The 'Secret Sauce' entrepreneur series: Purple Land Trading

When Market Gravity recruit new team members, we look for like-minded entrepreneurs. The ability to inject entrepreneurialism into projects is at the heart of what we do to help big businesses create new, successful propositions. It’s this ‘secret sauce’ that makes us different to other innovation and proposition design consultancies.

Many of the team at Market Gravity are entrepreneurs. They’ve started their own businesses outside of Market Gravity – something we advocate and actively look for. Our entrepreneurs know the work it takes to get something off the ground. They are passionate about ideas in the same way our clients are passionate about theirs. And they’re able to draw on their experiences when working together to create new products and services.

And because we love to share, celebrate and support our teams’ entrepreneurial passions, we’ve created a series of blogs about them. This month we chatted to Andrew Cowley one of our Engagement Managers about a start-up he created and launched – Purple Land Trading.

Hi Andrew. What did your startup do?

In general, it helped British exporters to get a foothold in Latin America. Specifically, my first customer was a… wheelie bin company. The UK’s largest manufacturer (have a look, they are everywhere): www.taylorbins.co.uk.

Where did the idea come from?

Initially, by chance, an ex-colleague was involved in the purchase of Taylor Bins by private equity, and asked me if I could do some research for him on the market in Brazil. As I started to have conversations with the major players in the waste industry out there, it began to emerge that this product had some clear benefits over competitors, and that Brazil was at a real tipping point (pun intended), transitioning from manual collection to more efficient, automated collection. The potential was enormous – so I took on the role as sole agent in Latin America.

More cost-effective waste collection meant cleaner living conditions and freed up money for much-needed investment by municipalities elsewhere.

What did you find most rewarding about the experience?

Well, there was nothing quite like making your first sale. Add in the fact that it was in a country where I hadn’t spoken the language before, in a sector I’d never worked in, with clients I’d developed from scratch – it was an enjoyable moment.

Without getting too worthy, I also felt it was doing good for society, in its own small way. More cost-effective waste collection meant cleaner living conditions and freed up money for much-needed investment by municipalities elsewhere.

What was most challenging?

It might sound odd, but bins are very technical things to sell. They need to fit with trucks (which have numerous lifting systems) and there are norms that govern almost every specification, route planning with complex algorithms to optimise collection, and customers are used to using them in very different ways. It was a good while before I felt I could talk authoritatively about the subject.

Other than that, my timing was awful! I arrived in Brazil in 2012, when it was the next big thing, and left in 2015, when it was well on its way to economic disaster. As a result, there was a steady erosion in the value of the currency, which meant my imports constantly crept up in price, to the point where it was almost double my original quotes to clients.

They need to fit with trucks (which have numerous lifting systems) and there are norms that govern almost every specification, route planning with complex algorithms to optimise collection.

Funniest anecdote?

When my Portuguese was still in, let’s say, a development phase, I mistakenly told a client that I had ‘woken up’ with his colleague, when I actually meant ‘agreed’. I like to think the ensuing hilarity built trust.

How has the experience helped you at Market Gravity?

It is quite tempting as a consultant to work at a conceptual level: it is somebody else’s money, so who really cares if an idea will work or not?

I think my startup experience has taught me to be both conceptual (make sure it is a good idea before you commit to it) and practical (do what it takes to make sure it actually happens).

Ultimately, you need to be able to find the excitement in any project.

Ultimately, you need to be able to find the excitement in any project. I never thought I’d be selling bins to Brazilians, but I was hooked. I could recite European safety norms, the exact process of hot dip galvanizing, the benefits of injection-moulded vs. rotation-moulded lids… you name it.

If you’d like to talk over any ideas that you have for launching a new proposition, or how to overcome innovation challenges you’re facing- get in touch.

andrew.cowley@marketgravity.com

Find Andrew on LinkedIn

 


So Market Gravity, why Canada? Because it's 2017.

And Canada. It's time to grow.

A few months back when Market Gravity were exploring the opportunity to establish a permanent presence in Canada with a local office, we met with a number of senior innovators at some of the country's biggest businesses to understand their needs. One of them asked me a rather simple but interesting question: what makes Canada interesting to a boutique firm with offices in the UK and US?

Over the past few months I’ve reflected on my response and discussed with tens of people and the more I think about it, it’s the most important thought in my mind right now as we properly establish ourselves.

Canada’s reputation in the world has always been strong, safe, friendly, reliable and well, nice. There’s almost an infinite amount of jokes about it – especially if you have an obsession with shows like ‘How I Met Your Mother’.

There’s almost an infinite amount of jokes about Canada – especially if you have an obsession with shows like ‘How I Met Your Mother’.

But, I digress. Ultimately, apart from its dramatic scenery, Canada has never really seemed that interesting to the world. In 2017, Canada’s 150th birthday, I believe that story is changing. The country is finally making its mark on the world.

Canada has always been wealthy. It’s always been safe. It’s pretty much always been very boring politically (I imagine you would struggle to name five Canadian prime ministers).

During the 2008 financial crisis, Canadian banks were much less impacted than their US and UK counterparts. Whether down to regulation or their own appetite to risk, they had played it safe. With large oil reserves in Alberta, Canada has a certain amount of wealth but at the same time a consciousness of the environmental impact of extracting it.

So what's changing?

One of their biggest challenges has been a brain drain of talent leaving the country. Whether that’s iconic actors or comedians heading for Hollywood, tech stars taking flight to Silicon Valley or top talent being poached by other global institutions (think Mark Carney). Canada has struggled to hold onto its top talent.

While this isn’t always a bad thing, countries need this talent and the confidence to retain it.  It’s something I am starting to see too. Whether that’s the ubiquitous Drake sightings in Toronto and not just at a Raptors game, or tech firms choosing to base themselves around world class ecosystems like Communitech at Kitchener / Waterloo.

It could also be that the nation is making a mark on the world stage. As political leaders like Trump and May add a little fear, Canada is now the world leader in liberalism. Regardless of your politics, Justin Trudeau has transformed the country’s image on the world stage compared to his predecessor.

Canada- a world leader in liberalism has had it's image transformed on the world stage by Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau.

In the year Canada turns 150, the country will welcome a new wave of immigrants that provide great diversity. It is the #1 place to visit on the New York Times' 52 Places to Go in 2017  list and most importantly, it will finally give Tim Hortons’ steeped tea and maple donuts to the world.

To come back to the original question ...

... of why Canada is interesting to Market Gravity. After spending much of the last two years working with fantastic companies like ATB Financial and Atlantic Lottery, we want to be a permanent part of this ecosystem. We want to design and launch the best customer propositions for a new world of ambitious and confident Canadian companies. And we want to do that with world class Canadian talent based out of our new home in Toronto.

If you flew on an Air Canada flight during the latter part of 2016, you will likely have seen this wonderfully confident statement to the world. I can think of no better way to sum up how the country is made interesting, because the world needs more Canada.

 

If you’d like to chat about ideas you have to launch a new proposition, how to overcome innovation challenges you’re facing or about our move to Canada- get in touch with Iain.

iain.montgomery@marketgravity.com


The 'Secret Sauce' series: buzzumi

When recruiting for new innovation and proposition design consultants, Market Gravity look for something different. We look for an ability to inject an entrepreneurial spirit into the projects and propositions they’re working on. That ability is like a ‘secret sauce’ to us. It’s what makes our approach and the way we help our clients deliver projects different to other innovation and propositions design consultancies.

But how do we know if someone can inject an entrepreneurial spirit into a big company? Well. A lot of the team at Market Gravity are entrepreneurs in their own right. They’ve started their own businesses outside of Market Gravity – something the company advocates and actively looks for. They know the work it takes to get something off the ground. They are passionate about ideas in the same way as our clients are passionate about theirs. They’re able to draw on their experiences in client projects.

And because we love to share, celebrate and support our team’s entrepreneurial passions, we’ve created a series of blogs about them. This month we chatted to Kirsten McIntyre one of our Principal Consultants about a start-up she helped launch – buzzumi.

Hi Kirsten, tell me, what did your startup do?

It was a knowledge market place, where people could buy or sell time with someone to give or receive knowledge, information or training. So you could learn Japanese from someone in Tokyo from the comfort of your own home. The platform provided integrated video and learning tools, appointment booking and payment handling.

Where did the idea come from?

It was a venture that my former employer co-founded. Instead of investing cash they seconded me to work on the start-up for nine months as ‘sweat equity’. I got involved when it was a kernel of an idea, pitched as ‘an eBay for knowledge’ but with very little detail beyond that, and worked it up from there.

What did you find most rewarding about the experience?

Being involved in it from day one through to launch and getting to be involved in some many different areas. I worked on it from initial concept through to launch. This included my first experience of user experience and building wireframes, naming the business and developing the branding. We worked with developers in New Zealand to build it, preparing investor decks, planning the launch and getting our first customers signed up.

I was also working with a project manager who I have since married!

 

An 'eBay for knowledge'- buzzumi was a knowledge market place where people could buy or sell time with someone to give or receive knowledge, information or training.

What was most challenging?

Lots of things were challenging! Ultimately the start-up pivoted about six months after launch into something quite different after we failed to secure funding from investors. Instead the same technical architecture was re-purposed to provide a software-as-a-service solution to business customers. This was easier to scale without the need for significant up-front investment. The technology was used successfully by Big White Wall and Doctor Care Anywhere to launch their telehealth platforms.

Launching the original business was very challenging. Firstly, creating a market place is incredibly hard, it sounds obvious but it’s twice the effort. I’d definitely think carefully about doing that again in the future unless you already have easy access to at least one side of the market.

Our timing was off too in terms of the technology. The video technology we were using just wasn’t stable enough, delivering a poor user experience, which we ultimately couldn’t control.

Funniest anecdote?

At one point a (dodgy) decision was taken to approach psychics to get them to sell their services through the platform – definitely not an area that I would ever have envisaged myself getting involved in.

How has the experience helped you at Market Gravity?

Seeing the whole thing through end to end and how everything fits together helps me to see what’s important and what order I need to tackle things in, and which things I can park for a bit. For example, you need a stable proposition that works for customers and the business before you need to worry about branding and messaging.

The importance of focus and making decisions about what you’re not going to do is as important as deciding what you are going to do, and sticking to it. But conversely knowing that there could come a point when you have to completely change track if your strategy is not working, and being ok with that is really important. Although the business no longer exists, I’ve been able to draw from the experience and process and help clients facing similar challenges which is really valuable.

If you’d like to talk over any ideas you have to launch a new proposition or how to overcome innovation challenges you’re facing- get in touch.

Kirsten.Mcintyre@marketgravity.com

Find Kirsten on LinkedIn


The 'Secret Sauce' series: The Dark Peak

Market Gravity look for something different in the people they recruit. They look for an ability to inject an entrepreneurial spirit into the innovation projects and propositions they’re working on. We call it the ‘secret sauce’ – it’s what makes our approach and the way we help our clients deliver projects different to other consultancies.

But how do we know if someone can inject an entrepreneurial spirit into a big company? Well. A lot of the team at Market Gravity are entrepreneurs in their own right. They’ve started their own businesses outside of Market Gravity – something the company advocates and actively looks for. They know the work it takes to get something off the ground. They are passionate about ideas in the same way as our clients are passionate about theirs. They're able to draw on their experiences in client projects.

Because we love to share, celebrate and support our team's entrepreneurial passions, we're creating a series of blogs about them. This month we chatted to Lee Chapman who's one one of our Senior Consultants specialising in Insight, about his business – The Dark Peak.

Hi Lee, tell us a little about your startup, The Dark Peak.

The Dark Peak is an eCommerce business selling unisex clothing made exclusively using British products and manufacturing. After tracing the life of a typical garment, we believed there was a more economic, environmental and socially sustainable way of producing affordable clothing. That is what we set out to prove. This was reinforced by the idea that people should be able to make an informed judgement about the origin of their clothing and the cost to who of producing it.

 

The Dark Peak sells unisex clothing made exclusively using British products and manufacturing.

 

Where did the idea come from?

I had always wanted to start my own business but in all honesty, The Dark Peak began more as an experiment than a business venture. A friend and I read a story about a company in Yorkshire that still hand-stuffed duck down sleeping bags that were being used for serious expeditions. It amazed us that this type of industry still existed in the UK – very manual, highly skilled, cherished with the community and deeply connected with the past.

We asked ourselves, ‘I wonder what else exists out there?’ Before we knew it, we were travelling the length and breadth of the country visiting hand-knitters, shirt manufacturers and sixth-generation cobblers, all working under a veil of secrecy since the introduction of cheaper global labour, keeping these phenomenal, traditional skills alive.

The business fell out of that. We decided to reject the traditional fashion industry model of producing two collections a year in favour of utilising the downtime in factories between the production of those two collections for major brands – that would typically be a cost base for the manufacturers – to keep production cost of high quality garments as low as possible. That was saving we wanted to pass on to our customers.

Plus, the factories loved us! We were easy to deal with in comparison.

 

Production costs of our high quality garments were kept as low as possible by rejecting the traditional fashion industry model of producing two collections a year, instead utilising factory 'downtime' outside of this period.

 

What did you find most rewarding about the experience?

That first pint after your first sale. That’s pretty rewarding.

What lessons would you give others?

When you’re running your own business, you learn very quickly that bad suppliers don’t exist. If something goes wrong, it’s likely because they have been mismanaged. You can spend your time blaming others when things go wrong but when it’s your own business, that doesn’t help you. Instead, put frameworks in place that enable effective communication of your values and expectations early.

What was most challenging? 

Running a business. That sounds like an odd thing to say but it’s true. The thought of running your own business is such a wonderful idea but it’s anything but easy.

My co-founder and I used to joke between ourselves because when we incorporated the company, the two of us became directors in the business; he had a real flare and capacity for all things creative, so he naturally took on the role of ‘creative director’ but I was the ‘director of everything else’. Funnily enough, everything else is a lot of stuff: sales, marketing, supply chain, wholesale, logistics, finance, regulation. The list goes on.

Getting to grips with that stuff was the biggest challenge for me and for a very long time, we had no other option but to find shortcuts for absolutely everything in order to keep things ticking over.

Funniest anecdote?

People see the fashion industry as an extremely glamorous industry. We never referred to ourselves as a fashion business but people, none the less, had that expectation of us. One week, we were visiting one of our favourite manufacturers, based in the beautiful coastal village of Flamborough. Despite her very generous offer of a bed for the night, we stayed at one of nearby Bridlington’s finest establishments, three to a room. Far from the champagne lifestyle, we found ourselves drinking pints of John Smith’s in the hotel bar, watching a part-time magician entertain a room of people exclusively 50 years our senior. Amidst all the furore, we sat in silence. We looked at each other and just laughed until we cried. I think we all questioned our decision to start a business at that point.

How has the experience helped you at Market Gravity?

Starting, building and scaling a business can an extremely emotional experience. I suspect most people who have done it – for themselves, or somebody else – would vouch for that. Dealing with that emotional roller coaster is not something you can teach somebody but it’s certainly something you can support people with. I know from experience that having that person there when things feel like they’re going to the wall can be the difference between success and failure.

 

We learnt quickly to put frameworks in place that enable effective communication of our values and expectations early on. That was a valuable lesson and something I encourage anyone else to do when setting up a new venture.

 

If you'd like to talk over any ideas you have to launch a new proposition or how to overcome innovation challenges you're facing- get in touch.

lee.chapman@marketgravity.com

Find Lee on LinkedIn

You can find the The Dark Peak website which is a live project in progress here.


NEWS: New Year Business Resolutions: 5 trends that will transform working practices in 2017

New and rapidly developing ways of working are set to transform businesses - both big and small in 2017. As technology continues to disrupt and advance, businesses must react to these challenges with both speed and agility and adopt the latest thinking and working practices, if they are to survive.

Market Gravity's co-founder and CEO, Pete Sayburn, shares his insight into the latest thinking and ways of working that businesses should be looking to deploy in 2017 and how he and the Market Gravity team have successfully been using these techniques to help their clients grow and transform their businesses.

Design sprints

“Sprints as a concept has gained fast traction in both the UK and US since three partners from Google Ventures published, “Sprint: How To Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days” earlier this year.

Design sprints enable companies to go from an idea to a launch that’s live in customers’ hands in days and weeks, rather than months. Let's say you have a business challenge that needs to be addressed. From experience you know that it will take weeks- if not months- to mobilise the business into action. But instead of creating a massive programme and stretching out the work, you launch a proposition in days. You make decisions quickly and within ten days, you move from idea to prototype. From a prototype you find rapid ways to go live and experiment. You learn from real customers, with real data. This saves your business time and unnecessary cost. And it gives much needed confidence to invest before you scale.

Market Gravity recently worked with Standard Life on 20 day mission-based design sprints which explored ways to increase the retention of one of Standard Life’s customer segments.

Steven Ingledew from Standard Life said, “We wanted to launch a disruptive solution quickly, but one that would have minimal impact on our core technology systems. By using the sprint method introduced to us and run by the team at Market Gravity, we have found one. A small empowered team, or squad as a sprint team is called was brought together to respond to the challenge we’d set, with a constraint that was time boxed. The result of the experiment was the development of The Financial Butler, a new smart chat interface which were able to get in the hands of a small number of customers, in a real environment with real data before scaling it.”

Mission culture and mindsets

“Alongside the sprint technique, organisations need to pursue a mission in 2017, not simply set a scope. They need to adopt a 'mission culture', which focuses on empowering people to make decisions and organises people around a business challenge, with a constraint that’s time-boxed.

This group of people takes on the ‘mission mindset’. The mission mindset enables expedited decisions, not long committee-led debates. Culture should be at the heart of any company's transformational change. It is people who deliver change, not processes.

Mission culture is already driving change and real innovation within the new breed of challenger brands in the financial services market such as Clydesdale Yorkshire Banking Group with their digital banking platform- B, which launched earlier this year.”

Squads

“Simply forming working teams is old hat. The new approach for choosing an effective group that will be charged with achieving a mission within a certain timeframe is “squad”. They aren’t just a team, they’re a squad whose mission it is to deliver the sprint and build a new proposition, without being distracted by their day-today job roles.

Ideally, the squad will be built from a diverse group of people of differing skillsets, genders and diversity. The more diverse the group are, the more likely they are to bring about positive innovation outcomes for the business.

A squad has a high degree of freedom (agility) with the choices they make within the mission. They can make quick decisions and flex the process as much as they need to in order to achieve it and they aren’t constrained by the normal rules of the business.”

Customer co-development

Customer co-development means involving customers at every stage of the journey when creating new propositions. It’s not enough to just generate one set of customer data at the outset for research and insight purposes. We’ve identified that constant communication and partnership with customers brings better results for businesses in the long run.”

It’s about creating the right culture where consumers are at the heart of propositions. The more exposed your customers are to every aspect of the design stage and prototyping, the more likely the project is to succeed when it goes live.

For example, at Market Gravity we did this successfully with AA recently when we asked a selection of customers to keep diaries on behalf of their cars throughout the year. This enabled them us to help their team design a new service informed by a steady stream of live customer data related to their vehicles.

Sandboxing

“Sandboxing is about creating a safe place where you can innovate and create new ideas for your business - without consequences. It gives you the space and environment to create something and experiment. Creating “a sandbox environment” often means physically removing businesses from their office environment or HQ in order to achieve success.

But why sandbox part of your business? Businesses are not always set up to allow for innovation. Or they have the ideas but lack the mindset, speed, skills and environment required to get them out of the door quickly. In addition, there’s an ongoing business to run which can mean there isn’t always internal resource available to work on these types of ideas. That’s where companies like ours come in – we effectively create start-ups within their companies. Sandbox environments that allow us to play, reinvent and re-imagine projects.

Sandboxes are becoming increasingly important in the financial sector as it is subject to frequent regulatory changes. Sandboxing creates am environment for financial services firms in which to play and develop their proposition using customer data.

 

Read about the 10 benefits of sprints here.

 

If you’d like to understand more about these trends and how you can use them to grow your business, get in touch.

peter.sayburn@marketgravity.com


The Next Big Digital Disruption: Building Empathetic and Integrated Insurance

Since settling into agrarian societies and specializing our labor activities, humans have recognized the need to mitigate risk through diversification. Risk protection, the roots of modern insurance, is evident as early as 2250 BC in the Babylonian maritime business, with merchants paying lenders a premium to guarantee to cancel a loan in the event of a lost (or stolen) shipment.[i]

The modern era of insurance evolved as those exposed to common risks formed into groups to aggregate, price, and eventually sell the risk to investors. The internet first brought new ways to search and research insurance policies, and now the digital era is utterly transforming how consumers are able to manage and pool risk, as well as their expectations of processes and the overall experience.

From the global ecosystem of insurtech startups, we have identified five major themes that are at the leading edge of industry transformation:

1: THINK CUSTOMER, NOT PRODUCT

Digital functionality has proven to be a major catalyst for total customer-centricity across all industries. A corporate’s digital face is now the essence of customer relationships, and excellent experiences are required for customer retention. This means that understanding customers and their needs is a necessary capability for all businesses.

Customers increasingly want comprehensive coverage, not ad hoc product selection. Pushing products onto customers doesn’t work anymore. Designing products and services around customers is the way to win. A great example of this is Policy Genius –  rethinking insurance and insurance shopping from the consumer perspective. Their free, online Insurance Checkup Tool will identify gaps in coverage and present product options as well as a ‘to do’ list to address these gaps.

2:  GET SMART WITH DATA

Analytics are critical to digital success. The growth of internet connected devices and sensors is projected to reach 50 billion by 2020[ii]. This will have a significant impact on the availability of real-time information – a trend often referred to as ‘big data’. Insurers who can exploit this information for better pricing, underwriting and loss control will have a distinct competitive advantage over their peers.

More data means improved risk modeling and more accurately priced policies. Driveway.ai demonstrates this well, using a smartphone’s accelerometer to collect telematics data, rate driving skills, and then sell this information to insurance companies.

3: IF YOU’RE NOT MOBILE, YOU’RE NOTHING

An essential component of a consumer-centric experience is full integration with the devices and platforms customers use the most. However, mobile has to be just one part of a seamless, omni channel experience. It doesn’t replace other channels, it enhances them – consumers may start the search on the bus or in the waiting room, but then complete the transaction from our laptop on the kitchen table.

If insurers are dedicated to investing in integrated mobile functionality and delivery channels, they will likely see costs go down as a result. For example, quicker registration and automated interactions will drive down administration costs (as well as offering a less bureaucratic customer experience). Well executed mobile and social media experiences can also reduce the cost to acquire and retain customers.

Snapsheet is building a white label, claims experience - allowing drivers to use their usual behavior on their phones to submit and receive claim information. A central capability is allowing drivers to take pictures of their damaged cars at the scene of the accident, and immediately upload them for appraisal and claims processing.

4: TAKE PART IN THE SHARING ECONOMY

Peer to peer business models are popping up around the world. The central thesis relies on the power of community and belonging and the trust this breeds. That is, when you share risk with people you know (even if just virtually), the incidents of fraud decrease, as do the number of claims. Fewer claims means lower premiums for the insured and lower administration costs for the insurer, and social network dependencies means lower acquisition and retention costs. Additionally, peer to peer models often incur lower acquisition costs.

Companies pursuing this model are building slick, customer-focused, data-driven insurance systems – like Lemonade, which recently launched in New York City. Lemonade is challenging some basic assumptions of the industry – namely the antagonistic relationships that can develop when denying your customers claims is a source of revenue. Instead, they take a flat fee for their services, and return the portion of unpaid claims to the members of the pool.

5: WELCOME TO THE AGE OF CUSTOMIZATION

Across industries digital capabilities allow companies to collect massive amounts of data and reorganize in terms of micro-experiences. The more data collected, the more insurers can tailor policies (and therefore prices) to individual risk profiles.

This includes an expansion of typical insurance products, with a focus on experiences – often called “insurable moments”. Slice provides customers with on-demand micro insurance for any event or activity, while Sure provides micro-duration life insurance coverage during single airplane flights. Finally, Trov catalogs and tracks an inventory of your belongings, with the ability to insure, sell, donate or share things through your phone. Insure any item in your inventory for any amount of time with a simple toggle on and off.

These types of micro-insurance remain relatively unexplored, posing a direct challenge to the traditional sales and  distribution models of insurance. They will continue to evolve, as the impact of larger trends – such as work preferences (freelance, customized) and the shared economy – continues to unfold.

What Next?

 The insurance industry is certainly ripe for innovation. Many of the institutional stalwarts are over 100 years old, and have demonstrated minimal capacity for innovation over their lifetime – and are currently unprepared to adapt to these impending realities. And these leading trends are only the beginning of the potential rapid transformation of the insurance industry as it figures out how to offer a more empathetic and integrated service.

Can we help you think more about these trends and their implications? If you’d like to talk through challenges to understand more about the industry transformation, please get in touch with me at clare.seekins@marketgravity.com.

[i] The Evolution of Insurance, https://www.sas.com/storefront/aux/en/spslvncy/62823_excerpt.pdf

[ii] Global Digital Insurance, 2015. Bain & Co. Report.


The ‘Secret Sauce’ series: Island Beers

Market Gravity look for something different in the people they recruit. They look for an ability to inject an entrepreneurial spirit into the innovation projects and propositions they’re working on. We call it the ‘secret sauce’ – it’s what makes our approach and the way we help our clients deliver projects that makes us different to other consultancies.

 

But how do we know if someone can inject an entrepreneurial spirit into a big company? Well. A lot of the team at Market Gravity are entrepreneurs in their own right. They’ve started their own businesses outside of Market Gravity – something the company advocates and actively looks for. They know the work it takes to get something off the ground. They are passionate about ideas in the same way as our clients are passionate about theirs. They're able to draw on their experiences in client projects.

Because we love to share, celebrate and support our team's entrepreneurial passions, we're creating a series of blogs about them. First up we chatted to Dan Avery who's one one of our Senior Consultants, about his business – Island Beers.

Tell us a little bit about Island Beers

"Island Beers is a craft beer business, creating beers brewed with interesting spices that complement the beer style. The result is a subtly unique and great tasting product (I am biased here obviously). We sell to a range of customers, most of which are passionate restaurateurs who like the interesting flavours we produce."

 

Dan and the Island Beers team

 

Where did the idea come from?

"We wanted to create a beer that complemented great food, in a way that not many current beers do. There are plenty of very good hoppy craft beer companies around, but not so many crafting delicate flavours to accompany meals and specific dishes."

What did you find most rewarding about the experience?

"Starting with nothing but an idea is a daunting place to be. With work and commitment, you gradually build this into something you are proud of that is beautiful (to you at least… and to others if you’ve done your homework) and when you see this on shelves or being drunk by diners (that actually chose to purchase your product) it is a very rewarding experience. But the best bit has to be ordering and drinking your own beer at a bar/restaurant."

What lessons would you give others?

"Be prepared to commit plenty of your energy, time and resources but commit them very wisely. Never commit to anything big until it is needed, until there is a definite demand or pull for it. E.g. create the smallest batch you can get away with, make the most basic visuals needed and so forth. You’ll find you can do less and achieve more with it. Premature scaling of any sort is an easy way to kill a good product company and it is the easiest way to kill a good product idea."

 

"With work and commitment, you gradually build (an idea) into something you are proud of that is beautiful (to you at least… and to others if you’ve done your homework)."
Daniel Avery: "With work and commitment, you gradually build this (an idea) into something you are proud of that is beautiful (to you at least… and to others- if you’ve done your homework)."

 

What was most challenging?

"There are some big moments where you find yourself far from your goal despite having travelled so far on your start-up journey. This feels demoralising and it is certainly demotivating. It is a little like rowing across a sea (stick with the metaphor here)- there is a point in the middle where you are miles from the shore you left and miles from the shore you’re headed to and things feel bleak. For Island Beers, this was when our first batch failed and we had to tip 3.5k bottles down the drain. This is where you must dig deep for your determination and commitment in order to drive things forward until that shore comes into view, complete with swaying palms and a beach bar."

Funniest anecdote?

"Lots of these… usually at our own expense! It always puts a smile on my face thinking about one of our batches that went a little bit wrong. A small flaw in the process led to around one in six of our beers being far too fizzy, to the point where it became quite comical. Every sales pitch, sample and drink after a long day was transformed into a game of Russian Roulette. If you won, you’d enjoy a smooth pitch or drink. If you were unlucky, you or those unsuspecting around you would receive a frothy deluge of delicately spiced craft beer. Whoops. Thankfully this little issue has been solved now!"

How has the experience helped you at Market Gravity?

"There are many things that can distract you when developing and launching something new. I think one of the most valuable things is to understand, or have an appreciation of, is the value of knowing what to focus on and what is a distraction e.g. Do you want to design for all those customer segments now? Do you really need to launch across all channels? Is there really a need for branded mugs? China??... But we’ve not even cracked the UK!"

If you’d like to talk about ideas you have to launch a new proposition or how to overcome some challenges you’re facing- get in touch.

daniel.avery@marketgravity.com.

Find Dan on LinkedIn

And take a look at http://island-beers-uk.com/ - you can order online!

 


NEWS: Market Gravity predicts business trends for 2017

Technology will continue to be one of the biggest disrupting forces in big business in 2017, with innovations such as Blockchain and robo-advice finally breaking through. In 2016, we saw the time it takes to go from breakthrough technology to mass market application reducing as technology disruptors reshaped big business practice, and this breakneck pace doesn’t show signs of abating as we enter a new year.

Market Gravity's co-founder Gideon Hyde shares his predictions for 2017 and advises what big businesses should be doing to recognise 'tomorrow's business' and ensure they enhance their offerings to stand out in this increasingly competitive marketplace.

Blockchain 

Silicon Valley investor Marc Andreessen cites Blockchain as “one of the most fundamental inventions in the history of computer science". Put 'simply', Blockchain uses complex cryptography to ensure that financial transactions can be verified and can’t be tampered with, with minimal third party involvement.

Bitcoin is the best known application of Blockchain so far, but its potential extends far beyond digital currencies. The Blockchain process makes error and fraud easier to spot and it can remove the need for a middleman, thereby reducing costs. Indeed, experts say it is set to disrupt every industry where transactions and trust are key.

Robo-advice

An increasing number of businesses are developing and launching Robo-advice services for customers. Robo-advice involves replacing face-to-face advice with online, automated guidance and execution – not from an actual robot, but from an algorithm which engages with customers to create an improved experience. The savings and investment sector, in particular, has adopted this new technology to engage with their customers in a way that adds values and helps create an improved brand experience. Take the Standard Life Financial Butler, for example; an automated chat-based app that provides customers with a new way to explore and interact with their pensions and investments, make changes to their account information and get quick and easy access to Standard Life experts.

Whilst its growing popularity could mean the beginning of the end for traditional face-to-face advice, there is an opportunity for advisers who are willing to consider incorporating these automated services into their offering. Major banks are already beginning to do this by targeting potential customers considering their first steps into financial advice. This low-cost stepping stone can help get customers on side ready for when they may require more comprehensive guidance.

 Chat Bots – the rise of the chat interface

More and more companies are using Chat Bots to hold automated conversations with potential customers to help them make decisions that eventually lead to sales or bookings. The advantages to businesses considering using them are that they are less expensive to produce than apps, they help raise brand awareness and they can save human resourcing costs, effectively replacing the work of customer service agents and personal assistants. The prospect of Bots actually replacing human jobs is still a way off, however. Businesses should look at augmentation rather than replacement.  Bots can help make employees' lives easier by taking away some of the strain but, when enquiries become more complicated, customers will still require the help of a human being.

The Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT), also known as 'connected devices’ or ‘smart devices’ has seen new products and services being launched and developed at a fast pace in the past couple of years. The continued development of connected devices, wearable tech and enhanced connectivity means the IoT is progressing into every part of our lives, potentially changing the way we live forever. From smart meters to automated lighting, customers are increasingly embracing these new technologies into their lives. These new, connected technologies are also changing the way we shop. Take, for example, the new megatrend known as 'frictionless retail', which could make wallets, checkouts and queues things of the past. To take advantage of these developments and create new growth opportunities, companies need be open to changing their traditional systems, procedures, processes and ways of communicating. They must embrace technology to maintain a competitive edge, enhance customer experiences and drive business growth. There are a wealth of companies embracing the technology, with further developments expected in the next year within utilities and energy, automotive (connected cars) and retail, as well as consumer electronics.

Voice and motion control interfaces

Recent developments in user interface (UI) - the way human beings interact with a device - are now offering us much more attractive options than a simple keyboard and a mouse.  Take voice recognition technology, for example, Apple's Siri - a personal assistant application designed to work through IOS. And, launched much more recently, Amazon's Echo. Using advanced voice technology, 'Alexa' can tell you the time, deliver news updates, play your music choices, notify you of your day's appointments and much more.

Another emerging UI was first foretold by Tom Cruise in the 2002 sci-fi movie, Minority Report when he was seen donning his magic gloves and gesturing at a screen to manipulate images and datasheets on his computer system. Now motion control, or gesture interface, is actually beginning to show us a future where computer systems will be able to interpret human hand gestures and emotion recognition from the face via mathematical algorithms. Users of the Blippar app will soon be able to scan people’s faces with their smartphone cameras to reveal their personal information as reported in the Evening Standard just this week.

VR and AR

Immersive technologies such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) have started to hit the mass market (see Facebook’s Oculus Rift) but the way in which they will affect businesses has yet to evolve. In 2017, the consumer and business content and application of VR and AR will become clearer. VR and AR has huge potential to control a flow of information to the consumer, integrated across mobile, wearable technology and IoT etc. allowing rooms and spaces to connect with consumers, virtual worlds and conversations. It’s possibly one of the most exciting areas to be working in for brands right now.

 

Gideon is one of the co-founders and a partner of Market Gravity and is passionate about creating growth and innovations businesses across the UK and beyond. He is an expert in helping big businesses launch significant new ventures into the marketplace and take them to scale. He led the programmes to develop and grow npower’s home energy services business, to launch B for Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banking Group and to design and launch Retiready, Aegon’s digital retirement service.

If you'd like to understand more about these trends and how you can use them to grow your business, get in touch.

gideon.hyde@marketgravity.com


10 benefits of Sprints

You have a business challenge that needs to be addressed quickly. From experience you know that it will take weeks- if not months- to mobilise the business into action. But instead of creating a massive programme and stretching out the work, you launch a proposition in days. You adopt a mission mindset, make decisions quickly and within ten days, you move from idea to prototype. From a prototype you find rapid ways to go live and experiment. You learn from real customers, with real data. This saves your business time and unnecessary cost. And it gives much needed confidence to invest before you scale. What’s more this new way of working starts to change the way you do ‘business-as-usual’ (BAU).

Welcome to the world of sprints, a concept that is gaining traction in both the UK and US since three partners from Google Ventures published, “Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days”.

We've been using the sprint technique with some of our clients over the last year and these approaches to business challenges have transformed the way we deliver projects and launch new propositions for our clients. For big businesses, sprints bring together the best of both worlds; the tools and ways of working that digital pioneers such Spotify and Google Ventures apply with the scale and deep domain expertise of big companies.

 

10 benefits of Sprints:

1. Reduced costs
Small teams working to tight deadlines minimises investment cost. They simplify decision making and are more likely to deliver real impact versus large big project teams that generate lots of process, governance and PowerPoint presentations.

2. Rapid growth
Organising sprints and small teams around growth opportunities as they present themselves allows businesses to quickly go after new opportunities.

3. Improved team morale
Removing hierarchy and empowering people to get things done creates a feeling that they can affect change in their company, despite how big it is.

4. High productivity
Time boxing responses to business challenges simplifies decision making and focuses the team on an outcome, not a process.

5. High energy levels
As team morale improves, adrenalin kicks in and everybody focuses on getting the job done within the timeframe.

6. Less risk
By creating a culture and environment that enables teams to experiment before- and as they scale- ensures that decision making is informed at all stages by real customer data, not hypothesis.

7. Competitive advantage
As business environments become faster and more uncertain, the ability to mobilise teams of talented people to start and deliver projects quickly is critical. This helps organisations become more resilient.

8. Better outcomes from diversity
The most successful sprint teams embrace diversity. Diversity of culture, experience and expertise. This helps them solve modern, complex challenges.

9. Seed cultural change through delivery
Sprint teams are empowered to define their own working practices and make their own decisions, stripping out layers of unnecessary bureaucracy and reporting that can slow progress down.

10. More agility
Being able to pivot quickly to the challenges of our rapidly changing world is vital. Sprints bring talented and diverse people together to solve problems. Once the challenge has been met, they disperse or kick off the next challenge.

 

Sprints focus on real business challenges- not blue sky thinking- which means that new opportunities and innovations are delivered quickly, refined, validated and tested before they are scaled. We've used sprints to transform ideas into breakthrough propositions at speed whilst unleashing entrepreneurial talent that exists in big companies.

We recently worked with Standard Life on 20-day mission-based sprints which explored ways to increase the retention of one of Standard Life’s customer segments.

Stephen Ingledew from Standard Life said, “We wanted to launch a disruptive solution quickly, but one that would have minimal impact on our core technology systems. By using the sprint method introduced to us and run by the team at Market Gravity, we are able to find one. A small empowered team, or squad as a sprint team is called, was brought together to respond to the challenge we’d set, with a constraint that was time boxed. The result of the experiment was the development of “The Butler”, a new smart chat interface which we were able to get in the hands of a small number of customers, in a real environment with real data before scaling it.”

 

Get in touch if you'd like to talk about how Sprints can work for you!

paul.bowman@marketgravity.com


NEWS: Exploring AI innovations in finance

A workshop aimed at financial services organisations is taking place in London to help business leaders understand and explore opportunities within artificial intelligence.

The session, ‘AI in finance: exploring innovations in machine learning and automation for financial services’, will be held at Atlantic House, on Wednesday 9th November and will see 15 speakers deliver practical and educational presentations and facilitated discussions.

Expert speakers include Peter Sayburn, co-founder and CEO of proposition design consultancy, Market Gravity, who will deliver a facilitated discussion on robotics for manual process automation. He will lead debates on where the human touch is and isn’t needed, outlining potential cost-savings associated with robotics and how it can improve service quality, accuracy and scalability. He will also consider how it can become an alternative to standardising business processes and facilitate integration among disparate systems.

Peter is an entrepreneur, investor and author who has worked with some of the world’s foremost financial services businesses. He is passionate in the belief that if large companies are to live and grow in the digital age they must create a culture of innovation and embrace new technologies, such as AI, to stay ahead in the competitive marketplace.

Peter says: "Artificial intelligence represents a huge opportunity for the finance sector and it’s important for organisations to get involved and embrace the technology. It can improve the efficiency of their processes, meet consumer demand for speed, personalisation and convenience, and allows businesses to launch innovative new products and services to compete with new challengers and entrants to the financial services sector.

“This event brings together experts to share knowledge, experience and predictions on what’s coming up in the near future for AI and where the market is going. I’m delighted to be presenting alongside leading innovators from the financial services and tech sectors and look forward to some lively discussions.”

Marie Walker, director and co-founder of Event Creation Network, designed and organised the AI in Finance event. She says: “London is a hub of fintech innovation with hundreds of organisations developing exciting new products and services and AI is one of the technologies driving these innovations forward. Research from TABB Group Services highlighted that over two thirds of financial service firms believe AI will become hugely important in the coming years and around 34 per cent of businesses are carrying out proof concepts in the space. The event promises to be informative and compelling, giving attendees practical steps to explore regulatory compliance, customer service, financial forecasting and manual process automation.”

The workshop will feature an impressive line-up of additional speakers including Devika Thapar from IBM Watson, Hamish Leiper from Standard Life, Guillaume Vidal from Walnut Algorithms and Clara Durodie from Cognitive Finance.

The AI in Finance workshop takes place on Wednesday 9th November at Hogan Lovells, Atlantic House, London EC1A 2FG. For a list of sessions and workshops and to book your ticket, visit http://ai-finance.com.