Before launching into the promised coverage of the technology and
trends sections, I thought it a good idea to describe what makes http://www.sime.nu/
unique, and also to put down a few caveats which are relevant to all
that comes out of SIME.
First up, SIME is not a pure business event. There is a strong visual
arts theme, with in house AV teams, video creatives, live camera crews
who mix and edit for the next sessions and a lot of traditional 2D
paper and fabric arts.
Each show has its own purpose and theme. If you want television and
video, go to Milia. Movies, go to Cannes. Top level finance networking,
go to ETRE. Lots of rapid data to assimilate? Then go to Essential
Mediatech. Games? GDCE, Brighton or Leipzig (if it is running next
year). US connections required for your start-up? Then get out to Web
2.0 Expo, DEMO09 or similar. Want to know how the money moves? Try
something like EconSM.
What is SIME for? SIME is about celebrating the creative and business culture of Scandinavia, and while it talks a lot about world issues, it also has a very strong local focus. SIME is for the young, achingly hip, tech media start ups of the Nordics and the Baltics. If you come over from the UK, you had better be expecting to feel short, badly dressed and somewhat dowdy. The gag-line is that SIME is pronounced ‘See Me’, and is lead by Ola who is the most incredible egomaniac. With justification, given his local celebrity status. He powers through the event like a peacock, which tends to colour the proceedings brightly, if not accurately.
Sessions are in English, but most conversations are in local languages. (However, Scandinavians all speak English better than me, so there is no barrier once you start talking). While I found most of the sessions were content packed, there were a couple of “nothing new” items.
SIME is also about media style parties. (This year’s events saw 4 major parties over 2 days, and the ‘official awards party’ had Mia Rose playing and the reunion of Ace of Base. They really can party.).
Mix that all up and there is a special mediatech creative magic here, just beware of the glamour concealing the facts.
This section covers emerging technology
You read this far and are going to be upset when I say “there were no new technology trends”, aren’t you.
There were none.
Well, mobile ads, really. If you think that is new.
Fruugo was a huge let down. Can’t bring myself to care about another online shopping solution even if it is mobile and cross border and EU wide. (yawns).
The message: it is all about mashups and connecting existing things better.
The only real surprise of the afternoon was the English language Muslim social network site Muxlim – which I think is worthy of some major news coverage by someone who can write better than me. Not a new technology, though it was cleverly packaged.
This section covers major trends
How on earth can we hope to find trends in a complex, noisy, heterogeneous and fully evolved business landscape? Well, perhaps by looking up at the major social drivers like these three:
Trend 1 – FEAR
• People will hide
• Hunker down
• Peer Trust is everything, nothing without recommendations
• Retreating to past values
• Stop looking to the future
• Kill the visionaries
• A few – a very few – will go on Diceman journeys and learn new things
Trend 2 – INDIVIDUALS
• Institutions are dead
• YOU can do it
• Grass roots engagement is the new source of mass power
• Capital will follow the very best talent (only)
• Informed collectivism will create new products
Trend 3 – ENVIRONMENT
• The world indeed looks like we f**ked it up
• We can fix it
• Green Capitalists
• Best businesses will value their externalities
• Stop stealing the future – talk about what you are giving to it
• Innovation is salvation
It was widely agreed that no matter how well those trend sound bites played to a crowd, it was going to take amazing vision, execution, management and finance to bring them about.
As to New Businesses the session looked into what small companies had to do to survive in 2009 and to ride the trends. It boiled down to this list:
1. Take risks
2. Add value
3. F**k up, learn, don’t do it again, repeat
4. Be selective (“fail fast”)
5. Bootstrap it!
6. Viral is now the new mainstream
7. Go for the heart first (by entertaining), then the head (by informing and persuading) then, and only then, go for the wallet (by delivering more than was promised in a way that seems easier than ever).
Clearly, the idea of partial release and engagement with a pioneer community has become a trend even among larger companies that were used as examples.
Hedwig Hagwall Bruckner of King Creative (a Stockholm Ad agency) helped us work on some messages that would work in 2009
1. Think of just one message
2. Make it work for every media
3. Take it to every media
4. Say it clearly
5. Keep on saying it
6. Then make sure your product, your site, your campaign, your management and your team all say it and mean it.
7. Deliver what the message promises
Seems that what worked in ancient times is still what we should be doing in 2009, only we need to do it better, faster and with more personal conviction and effort to make it work in the face of so much noise and competition. No new trends in advertising, unless you count mobile ads, I guess?
SIME is for the young. My guess was an average age in the main sessions well under 30. Younger entrepreneurs do tend to look to the future. The older people in the room tended to be either media people or serial entrepreneurs. So my first pair of summary points is that:
1. Old people are frightened more than they need to be by the economic downturn (they think this is going to be like past recessions, and it will be patchier, more regional and more rapidly climbed out of)
2. Young people are not frightened enough (they have no idea what a recession is, and think they are immortal because they are clever, yet lack the skills to execute plans in tough times)
The event is strongly design heavy. That simple, yet elegant design the Swedish excel at. This puts a lot of emphasis on the design process. Scandinavia has a strong visual arts culture, and that makes them conscious of how things look, but a little less careful about how they are built or what they do. That gave me two other summary points:
1. Innovation is the key, always has been, and beauty always sells, but now it needs more than just a pretty idea.
2. The economic downturn is going to put much more pressure on cash and execution to plans. How things work now counts for a lot more.
Scandinavians have a liberal socialist history and are a very sociable people. They huddle, they eat at large tables, they have canteen breakfasts, they are family centred and they like to party. This shone a spotlight on the larger social forces at play in tech media in 2009
1. Galvanising large groups of supporters and listening to them is the next step
2. Major global social changes have to be figured into each and every plan. India and China change everything.
The local investor market is very small. Scandinavia has had some mega successes (Kazaa, Pirate Bay…) and a strong telco background, but is still only has a few successes. It lacks the huge heterogeneous pool of investors and serial entrepreneurs and mega-corporation partners that the US and the UK have to offer. This restricts the range of opinions and experience available. That brought out three more points:
1. Only those managers who have cash and ruthless execution but also remain agile will win
2. Most of the effort has to be in the ‘go to market’ strategy and it has to be done professionally and with partners
3. Partners are everything. Everything. If you are a startup, right now, your partners are you salvation and your probable exit route in a couple of years.
I left the best until last. There has been a massive sea change in consumer behaviour, and it is great news for games companies, video content and entertainment software:
1. Video content and especially entertaining humorous video content is more desirable then ever
2. And it all has to tie in with digital advertisers and mobiles if you want to go massive quickly.
So, there we have it. SIME08. Well worth the trip. Special magic, very beautiful, great parties, learn a lot in a couple of days, meet some brilliant partners and investors.