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Category: emerging markets

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The Internet of Things Has Arrived — Here’s How Your Company Can Succeed

 For success in a market that’s changing our everyday lives, you have to know how both sides of the Internet of Things must work together for users.

At its annual 2011 developer conference, Google announced it had developed Android@Home. The technology was designed to connect household appliances, making nearly everything in your home controllable by your smartphone. It made news — not because it was a new idea, but because it supported an old one: The Internet of Things was one step closer to becoming reality.

It turned out that Google’s initiative wasn’t quite ready for prime time, but it reinforced a desire people have had since the mid-20th century: smart devices that communicate with one another makes life easier.

This is the essence of the Internet of Things, and it’s quickly becoming reality. Just look at the success of Nest Labs and Amazon’s new shopping gadget, Dash. Some even say the future of machine-to-machine communication (M2M) is past due.

How to Succeed in the Internet of Things

The question then becomes how to ensure your company succeeds in this field. What does it take to become an integral part of a market that has the potential to change the way we live our day-to-day lives?

To even have a chance at success on the bleeding edge of connectivity, you need to know how M2M works and which components make up a successful consumer-facing product. There are essentially two sides to what we know as the Internet of Things: M2M and consumer.

M2M usually refers to the industrial side of machine communication, but it’s still essentially the term for machines — cars, washing machines, and refrigerators — that communicate with one another, usually on a network. The consumer side of the Internet of Things is what the everyday user will see and interact with.

For your product to be successful, these sides need to work together seamlessly to create a frictionless experience that users can adopt in their daily routines. Take Audi, for example. Rather than reinventing the wheel with its infotainment system, the car company chose to enhance the way people already live with technology, making it smarter, faster, and easier to use. As a result, Audi has won numerous awards and eased people into a new way of doing things.

The 5 Components of a Frictionless Connected Experience

To master this seamless experience, focus on these five components of a successful consumer-facing “smart” product.

1. The Hardware: The hardware you create must improve what’s already out there and make people’s lives easier. Before development, consider what type of data you’ll need to collect, how to communicate that data, and how to process it into usable information after it’s received. Whether your device will rely on Wi-Fi, Ethernet, or a cellular network, make sure the hardware will fulfill the requirements.

2. The Software: Once you have a good piece of hardware, the next step is making sure the consumer can use it. It doesn’t matter how great a device is; if it’s hard to use, it’s sure to fail. Consider how your software will integrate with remote devices and how users will interact with the front-end interface.

3. Connectivity: Good connectivity is essential for connecting to the Internet of Things. In the U.S., competing networks and standards can make it more difficult for a product to achieve success if it only supports one network. Creating a single portal with multiple options for connectivity can help ensure a painless and seamless user experience.

For consumer-facing devices, the faster, the better. LTE is winning out in America, but HSPA+ and even WiMAX have support in certain parts of the world. Depending on your needs, different network evolutions like LTE and technologies such as GSM and CDMA can be beneficial, but they aren’t necessarily required. The more you can do to support these various network possibilities, the more effective and accessible your solution can be.

4. Certification: This isn’t the sexiest part of product development, but whether it’s wireless certification from the PTCRB or a security certification, these procedures are essential when it comes to lending credibility to your product and ensuring that it’s standards-friendly.

5. The Business Model: This should be obvious, but developing the right business model is a critical step startups often neglect. Your product may be amazing, but if you can’t reach the price point you need or can’t figure out how to turn a profit, everything else becomes moot.

With each passing year, the Internet of Things inches closer to becoming reality. If you’re looking to break into this field or are struggling to find a profitable foothold, focusing on these key components can help you achieve success and contribute to a movement that could change the world.



Traditional Industries Are Being Upended by Apps

It isn’t news to anyone that we live in a mobile world now. Over half of adult Americans own smartphones, and the desktop business has been steadily declining as tablets and phones continue their ascent. As consumers, we have spoken: Our world is on the go, and we want technology that can keep up with us.

But it’s more than just the size and convenience of these products that make them so revolutionary; they mark a shift in how we interact with our devices and through them, with products and services in the outside world. The app economy doesn’t exist to simply occupy people’s time with games and to-do lists — it’s a way to disrupt traditional ways of doing business.


3 Traditional Industries that Apps Have Disrupted


Whole volumes can be written on the various businesses and services that have benefited, and suffered from, the smartphone revolution, but here are three key examples of how apps have managed to revolutionize whole industries.


1. Travel: While the traditional travel agent’s way of doing things was on the decline before smartphones, thanks to websites like Expedia and Travelocity, we still printed our boarding passes, booked hotels and flights way in advance, and manually kept track of our travel itineraries.

With mobile phones, this changed almost completely. Most airline apps allow us to check in and present our tickets from within the app and, more importantly, they continuously update us with current flight ETAs and gate change information that can make the difference between a successful trip and a disastrous one.

Furthermore, a whole industry of mobile apps has arisen around the concept of last-minute deals when it comes to hotel reservations and other travel accommodations. With their phones, users have the ability to make last-minute vacation plans that are often cheaper than ones made months in advance. This practice has become much more widespread in the days of mobile.


2. Transportation: You’ve most likely heard of new car services like Uber and Lyft. These companies have made names for themselves by creating an experience that allows you to order and pay for a car service with a few simple taps on your phone. The key thing to remember about these services is that mobile is not their business — it’s the tool through which people access their service. Mobile is the facilitator, not the endgame.


3. GPS: Remember when everyone had a TomTom or Garmin hooked to their dashboards? When was the last time you had one hooked to yours? Built-in apps, such as Google and Apple Maps, have all but replaced this once-burgeoning product category, offering the same features without the need for another clunky device.

Furthermore, smartphones have surpassed traditional GPS devices, with apps like Waze, which provides crowd sourced alerts about traffic, accidents, police information, and even red-light cameras. By providing points and rewards for adding information, Waze turned maps into a game and created something wholly new in the GPS industry. Its no wonder Google spent $1 billion to acquire it.


What to Keep in Mind When Designing Your App

These aren’t the only industries that have been disrupted by mobile, and they won’t be the last. With the widespread adoption of wearable tech just around the corner, we’re going to be presented with new and exciting ways to change how we do business. There are a few key things to keep in mind when looking to change the world with mobile.


  • Count the steps. How many steps does it take to provide your service? If you can find ways to cut down on the number of steps or make them easier with mobile, then you have a good start when developing an app.
  • Put the user experience first. Making your app a pleasure to use can make the difference between success and failure. Learn about the psychology and motivations behind people’s interactions, and design your app around that.
  • Capture feedback. Make it easy for users to provide feedback — and for you to track it. Seeing how people actually use your app and knowing what they’re looking for can give you a better picture of the place mobile has in your business.
  • Partner up. You don’t need to do everything. Look for ways to connect what you have to offer with other products and services so your users get a full experience. That means you won’t get bogged down in details irrelevant to your core business.


A key thing to keep in mind when looking toward the next wave of disruptive apps is how mobile fits into the way people live. Does your app empower people to do things they already want to do? Is it strategically positioned to be useful at certain crucial times (like when they need to find a hotel room at the last minute?)


The major reason apps have been so game changing is that they have improved upon the ways people go about already doing things by not forcing people to change their lives. As long as app makers continue to keep that in mind, we are only at the beginning of the app revolution.


Is Asia Ready for a Sharing Economy?

Borrowing can be better than buying. Access can be more important than ownership. The rapidly rising number of global converts to the “sharing economy” suggests that temporary hires, peer-to-peer rentals, and other forms of “collaborative consumption” are the wave of the future.


The sharing economy helps would-be buyers save money on items that are too pricey to purchase, helps those with underused goods to share make money, and helps to conserve the planet’s resources. While this may have always been true in limited settings such as for car rentals or staying at a bed-and-breakfast, today’s technology has changed the game by making transaction costs cheaper and available to more people in a larger worldwide marketplace.


Europe and the United States have been eager early participants in the sharing economy, followed by Latin America. These are the biggest markets for online community Airbnb, which offers accommodations in 192 countries, according to Airbnb’s co-founder Brian Chesky. Yes, while you might expect that Paris, New York, or other heavily visited cities might be the largest travel regions, Bangkok and Southeast Asia is the second-largest travel region in the world—and the fastest-growing one as well.


Recognizing this trend, Chesky told Robert MacPherson for AFP that Airbnb’s service started this year to ratchet up its presence in East and Southeast Asia, opening an office in Singapore: “Asia is still pretty new, except for Australia,” said Chesky. “We are focused on Tokyo and Seoul and Southeast Asia. It’s one of our fastest-growing markets.”


In MacPherson’s article, Chesky added that there were some “cultural hurdles to overcome in Asia in getting homeowners to warm to the idea of renting out their unused spaces to strangers.” But, Chesky explained, “What I’ve been surprised by is not how different people are, but how similar they are. There are certain types of ‘Airbnb people,’ and they are in every city in the world — it’s just that in some cultures, there is more of a generational divide.”


So what will it take to bring Asia more fully into the sharing economy? As a region known for its many micro-entrepreneurs — from street vendors, tour guides, and tuk tuk drivers to small farmers and hand craftsmen — it seems that the sharing economy holds great potential.


Sharing resources offers travelers the ability to experience Southeast Asia’s unique culture. Withlocals, for example, can empower hosts to enrich their own lives while helping others. As hosts use their own knowledge and skills to build their businesses and create a better livelihood for themselves, they, at the same time, provide personal and authentic travel experiences to visitors. The sharing economy does away with the middlemen, passing on the savings to travelers and giving hosts in Asia the ability to sell directly to tourists. For all of these reasons, the sharing economy can help those who most need it in these regions.


Although Chesky pointed out certain cultural hurdles that may serve as barriers to the quick adoption of the sharing economy in Asia, there are other cultural suggestions that Asia is ripe to get swept up in the movement. It’s a family-oriented culture that takes care of its own be they family, friends, or neighbors and cares for its elders rather than turning first to nursing homes.


So is Asia ready for a sharing economy? While the jury is still out, cultural signs like these suggest that embracing a more global family may not be far off for the region—especially if doing so benefits one’s own.


TechCrunch Disrupts Battlefield Winner Announced!

On the final day of TechCrunch Disrupts, the final six startups duked it out in the Startup Battlefield—they were: Regalii, Ossia, Fates Forever, SoilIQ, Dryft, and Layer. Each of these teams took part in the Startup Battlefield earlier on against 23 other finalists and came out on top.

To determine the winner, the startups’ impact on the world are reviewed by a panel of judges consisting of: Michael Arrington (Founder of TechCrunch), Roelof Botha (partner at Sequoia Capital), Chris Dixon (Andreesen Horowitz), David Lee (founder of SV Angel), Marissa Mayer (CEO of Yahoo!), and Keith Rabois (Khosla Ventures). The startup that wins the Startup Battlefield will bring home the Disrupt Cup along with a $50,000 stipend.


Regalii’s goal is to maximize the efficiency of remittance. Their product functions through SMS; essentially, the sender can send an SMS to somebody and the recipient will get a pin number that works like a gift card. This is an improvement to current forms of remittance such as Western Union in that the recipient gets the money immediately—this means that, along with speedy money delivery, both parties minimize the deductions made by a third party. Thus far, the startup has experienced a growth of 67% per week, showing signs of success in the market. Regalii claimed that this product “is the future of global remittance.”


Ossia created a product named COTA. This device is the first of its kind as it is able to remotely send power anywhere within a 30 feet radius to devices and charge them. COTA will detect the device location via a secondary attachment and send power to and only to that location. A demonstration was shown in which a light bulb lit up when held near a prototype, but went out the moment it was moved—the consumer model is expected to be able to charge a moving device as well. Imagine a world where wires are no longer needed—everything will be charged wirelessly. That is the future that Ossia offers with COTA.


Fates Forever is a gaming startup. What makes it so special is that it proposes to bring a MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) to the growing tablet market—this has never been done before. The touchscreen will add even more to the gaming experience. While some of the judges questioned the novelty (and, thus, the ability to get a large enough market) of reintroducing a popularized genre to the tablet, founder, Jason Citron, countered by stating that many successful games are essentially a reintroduction of previous games with a different spin. In this case, the use of a touchscreen and an under-saturated tablet gaming market will bring Fates Forever far.


SoilIQ aims to revolutionize the farming industry. They created a device that can be stuck into the ground where it will measure various aspects of the soil: pH, temperature, humidity, sunlight, etc. The device is solar powered and sends the data to the cloud, where it will be analyzed. The software will make crop suggestions based on the state of the soil. Additionally, when the parameters of the soil changes such that the crop will die, a message will be sent to the user’s phones. The company measured a 15% - 20% increase in crop yield, showing proof of concept. With this, crops can be grown in larger bulk, sold more cheaply, and, most importantly, can feed more mouths.


Dryft was the runner up of the TechCrunch Disrupts Battlefield. Their plan is to optimize texting efficiency for the tablet. The product is essentially a tablet keyboard. The on screen keyboard will take advantage of the accelerometer and touch screen to detect typing based on the vibrations made from tapping the screen. As a byproduct of easier typing, the front end (e.g. autocorrect) won’t be as messy, either. While there is a transition from notebook to tablet, this product can possibly push the rate of this shift even faster!


This leaves the winner of the TechCrunch Disrupts Battlefield, Layer. This startup offers a product to all app developers; a code that can allow them to easily and seamlessly integrate SMS, voice, and video communication to any app. Not only that, there is no phone to phone restriction—multiple devices can take part. While many other companies have tried this, they’ve only been able to succeed at the beginning stages, because of the underestimated difficulty of this undertaking, resulting in scaling problems. Layer could potentially maximize the efficiency of communications between all mobile devices.


All of these startups had amazing ideas with proof of concept—unfortunately, only one could win. This doesn’t mean the end of any of the other companies. A backstage chat said that, “as long as these startups don’t [mess] up, they will be very successful.” While Layer won, not everybody is in agreement with that decision. Who do you think should have won?


Top Startup and Tech News Today-7 Things You Missed Today

1. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg on NSA Leaks: “The Government Blew It”


Mark Zuckerberg offered his outraged opinion when questioned about his thoughts on the fact that government is asking internet companies for user information. He says that “the government blew it” when it came to finding the balance between maintaining the civil liberties of the people and national protection. He has taken and plans to take more steps towards increasing the transparency of government requests for data.


Facebook joined a lawsuit asking the Obama administration to “allow it to disclose more details of its forced cooperation.” In addition, Zuckerberg plans on visiting Republican lawmakers in Washington D.C. and discuss the privacy issues.


2. Court Decision Means Another Look At Google Street View Case


Google has, once again, been accused of breaching wiretapping laws with their Street View car excursions. The U.S. Appeals Court in San Francisco does not plan on dismissing the lawsuit against the company which states that the Street View cars were taking advantage of unencrypted networks to collect digital conversations.


Google argues that the “internet data it was collecting was broadcast over the airwaves and was not encrypted” and that “the communications were more like radio transmissions than phone calls.” Circuit Judge Bybee stated that, while it is common for people to take advantage of neighbors’ unencrypted, they don’t normally record and decrypt the data obtained. This lawsuit could cost Google billions.


3. Five Startups to Watch From Kaplan’s TechStars-Powered Ed Tech Accelerator Demo Day


Kaplan’s one time joint ed tech accelerator with TechStars decided to run their ed tech accelerator program again with strong results. It’s no wonder—analysts have said that “venture capital deal activity remains strong in ed tech.” Five of the most highly praised startups on demo day are: Degreed, Flinja, Newsela, Ranku, Verificient.


Degreed’s goal is to provide a means of “quantifying and credentialing learning.” Flinja offers college students small projects to do in an effort to break the catch 22 of needing experience for a job while needing a job for experience. Newsela works to improve student literacy by providing stories, each of which comes in several levels of difficulty. Students will be given a version of a story that matches their reading level and they can opt for more challenging version should they choose to do so. Ranku allows students to explore virtual degree programs that is able to provide a quality education at affordable prices. Verificient is an automated proctoring system that monitors keystrokes and facial expressions to keep virtual students honest whilst taking tests and whatnot.


4. Hanoi: 200 Students Off School Because of Hacker


An identified hacker broke into the security system of Ha Dinh primary school in Hanoi, Vietnam and sent messages to the parents of students. The first of the messages informed the parents of students that there would be unexpected work and that students would not need to attend on September 6th. A following message to the parents said that the school would be upgrading its facilities for improved education and asked for a contribution of VND1.2 million along with an extra VND200,000 per child. Luckily, the school caught wind of the messages soon after the second message was sent and followed up with a message clarifying the situation.


5. How the Internet of Things is Making Our Homes Smarter (And Easier to Hack)


With everything being connected together and to the internet, the world is becoming a more convenient place. However, this comes at a price: everything becomes accessible if someone tried hard enough.


John Matherly created a search engine named Shodan. It doesn’t function the same way other search engines like Google or Bing do—it searches for things that are connected to the internet. Additionally, it can tell how secure a device is. For example, it discovered a huge security flaw in a hydroelectric plant in France. What Matherly does with Shodan is to warn people of unsecure devices. In the end though, “it’s the customer’s responsibility to keep their own homes safe.”


6. Internet Entrepreneur Believed to be First 9/11 Casualty Remembered in New Book


No Better Time: The Brief, Remarkable Life of Danny Lewin, the Genius Who Transformed the Internet, a book written by Molly Knight Raskin details the first casualty of the September 11 attacks. He was stabbed on the first plane that hit the twin towers, leaving behind his wife and two children.


What makes him remarkable isn’t the fact that he’s the first casualty, but, instead, that he was one of the co-founders of a company known as Akamai. He and Tom Leighton, the other half of Akamai, worked on codes to speed up dial-up internet connections. This success brought in billions of dollars overnight. While they started strongly, the company hit a wall and was losing money quickly—it was September 10 when they had worked out how to cut costs.


Though he left use early, he left behind a legacy that strongly impacted the internet.


7. Microsoft’s Concept Videos From 2000 Were Spot-On. So Why Didn’t Ballmer Build Any of It?


Back in the days of minidisc players and 9 keyed phones, Microsoft’s CEO, Steve Ballmer, had a vision; one where all devices within a household could be connected together. This idea came into existence before Apple, Google, or anyone else. What happened?


Essentially the company didn’t realize these aspirations due to disagreements on some aspects while other facets of the idea were before its time and, before long, the dot-com bubble burst. “Had the company executed on even a fraction of its vision, Microsoft wouldn’t be out looking for a new CEO,” stated a former Microsoft executive, Charles Fitzgerald.


Top Startup and Tech News Today-7 Things You Missed Today

1. How eBay Could Rescue Bitcoin From the Feds


Bitcoin exchanges have run into a hurdle in the form of the U.S. banks. There are questions about whether or not they “meet federal and state money transmission business regulations.” While this is quite a setback, another company is in prime position to take advantage of the situation: eBay. It had a “virtual currencies” section, allowing people to sell and purchase Bitcoins—it’s a forum for Bitcoin exchange, bypassing the federal and state regulations via PayPal.


The only thing preventing eBay from taking advantage of this opportunity, should they choose to do so, is the fact that Paypal allows chargebacks. Someone could purchase Bitcoins on eBay and simply state that the Bitcoins weren’t delivered, defrauding the seller. If eBay manages to solve this problem, PayPal could be in even bigger competition with Bitcoin. “They could very well find their business model outdated,” states financial regulations lawyer, Van Cleef.


2. Google is joining the Open edX platform


Google released Course Builder, an experimental platform, last year to test the waters in online education. It was well received with a multitude of different online courses available with various institutions experimenting with MOOCs (massive open online course). To continue with the online education front, Google has decided to join Open edX, a non-profit aiming to provide interactive online courses, as a contributor.


The effects of the combined efforts of both companies will provide much for the developers and consumers. Director of Research, Dan Clancy says, “We hope that our continued contributions to open source education projects will enable anyone who builds online education products to benefit from our technology, services and scale. For learners, we believe that a more open online education ecosystem will make it easier for anyone to pick up new skills and concepts at anytime, anywhere.”


3. Consumer: Stay Smart to Avoid WiFi Hackers


Becoming a super connected metropolis with free WiFi everywhere sounds great, but it also has its cons. One glaring problem is the presence of WiFi Hackers. Leeds is one such city that hopes to realize this vision.  A survey done on Britons was done to examine their WiFi use and determine how safe people really are.


Half of the surveyed do not know if the WiFi hotspot they use is secure, opening them up to identity fraud. Two thirds use the hotspots to check their email, a smorgasbord of personal information. Even more surprising, ten percent of people access their bank accounts with the public WiFi.


A brief list from these findings states that: important online tasks should stay at home, remove automatic connections on your mobile device, and don’t use apps whose encryption method is unknown.


4. Microsoft Seeks Cloud, Mobile, and Gaming Startups in London’s Tech City


Microsoft launched a 12 week accelerator program for UK cloud, mobile, and gaming startups in East London Tech City. 20 startups will have the opportunity to gain mentorship from executives from Microsoft, Train2Game, Lift London, and more.  This program is the latest of 10 around the world by Microsoft. The success rate of companies, from a total of 119, getting funding (within 6 months of the program’s end) is 85 percent! The kicker, though, is that Microsoft does not plan on taking equities from the startups. Rather, they will hope that the accelerator program will help to create future successful partnerships and additions to the Microsoft family.


5. Facebook Rolls Out “Professional Skills” Section on User Profiles


Facebook tries its hand at doing what LinkedIn has been already been doing, acting as a professional outlet for users. It recently included a new feature that allows users to add professional skills to their profile. Facebook takes this one step further than LinkedIn in that they connect skills to relevant interest groups, giving potential hires even more exposure. For those who worry about privacy, there is an option to adjust the privacy settings on the resume.


“If Facebook’s Professional Skills feature takes off, you’ll be able to browse through friends’ vacation picks and potential hires, all at the same time.”


6. What Startups Need to Know about Obamacare


With Obamacare coming out soon, startups have more health insurance options available to employees. Plans will come in 4 flavors—the typical Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum setup, each with increasing cost and coverage.


Exchanges will start on October 1st, 2013—small businesses can take advantage of this time and look at the exchanges and plans. Since insurance companies will not be able to deny anyone, the rates for insurance will increase, especially for those below the age of 30. However, most of the regulations placed onto small businesses are delayed until 2015 instead of 2014.


7. Fun: First Actual Computer Bug Was Found Today, 66 Years Ago


It’s time to celebrate the 66th birthday of the first discovered computer bug! In 1947, the Mark II Aiken Relay Computer in Harvard had a peculiarity in its system—a bug. For all the technophiles out there, it, unfortunately isn’t the metaphorical bug we all know of; it was literally a bug; a moth. The person who helped to publicize this and coin the term “bugging” and “debugging” is Grace Hopper. The moth itself exists in a logbook in the Nation Museum of American History, but, unfortunately, is not on display.


Everybody Has An Idea

Everybody has an idea,but very few people understand the process of taking that idea and bringing it to market. Here at Miproto, we see it every day. There are many ways to go about launching a product.


Not every one of our stages may apply to your product; maybe you have succeeded in a different manner – but the major details are the same. PRODUCT. Not patent. Customers won’t buy your patent. Okay one could, but that’s a different post. Customers want to buy your product, so that is where the focus should be.


Here, I detail a basic overview of how you should plan your route to market. This is based around the introduction of a physical product, but elements of it could be reflected in digital mediums too. It isn’t necessarily the right or only way, but this is how we like to work!


Initial idea

Your initial idea is the most important part. You know, roughly, what you want to create. You may not understand exactly how it will work, or how it will be made, but the dream is there. Start by noting things down-create rough sketches and annotate them. What does your product do, how big is it? Consider materials and their fitness for purpose. A tip for those who have a fear of Crayola and an obsessive pessimism of their drawing skills: Try drawing from 3 angles in 2D. Draw on gridded paper with a ruler, from the front, side and top view. This is the best way to convey your idea to somebody who is technically minded.


Detailed drawing and sketches

Once you have developed your concept into a potentially functioning item, you can begin more detailed drawings. The idea of these drawings is to bring a reality to your design. Try to draw to scale and consider the premade components you may include in this design. If your Crayola self-esteem is low, you could consider working with a product design firm on this. At Miproto we like to keep this early stage development in one ‘Rapid Prototyping’ package, however some firms may structure differently and you should be wary of hourly fees for artistic drawings!


CAD modelling and simulation

CAD modelling is the creation of a 3D, computerized, drawing. The model is used to compare components in scale and in some cases simulate function for testing. CAD packages nowadays are very powerful; it is possible to simulate almost anything. We work with Innova Systems, using Solidworks to simulate everything from material strength to cooling air flow and heat distribution. These systems are expensive and complex industry solutions, you may wish to use programs yourself. The ideal entry level CAD program I have found is Sketchup. You won’t get the simulation features, but you will be able to build accurate scale models for evaluation.


Photorealistic rendering

Rendering is done from the CAD model. Using a rendering engine, you can create images of your product from the model that looks almost lifelike. These are great for conveying a vision to both potential customers and retailers. Programs like solidworks have built-in engines. We like to use Keyshot at Miproto. Shaderlight is a plugin available for Sketchup that has very strong capabilities. These images are perfect for beginning your marketing campaign and discussions with potential buyers.


3D Printed Models

Yes, yes. It’s what everybody is talking about. The truth is, 3D printing has been around for a long time. It was first functional in the 1980’s, but the media attention does mean prices are coming down! You can directly export your model to a 3D printer for creation. If you have managed to produce a model yourself, you have two options: either invest in a desktop printer or send your designs to a professional print factory. Desktop printers are getting cheaper, but I can’t stress enough how they are not the real thing! We use desktop printers in the office. Each designer has one next to their desk. They are used to quickly produce rough models and try out ideas–however, we never present those to clients. Anything that is to be professionally presented should always be produced by SLS or SLA processes that provide a much more detailed and finished product. The desktop printer quality is just not good enough at this stage.


We feel that having scale models is so important that we include it in the price of our first stage Rapid Prototyping package. You can use printed models to start presenting working ideas to people. Does your product have mechanical components? You can use printing to demonstrate its function to potential buyers and suppliers. It is a key part of building interest and marketing as well as evaluating function.


Market Research

Buzz word! But it is important. You want to sell your product to Common Chris? Then you need to hear what Common Chris has to say throughout your design process. Ask his friends too. There are many ways to perform this research–we have found that the best way is to introduce your product to people. Why not take your idea to dinner with a group of friends (and their friends) for feedback? Don’t have friends? Make new ones! We often use TableCrowd to host dinners with a focus group of complete strangers. They can provide valuable feedback on designs mid development. Scared of people and social interaction? Do it through the internet! Create videos, create blog posts, use online surveys. Do everything you can to get feedback on your product. Positive reviews are good, negative reviews are better. At this stage you don’t need to hear how awesome you are, you need to know what’s bad about your product whilst fixable!


Development on Market Response

This response is valuable. Treat it with utmost respect. The public is going to buy your product, so consider what the majority has to say; this is your opportunity to make changes! It’s good, at this stage, to skip back a bit, modify your CAD model, create new renders, new 3D printed models and go out for more abuse! You’ll grow to love the abuse, I promise!


Presentation to Potential Retailers

Once you have stopped getting a lot of flakk, get out there and sell! It doesn’t matter that you’re not finished-retailers always like to have a say in a product. Bring them the prototypes, show them the market feedback. Heck, get a projector and project your CAD model onto their secretary. Do what it takes to get your product in front of people. They will be able to give you more feedback. If they like it, then it’s full steam ahead! If they don’t, make sure to find out why.


Whether it’s positive or negative you will have feedback. Take it on board, and build it into the CAD model again. Then go ahead and manufacture more models.



You have the public and retailer feedback followed by improvements; it is time to collect some money. Pre-selling a product is a very efficient way to raise capital for first production runs. You don’t have to give away equity, pay interest, or borrow against your house/land/spaceship. It’s also proved quite an effective marketing tool for some people. The risk in pre-purchasing a product on Kickstarter before it is available to the public seems to provide the high of angel investing for people, albeit with slightly lower stakes.


Final Developments

Even once you think you’re done, more feedback will creep through and you’ll find something you never considered. This is your opportunity to make final changes in the CAD models. Use renders and printed models to check your improvements. Perhaps get your grandmother to test it, that is, if she can figure out your new-fangled technologies.


Short Run Sampling

Preparing your CAD model for manufacturing can require small changes. If pieces are to be injection molded, you may have to position the injection locations etc. By doing a test run of 1 – 10 units you will ensure everything assembles correctly. Having 100,000 units of something that almost works, but not quite, is a bit lame.



NOW, you lawyer loving shareaphobes can get your cash out. You have your product and you know exactly what it does and how it works. How different is it to what you originally thought up? Yeah, Josh was right! By sitting tight and waiting, you will save endless sums of money patenting features that you end up changing or not even using in your marketable product. I could tell you a lot about the technicalities of patenting, but I won’t. Make sure you make your claims are as broad as possible and always, always do international patent searches prior to filing even for a local patent. Nothing is worse than watching your patent pend for 2 years only to have a foreign patent holder exercise their rights and strike it down.


First Batch Manufacture

It is then time for a shipping container. You have your samples and you know that everything is assembled correctly, so there is nothing to worry about! You can order enough units to fulfil your pre sales plus any orders you managed to negotiate with suppliers as well as some additional units for stock. In our experience, manufacturer lead times are usually about 50% off. You should keep this in mind when making promises in your pre-sales! A big part of manufacturing abroad is trust. We have had to work with our partnership facilities for many years to build trust and understanding. We like to go out there every few months to check in and keep communication strong. Because of this, we can now trust the manufacturers we employ to produce our customer’s projects. If going it alone with foreign manufacturers, always make sure you get references and case studies that you can validate. Anybody can set up a website showing you rows of machines, how many do they really have?


Make Money!

This bit is fun too, but you’ll soon want to work on something new!


That’s it-that’s the how I suggest you do it. If you’ve succeeded to launch a product in a different way, or just want to talk your idea through, then I’d love to hear from you!


(No grandmothers were hurt in the testing of products at Miproto)

Josh Valman is 18 from London and Managing Director at Miproto. Miproto is an Internet based product design, development and prototyping platform. It allows anybody to upload and develop their product idea into something real. @JoshValman


Tech & Startups: Top 7 Things You Missed Today

Tech & Startups:  Top 7 News Items From Across the WeJuly 29th, 2013

  1. Tech Giants Beware! $35.1 B Merger creates World’s Biggest Advertising Agency


Omnicom and Publicis are merging to create the world’s biggest advertising agency worth $35.1 billion. The company will be called Publicis Omnicom Group and will be led by Omnicom CEO, John Wre,n and Publicis CEO Maurice Levy. They will be co-chief executives.


Meanwhile, Google is currently the world’s biggest digital ad network, and Facebook recently showed promising returns on mobile. Both of these companies, plus Yahoo, Apple and other tech giants have reason to be alarmed by this recent acquisition and potential threat in what is considered to be the internet’s top bounty: digital advertising.


2. 60 Minutes Predicts Steve Jobs Will Be Forgotten


In a recent documentary on Bill Gates, 60 Minutes highlighted the business magnate gone philanthropist, asserting he will make a longer-lasting imprint on society than Steve Jobs.


Here’s a link to the video:


3. Heart Surgery in India for $1583.00 costs $106,385 in U.S.


A heart surgeon turned businessman, Devi Shetty, has cut the price of coronary bi-pass surgery down to a mere $1583. It currently costs $106,385 at Ohio’s Cleveland Clinic, as first reported by Bloomberg.


How does Shetty accomplish such low prices across the 21 medical centers around India? He cuts down on air conditioning, the cost of medical scrubs and also foregoes Pre-Op testing.

 “The current price of everything that you see in health care is predominantly opportunistic pricing and the outcome of inefficiency.” - Devi Shetty


4. New Invention Wards Off Date-Rape Drug


A Boston MassChallenge startup has invented new cups and straws, designed to change color in the event someone slips a date-rape drug into your drink.


startups from boston mass challenge


The creator, Michael Abramson, was drugged himself one night in a Boston nightclub – which inspired the new concept. He raised $52,000 on IndieGoGo, citing support and outreach from other date rape drug victims.

“Your straw would actually change color. Any part that is touching the drink would actually then change color. And it would be designed, too, so it would be clear that there was a color change happening, there would be no question about it,” Abramson told WGBH news

5. The Ultimate Electric Driving Machine … Isn’t Tesla


BMW has just entered the EV market with an announcement today of the new BMW i3. The new vehicle in the i-Line is priced at $41,350 and expected to reach the United States in early 2014.


Current stats include a 22-kilowatt, 450-pound lithium-ion power and the ability to reach 80-100 miles with 170 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque.


On that note, the Nissan Leaf is still a better value in the EV market, but BMW at least has a carved out a starting point.



6. Busy Month For Bitcoin: Ruled to be Illegal in Thailand


Earlier this month, we reported the first website in Iran “Coin Ava” is now open to buying and selling Bitcoin. Yet, in a recent meeting between Bitcoin, LLC. and The Bank of Thailand, bitcoin was ruled to illegal in Thailand. The following reasons were stated: “lack of existing applicable laws, capital controls and the fact that Bitcoin straddles multiple financial facets.”


7. Fun Project with Arduino: Monitoring Toilets

Using a wireless Arduino, a team in Tokyo has designed a monitoring device for bathrooms. Similar to airplane occupancy lights, the team designed a way to know if the bathroom is occupied across three floors.





Stop Ignoring Your Audience in the Emerging Markets

Our headquarters are located in Estonia, which is a country with 1.3 million people. This country is roughly the size of New Hampshire. Testing products in Estonia is mostly fruitless - the sample size is small enough to be statistically unreliable, even when building a consumer product. Regardless of the limitations, we have connected 80 countries through 300 mobile operators - the largest coverage in the mobile payments industry.

Our highlighting of these numbers is not meant as self-appraisal. Because we don’t have a comfortably large home market, expansion into other countries has been vital for us. It is also something that companies in large, developed countries do not have to worry about and has proven to be a wonderful competitive advantage.


Companies with a large enough user base in the home market are in danger of getting tunnel vision. If you are already at break-even, why would you take the chance of expanding into uncharted territories on other continents? If thinking about launching your product in Brazil or Poland seems risky, it’s because expansion has not been internalized in the company from the get-go. You are essentially giving up on targeting billions of potential customers.


In addition to avoiding risk, another reason for evading expansion is the false assumption that revenue is concentrated in North America and Western Europe. While it is true that the purchasing power in these regions is significantly higher, the other side of the coin is that user acquisition and competition is much tougher as well.

In the mobile payments industry, we can illustrate this disparity by comparing user acquisition costs on the iOS and Android platforms. Android is dominating the emerging markets and user acquisition is almost two times lower than on iOS. Mature consumer economies are flooded with products and services, which means it is much harder for a newcomer to stick out.

One of our most successful markets in terms of revenue is Brazil. This is a country where we have neither an office nor any local employees. There are several reasons why Brazil is huge for companies involved in mobile games:

  • Brazilians has a population of 193 million people
  • Brazil is the second largest market on Facebook after US
  • 31 percent of all men in Brazil are gamers
  • 23 percent of Brazilian Internet users play games regularly


Brazilians love gaming.  So, why wouldn’t you try to enter this market as a game developer? The data above allows us to argue that there is revenue potential there and our own success in Brazil confirms it. However, if you think about your social circle - what percentage of entrepreneurs are planning of expanding into Brazil? It is likely to be very few, as emerging economies are not important for many companies.


If you do decide to differentiate yourself and aim at a market in Latin America, Eastern Europe, Africa or Asia, there key criteria to be considered not usually relevant for US-centric companies:


  1. Language - Forget English.  In Latin America, you need Portuguese (the Brazilian version) and Spanish to guarantee that people can understand you. In Europe, there are 50 countries, most of which have their own language - and so on.
  2. Hardware & connectivity - Not everyone owns the latest MacBook or Galaxy S4 - if your product does not run on less powerful lower-end devices, traction might not be as good as you expected. And if your product needs heavy data usage to work, it would be smart to check what kind of high-speed Internet coverage your target market has.
  3. Design - Open up the homepage of China’s largest instant messaging service QQ and you will notice that it is completely different from what we consider “good” web design. Design is not culturally universal.
  4. Payment options - In Brazil, only one third of the population has credit cards. In order to collect revenue from users, you need to look at what payment methods work in each country - it might be worth considering mobile payments, pre-paid cash cards, etc.
  5. Pricing - The Big Mac Index has a good reason for existing - people in different countries have different purchasing power. Do not expect your product to sell if you are asking for the same prices as in the States.

Emerging markets might seem like a gargantuan challenge at first - foreign, fragmented, and distant. But that’s only because you have not been thinking about them in the past. With China reaching the first position in smartphone sales last year globally, now is the latest point at which you can afford to start reaching out.


Fortumo is a mobile payments company that powers in-app payments for game developers such as Rovio, Gameloft, Vostu and Zeptolab. The company covers 80 countries through 300 operators and lets users make payments on the web and in Android, Windows 8 and Windows Phone apps. For more information about Fortumo, visit For insights into the mobile payments industry, read