Failure, innovation, management, Software

RIP Google Stadia

– An opportunity squandered.

RIP Stadia

Google Stadia wasn’t a perfect cloud gaming experience (missing a lot of game titles, multiplayer often impossible to find other players, etc) by any account, but it was more than good enough to enjoy casual gaming without having to buy and manage the PC hardware and software. 

Stadia is however the best effort to make casual AAA-title gaming without a PC or console an enjoyable and frictionless experience to date.

But only two years old, Google has already decided to kill it January 2023.

I guess this is what happens when previously disruptive startups become public corporations: Out the window goes the long-game and everything shifts to short term gains. No vision, no leadership, no will of taking risks beyond the scope of fulfilling career-based KPIs.

Update: I guess I hit close to home… (see below, twitter linked)

As a friendly free word of advice in advance — If you’re intending to disrupt an existing market, don’t apply a two year horizon for it to be even remotely successful. (Or if you only have two years, make sure it has enough funding and priority to actually be able to achieve rapid Horizon 3 scaling.)

The sad-funny part is that even Microsoft is more innovative than Google at this point.

Cloud gaming is obviously the future (lower barrier to consume, hardware homogeneity and stability for game developers, no-cost upgrade cycles for consumers, lower environmental impact for everybody, near-zero cost distribution, etc.). I mean, considering the computing power needed for the Metaverse(s) / AR-Verse(s), it is inevitable — you’re not going to render that locally on your iPhone or on your Quest headset any day soon now.

Now, Stadia isn’t the first and probably won’t be the last to drop out of the cloud gaming race.

NVIDIA (GeForce Now) already copped out by castrating themselves by publisher demands (games you previously bought suddenly disappearing because the publishers’ knee-jerk reactions). IMO, if NVIDIA was serious about cloud gaming, they would have litigated publishers to a settle that would set precedence and benefited consumers — but I deem from their no-contest fold that they are not really in the cloud gaming race at all.

Like Apple’s AppStore, I don’t think you’ll win cloud gaming without winning the devs. And by that, I don’t mean the existing publishers. (No, by all means screw those gatekeepers over for good — They represent most things bad with gaming today.) You cannot and will not win them over as they have every incentive in the world to fight for their status quo. You need the games. The games with mainstream appeal. Games that will bring the gamers. The games with epic experiences. Games like those coming out of the studios of Naughty Dog, Crystal Dynamics, or Rockstar.

You also need the multiplayer games to be multiplayer-playable — which cannot be said about a lot of games played in the cloud (not cross-platform compatible, no critical user mass of cloud-only version yet), which renders them unplayable (e.g. Red Dead Redemption 2 Online is completely unplayable on Stadia as there are no other players being matched to your game).

I’m not getting my hopes up for Amazon Luna (everything Amazon touches turns out mediocre at best) and it’s not even available in Europe (yet?).

I think Steam would be in a good position as they are already in the sales and distribution game, have a large customer base — but it feels like Valve got lost after the Half Life 2 release party and is still trying to find their way home.

Sony bought Gaikai in 2012 (I tried it sometime 2011 and I was very impressed by how I was able to play Crysis 2 on my non-gaming MacMini 2009 with it. It was one of those very rare “DANG! This-is-the-future-right-here” moments.) and has since pretty much squandered the potential as they are too entrenched (witch is a nicer way of saying Sony management have a track record of having their heads too far up their behinds) in their existing Nespresso lock-in business model. I’m not expecting miracles.

Which surprisingly makes me believe Microsoft with its XBOX Live (no Mac app yet — to no one’s surprise) is currently in the best position. It’s a distributor and publisher with its own game dev studios — and it seems (for now) that they are playing for the long game. I’m not sure if they will be willing or able to thoroughly disrupt their hardware / software lock-in model any day soon (hey, throw us a Mac app bone), though. Probably a positioning play for now that affords future optionality.

I’m not getting my hopes up for Ubi/EA/EPIC/etc siloed cloud subscription services. A siloed market represents added inconvenience and added costs (subsidise the publisher for what you don’t want, pay for several silos to get what you want) for the consumers. Besides, some of them got cultural baggage and some have a problematic developer / publisher paradox.

And what about those rent-a-windows-box-in-the-cloud services? Have you ever tried one of these? Don’t get me started. It’s still all of the hassles of actually owning and managing a Windows gaming PC — but with higher latency and frame drops. The pain. The horror.

Personally, I would like to see Apple get over their Pippin complex and just get on with it and own the market. It’s the only media type that is missing from their offerings, IMO. But I’m not getting my hopes up. Knowing Apple, they will probably join the fray if and when the time is right — which is to say probably not any day real soon now. (Come on Apple, you need another “hobby”! Maybe hot on the heels of the Apple AR Glasses?)

OTOH — As another corporate venture gets it chain yanked, it’s leaving the opportunity on the table for the startup with the grander vision and deeper (accessible) pockets and more freedom to operate.

What do you think?

(This article was originally published on LinkedIn 2020.09.30)

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entrepreneurship, innovation, News

Named “Vordenker 2022”

Wow! I’m honoured to be named one of the “Vordenker 2022″ by the initiative “Vordenker 2022 – Deutschlands klügste Köpfe” (in English, that translates to something akin to “Masterminds 2022 – Germany’s Wisest Minds”) by Germany’s largest business magazine “DUP UNTERNEHMER-Magazin” (a Handelsblatt Group joint venture) and “DIND – Deutsches Innovationsinstitut für Nachhaltigkeit und Digitalisierung”.

You can read the full interview (in German) on DUP online.
For those who don’t speak German, I’ve translated it below.

+ANDERSEN & ASSOCIATES helps companies with digital transformation and helps establish innovative thinking as a part of the company DNA. The founder Vidar Andersen explains why he doesn’t rely on investors, why he and the associates are all paranoid tech people, and how to permanently stay innovative in the market.

DUP UNTERNEHMER-Magazin: +ANDERSEN & ASSOCIATES helps companies with digital transformation. That probably means you hit a nerve in the market during the pandemic?

Vidar Andersen: Not really – at least at the beginning of the corona pandemic. We ourselves were able to offer all of our services and products online within a few weeks. But there was hardly any demand from our customers. Many companies, especially in Germany, could not even imagine receiving the same services via virtual channels online. Still others were prevented from doing so by internal hurdles, such as a lack of software licenses, restrictive security settings, data protection considerations or pending works council decisions. But today, many of our customers no longer want to do without the virtual online solutions. So – luckily – a lot has happened here in the past two years.

How do you convince your customers of your service?

Andersen: When we realized at the beginning of the pandemic that very few customers were well positioned digitally, a lot of time and energy went into education and training. We showed them how to work well together digitally. This effort paid off. Whether it is our programs or services, many are still primarily preferred virtually. This is an enormous advantage, especially for companies that are running programs or projects that last several weeks and whose teams are spread across different locations. In principle, every new customer relationship is preceded by intensive research in order to understand the market conditions and requirements of the respective industry and company to be able to offer suitable programs or solutions – analogue and digital.

How do your customers react to these disruptive change proposals?

Andersen: First of all, our work can only be fruitful if we know exactly what our customers’ goals and needs are. In general, however, they appreciate the uncomplicated and team-oriented cooperation with us and that we give honest feedback. If I’m not convinced of something, I’ll say so, even if the customers might not want to hear it at first. In addition, it is very important to talk to each other and to question yourself and your performance again and again. We conduct feedback discussions with our customers before, during and after a program or project has been completed. We continuously evaluate whether our products, programs and services need to be updated, supplemented or replaced.

How do you ensure that +Andersen & Associates itself is not overtaken by the digital advances in the world?

Andersen: We are all “paranoid” tech enthusiasts. And we are concerned that one day we will no longer be up to date and that we will no longer be able to understand and master future technologies. This paranoia is also reflected in the work culture: For example, there is always a running concern that the competitors could offer something better or that the methodologies and tools that we are successfully using today could suddenly become obsolete in the future. Our recipe against this is that we remain paranoid (and we only work with entrepreneurs and founders who share our paranoia). Research on the topics of tech, tools, methodologies and competition is very much a part of our day-to-day business in order to remain competitive. This applies to +Andersen as well as to our customers.

What advantage do you have over your competitors?

Andersen: As a small private company with no external investors, we enjoy the privilege of defining our growth goals ourselves. We also have the patience to reach them. The most important thing for us has always been to have satisfied customers – that is our very simple recipe for success. Classic growth measures such as more staff or the takeover of other companies are of secondary importance. In addition, we are extremely flexible and scalable in terms of skills and human resources. Our associates model enables our customers to put together a perfect à la carte team from a wide variety of fields for a wide variety of digitization and innovation challenges.

In which business area do you still have weaknesses?

Andersen: Working more with external partners per program or project and less with permanent employees may be seen as a possible weakness, especially by potential investors or potential acquirers. But to me, the pandemic has proven that this business model is very anti-fragile.

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entrepreneurship, innovation, speaking, startup

Helping French Startups expand into Germany (again)

Honored and excited to have been invited back for the third year in a row to help Business France Düsseldorf with their “Impact Germany” program for French startups expanding into the German market!

The “Impact Germany 2022” organisers, support team & startup cohort
Moderating the panel discussion “How to become successful in a different market?”
Holding a Keynote crash-course introduction to how to succeed in the German market as experienced as a non-German

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Customer Development, Education, entrepreneurship, Events, innovation, Lean Launchpad, Lean Startup

Lean Innovation Educators Summit 2022

Recently I was honored and excited to attend my fifth “Lean Innovation Educators Summit” and exchange best-practices and catch up with fellow educators from around the world.

The Lean Innovation Educators Summit is designed to model the methodologies we teach, as we conduct beneficiary discovery with our fellow Lean LaunchPad educators to improve our courses. A key aspect of teaching the Lean LaunchPad methodology is encouraging students to “get out of the classroom” and talk to others. That’s exactly what we as Lean educators strive to do ourselves at the Summit.

The LEan INNOVATION EDUCATORS SUMMIT

“At our fifth Lean Innovation Educators Summit, we discussed the role of the university and other important organizations in supporting the critical mission of preparing the next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators. Attendees gleaned insights from keynote speaker Rich Lyons, the Chief Innovation and Entrepreneurship Officer of the University of California at Berkeley, about the opportunities and challenges faced by the Lean Innovation Educators community.”

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innovation, speaking

Keynote: DECENTRALISED EVERYTHING (is Blockchain and Crypto eating the world?)

Excited to be doing keynotes again at real on-premise events despite the ongoing global pandemic!

Today I’m in Unter den Linden 1 at Bertelsmann Berlin, speaking about Blockchain, Crypto and Web3 at the Bertelsmann Tech & Data Week 2021. Humbled and honored to be on the same roster of keynote speakers as the excellent Hannah Fry (read her books)!

It’s a company internal event, so I won’t be able to share the whole nine yards.

On a personal note, I suspect having travelled straight from the clinic where I’d just witnessed our second child being born and not having slept for over 24 hours to deliver the keynote live on stage I might have come off a little disheveled. ;) Zero regrets, though.

Here’s a teaser:

Web 1 – Remember? (1990s – ca.2005)

  • Semantics all over the place
  • Protocols coming and going
  • Things breaking
  • Things not scaling
  • Crowded place, many new unproven players
  • Pump & Dump IPOs
  • Scams rampant
  • Slow mainstream adoption (e.g. e-commerce)
  • dotcom crash 2000
  • “This online web thing will never work…”
Actually, it wasn’t at the time. It wasn’t a self-referential era – unlike Web3.

Web2 is the internet today, dominated by tech giants. It’s built on client-server architecture where users are the client and companies control the servers. These companies extract value from creators and users by sitting in the middle.

Web 3 – Sounds familiar? (today)

  • Semantics all over the place
  • Protocols coming and going
  • Things breaking
  • Things not scaling
  • Crowded place, many new unproven players
  • Pump & Dump ICOs
  • Scams rampant
  • Slow mainstream adoption
  • ICO winter 2018
  • “This blockchain crypto thing will never work…”

Web3 is the internet that’s being pioneered by crypto;peer-to-peer networks of computers that talk to each other without middlemen using blockchain tech. It’s the new Wild Wild West, the new frontier of the Internet.

As we now know, this Web 1 (and Web 2) thing worked out insanely well for some.

For those who made themselves dependant on these centralised platforms – and then the platforms changed – it turned out not so great:

How centralised platforms change over time
Supplies!

TL;DR

  • Web1 was about creating value at/for the edges; the developers and users
  • Web2 is about creating value for the centralised platforms, the middlemen, the rentseekers, the gatekeepers
  • Web3 is a return to creating value at/for the edges; the developers and users – reclaiming independence from centralised platforms
  • Web3 is about trust, ownership, and decentralisation
  • Crypto & Blockchain enables and empowers trust, ownership, and decentralisation
  • Web3 is where the Internet wants to go at the moment
  • Yes, there’s an energy consumption issue with crypto relying on “proof of work”, but alternatives exist, Etherium is supposed to switch to “proof of stake”, and pow miners are “going green” at a fast rate, it’s getting much better
  • Yes, there are problems still with the concept of “decentralised”, e.g. a lot of tech being built on crypto rely on centralised platforms, and crypto platforms have been known to freeze assets and reverse transactions (which arguably should not be possible), we’re not quite there yet today

Also check out Peter Yang’s great beginners guide on crypto. It’s my go-to resource when trying to explain to the uninitiated. It’s the best first step guide I have read so far.

Conclusion & Recommendations

  • It’s 1999 all over again, and the train has left the station, so get in and participate, but don’t bet the barn 1999-style – you have to ask yourself if you can afford to miss the value creation in the pioneer age (again), and worst case you’ll learn something
  • You cannot disrupt the disruptors, don’t try to compete with startups because you’ll lose – acquire or create own initiatives
  • Look over your shoulder and around you, who’s [startups] making blockchain / crypto waves near you, reach out and start a relationship – worst case they’ll ignore you, best case you’ll develop new biz opportunities
  • Leverage your existing IP and its fan base, it’s something no startup will ever have, think of new ways of monetizing and including fans in new ways of participating
  • DON’T BLOCKCHAIN EVERYTHING, use trust and ownership as heuristics; if neither is involved, skip – also think about internal or b2b processes that could be more efficient or cheaper using blockchain tech
  • Look at internal work, internal processes that could possibly be automated using e.g. smart contracts – there’s probably a lot of smart people doing a lot of stupid work that could be freed up by automation (also see above)
  • Think really hard about how you are going to attract the next superstars, offering newer generations more tools to monetize their art and let their fans better participate will naturally be a competitive advantage – crypto could be a part of that toolset mix
  • Do or do not – there is no try
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