Prehype helps companies execute on “20% projects”

Prehype aims to come into a company and identify its “intrapreneurs.” Then, they will host the employee or employees a la Google’s 20% time, building a new company outside of the original company. Another way it works is if an employee has an idea and seeks out Prehype. Prehype will then help them convince their company it’s a good idea. If successful, they will spend the first four weeks planning and fleshing out the idea. In either case, the goal is to build something magnificent and sell it back to the bigger company.

“When we set out, we have this concept of an intrapreneur. It’s pretty easy to spot them. It’s the person who’s been there for a couple of years. The person in the meeting who raises their voice and has ideas that people listen to. They feel comfortable about asking the slightly silly questions and making sure everyone is on board,” says Prehype’s Philip Petersen.

Prehype spends a total of 12-14 weeks building the company, leveraging an external network of developers and designers. The idea can be big or small. Prehype only cares about it being successful. After the project has been greenlighted, they start building and Prehype ensures that the project is managed well for the engineers. Like any startup, pivoting is expected, but Prehype tries to keep it to a 3 month-long schedule, which forces the entrepreneur to limit his or her idea.

“It’s a lot about the process rather than the actual product. A lot of people think we’re an agency when we get into the corporation. So, we use the American Idol metaphor, in that it’s partly the process that helps create the winner. It’s a notion of going through a process where we have an idea of what the product will be but also leaves room for growth, as with any startup out there, we expect a healthy amount of pivoting based on feedback from real users before the end product is born,” says Petersen.

While it’s completely project dependent, if the company buys or spins out the new company, Prehype generally gives 20% of the money back to the entrepreneur(s) and the rest is split amongst Prehype’s partners and the developer and designer pool accordingly. Prehype doesn’t charge for the production, other than a flat management fee that is normally around $25,000 per month.

Interesting model — companies outsource the development and execution of innovative Google-style “20% projects” to Prehype for a fixed fee, ownership is shared after launch. Having clear and friendly ownership terms seems crucial here — I will be curious if this version holds: “If the company buys or spins out the new company, Prehype generally gives 20% of the money back to the entrepreneur(s) and the rest is split amongst Prehype’s partners and the developer and designer pool accordingly.”

Service Design

From finance to healthcare to media, New York’s economy is primarily driven by services. Yet our understanding of what design offers is rooted in products and places rather than how those things operate or how people use them — design has traditionally concerned itself with goods, not services. Only in the past decade or so have designers been actively reconceptualizing what it means to interact with and help shape services. According to Professor Birgit Mager, who runs the Cologne-based Service Design Network, “Service design addresses the functionality and form of services from the perspective of clients. It aims to ensure that service interfaces are useful, usable, and desirable from the client’s point of view and effective, efficient, and distinctive from the supplier’s point of view.”

In particular, services require designers to empathize with users, to understand interactions as a series of “touchpoints” and to develop a holistic understanding of the ways in which our relationships to services govern everyday life. The multiple ways this emerging field of practice relates to the rest of the design field are still in formation. So I sat down with several leading designers and researchers from universities in the US and Europe to start a conversation about what service design is, where it came from and where it is going. This interview expands on an event, “Service Design Performances” (PDF), which was held at Parsons The New School for Design in late May. The event, organized by the DESIS Lab, is the first in a series of activities around the topic of service design that are taking place in New York in the coming months.

The Domino Project: Seth Godin’s new publishing platform

To launch the Domino Project, a bestselling author is walking away from traditional book publishing and using the tools of new media to bring his (and his colleagues’) ideas to the world in a new way. Amazon is working with me to create The Domino Project, a new kind of book publishing venture, one that will redefine both what it means to be a publisher and what we think of as a book.

Following on his announcement that he’s abandoning traditional publishing, bestselling author Seth Godin hints at what’s next for him with the Domino Project, a collaboration with

Coming Soon: Groupon Stores and the Deal Feed

With Groupon Stores, businesses can now create and launch their own deals whenever they want. Think of it as the online equivalent of a merchant’s physical storefront. Merchants can now:

  • Setup a permanent (and free!) e-commerce presence on Groupon for promoting their business.
  • Create their own offers to run deals whenever they want.
  • Submit deals to be promoted to Groupon subscribers through email and the Deal Feed (explained below).
  • Get customers to follow their Groupon Store, and stay in touch by sending messages through the daily email and deal feed.

Smart move from Groupon – let businesses create their own Groupon deals, offer a CRM platform for local biz. Definitely moving into Yelp’s territory — or where Yelp should have gone.

311 for new ideas

What if there were a way to transform complaints into something positive and productive? What if we reframed the exchange to be less about adversity and more about cooperation and action? What if citizens were encouraged to offer their thoughts on how things from transit systems to city parks might be improved — as opposed to simply airing their grievances about all that was wrong with them?

Courtesy of Local Projects

That’s the beauty of Give a Minute, created as part of CEOs for Cities’ US Initiative by the media design firm Local Projects. Says Coletta, “We need more citizens who feel agency — that they can actually influence the future of their communities. Otherwise, there is complacency and resignation. Give a Minute encourages agency. Go ahead. Share your ideas. Change your city.”

In embracing a technology that nearly everyone now possesses — text messaging — Give a Minute provides a fast, cheap and easy way to share ideas, connect them together and make them happen. As Local Project’s Jake Barton, whose firm has excelled in previous participatory projects like StoryCorps, explains, “It’s like 311 for new ideas.”

Also see Vancouver’s use of Uservoice for similar purposes,“Talk Green to Us”

PopTech Ecomaterials Lab

As profiled on Worldchanging in November 2009, future-focused conference organization PopTech has partnered with Nike to convene a year-long “innovation journey” on new green materials and industrial processes. Their first event, the Ecomaterials Lab, occurred last week.

About PopTech Labs:

PopTech is bringing together a network of innovators and decision-makers, brilliant and unconventional, to explore new ideas and identify areas for collaboration and ways to accelerate change in a domain of vital importance to business, society and the planet.

This exclusive and moderated learning session among a one-of-a-kind network of thought-leaders will rigorously map the issues, challenges and opportunities around a specific area of future change, and identify new incentives to unlock further innovation.

Ecomaterials Lab questions to be answered:

What are the new ultra green materials and where do they come from?
How would the global industrial supply chain need to change at scale to adapt to these new materials?
What are the incentives needed to accelerate innovation in the creation of new materials and supply chain adaptation?

August 2010 Ecomaterials Lab event writeup:

Collectively, we unearthed a number of deep insights into this emerging domain. We learned that while we’re spending all of our time thinking about sustainability and climate change in terms of energy sector, in many ways materials may represent a bigger and more impactful part of the problem.

We learned about an entirely new, emerging paradigm within the field of lifecycle assessment, that is revealing how materials that look ‘green’ frequently aren’t; that the reverse is also frequently true. We saw firsthand that the biosciences are about to have as big an impact on the energy and materials sectors as they do in healthcare. We learned that industry is way ahead of government in thinking about these issues and that both are way ahead of the average citizen.

And we saw firsthand demonstrations of technologies that turn everything from chicken feathers, spider silk, and even raw sewage (!) into useable biopolymers. Most importantly, we created a new and, for the field, unconventional network of thought leaders who are already beginning to collaborate.

Open Tab Wednesday

Lots of great reading material today… In Search of Serendipity

EVERY year, hordes of free spirits gather in the Nevada desert to “breathe art”, feel at one with the cosmos and sample the delights of Bianca’s Smut Shack. The Burning Man festival is radically anti-capitalist, with a strict ban on commerce and an emphasis on “self-reliance”. In short, it is not the sort of place you would associate with corporate schmoozing.

But you would be wrong, argue John Hagel, John Seely Brown and Lang Davison. Their new book, “The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things In Motion”, celebrates unconventional networkers such as Yossi Vardi, the 68-year-old “grandfather” of Israeli venture capital. Mr Vardi attends or hosts some 40 pow-wows a year, including Burning Man. (It’s about art, sex and drugs, he muses, but “I was only involved in art.”) According to “The Power of Pull”, Mr Vardi is a “super-node”, one of the best-connected people in the high-tech industry. More than that, he is a role model: he excels in “managing serendipity”. His avid conference-going, for example, is not just for fun. By mingling with so many strangers, he finds that he often bumps into people who give him valuable information.

Alexis Madrigal, the Atlantic: Market data firm spots the tracks of bizarre robot traders

Mysterious and possibly nefarious trading algorithms are operating every minute of every day in the nation’s stock exchanges.

What they do doesn’t show up in Google Finance, let alone in the pages of the Wall Street Journal. No one really knows how they operate or why. But over the past few weeks, Nanex, a data services firm has dragged some of the odder algorithm specimens into the light.

The trading bots visualized in the stock charts in this story aren’t doing anything that could be construed to help the market. Unknown entities for unknown reasons are sending thousands of orders a second through the electronic stock exchanges with no intent to actually trade. Often, the buy or sell prices that they are offering are so far from the market price that there’s no way they’d ever be part of a trade. The bots sketch out odd patterns with their orders, leaving patterns in the data that are largely invisible to market participants.

Tom Friedman, NYT: Broadway and the mosque

There are several reasons why I don’t object to a mosque being built near the World Trade Center site, but the key reason is my affection for Broadway show tunes.

Let me explain. A couple weeks ago, President Obama and his wife held “A Broadway Celebration: In Performance at the White House,” a concert in the East Room by some of Broadway’s biggest names, singing some of Broadway’s most famous hits. Because my wife is on the board of the public TV station that organized the evening, WETA, I got to attend, but all I could think of was: I wish the whole country were here.

Techonomy Conference Agenda

Technology + Economy. A new philosophy of progress. Techonomy is a new way to look at the economic power of innovation.

Ambitious agenda, huge names.

The Twilight of Venture Capital?

Former Enterprise Partners VC Bill Stensrud bows out of the business, saying for all to hear that the entire venture capital industry has outgrown its usefulness. With charts of dwindling IPOs and the discussion of a lack of new tools, I thought he was telling us that innovation in 2009 was dead, or that the VC model was simply broken. It’s actually a more interesting argument, though.

The burst of invention and commercial success which was initiated by the invention of the transistor has run its course…The rapid evolution of new tools is over and will not resume until and unless there is another fundamental technology innovation comparable to the transistor.

I know of no example of an industry which conducted an orderly and systematic downsizing when the opportunity it addressed disappeared or radically changed. We can look around at the auto and recording industries for recent tragedies. The Venture Capital industry is no exception. Instead of recognizing the handwriting on the wall, VCs are inventing new places to put money and trumpeting the “opportunity” they represent.

Stensrud’s argument is that the VC industry was a sort of business “design pattern” that grew in parallel with the invention of the transistor and its many follow-on technologies in the 1960s. Now in 2009 the disruptive innovation that this match spawned — virtually the entire technology industry — is over. The technology industry has grown to be a cornerstone of the US economy. The disruption was successful and the disruptors have become the establishment. The VC industry scaffolding that helped to build the technology industry is still standing, however, and is completely overkill for the minor innovations of the now established technology industry. And there are no new promising technologies comparable to the transistor on the horizon that merit that apparatus.

While I agree with his point about *fundamental* innovation from the transistor probably having run its course, I don’t have the same pessimism about the VC model or the absence of new tools. Yes, right now there may be too much money running after too few deals. Yes, clean tech may be over-hyped as an opportunity. It is interesting to think about the venture capital industry as a design pattern that complemented the dominant technology of its time and is thus unsuited for today’s new technologies, but I would be surprised through if the industry did not a) reconfigure in size and scope for different innovation and technology commercialization challenges, or b) simply turn to new fields where it could provide a repeat performance of past success.

In 2009, there is probably more fundamental research going on now than ever before, and many industries (and future industries) that could yet benefit from that VC industry-creating scaffolding. There is surprisingly no mention in Stenrud’s entire post of the life sciences, a non-transistor-based industry which has certainly been accelerated by venture capital over the past twenty years. In fact, I would bet that the life sciences are where those missing “new tools” for the next half-century of disruptive innovation are going to emerge.

via paul kedrosky

Four-legged DARPA robot trots into uncanny valley

DARPA-funded quadruped robot BigDog has officially descended into the uncanny valley.

Congrats to DARPA for fifty years of disruptive technology development. The DARPA scientists I have met and worked with have to a person been fascinating individuals working on very tough problems. I don’t always support the military end goal that DARPA projects seek to achieve, but of all US military endeavors, I find the spillover into public benefit to be particularly high from DARPA. The agency is a unique organization within the military, and I hope it retains its sense of purpose and vision for the next fifty years.

[via Gizmodo]