-hate relationship with advertising, but I will definitely say it’s a fun topic to learn about. Again, we have to be creative when it comes to advertising. As consumers, we are bombarded with advertising and products everywhere! So in order to break through the clutter (of too much advertising), we have to create interest. Because we use so many devices, social media, and receive messages everywhere, most media campaigns today use a mix of media in order to convey the message. Consumers today are smarter than ever and we need to be clever to get their attention. The difficult thing about creating a great advertising campaign is to satisfy both the client and the customer.

We had a fun exercise during class. We had to create the idea for a TV commercial of an upscale English wine to be sold in France. The most important thing was to think about the consumer but not forgetting what the client needed according to the brief we were given. What was interesting to see was that every group created something completely different but using the same guidelines. These made me think that we can be very creative when it comes to advertising, sometimes it’s just a matter of coming out of the box.

I have to admit, the most difficult lecture for me was Entrepreneurial Finance. Even though I like numbers and I’ve always been good with them, it is still something that for me, it’s not easy to understand. To my surprise, Mr. Hulme, our lecturer, put it all in very simple terms so that we at least understand the basics when it comes to our businesses.

We talked about Profit and Loss Statement, Balance Sheet and Cash Flow. According to Hulme (2015), the P&L statement is like a video that records what happens during a period of time, it could be a month, a quarter or a year. It gives us a clear picture of what is happening in our business. The balance sheet is like a photograph of the company (Hulme, 2017). It can quickly show the health of the business. It is very useful as it shows what assets does your business have and what liabilities. You can easily see if your assets are greater than your liabilities just by taking a quick look at the balance sheet. All the in-class exercises made it very easy to understand a bit more and to at least know what we are looking at when it comes to our finances.

As I was telling a friend today, I can’t believe how much I’ve learned it such a short amount of time. I’ve learned things that I never thought of and that I look forward to keep understanding them better. We talked about things that I knew about it but that only helped to expand my knowledge or made me look at it from another angle.

Now that I look back I see how everything is connected and how it is important to pay attention to all of those things in our own businesses because one depends on the other. It was a great semester of practice and theory. Of learning the base and then putting it into work. I look forward to implementing these new learnings throughout my career.

My wish for 2018? 365 days of new learnings and experiences!

Let’s not forget to fail, learn and pivot!


References:

Dall’Olmo Riley, F.  (2017) ‘Brand Management’ [Power Point Presentation]. BS7703: Managing a Creative Business. Available at: https://canvas.kingston.ac.uk/courses/7814/pages/week-7-brand-management (Accessed: 22 Dec 2017).

Hulme, Simon (2015). The Profit and Loss Made Easy.

Hulme, Simon (2017). The Balance Sheet Made Easy.

Keller, K.L., Sternthal, B. and Tybout A. (2002) ‘Three Questions You Need to Ask About Your Brand’, Harvard Business Review, 80 (9), pp. 80-86.

Korn, N (2017). ‘Intellectual Property Rights’. BS7703: Managing a Creative Business.

Osterwalder, A., Pigneur, Yves, & Clark, Tim. (2010). Business model generation : A handbook for visionaries, game changers, and challengers.

Ries, E. (2011). The lean startup : How constant innovation creates radically successful businesses. London: Portfolio Penguin.

Robinson, H. (2017) ‘Advertising’ [Power Point Presentation]. BS7703: Managing a Creative Business. Available at: https://canvas.kingston.ac.uk/courses/7814/pages/advertising (Accessed: 22 Dec 2017).

Strategyzer.com. (2017). Strategyzer | Canvases. Available at: https://strategyzer.com/canvas

(Accessed 22 Dec. 2017).

Song (2017) ‘New venture development’ [PowerPoint presentation]. BS7703: Managing a Creative Business. Available at: https://canvas.kingston.ac.uk/courses/7814/files/366529/download?wrap=1(Accessed: 20 December 2017).