Category Archives: venturing

CommerceAccelerator goes to bootcamp

commerce-accelerator-bootcamp-selectionLast week in a live broadcast, we selected the five winning concepts and idea owners who will join us this week at the bootcamp of the CommerceAccelerator in Amsterdam. We will build prototypes of these ideas and test them with customers, as a pre-cursor to deciding which concepts to sponsor as new ventures at Sanoma.

Two big goals

We have two main objectives for the accelerator programs.

Firstly, we want to develop new digital business lines – to plant the seeds of the next generation of Sanoma products and services. We have set ourselves the target of establishing five new ventures (the “fabulous five”) within the next five years that have clearly demonstrated the potential to become as successful as NU.nl is today. From the first two accelerators we have created six new ventures and we will soon reach the critical moment when we decide which of them to boost further and which to discontinue.

Secondly, we want to develop lean development skills across Sanoma to support the overall digital transformation. We want 20% of all employees to join an accelerator program in the next five years. By the end of 2014, we expect that more than 1.000 Sanoma employees will have participated in an accelerator and learned the lean development methodology.

So far, so good :-).

Why the CommerceAccelerator?

This is the third accelerator in the series so far and focuses on enabling commerce. We see three domains of opportunity where Sanoma has the ability and ambition to succeed: i) creating, curating and distributing content for consumers ii) providing powerful marketing solutions to advertisers and iii) supporting learning and education. This accelerator clearly supports our ambitions in the second domain.

Positive and optimistic

I’m enthusiastic about how this accelerator has been going so far. I love the positive energy and can-do attitude of the people. This time we have made the accelerator “open” to university students and that’s brought it an extra edge, a new freshness. I like it when we innovate the innovation programs :-). It’s also been great to see such a good mix of people: Sanoma and Students; Finland and The Netherlands; Print, Digital and TV. Lassi and Joris have done a wonderful job again: every time we do it, it grows and gets better.

Voting criteria

The ten concepts and their owners were all strong and had put forward excellent pitches. Prior to the selection I advised the voters to consider five criteria when making their decision: i) does it fit our strategy? ii) are we capable of doing it? iii) can we earn money from it? iv) can this person make it happen and v) is the lean development method being well used? I don’t know if anyone listened to the advice, but I am happy with the results of the voting :-).

High Five

Voting was tense and the public rounds went to the wire a couple of times. The three concepts selected from the public voting included propositions for mobile advertising, engaging tv ads and marrying offline and online commerce. Two additional concepts won “wildcards” from the expert jury based on the expectation that they would be well position to “make it happen”: a reverse retargeting proposition and a relevant and engaging online advertising service.

Excited about bootcamp

I’m truly excited to see what the idea owners will create at bootcamp this week! What can we make of these concepts? Might one of them eventually become one of the fabulous five? I’m sure that most of the participants will experience this as one of the best weeks in their professional lives so far: hard work, fast pace, rapid learning, focus on delivery and a lot of fun too! Tomorrow morning is the kick-off and by the end of Thursday afternoon we will see what the teams are capable of.

So, good luck to the teams and do your best! Looking forward >>

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.