Raspberry Pi – a surprising great British technology success?

I’m not sure how many of us knew anything about Raspberry Pi until today but it’s refreshing to see that the British Foundation behind it have had such a successful launch that their website has crashed due to overwhelming demand and the first 10,000 units have sold out straight away.

So what the hell is Raspberry Pi and what on earth have they done to create such a demand for launch? Well, for the uninitiated Raspberry Pi is actually just a basic computer board as shown below.

As someone who strongly advocates ‘simplexity’ you may wonder why I am heralding such a product as Raspberry Pi.

The answer is that despite looking like – and actually being – a highly complex technical product the Raspberry Pi Foundation are actually taking some great steps of simplexity to build their launch success.

Firstly, their vision is very straightforward, unique and compelling for a large number of children & parents alike – ‘to inspire a new generation of schoolchildren to programme computers‘.

But why would programming such an unsexy computer board like this be compelling in today’s age when children are spending increasing time consuming various digital media on their multitude of gadgets such as mobile phones, tablets and connected games consoles?

For the children I guess that IT geeks still fall some way behind ‘sports star’, ‘musician’ and ‘B-list reality TV show celebrity’ but I’m sure that the phenomenal success and wealth of people behind digital businesses such as Facebook and Angry Birds, etc. will have an increasing number of kids wanting to emulate them.

For the parents, well wouldn’t you rather encourage your children to learn computer programming rather than have them spending all their time playing games on your iPad?

The Foundation have taken a number of other simple moves to help create their success:

  • There are only 2 variants of the product and both are really cheap – from just £16 for a mini computer which should be within the reach of all families
  • The technical product uses common and cheap format to keep costs down and ensure some future-proofing (SD cards for storage and HDMI for video output to TV)
  • They agreed 2 licensing deals with UK distributors that will hopefully provide (after initial launch success) good online sales and minimised their commercial risk
  • Awareness to date has been built in a simple low-cost way through both a link up with local schools around Cambridge and now what would seem to be a great PR and online push – today being the #1 most shared story on http://www.bbc.co.uk!

Hopefully the Government will help and get right behind this initiative to encourage the use of IT such as Raspberry Pi in schools.

There is also great potential for a wide range of businesses such as BBC, Sony and even Microsoft to provide support and incentives for kids to push themselves to create the most exciting Raspberry Pi programmes. Not only would this be a great corporate social responsibility initiative but they could also get these children more actively engaging with their brand.

This is of course just the beginning and true project & commercial success will only really occur if they can continue to sell 10,000 or more of these every week and get large numbers of children busy creating exciting new ‘Raspberry Pi Apps’ to share with their friends.

But who knows, maybe this simple scheme will soon develop a British child launching ‘Facebook 2.0’ having learnt their initial programming skills on a Raspberry Pi?

Mobile payments – do you buy it yet?

So 2012 and especially Mobile World Congress brings many new announcements about new mobile payment services designed to help us grow the economy (and the profits of the service providers) by spending more freely with our ever-increasingly best friend – the smartphone.

Amongst the news this week Visa has announced two big partnerships for their payWave mobile wallet service – a Global deal with Vodafone to integrate on their mobile phones and also with Samsung with what appears to be another variant of the app especially branded for the Olympic games.

This comes hot after a raft of other recent announcements:

  • Orange will now offer customers treats when they use their Quick Tap mobile payment service – partnered with Barclaycard – at selected retailers such as Eat
  • Facebook announced a new mobile payment initiative with AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile in the US with payments being taken from the customers mobile phone bill
  • Boku was one of doubtless many other smaller players to announce a new mobile payment app at MWC. The service looks simple but the go to market plans are not yet clear
  • Barclays Pingit is a new mobile payments system that is a bit different in that it allows you to easily make payments of £1-300 directly to another individual
  • Finally, one that has made me really interested is that the UK City of Bristol has actually introduced their own currency, Bristol Pounds that can be traded with local retailers with mobile payments

Of course, all these players will have to compete against a large number of other players such as Google Wallet and PayPal to be the service of choice for us to spend our hard earnt money from our smartphones.

But what have these services learnt about the need for offering us customers a really simple solution – not just in using the pretty mobile app but the whole experience.

Clearly it’s early days and many of these services have yet to properly launch but things I hope they are busy working on include:

  • Simple communication of benefitswhat are the benefits of me using my smartphone rather than my debit/credit card? why would I want to use mobile payment A vs. mobile payment B, C or D? Obviously this can be helped if you can offer customers value in the transactions such as the Orange Quick Tap discounts.
  • Great customer support – provide excellent service to manage customers’ issues such as any disputed payments and reassure customers against what will undoubtedly see a number of security cases. Remember first direct’s rise in internet banking was based upon their excellent service.
  • Let me spend my money anywhereplease learn from the failures of other ‘walled gardens’ such as ISP portals and don’t restrict customers to use only in your partner stores. Many people are still put off American Express because of this reason.
  • One app is all I want  – please don’t make me sift through a number of mobile payment apps depending on the type of payment I am trying to make or to different people to pay. I have enough apps already!
  • I want to pay in £/€/$even with the success of iTunes I trust Apple aren’t planning a mobile payment service in iDollar/iEuro and I definitely don’t want to pay in a Kingston-upon-Thames pound!

Somehow it all feels very inevitable that in the not too distant future we will all be flashing our smartphone around to pay for anything from a Facebook game to a new coat. However, to help get us wanting to do this more quickly and for any of these players to get a real market advantage this is surely a case for needing great simplexity in planning and execution.

As a final thought, any new disruptive service such as mobile payments always throws up new opportunities. In this case isn’t there a great opening for insurance companies to really address the growing need for people who will want protection and premium care service for their increasing valuable smartphones?


Simplexity rules …..

Or at least my definition ‘creating something simple out of a complex situation’ is I believe key to leadership and success in today’s business environment.

Of course, we can all see many examples of where businesses have been successful and stand out from the crowd by taking something that is actually very complex and marketing it in a way that is both more simple and therefore more exciting than the competition. Classic cases that many of us have enjoyed are:

  • iPod/iEverything – just the simplicity of the original ‘click wheel’ to navigate 1000’s of music tracks was a jaw-dropping experience followed up by many others
  • Google – the empty screen with a single search box has provided most of us with the simplest and yet the best way to explore the internet
  • PayPal – provided the simplest (and most secure) way for us all to spend our money on eBay driving rapid growth in eCommerce for items as low as £1

However, simplexity as I see it doesn’t just apply in the provision of a simple customer experience (although I believe this is key to competitive advantage and rapid viral customer advocacy and adoption). We all seem to face more complexity than ever before; rapid change in new technologies and services, faster new market entrants & competition, globalisation, new methods of payment & business models, fragmented media platforms, etc.

So thinking and implementing ‘simplexity’ needs to be at the heart of the mindset of today’s leader such as:

  • a simple vision of ‘what good needs to look like’ for the team to aim towards – define this with life examples so everyone can picture what you’re aiming towards
  • a clarity of prioritisation – rather than the ‘things to do’ of over 50 items make sure you are focused on the few things that are going to make the biggest difference
  • communication that never leaves the potential to be misunderstood or misinterpreted – simple and straightforward is required and ‘less is more’ is often a good aim!

  • why is a customer going to love this and advocate it to their friends/colleagues? – I really like to understand the ‘pub test’ as to how a customer will want to show off what we are doing for them
  • how can our communications stand out in the market? – we all know that simple messages are those that cut-through most but more often that not we don’t do it and get carried away with the details
  • how is this going to make money? – explore the broader market environment and focus on how you can best drive profits both directly and with partners

Of course all of this sounds simple – which it really should be – but it’s surprising how many times I (and many other businesses I have seen) have lost sight of the need for simplicity as they have got themselves stuck in the wonderful details of the technology, the lack of focus or the complexity of the market.

I believe that if you can manage simplexity both as a leader and in what/how you go to market you will put more smiles on more peoples faces – which has got to be a good thing for being successful!


3, 2, 1 Action!

Well, having worked in the Internet world for over 15 years I have finally managed to find the time to put down some of my own thoughts on how individuals and businesses can get the most out of the latest exciting digital technologies.

Clearly the internet has created a myriad of wonderful (and some less wonderful) new services, businesses and business models alike.

There have been real winners and losers. From those that have (or are about to become) famously successful by launching exciting businesses that provide compelling new offers to those that have struggled to find the best way to use or execute digital within their business and have subsequently lost market share or the potential to grow new business.

Of course, there are many factors that will help make company A more successful than company B but for me the keys to fortune are in having a real simplicity in what (and how) you offer your customers, coupled of course with a true sense of gratification that they experience.

I look forward to exploring this over the months ahead and sharing some thoughts & examples of what I think can be great or poor practice.