This article was also published on Waltzing Matilda Blog
Last 5 December I have had the pleasure to attend the iMinds conference in Brussels. iMinds is an independent research institute founded by the Flemish government to stimulate ICT innovation. iMinds brings together companies, authorities, and non-profit organizations to join forces on research projects.
The theme of the event was “driving digital innovation in Europe” and the leitmotiv of most presentations during the day was “What if…?” This question is the foundation of every invention, but of course an invention does not always turn into innovation. Because most challenges cannot be solved by a single effort or organization successful and innovative ideas need a structure.
One of the first lessons at this regards was given by Bart Decrem (SVP at The Walt Disney Company) who talked about his personal experiences in the Silicon Valley and his involvement in various projects and start-ups, leading up to the acquisition of his mobile gaming company Tapulous by Disney. Bart provided insight into the Disney strategy on mobile content and talked about the next big things he sees coming in digital technology.
My favourite quote from this part (and from the entire day) was “Successful apps are those that change people’s behaviour”
— MRico (@marcoRecorder) December 5, 2013
This is so true. In a market saturated with apps, many of which present very similar functionalities, the only ones deserve the “success” labels are those that managed to stick to people’s mind and actually make an impact on how people simply “do things.”
Dirk Pilat, Deputy Director Science, Technology and Industry at OECD explained how Europe does not suffer from a lack of start-up firms and starting a company has become easier in many countries over time. Europe does lag in innovative entrepreneurship, however, and few European start-up firms turn into successful large firms. An important factor that affects this situation is the scope that entrepreneurs have for experimentation with their ideas, innovations and business models. Firms in the United States, for example, start small, but scale up quickly once successful, and close down when not successful. Policies that affect the scope for experimentation include regulation, bankruptcy legislation, access to risk finance, the size of the market and labour market policies.
Another set of interesting lessons was given by Raimo Van der Klein, Co-founder Layar who talked about the challenges to grow a business and to approach internationalization in practice when creating startups. Raimo is a real innovator and entrepreneur and in the past years he formed a strong vision on creativity, intuitive leadership and innovation.
In an article to Time Raimo explains the idea behind Layar. In the sci-fi novel Rainbows End, author Vernon Vinge envisions humans simultaneously engaging the real and virtual worlds thanks to Internet-enabled contact lenses. Vinge’s prediction inspired the trio of co-founders of Dutch software start-up Layar. “We thought, What could be the first step toward that future?” says Raimo van der Klein. The result was Layar’s Reality Browser.
AR technology overlays digital information from the Web onto the physical world, as it is viewed through the camera lens of a smart phone. Point your lens at a historic building and information about it will pop up on the screen, including perhaps a decades-old photo of it. AR utilizes a smart phone’s GPS data, accelerometer, compass and gyroscope. “The technology was not new,” van der Klein says, but Layar assembles an “ecosystem” in which users can quickly find a wide range of apps, or layers. Van der Klein and co-founders Claire Boonstra and Maarten Lens-FitzGerald first worked together organizing a monthly networking gathering for Amsterdam wireless fans called Mobile Monday. “Just make sure the building you’re walking into is real.”