Tag Archives: Bootcamp

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?


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!


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 >>.