5 (good) reasons why you should get your hands on Virtual Reality in 2015

Andreessen Horowitz, the $4 billion venture capital firm (yes, the one that invested in companies such as Foursquare, Twitter, Facebook and Airbnb, among many others), published last January their top 16 tech trends here, and guess what? Virtual Reality is #1.

Many of us lived the Virtual Reality (VR) hype through the 90’s and the following disenchantment. Simply put, neither the technology nor the market was ready

But Palmer Luckey, a (then) 19 year old ‘kid’ from Long Beach, California, after having spent his teenage years tinkering with up to 50 head-mounted displays and building more than five cost-effective virtual reality displays, finally put the first version of what he called the “Rift” as a DIY-kit on Kickstarter on June 2012. In just 36 hours the campaign surpassed $1 million in funding, eventually ending with $2,437,429. Almost two years after, on March 25, 2014, Luckey’s company, Oculus VR, was acquired by Facebook for US$2 billion.

Picture: http://www.tweaktown.com/news/37828/oculus-vr-founder-palmer-luckey-makes-the-cover-of-wired-magazine/index.html

Since then, it seems that every big media or tech company (Sony, Pixar, Disney, Facebook, Google, Samsung and Microsoft among others) is interested on VR technology. But why this sudden crazy interest in VR technology? In short: the first time you experience VR through a headset like the Oculus Rift, you understand why (read: you’ll be mind blown). Just in case you haven’t (please, try!), I’ve compiled five reasons why I think this technology will be highly disruptive (in the “Peter Thiel’s sense”) in 2015:

#1. Presence has finally arrived

In the early days of VR (pioneered by Jaron Lanier), two main issues plagued VR developments: “motion sickness” and lack of “presence”. You get motion sickness when wearing a VR head-mounted display if you move your head and the scenery do not change fast enough. You can get symptoms like dizziness, nausea or even vomiting. On the other hand, “presence” is the feeling you get when you wear a head-mounted display, and aside from the realistic 3D rendering, you feel as if ‘you are there’. I’ve personally witnessed more than fifty people trying the Rift for the first time, and almost half of them try to ‘touch’ the ‘things’ they see with their hands (you can also watch ‘first-timers’ reactions here). Yes sir, that’s what can be called presence.

The Rift achieve presence and lack of motion sickness through a wide field of vision (more than 100 degrees) and a really well engineered (fast plus accurate) head rotation tracking. If you are curious about the details, I recommend this book from Manning Publications.

Picture: http://static.oculus.com/connect/slides/OculusConnect_Epic_UE4_Integration_and_Demos.pdf

#2. VR is a new medium and a new interface

VR is both a new medium and a new interface.

As a new medium, it’s characterized as a post-symbolic medium, meaning that you do not need a ‘language’ to communicate in that medium, the user just ‘experience things’ there. Some people have even called VR ‘the empathy machine’ after projects like this one, funded by United Nations, in which you experience (via immersive video) the day-to-day reality of a Syrian refugee. VR as a medium is storytelling on steroids.

The music industry is also getting up to speed with the technology, with artists such as Paul McCartney, Jack White, Beck, U2 and Coldplay experimenting with VR.

As a new interface (just as the birth of the computer mouse allowed new kind of applications and human-computer interactions) VR will unlock interaction possibilities we’re not, of course, aware as of now. As an example, Guy Godin has developed a ‘Virtual Desktop for VR’. I know, it may sound silly, but keep in mind that the natural interface for humans should be closer to immersive 3D than to a flat 2D screen.

#3. Big companies have their hands on Virtual Reality

Facebook bought Oculus VR, Samsung has partnered with Oculus VR, Sony has its own VR device in progress, Google-backed ‘Magic Leap’ is trying to make the perfect Augmented Reality Device after Google Glass fiasco, and Leap Motion has literally resurrected thanks to VR.

A month ago, it was announced that Youtube is developing 360º video streaming, VR ready.

It all sounds like the early days of the Web, in which all the money from the Valley was suddenly redirected to the new technology. And yes, it may be well that a new bubble is coming bigger as ever, but also remember that the Web survived those days by filtering out noise from value.

#4. VR development is progressing at blazing speed

I ordered Oculus DK2 on June, 2012 (it arrived on September, though). At that moment, development was kind of ‘low-level’, esoteric or expensive (licensing). In just four months, WebVR (an initiative to bring VR to the web, via javascript access to VR devices) has become really solid, Unity released their Oculus Rift integration for the free version (this is huge!), and Leap Motion+VR integration is driving really innovative applications. Youtube is full of VR videos (mostly from drones), VR (mostly three.js/WebVR based) developments are starting to grow on Github, and Oculus/Leap stores are really growing; not to mention the grassroots groups trying to make 180º videos cost-effective and VR-ready.

Picture: http://techcrunch.com/2015/01/23/un-launches-powerful-oculus-virtual-reality-film-following-syrian-refugee-girl/

#5. Real world applications are already appearing and the spectrum is huge

One of the problems with early VR is that it was successful at the industrial level, but not at the consumer level. Now, with around US$350 or even just US$20 (Google Cardboard, or a DIY version, plus a smartphone) and some knowledge of Unity (or a similar game engine) or Javascript/WebGL you can start developing your own applications.

If you follow ‘Road to VR’ or ‘Enter VR’ podcasts, you’ll quickly notice that each and every day new applications are appearing: from immersive journalism, to healing diplopia through virtual reality and everything in between: gaming (of course), adult content, movies (Story Studio and Zero Point), mental ailments healing and fitness. If you are interested in the applications of VR to Social Sciences, ‘Infinite Reality’ is a fascinating read.

As a side note, at Outliers Collective we are working to bring VR to Data Visualization (or Data Visualization to VR), developing D3.js-like capabilities into both Unity and WebVR. One of our early examples, a real-time network visualization experience can be seen here. Seems like we are not alone, you can check also ‘6000 moons’ (a data visualization/simulation of nearly 6000 objects orbiting around us in space)

***This is a guest post by Oscar Marín
Data Engineer and co-founder at Outliers Collective

What is the Catdroid Android Fundamentals Study Jam?

On Tuesday, February 10 begins the FREE Catdroid Android Study Jam at itnig. During 7 weeks, 20 developers will meet in our offices to learn together, solve questions and go through the main issues of the Udacity course “Developing Android Apps — Android Fundamentals” by Google.

Although these developers are truly beginners on Android, they should have at least 3 years of programming experience in Java or another object-oriented programming language (for example: C++, Objective C or Python).

For knowing a bit more about this supervised study group we have talked with Sergi Martínez, Senior Android Developer and tutor of this Android study jam.

Question: What is a study jam and how it works?

Answer: The Study Jams are an initiative from Google to create global groups run by local communities. This is the first one we do in Barcelona and it will be about the Udacity Android Fundamentals course. The idea is to run 7 study sessions during the course in order to review the topics of every lesson and help students build their own app during the course. So, students watch a Lesson by themselves, and then, we review it in the local session and review how to apply this knowledge into their own application.

Q: What is Catdroid?

A: Catdroid is a community of Android lovers, fans, developers, designers and users created 4 years ago with the objective of creating events, speeches, courses and all kind of activities + helping each other when having questions or issues about the Android topic. The idea is to create something from the community to the community.

Q: And what is the Catdroid Android Fundamentals course about?

A: This is the Catdroid instance of this course. The courses are normally held by the official Google Developers Groups (GDG’s). But after talking with Google people they offered us to run our own study jam in parallel with the guys from the GDG Barcelona. The idea is to open more opportunities to the people of the community, no matter who organizes the jam.

Q: Why is this course relevant nowadays?

A: Mobile development is one of the most growing industries nowadays, and it’s not a temporary thing. A lot of developers are looking for a way to recycle themselves into the mobile world. Taking a course like this is an excellent opportunity to make this move. If we only had something like this when we started, our last four years would have been much much easier.

Q: What will people learn during this course?

A: People will learn how to make a complete application from scratch. We will review the most important issues to start working on the Android development world. Besides, the course is focused not only on learning things, but also on how and where to look for information when needed.

Q: What practical skills can people expect to have upon completion of this course?

A: Starting from the most basic concepts, they will be able to create some advanced UI, use external REST services to take information, local databases to cache this information and how to sync this information to save battery and data, among many other things. And it will work in phones and tablets.

Q: Who is this course recommended for? What should be the background / relevant experience of the attendees?

A: This course is for developers who want to introduce themselves into the Android development world. Experience in object oriented development is required. If you are experienced in Java, this is the best option, but people coming from languages like C# or Objective-C shouldn’t have any problem, they only will need to review some things. The course is also perfect for professional developers who want to push their careers forward or for computer science’s students who want to start learning Android development.

Q: Main takeaways of this course:

  • Learning from the people who made Android
  • Build a full app from scratch
  • Become familiar with the Android world, being able to find information by yourself and knowing where to go to ask for help
  • Doing apps the right way, taking the user into account, avoiding battery drainings and network hogs
  • Be ready to start a career as an Android Developer

Q: Prereqs and preparation:

Basic, Intermediate or Advanced Level?

A: This is an intermediate level (not big experience is required), but students should already know what OOP is and the basic concepts.

Is prior experience required?

A: Prior experience with an OOP language is required. This is not a course to learn programming, but to learn developing Android apps.

Any specific software needed?

A: The only thing needed will be Android Studio, and this is available for free.

ABOUT THE TUTOR

Q: Sergi, why are you doing this? What is your motivation for organizing this free study jams and how long have you been organizing this kind of study jams?

A: I really love sharing knowledge with the community, anyone who has attended one of my speeches knows that I’m really passionate about that. I think this is also a perfect way to introduce new people into the Android community.

I have worked on training more than three years and I have always tried to have places to share and teach. With Catdroid and the GDG we made a lot of events with a different formats.

This is the first Study Jam at a global level (you won’t believe how many are being performed). I have never worked with this format, but everybody in the organization is very excited about it and, if the results are good (which I’m sure they’ll be), there will be more Study Jams in the future!

Q: In short, who is Sergi Martínez?

A: Sergi Martínez is a developer with more than 15 years’ software industry experience — with a strong focus on software localisation projects and tool development. He is now working on the Android platform and he helps people learn new developing skills by sharing his knowledge and passion. At the moment, Sergi is focused on the Mobility R&D sector, and is eager to push the industry forward. He has been declared by Google as a 2015 Android GDE (Google Developer Expert). Twitter > https://twitter.com/SergiAndReplace

***
Thank you Sergi!
// Mar

More info about this Android Study Jam

SCHEDULE

Session 1: Tuesday, February 10–7pm to 9pm
Session 2: Tuesday, February 17–7pm to 9pm
Session 3: Tuesday, February 24–7pm to 9pm
Session 4: Tuesday, March 10–7pm to 9pm
Session 5: Tuesday, March 17–7pm to 9pm
Session 6: Tuesday, March 24–7pm to 9pm
Session 7: Tuesday, March 31–7pm to 9pm

PRICE: for free!

Interviewing Verónica Torras, founder of Womala

Verónica Torras is the founder of Womala, a mobile app for women in the area of Fitness & Health, and expert in business models, and a customer development and lean startup evangelist and practitioner. Starting from the beginning, Verónica got into the business model generation and lean startup methodologies through Alex Osterwalder (author of the Business Model Canvas), Eric Ries and Steve Blank, and during the last 4 years she trained quite a lot of entrepreneurs through her own 3-days workshop, the Startup Bang Bang program.

At itnig we have been knowing Verónica for a while, because in her trip to the core of the lean startup method she has been one of the most active organizers of the Barcelona Lean Startup Circle, started back on February 2012. The group has been meeting at itnig since that time, and it keeps doing so. Although she is still involved (“in a second row”, she says) within the organization of this meetup, her life pivoted some months ago, when she decided to stop working as a facilitator and trainer of the lean methodologies and she put all her focus on launching and developing her 1rst startup: Womala.

This interview pretends to be an enlightening dive into Verónica’s decision, its results until now and its perspectives on the short and middle run.

Question: In your blog you mention that you had tested your idea during 1 year before deciding to focus into it. Could you explain in brief what is Womala and how did you knew that the right moment for your startup had arrived?

Answer: Womala is a service to improve women’s lives through an online personal trainer. We offer assistance for the pelvic floor health at different stages of life: young women, pregnancy, childbirth recovery, mothers and menopausia.

Pelvic health problems are unknown by people in general, however its prevalence within the feminine society is high and they know about the problem. We give relevant information and tools for women care, and we offer personalized workouts and tips as well as a motivating follow-up.

When I had this idea, back in March 2013, I decided to start testing it. I very quickly found Olatz Zeberio, my partner and also the expert on pelvic floor physiotherapy. We built a very basic MVP in 3 months. We got 130 users that were receiving pelvic floor exercises every week during 3 more months. And an encouraging percentage of those women were doing the exercises at their homes. This together with tons of qualitative feedback, we saw that we were into something important, and made us decide to take the leap of faith.

Q: Verónica, in your blog you mention that when you decided to devote yourself to Womala, you completely changed your lifestyle: “I cleaned up my financial structure, left my attic from Barcelona, reduced my belongings to a couple of bags and started to be lean like a kite.” Which was the ultimate moving thought that lead you to take this decision?

A: The need of focus! Before to take the decision I had some conversation with 5 people I trusted. Bernat Farrero (as you know founder of itnig and CEO of Camaloon) was the one making a lot of emphasis on this particular aspect. He was very clear on that point: ‘Focus is key’. You can’t do 5 things at the same time if one of them is to build a startup. You need to put all your focus on this one if you want to play the game’. Steve Blank also mentions that as a must for an entrepreneur.

Bernat’s statement was resonating in my head day after day until I decided to do it. And when I took the decision, I left my apartment and reduced my personal cost structure in order to have flexibility and freedom to make a new prioritization of things in my life. This was after 9 months I started to test the idea. Three months later (now!) I have to say that making focus on Womala has been one of the best decisions I have made lastly.

Q: Any startup is failure-proof, but since you are an expert in business model design and the lean startup method, which are the top 3 requirements you have make sure your project meet, before launching it?

A: Hahaha, always looking for formulas that work! Ok, I am going to mention those 3 requirements but I would like to emphasize that this is my own case and it might not work for others although it can inspire them.

First, we got a positive analysis of the business opportunity. We looked at the problem, target, size of market (in our case is the prevalence of several pelvic health issues), chances to make it international, and a first set of 30–40 interviews with potential customers (women), doctors like urologists and gynaecologists, and other physicians. In fact, the business opportunity is huge because there is a common problem in adult women with few solutions out there. I highly recommend doing interviews to real people at the same time that doing the market research. It keeps you in the ground, in the real world.

Second, we reached out our first 130 users with our first MVP. We were looking for any evidence on the following: Does the problem exist? Do women know about the problem? Do they have solutions? Which ones? Are they interested on ours? And yes, we met that requirement as well. The first acquisition test showed that there is a high interest for the issue and we have got lots of conversations with women who tell us that a solution like the one we offer is needed.

Finally, the third requirement, is more related to the founder skills. I made all kind of questions to myself and tried to answer them sincerely. Do I really want to commit at least the next 3 years on this project? Do I feel passionate about solving this problem? Do I have the possibility financially speaking? Do I have the skills needed like empathy and capacity of solving all sort of problems? And do I have the network to make it happen? All of them were a yes. I also hear a podcast recently from Startups for the rest of us called ‘The test founder’ that is answering this point very well (for those who want to start is worthy to check it out).

Q: In your blog you say that you are a “non-technical founder” but that you managed to learn enough of the technical side to build your first MVP. Which advice would you give to non-technical founders, men or women, who are also trying to startup? What is the mindset they need in your opinion?

A: Nice question! You can find all over Internet the opinion that if you are a non-technical founder without a technical co-founder you can’t start a tech startup. However if you have the right mindset, I believe that is possible. I think you need to be creative about solving problems and very open to learn. This mindset helped us to build an MVP that is allowing us to validate the market, the problem and the business model. Womala is now a validated model and it is a very attractive opportunity for a developer that will join our team. We believe that we are now in a good position to find a developer girl that will join the company’s vision of improving women’s lives and we are looking forward to find her.

Q: About the Womala design process, and looking backwards, could you clearly define which steps or phases your project has been through? In which phase are you right now?

A: I think I have mentioned that bit earlier: 1st stage, business opportunity analysis and interviews; 2nd, a basic MVP with automated emails, 3rd step, taking the leap and building the first version of a web-app. A first soft launch has given us a lot feedback that tell us that this project needs to be done and it is a good opportunity to be part of something bigger. Our next stage is to enlarge our team, specially for the technical part. We are now meeting girls from different tech communities to find the technical person because we think that the team is ready now to go to the next step. That might be attractive and exciting for any programmer.

Q: After 3 months working only for Womala, can you now say that it was the right time to focus on it? Or you wish you had started before?

A: I believe it is the right time to build this and I believe that I made the right decision at the right time as well. I have to say that when I first had the idea to help women in their pelvic health back in 2006. I was working with urologists and gynaecologists in a small pharmaceutical company and I already saw the problem at that time. However, almost nobody had a smart phone, and there was not even a fitness app yet. So, I really believe that now is the right time!

Q: Talking about the near future, which are the next steps on Womala’s roadmap (6 months view)?

A: Thinking about the stages of a startup, we have learned a lot about the problem, and now we are focused in our solution. We want to be close to women to build the best features and the best product they will love. So product development and customer development are our priorities in the coming 6 months.

As I said before, we are looking forward to increase the team with the best people: we look for a tech girl, a growth hacker girl and a content manager…. Positions related to development, marketing and sales.

We are also exploring partnerships like health centers, associations of women, midwifes, gynecologists, etc. And we are planning to launch internationally very soon too. Womala is a global company doing a local test in Spain. So we are going international in the coming 6 months. That is why when we look for new team mates we look around the globe. We have no limitations to find team mates in other countries as far as they share our passion.

Q: Tell me 3 things about your lifestyle any entrepreneur should consider, for the good and for the bad, before starting his/her own project.

A: First, the order of things: being an entrepreneur changes the order of things. I have seen this a lot in my friends when becoming fathers. They always say that having a baby changed the order of priorities in their lives. Starting your own startup is the same. Things that were important to me before are not anymore. However, I am super happy with that. I am enjoying the path very much and I find it exciting.

Second is passion: when you have passion and you are part of a core team of passionate people trying to change the world, in this case woman’s world, your life is very rewarding. Womala is this kind of project that gives us a big reward when we meet other women’s expectations.

Third, we are becoming a nomad company. We will go to places where we can get resources, inspiration and talent. We are a global startup and we believe that being stucked in a place has its limitations. Our future team mates will have the possibility to choose this lifestyle too, travelling around the globe looking for convenient places to be while focusing in building the company. It is called digital nomadism.

Anything else to say? Any manifesto? Your every-day motto?

Passion! Passion for improving people’s life. Passion for what I do. This is my biggest source of energy. I believe that passion is the fuel you need to work uncountable hours a day, solve all sort of problems and still be happy at the end of the this journey.

This week at itnig · 26–31 January 2015

Good day everyone!

Last friday, my colleague María shared with me this article about how Otogami makes money. It’s a very interesting read for those of you who would like to understand how a videogames’ metasearch engine works (from a business point of view). The article is in Spanish > “Cómo gana (o pierde) dinero Otogami” by David Bonilla, co-founder and CEO.

And as usual, please find below a highlighted job position + the top events we have prepared for you this week + other interesting events happening in Barcelona very soon. In brief:

Happening at itnig:

  • NodeJS BCN Meetuo — January 28
  • CoreOS Barcelona Meetup — January 29

And beyond:

  • Pyladies Barcelona Meetup — January 29
  • Startup Weekend Gaming — February, 13–15
  • TechStartupJobs Fair BCN 2015 — March, 4
  • 4YFN — March 2–5
  • WebRTC Barcelona Meetup (MWC Edition) — March, 4

Keep reading to find all the details.

HIGHLIGHTED JOB POSITION

CAMALOON

Web Analytics Specialist

Main responsibilities:

  • Site analytics
  • Responsible of the proper implementation of analytical tools: google analytics, Mixpannel and KISSmetrics
  • Preparation of reportings
  • Planning, execution and analysis of test A/B
  • Preparation and analysis of surveys

> Click here to see all the info (in Spanish).
> If you need more details, please ask us: [email protected]

EVENTS AT ITNIG · 26–31 January

NodeJS BCN Meetup
The crash course to connect things to the Internet with NodeJS & thethings.iO
Wednesday, January 28 at 6pm · Language: EN / ES

CoreOS Barcelona Meetup
CoreOS: An Introduction by Brian Harrington
Thursday, January 29 at 7:00pm · Language: EN

MORE EVENTS & STUFF IN TOWN

Startup Weekend Gaming!
This is not just about games, it’s about changing history playing hard.

February 13–15 · MediaTIC Building · c/Roc Boronat 117

What’s gaming? Videogames, casual games, mobile games, gamification, advergaming, social games, gambling.. Everything connected with games generally speaking: B2B, engines, B2C, etc.

Get a 10€ discount with the code ITNIGSWG

TechStartupJobs Fair BCN 2015
Wednesday, March 4 · 6pm to 9pm · DTIC — UPF, c/Roc Boronat 138

The fastest growing startup job fair is taking place for the 1st time in Barcelona! This Jobs Fair bridges the gap between INNOVATIVE STARTUPS and QUALIFIED PROFESSIONALS.

Who will be there? >> Startups, Developers, Designers, Marketers, Community Managers, Product Managers, Technical Sales People and Business Developers.

4YFN · March 2–5
HALL M8 · FIRA BARCELONA MONTJUÏC

This top event is devoted to innovation in the mobile and digital ecosystem, has a great panel of speakers, and uncountable opportunities to meet the main players of the global mobile scene & do networking.

Are you gonna miss it? NOPE!
Use the code Out_Itnig59 to get a 15% off! — ONLY 25 tickets available with that code!

Pyladies Barcelona Meetup
Python Tips & Tricks
Thursday, January 29 at 7:00pm · DTIC — UPF, c/Roc Boronat 138 · Language; EN

Keywords: Open Source, Python, Programming, Hacking, Getting started with Python, PyLadies, Women Computer Scientists, Python web development, Open source python.

WebRTC Barcelona Meetup
Mobile World Congress Edition
Wednesday, March 4 at 5pm — 10pm · DTIC — UPC, c/Roc Boronat 138 ·Language: EN · Free event!

WebRTC is a web standard and movement to bring the power of real-time, peer-to-peer voice, video, and data communications with a few simple JavaScript APIs.

With over 2 billion devices supported and deployments at companies Amazon, Google, American Express, and hundreds of others, WebRTC is rapidly turning from an obscure standard to a mainstream API.

Join us to learn more about this technology, share use cases, and discover the latest in this revolutionary technology.

Keywords:JavaScript · HTML5, APIs, WebRTC, Real Time Communication.

***
Have fun this week!
// Mar

Thoughts after attending the NoSQL Matters conference

Last November my colleague David Morcillo, CTO at Adverway, and I went to the NoSQL Matters 2014 conference in Barcelona. We had a great time and attended very interesting talks by some relevant personalities in the field.

The conference started with a couple of Time Series Databases related talks. Ellen Friedman started the conference with her keynote “Seeing with your eyes closed”, where she brought us back to the 1800s when Matthew Fountain Maury carried out an analysis of timestamped measurements logged by sailors that produced accurate wind and current charts, in what she referred as the precursor of what nowadays we call Big Data.

Ted Dunning followed with his talk Very High Bandwidth Time Series Database Implementation, introducing OpenTSDB and MapR technologies, regarding scalable distributed Time Series Databases. Internet and mobile devices have plenty of sensors, and those are being used to log vast amounts of timestamped data. The need for specialized systems able to handle this kind of data extends to more and more projects and organizations, and NoSQL databases have a lot to explore and improve there.

Another interesting talk was the one given by Simon Elliston Ball, “When to NoSQL and When to Know SQL. He went on not only through the typical review and classification of the NoSQL technologies available, but he leveraged their strengths and weaknesses compared to good old SQL RDBMS. The results were not always those expected by some.

NoSQL databases are driven by constraints that are different from those that pushed SQL to the high reliability standards offered by ACID compliance. Instead, BASE (Basically Available, Soft state and Eventual consistency) compliance embraced by NoSQL allows compromises that make scalability and performance easier.

Nonetheless, on the days of Rapid Application Design, Machine Learning, Polyglot Persistence solutions for Big Data problems and other Social Internet driven sorcery, “non-Facebook” scale enterprises ask themselves what they really need. Even though we are giving radically different uses to persistence than years ago, Big Data is not a problem everybody has.Frequently restructuring your model isn’t everybody’s case either, or not the whole model at least.

There is a growing need for broader solutions that can cover nowadays OLTP needs, that often offer aggregated data as a value to the user, and that can serve as a base for the analyses needed to drive the business in the right direction at the right time. Both SQL and NoSQL are merging features and ideas from each other that could be used to address those needs without the complexities associated to maintaining different technologies running in conjunction. More words for the soup: NewSQL emerges from the mist… or cloud?

The fact is that many of the NoSQL solutions, before very specific by design, now incorporate hybrid designs that mix graph structures, documents, eventual consistency and other typical NoSQL features with more flexible query languages. Think about ArangoDB, GraphDB or the Aggregation Framework of MongoDB. Also the big SQL vendors are incorporating NoSQL ideas that can broaden their application, like PostgreSQL with the impressive JSONB implementation or their older arrays and hstores. Or the many columnar stores like Vertica or Amazon Redshift, specifically engineered for fast aggregation.

Also, the different clients of an organization’s data need to access it in different ways, imposing more challenges to the underlying persistence technology being used. More technologies bring different access paradigms on top of databases. Like ORMs let developers speak in object-oriented languages to RDBMS, projects like Apache Drill or Cloudera Impala implement SQL over data stores engineered for large map-reduce task, enabling fast querying and ad-hoc analysis over great amounts of data.

Much of these technologies where discussed in the conference, making it clear that choosing the right tool for the job is not an easy task. And that’s a major concern when creating a startup. Testing different alternatives is always useful but we must think agile and be pragmatic.

So that’s the main reason we both were there, to know a bit more about the state-of-the-art in persistence technologies. News like the upcoming release of the Redis Cluster first quarter of 2015 were great to hear. Also, Riak 2.0 is out integrating Solr, a full-text search engine, making this tool more interesting than ever.

Nando Gessler
Developer at Camaloon

Foot Analytics, WeFitter and UpVideo are the winners of the Startup Next Pre-Accelerator Program in Barcelona

The Startup Next Program came to an end last Friday, Dec 12 with the concluding Demo Day. The 6 startups participating pitched at the Mobile World Centre in front of an audience formed by itnig’s investors, local business angels, entrepreneurs and other curious minds involved with Barcelona’s entrepreneurial ecosystem .

The Demo Day was the final step after 5 intensive mentoring sessions, where teams found their way to product/market fit and received tips & tricks on how to talk and convince investors. The winners, Foot Analytics, WeFitter and UpVideo were the most investment-ready teams, those who had the most scalable products and those who demonstrated the highest commitment to improve their product during the whole program.

The three startups from Barcelona are eligible to win a trip to Silicon Valley. Of course they are not the only eligible ones: this Fall the program has taken place in 15 cities with 102 participating startups. Every city will nominate 2 startups, but only 15 of the 30 nominated ones will get the chance to travel to the Valley.

The program is an initiative of Up Global, and it will be their judges who decide which of the nominated startups are the winners of the trip to Silicon Valley, which will take place early next year.

This is the 2nd edition of the Startup Next program that has been voluntarily organized by itnig. The program wouldn’t have been possible without the invaluable support of well known community members who have contributed as speakers and mentors throughout both editions.

At the beginning running a startup is difficult, there are many decisions to make and many possible directions to go in and in most cases the entrepreneurs lack the mindset, the skills and the tools to narrow the options and pin down their business models. We organised this program to help startups who are maturing, but not yet ready to convince investors nor accelerators to come onboard.

We know there are lots of entrepreneurs in Barcelona engaged in good projects and have the right attitude and determination to make them grow. This is why we believe in the contribution that this program is making to the startup community in Barcelona, and we are happy to help running it in our offices.

It is also very rewarding to see how the teams take advantage of every session and how the mentors also find it fulfilling and a very tangible way to give back to the community.

It is not defined yet when the next edition — Spring 2015 — will take place. But we will keep you informed. We will also let you know if Foot Analytics, WeFitter or UpVideo (or all three!) cross the Atlantic next year.

> Find here all the info about the Startup Next Fall Edition 2014
> Find here all the info about the Startup Next Spring Edition 2014

Legal Issues When Starting a Business in Spain

Spain has become a very interesting place for foreigners to establish their businesses. They can find a solid entrepreneurial ecosystem, skilled partners and workers, and nice weather. All these elements are attractive enough to start an entrepreneurial adventure.

In this article we are going to outline some of the basic requirements that everyone should have in mind when starting a business in Spain.

Legal Structure

In Spain there are two main ways to structure a business: the first one is to work as a Freelancer (Autónomo), and the second one is to incorporate a Spanish Limited Company (Sociedad Limitada).

Identification

First of all, any foreigner interested in starting a business in Spain, either as a freelancer or through a Spanish Company, shall have a foreign identification number (NIE).

Freelance (Autónomo)

To be an Autónomo means to begin a business as a self employed person. There are two steps to become an Autónomo; first of all you have to notify to the Spanish Tax Administration (Agencia Tributaria) that you are going to start an economic activity, and then you should register to the regime of self employed persons in the Social Security (Seguridad Social), with a notification validated by the Tax Administration.

Once you are registered in the Social Security, you will have to pay a monthly fee, being the base fee 256,72 euros. However, current reductions for new Autónomos have recently being approved by the government, including the following features:

For new Autónomos under 30 years old the following reductions will apply:

  • An 80% Social Security fee reduction during the first 6 months. (50 euros approximately);
  • A 50% Social Security fee reduction during the next 6 months after the previous period of time;
  • A 30% Social Security fee reduction during the next 18 months after the previous period of time.

For new Autónomos with 30 years old or over the following reductions will apply:

  • An 80% Social Security fee reduction during the first 6 months. (50 euros approximately);
  • A 50% Social Security fee reduction during the next 6 months after the previous period of time;
  • A 30% Social Security fee reduction during the next 6 months after the previous period of time.

Furthermore, an Autónomo must comply with several tax obligations, mainly to present its quarterly declarations of taxes relating VAT and Retentions made by other professionals.

Spanish Limited Company

A Limited Company is the legal structure most used in Spain to start a company. As stated above, it is necessary to hold a NIE to become a shareholder of a Company.

The main steps to incorporate a Limited Company are as follow:

  1. First of all, it is necessary to obtain the Name of the Company through a Certificate issued by the Companies Registry (Registro Mercantil).
  2. The next step is to open a bank account and to deposit the minimum share capital to incorporate a Limited Company, which is 3.000 euros. The Bank will issue a Certificate of deposit that shall be presented at a Public Notary.
  3. Both Certificates are necessary to incorporate the Limited Company before a Public Notary. All the shareholders will have to be present and sign the deed and the Articles of Associations of the Company.
  4. After signing the deed, it will be necessary to obtain the Tax Identification Number of the Company (NIF = Número de Identificación Fiscal).
  5. Finally, the incorporation of the Company will have to be registered at the Companies Registry, and the beginning of the activity shall be notified to the Tax Administration.

It is important to add that it’s necessary to appoint a Director of the Company, and that the person occupying this role will have to be registered at the Social Security as an employee or as a self employed person (Autónomo) if he or she is a shareholder of the Company with 25% or more of the share capital.

I hope that this article has served its purpose of being a general guideline to evaluate the different options that any person has prior to start a business in Spain. We support the entrepreneurial initiative and encourage any person to follow its goals.

If you have further questions or any doubts regarding initiating your project, feel free to contact us at i[email protected]

Pablo Mancía
Lawyer
www.delvy.es

Revealing a flaw of your own product…as a brand attribute. Gone crazy?

Imagine that the biggest “flaw” of a product is proudly advertised in its official tagline. It sounds crazy, right?

Imagine a cough syrup manufacterer stating in its very own ads that its main product tastes just like: snail trail accumulation, trash bag leakage, cardio workout perspiration, pig tongue scrapings, used mouthwash, spring break hot tub water or public restroom puddle. Say it, #WTF.

Difficult to believe and yet a #truestory, the one of Canadian-born company Buckley’s. Their famous tagline “It tastes awful. And it works” is a winner. It means more sales and bigger market share.

Watch one of the ads on Youtube.

Check this little selection I made of the print ads they used over the years:

  • Our largest bottle is 200ml. Anything more would be cruel.
  • People swear by it. And at it.
  • I’m dedicated to ensuring every new batch of Buckley’s tastes as bad as the last.
  • Made with oil of ine needles. What did you expect it to taste like?
  • Your cough won’t know what hit it, neither will you.
  • Open wide and say “@#$%&*!”

Buckley’s incorporated “awful taste” as a brand attribute in the early ’80s, when they found out after a market research, that their target had this perception about the product.

The goal is clear, it’s the ol’ “let’s turn a weakness into a strength”. But, were the advertisers playing with fire or was that a safe bet? Are there any hidden motivations that trigger people to buy the syrup?

I am going to demonstrate it in five points:

1. The Attention

No need to say that the message is odd and surprising. It doesn’t seem to make sense so it’s impressive. We must admit that the ads grab our attention and make people speak about them. In nowadays terms, we may say this tagline is viral. It’s funny and at the same time, we may remember it.

2. The Dare

The slogan is essentially a dare. Challenges are very strong motivators. People need to know if the taste is as awful as they say. So in fact, it’s not a turn-off, it’s an invitation for validation.

3. The Balance

It would be very foolish to state that a product needs to have a negative brand attribute to increase market share and sales. As you have guessed, you can only do it in very special circumstances. First of all, you have to analyse the flaw and put it in perspective. How big is it? Transcendence, the state of being beyond the range of normal perception, is crucial here. In Buckley’s case, we are kind of used to the fact that cough syrups taste bad. This fact makes this flaw lose some points. Anyway, you still have to put it in a balance with a positive statement that beats it. The good claim is “And it works”. Note the use of “And” after a point instead of “but” and no point. Putting a “but” in there would have been unwise, on the other hand, the “and” after a dot, puts the two sentences in the two pans of the balance scale.

The strategy here is to make the second phrase outweigh the first by using the first to reinforce the second. How? The answer is in the nature itself of the first phrase. Studies demonstrate that mentioning a drawback in your arguments, against your self-interest or product, create “the perception that you and your organization are honest and trustworthy. This puts you in a position to be more persuasive when promoting your genuine strengths” (Goldstein, Martin, Cialdini). So this is what happens: by saying the first phrase, they give more credibility to the second. This tactic has been applied not only in marketing (Volkswagen, Listerine, Avis) but also in Civil Trials.

4. The Pain

David B. Morris, in an article titled Belief and Narrative for The Scientist in 2005, states that the famous “no pain, no gain” is an American modern mini-narrative that compresses the story of a protagonist who understands that the road to achievement runs only through hardship. And it makes sense; If you want to become an architect, you know that you need to study a lot. If you want to run a marathon, you know that you have to train a lot. So Buckley’s says: if you want to get your cough healed, you have to taste a nasty syrup. This card is also played.

5. The Magic

Let’s speak about magic now. Let’s enter the fascinating world of deep psychological factors that influence the perception and effectiveness of medicine. The colour of the box, the shape of the pills, its name or the way it is administrated influence the effectiveness. The power of the mind. A Placebo effect is “the tendency of any medication or treatment, even an inert or ineffective one, to exhibit results simply because the recipient believes that it will work”. Studies have found that a placebo injection is more effective than a placebo pill. Why is that? According doctor Ben Goldacre, author of the bestseller Bad Science, it is because the injection feels like a more dramatic intervention. The more dramatic the ritual, the more effective it will be or, better said, may be perceived.

For above reasons, Buckley’s interest is to present its syrup as the worst in taste. It’s a genius marketing campaign. Also, a safe bet.

Carles Roca-Font
Customer Support Manager at Camaloon

5 Tips To Be Successful In A Business Fair

Managing a company’s presence in a business fair can be a lot of work (and stress) but certainly can be just as rewarding. There is no better place to get in touch with your target, especially if you are an ecommerce guy.

But fairs are also a hostile place where too much is on display and everyone is calling for attention. A few simple tips might help improve your presence and leave a good mark in the minds of those who got in touch with you.

1) Have a vision. A vision helps you transmit one idea and not a thousand. One idea, one message will definitely have more chances to break through than many smaller ones. One idea leads to clearness. Many will only achieve confusion.

2) Be visible. But not loud. You want to be noticed without shouting. People are curious, find a way to play with their curiosity and attract them to your stand.

3) Be longer lasting. Visitors will be overstimulated by things to look at and try. You want to give them something they will be able to take home in order to give it a second look. Once the circus is over they will be more relaxed and will take it into proper consideration. Be careful, whatever you offer needs to be original. You won’t be the only one handing out goodies.

4) Produce engagement. You want people to come back to you. That is more likely to happen if there’s something “in” for them. They are not just buyers. Whatever you are “selling”, they should have a special reason to choose you. Make them feel like an active part of the deal.

5) Observe the context and learn from the past. Pay attention to what others do and learn from their experience. Being inspired by someone’s idea is not stealing. It is upgrading. Nothing new is ever invented. It is all just a matter of recycling with creativity.

There are no real rules. And flexibility should definitely be part of your attitude. But these five tips can help you achieve better results.

Eddie Pezzopane
Events Manager & PR
Camaloon

Lifecycle of an organization

Most of us work in a startup environment or are in touch with entrepreneurs and groups of people creating synergies in similar situations. It all starts out with a first idea and countless days and nights discussing, sketching out and turning it over again. The first pioneer looks for other passionate entrepreneurs, for specialists in their fields or for strong counterpart. Little by little, he is joined by a team. If all goes well, the idea grows into a product and the loose group of co-workers becomes an organization.

But how does a group of people become a company? How is this change attained and how does the organization evolve?

The way an organization is formed and grows is different for each product, for each entrepreneur or even for each culture but still there is an underlying pattern that is followed. I like to compare this process of growth to biological cycles that are generally structured by birth, development, flourishment and transformation or death. Just like any other being an organization goes through these same different stages in its evolution.

In the beginning of the 19th century, the researchers Bernard Lievegoed and Friedrich Glasl identified these evolutionary phases in the life of an organization as: Pioneering, Differentiating, Integrating and Associating and came up with the so called Lifecycle of an Organization. This theoretic model functions as a tool for analyzing the development of a start-up but should not be taken as the one an only guideline or golden rule.

I like to turn to this model for structure and reassurance and I consider it useful for any entrepreneur.

Pioneering

Following the cycle of life a company has its beginning in the Pioneering phase where the biggest influence on the company is the founder itself. His personality, ambition and passion run through all parts of the organization. The organization is build around people — it makes the organization very adaptable. It is autocratic and mainly focussed on the vision.

“If they cannot imagine the future, they cannot create it.”

This statement taught by Coimbatore Prahalad to his graduates in Business Strategy at the University of Michigan sums it up pretty well. The organization that is acting like a family all gathering around the pioneer depends upon one person and its vision. It relies on his or her capacity to imagine the future circumstances, to find a place for the product and to adapt accordingly.

The organization starts shaking and is in need to move forward soon enough. The first symptoms that alert the pioneer of the need to evolve are a fast changing environment, an accelerated organic growth with unknown customers or even new hires that do not match the leadership style of the first pioneers.

This might result in decreasing profits, in a dent in the growth curve, in internal conflicts with the leadership style and the communication of information and even a decrease in motivation, strength and flexibilty of the team.

The organization enters a crisis and needs to change, but how can the transition be made?

According to the Lievegoed/Glasl model the answer is Scientific Management as it was thought up by Henry Ford in the beginning of mass production. The organization has by now successfully entered the market but it needs some order and structure in order to grow further and not be distracted by internal distress and inefficiencies.

Differentiating

One way to get to the next stage (Differentiating) is by creating this order through process observation and standardization. The company needs some protocols and a stronger focus on tasks instead of people. Growth makes it inevitable to create structure, standard and control.

At some point creating structure means creating inflexibility and that is where the next crisis hits our little organization. When before we were focussing on the individual we have now brought into existence some kind of hierarchy that gives rise to coordination and communication problems. Instead of focussing on the person we focus on the task and create a fertile ground for rivalries. With new processes problems of coordination arise. Not all is well in the organization that has gone from chaos to structure.

It seems as though the established order in the Differentiating Phase has created barriers for creativity and flexibility.

Integrating

The characteristics of the first two phases come together in the next stage of life of the organization: Integration. The integration stage is the turning point in the life of the organization as it combines the spontaneity and spirit of entrepreneurship of each team member in the first phase with the standardization and process orientation of the second phase.

Through a new focus on the strength of each individual the Integrating stage is attained. It completes the development of the complete organism and is known as a synthesis of pioneering and differentiating.

The organization is characterized by a horizontal orientation, high autonomy, responsibility and self-initiative for the single worker and decentralized, autonomous teams.

Our organization has evolved to be a living organism.

The circle of life could stop here at the Integrating phase as the company has succeeded in ‘crossing the chasm’. The company is no longer an experiment or prototype but it has reached significant market acceptance, early growth and a noticeable high employee morale.

Associating

Nevertheless a startup can not only live on its own but is depended on its environment. With this, every organization enters into contact with other companies: partners that help in the value creation chain. In the last phase of the evolution we are looking at the dissolution of borders in order to become one with providers and other partners. Company biotope — such as the Japanese Keiretsu systems — are formed.

“Focus not just on your competitors, but also on your collaborators and complementors” C. Shapiro (1998)

***

The environment we work in is in constant change and we feel uncertainty on a day to day basis. If all goes well, our start-up grows very fast in all directions. We develop new products, enter new markets and hire new experts — the change is constant and omni-present.

The model of evolutionary growth (created by Lievegoed / Glasl) that I presented to you is a good handbook to give us guidance. If we feel lost and confused by small crisis, great communication complications with our 5-head strong teams or even slow-downs in growth, we can turn to this model to find advice and comfort.

The model of evolution can give us inspiration to grow our organization to be an autonomous and healthy living organism in close contact with its environment.

Bettina Groß
CMO at Camaloon