Month: December 2018

Corporate venture building dilemma: investment vs. control – Carlos Borges

Having founded my startup a few years ago, I am familiar to why founders go through the pain & grit to build their own company. The statistics around startup survival rates show that the risk is high, but the potential reward both financially & emotionally is also significant.

In my case, risk was defined by the amount of money I invested in the venture plus the opportunity cost in case the startup goes nowhere. The later relates to the fact that I earned no salary at the beginning & that when I committed to that specific idea I was instantaneously saying “no” to many other opportunities and potential career advancements. The reward was two-fold too; the first one was the attractive financial outcome of a potential exit. The second one was the freedom to chase opportunities as they appear, doing what I want and how I want it.

Once I raised capital from investors, I basically traded reward for reduced risk. I started paying myself a small salary and anticipated that more resources would increase the success likelihood of the startup.

This pattern of weighing risk against rewards was crystal clear in my mind… until I joined the arena of corporate venture building. Directly during one of my first projects, I was tasked with the creation of a startup for a blue-chip corporate client. I was immediately puzzled by the reasoning behind this endeavor.

Ultimately corporate decisions are also guided by risk against reward: if they don’t take risks and innovate they might be left behind and, in some cases, join the once-great-now-extinct corporate hall of shame. That’s why they invest in research and development, spend hard earned cash in mergers and acquisitions and start innovation programs. But my interest was more at a micro level, meaning, which reasoning my corporate client follows to decide if and how to found a specific new venture?

Having thought about it a lot, I believe at micro level corporates weigh investment against control. Investment is the level of capital, manpower & political will provided by the corporate to propel the venture towards exit, break-even or strategic relevance. Control is the possibility to steer the venture towards the strategic goals the leadership team has in mind while defining the boundaries of what can & cannot be done.

In the startup case, the risk/reward is typically shared between the founders and external investors. In a corporate venture building case, the investment/control can be shared between the corporate, an empowered founder team and also external investors.

I am still in the middle of the corporate decision-making process but wanted to share with you the scenarios we are using to guide the discussions on how to structure the new venture. But before I do, I would like to mention that the considerations of investment vs. control takes place at three different stages of the venture’s existence:

• Incubation: develop & validate idea
• Acceleration: validate business model incl. product, operations & customer acquisition (find the winning formula)
• Growth: replicate the formula to grow exponentially

Based on that, three main scenarios are being considered to found the new venture.

Scenario 1: Control & Grow

  • Full investment & control during incubation & acceleration
  • Shared investment & control during the growth stage

Per definition, the incubation and acceleration stages are less capital intensive and is the moment when key strategic decisions that shape the future business are made. In these stages, the corporate is interested in maintaining the full control of the venture while absorbing the whole investment. Only when they enter the capital-intensive growth stage it becomes necessary to “share the burden” with other institutional or strategic investors. This scenario is suitable for ventures of high strategic value, especially the ones leveraging core assets and know-how of the corporate mothership.

Scenario 2: Spread the Bets

  • Lower investment & control during all stages

In this case, the corporate initiator empowers a founder team and joins the project almost like an external investor would do at Seed and Series A of a startup. They agree on a broad vision, provide the funding and retain a part of the shares with shareholder meetings in between to track progress. Beyond that, they let the founder team do their thing. External investors can join at any funding round to share the investment tickets. The corporate would have lower control and investment from the get-go and can increase their influence only when new funding rounds are required or via an acquisition offer. This scenario is suitable for ventures in which the corporate can function as the first client or use their network to manufacture, market or distribute the product or service.

Scenario 3: Build, operate & transfer

  • Lower investment & control during incubation & acceleration
  • Full investment & control during the growth stage

The venture is initially built by a founder team or external partners (often a consultancy). Only once they successfully finalized the incubation and acceleration stages, the corporate has the right or obligation to absorb the business. Differently than scenario 2, the corporate gains stronger control of the trajectory of the business during its initial stages by defining how a “transfer” event looks like. The investment necessary to put together a strong founder team is reduced by the reward of a pre-defined & short term exit event. The initial investment can be further reduced by the participation of Business Angels, also motivated by a clear path to exit and access to a new source of deal flow. This scenario is suitable for ventures closely linked to the core business of the corporate and where speed & excellence of execution is key.

There is obviously no right and wrong. Each scenario can make sense according to the end goal of the corporate. Furthermore, there are surely new scenarios and variations of the above. What is important in my opinion is to openly discuss which road to take. If the client can’t discern the alternatives and consequences, you will risk a “best of both worlds” mindset where expectations regarding investment & control don’t match. If that is the case, you will be up for a tough ride

Source : https://medium.com/@cbgf/a-corporate-venture-building-dilemma-investment-vs-control-a703b9c19c94

Robots for Rent – Why RaaS Works – RIA

Renting robots as temp labor? Not a new idea. But it’s certainly one that is gaining followers.

Rising labor shortages, tightly contested global markets, and growing interest in automation are tightening the screws on traditional business models. A broader spectrum of users are seeking flexible automation solutions. More suppliers are adopting new-age rental or lease options to satisfy the demand. Some are mature companies answering the call, others are startups blazing a path for the rest of the industry. Robotics as a Service (RaaS) is an emerging trend whose time has come.

Steel Collar Associates may have been ahead of its time when RIA spoke with its owner in 2013 about his “Humanoids for Hire” – aka Yaskawa dual-arm robots for rent. Already several years into his venture at the time, Bill Higgins was having little success contracting out his robo-employees. Back then, industry was barely warming up to the idea of cage-free robots rubbing elbows with their human coworkers. Now every major robot manufacturer has a collaborative robot on its roster. And a slew of startups have joined the fray.

Just like human-robot collaboration is helping democratize robotics, RaaS will help bring robots to the masses. And cobots aren’t the only robots for rent.

Whether you have a short-term need, want to try before you buy, forgo a capital expenditure, or lower your cost of entry to robotic automation, RaaS is worth a closer look. It’s robots on demand, when and where you want them.

An out-of-the-box collaborative robot solution on wheels is easy to redeploy as production needs change. A rental option further enhances ROI. (Courtesy of READY Robotics)

Robots on Demand
Out-of-the-box solutions like those offered by READY Robotics, which are easy to use and easy to deploy, are making RaaS a reality. Your next, or perhaps first, robotic solution may be a Johnny-on-the-spot – on wheels.

“The TaskMate is a ready-to-use, on-demand robot worker that is specifically designed to come out of its shipping crate ready to be deployed to the production line,” says READY Robotics CEO Ben Gibbs, noting that manufacturers without the time to undertake custom robot integration are looking for an out-of-the box automation solution. Rental options make the foray easier.

“Time is their most precious resource. They want something like the TaskMate that is essentially ready to go out of the box,” says Gibbs. “They may have to do a little fixturing or put together a parts presentation hopper. Besides that, it’s something they can deploy pretty quickly. We’re driving towards providing a solution that’s as easy to use as your personal computer.”

The system consists of a collaborative robot arm mounted on a stand with casters, so you can wheel it into position anywhere on the production floor. The ease of portability makes it ideal for high-mix, low-volume production where it can be quickly relocated to different manufacturing cells. Nicknamed the “Swiss Army Knife” of robots, the TaskMate performs a variety of automation tasks from machine tending to pick-and-place applications, to parts inspection.

The TaskMate comes in two varieties, the 5-kg payload R5 and 10-kg payload R10 (pictured). Both systems use robot arms from collaborative robot maker Universal Robots. The UR arm is equipped with a force sensor and a universal interface called the TEACHMATE that allows different robot grippers to be hot-swapped onto the end of the arm. Supported end effector brands include SCHUNK, Robotiq and Piab.

Contributing to the system’s ease of use is READY’s proprietary operating system, the FORGE/OS software. A simple flowchart interface (pictured) controls the robot arm, end-of-arm tooling and other peripherals. No coding is required.

For those tasks requiring a higher payload, reach, or cycle time than is capable with the power-and-force limiting cobot included with the TaskMate R5 and R10 systems, READY also offers its FORGE controller (formerly called the TaskMate Kit). Running the intuitive FORGE/OS software, the controller provides the same easy programming interface but is designed as a standalone system for ABB, FANUC, UR and Yaskawa robots.

“For example, if you plug the FORGE controller into a FANUC robot, you no longer have to program in Karel (the robot OEM’s proprietary programming language),” explains Gibbs. “On the teach pendant, you can use FORGE/OS to program the robot directly, so you have the same programming experience on the controller as you do on the TaskMate.

Intuitive software interface with a flowchart design and compatibility with multiple robot brands makes programming easier and faster. (Courtesy of READY Robotics)

“We started primarily with smaller six degree-of-freedom robot arms, like the FANUC LR Mate and GP7 from Yaskawa,” continues Gibbs. “We have started to integrate some of the larger robots as well, like the FANUC M-710iC/50. Ultimately, we’re driving toward a ubiquitous programming experience regardless of what robot arm or robot manufacturer you’re using.”

In the Cloud
A common element in the RaaS rental model is cloud robotics. READY offers customers the ability to remotely monitor the TaskMate or other robotic systems hooked up to the FORGE controller.

“We can set them up with alerts, so when the production cycle is completed or the robot enters an unexpected error state, they can receive an email notifying the floor manager or line operator to check the system,” says Gibbs.

You can also save and back up programs to the cloud, and deploy them from one robot to another. If an operator were to inadvertently lose a program, rather than rewrite it from scratch, you can just drop the backup version from the cloud onto the system and be up and running again in minutes.

The TaskMate systems and FORGE controller are available for both purchase and rental.

“We provide a menu to our customers of how they might want to consume our products and services,” says Gibbs. “That may be all the way from a traditional CapEx (capital expenditure) purchase if they want to buy one of our TaskMates upfront, to the other end of the spectrum where they can rent the system with no contract for however long or short of a duration they want.”

For an additional charge, READY can manage the entire asset for the customer.

“We set it up, we program it, and we remotely monitor it to make sure it’s maximizing its uptime. We can come in and tweak the program if it’s running into unexpected errors. All of the systems are equipped with cell modems, so they can update the software over the air. We handle all of the maintenance or it’s handled by our channel partners.”

No-Term Rental
Gibbs says flexibility is the biggest advantage to their rental option. READY offers a 3-month trial rental. But customers are not required to keep it for that full term.

“We have a no-term rental. That’s even more appealing because it can come entirely out of your OpEx (operating expenditure) budget. Instead of going through a lengthy CapEx approval process, we’ve had some customers just run their corporate credit card, because the rental is below their approval level for an OpEx purchase. They can easily set up the system and use it for a few months. That alone provides them with a much stronger justification for moving forward with CapEx if they want, or just continue to expand their rental.

“At the end of the first month, if they decide that it’s not working out, just like any incompetent worker, they can fire it and send it back.”

If the customer chooses to continue renting, Gibbs says it’s more cost-effective to sign a contract. This reduces the risk for everyone, so there’s usually a financial incentive.

“The primary way we differentiate ourselves is that we offer that no-term rental with a fixed monthly fee, which allows these factories to capture the traditional value of automation. We don’t have a meter running that says you ran it 22 hours this day, so you owe us for 22 hours of work. We encourage them to run it as long as they want. The expectation is the longer you run it, the cheaper it should be.”

Flexibility for High-Mix, Low-Volume
READY’s target customers range from small job shops to large multinationals and Fortune 500 companies.

“Attwood is a great example of the type of high-mix, low-volume production environment where the flexibility of the TaskMate really shines,” says Gibbs.

Attwood Marine in Lowell, Michigan, is one of the world’s largest producers of boat parts, accessories and supplies. If it’s on your boat, there’s a good chance this century-old company made it. They make thousands of different parts, but cater to a relatively small marine market. The challenges of high-mix, low-volume production in a highly competitive market had them looking for an automation solution.

The flexibility of the TaskMate to quickly deploy and redeploy depending on Attwood’s short- or long-term needs was a deciding factor. With only a couple hundred employees and no dedicated robotics programmer on staff, the customer appreciates the FORGE software’s ease of use. Plus the ability to rent the system plays to the seasonal nature of Attwood’s business and lowers the cost of their first foray into robotic automation.

Attwood has deployed the TaskMate R10 to a half-dozen cells on the production floor performing CNC machine tending, pick-and-place tasks like palletizing, loading/unloading conveyors and case packing, and even repetitive testing. You need to actuate a switch or pull a cord 250,000 times? That’s a job for flexible automation.

By deploying one robot system to multiple production cells, Attwood was able to spread their ROI across multiple product lines and realize up to a 30 percent reduction in overall manufacturing costs. Watch the TaskMate on the job at Attwood Marine.

Small to midsized businesses aren’t the only ones benefiting. Large multinationals like tools manufacturer Stanley Black & Decker use the TaskMate R10 for machine tending CNC lathes.

“Multinationals may have robot programmers on staff, but usually not enough of them,” says Gibbs. “Automation engineers are in high demand and very difficult to come by. Any technology that makes it faster and easier for people to set up robots is a tremendous value. Even with large multinationals, some like to be asset-light and do a rental, but everyone loves the ease of programming we offer through FORGE.”

Forged in the Lab
READY’s portable plug-and-play solution is a technology spinoff from Professor Greg Hager’s research in human-machine collaborative systems at Johns Hopkins University. Gibbs, an alumnus, was working in the university’s technology ventures office helping researchers like Prof. Hager develop commercialization strategies for their new technologies. Hager, along with Gibbs, and fellow alum CTO Kelleher Guerin cofounded the startup in October 2015. Another cofounder, Drew Greenblatt, President of Marlin Steel Wire Products (an SME in the Know), offered up his nearby Baltimore, Maryland-based custom metal forms factory as a prototype test site for the TaskMate. The system was officially launched in July 2017.

Prof. Hager is now an advisor to the company. Distinguished robotics researcher, Henrik Christensen, is Chairman of the Board of Advisors. In December 2017, the startup secured $15 million in Series A funding led by Drive Capital.

READY maintains an office in Baltimore, while its headquarters is in Columbus, Ohio. They are a FANUC Authorized System Integrator. Gibbs says they are in the process of building a channel partner network of integrators and distributors to support future growth.

Pay As You Go
Business models under the RaaS umbrella vary widely, and are evolving. Startups like Hirebotics and Kindred leverage cloud robotics more intensely to monitor robot uptime, collect data, and enhance performance using AI. They charge by the hour, or even by the second. You pay for only what you use. Each service model has its advantages.

Some RaaS advocates offer subscription-based models. Some took a page from the sharing economy. Think Airbnb, Lyft, TaskRabbit, Poshmark. Share an abode, a car or clothes. Skip the overhead, the infrastructure and the long-term commitment. Pay as you go for a robot on the run.

Mobile Robots for Hire
Autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) are no strangers to the RaaS model, either. RIA members Aethon and Savioke lease their mobile robots for various applications in healthcare, hospitality and manufacturing. Startup inVia Robotics offers a subscription-based RaaS solution for its warehouse “Picker” robots.

Autonomous mobile robot navigates production floors to transport pallets and heavy loads via the most efficient route, while safely maneuvering around people and other obstacles. (Courtesy of Mobile Industrial Robots A/S)We first explored the emergence of AMRs in the Always-On Supply Chain. It’s startling how much the logistics robot market has changed in just a couple of years. Since then, prototypes and beta deployments have turned into full product lines with significant investor funding. Major users like DHL, Walmart and Kroger, not to mention early adopter Amazon, are doubling down on their mobile fleets.

After triple-digit revenue growth in Europe, Mobile Industrial Robots (MiR) was just breaking onto the North American scene two years ago. Now, as they celebrate comparable growth on this side of the pond, MiR prepares to launch a new lease program in January.

MiR is another prodigy of Denmark’s booming robotics cluster. They join Danish cousin Universal Robots on the list of Teradyne’s smart robotics acquisitions. Odense must have the Midas touch.

Go Big or Go Home
Responding to customer demands for larger payloads, MiR introduced its 500-kg mobile platform at Automatica in June. The MiR500 (pictured) comes with a pallet transport system that automatically lifts pallets off a rack and delivers them autonomously. Watch it in action on the production floor of this agricultural machine manufacturer.

“Everybody we deal with today is making a big push to eliminate forklift traffic from the inner aisleways of production lines,” says Ed Mullen, Vice President of Sales – Americas for MiR in Holbrook, New York. “That’s really driving the whole launch of the MiR500. We’ve gone through some epic growth here in my division.”

Mullen’s division is responsible for supporting MiR’s extensive distributor network in all markets between Canada and Brazil. Right now, the Americas account for about a third of the global business.

“We’re seeing applications in industrial automation, warehouses and distribution centers,” says Mullen. “Electronics, semiconductor and a lot of the tier automotive companies, like Faurecia, Visteon and Magna, have all invested in our platforms and are scaling the business. We see this being implemented across all industries, which is really adding to our excitement.”

Lease Options
Although Mullen says they’ve seen tremendous success with the current buy model, MiR is trying to make it even easier to work with this emerging technology. That drove them to the RaaS model.

“We think a leasing option will allow companies that are still trying to understand the use cases for the technology to get in quicker, and then slowly scale the business up as they learn how to apply it and what the sweet spots are for autonomous mobile robots. The lease option is intended to reduce the cost of entry. Today it’s mainly the bigger multinationals that are buying, but we believe by providing options for lower entry points, this will make the use cases in the small-to-midsized companies come to light.”

He says a third-party company will handle all the leases. MiR’s distributor network will engage with the third-party company to put together lease programs for customers.

MiR has also implemented a Preferred System Integrator (PSI) program to augment the existing network of distribution partners. Two and a half years ago, it was mainly large companies investing in these mobile platforms. They were purchasing in volumes of one to five robots. Today, they’re seeing investments of 20, 30, or even more than 50 robots.

“When you get into these bigger deployments, it’s more critical to have companies that are equipped to handle them. Our distribution partners are set up as a sales channel. Although most of them have integration capabilities, they don’t want to invest in deploying hundreds of robots at one time. They rather hand that off to a company that’s able to properly support large-scale deployments.”

Over the last couple of years, MiR had been focused on bringing more efficiency to the manufacturing process; not necessarily replacing existing AGVs and forklifts.

“For example, you have a guy that gets paid a healthy salary to sit in front of a machine tool and use his skills to do a certain task. That’s what makes the company money. But when he has to get up and carry a tray of parts to the next phase in the production cycle, that’s inefficient. That’s what we’ve been focusing on, at least with our MiR100 and MiR200 (pictured).”

 Autonomous mobile robot efficiently transports finished product to the inspection area, freeing up employees for more high-value tasks at this custom plastic injection molder. (Courtesy of Mobile Industrial Robots A/S)

Technologies, an Indiana-based company specializing in custom plastic injection molding and mold tooling. The mobile robot loops the shop floor, autonomously transporting finished product from the presses to quality inspection. This frees up personnel for more high-value tasks and eliminates material flow bottlenecks.

“With the new MiR500, we’re going after heavier loads and palletizer loads. That’s replacing standard AGVs and forklifts. We’re also starting to see big conveyor companies like Simplimatic Automation and FlexLink move to a more flexible type of platform with autonomous mobile robots.

“Parallel to the hardware is our software. A key part of our company is the way we develop the software, the way we allow people to interface with the product. We’re continuously making it more intuitive and easier to use.”

MiR offers two software packages, the operating system that comes with the robot and the fleet management software that manages two or more robots. The latter is not a requirement, but Mullen says most companies are investing in it to get additional functionality when interfacing with their enterprise system. The newest fleet system is moving to a cloud-based option.

Hardware and software updates are all handled through MiR’s distribution channel and Mullen doesn’t think any of that will change under the lease option.

“The support model will stay the same. Our distributors are all trained on hardware updates, preventative maintenance and troubleshooting. I firmly believe the major component to our success today is our distribution model.”

Mullen says he’s looking forward to new products coming out in 2019. MiR is also hiring. They expect to double their employee count in the Americas and globally.

High-Tech, Short-Term Need
It’s many of these feisty startups that we’re seeing adopt nontraditional models like RaaS. But stalwarts are coming on board, too.

On-demand material handling robots come in all sizes, payloads and reaches for rental by the week. (Courtesy of RobotWorx)Established in 1992, RobotWorx is part of SCOTT Technology Ltd., a century-old New Zealand-based company specializing in automated production, robotics and process machinery. RobotWorx joined the SCOTT family of international companies in 2014 and recently completed a rigorous audit process to become an RIA Certified Robot Integrator.

RobotWorx buys, reconditions and sells used robots, along with maintaining an inventory of new robotic systems and offering full robot integration and training services. Rentals are nothing new to them. They’ve been renting robots for several years, before it was a trend. But in response to the upswing in industry requests of late, RobotWorx rolled out a major push on their rental program this past spring.

“We’ve done a lot with the TV and film industry,” says Tom Fischer, Operations Manager for RobotWorx in Marion, Ohio. “If you’ve seen the latest AT&T commercial, there are blue and orange robots in it. We rented those out for a week.”

Dubbed “Bruce” and “Linda” on strips of tape along their outstretched arms, these brightly colored robots have a starring role in this AT&T Business commercial promoting Edge-to-Edge Intelligence? solutions. Fischer says companies in this industry usually select a particular size of robot, typically either a long-reach or large-payload material handling robot, like the Yaskawa Motoman long-reach robots in this AT&T commercial.

Ever wonder if the robots in commercials are just there for effect? It turns out, not always. Fischer says these are fully functioning robots. AT&T’s ad agency must have a robot wrangler off camera to keep Bruce and Linda in line. However, the other robots in the background are the result of TV magic.

“We basically just sent them the robots,” says Fischer. “They did what they wanted to do with them and then sent them back.”

For quick gigs like this commercial, or maybe a movie cameo or even a tradeshow display, rental robots make sense. But how do you know when it’s better to rent or buy?

“We’ll do a cost analysis with the customer,” says Fischer. “We have an ROI calculator on our website if they want to see what their long-term commitment capital investment would be. (Check out RIA’s Robot ROI Calculator). We also look at it from the standpoint that if they have a long-term contract with somebody, their return on investment is going to be a lot better with a purchase. If they think they’re only going to use the robot for six months, it doesn’t make sense for them to buy it.”

Rent-A-Cell
RobotWorx rents robots by the week, month or year. A week is the minimum, but there’s no long-term commitment required. A rental includes a robot, the robot controller, teach pendant and end-of-arm tooling (EOAT). Robot brands available include ABB, FANUC, KUKA, Universal Robots, and Yaskawa Motoman.

They also rent entire ready-to-ship robot cells for welding or material handling. The most popular systems are the RWZero (pictured) and RW950 cells.

Self-contained, ready-to-ship robotic welding cell accelerates uptime whether you buy or rent it. (Courtesy of RobotWorx)

“The RWZero cell is very basic,” says Fischer. “You have a widget and you need 5,000 of them. Rent this cell and you have a production line instantly.”

The RW950 is more portable. Fisher calls it a “pallet platform.” The robot, controller, operator station and workpiece positioner all share a common base, which is basically a large steel structure that can be moved around with a forklift whenever needed. See the RW950 Welding Workcell in action.

“We’ve done a lot of the small weld cells,” he says. “We always have a couple on hand so we can supply those on demand. We’ve done larger material handling cells, as well.

“We have a third-party company that does the financing if you need it. A lot of people just end up paying it upfront. If they were to purchase the robot after they’ve rented it, we apply that towards the purchase as well.”

Fischer says 20 percent of the rental price is credited to the purchase if a customer decides to keep the robot. All the robots and robotic cells are up to date on maintenance before they leave the RobotWorx floor and shouldn’t require any major maintenance for at least a year. He says most customers end up buying the robot if their rental period exceeds a year.

Time is not always the deciding factor under the RaaS model. As robotic systems become easier to deploy and redeploy, the idea of robots as a service will gain more permanence as a long-term solution. In the future, robotics in our workplaces and homes will be as ubiquitous as the Internet. In the meantime, we’ll keep our eyes on RaaS as it gets ready for primetime

Source : https://www.robotics.org/content-detail.cfm/Industrial-Robotics-Industry-Insights/Robots-for-Rent-Why-RaaS-Works/content_id/7665

Ten Signs You’re Headed for Trouble in 2019 – ITL

gartner-hype

Many of you have seen the Gartner Hype Cycle curve. When a hot technology appears, it gets hyped and hyped until one day enough people become impatient, and sentiment turns against the technology. It then heads into what Gartner calls the Trough of Disillusionment. Eventually, the technology finds its role – often a major one – in the market.

The idea has always struck me as rather obvious (I described the curve to reporter colleagues on the tech beat at the Wall Street Journal years before I ever saw the Gartner chart), but Gartner popularized the notion, which is why it’s known as the Gartner Hype Cycle rather than, say, the Carroll Hype Cycle. Gartner is to be commended, because technologies can be plotted on the curve, and, drawing on history, their futures can be predicted with some confidence.

On the Carroll…er, Gartner Hype Cycle, the idea of technology-driven innovation in insurance seems to be heading into the Trough of Disillusionment (great name) among incumbents. A Lemonade or Trov hasn’t taken over the world. Big Tech is coming to insurance but not really here yet for most insurers. Industry executives seem to have read everything they care to about AI, blockchain, etc., and are starting to describe plans for small-bore improvements rather than truly innovative ones. Not total disillusionment, but headed in that direction.

Which brings me to the warning signs for 2019.

The slide into the Trough of Disillusionment creates real opportunities because prices of insurtechs will start to settle back toward reality. In any case, technologies keep maturing, no matter how we feel about them, so the day of reckoning in the market creeps closer all the time, and the slide toward disillusionment is the last opportunity for companies to position themselves before a host of technologies and startups will shake the insurance market.

If I’m right, 2019 may well be the last chance for insurance industry incumbents to start taking advantage of the opportunities presented by insurtech, or lose out to nimbler competitors. In that spirit, my colleagues and I at ITL pulled some thoughts together for incumbents on:

10 Signs You’re Headed for Trouble in 2019

  • You set up an innovation fund and think that means you’re innovative.
  • Your innovations focus on cutting expenses, to the exclusion of all else, and – worse – you reward executives based on those cuts.
  • You say your legacy IT systems are what is preventing you from innovating.
  • You say your defensive culture is preventing you from innovating.
  • You practice “innovation tourism,” going to Silicon Valley and assuming magic dust will wear off on you. (Related warning sign: You have a ping pong table and coffee bar and think they signify creativity.)
  • You have 6,000 ideas but can’t figure out how to turn one into a product.
  • You can’t name 20 insurtechs that operate in your strategic domain or adjacent ones.
  • You aren’t starting to move your operations into the cloud.
  • You don’t have significant diversity in your management team and board, in terms of gender, race, age and nationality.
  • You can’t quantify and measure how you’re doing on your innovation journey and hope you’re improving.

Bonus warning sign: You make television commercials criticizing innovative companies.

In “The Sun Also Rises,” a character is asked how he went bankrupt. “Two ways,” he says, “gradually, then suddenly.” We’re still in the “gradually” part of innovation driven by insurtech, but “suddenly” is coming. I suggest insurance industry incumbents view 2019 and warning signs like these as a last warning to get moving and avoid innovation bankruptcy.

Source : http://blog.insurancethoughtleadership.com/blog/ten-signs-youre-headed-for-trouble-in-2019

Data-driven transformation of the life sciences industry – RockHealth

Digital health innovation continues moving full-force in transforming the business of healthcare. For pharma and medtech companies in particular, this ongoing shift has pushed them to identify ways to create value for patients beyond the drugs themselves. From new partnerships between digital health and life science companies to revamped commercial models, collecting and extracting insights from data is at the core of these growth opportunities. But navigating the rapidly evolving terrain is no simple task.

To help these companies effectively incorporate and utilize digital health tools, Rock Health partner ZS Associates draws on over 30 years of industry expertise to guide them through the complex digital health landscape. We chatted with Principal Pete Masloski to discuss how he works with clients to help identify, develop, and commercialize digital health solutions within their core businesses—and where he sees patients benefiting the most as a result.

Note: This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

Where does ZS see the promise of data- and analytics-enabled digital health tools leading to in the next five years, 10 years, and beyond?

Data and analytics will play a central role in the digital health industry’s growth over the next five to ten years. Startups are able to capture larger, novel sets of data in a way that large life science companies historically have not been able to. As a result, consumers will be better informed about their health choices; physicians will have more visibility into what treatment options work best for whom under what circumstances; health plans will have a better understanding of treatment choices; and pharmaceutical and medical device companies will be able to strategically determine which products and services to build.

We see personalized medicine, driven by genomics and targeted therapies, rapidly expanding over the next few years. Pharmaceutical discovery and development will also transition to become more digitally enabled. The ability to match patients with clinical trials and improve the patient experience will result in lower costs, faster completion, and more targeted therapies. The increase in real-world evidence will be used to demonstrate the efficacy of therapeutics and devices in different populations, which assures payers and providers that outcomes from studies can be replicated in the real world.

How is digital health helping life sciences companies innovate their commercial models? What is the role of data and analytics in these new models?

The pharmaceutical industry continues to face a number of challenges, including the increasingly competitive markets, growing biosimilar competition, and overall scrutiny on pricing. We’ve seen excitement around solutions that integrate drugs with meaningful outcomes and solutions that address gaps in care delivery and promote medication adherence.

Solving these problems creates new business model opportunities for the industry through fresh revenue sources and ways of structuring agreements with customers. For example, risk-based contracts with health plans, employers, or integrated delivery networks (IDNs) become more feasible when you can demonstrate increased likelihood of better outcomes for more patients. We see this coming to fruition when pharma companies integrate comprehensive digital adherence solutions focused on patient behavior change around a specific drug, as in Healthprize’s partnership with Boehringer Ingelheim. In medtech, digital health tools can both differentiate core products and create new profitable software or services businesses. Integrating data collection technology and connectivity into devices and adding software-enabled services can support a move from traditional equipment sales to pay-per-use. This allows customers to access the new equipment technology without paying a large sum up front—and ensures manufacturers will have a more predictable ongoing source of revenue.

That said, data and analytics remain at the core of these new models. In some cases, such as remote monitoring, the data itself is the heart of the solution; in others, the data collected helps establish effectiveness and value as a baseline for measuring impact. Digital ambulatory blood pressure monitors capture an individual’s complete blood pressure profile throughout the day, which provides a previously unavailable and reliable “baseline.” Because in-office only readings may be skewed by “white coat hypertension,” or stress-induced blood pressure readings, having a more comprehensive look at this data can lead to deeper understandings of user behaviors or conditions. Continuous blood pressure readings can help with diagnoses of stress-related drivers of blood pressure spikes, for example. These insights become the catalyst for life science companies’ new product offerings and go-to-market strategies.

What are some examples of how data sets gathered from partnerships with digital health companies can be leveraged to uncover new value for patients and address their unmet needs?

As digital health companies achieve a certain degree of scale, their expansive data sets become more valuable because of the insights that can be harnessed to improve outcomes and business decisions. Companies like 23andMe, for example, have focused on leveraging their data for research into targeted therapies. Flatiron Health is another great example of a startup that created a foundational platform (EMR) whose clinical data from diverse sources (e.g., laboratories, research repositories, and payer networks) became so highly valued in cancer therapy development that Roche acquired it earlier this year for close to $2B.

It’s exciting to think about the wide array of digital health solutions and the actionable insight that can be gleaned from them. One reason partnerships are important for the industry is few innovators who are collecting data have the capabilities and resources to fully capitalize on its use on their own. Pharma companies and startups must work together to achieve all of this at scale. Earlier this year, Fitbit announced a new partnership with Google to make the data collected from its devices available to doctors. Google’s API can directly link heart rate and fitness activity to the EMR, allowing doctors to easily review and analyze larger amounts of data. This increase in visibility provides physicians with more insight into how patients are doing in between visits, and therefore can also help with decision pathways.

Another example announced earlier this year is a partnership between Evidation Health and Tidepool, who are conducting a new research study, called the T1D Sleep Pilot, to study real-world data from Type 1 diabetics. With Evidation’s data platform and Tidepool’s device-agnostic consumer software, the goal is to better understand the dynamics of sleep and diabetes by studying data from glucose monitors, insulin pumps, and sleep and activity trackers. The data collected from sleep and activity trackers in particular allows us to better understand possible correlations between specific chronic conditions, like diabetes, and the impact of sleep—which in the past has been challenging to monitor. These additional insights provide a more comprehensive understanding of a patient’s condition and can lead to changes in treatment decisions—and ultimately, better outcomes.

How do you assess the quality and reliability of the data generated by digital health companies? What standards are you measuring them against?

Data quality management (DQM) is the way in which leading companies evaluate the quality and reliability of data sources. ISO 9000’s definition of quality is “the degree to which a set of inherent characteristics fulfills requirements.” At ZS, we have a very robust DQM methodology, and our definition goes beyond the basics to include both the accuracy and the value of the data. Factors such as accuracy and absence of errors, and fulfilling specifications (business rules, designs, etc.), are foundational, but in our experience it’s most important to also include an assessment of value, completeness, and lack of bias because often these factors can lead to misleading or inaccurate insights from analysis of that data.

However, it’s not easy assessing the value of a new data source, which presents an entirely different set of challenges. One very important one is the actual interpretation of the data that’s being collected. How do you know when someone is shaking their phone or Fitbit to inflate their steps, or how do you interpret that the device has been taken off and it’s not tracking activity? How do you account for that and go beyond the data to understand what is really happening? As we get more experience with IOT devices and algorithms get smarter, we will get better at interpreting what these devices are collecting and be more forgiving of underlying data quality.

What are the ethical implications or issues (such as data ownership, privacy, and bias) you’ve encountered thus far, or anticipate encountering in the near future?

The ethical stewardship and protection of personal health data are just as essential for the long-term sustainability of the digital health industry as the data itself. The key question is, how can the industry realize the full value from this data without crossing the line? Protecting personal data in an increasingly digitized world—where we’ve largely become apathetic to the ubiquitous “terms and conditions” agreements—is a non-negotiable. How digital health and life science companies collect, manage, and protect users’ information will remain a big concern.

There are also ethical issues around what the data that is captured is used for. Companies need to carefully establish how to appropriately leverage the data without crossing the line. For example, using de-identified data for research purposes with the goal of improving products or services is aligned with creating a better experience for the patient, as opposed to leveraging the data for targeted marketing purposes.

Companies also face the issue of potential biases that may emerge when introducing AI and machine learning into decision-making processes around treatment or access to care. Statistical models are only as good as the data that are used to train them. Companies introducing these models need to test datasets and their AI model outputs to ensure gaps are eliminated from training data, the algorithms don’t learn to introduce bias, and they establish a process for evaluating bias as the models continue to learn and evolve.

Source : https://rockhealth.com/the-data-driven-transformation-of-the-life-sciences-industry-a-qa-with-zs-associates-pete-masloski/

When, which … Design Thinking, Lean, Design Sprint, Agile? – Geert Claes

Confusion galore!

A lot of people are — understandably so — very confused when it comes to innovation methodologies, frameworks, and techniques. Questions like: “When should we use Design Thinking?”, “What is the purpose of a Design Sprint?”, “Is Lean Startup just for startups?”, “Where does Agile fit in?”, “What happens after the <some methodology> phase?” are all very common questions.

(How) does it all connect?

When browsing the Internet for answers, one notices quickly that others too are struggling to understand how it all works together.

Gartner (as well as numerous others) tried to visualise how methodologies like Design Thinking, Lean, Design Sprint and Agile flow nicely from one to the next. Most of these visualisations have a number of nicely coloured and connected circles, but for me they seem to miss the mark. The place where one methodology flows into the next is very debatable, because there are too many similar techniques and there is just too much overlap.

The innovation spectrum

It probably makes more sense to just look at Design Thinking, Lean, Design Sprint & Agile as a bunch of tools and techniques in one’s toolbox, rather than argue for one over the other, because they can all add value somewhere on the innovation spectrum.

Innovation initiatives can range from exploring an abstract problem space, to experimenting with a number of solutions, before continuously improving a very concrete solution in a specific market space.

Business model

An aspect which often seems to be omitted, is the business model maturity axis. For established products as well as adjacent ones (think McKinsey’s Horizon 1 and 2), the business models are often very well understood. For startups and disruptive innovations within an established business however, the business model will need to be validated through experiments.

Methodologies

Design Thinking

Design Thinking really shines when we need to better understand the problem space and identify the early adopters. There are various flavors of design thinking, but they all sort of follow the double-diamond flow. Simplistically the first diamond starts by diverging and gathering lots of insights through talking to our target stakeholders, followed by converging through clustering these insights and identifying key pain-points, problems or jobs to be done. The second diamond starts by a diverging exercise to ideate a large number of potential solutions before prototyping and testing the most promising ideas. Design Thinking is mainly focussed on qualitative rather than quantitative insights.

Lean Startup

The slight difference with Design Thinking is that the entrepreneur (or intrapreneur) often already has a good understanding of the problem space. Lean considers everything to be a hypothesis or assumption until validated …so even that good understanding of the problem space is just an assumption. Lean tends to starts by specifying your assumptions on a customer focussed (lean) canvas and then prioritizing and validating the assumptions according to highest risk for the entire product. The process to validate assumptions is creating an experiment (build), testing it (measure) and learn whether our assumption or hypothesis still stands. Lean uses qualitative insights early on but later forces you to define actionable quantitative data to measure how effective the solution addresses the problem and whether the growth strategy is on track. The “Get out of the building” phrase is often associated with Lean Startup, but the same principle of reaching out the customers obviously also counts for Design Thinking (… and Design Sprint … and Agile).

Design Sprint

It appears that the Google Venture-style Design Sprint method could have its roots from a technique described in the Lean UX book. The key strength of a Design Sprint is to share insights, ideate, prototype and test a concept all in a 5-day sprint. Given the short timeframe, Design Sprints only focus on part of the solution, but it’s an excellent way to learn really quickly if you are on the right track or not.

Agile

Just like dealing with the uncertainty of our problem, solution and market assumptions, agile development is a great way to cope with uncertainty in product development. No need to specify every detail of a product up-front, because here too there are plenty of assumptions and uncertainty. Agile is a great way to build-measure-learn and validate assumptions whilst creating a Minimum Viable Product in Lean Startup parlance. We should define and prioritize a backlog of value to be delivered and work in short sprints, delivering and testing the value as part of each sprint.

Conclusion

Probably not really the answer you were looking for, but there is no clear rule on when to start where. There is also no obvious handover point because there is just too much overlap, and this significant overlap could be the explanation of why some people claim methodology <x> is better than <y>.

Anyhow, most innovation methodologies can add great value and it’s really up to the team to decide where to start and when to apply which methods and techniques. The common ground most can agree with, is to avoid falling in love with your own solution and listen to qualitative as well as quantitative customer feedback.

Innovation Spectrum

Some great books: Creative Confidence, Lean Startup, Running Lean, Sprint, Dual Transformation, Lean UX, Lean Enterprise, Scaling Lean … and a nice video on Innovation@50x

Update: minor update in the innovation canvas, moving the top axis of problem-solution-market to the side

Source : https://medium.com/@geertwlclaes/when-which-design-thinking-lean-design-sprint-agile-a4614fa778b9

Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt listed the ‘3 big failures’ he sees in tech startups today – Business Insider

Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt has listed the three “big failures” in tech entrepreneurship around the world.

Schmidt outlined the failings in a speech he gave at the Centre for Entrepreneurs in London this week. He later expanded on his thoughts in an interview with former BBC News boss James Harding.

Below are the three mistakes he outlined, with quotes taken from both a draft of his speech seen by Business Insider, and comments he delivered on the night.

1. People stick to who and what they know

“Far too often, we invest mostly in people we already know, who are working in very narrow disciplines,” Schmidt wrote in his draft.

In his speech, Schmidt pegged this point closely to a need for diversity and inclusion. He said companies need to be open to bringing in people from other countries and backgrounds.

He said entrepreneurship won’t flourish if people are “going to one institution, hiring only those people, and only — if I can be blunt — only white males.”

During the Q&A, Schmidt specifically addressed the gender imbalance in the tech industry. He said there’s a reason to be optimistic about women’s representation in tech improving, predicting that tech’s gender imbalance will vanish in one generation.

2. Too much focus on product and not on platforms

“We frequently don’t build the best technology platforms to tackle big social challenges, because often there is no immediate promise of commercial return,” Schmidt wrote in his draft.

“There are a million e-commerce apps but not enough speciality platforms for safely sharing and analyzing data on homelessness, climate change or refugees.”

Schmidt’s omitted this mention of socially conscious tech from his final speech, but did say that he sees a lot of innovation coming out of network platforms, which allow people to connect and pool data, because “the barrier to entry for these startups is very, very low.”

3. Companies aren’t partnering up early enough

Finally, Schmidt wrote in his draft that tech startups don’t partner enough with other companies in the modern, hyper-connected world. “It’s impossible to think about any major challenge for society in a silo,” he wrote.

He said in his speech that tech firms have to be ready to partner “fairly early.” He gave the example of a startup that wants to build homecare robots.

“The market for homecare robots is going to be very, very large. The problem is that you need visual systems, and machine learning systems, and listening systems, and motor systems, and so forth. You’re not going to be able to do it with three people,” he said.

After detailing his failures in tech entrepreneurship, Schmidt laid out what he views as the solution. He referred back to the Renaissance in Europe, saying people turned their hand to all sorts of disciplines, from science, to art, to business.

Source : https://www.businessinsider.com/eric-schmidt-3-big-failures-he-sees-in-tech-entrepreneurship-2018-11

How redesigning an enterprise product taught me to extend myself – Instacart

As designers, we want to work on problems that are intriguing and “game-changing”. All too often, we limit the “game-changing” category to a handful of consumer-facing mobile apps and social networks. The truth is: enterprise software gives designers a unique set of complex problems to solve. Enterprise platforms usually have a savvy set of users with very specific needs — needs that, when addressed, often affect a business’s bottom line.

One of my first projects as a product designer here at Instacart was to redesign elements of our inventory management tool for retailers (e.g. Kroger, Publix, Safeway, Costco, etc.). As I worked on the project more and more, I learned that Enterprise tools are full of gnarly complexity and often present opportunities to practice deep thought. As Jonathan, one of our current enterprise platform designers said —

The greater the complexity, the greater the opportunity to find elegance.

New login screen

As we scoped the project we found that the existing product wasn’t enabling retailers to manage their inventories as concisely and efficiently as they could. We found retailer users were relying on customer support to help carry out smaller tasks. Our goal with the redesign was to build and deliver a better experience that would enable retailers to manage their inventory more easily and grow their business with Instacart.

The first step in redesigning was to understand the flow of the current product. We mapped out the journey of a partner going through the tool and spoke with the PMs to figure out what we could incorporate into the roadmap.

Overview of the older version of the retailer tool

Once we had a good understanding of the lay of the land, engineering resources, and retailers’ needs, we got into the weeds. Here are a few improvements we made to the tool —

Aisle and department management for Retailers

We used the department tiles feature from our customer-facing product as the catalog’s landing page (1.0 above). With this, we worked to:

  • Refine our visual style
  • Present retailers with an actionable page on the get-go
  • Make it quick and easy to add, delete, and modify items
New Departments page for the Partner Tool. Responsive tiles allow partners to view and edit their Aisles and Departments quickly.

Establishing Overall Hierarchy

Older item search page
Beverages > Coffee returns a list of coffees from the retailer’s catalog

Our solution simplified a few things:

  • A search bar rests atop the product to help find and add items without having to be on this specific page. It pops up a modal that offers a search and add experience. This was visually prioritized since it’s the most common action taken by retailers
  • Decoupled search flow and “Add new product” flow to streamline the workflows
  • Pagination, which was originally on the top and bottom, is now pinned to the bottom of the page for easy navigation
  • We also rethought the information hierarchy on this page. In the example below, the retailer is in the “Beverages” aisle under the “Coffee” item category, which is on the top left. They are editing or adding the item “Eight O’Clock Coffee,” which is the page title. This title is bigger to anchor the user on the page and improve navigation throughout the platform
Focused view of top bar. The “New Product” button is disabled since this is a view to add products

Achieving Clarity

While it’s great that the older Item Details page was partitioned into sections, from an IA perspective, it offered challenges for two reasons:

  1. The category grouping didn’t make sense to retailers
  2. Retailers had to read the information vertically but digest it horizontally and vertically
Older version of Item Details page

To address this, we broke down the sections into what’s truly necessary. From there, we identified four main categories of information that the data fell under:

  1. Images — This is first to encourage retailers to add product photos
  2. Basic Info — Name, brand, size, and unit
  3. Item description — Below the item description field, we offered the description seen on the original package (where the data was available) to help guide them as they wrote
  4. Product attributes — help better categorize the product (e.g. Kosher)

Sources now pop up on the top right of the input fields so the editor knows who last made changes.


Takeaways

Seeking validation through numbers is always fantastic. We did a small beta launch of this product and saw an increase in weekly engagement and decrease in support requests.

I learned that designing enterprise products helps you extend yourself as a visual designer and deep product thinker. I approached this project as an opportunity to break down complex interactions and bring visual elegance to a product through thoughtful design. To this day, it remains one of my favorite projects at Instacart as it stretched my thinking and enhanced my visual design chops. Most importantly, it taught me to look at Enterprise tools in a new light; now when I look at them, I am able to appreciate the complexity within

Source: https://tech.instacart.com/how-redesigning-an-enterprise-product-taught-me-to-extend-myself-8f83d72ebcdf

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