Category Archives: Consumer Media

Sanoma’s digital transformation gains momentum

Sanoma House in Helsinki

Sanoma House in Helsinki

Last week Sanoma announced the FY2013 results. To be frank they were mixed, with online and mobile sales growing but print media in decline. The vocabulary turned classical: annus horribilis, Utopia, and per angusta ad augusta, could be heard in English, Finnish and Dutch conversations during the week. As is often the case with mixed signals, the good news has been somewhat drowned out by the more negative headlines throughout the year.  Yet Learning had a good 2013. And after a slow start to the year the overall digital platform has gained momentum and performed particularly strongly in the final quarter.

I always find it tricky blogging about financial results given that Sanoma is a listed company. But now that we have announced the results, I’d like to call out a handful of highlights on digital in Finland, The Netherlands, Learning and early stage innovation at Sanoma in 2013, drawing on the published materials.

As a reminder, the core strategy of Sanoma rests on three pillars: i) connecting consumers with content and brands, anywhere, anytime; ii) delivering powerful marketing opportunities to advertisers through our reach and consumer insight; and iii) providing personalized digital learning solutions to pupils and teachers.  Digital is clearly an integral part of that strategy.

Finland

Our share of the online media market grew by 5%-points to almost 40%.  Our online advertising revenues grew by 18% over the previous year and digital consumer sales grew by almost 30%. Digital subscriptions at Sanoma’s single biggest brand, the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, grew by almost 40% to 160,000 (on a total of about 355,000). Furthermore, digital sales at our second biggest brand Ilta-Sanomat grew by about 40%, whereby digital revenue gains now appear to be exceeding print losses; this terrific performance also secured a lead for Ilta-Sanomat over Iltalehti in terms of visitors. We also saw early success at magazines with the Donald Duck library reaching 12,000 subscribers.

Our market-leading position in recruitment got even stronger and we regained leadership in terms of visitors in real estate.  Finally, we made a great start with e-commerce service MSO.fi with more than 120 retailers already on board.

We have seen strong growth in usage via mobile devices and of online video and this is where we have registered our fastest growth.  By the end of 2013, over 50% of all pageviews on our Finnish network came from mobile devices, with mobile visitors growing by over 100% and pageviews by close to 150%.  Correspondingly, mobile advertising sales grew by around 180%Online video advertising sales grew by over 30% and the weekly reach of video platform ruutu.fi by 25%.

The Netherlands

comScore ranks Sanoma #4 of the big 5 in The Netherlands with 8.1 M unique visitors (MUV) in December 2013  – behind Google, Microsoft and Facebook (12.7, 10.7 and 9.9 MUV, respectively), but ahead of eBay (6.6 MUV). Other Dutch media groups are also represented in the top 20, but lack the reach of Sanoma. The state-subsidised NPO, and privately run TMG, De Persgroep and RTL Groep, registered a reach of 6.2, 5.3, 4.7 and 4.4 MUV respectively in December.

NU.nl, the leading news site by visitors and strongest media brand in The Netherlands and a cornerstone of Sanoma’s digital network, further strengthened this position in 2013 delighting readers with more than 10.000.000.000 pageviews, almost exactly 50 per inhabitant per month! Pageviews have more than doubled in the last three years and in the meantime more than 75% of views are made from mobile devices.  NU-apps have been downloaded more than 5 M times so far.

In common with Finland, video also grew strongly (about 40%) totalling 152 M at video platform zie.nl.

Lindanieuws.nl – an extension of the highly successful magazine brand Linda. – came with a new version that resulted in a tripling of the number of visitors to 1.2 M and a doubling of advertising sales.

Digital sales via automated trading increased by almost 25% – a serious money-maker for our digital network.  Our performance-based business had a solid year. In particular, sales at the recently acquired FashionChick doubled, partly driven by international expansion. The introduction of curated search at directory Startpagina.nl has been a runaway success and one of the most rapidly growing digital product innovations we have made in recent years. Net sales of e-commerce service SBC grew by 25%, with sales of home deco performing particularly well with a growth of nearly 50%, And soft launches of new brands leef.nl (health) and yixx.nl (jewellery) and of the international launch of price comparison site kieskeurig.nl in France and Poland have helped to ensure a healthy pipeline of new business lines that we expect will support the growth of the performance-based assets in the coming years.

Learning

At Learning, there are also good data to evidence our progress to a more digital future. Much of this relates to bringing content to life by making it more functional through digital. For example, in The Netherlands, more than 1,000,000 pupils in primary education work with Malmberg’s software, reaching 60% of all schools.  In a single week in November, more than 1,000,000 exercises were made on homework platform Bingel.be in Belgium. And in Finland, teachers and pupils logged into Sanoma Pro’s new learning environment 1,900,000 times, with 768,000 hours of active use. In the meantime 800 e-books have been published in Sanoma’s five Learning countries on the BookShelf platform provided by Young Digital Planet.

In addition to transforming its core business, Sanoma Learning is working on providing learning services to the home market with a new online tutoring proposition for mathematics: StudySteps. This has been soft launched in Belgium and The Netherlands, tested in Poland and Russia, and the first results are promising, with 110,000 exercises made in the test period.

Furthermore, Sanoma Learning is exploring the possibilities to build a position in emerging markets and has amongst others made an agreement with the People’s Education Press to provide digital services to support the provision of e-learning in China. It’s early days, but there is clear demand for Sanoma’s high quality Learning capabilities abroad.

Innovation

SanomaVentures had an exciting year, receiving over 400 requests from external startups, which ultimately resulted in 9 investments, bringing the total to 15 to date.  In aggregate the business/financial performance of this portfolio has been promising and these ventures currently employ over 161 people. We expect to make a similar number of new investments this year.

Building on the success of the series of in-house innovation accelerators, we have now launched an Innovation Lab to foster the ventures that are borne out of the accelerators and as a test ground for new ideas from the core business.  We currently have a full pipeline of concepts, prototypes and early stage ventures and have set ourselves the goal to have established five ventures in the next 3-5 years that have an annual revenue potential of € 10 M+. In 2013 we ran four accelerators (Content, Commerce, Talent and NU-lab), two of which were open to external participation. Through these accelerators we trained about 500 Sanoma employees on the lean development methodology and created 15 functional prototypes, about half of which have been given seed funding for further customer validation.

Finally, we have significantly increased our investments and human resourcing on data science including hiring a team of 20 data scientists last year to boost our analytics and insights capabilities across Sanoma. We are currently working on developing the common “big data” enablers, as well as specific cases on consumer sales, online advertising and new business models. We expect to make a quantum leap in our insights capabilities in the coming years.

Good progress on the journey

Overall, reflecting on the three pillars of Sanoma’s strategy i) connecting consumers with content and brands, anywhere, anytime, and ii) delivering powerful marketing opportunities to advertisers through our reach and consumer insight and iii) providing personalized digital learning solutions to pupils and teachers, I believe the highlights above show that digital has made a big contribution in 2013 to progressing this strategy. Respect to the teams who have made this happen and thanks for your hard work!

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Wise crowds and wildcards: the moment of truth for the CommerceAccelerator

Commerce-Accelerator-logoMid-September we kicked off the #CommerceAccelerator. This is the third in the series of Innovation Accelerators at Sanoma. We have two big goals for the program: i) to build new business lines and ii) to learn new skills.  As a direct result of the first two accelerators we have established six new start-ups and by the end of this accelerator almost 450 of our most talented employees will have learned new skills about Lean Innovation.  We believe this will boost our capability to succeed in the overall digital transformation of the company.

This accelerator has two new angles. Firstly, we are focusing on “enabling commerce” rather than creating and distributing content: how can we use our ability to inspire, engage and reach consumers to enable commerce? And secondly we have opened up the process to include about 70 students from 6 European universities, to bring an extra richness of talent and ideas. This has given a great new twist to the proceedings.

Vote yes to make it happen

Previously we have selected the top ten ideas and their owners to build pro-MVPs. vote-yesTomorrow evening is the moment of truth!  In a live webinar we will select the top five that will be given the opportunity to go to bootcamp. At the bootcamp we will be build working prototypes and evaluate the potential of both the concept and idea owner to take the next step in our intrapreneurship program and establish a new venture at Sanoma.  Places at bootcamp are highly coveted and are a ticket to build your idea and show your talent at our company.

Wisdom of the crowd and expert opinions

Three of the five winners will be chosen by the public vote with the final two positions awarded by a team of experts (the “wildcards”). We took a first view on the ten competitors in the expert team last week and made a preliminary ranking for the wildcards. The experts tend to use the wildcards to strengthen alignment with the overall strategic goals of Sanoma. It was really great to see the pitches and concepts – it’s going to be a hard fight for the places tomorrow! In previous accelerators it’s been remarkable to notice how similar the voting of the wisdom of the crowd and the experts has been.  In some ways that gives a certain level of confidence that we are making the best choices. (In others, I wonder if I could save some money on the experts :-)).

Three criteria

There are three key criteria that will be considered when voting. 1. Strategic fit with Sanoma.  2. Ability to operate.  3. Financial attractiveness.  Most of the ideas tend to score highly on the first two points, partly due to the guidance we give during the process and partly because of the experience of the participants.  My biggest question usually relates to the financial attractiveness of the idea – particularly with regard to scale. What are the ideas that could really succeed at scale?

Intrapreneurs

Last week we reviewed the first quarter performance of the new ventures Hubly and SpotandShop that we created from the #ContentAccelerator.  I was truly impressed by the progress Birgit and Nikky have made, including first sales already!  It’s really brilliant how they have taken the opportunity and brought it to life. Respect!  I hope this is a sign of what is to come from the #CommerceAccelerator.

Good luck

So, I’m excited about the outcome of tomorrow’s voting.  Good luck to the ten teams competing and thanks to everyone who joined the program. It will be great to see the winners at bootcamp in Amsterdam during the week of 9 December! Looking forward >>. 

I’m interested to hear how other corporations boost innovation, or any feedback or comments you have on our program – feel free to drop me a line!

 

Spirited start at Sanoma Digital

sanomaxAt the end of October, Sanoma announced the planned launch of Sanoma Digital to boost our pure-play digital business in consumer media. Sanoma Digital will have three main goals: i) to grow ii) to boost innovation and iii) to advance our capabilities on analytics and lean development.

Engaging with colleagues

In the weeks since the announcement I’ve been meeting my colleagues in the new digital organisation to talk about the plans for digital and to listen to and discuss the feedback. This has been a truly positive experience and I’ve also been really been proud to see how my new team is stepping up to the challenge.  I especially like it when there is a lot of interaction and direct and open questions in the sessions; the more lively the discussion, the more fun it is!

Reflecting on the past weeks, there are three themes that I have heard frequently in the feedback and discussions at new Sanoma Digital, and I want to call them out here:

Optimism and positive energy

Although we are facing challenging times, the over-riding spirit at new Sanoma Digital is optimistic and positive.  The announcement of the new unit has been welcomed. This is widely seen as a good step to take in boosting digital at Sanoma and in bringing new opportunities for our people.  It brings a new and promising perspective.

Support for the clarity and focus

There has been strong support amongst the employees and in the new management team of Sanoma Digital for establishing this new business unit. This support comes from the clear and distinct mandate: to grow, to innovate and to advance our capabilities in digital consumer media. Each part of the business has a role to play in navigating Sanoma to the future. This is where Sanoma Digital can make a difference.  And organising to make that happen is seen as making good sense.

Ambition to win

I sense a strong ambition to win amongst the teams at Sanoma Digital.  I feel it in the teams of our successful brands such as NU.nl, oikotie.fi and kieskeurig.nl. I feel it at the Innovation Lab and at SanomaVentures.  And I feel it in the analytics and professional support teams.  It’s an ambition and determination to take this opportunity and to make a difference by winning in the market.  It feels good and I respect it a lot.

So, these are my reflections on the last couple of weeks.  I’m looking forward to becoming CEO of Sanoma Learning during the course of next year, but know very well that I will be leaving behind a fantastic opportunity at Sanoma Digital!

 

Sanoma Digital to boost transformation on three fronts: growth, innovation and capabilities

nu-labSanoma recently announced the planned launch of Sanoma Digital as part of an overall accelerated transformation program.

We see many opportunities in digital and have in the meantime built a substantial and growing digital business.  We intend to boost digital by creating this new business unit which will focus on pure-play digital assets in consumer media in Finland and The Netherlands, and will include brands such as oikotie.fi, NU.nl and kieskeurig.nl.  Digital brand extensions such as hs.fi and libelle.nl will be run directly by Sanoma Media Finland and The Netherlands. Sanoma Learning will drive all Learning activities.

Focus

A core element of the overall transformation program is to bring more focus to the business and to ensure that each part has a clear mandate and objectives.  This also holds true for Sanoma Digital.  Growing and innovating pure-play digital businesses in consumer media is a different assignment than transforming a portfolio of magazines, winning viewers for television, taking newspapers to their next level or building digital workflow solutions for learning.  Each of these assignments needs dedicated management attention to focus on making it happen.

Digital enjoys a unique role within the portfolio and will for that reason also work very closely with the other platforms to enable cross-media solutions for consumers and advertisers – shared sales, insights & analytics and ICT teams will help us to achieve that.

Goals

Sanoma Digital will have three main goals:

  1. The first goal is to growgrowthWe intend to significantly grow the digital consumer media business in the next 5 years. Part of that growth will come from working closely with the local business in Finland and the Netherlands, including adding new verticals, new media (mobile and video) and new services to our performance-based (lead-generation, e-commerce, online classifieds) and pure-play digital content businesses. Another part of the growth will come from scaling successful concepts created in The Netherlands and Finland to new markets.  We have been investing in the early part the product pipeline recently with quite some new launches in the final quarter this year.  We expect this to bear fruits during the course of the coming years.
  2. The second goal is to boost innovation and to strengthen skills across the organisation on lean development methods. Commerce-Accelerator-logo To achieve this we will establish a new innovation lab which will nurture the winning concepts borne out of our ongoing series of innovation accelerators.  Furthermore, we will continue to invest in external digital enterprises via Sanoma Ventures. We want to fill the pipeline with new business lines – to plant the seeds of the next generation Sanoma.
  3. The third goal is to strengthen our capabilities on data insights & analytics. We will bundle our resources on insights and analytics, boost them, and deploy them across Sanoma, to help the whole company to succeed in the digital transformation.

Positive outcomes

From the perspective of digital, we hope this will position us to better serve our customers. If we are successful, we will grow digital and this should help us to provide attractive new opportunities for employees and improved returns for shareholders.

Two passions

From a personal perspective, my next assignment is to establish Sanoma Digital. I’m excited about this and believe setting up Sanoma digital is a good step to boost the digital transformation. We’re now in the process of setting up a new team to drive this agenda.  I’m really proud of the talented people who are joining this team and who will work at Sanoma Digital!  During Q1 next year I will succeed Jacques Eijkens as CEO of Sanoma Learning.  My two passions are digital and learning.  Sanoma has a strong and successful international Learning business that is also going through a digital transformation.  I hope and believe that I will be able to contribute to the further success of Sanoma Learning by boosting the leadership of digital and innovation there.

Making innovation happen: how to organize for disruptive growth?

video-screenshot

One of our new intrapreneurs is building a marketplace for fashionista’s.

Following excellent performances at the bootcamp of the #contentaccelerator in June, two of our top talents have taken new roles as intrapreneurs at Sanoma this week. Making it happen!  This innovative burst immediately caused temperatures to sky-rocket to a sweltering 33°C at the office. Respect to them for showing the courage of their convictions and going for it. And thanks especially to the local organisation for supporting a speedy transition.

Creativity and customer-focus sit deep in Sanoma’s character.  However, we have deliberately organized these and other new ventures separately from the core business, yet cooperative with it.  We wanted to establish a model which gave the accelerators and new ventures the liberty to exploit their disruptive opportunity unrestricted by the core, yet in a way which supported both the new venture and the core. In my view, the process of the accelerator (ideation and competence development for hundreds of people from the core) and the sharing of various capabilities in the operation (mainly marketing, technology and expertise) achieve that.

Dual Transformation

I recently came across an excellent article by Gilbert, Eyring & Foster, in the Harvard Business Review called Two Routes to Resilience which clearly articulates the case for developing disruptive and core businesses separately yet under one umbrella. How to organize for new growth?

The authors make the case that when your industry is undergoing disruptive change, companies should respond by making two distinct transformations in parallel. Transformation A focuses on repositioning the core business to its altered circumstances. Transformation B should create disruptive innovations that will eventually bring new growth. And the structure should work for both through a “capabilities exchange” that allow the sharing of select resources for the benefit of both parties, without changing the mission of either. Each transformation needs a leader fully convinced of the future success of their mission. Both pillars of the transformation have to act in the market as if the future of the company depended on it alone.

“Capabilities Exchange”

The “capabilities exchange” should in principle bring competitive advantage to each pillar in the transformation. In the case of our accelerators and new ventures, some important shared resources come to mind. The Sanoma brand helps us to build connections to consumers, advertisers and schools.  Easy access to media and traffic help support existing brands and build new brands. Expertise in content, advertising, learning and other capabilities required in managing a company, such as finance and HR can support each transformation. The re-use of content and technology can reduce unit costs and bring speed to innovation. An international network can bring scale. Access to a skilled talent pool and methods of developing new skills on innovation are required in both tracks. And a dual transformation can support the financing of the respective pillars. That’s quite an exchange when you come to think of it!

Boosting Transformation B

For the sake of good order, Sanoma has many growing, successful and disruptive business lines and I would not for one moment say that the ventures born from the accelerators are the only seeds of the next generation of our products and services and everything else is legacy. That’s clearly not the case. The new ventures are just one of the pockets of innovation and digital disruption in the company. And we have many other business lines which would not count as digital disruptions but are far from legacy status.

Yet the argumentation in the HBR article is good and sharp. I believe it’s a credible approach and our actions and investments in new ventures are for their part consistent with it. Bringing additional relative scale to what the HBR article refers to as transformation B (the new growth businesses) would help to support the dual transformation. Increasing the pipeline of new ventures would be one way to achieve that.

I’m interested to know your opinion about this.  Feel free to leave a comment or send me an email.

Sexiest Job at Sanoma: Data Scientist

During a recent webinar I gave about our strategy, Lassi Kurkijärvi (Director of Innovation & Development) was voted to have the sexiest job at Sanoma. This victory was by a comfortable margin, getting about twice as many votes as the second placed “my own job”. I agree that our Mobile Superhero has got a hot job. However, in my view, the sexiest jobs at Sanoma in the next few years will be those of the Data Scientists.

I realize not everybody will share my view and I am arguably biased due to my background (a lot of Bioinformatics in my PhD). Yet I believe there’s a big opportunity for us to be even more relevant to our customers (and make more money) by providing them more accurately with the right content and functionality at the right time, on the right medium and device and for the right price. (By customers, I mean consumers of media, advertisers, learners and teachers).

To do this, we have to make a quantum leap forward in our insights and analytics capabilities. This week I caught up with our Queen of the Quants – Ulla Kruhse-Lehtonen (VP, Customer Insight and Analytics) about insights and big data at Sanoma. She’s a brilliant addition to my team, fun to work with, fast, determined and has the brain the size of a planet. She’s building our new team and co-developing the cases with the business owners.

Ulla Kruhse-Lehtonen, VP Customer Insight & Analytics and Queen of the Quants at Sanoma

Ulla Kruhse-Lehtonen, VP Customer Insight & Analytics and Queen of the Quants at Sanoma

Ulla, why did you decide to join Sanoma?

I was immediately intrigued when I heard about the opportunity. Having always been an avid reader and a magazine buff, I was fascinated by the chance to work for a company whose business is storytelling. At Sanoma, I can combine my love for stories with data science, which is my other passion.

I’m excited by Sanoma’s wealth of consumer data and the business opportunities it provides. The media industry is currently undergoing a fundamental transformation from print and broadcasting to digital. Consumer analytics is at the centre of the transformation. Modern data mining, visualization, and machine-learning techniques provide us with strategic and operational insights as well as targeting and personalization capabilities for our current and future products and businesses. Data science helps us create unique, relevant and exciting experiences for our customers.

How is Sanoma rolling out the new data science capabilities?

The new capabilities are used to optimize consumer sales, target digital advertising, personalize services, and create strategic consumer metrics and other data-driven insights. The data science team develops the capabilities in close collaboration with the respective business and IT functions. Roll-out happens in stages. Only after verifying the performance of the new analytics capability through a pilot, will it be rolled out further. This helps us ensure the success of the new capability before making large-scale investments into technology and training people. 

We also aim at creating a culture of sharing and communicating of successes and failures in order to share best practices and learnings across units.

What is the most critical factor for making a Big Data initiative successful?

The most critical factor is to closely align data, insights and analytics activities with the company’s business strategy. It’s easy for an analytics team to keep itself busy with interesting and challenging, yet irrelevant matters. Once Data Scientists thoroughly understand the business goals and logic, they will be able to translate them into data and analytics questions and come up with unexpected, sometimes unintuitive outcomes, which may have tremendous business opportunities.

At Sanoma, the executive-level support for analytics is extremely strong, which is one of the most pivotal matters for a successful analytics transformation of a company.

What are typical challenges in Big Data initiatives?

The technical effort related to the gathering, management and utilization of data should not be underestimated. The more silo’s there are, the longer it takes to gather and utilize data across the organization. It takes successful analytics companies several years to get it right. At Sanoma, our approach is to prioritize consumer and advertiser use cases and build up the technical enablers in a clear order. It is important to constantly deliver short-term business wins while building up the long-term infrastructure to support the company’s vision.

However, in the end, technology is money and hard work, but analytics is about people’s mindset and the willingness to do things differently. Unless analytics capabilities are taken into use and the results are acted upon, there is little point to build them in the first place.

You’re building a team of Data Scientists and other data experts. How’s it going?

First group of new recruits.  In the lift at Sanoma House.

First group of new recruits. In the lift at Sanoma House.

The recruitments are going quite well. We have signed on thirteen people in Helsinki and Amsterdam. Finding the right talent is critical for the successful execution of the analytics strategy. We need skilled people to create value out of data. In addition to Data Scientists, we have established the position of the Consumer Privacy Officer and the Head of Data Asset. We have also hired Big Data Developers and Database Administrators. The openings are no longer visible on our website as we are working through the applications, but if readers of this blog are interested in hearing more, feel free to drop me an email (ulla.kruhse-lehtonen@sanoma.com).

In September you will have been with Sanoma for a year. Still excited about the job?

Absolutely! It’s great to work with talented and skilled people and to develop the data science competency here. Data, analytics, and privacy are at the core of Sanoma’s transformation and reflect the consumers’ changing behavior. Data science is cool!

Looking forward >>

I’m with Ulla on that!  I love the creativity of a media and learning company. Putting insights to work is the next generation. This is what makes these jobs so sexy.

Looking further than Sanoma – the opportunity for societies to use insights derived from big data to improve quality of life (for example through better healthcare and education) and economic performance (for example through better allocation and targeting of resources and higher productivity) is substantial; the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) estimates a potential for $ 300 bn of value creation per year in US healthcare alone.

USA is educating data scientists for the future

USA is educating data scientists for the future

However, the rate limiting factor in capturing this potential is in my view the availability of skilled Data Scientists. MGI estimates a shortage of 190,000 skilled data scientists and 1.5 m managers with sufficient analytics know-how in the USA by 2018. Probably the European challenge is of a similar magnitude.  In the USA we see Seattle (see e.g. the eScience Institute at the University of Washington and PhD program in Big Data) and New York (see e.g. the Institute for Data Sciences and Engineering at Columbia and Center for Data Science at NYU) contending with Silicon Valley to become the next hotbed for educating the data scientists of the future. 

We need more initiatives like this in Europe too. With a substantial opportunity gap on the one hand and European unemployment now estimated to be more than 26 m (with youth unemployment over 50% in some countries) data science is an area that should be prioritized for education and training. 

My advice to anyone considering education or training in data science as one of their options: go for it!  Not only will it be good for your chances of getting a job, it might even be a sexy one at a cool company like Sanoma!

Sanoma’s #contentaccelerator bootcamp: making it happen!

Participants at bootcamp

Participants at bootcamp

Last week we ran the bootcamp for the #contentaccelerator. After seven weeks of ideation and training, of building and testing minimum viable products, we sent the five winners to bootcamp to build prototypes of their concepts – to take the next step in making it happen.

On a personal note – these weeks are amongst the absolute highlights of my year. We take some of the most talented people in the organization and give them the opportunity and tools to turn their idea into a prototype. I believe in innovation by doing. Not only is this the best way to move fast and develop close to the customer. It’s also the best way of learning new skills.

Focus on delivery

The first impression of a visitor to the bootcamp is that we put the participants in a cool space and give them four days of playtime to see what they make of it. However, the fact of the matter is that bootcamp is tough and demanding. Deliverables and discipline are at the core of the way of working. Preparations for the bootcamp have been stringent. We have selected the best ideas and leaders by a competitive and transparent process. Teams with complementary skills are formed including a visual designer and interaction designer best suited to the team and assignment. Each day starts by establishing clear deliverables for that day, and we are very strict in maintaining discipline to ensure that the results can be presented at end of the day. It’s structured, focused and intense.

Five concepts turned into prototypes

The outcome of the week is that we have built five great prototypes that have been tested with customers. They include i) a content marketplace (“if content is King, come and join the other Royals”); ii) a fashionista community (“you spot the look, we spot the shop”); iii) a service to hear the news in a new way (“have you heard the news”?); iv) an educational talent discovery app (“discover the talents of your children”) and v) a learning solution that mashes up the real and virtual worlds with educational quests. It’s amazing how far the teams have been able to bring these concepts in just four days. I’m tempted to link to the promotional videos here, but it’s a bit premature to make external announcements at this stage.

Proud of the teams

I’m really proud of how the teams have performed. Not only what they have delivered as prototypes. But also how they went about it; the spirit, motivation, energy and passion – the “can-do” approach has been truly inspiring. Congratulations to the team leaders and respect for the blood, sweat and tears that you have put into the last few months. Thanks to the support teams from Sanoma and Makerstreet for helping to make it happen. And once again Lassi Kurkijärvi (@lassi, Director at Sanoma) and Joris van Heukelom (@jorisheuk, Partner at Makerstreet) have been brilliant and inspiring in leading this program from beginning to end.

Fostering an innovative culture

As we continue on this journey of discovery to the roles that Sanoma will play in the futures of media and learning, it’s of the essence that we foster our creative and innovative culture. I believe the accelerators contribute to this in several ways. Directly, we are training hundreds of people on lean development methods and building new digital business lines. Indirectly, the accelerators generate discussion about innovation in the company, with supporters and sometimes detractors too. And the discussion often leads to new initiative – to more attention for innovation – what to do, what not to do, and how?

High level support is critical to the success of any program like this. I especially liked the visits of Harri-Pekka Kaukonen (CEO) and Jackie Cuthbert (CHRO) to the bootcamp. Both are strong supporters of the program and it’s great that they are visible and transparent in that. I loved the way the project leaders engaged with them, and the different styles they used in pitching their ideas and themselves – not only using facts, figures and beautiful design, but also appealing to their emotions (“Harri-Pekka, imagine your daughters using this”; “Jackie, this will help you find more great shoes”). Definitely some natural sales talent in the room!

The accelerators have proven the case that women rule at Sanoma. All five of the first round of new ventures are led by women and four of the five teams at this particular bootcamp were led by women too. Probably the sample size is too small to draw any conclusions about this phenomenon of the superior performance of women in the accelerators. Our experience on the whole is that the participants who came with the best ideas, put the most effort into developing them and sold them most effectively, came the furthest. Is there something about the accelerators and intrapreneurship that might give Sanoma a competitive advantage by creating an innovation and venturing space that particularly appeals to women, or at least supports a level playing field for talent?

Next steps

Based on the outcomes of the bootcamp we are now working on the next steps. In some cases, we will create new ventures. In others, we will likely sponsor next steps in the local business. There is one case where we believe we might need to work with an external partner to win in the market. We are currently engaging with the various stakeholders and expect to have made agreements within two weeks.

The clock never stops ticking of course. On Monday we will launch the recruitment drive for the #commerceaccelerator that we will run in the Autumn of this year, in cooperation with a number of leading European universities. Looking forward >>.