Tue, 26 February 2019
When you’re in the middle of an important project and equipment fails, you want it fixed fast. In this week’s show I talk with Blitzz Co-founder Rama Sreenivasan. His company is solving the inefficiencies of tech support. Blitzz’s customer support innovation integrates AI, AR, and live video to solve problems faster.
Winding Journeys Connected
As a chemical engineer working on medical devices to starting a SaaS company, Rama’s path has taken some unexpected twists. But at the heart of it, he is a problem solver. The source of his inspiration: his dad who he likes to call “MacGyver”.
Rama founded Blitzz together with co-founder Keyur Patel two years ago. They most recently participated in CableLabs Fiterator. This accelerator program helps startups develop a product-market fit aimed at the cable industry.
A System That Assesses Without the Hassle
When instruments stop working, it’s time to bring in a helpful live assistant. Blitz’s customer support innovation allows a better perspective of and feel for the problem. Through live video chat, companies can avoid spending for onsite technician visits. The customer support is not only heightened, but it is also trained to see around the inconspicuous. Innovation in repair operations contributes to cuts in labor fees and time processing. What prompted Rama to create Blitzz’s innovative approach? During his PH. D and Post-Doctoral work, frustration with equipment breakdown mid-experiment was the impetus. The long wait to get repairs done seemed a waste. Rama felt there had to be a better way.
In any given company, customer support could always be better. That’s why the addition of AR technology adds to the customer experience. Questions can be answered faster and more efficiently. No longer does one have to worry about the hassle of scheduling an in person visit. AR perception captures it all. This innovation allows one on one human interaction on a more convenient level.
Equipment can malfunction and run the risk of being unreliable. AI customer support can redirect the customer to questions and answers that may be a better fit. This AI customer support innovation, becomes its own teacher. The AI brings with it the ability to learn from the information that it processes.
Rama highly recommends entrepreneurs go through an accelerator. He learned critical elements of the startup process through that experience. He also credits passion for driving the startup process. Connecting with mentors can help fan the flames of that passion.
We’re coming up on the launch of Season 15 of Killer Innovations. We’d love your feedback on what you’d like to hear on Killer Innovations for the next 15 years. Get in touch and let me know.
Five Minutes to New Ideas
When you don’t find a way to differentiate from the pack, you run the risk of losing uniqueness. What attributes do you have that you may not realize? Listen to this week’s Five Minutes to New Ideas. Find out how you can get the most out of any opportunity or idea.
Direct download: Customer_Support_Innovation_Solving_Problems_Faster_S14_Ep51.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PST
Tue, 19 February 2019
Getting around in the big city can be easier than in smaller, less populated locations. In many areas across the country, getting from point A to point B is dependent on having a vehicle. This can present a challenge for people who don’t have access to a personal vehicle. With this in mind, our guests today are solving this problem for communities in Ohio. At the Consumer Electronics Show, co-founders of SHARE, Ryan and Hoa McManus, join us in the Mobile Studio. Ryan and Hoa tell us about seizing the opportunity with microtransit innovation. What evolving transit demographics are shaping this corner of transportation? What innovative changes are upcoming? SHARE has a new angle on microtransit: meeting the needs of an overlooked market.
SHARE, a startup founded 2-1/2 years ago, has been contributing to a better future in ride systems. Their focus is to provide regularly scheduled transit for the trips people take the most. Trust is at the center. They serve school systems, healthcare systems, and workers commuting. SHARE fills the gap between public transport and ride-sharing. It’s affordable and reoccurring, flexible and reliable. This benefits a significant unmet market: senior citizens. The number of cities that the company serves continues to grow. SHARE is proving to be a model of microtransit innovation - a safe and efficient transport system. SHARE gets people where they need to be on a daily and weekly basis.
Investing in the Team
Packing up and moving across the country, Ryan and Hoa joined an incubator. They weathered the highs and lows. Finishing the incubator program, they promptly informed their investors about their decision to pivot. As I say, always invest in the team rather than the tech. Their investors stuck with them. They then joined an accelerator program. From buying their first vehicles, to operating a fleet of vehicles, the tough decisions were made. As SHARE grows, it confirms those were the right decisions.
Microtransit Innovation: Lessons Learned
Through their shared experience as co-founders, Ryan and Hoa have learned different things.
For Ryan, a resounding lesson is to have more clearly defined roles. Startups can get overwhelmed if they don’t establish who does what from the very start. Everyone should know where they fit and what their tasks include. It will come together if things are organized and understood. This way, the team can efficiently move towards the end goal.
Hoa’s major lesson was to have grit amid the challenges as a woman entrepreneur in the transportation industry. Bouncing back from the low points builds endurance. Facing off with the innovation antibodies with grit makes all the difference. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Want to find out more about Ryan’s and Hoa’s microtransit innovation through SHARE? Track what they’re doing on their website ridewithshare.com, or on Facebook (facebook.com/ridewithshare/) and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/ridewithshare/).
We’re starting Season 15 of Killer Innovations in March. We’d love to hear your thoughts on what you’d like to see and hear on Killer Innovations for the next season and beyond. Drop me a line and let me know.
Five Minutes to New Ideas
This week’s Five Minutes to New Ideas examines the importance of building onto existing products that are lacking. Sometimes, making that 180 degree turn from the existing norm can really pay off. Forget the obvious solution. Take a crazy gamble. Could you create a standardized offering of a custom product? Don’t be afraid to go the opposite direction from everyone else.
Direct download: Safe_and_Efficient_Transport_through_Microtransit_Innovation_S14_Ep50.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PST
Tue, 12 February 2019
If you’ve attended the Consumer Electronics Show for many years, your perspective can be invaluable. For Tim Bajarin, preeminent Silicon Valley analyst and President of Creative Strategies, this is his 44th CES. When he speaks, the tech industry listens. Tim joins us in the Mobile Studio to give his impressions on CES 2019. What trends does Tim notice? Which innovations will impact our future? Overall, CES 2019 is one of incremental innovation. Nevertheless, there are innovation gems that can prove to be life savers and game changers.
Of the ever-evolving innovations at CES, Tim is intrigued by those in the health area. This year he sees a strong emphasis on digital tech impacting people’s health. The Omron blood pressure watch, the first of its kind, is one of those innovations that will have huge impact. For Tim, the health care innovations are fascinating in their far-reaching effect, but also on a personal note. As more people face health issues and aging in place becomes a focus, the tech world has taken on the challenges. Stay tuned for blood pressure on the iPhone.
Ahead of Its Time
Tim recalls the flexible displays I worked on while at HP. Well, they’ve caught on and come a long way. Flexible displays are a big opportunity. LG’s rollable TV is staggering in its resolution, durability, and sheer size. The breakthrough of flexible displays is shown in multiple ways at CES, especially in television display. The use cases for others are yet to be seen. It’s incremental innovation applied in new ways that’s captured the public’s attention.
Tim and I talk about what I like to call the ‘feature war’ in the chase for ever increasing resolution displays. Although content is lacking for 4K, the TV makers are pushing towards 8K and beyond. 8K is a big deal at CES 2019. Expect to see it making a breakthrough, especially since Japan has made 8K broadcasting a requirement for the 2020 Olympics. Keep eyes out for its appearance next year.
The distinction between High Definition HDR displays and 4K is not easy to perceive. In fact, people notice the color more so in the High Definition HDR. When asked to identify the 4K display, people actually chose the High Definition HDR more often. Similar is the difference between 4K and 8K. The industry moves forward towards 12K and 16K. Are these increasing resolutions useful to consumers? The competitors in the resolution race may at some point need to reassess the needs of the consumer.
Tim talks about the medical devices that are becoming game changers. Namely, hearing aids with a fine tune audio capturing. The movement in the sound technology means lower costs to consumers for a basic health care need. Innovations of better audio-centered hearing aids are on the rise. Starkey, the leading hearing aid maker, is going the next step tying Alexa into the hearing aid. What the tech world is missing is a focus on audio. The tech industry has razor sharp focus on optics, with little attention to audio. As AR and VR grows, some attention to audio will be necessary. Starkey’s new product will tie in to AR use. The incremental transference of heightened audio is something to get excited about. No longer will the cost be daunting for the consumer. These devices will grow with you while adding more freedom.
Apple Services New Direction
Apple announced they’ll be working with major TV manufacturers to bundle Apple services iTunes and Airplay on TVs. Apple is setting the groundwork for their services, moving their services in new directions through collaborative efforts. With Apple services bringing in $10 billion a quarter, it’s becoming a dedicated focus.
Thank you to Tim Bajarin for his return to our show.
In this show, Tim and I touch on innovations in healthcare. It’s a topic close to Tim and me. For example, I’ve had to use a hearing aid for a number of years. I was given a pair from Eargo to try out. I had an opportunity to meet with the head of innovation at Starkey. It’s exciting what’s happening in hearing aid innovations.
Aging in place is becoming a focus and challenge. We’re seeing incremental innovations in this area. As consumers age, tech is addressing the needs of the aging population.
Both Tim are I skeptical about the increasing resolution feature wars. What is a feature war? Industry locks on to a feature and trains the customer to buy the product with the best offering for that feature. There may be minimal or no advantage to the upgraded feature, but it’s the hook to catch the customer. Innovators beware: don’t get caught up in a feature war. Pick your differentiation carefully.
This year is the year of incremental innovation at CES. It alternates from year to year between high impact innovation and incremental innovation. Not every company has dipped into this tick tock pattern. There are some companies at CES doing the high impact innovations. We’ll be looking at those in upcoming weeks.
If you know of a big impact innovation, let me know. Drop me a note.
Five Minutes to New Ideas
Consumer complaints and product feedback can turn your product around. Don’t stop at simply resolving an issue. Instead, ask the question, “Who complains about my product?”
This week’s Five Minutes to New Ideas examines how customer feedback and complaints have changed the way some companies do business.
Tue, 5 February 2019
As the hype settles, practical AI emerges. The use of AI in various forms is gaining traction. Who can benefit from AI and how? Steve Guggenheimer, Microsoft VP of AI and ISV, joins us in the Mobile Studio at CES 2019. He shares his thoughts on CES and how AI is taking shape. The cool AI of last year gives way to the practical AI of today.
CES 2019: Electronics and More
Steve, like myself, is a CES veteran. He’s been coming to the show for years. What has stood out about CES 2019? Clearly, it’s no longer just about electronics. In fact, technology has taken over with just about every industry represented. Yet, for Steve, there hasn’t been a clear theme for CES 2019 above the din. A noticeable change over the years is the companies represented. Among the TV manufacturers that have dominated in the past, new companies and relatively recent ones are taking center stage. From Amazon and Google to startups and new Chinese companies, CES 2019 is quite different from that of 15 years ago. Some of the trends Steve noticed were smart homes, AI, Mixed Reality, and quantum.
Besides the displays, one of the biggest benefits of CES is the side meetings. CES brings all the right people together. It’s the perfect chance to schedule meetings with customers, clients, partners the world over without having to travel all over the world.
Overhype, Disillusionment, and the New Wave
Although some things are overhyped, companies are less prone these days to hype their products. Things get notice and tracked. As Steve puts it, he sees “less of companies sticking their necks out.” The hype is still there and often it’s propagated by press with limited tech savvy. With too much hype raising expectation, the trough of disillusionment looms.
Both Steve and I have done vision videos. Rather than hype, vision videos convey the work of innovation and how it can play out in the future. Innovation takes investment, commitment, and time. Overhype doesn’t factor that.
The building blocks of yesterday – compute, storage, networking - are not the building blocks of today. IoT, blockchain, AI are the new wave of building blocks. People need to get out of the hype cycle and see the horizon.
AI and ISV
At Microsoft, Steve works with ISVs. Steve helps line of business ISVs move towards SaaS.
In addition, his focus is on AI. As AI is becoming a hardened layer in the stack, cognitive services research is moving into APIs. This is the work of the Microsoft Azure team.
Of the basic elements of AI – the cloud, data, the algorithms – the rate of change for the algorithms has “accelerated immensely.” The innovation in machine learning comprehension tool sets is “superfast”.
AI from the Front Row
AI is multi-faceted. Some areas of AI are picking up quickly. Others are slower. While the more complex, integrated AI takes more time, some AI aspects that are gaining traction include:
The practical AI Steve promotes requires a logical approach. For building a long-term asset, BI must come before AI. The questions he asks steer towards purposeful AI:
Is AI Right for You?
To help companies determine if AI is right for them, Steve has more questions for companies to ask:
If AI will not add value in the right areas, don’t do it.
When AI Fails
Often, it’s the bespoke AI project that fails. AI developed around data that is no longer tied to the core data can quickly lose its relevancy. Failure is common with the bespoke AI project done to impress senior leadership without regard for its actual value to the business.
Another fail is the grand vision that is impossible to implement given situation and resources. It could be a lack of expertise, financial backing, or executive patience.
Ethics and AI
Ethical AI is an important issue. To lay out their viewpoint and start the conversation, Microsoft issued The Future Computed. Steve advises that companies using AI have a framework for addressing ethics and AI.
Thank you to Steve Guggenheimer for once again joining us on the show.
Five Minutes to New Ideas
Could you cut the price of your product by 25%? Take a look at your inputs. Big savings can mean the game changing advantage. This week’s Five Minutes to New Ideas, features a company that took a gamble on less is more.