What Protein Bars, Perfume and Soho House Taught Me About Innovation and Change

A couple weeks ago, my girlfriend took me to London for the weekend. Being in a different environment and having some time to observe things and do some shopping, I noticed how wrong my thinking about innovation and change can often be. Three events changed my thinking: 

💅 1.What happend with Chanel No. 5?!
My idea of a perfume shop is a brightly lit store, with walls covered with pictures of actresses and hundreds of little bottles in all shapes, colours and sizes. A place where you feel uncomfortable as heavily make-up ladies wander around and ignore you. 

Then we stumbled in the Le Labo Perfume store. This perfume shop looked more like a laboratory from the fifties then a perfume store. There were only 20 or so brown and boring little bottles on a shelf. After my GF picked out a fragrance, a guy in a lab coat started to add fluids from all types of bottles together and mixed the perfume on the spot! He printed a personal label which included who – the guy in the labcoat – where and for whom the bottle was made. You couldn’t even start using the perfume directly because “the fluids have to sink in and mix for a few days.”  

So no marketing, no fancy models, not a few hundred options. And twice the price of a bottle of Chanel No. 5. Who would have expected that the perfume market would change in this direction? 

🥂 2.Paying for paying for a drink? Soho House 
Soho House recently opened in Amsterdam. This is a private member club for people who work in media and arts. You have to pay around 2000 Euro’s a year to be member, which gives you access to clubs, hotels and venues around the world. 

I thought this was really weird. Why pay to get into a bar, where you still have to pay to get a drink! I thought this whole Soho House thing was ridiculous until we were trying to find some decent breakfast in one of those hectic crazy tourist-flooded streets in London. Again the GF surprised me, while she flashed a black card standing in front of a discrete looking door in Greek street. 

A door opened, and we entered a quiet bar, with lots of space to sit and a wood fire crackling in every room. It seemed a bit like another world than the hectic and busy places on the other side of the door. And to my own horror, I had to admit it was really nice. And if I had a cooler job title – and KLM would  give me a raise haha – , I would totally apply for a membership. Again I was totally wrong in my first presumptions and in the diverse ways a bar experience can change. 

🍫 3. What happened with Snickers and Kitkat!? 
What’s wrong with a good ol’ Lion or Mars when you’re a little hungry? Apparently a lot. Because in every coffeeshop or supermarket you can buy every possible edible substance molded in the form a candy bar. I had no idea that a category like this could change so much. And it’s good business too. For example RXBAR was founded in 2012 and was sold to Kelloggs for $600 million in 2017. I never could have predicted or imagined how this seemingly stable category could change into a thousand shapes, flavours and prices. 

🤔 Everything will change 
These experiences made me realize again, that everything arounds us will change. And it will often change in ways, that we don’t understand or that we don’t expect. 

Therefore, I try to look at all the normal products and services around us and try to image all the crazy ways this product could change. I’m drinking a tea right now made from a regular tea bag. Maybe in the future the tea flavor is part from a little container embedded in the cup, or I add the tea flavor to my cup from a tube of tea gel. The same counts for Voice, AI, or the use of apps in the Airline business. 

Everything arounds us will change. And no one – especially not this hillbilly from the Bible belt  –  can predict how it will change. But imagining the ways all products around us will change, gives an imaginative and fresh perspective on the world around us. 

Lingerie Wars, Obesity and Bankruptcy, Slowly then Suddenly!

👠👙💸 I’m fascinated with this line “Gradually then suddenly”, from the article of Tim O’Reilly who uses it to describe technological change. It basically stresses that all sudden change – although it appears sudden – is often an accumulation of smaller events that were happening for many years. 

I like to think it’s applicable to most aspects of life, society and business. Think about getting obese. Gain just 2 kilo’s every year and after 10 years, you can’t run up the stairs anymore. Or pay more attention to your iPhone then your girlfriend. Do it long enough and she’ll dump your tweeting ass. 

For me it explains really well, that you have to keep paying attention to trends, habits and economic forces, that appear to be small –  but overtime can ensure a sudden change that you didn’t see coming. Take for example the #flyingshame trend or the slow rise of voice interfaces. Easy to dismiss now as fads – Alexa set the timer to 10 minutes -, but in a couple years can be big in unexpected ways. 

A great example on how this works in business is the rough weather lingerie company Victoria Secret appears to be in. Not a market that I would think is very dynamic, underwear is just underwear right.

For years Victory Secret has been the leading company in the US lingerie market (worth $7 Billion in total). But a growing portion of woman is getting tired of trying to look like a ripped naughty housemaid with a rock hard sixpack. And are looking for more comfortable underwear and natural looks. 

Add to this the rise of more “body positive” underwear start-ups like ThirdLoveChroma and Adore Me who sell comfortable, inclusive and directly online to their clients. And all of a sudden your sales are falling and your closing shops left and right. 

Slowly. Then suddenly. 

PS: Good job ladies! If I were you, I would quit wearing those uncomfortable high heels too!  

Best of February 2019

🤓🤖 AR Will Spark the Next Big Tech Platform  – Call it Mirrorworld 
If you think the internet is done. And there are no opportunities anymore. Please read this mind-boggling vision on the possible impact of Augmented Reality.
Kevin Kelly states that in the future everything in the world – from objects to streets and the world itself – will have a virtual counterpart. He calls this the mirrorworld.

On top of this, all objects will be fitted with sensors and camera’s. This means that all objects can recognize and “see” each other and can be positioned in the world. Objects will constantly update their image of the world around them and will send this data to other smart objects or robots. 

“Watches will detect chairs; chairs will detect spreadsheets; glasses will detect watches, even under a sleeve; tablets will see the inside of a turbine; turbines will see workers around them” .


🖥 🔪 The Trauma Floor, The secret Live of Facebook moderators in America 
Imagine a social media company so big, that you need 15.000 content reviewers in 20 sites around the world, to 24/7 review all posted content, in an attempt to remove porn, violence, fake news and other content violating FB’s community standards. This article from Casey Newton gives a first glance in the bizarre world of content moderation of the worlds biggest social media platform. 

What stands out most for me in the article, is the impact on the mental health of the content moderators. It is widely known that normal users of social media can experience, fear of missing out, un-satisfaction with their own lives and anxieties. Social media is a bit like potato chips. The first couple of bites taste great. But after a whole bag, you feel very dirty inside.

Anyway, also the moderators – who view around 400 posts a day – started to believe things like the Earth is actually flat and the denial of the Holocaust – often referred to as the Holohoax. Some moderators started even experiencing symptoms of ’secondary traumatic stress disorder.  

This article gives some good insight in one of the aspects of social media we never really read or think about.

⌚️Nubia’s new wearable puts a 4-inch (10 cm) flexible smartphone on your wrist
Interesting to see how form factors from laptops, tables and smartphones seem to merge. I can find myself sometimes pinching my laptop screen or wishing I could pinch and zoom while reading a paper magazine. But now also the domain of smartwatches and smartphones seems to be merging.

Nubia just released a foldable screen of 10cm that wraps around your wrist. Apple just filed a patent for a foldable iPhone. And also Motorola confirms that their foldable smartphone is coming. 

This tweet of Benedict Evans on this subject makes a lot of sense to me:

“I’m not sure if folding phones will be a thing. I am pretty sure that screens that don’t have to be a flat rectangle, but can be any shape and molded over a curved surface, will be part of general product design”.


Best of January 2019

 🧟‍♂️🤖The Digital Maginot line
One of the most thorough articles about our current world of disinformation campaigns, state employed cyber warriors, amateur guerrillas and sponsored trolls. Renee DiResta argues how media platforms and governments should change their approach in trying to react to this. 

The most interesting point that DiResta makes, is that contrary to a normal war where the objective is the physical territory. In the “Warm War” that is currently fought, the territory is the human mind. “Once a combatant wins over a sufficient number of minds, they have the power to influence culture and society, policy and politics. Think about this next time your uncle is sharing some Deep state theories on the family What’s App. 

In this time of Wikileaks, Brexit, Click farms and viral propaganda being spread with almost no cost, an important article to read! 

🌎🌈2019 predictions of Scott Galloway
What I like about Scott Galloway is his holistic view on business. He combines technology trends with product and marketing and a strong insight in financial markets, while most experts view the world from their single perspective. His prediction for the new year always make me think a little harder. The ones that I like the best are:

Strange bedfellows A bevy of consumer and tech firms enter into strategic alliances and partnerships with only one objective: Push back on Amazon.

The rundle The consumer world begins to distill to a small number of mega brands or networks that are recurring revenue bundles (“rundle“). Business has mistaken “choice” as a good thing. Consumers want less choice, but instead confidence in the (fewer) choices presented to them.

Every digital media firm other than Facebook, Google, and Amazon Media Group loses share Lots of great firms (Refinery29, Buzzfeed) begin to show signs of asphyxiation as the oxygen continues to be sucked out of the room.

Read the rest here! https://www.l2inc.com/daily-insights/no-mercy-no-malice/2019-predictions

💩💰The internet of Shit? Or too early brilliance? An impression of CES
What I love about working in technology, it that no one knows exactly what the future will bring, and what products or business will be successful. I remember myself thinking that camera’s on Phones where the most useless thing ever. And walking around with Google Glasses thinking this was going to be the next big thing after mobile. 

Check out this twitter thread with fairly far out, companies and ideas from the last CES this January. My personal favorite is the Cyber Fishing, Smart Toilet 2.0 and the Water 2.0. https://twitter.com/edzitron/status/1083476320808398849

Six Ways to Survive a Corporate Job After a Startup Crash

When my tech business failed I did something I never thought I would: I went to work for one of the largest corporations in Europe.

During the five years I worked on Somehow, a product design agency based in Amsterdam, I thought that start-up life was my calling, the most exiting gig I ever imagined. I enjoyed the ability to pick the people I worked with, the thrill of pitching to clients, the rush of making money and the prospect of becoming financially independent. Of course, I knew that building an agency would never set me up for an IPO, the cover of Wired– or sweating in front of a US Senate hearing. But there was a good chance of accruing moderate wealth while actually loving my job.

In 2015, my co-founder Wilbert Baan and I decided that the agency was not growing enough to have a solid future ahead. We had happy customers and a decent income, but we just couldn’t lock down that steady recurring stream of income. We tried pivoting to a product model, but we didn’t have the power anymore to fully pursuit it. We decided, while we still had money in the bank and no debt to anyone, to kill the company.

I was devastated. I thought I lost the best job I ever had — the one job I could actually excel at, where my weird combination of talents and skills finally made sense.

As you can imagine, I was not really thrilled when I landed a freelance gig to develop the Location Based Product strategy in the mobile app department of AirFrance KLM. I had never worked for a company bigger than a couple hundred people; I planned to get out as fast as possible.

At this moment, I have been working at the KLM mobile team for 3.5 years! And to my own surprise, I’m actually enjoying the challenges of building products in a highly complex environment. I’m amazed and inspired at the way 80.000 employees figure out to how to organize themselves and safely transport 98 million travelers per year.

Hereunder are the lessons that helped me enjoy working at a corporate after starting out, thinking it was going to be the worst thing that ever happened to my career — and how if you are in the same position, you might change your frame of mind to see it the same way.

1. No one cares about your business failure!

This is probably a European thing. But Europeans are not very risk tolerant and failing is seen as something very negative. I expected people to judge me for failing to build a successful company. It turned out that nobody cared at all! New colleagues didn’t even ask for my reasons or motivations for shutting down the business. They asked for my portfolio, the products I had built, about the lessons I had learned and adventures I’d had.

But not a single one questioned my abilities, talent or passion due to quitting. On the contrary, they admired the guts and responsibility it took to build a company.

As long as you seem able to take care of an organizational need or problem, new colleagues don’t care what you have done before or how immaculate your career has been.

2. Speed beats politics

When I arrived at KLM, there were other teams working on roughly the same product line as I was in different parts of the organization. This caused time-consuming political power battles over which team owned a certain subject. Owning a subject translates to the number of employees managed, which in most cases determines how much bacon you bring home.

One thing I learned having my own business was to focus relentlessly and deliver as fast as possible. I don’t like politics, so I tried to delivered my POC’s and products faster than other teams.

In your corporate job, some people might be scheming — as is the case in every organization. Make sure you are building faster — prove your assumptions and product value — and often you don’t have to worry about politics.

3. Engagement paradox

When I was freelancing I didn’t care much about anything else other than helping my direct client, doing a good job on the project and maximizing my invoices. I wasn’t concerned with other people getting promotions, who the new VP or what the organizational structure would be.

Once my freelance contract was turned into an employee contract, I also became more engaged with the company and my place within it. I started comparing myself to other people and having opinions about certain managers and product decisions that didn’t even involve me. My increased engagement caused me to be less happy and sometimes frustrated.

Although it may be contrary to your intuition, if you are not too emotionally involved with your company you are actually able to have more fun, relax and achieve more. Don’t get locked in with regard to your skill set and keep an independent frame of mind.

4. Organizational structure equals individual freedom

As a surfer, I need to sneak out of the office from time to time to surf our fickle North Sea. I always thought that being my own boss gave me the most freedom to surf when the waves were up. But there were many times when deadlines and meetings won over surfing.

At KLM, people are obsessed with structure and super smooth processes. I was annoyed at first having to “succumb” them. It took me quite some time to realize that when your process and structures are set up well, there is a lot less dependency on individuals to keep everything running. Good processes in place mean less stress, more cognitive space and — in all honesty — it’s easier to sneak off early and go surfing, because everything keeps running also when I’m not there.

I came to love designing internal process just as much as product design. A well designed process equals individual freedom. Whether it comes to working on your long term strategy, freedom to think or write or to run off to sea every now and then.

5. Every corporation was a crazy successful start-up once

In an abstract sense, the challenges at Adyen, Shopify and Lyft are quite similar to the ones of older or more established companies. We’re all fixing a problem, we’re all battling for talent and revenue.

This perspective makes a lot of problems and discussions interesting. Shift your perspective and look at your corporate as though it is a crazy successful start-up which battled it out for decades and made it. Imagine everything you can learn and implement from a big business in case you might want to try your hand at another start-up again in the future.

6. Love your craft

This has been my biggest and also most liberating lesson of all. I love solving hard problems and developing digital products. I love working with a team of smart people with different skills sets. I love building a little army and fighting as hard as we can.

During my time at a big corporation, I realized that it almost doesn’t matter in which type of company I work. Every different type of organization enables me to learn and improve my skills.

It can be your own agency, start-up or within a giant corporation. The rules are a bit different, but the core is the same. Love what you do, be grateful for the opportunity to improve your skills and you’ll be happy where ever the up-and-downs of your career will take you.

Best of November 2018

🌍💰The end of the beginning! 
Benedict Evans is one of my favorite thinkers about online markets and products. In this presentation at the a16z annual tech conference two weeks ago, he explains that almost all adults have access to the internet now. So this is almost finished. But that contrary to most of our thinking, e-commerce still is only a small fraction of total retail spending. He states, most of the people are online, but most of the money is not. The past 20 years has been about e-commerce and advertising, the next 20 years will about everything else! Watch his presentation and get a good sense of the mind boggling size of the markets that are still not online and are ready to be transformed in the next 20 years. 

🙊💸Did Facebook shows it’s true face?
NY times discovered that Facebook knew of massive Russian interference through Facebook already in the spring of 2016. And despite internal evidence of intentions to disrupt the American elections, viral propaganda and fake news. Choose selling ads and company growth over the truth.Later things got even crazier. On the outside FB launched an apologizing campaign emphasizing, privacy, friendship and trust. On the inside, the gloves were off. And they launched an aggressive lobbying campaign going after Facebook critics and directing public anger towards rival companies. They even hired a PR firm who went as far to create actual ‘fake news’ about Facebook critics and adversaries. Holy shit! This made me think. How can you minimize this risk or rapidly shift to other channels, when the ethics of a social platforms collides with how you want to treat your customers. 
The podcast: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/16/podcasts/the-daily/facebook-zuckerberg-sandberg-russia-election-data.html
The article https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/14/technology/facebook-data-russia-election-racism.html

🤩🌈 The king of Kashmeres remarkable vision on business. 
Easily the one of the most inspiring articles I have read in the last month! It’s an interview with the Italian King of Kashmere – and billionaire – Brunello Cucinelli by technology journalist @Om. He has such a original and profound vision on business, craftsmanship and appreciation of skills. I found it truly inspiring. Here’s one of his quotes, but read it! 
“Brunello: You must believe in the human being, because the creativity of a company — Let’s say you have a company with 1,000 people. Maybe we were told that there are only two or three genius people in the 1,000. But I think that if you have 1,000 people, you have 1,000 geniuses. They’re just different kinds of genius and a different degree of intensity” 

Best of September 2018

🤬The rise of anxiety consumerism 
Gravity blankets – a blanket of roughly 8 kilo’s – is supposed to reduce stress and to improve sleep quality. The company intended to raise 20k on Kickstarter. They raised 4.7 million Dollar! Apparently people everywhere are feeling increasingly anxious and stressed and are trying to combat this with mediation apps, fidget spinners and even coloring books for adults. This Vox article describes the emerging market for anxiety products. People also find flying an increasingly stress-full experience. @CX? How could KLM turn this new human need to be calmed and soothed in to a bussiness opportunity?! Would it be possible to purchase anxiety pills or some relaxing legal drugs when you are flying in international territory? 50 Euro not to feel my legs cramping up in my seat. Sign me up, I’ll pay!

⌚️🏥The darks side of the new Apple Watch? 
Last week, Apple launched a new Watch with an EKG designed to offer new health-monitoring options. Great, I’ll buy it. At the same time John Hancock, an American life insurance company announced last week that it will require all policyholders to record fitness and health data using wearable devices. Policyholders score premium discounts for hitting exercise targets tracked on wearable devices such as a Fitbit or Apple Watch and get gift cards for retail stores and other perks by logging their workouts and healthy food purchases in an app.I’m very health conscious and all about tracking everything – see one of my early QS projects here  https://vimeo.com/61016506 – But i’m very skeptical about where this might take us. 

💰Online shopping in AR
Shopify is a company to watch (or buy SHOP). They are a typical ‘Pick Axe’ company. They make money on other people trying to make money by providing a very simple system for e-commerce. And their speed of innovation is impressive. They just launched a tool for shop owners to sell or show their products in AR. So now you can have a way better look at the product – then just pictures –  before ordering it. The attack on regular retail does not seems to slow down. https://www.producthunt.com/posts/shopify-ar

Best of August 2018

⚠️How shipping company Mearsk lost $300.000.000 by a rogue virus 
On June 27th of 2017, a shipping company the size of AFKL, was in a matter or hours completely shut off of all IT systems due to a virus called NotPeya. It took them 10 days – 4000 servers and 45.000 pc’s to rebuild the entire network. Fun fact – a power blackout in Ghana accidentally took their local server offline. Due to this stroke of luck, the server in Ghana was offline and couldn’t be infected. This is were they salvaged the single remaining crucial back-up. This story in Wired describes how a probably Russian virus targeted at the Ukraine, got loose and caused an estimated 10 billion of damage in companies around the world. A nightmare for every organisation. https://www.wired.com/story/notpetya-cyberattack-ukraine-russia-code-crashed-the-world/

👂Amazon Echo, only 2% of all users, have tried a purchase
What I love about product development and the technology world, is that no one can truly predict succes. This holds even for the big players like Amazon. 3 weeks ago it was leaked that Amazon sold 50 million Echo’s (Smart Speakers). But only 2% of the households, used it to make a purchase – which is of-course the strategic goal of Amazon – . and 90% didn’t even make a repeat purchase. Voice will become a powerful new interface, but what the killer use case will be, remains to be seen. https://www.theinformation.com/articles/the-reality-behind-voice-shopping-hypehttps://mailchi.mp/ben-evans/benedicts-newsletter-no-450593?e=6f77d3532b

🦄 Are these the Unicorns (value of 1 billion) of the future? 
Y-Combinator is the most competitive startup accelerator. Thousands of teams apply, and less than 1% gets in. Product Hunt made a list of the most interesting start-ups in which Y-combinator invested this summer. Weirdly enough I’m always a bit disappointed by the ideas: test your tattoos with AR, Location based advertisements in your Ubers’ window? At the same time, did anyone predict a weird website like Facemash would turn into an behemoth that could influence the outcome of elections?Nevertheless, it’s always good to keep an eye on what the start-ups are working on and what is being invested in. https://www.producthunt.com/@nickabouzeid/collections/yc-summer-2018-demo-day

Best of July 2018

⚽️ How Location Tracking is Changing Tootball 
Many sports teams are outfitting their players with a device that tracks their GPS position. This enables them to analyse the workload of players. This gives them insight in the actual fitness and risk of injury of their players. Realtime but also for future games. This World Cup it was allowed – for the first time – to transmit realtime player data and have the analyst advice the coaches on the field. Translate players to passengers and coaches to gate agents, and you’ll see the link between LBS and the Football field. We’re almost there! 

👨‍🌾 Overcoming Class Cluelessness 
Innovation starts with understanding change. So most of my reading and postcasts habits revolve around Trump these days. This podcast is the first source that gives me an understandable explanation for the rise of Trump. Or better said the clashes betweens different “classes” which results in “Black Pete discussions, Brexit and the rise of populism everywhere. In summery, take care of your struggling middleclass and don’t treat their values and believes (discipline, hard work) as backward. 

📻 What Cracking Open a Sonos Ones Tells us About the Sonos IPO
In this article the writer opens up a Sonos speaker – which is a traditional speaker producer, gone digital. And an Amazon Echo – is this a speaker or a direct line to a shop? Based on looking at the hardware and costs he distills the strategic direction of both companies. The pockets of Amazon are so deep. It’s becoming scary. 

Best of June 2018

💡How purpose can make everything – even a doorbell company – super exiting. 
A smart doorbell, which shows you on your phone who’s on your doorstep. Can you come up with a more boring product? The story of Ring – recently acquired by Amazon for 1 billion dollar –  shows, how a good mission can elevate a product and create excitement. Ring is not a doorbell company. Ring is in the business of reducing crime in communities!

📈 Mary Meeker’s 2018 internet trends report: All the slides, plus analysis
The yearly trend report of Mary Meeker is an absolute goldmine of information and data. In this article you can find the summary, but please take the time to browse through her slidedeck. No bullshit bingo or let’s jump on the next blockchain, crypto of whatever fad, just clean crisp data driven insights.

🍏 Apple wants it’s phone’s back (and I want my brain back!)
For quite some years I haven’t had e-mail or Facebook on my phone. Recently I also had to remove Instagram. I was just wasting too much time looking at other peoples lives. It keeps you from good thinking and losing yourself in your task at hand.

Super happy that Apple is finally – after 10 years – is going to help their customers to be less addicted to their phones. in iOS 12 – to be released in September – , there will be a comprehensive set of tools to limit distraction! A cynic might say; advertising wil more and more become a tax on the poor. But i’m very happy with this first step. Maybe I can even get back on Insta 😉!  https://shift.newco.co/apple-wants-its-phones-back-d0d77142c7d