tag:discoverse.com,2013:/posts Discoverse 2013-10-08T17:29:04Z Mikko Alasaarela tag:discoverse.com,2013:Post/597454 2013-08-27T16:05:59Z 2013-10-08T17:29:04Z Inessa got a happy surprise from Nokia

A lot has happened in a few months. The biggest news is that we moved back to Berlin, Germany. After a couple of trips during July, we found a wonderful Dachgeschoss, a penthouse apartment by KuDamm close to the international school my three kids are attending. After putting a number of new furniture items on order from various interior stores, we went to local IKEA store in Spandau to look for some items to complement the kids rooms. My daughter Inessa, who had just turned 10 and gotten a nice Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini De Fleur edition (what a monster name for a phone!) as a birthday present, joined us there. 

Then an unfortunate event happened. We left the store at the last minute, and Inessa realized a few minutes later that she had forgotten her purse with the phone to the store. Since the store was already closed, we decided to go back on the following day. We were convinced that the phone and purse was taken into custody by the IKEA employees since there were no clients after us in the store. On the following day, we had the misfortune of learning that the phone was not returned to the lost & found desk of the store, so one of the employees must have stolen it.

Inessa was quite sad - she had received her new phone only a few days earlier. I posted about her unfortunate accident on the Facebook page of IKEA Deutschland, and that's when we got a very nice surprise. An old acquaintance of mine and a Facebook friend Diarmuid Feeny, who's currently running the retail sales for Nokia in Germany and other countries, contacted me and said that he felt for Inessa and wanted to give her a brand new Nokia Lumia 625 phone as a gift. That was an incredibly nice gesture from him, and from Nokia.

Since I left employment at Nokia 13 years ago to become an entrepreneur, I have been following the company closely. Many of my friends have worked there for a significant part of their careers. The demise of Symbian and the rise of other smartphone operating systems was a key contributor to the downward shift in the company's fortunes. It didn't help when the management easily dissed Apple's announcement of iPhone as a small "niche play" on the market.

After dwelling for years in doldrums, Nokia has made significant progress with their new Lumia series. The hardware is excellent. In fact, it is so good that it is a pity that it has to suffer from Microsoft's inferior operating system and app store that has minuscule offering compared to main rivals Android and iOS. Don't get me wrong, the user experience design in WP8 is solid and well differentiated. The problem is that Microsoft is just too far behind with the features. Nokia has had to resort to smaller screen resolutions than their rivals on their phones because of Microsoft's arbitrary resolution limit of 1280x768, which is only being lifted later this year. The 42MP "monster camera" became available very late, again only after Microsoft finally built support for it in their OS.

If the operating system wasn't hindering its progress, Nokia would likely be back at the top of their game on the strength of their hardware and design, gaining significant market share in the smartphone segments. And with its new friendly and welcoming attitude, they could well have a chance at a solid following. For what it's worth, I'm now a fan. And I believe my daughter is even bigger fan. Diarmuid, big thanks to you and your team from Inessa and me. It was a very nice gesture!

PS. This gesture definitely helps our dev team to kickstart native WP8 client development of Linko app together with Android and iOS.

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Mikko Alasaarela
tag:discoverse.com,2013:Post/578383 2013-05-10T19:38:23Z 2013-10-08T17:25:15Z From bad to good: a Finnish customer service experience

Today, I needed to open a bank account for a company in Helsinki. Because of a tight schedule, I decided to visit the bank on the morning to be able to accept wirings already during the same day. I took off to a local branch office of Danske Bank. The decision for opening the account in Danske Bank was made purely out of convenience. I already had my personal and another company's accounts there and I could manage the banking in all of these using a single sign-on. They also are much more accommodating to global operation than for example Nordea, who don't even agree to send new credit cards to a foreign address, but rather require you to visit their branch in person. I have personal experience on that and switched from Nordea to Danske for that very reason.

I was expecting to visit the bank, talk to the clerk, open the account and walk away. Turns out that I was being overly optimistic. As I wrote earlier, I started the experience by entering a local, suburban branch office of Danske Bank. The customer service representative there immediately makes it clear that they do not handle business accounts. I politely asked where they had a branch office that would take care of business accounts. The response was a blunt: "I have no idea. Ask from the reps in the other room." Somewhat surprised by the ignorance of the service rep, I went to another room and repeated my question. This time they had an idea: "You could try one of two branch offices - either Kaivokatu branch in downtown Helsinki or another branch in Tikkurila, Vantaa."

I decided to pay a visit to the downtown office, and took off. Once I got there, I went straight to the receptionist. Me: "Good morning. I'd like to open a bank account for a newly founded company." The receptionist: "We are very busy here and accept only customers who have booked their appointment in advance." Me: "Could you check your bookings calendar if you could squeeze me in? I'm in a hurry." The receptionist: "You'd be lucky to get an appointment for next Friday." Me: "To me, it feels like you are doing your best to avoid gaining a new customer. I said I'm in a hurry and need this done now." After a few more pleas, the receptionist gives in: "Let me find a rep who could try to book an earlier time." She walks to the back.

After a short while, the receptionist reappears and says I can work a time for appointment with the lady in room 4. I walk there and greet her - and immediately notice she has no clients to serve there. In my mind, I'm damning the Finnish customer service where receptionists can turn down customers while the clerks are just procrastinating in the offices. I sit down and my phone rings. Its my colleague Joona who's returning my call from earlier in the morning. I tell him that I'm sitting in front of a bank clerk who does not have time for me and my business and quickly end the call with promise to call back after I'm done with my business at the bank. The clerk not only heard what I said to Joona, but reacted to it in a way that ended up completely changing my experience. 

Suddenly there was a sense of urgency and I was a priority customer. The lady was very sweet and quickly figured out the fastest way to get the account opened: I should call to their business customer call center to open the accounts. She would scan my company documents and add them to my online bank as secure files that the call center folks could access to be able to complete the task without meeting me personally. The call center responded relatively quickly, and the lady whose room I was in emailed the documents to the call center person just to make sure the transaction does not get caught up with any extra bureaucracy.

Then the call center rep said that they have this process where they have to interview the business customer for at least 30 minutes. I said that I really needed to open the bank accounts as soon as possible, but if such interview was necessary I will do it. The clerk asked me one question after which she realizes how stupid it is to follow an archaic process with a customer that they already know and have done business with for years. She says: "Let's do a shortcut here: I will open the account for you now and fill the questionnaire by myself using the documents you provided and our previous knowledge of you. If I have any remaining questions, I will call you later, but let's not hinder this process any further." Me: "Thank you for making this smooth and quick." The call center rep: "You are welcome. Thanks for being our customer."

At the end, I had a smooth and enjoyable experience in opening the accounts, but I had to persist through a lot of suffering before I ended up there. How many customers would have quit and walked to another bank before that? What can we learn from this?

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Mikko Alasaarela
tag:discoverse.com,2013:Post/188300 2011-12-14T20:17:00Z 2013-10-08T16:01:32Z How to Balance the Finnish Government Budget

[I posted the following in Finnish on a Facebook comment thread of one of my favorite reps in the Finnish Parliament. I thought the topic was interesting enough to share in my blog. I have enhanced and added to the original comment to build the right context.] 

To win the fight against slow bankruptcy of the government through destructive spiral of debt, we need to use drastic measures rather than slow and late tax increases and spending cuts. Given the current dire situation, I think Finland's best chance to win is in aggressive pursuing of rapid digitalization and automation of all possible administrative tasks. I am not only talking about back-office automation, but also offering of all possible government services online as soon as possible. We already have a good start with electronic tax filings and some other government services, but there are plenty of things that can still be completely automated.

An aggressive digitalization strategy would have the following positive effects:

  1. Every Finnish citizen would learn to use e-services and computer technology early on because of this broad commitment by the government. Access to computers for poor and elderly can be offered in specific locations, including public libraries.
  2. Finnish software developers would have plenty of new, government financed projects, contributing to the building and nurturing of local software engineering talent. However, this time around, government sourcing managers should be tough enough to require top notch software quality and state of the art technology.
  3. Finland would remain at the forefront of government usage of technology, which would provide an opportunity for Finnish e-government application startups to succeed in international competition. This will be made possible by the hard-nosed sourcing managers that accept only state of the art technology.
  4. Algorithms combined with online services will eventually eliminate the need for many, many government workers, drastically reducing the operational cost to run the government, both at municipal and state level.
  5. High speed internet access for all citizens would remain a priority for the telecommunications regulators and lawmakers, which would help to push and keep the whole country in the cutting edge.

What do you think? How big of an impact can we make with this approach?

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Mikko Alasaarela
tag:discoverse.com,2013:Post/188314 2011-11-30T03:04:00Z 2013-10-08T16:01:32Z How To Manage Privacy in a Transparent World

Today, I had a fascinating discussion with a friend of mine. We were having discussion about Facebook, and how we now live under the constant surveillance of multiple entities. Credit card companies, social networks, email providers, advertisers, store chains with their loyalty programs, governments and analytics tools, mobile phones... they all watch our behavior. The amount of data we leave behind creates an astonishingly clear trail. In front of the data and algorithms, we are completely naked.

And now to the fascinating part: My anonymous friend said that he decided to fight back. He had long since given up on the idea that someone can stay invisible under the all-seeing eye of the internet. So he turned it around.

More than a year ago, he started sharing stories and links on his social profiles that had absolutely nothing to do with him. He started randomly clicking on ads that did not reflect his personal desires. He visited web pages that he wasn't a single bit interested on. Eventually, he created scripts that make random posts at random intervals from various sources to disguise his awake hours, location and other private information.

In summary, he exists as himself everywhere in the web, but none of any analytics tools, cookies, programs and algorithms have any clue who he is, where he hangs and what he wants. It is simply impossible to know him without being his personal friend.

This is where we have arrived. The only way to fight the constant surveillance is to create enough noise to disguise the signal of our behavior. There's no other way to hide anymore.

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Mikko Alasaarela
tag:discoverse.com,2013:Post/188322 2011-06-22T19:30:29Z 2013-10-08T16:01:33Z Robert Scoble interviews Walkbase

Walkbase is my latest portfolio company, working to provide room-level location context for applications. We are looking for more Android application developers as launch partners. Contact me at mikko at walkbase dot com if you are interested.
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Mikko Alasaarela
tag:discoverse.com,2013:Post/188325 2011-05-11T14:32:11Z 2013-10-08T16:01:33Z Alf Rehn speaking at AaltoVG

Entrepreneurship stories before BBQ.

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Mikko Alasaarela
tag:discoverse.com,2013:Post/188336 2011-05-04T11:25:04Z 2013-10-08T16:01:33Z Mini Seedcamp in Stockholm

Panel on funding options. As it is Scandinavian, everyone is related somehow.

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Mikko Alasaarela
tag:discoverse.com,2013:Post/188344 2011-04-25T20:38:22Z 2013-10-08T16:01:33Z One of the most fascinating studies I've read As of late I've been highly interested in the data-driven future of applications and how intelligent algorithms will win over user interfaces just because they remove the need for user interfaces. This article in WSJ about using phones to understand and predict human behavior is a testament to a future where machines will predict what we want to do.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704547604576263261679848814.html]]>
Mikko Alasaarela
tag:discoverse.com,2013:Post/188350 2011-03-26T09:47:16Z 2013-10-08T16:01:33Z Bill Nguyen explains Color SAI has a good interview with Bill Nguyen. I agree with Bill that AI is the next frontier in the battle for relevance and winning user experiences.

----

Color Founder Bill Nguyen: Why You're All Wrong And This Really IS A $41 Million Idea:

http://www.businessinsider.com/exclusive-bill-nguyen-qa-2011-3?op=1]]>
Mikko Alasaarela
tag:discoverse.com,2013:Post/188352 2011-03-25T12:30:41Z 2013-10-08T16:01:33Z Donna Novitsky talking about entrepreneurship

Aalto Venture Garage seems fairly packed today.

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Mikko Alasaarela
tag:discoverse.com,2013:Post/188360 2011-01-20T02:57:25Z 2013-10-08T16:01:33Z Social Games Panel at Google

Massive crowd. The event was organized by Peanut Labs - Kudos to Nomi, Ali and others for putting it together!

Mikko]]>
Mikko Alasaarela
tag:discoverse.com,2013:Post/188362 2011-01-14T03:26:00Z 2013-10-08T16:01:33Z I don't understand US carriers' 4G hype

Every self-respecting smartphone maker, maybe with the exception of Nokia, released new 4G phones last week at CES 2011. There was a bubbling hype around the new "superfast" data networks enabling new levels of productivity and entertainment to ever-so-mobile people.

But there's something wrong with this hype. The largest US wireless carriers have cut their 3G data transfer quotas across the board and offer currently deals like "1GB of data transfer for $50/month" (example from USB data plan for laptops). For the users of latest HD-video capable smartphones this is a joke. One Gigabyte of data per month does not allow you to stream a single movie from iTunes, let alone stream or upload your own HD videos to the cloud. And this 1GB of transfer capacity is supposed to last for a month? 

The main reason for carriers to limit data transfer must be in their inability of scaling the wireless networks to the demands of latest phones and the data-intensive use patterns of smartphone users. Why do I say inability? Because I've seen it done better elsewhere. I'm currently splitting my time between US and Europe, and have been recently re-introduced to my native Finland's wireless carrier service. Mobile broadband is a commodity there with typical monthly plans for unlimited data transfer at the highest speed of the network available for less than 15 euros a month. The networks seem to have so good coverage that many people have opted in using mobile broadband as their primary internet connection at home. I've had Skype voice and video calls from my iPhone 4 in moving train over 3G network in Helsinki. Good luck with that in San Francisco.

I think it is scandalous that carriers hype up the super-fast 4G network speeds, but at the same time throttle the data usage to a level that can be regarded as a sad joke. Why would anyone have any use for, say 20Mb transfer speed if they can use it only for 10 minutes a month before running over the limit? Are the carriers hoping to rip people off by charging $30-50 for every GB transferred when other countries are providing unlimited data traffic at similar speeds for less than half of the first GB cost in the US?

But there is hope. This data transfer limitation of major carriers such as Verizon and AT&T may open a fantastic opportunity for smaller rivals such as Sprint and T-Mobile to gain market share by offering lavish data plans for users with fixed monthly fees. I truly hope they use this opportunity to change the tide and get Americans back on the mobile information superhighway.
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Mikko Alasaarela
tag:discoverse.com,2013:Post/188372 2011-01-06T11:41:16Z 2013-10-08T16:01:33Z Motorola CEO announced Atrix 4G Android phone

Atrix 4G is the first smartphone to the market that has dual core processor. That means it's a mighty powerhouse of a pocket computer.

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Mikko Alasaarela
tag:discoverse.com,2013:Post/188376 2010-10-21T08:29:00Z 2013-10-08T16:01:33Z Gaming panel at Slush: Kai Huang, Tero Virtala, Mikael Hed

All of them have seen tremendous success in different areas of gaming: Kai with Guitar Hero, Tero with Trials HD for XBox Live, Mikael with Angry Birds for iDevices.

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Mikko Alasaarela
tag:discoverse.com,2013:Post/188381 2010-10-21T07:16:44Z 2013-10-08T16:01:33Z Marten Mickos keynote at Slush 2010

Building Big Biz is the topic.

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Mikko Alasaarela
tag:discoverse.com,2013:Post/188383 2010-06-23T09:58:03Z 2013-10-08T16:01:33Z Noah Kagan waving hands on stage

At Virtual Goods Forum in London.

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Mikko Alasaarela
tag:discoverse.com,2013:Post/188386 2010-04-20T18:56:20Z 2013-10-08T16:01:33Z Performance Advertising panel at Inside Social Apps

Lisa Marino, Adam Caplan, Alex Rampell, George Garrick, Jim Bobowski in a panel moderated by Jay Weintraub.

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Mikko Alasaarela
tag:discoverse.com,2013:Post/188388 2010-04-20T18:28:15Z 2013-10-08T16:01:33Z Evolution of games industry

Sebastien De Halleux talks at Inside Social Apps conference.

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Mikko Alasaarela
tag:discoverse.com,2013:Post/188390 2010-03-16T16:09:27Z 2013-10-08T16:01:33Z Orrick Monetization Panel with Offerpal, Zong, gWallet, Playspan and Trialpay ]]> Mikko Alasaarela tag:discoverse.com,2013:Post/188391 2010-01-30T16:39:42Z 2013-10-08T16:01:33Z Germans poking fun at iPad

Here are some innovative new uses for iPad, picked from German edition of Financial Times.

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Mikko Alasaarela
tag:discoverse.com,2013:Post/188392 2010-01-26T08:25:52Z 2013-10-08T16:01:33Z Vivio's coming Poland HQ

Vivio's growing Szczecin team will move to this building in April. The office space is currently being renovated for us. The new space is only 100m away from our current offices.

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Mikko Alasaarela
tag:discoverse.com,2013:Post/188393 2010-01-26T08:20:56Z 2013-10-08T16:01:33Z Szymon having some cake

Szymon Nieradka is the head of production at Vivio. He runs our studios in Poland.

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Mikko Alasaarela
tag:discoverse.com,2013:Post/188317 2010-01-09T04:00:35Z 2013-10-08T16:01:32Z Arrington interviews Pincus of Zynga at Crunchies

Interesting discussion.

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Mikko Alasaarela
tag:discoverse.com,2013:Post/188326 2010-01-02T03:08:00Z 2013-10-08T16:01:33Z Documentary: Privacy Is Dead – Get Over It
Hope2604 - Steve Rambam Pt 1 – Privacy Is Dead – Get Over It
After using Twitter, Facebook and other social media for years, I wanted to see what all this sharing actually means. Interesting, and definitely scary to many of you.
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Mikko Alasaarela
tag:discoverse.com,2013:Post/188329 2009-12-30T23:46:57Z 2013-10-08T16:01:33Z Facebook is down - for a few hours?

I tried to login to Facebook, and got this. Down for a few hours in a middle of a day??

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Mikko Alasaarela
tag:discoverse.com,2013:Post/188339 2009-12-09T00:23:38Z 2013-10-08T16:01:33Z Nokia Ovi marketing fail I just got a marketing email from Nokia promoting heavily their mobile email service. I decided to give it a try, and clicked the button on the email. However, the landing page on Ovi was just showing me a system error. This is not the way to gain consumer confidence, Nokia.

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Mikko Alasaarela
tag:discoverse.com,2013:Post/188341 2009-11-19T18:30:24Z 2013-10-08T16:01:33Z Eric Eldon and Louis Gray on a fireside chat

WebPlay event at Plug and Play. Discussion is about monetization models for web startups. Louis Gray says offering exclusive access to certain features, services and events to premium clients can be a successful model. LinkedIn has an easy and well working business model on providing access to key decision makers and employee candidates. This could be brought to Twitter by offering premium analytics and services for companies wanting to leverage the chatter about their products and services.

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Mikko Alasaarela
tag:discoverse.com,2013:Post/188346 2009-11-17T23:55:39Z 2013-10-08T16:01:33Z Monetization panel at Orrick

Good insights from the panelists. From left to right: Noah Kagan, Lee Clancy, Glen Van Ligten, Hill Ferguson, Mick Bobroff, Steven Hoffman.

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Mikko Alasaarela
tag:discoverse.com,2013:Post/188357 2009-11-14T03:47:57Z 2013-10-08T16:01:33Z Warning: Facebook Chat Fraud Last night, I got approached by an entrepreneur friend of mine over Facebook chat. He said he was mugged and robbed on a concert tour to UK, and currently in a public library in Cardiff, Wales, to where he headed after the robbery to ask for help. When checking his profile, my friend had posted concert pictures from LA a week before. I really thought he was on a global concert tour.

I was initially cautious, but wanted to help. After a few moments of chatting, I was pretty convinced it was my friend. He asked me to send him cash over Western Union. I checked the online payments from Western Union to help him out, but it was not possible to send money online in this case. He asked me to go to nearest Western Union office to send the money, but at this point I was starting to get curious. I asked him to send me his wife's number, so that I can call her to announce the incident. The guy on the other end had a good excuse not to. He even sent me email to my email address without asking for the email from an email that was in the same format that my friend was using, but possibly not his email. The email even had a UK phone number that he claimed to be for the hotel manager in the hotel he had been staying, and asked me to verify him from there.

After consultation with my brother, I decided that the guy on the other end may not be my friend after all, even though he knew a lot about my friend's doings. I decided to ask him a question an outsider can't answer: "Where did we meet the last time and what did we talk about?" - the guy on the other end excused himself, saying "come on, I am mugged and bleeding and in need of help and you suspect me?" and other stuff like that. I insisted him to answer my question. When he did not, I said that he is a fraudster and I will call the police. The chat closed immediately after.

This was a cleverly planned and prepared fraud attempt, with the other party actually chatting with me, knowing a lot of stuff about my friend and me. How did he know all that? He got it from our Facebook profiles! I am sure many people will fall into such trick, since they appear legitimate and highly realistic. Facebook and officials must cooperate to get these scammers caught before they cause too much damage.

IF YOU GET APPROACHED IN A SIMILAR WAY, PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU CHECK THE AUTHENTICITY OF THE PERSON WITH HIGHLY PERSONAL QUESTION THAT CAN'T BE ANSWERED BY LOOKING AT THEIR FACEBOOK PROFILES.]]>
Mikko Alasaarela
tag:discoverse.com,2013:Post/188361 2009-11-10T03:56:05Z 2013-10-08T16:01:33Z Mobile Monday: Brands Gone Mobile with Maria, Eric and Pat

The event took place at San Francisco Intercontinental hotel.

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Mikko Alasaarela