There have been two articles that both appeared in Harvard Business Review and which I think are quite useful when considering the steps we need to take for exploitation and commercialization of the CS-AWARE project results.

The first one is called ‘How to Launch Your Digital Platform’, has been authored by Benjamin Edelman and appeared in the April 2015 issue under the category Entrepreneurship.

The other is called ‘Products to Platforms: Making the Leap’, appeared exactly one year later in the April 2016 issue under the category Business Models and was written by Feng Zhu and Nathan Furr.

I remember there was a time when people gave as a present too other business-conscious people Sun Tzu’s book on ‘The Art of War’. Many of us who were professionally active also in the last decades of the previous centuries may have bought this as a present several times, and equally many times we may have received it as a present as well. Of course, how many of us have read it is another story.

It is understandable at a great extent that the main aim of both aforementioned articles was to motivate readers to take initiatives and encourage them to do the obvious things. If the obvious things are also things that the most successful companies do, using as examples the cases of Microsoft or Google, is not as important. What is essential is to make one feel that if you do this and that that Microsoft and Google did, you will grow and become successful like they did.

I am educated with a think small mentality – this may be a serious mistake in our times and in the ICT business. This may also be criticized as naivety. However, for me the basic steps for a successful commercialization starts as follows:

  • Our CS-AWARE platform has already two customers: Roma Capitale and the City of Larissa. (The history maniacs may already know this, but Larissa has been captured by the Romans! But I am sure that our partners from Roma Capitale have no expansionist plans for Larissa – we are all too busy fighting cyberwars…)
  • Both of them offer us business cases that have unique and complimentary characteristics from all aspects: organizational complexity, structure, technological skills and competences – they all provide us with essential information to better understand the business.
  • Within the first year of the project we have achieved a lot: we have built the use cases and also related them closely with a methodological framework. This is not a usual or a trivial thing in business where companies may have a map but no compass or the opposite: they have a compass but are lacking a map. In our case for CS-AWARE we are lucky to have both a compass (: the modelling framework) and a map (: the two pilot use cases).
  • But it is not only this as we are also well ahead as far as technical progress is concerned. We have organized our technical teams that have specified the components we need to bring together and the necessary adaptations that need to take place for each of them.

So what is the problem? Or is there a problem at all?

Some days ago I met the boss of an incubator for start-ups. We had a discussion that someone might at a first level call a discussion about ‘God and the world’, as the Germans say, but the main area of concern to both of us was about how can a start-up build an installed base of customers. This only will bring their revenues on a predictable basis and ensure that they will not get extinct after some little time (usually when the ‘friends and family’ financing will stop). On this I shall elaborate in a next blogcast. And how critical it is for start-ups the risk of a ‘sudden stop’ as the economics experts call it.

What he told me was no surprise at all: most of the start-uppers prefer to stay in the incubator offices, experience the usual no-sensity of an office routine like coffee preparation, flirting with other colleagues in the kitchen, checking emails, planning for the weekend, faking the feeling of a normality when actually there is nothing normal or predictable at all except from one’s extinction from the map and the transition to the cemetery of ‘good ideas that didn’t work’ or ‘innovative products that didn’t find their markets’.

But how they will find their markets if the owners stay all day in the office?

‘I tell them to go out and meet people, talk to companies’ he told me. I was not surprised. Some years before I worked for a company that had the good luck to have an installed base of about 30.000 customers. They were most of them renewing their annual support contract. Our sales people preferred to stay in the office, check emails, read news, call their families and discuss everything in detail making me wonder what they would discuss when they would go home in the afternoon, so doing anything but visiting our customers and trying to sell them something – even the image of a caring company to their worryingly growing needs.

We have discussions for a spin-out in CS-AWARE project. I think it is high time to find a person – hopefully also the right one – to lead us in the early commercialization phase.

He or she doesn’t need to be a rainmaker. He or she doesn’t also need to have a first class degree, as for a postgraduate degree or even a PhD there is no doubt that might make one suspicious that they are not the right person. He or she only needs to prepare a plan and follow it. If it will not work as expected, the plan may change. Only a fool stays the same. And for sure, he or she has to go out and meet people and talk, talk, talk. As much it takes to bring the next wave of customers to our CS-AWARE installed base.

Adamantios Koumpis
University of Passau