Squared Online: End of module 2

This week sees the end of module 2 of the Squared Online course, and the pace has stepped up a gear.  The second module, “Think Commercial”, focused on the world of digital business.

We were introduced to the Business Model Canvas, the Value Proposition Canvas, contemporary collaboration techniques, and had guest talks from industry professionals on the growing use of mobile devices, which is influencing modern business activities (more on that at the end of this post). The aim of this module was for us to develop an understanding of how to apply these insights in a commercial environment.

Assignment: We’re Going to Make Millions

Our assignment for this module was to come up with an online business idea that would,  as the title suggests, make millions. Sounds good, doesn’t it? We were assigned groups and given instructions on organising ourselves to arrange online meetings  we couldn’t meet in person as our group of 10 are all based in different areas of the UK, with one living in Dubai.

This is the first time i’ve used Google Hangouts and for the uninitiated it is an odd experience. Following some technical difficulties (for almost the whole first session my specially bought mic didn’t work) we managed to organise ourselves effectively. For those who haven’t used a Hangout before, it’s like Skype but more for multiple attendees. You arrange a date and time to hold a session, send an invite, then on the day turn up – that is, have your laptop and webcam on (and a mic helps too, if it works!).

The thing I find odd about Hangouts is the main screen displays the person who is talking (other members of the Hangout appear in smaller screens along the bottom), but it doesn’t just feature them if they speak, it switches to the person if they cough, sneeze, or even scratch their leg. Because the screen quickly switches to the person making the sound, if several people are talking at once (or scratching themselves!), it can be very confusing. However, after a couple of sessions it does start to get easier… just.

For the first part of the module we were tasked to come up with a one page business plan relating to what we had been taught about the Business Model Canvas. We shared our ideas via Google Docs, a useful tool for collaborative projects.

This video neatly explains what the canvas is all about:

My idea was a virtual college where all the lectures were taught live via Adobe Connect, rather than pre-recorded classes that dominate that market at the moment. Although I received a few votes for my idea, the one we agreed to run with was “Dine at Mine”.

The idea in a nutshell: Dine at Mine is an app and website that, through using geolocation services, allows you to invite people in the local area to come into your home and share a meal. Similarly, if you’re not a good cook but want to get know people in your area, you can see if anyone is holding an open dinner invite. It’s essentially a social dining app.

In our team we decided which areas based around the Business Model Canvas we wanted to cover to produce a Keynote presentation, which would be narrated and sent for assessment. The area I chose was the Competitive Environment.

I spent a number of hours scouring the internet to see who was in Dine at Mine’s space and found out there were a couple of direct and indirect competitors in the market.

This is a summary of my research:

Dine at Mine’s direct competitors are sites that connect people who either want to host dinner parties or go to them: Grub Club and EatWith.

Grub Club focuses on speciality foods and is London-centric; EatWith is travel orientated, ie customers are finding places to eat in a person’s home in a foreign country.

Other indirect competitors are socialising apps that match individuals to like-minded people (eg Grouper); a religious based food site (Dine@Mine) and a left-over food app (LeftoverSwap).

Grouper is a service based on meeting people and socialising in bars (no food); Dine@Mine is for Muslim families wanting to share the Ramadan experience with other families (religious based); and LeftOverSwap is a food waste prevention app.

Looking at the social dining apps and sites that are currently in the market, none offer the same local (geolocation), non-speciality, social dining experience that Dine at Mine can.

Dine at Mine

A screenshot of our opening slide

With all our individual elements of the presentation now complete we arranged further Hangouts to feedback our research, check for uniformity, and to see if we were all happy with the content.

The last few stages were the design of the presentation and the narration, all of which was produced to a high standard by members of the team (see screenshot featuring our logo above).

Reflecting on our presentation I can see the positives and negatives of online teamwork. One of the positives being you can work from the comfort of your home and one of the downsides is the technology can sometimes be temperamental.

I feel that meeting in person is still the best option for team work, but this is certainly the next best thing. I can see how in the future a lot of business will be conducted this way, with team members being based in different countries. Of course, as technology develops, virtual environments will become more sophisticated and immersive, something that Eric Schmidt discusses in A New Digital Age (recommended reading if you’re interested in the future of tech).

Aside from the assignment, we had some insightful lectures and talks on the Value Proposition Canvass, working in teams and, as previously discussed, mobile’s influence on business.

One talk I particularly enjoyed was Jo Baker’s “Fall in Love with Mobile”. Jo is head of head of industry at Google and, according to Squared is often “the go-to person for mobile”.

She mentioned so many useful tools for understanding mobile use and leveraging this for marketing. Here are some of the resources she mentioned:

The following video is a case study she brought to our attention, and was a particular eye-opener for me. The video shows you how a trainer shop in Guatemala used geolocation services in its app to “hijack” its customers from competitor’s stores.

That about sums up module 2, I’m looking forward to the next chapter of this impressive online course.