Thursday, 16 October 2014

Thursday, 16 October 2014

How the iPad Changed Everything...


I'm currently sitting watching the stream from today's Apple event in Cupertino, they've just announced the iPad Air 2 (much to the chagrin of one of my iPad Air - owning team) and it reminded me how much things have changed in the last 3-4 years thanks to Apple.

Just this morning I witnessed a scene which distilled this change more clearly than I would have ever thought possible. On the way to work i stopped off at our local Tesco filling station, it was about 9:30 - hardly peak time, and it's a big station so you wouldn't expect it to be too busy - but what greeted me was an end-of-the-world-style scene reminiscent of a George A. Romero movie - cars queueing 5 deep, people shouting at each other in frustration and trying to barge each other out of the way in order to get to the pumps.

Did some kind of flash fuel crisis which cause panic buying? Was there some kind of crazy special offer they were all racing to get? No... it was an upgrade of the pumps.

Last night, the station had upgraded to the new system pictured above which allows you to pay at the pump. The problem was that, faced with this new pretty colour screen, the customers couldn't work out that they had to use the buttons below to control it - they all assumed that it was a touch-screen and therefore couldn't get it to work, they didn't even notice the fisher-price-style buttons beneath it!

4-5 years ago this would have been inconceivable - most people rarely encountered touch screens in their daily lives - but now the technology is so ubiquitous people find it difficult to understand when it's not used. So, did iPad change everything? I have to say, I think so.

Good work Apple - looking forward to getting my hands on the iPad Air 2!

(Where's my Apple TV update?! Please!!!)

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Friday, 3 October 2014

Friday, 3 October 2014

Professional Foot-in Mouth Provider?

I really must do some media training or something - or at least learn to think a bit before I speak.

Yesterday I was on a panel at the very brilliant UKIE - it was and event on funding and although I felt like a bit of a fraud (as we've never received any funding in the normal sense) I guess I have managed to keep a company afloat for 12 years and obviously my Dragons Den experience was of interest to some.

However during the event, for some reason, I went on a bit of a rant about production companies being ripped-off and taken advantage of. This can sometimes happen in panels - you sit there for 2 hours waiting to say your piece and then when you finally get the chance you blurt it all out at once in an unintelligible babble and sound like a total spanner... sigh. Anyway, although I stand by what I said - it is a danger - I'm aware that my actual point didn't come across so, for the record, here it is:

Over 12 years in the digital/games industry we have been ripped off and taken advantage of on many occasions.

The kind of thing i'm talking about can range in severity from someone literally taking your proposition and giving it to someone else to build through to people using you as a free consultancy service - for example, pulling you into meetings to pick your brains, help them sell in an idea etc etc.

Unfortunately, if you want to do anything like what we do this is something that you're going to have to learn to both accept it and protect yourself against as best you can. Over the years I have developed a few rules which help to reduce the risk a little which are as follows:

  1. Don't pitch creative ideas unless you have a paper-trail to back it up. This won't stop people using your ideas but it will significantly reduce the chance of them nicking them wholesale.
  2. Set realistic limits on what you're prepared to do in order to win an opportunity - to start with I would write a 4-6 page pitch document for every opportunity complete with several full-colour mock-ups but latterly we're more likely to provide a black&white sketch and a 400 word outline in the first instance.
  3. Don't pitch for pitches. There are a lot of agencies out there who try to use small production companies to bolster their pitches for them. They'll do their main pitch and then get 3-4 specialists to give them additional ideas to tack on the end. We responded to these kinds of ops for the first 8 years or so but in that time not a single one came off so we don't any more.
  4. Try and develop a proposition which is difficult to steal for example a house-style or some proprietary tech which only you can provide.
  5. Beware of "Research firms" or "events companies" that you've never heard of. Some (but not all) could be funded by your competition as a way to get hold of your confidential information, or worse, your clients. Do some research before you agree to speak to anyone about what you're doing and definitely before intro'ing them to your client!

However... bearing in mind all of the above - try not to let it stop you talking to people! Gladly there are still more good people out there than bad. Doing business is not just about the numbers - it's about building relationships which - in turn - means making as many connections as possible. You just need to find a way to identify the dodgy ones quickly and stop them doing too much damage to your business.

Well, there you go! I hope that both clarifies my position and helps a bit too!
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