Business by Train

I just got back from a successful two weeks away on the road for Statice, and although I’m exhausted, I’m kind of stoked. We closed two new deals, met great people and hit the stage 6 times across 3 cities – and all without taking a plane! Friends challenged me to fly less, so I thought I’d jump in the deep end, and try a whole trip cold turkey. The route was Berlin –> Bern –> Zürich –> Munich –> Nürnberg –> Zürich –>Bern –> Zürich –> Berlin, over about 12 days. All in all, it was a great experience, and didn’t cost any more than flying (though I did book a little more in advance than I probably would normally).

What went well:

  • It’s definitely nice to see a bit more of where one is going. The landscape in the south of Germany and in Switzerland is breathtaking, and especially the early morning train from Bern to Zurich, with the sunrise over the mountains, was great.
  • Not standing in line, ever, and no being not able to use one’s laptop during takeoff and landing. I estimate that one loses approximately 30 minutes at least at each end of a domestic flight, as well as about 30 minutes on the plane in laptop-ban mode. If I’d flown, I would probably have flown the legs Berlin–> Bern, Zurich–>Munich, Munich–> Zurich, –>Zurich–>Berlin. At least 6 hours of working time would have been lost – so not losing that was great.
  • Having an internet connection (via tethering) that works 90% of the time is pretty great. My iPhone XR might not be the fanciest one, but damn, do I love the battery life, even when tethering for hours on end.
  • Being able to get up and move. It’s awesome to be able to focus on a task, and then reward oneself with a quick walk without bothering climbing over 2 other people. Being able to walk around the connecting area in the carriages to take calls without annoying anyone is also great.

What didn’t go so well:

  • Of course, it wouldn’t be travel with the Deutsche Bahn if one didn’t experience at least one delay. I got extra “lucky” and had several. Unfortunately, one delay was en-route to Zurich, where I should have had a meeting about 45 minutes after arriving. Missed that one, which was a bummer.
  • The 9.5hr trip from Berlin to Bern is a long ass way. It’s even longer when you forget food and water, and don’t have € bills on you, and the DB doesn’t work with N26 cards. Needless to say, upon arriving in Bern at 5pm in the evening, I was famished.
  • Vodafone. One pays an arm and a leg, and doesn’t get free roaming in Switzerland. In comparison, a €20/month Aldi PAYG subscription does. I’ll be having words with them, paying €6/day for internet, and then still using data allowance is not a great experience.

Would I do it again?

Heck yes. The combination of more time spent more productively, and a lot more comfortably, is really nice. It’s a bit more planning, and it’s not always easy to sit in a train/bus combo for 9+hrs, but it feels better than being in a plane!

What I’d do differently next time / Tips for people who want to give it a go:

  • Take snacks! You never know what fun surprises you might run into with card payment, or whether the train bistro will be open, so BYO, and don’t be shy about it. Long trips + high productivity make one snacky!
  • Take a spare t-shirt for travelling, especially if you’re doing meetings before jumping into the train. On Friday, I had a meeting in the morning, and then had to dash to the train. Shirts are great, but they’re not awesome when you’re lugging your stuff at high speed through hordes of people while stressed about timing. Pack an extra t- shirt, for you (and for the comfort of your co-travellers).

New Beginnings: Why I’m Stoked To Join Statice!

Statice is a Berlin based data privacy company, working at the cutting edge of data anonymization. Statice allows companies to unlock the value inherent in their data for internal use cases, to share with external collaborators, or for monetization purposes, while simultaneously protecting the individual consumer’s privacy.

My thesis for joining Statice was relatively simple: privacy is not going to become less of an issue for consumers, and access to data is not going to become less important to innovation at companies, no matter at which stage of their digital journey. In our growing customer-centric economy, innovation begins with understanding people. Companies partly do this by measuring, tracking, and storing personal data on individuals in order to quantify personal preferences and use this knowledge to tailor experiences and products towards each customer individually. Personal data is the core source of modern services and products and serves as the most important resource for the majority of modern technological advances and discoveries. This does not only hold for scientific settings but also for corporate R&D.

Not all anonymization is the same though, as Netflix found out a while back. It’s important to not just remove personal information, as this can be circumvented by matching the “anonymised” data with additional data sets (as in the Netflix case above. Statice solves thi by using generative machine learning algorithms built around differential privacy concepts to create synthetic data sets, which retain the statistical value of the origin data, but none of the personal value. This is relatively new technology, but it’s mathematically proven, and is accepted as being private under Europe’s new (ish) digital privacy law, the General Data Protection Regulation. In short, you can think of it as teaching a machine about a data set, having the machine learn that data set really well, and then having it generate a new data set that effectively contains very similar information. Imagine a set of census data, and running it through this process. You won’t find a single person from the training set in the synthetic data set, but you’ll find a very similar number of people living in street A, with and age between X and Y.

What this means in practice, is that companies can take sensitive data and effectively capture the value in that data to share, either internally (for example, allowing an internal product team access to sythetic data based on conversation histories to build better personalized experiences), or externally (for example, enabling medical research by enabling collaboration between hospitals and medical research institution).

Being able to contribute to Statice’s vision of becoming the central privacy-preserving data hub for data-driven collaboration across companies is tremendously exciting, and I can’t wait to get started! If you’re interested in data privacy, collaboration around private data, or want to grab a coffee to chat about Statice, just drop me a line at hi (at)!

MWC2018: Blood in the water, but still some innovation

Last month was the annual mobile (and I use that term in the loosest sense possible..) circus otherwise known as Mobile World Congress, which takes place in Barcelona, and turns a beautiful city into a nightmare of traffic, disillusioned people in expensive shoes, and this year, rainy and horrible weather. After processing for a bit, here are my 2c on the whole shebang.

In case you didn’t get it from the title and intro, I was not particularly engaged by this year’s congress. It seems I was not the only one who felt this way – Mike from Techcrunch wrote a good piece on it here. Aside from all the doom and gloom though, there were a few very cool things at the event (I mean, 85,000 people, there’s gotta be something going on, right?). My top two highlights were:

  • 5G moved from something everyone was talking about, to something you can see and play with. The best example of this that I saw was a robot in the Ericsson booth that was livestreaming audio and video back to CPH and video and control inputs back to BCN, with a round trip time of 6ms. This really demonstrates the potential of 5G well I think – imagine how it will impact rural medicine, for example, or other near-real-time tech it will enable. Exciting stuff.
  •  On the apps side, I was most impressed by the new Blackbox Platform from Redbox Mobile. It’s an app store search ads optimization tool, which seems to work pretty damn well (I took it for a spin for two of my clients, and both were impressed with the results). Time and more testing will tell more about what the quality of the users acquired through the tool is like (nothing to do specifically with Blackbox, but I’ve heard mixed reviews from marketers about Search Ad user quality), but Redbox seem to have put together a really strong contender in the search ads optimization space.

    Even if the show itself wasn’t particularly inspiring this year, one thing about MWC that is undeniably a great value add are the events that happen on the sidelines. MWC is such a big event that most of the industry shows up, and even if you can’t meet them in the halls, being able to have dinner or drinks is pretty great. Whether it’s private dinners, industry players throwing parties, or taking clients out for a drink, for me, the value of MWC is that it provides the opportunity for good face-to-face discussions. And despite the lack of “innovation” in the halls, that’s worth something.

    I probably missed a lot of great stuff (as you do when focussed on one hall of a 9 hall conference), but I didn’t hear a lot of great things about MWC this year. Regardless, as long as the industry keeps coming, being in Barcelona during MWC is going to be a good investment for mobile companies – whether you need a ticket to the conference is another questions altogether.

Bunch: Team Culture As A Managed Asset

Most successful leaders would agree that team culture is a key factor in organizational performance. It is surprising then, that team culture is one of the largest unmangaged corporate assets globally.  Research from Deloitte (1) found that:

87 percent of organizations cite culture and engagement as one of their top challenges, and 50 percent call the problem “very important.”

A recent McKinsey & Company study (2) identified culture as the most significant barrier to digital effectiveness, stating that:

Risk aversion, weak customer focus, and siloed mind-sets have long bedeviled organizations. In a digital world, solving these cultural problems is no longer optional.

Obviously, this is a significant issue for organizations – and that’s why I’m I’m excited about They’re meshing the organizational psychology models that Standford developed together with Apple with next-generation NLP (natural language processing) and machine-learning based predictive modelling techniques to predict company cultural priorities and alignments based on various inputs. This is important because there is statistically significant evidence showing that teams that are highly aligned on cultural priorities perform better financially and can grow faster (3).

Tools like this will be relevant for more than 1 Bn people in the next few years (4), so this is a significant market opportunity that needs a sophisticated product to meet the growing need. The MVP of Bunch’s tool, a survey based implementation of their technology aimed at hiring managers, was a great start, bringing on customers like N26 Bank and Frauenhofer Society, but it’s what they’re launching today that is really groundbreaking.

The Bunch MVP allowed people to see team priorities and how individuals were aligned to that.

Predictive analytics around social and cultural factors are a tricky beast, so much so that there are only a few projects that have successfully demonstrated results in this field (Cambridge Analytica and Apply Magic Sauce), and until now, none specifically focussed on predicting cultural priorities.

That changes today. Bunch’s new Communication Analytics module is now live, and as of right now, teams can plug in their open Slack channel data (no private message access needed) and track their alignment over time on 6 important cultural factors based on the aforementioned Standford models:

  • Adaptable
  • Collaborative,
  • Customer-orientated,
  • Results-oriented,
  • Principled,
  • Detail-oriented

Bunch allows team members to understand their team’s priorities, and track their own alignment as well, which makes this a huge leap forward for HR management. Bunch empowers teams to anaylze and improve their own performance, rather than being diagnosed from above.

Over time analysis is now possible.

Bunch has also curated a collection of “culture hacks” from successful companies like Apple, Zappos, AirBnB and Slack, and is able to recommend these based on the analysis of team performance. Does it seem that team Adaptability scores are low? Bunch will recommend exercises to help the team become more flexible. Customer-centricity falling by the wayside? How about a persona workshop to get the team back on track?

Of course, this is just the first step. The team will be adding further inputs, such as CultureAmp, GitHub, Trello, and Jira, to combine culture and productivity data, so that teams are able to see what cultural factors are helping them succeed, and which factors need to be managed to mitigate risks. Long term, Bunch and similar companies will be able to help teams self-improve, freeing up management resources for more strategic problems, and improving automony, workplace satisfaction, and overall, company performance. This is the start of a brave new world, and I for one am keen to see where it’s headed!


(1) Culture and Engagement: the naked organization, Deloitte

(2) McKinsey & Company, 2017

(3) Parsing organizational culture: How the norm for adaptability influences the relationship between culture consensus and financial performance in high tech firms

(4) Zion Market Research, 2017

What’s hot in 2018 (and what’s still not…)

Everyone seems to be dropping their 2018 predictions, and with our work customers seeming to go into hibernation (or whatever the summertime equivalent of hibernation is) in mid-December, I had a bit of time on my hands at work, so I decided to join the party. 

For Consumers:

Consumers will spend more money in apps.

People are still getting used to paying for online services directly in-app. Games led the way for in-app monetization for years, and this year we saw apps really beginning to catch up in terms of in-app revenue generation for the first time, at least in T1 markets. I expect this trend to continue, both in terms of revenue reaching parity in new markets between apps and games, and (maybe finally) carrier billing integrations taking off to get new markets used to the idea of paying for online content.

2018 will be the year of mundane paperwork becoming digital.

Even Germany, land of never ending paperwork, is slowly being eaten by software. The last few months of 2017 have seen some great developments in the areas of digital finance managers for freelancers (Kontist, looking at you here) and (my personal bugbear) personal income taxes (Taxfix, you beauty). I see this trend continuing as the stone age bureaucracies slowly loosen their grip on their ballpoints and big rubber stamps and are dragged kicking and screaming into the digital age.

Smarthome will continue hypergrowth

The Smarthome market grew by +95% between Q2 2106 and Q2 2017 to $3.4b, led by US and followed by South Korea and Germany. Although Gateways seems to be the largest market segment, the global Smart Appliances Market grew +349% between Q2/2016 and Q2/2017 led by iRobot, LG and Samsung. With Amazon looking to be in every room of your house (see Echo Spot) in the near future, this is a market that’s growing fast and not looking to stop anytime soon. It remains to be seen if privacy concerns (still taken a little lightly in my book) pour water on the blaze, but as per usual, the masses will follow the hype. Bow down to your all-knowning, toilet-paper ordering overlords. 

>> Read full Smarthome report here.

Subscriptions are going to make more sense for more people

All good things come to those who wait, and developers have been waiting a while for this. Thanks (mostly) to Spotify, Netflix et al, consumers are being given great examples of the value of subscription based services. With Apple also making life easier for devs using subscription models (“Apple tax” halved in year 2 of subscription) and consumers more ready than ever, I feel sure that 2018 is going to see the general public getting on board with more subscription services.

For Developers & Mobile Companies

  1. The ASO hype will die down a bit.

It’s an important part of marketing – but so is building virality into products, building smart paid UA funnels (which are only getting smarter) and working out great partnerships to get your brand and products found. Once the initial optimization is done, ASO is (in most cases) just percentage points – which can make a difference, don’t get me wrong – but not likely to make a 10x difference to your business, the way a powerful targeted paid marketing strategy can.


  1. IP will continue to be strong in games.

The world isn’t getting simpler, and people love to be reminded of simpler times. Old school IP does that well, as well as TV IP, and I think we’ll see more plays from both leading studios and indies who can make a good case to IP owners (as Next Games did last year with Walking Dead, or as we saw with Super Mario Run). Will we see some of the Netflix/Marvel characters cropping up in video games, or will it be another old school 8-bit hero capturing our hearts in 2018? I’m not sure, but I think IP will be strong!


  1. New legislation will make and break companies.

GDPR is coming in the EU, and Net Neutrality seems like it might be on the verge of being in the past. It remains to be seen exactly how this will effect the mobile industry, but GDPR will definitely affect what data developers and service providers can collect (and sell for advertising purposes), and Net Neutrality might make it hard for disruptors to cut in on established players, particularly in the content area (I could see Spotify/Netflix et al making whatever deals they need to, to lock up bandwidth with the telcos and comms networks in their verticals and lock out competitors/emerging players).


  1. Blockchain technology will start to make a mark on advertising, if it can solve throughput problems. Lots of companies are dedicating serious resources to making this happen, and smart people are on it. Here at Priori, we’re proud to be one of the first companies to become a strategic partner to the onXCHNG initiative, but in general I’m excited by all of the projects going on, and believe that the potential for transparency they bring is an excellent step for the advertising industry.


  1. AR/VR – VR will continue to take more baby steps especially in the gaming and adult scene. AR will also continue to trend (helped along by Apple pushing ARkit), and become stronger this year as more apps try to follow the steps of well received first movers (i.e Wayfair recently following Ikea in adding AR to their shopping app). We think this makes real sense, especially in shopping apps where returns are difficult (furniture, real estate, some clothes, etc). However, even with Magic Leap finally getting their ass into gear and showing off an early version of their product (about time…), I don’t see consumer AR/VR making it mainstream in 2018.

This article was originally posted  in a slightly different form on the Priori Data blog and contains some contributions from my smart and exceptionally good looking colleagues.