Asi Sharabi's blog posts:
Posted on 23rd October 2012 by Asi Sharabi -
Few weeks ago we kicked off our third Sidekick School project with Inaura. As we outlined here, we are working with Inaura to build a product that will help organising the largely unregulated Alternative Provision sector by minimising the barriers of effective communications between schools and their Alternative Providers.
First things first, we need to better understand how the system works. The education sector is fascinating but it's not an easy one to get your head around. PRUS, SENCOS, LEA, LA, SEN, PLP, SIMS, APs, KS3, KS4, OFSTED, DEF, EP...Is your head spinning already? Fact: the education sector has the largest ratio of abbreviations and acronyms per sentence.
We’ve been busy with intensive customer development research with the aim to better understand the relationships between Local Authorities, schools, Alternative Providers in order for us to come up with some testable hypotheses.
Following a typical journey of identifying the need for AP, finding the right provider, commissioning, planning the scope of provision and then tracking, monitoring and reporting we were looking to of identify needs (and pain points) that could be solved through a simple digital product.
What we've learned so far:
- The sector is in a massive flux. The ‘academisation’ of schools, the diminishing power of LAs over education (but they are still a key player), and the rise of Free and Independent Schools are just few examples of the mega trends that shape this sector. As such, considerable opportunities and risks for innovation.
- Two contradictory forces shape decisions regarding Alternative Provision. The pressure on school’s attainment figures could either compromise or increase culture of inclusion and accountability for kids with special academic and social needs.
- Systems, processes, relationships and funding are often different per Local Authority, school, provider, area, etc. We’ve seen both cases of poor communication between all agents as well as good communication practice between AP, school, psychologist, etc.
- Few practitioners expressed a problem with the current system of communication or lack thereof. However, we have more than three cases where good practice is in place; ‘improvised’ tools and technologies that deliver on our initial hypothesis exist. People who care and are resourceful, build their own tools. We see this as an opportunity
- Schools do not want more data for the sake of it. Data needs to be meaningful and organised and to ultimately prove valuable otherwise it is associated with more work/admin.
- Almost everyone expressed the need for schools to discover quality alternative providers. Almost everyone said they want more choice and quality assurance, but what does it actually mean? Do schools really want/need more choice or is it just a covert dissatisfaction with existing providers?
So far two clear needs that inform two different products have been identified:
1. Discovery and commissioning. A lot of people told us about the need to make it easy for schools to find good quality APs and to be able to commission a place for a particular child espcially as they become more and more independent. This used to be the role of the LA, now with more and more schools turning into academies they will have to manage commissioning of APs
2. Ongoing tracking and assessment. A tool for two or more 'players/agents' involved in the education and/or safeguarding of a child to enhance the quality of the provision. It does so by creating better communication and information sharing between these players and by giving a voice to the child.
We now focus our efforts to validate these routes more robustly. If you are, or if you know anyone in this sector who is passionate about making/doing things better please get in touch.
Posted on 9th October 2012 by Asi Sharabi -
We're very excited to have launched a new, super exciting, super secret project with our friends at Red Bull. We can't say much at this moment in time, only that this time it involves Tech + Music and will operate across all the amazing Red Bull Music properties.
Watch this space for updates.
Posted on 30th August 2012 by Asi Sharabi -
We're delighted to start a new series of posts called "Startups Worth Making" where we'll feature some of the most exciting startups in the world, startups that matter, startups with big vision and/or big balls, that solve difficult problems, redefine relationships, disrupt old markets, create new ways to interact with others, the web and the world...in short, Startups Worth Making.
For thouse of you who aren't familiar with Voxy, they are a bunch of technologists, linguists, designers and teachers and they want to change the way people learn. That's a BIG admirable vision. They want to take language learning out of the classroom and into our everyday lives through the web and predominantly through mobile experience. Simply put, Voxy turns everyday experiences like the places you visit, the music you listen to, the photos you snap and the news you read into learning opportunities. Exploring the product and experience you understand very quickly why the Berlitzes and Rossetta Stones of the world have a good reason to be nervous. It provides location-based lessons about your immediate surroundings and even supplies access to tutors via video chats.
Voxy basically ticks every (buzz)box in the startup world at the moment by making language learning mobile, social and local (and yes, it is gamified experience as well). Since first launched in 2010 Voxy has aquired over 1 million users and tens of thousends of premium paying customers as well.
We cought up with Paul just as they where super busy launching the new website - you really should check it out you'll quickly undersatnd why we think they rock.
What was your #1 reason to found Voxy?
I spent a lot of my adult life living and working in other countries, learning different languages, and assimilating to other cultures. It taught me how to be a better communicator worldwide and I realized how difficult language learning is without immersion. Our goal with Voxy is to build a platform where learners can convert real world experiences into authentic language lessons based on content relevant to their life.
What is your grand vision?
Voxy, at its core, combines media, technology and language learning, and is essentially about just one thing: communication. Our goal is to become the world's most widely used and effective language learning platform by integrating learning into daily life.
What was/is your most difficult challenge?
One of the challenges is knowing how to stay focused. As a startup, the blessing and the curse is that there are a million things we could be doing right now. Our mission is to crush it in the Spanish and Portuguese ESL market before we consider expanding to other languages.
What are the plans for the future?
As our product continues to gain traction and we perfect our model we will expand to other countries; we have our eye on Japan, Korea and China. In the more immediate future we’re working on adding new features such as Voxy Music, location-based lessons and tablet apps. We’re also re-launching our brand with a new logo, colors, and user interface.
And finally, what are the 'Startups Worth Making' that excite you right now?
In the education space I’ve been following 2tor, a startup that converts traditional classroom curriculum into an online degree program for students globally. 2tor is disrupting the education market by making accessible, high-caliber degree programs that provide students with the tools and expertise needed to compete in a global economy.
Another startup to watch is Assured Labor. With Latin American brands Empleolisto and TrabalhoJa in Mexico and Brazil, Assured Labor is a mobile recruiting tool built to connect employers in emerging markets with candidates in their area. Using cellphone technology to revolutionize the recruiting process, Assured Labor is making a more effective way to pair candidates with open positions.
In the social arena, I’m a fan of SideTour, which allows users to host and discover different experiences and activities in NYC. At SideTour it’s all about creating a community of explorers and bringing them together for experiences they might not have otherwise had.
Thanks Paul and best of luck.
Posted on 27th August 2012 by Asi Sharabi -
For those who don't know the lovely Rachel Botsman, she is a global thought leader on the power of collaboration and sharing through network technologies to transform the way we live, work and consume. She has inspired a new consumer economy with her influential book What’s Mine is Yours: How Collaborative Consumption Is Changing The Way We Live, and her work taps into and inspire a lot of what we like to call 'Startups Worth Making'. TIME Magazine recently called Collaborative Consumption one of the “10 Ideas That Will Change The World”.
She consults and writes extensively about the collaborative age and her work has featured in WIRED, The Guardian, Harvard Business Review, CNN, New York Times, The Economist and Fast Company so we were quite chuffed she had some time to answer some questions for us
Hi Rachel, what keeps you busy these days?
A one year old, a new book on the Reputation Economy (little preview in current edition of WIRED), a TV series with C4 on the ideas, lots of speaking still and working on two ventures!
And in-between I go to the beach!
What are the most exciting startups you came across recently?
I am excited by startups that enable efficiency of resources + empowerment of people in smart ways. Some cool emerging players include:
Likes of LiquidSpace and Loosecubes. They basically take the idling capacity of unused or underutilized office spaces and create a real-time market for finding and booking. I think its part of a shift from people thinking about work offices to workspaces. It is hitting a lot of big trends including increasing mobile workforce, desire to work in real-time anywhere and the costly environment and economic toll of underutilized commercial spaces.
Product rental is just ripe for reinvention. The current experience is awful because less than 5% of rental providers of general goods in the US alone are online. The likes of Getable that solve the B2B and B2C problem could become like the Amazon of rentals.
What in your eyes are the barriers for greater adoption of technologies that enable collaborative consumption?
Definitely critical mass on the supply and demand side. Many start-ups try to build both at the same time. In most instances you need to build the supply first so that when users come they find what they are after. The exception is things like social lending or crowdfunding platforms like Zopa where you need both sides from the outset to make it work.
Facilitating trust between strangers is also critical. The way trust is build largely depends on context. Some entrepreneurs assume that the trust mechanisms say on Airbnb is what is needed for their marketplace. Figuring out the most important behaviors you want to nurture and then designing the reputation system around it is the way to go.
Where do you see this meta-trend taking us in the next 5-10 years?
We are only at the start of a massive power shift from top down, centralized power/monpolies to distributed marketplaces. That's the beauty of network technologies, they redistribute power and remove layers and layers of middlemen. We are seeing this meta-trend reshape industries from publishing (16 out of top 100 bestsellers on the kindle self-published), funding (Kickstarter surpassed US Endowment of the arts last year as the largest backer of creative projects), music (spotify is now the second largest revenue earner for most traditional record labels) and so I could go on...
Ownership revolution. The concept of ownership is radically changing. I believe in 10 years time in many areas of our lives it will seem outdated to own something as we know it today. We will access what we need in real-time whether its cars, books, music, space etc.
Can large organisations that thrive on individual consumerism adapt and offer sustainable solutions or are they doomed?
I have spoken to a lot of large organizations and they recognize that we are shifting to a collaborative age. The one thing large organizations can do well is scale. For example, BMW launched a car sharing program called Drive Now where you don't have to pick and drop the car off from the same point. The likes of Zipcar can't offer this benefit because of the cost of inventory.
I like to see more of the start-ups partnering with big brands who really get the space. I also think large organizations could get really innovative in B2B solutions behind Collaborative Consumption. For example, can you imagine if GE created a venture that redistributed the idling capacity of the energy it generates across different areas of its business?
Thanks for your time Rachel. Good luck with the new book. Keep us the great work.
Posted on 13th July 2012 by Asi Sharabi -
It was quite cool actually. Inspiring speakers, loads of clever friends we love to hang out with, great food. What's not to like?
This one was in-beta-invite-only so if you want to come to the next one please stick your email at the end of the page.
First up was Victor who told the story of Mendeley. From a personal need as a researcher to a 1.8million academc users changing the way researchers collect and share knowledge.
The ever so brilliant Andrew of Greyworld talked about playfully hacking public spaces, redefining public art and getting the queen to play with your balls.
Closing the lineup it was the legendary @Stef. No slides, just a glass of coke and an inspiring personal tale of a relentless pursuit of playfully mixing creativity and purpose.
Stay in touch for the next one here.
Keep up the good stuff.