Strategy Sessions are open to community feedback. Leave a comment, Tweet us (@LumosBusiness) or send us an email if you have any ideas related to the topic.

Back in black. At least that’s what the beleaguered handset manufacturer is hoping for after years in the red. Research in Motion (RIM), the innovators behind the original QWERTY smartphone, has seen its stock plummet in recent years thanks to a series of strategic missteps and management blunders. Now, on the eve of the launch of its make-or-break Blackberry 10 handsets, we are going to break down the strategies of the Canadian mobile mogul and look for the lessons learned in the product launch.

They were on top of the mobile world. As recently as five years ago, everybody had a Blackberry and if you didn’t you were on the way out the door to get one. And then came the I-Phone. Rather than taking a wait-and-see approach and heading to the boardroom to draft up a strategic response, RIM’s executives dismissed it as a trivial Apple gadget for techies. Then came Android, Google’s open-source OS (operating system) and RIM went from in motion to out of the quotient. In the US alone, the company’s market share went from 39% in Q4 2009 to 9.5% in the last quarter. Their share of the global smartphone market was 21% in Q3 2009, now it is just 4.2%.

We started analyzing RIM and its strategies when they launched the Playbook in Q2 2011 (see post RIM Playbook Launch … ). It was during that product-launch cycle that we could see just how out of touch the company had become. With Jim Balsillie calling the product an ‘Ipad killer’ and Mike Lazaridis bemoaning Canadians’ lack of patriotism, it was obvious that a shakeup was needed. The Playbook flopped, RIM’s stock plummeted and suddenly everyone wondered whether the company who kickstarted the smartphone market would even be able to compete in it.

+ Strategy Case Study : RIM Launches the Playbook

But then the winds of change started to blow. The company cleaned house at the executive level and brought in a new CEO (Thorsten Heins), mass layoffs and personnel changes ensued, and the sense of complacency that gripped the former smartphone heavyweight went flying out the window. Despite shareholder scraps, persistent takeover rumours and a media death watch, RIM is still alive.

The question is, can they make the comeback?

The next few months will provide us with the answer to that question as RIM gets set to unleash its new Blackberry 10 OS (BB 10).

After watching the dismal launch of the Playbook, we are excited that Blackberry is back to give it another shot. They say that the best way to learn is through failure; there are likely very few companies on the planet who have ‘learned’ as much in the past five years as RIM. Fortunately, the company is still in one piece and has a shiny new OS that’s ready to be deployed.

During the launch of the Playbook, we saw the company make three deadly mistakes:

  • overpromise/underdeliver : a classic mistake that is especially fatal when you are playing in the mobile market. Balsillie labeled the Playbook as an iPad killer and yet the best thing anyone could say about the tablet was that it ‘has potential.’ Some reviewers wondered if the product was even ready to be shipped. In the end, the only thing the Playbook killed was management’s credibility.
  • not listening : Blackberry spent an inordinate amount of time trying to engineer the Playbook to link up with Blackberry smartphones (via Blackberry Bridge) so that customers could check emails. That left anyone without a Blackberry unable to check their emails, as they launched the Playbook without a native Email app. Guess what the one thing people wanted to use their tablet for the most?
  • creating confusion : RIM’s marketing and communication during the Playbook launch was nothing short of abysmal. Consumers were being told it had everything they wanted. Business users were being told it had everything they wanted. Everyone was told it had everything they wanted, and yet nobody knew what features it had. When they launched it at over 20,000 retail outlets, even the people selling the tablet didn’t know what features and specs it had.

In the blundered launch, however, was a silver lining. While on paper it would have been great if RIM had been able to produce a tablet to compete with the iPad and return to its glory days, the company’s real bread and butter is making smartphones. Rather than viewing it as an outright failure, an optimist could take the perspective that it was merely a training exercise for the launch of BB 10 into the much more important mobile market. Well, the time has now arrived to put that training to good use, because there are no more second chances. It’s do or die for Research in Motion.

So what is BB 10 bringing to the table that’s new and unique:

Flow and Hub : the BB 10 phones have no ‘Home’ button and instead will rely on a (well regarded) swipe system that allows users to ‘flow’ between applications. With one swipe, users can return to the ‘hub,’ where they can view everything related to their core communication applications;

New Keyboard and Multi-lingual Typing : Blackberry has created a new intelligent keyboard for its touchscreen devices (full QWERTY keyboard models coming in June) that looks, on the surface, much smoother than other touchscreen keyboards. Users can also program three languages into their messaging apps, a great feature for anyone messaging in multiple languages (apparently 30% of Blackberry users);

BBM and Balance : by incorporating VOIP and creating a new UI, RIM is hoping to rebuild the the BBM (Blackberry Messenger) network. For Blackberry users who rely heavily on the device for business, the new Balance application will allow them to essentially have two devices within one phone, by enabling them to separate business media and apps from personal ones.

A lot of these features may seem simple on their own, but when they are combined together they could offer heavy users a noticeable increase in productivity. It’s all possible because of the acquisition RIM made when it acquired Harman Industries for their QNX microkernel OS News Release in 2010. In fact, *some have said that the QNX OS could be the backbone for the next generation of mobile apps because of its robust multi-tasking capabilities. Blackberry became big by being known as the ‘get things done’ phone, so their renewed focus on productivity, rather than shiny features, is consistent with their original brand image.

But none of it will matter if the company can’t get the right messages to market and convince people to give Blackberry another shot. How is the company approaching the BB 10 launch differently than the Playbook launch?

Expectation managementCEO Thorsten Heins has been very diligent in managing expectations so that they don’t arrive to the market with another half-baked product. Rather than bowing to investor pressure and trying to rush out BB 10 for Christmas season, Heins has been fairly consistent in his Q1 2013 launch projection;

Consistent communication – following the Playbook mayhem, RIM brought in Frank Boulben as the new CMO to refocus RIM’s marketing efforts. Boulben’s challenge has been to start restoring the Blackberry brand image by being consistent in demonstrating to consumers what Blackberry 10 will be about;

Developer Relations – developers are perhaps the biggest asset for companies developing a mobile OS; therefore, a strong relationship with developers is essential. Developer relations were a disaster during Playbook launch, highlighted by an open letter from developer Jamie Murai. Now, RIM has made huge strides to rebuild developer relations (check out the RIM Dev Team’s hilarious ‘Keep on Lovin You’ video hehe) and released a BB 10 SDK (software development kit) that sent shares up more than 5% last week. It looks like their strategy is working, with the majority of Devs saying they would recommend the device.

What specific marketing and strategic initiatives is the company pushing in the market?

BGR Interview with Research In Motion CMO Frank Boulben from Jonathan Geller on Vimeo.

Real-time marketing : RIM is putting a lot of its Marketing resources into what CMO Boulben calls ‘real-time marketing’ on new media channels. This includes social network marketing (ie. paid Twitter ads) and organic video promotion via it’s YouTube channels. The majority of the content has been educational up to this point (a smart move), but look for the hype-building to begin in January prior to launch;

Corporate incentives : RIM has put together a corporate incentives package for Enterprise users that essentially gives them the ability to win a free BB 10 phone for answering a questionnaire. At launch, they will be rolling out the Blackberry 10 Ready Program, which in phase one will offer users online training and a webcast series, and in phase two a free upgrade on Blackberry Enterprise Server licenses;

Global promotion : Despite its woes in the US and traditional markets, RIM has a stronghold in many emerging Latin, Asian and African markets. For this reason, the company is investing time and resources into the global promotion of BB 10. Latin America, in particular, is pulling the company’s sales, so we expect to see a big push in LatAm for their (projected) March 2013 LatAm/global launch.

The question is, after all this, will it be too little too late?

Despite many forecasts that a Q1 2013 launch of the BB 10 handsets would/will be too late, there is evidence to the contrary. The latest iPhone 5’s were nothing special, the newest Androids (ie. Galaxy III, Nexus 4) are taking a dent out of the iPhone market share but are hardly anything revolutionary, and despite a notable effort, Microsoft and Nokia are still Microsoft and Nokia in the eyes of consumers and struggling to gain traction. Markets tend to follow the Rule of 3s, and with Android and iPhone being the undisputed 1, 2 heavyweights, it’s time to find the number three. Even though there hasn’t been a good Blackberry launched since the Bold 9780, the market is beckoning for Blackberry to make a comeback, especially in the Enterprise sector. The fact that Carriers are reportedly loving BB10 is also a good sign. While many have proclaimed Blackberry as dead, very few have provided (in)credible arguments beyond the typical ‘competition is fierce’ and ‘they are a dinosaur.’ Based on fundamentals and what has transpired over the last year, they at least have a chance.

And soon we will find out …

Clearly we are bullish on Blackberry and the new handsets, and not because of our Canadian roots. Rather we think the company has made some incredible strategic acquisitions (QNX, TAT, Torch), is well managed financially (they have no debt) and the new leadership has seemed to be able to reenergize the employees. Plus many people we talk to are still not sold on Android or Iphone and are anxious to try the new BB10.

Either way, it provides a fantastic case study for entrepreneurs and marketing teams to analyze and will surely provide a few more up-and-down moments before the dust settles.

So what do you think, is RIM going to be back in black with the launch of BB10?

+ RIM Playbook Launch – Lessons Learned …
+ The Small Business Finance ®evolution

Building Blocks – PLAN – the Business Model

Strategy Sessions are open to community feedback. Leave a comment, Tweet us (@LumosBusiness) or send us an email if you have any ideas related to the topic.

Many are calling this the lost decade – facing a grim economic reality, many are reeling at the prospect of an extended downturn. But in times of turbulence come the greatest opportunities. The entrepreneurs who are able to rise to the top and capitalize on their bright ideas in this market will reap the benefits for decades to come. The problem is that while many people have ideas, few are actually able to effectively test them in the marketplace. That’s all about to change thanks to the removal of arguably the biggest barrier for the entrepreneur, raising early-stage capital. That’s why we are dedicating this Strategy Session to the entrepreneur and the newest tool to be added to his/her toolkit, crowdinvesting.

Since our inception, we have been big backers of those who devote themselves (see our first blog post The Love of Lumos) to creating real value in the economy. Being entrepreneurs ourselves, we love nothing more than working with the people who can make things happen, whether that is culturally, economically or socially. While we have soured on the ‘startup’ community a bit thanks to the more-sizzle-than-substance culture created here in North America, our love for pure entrepreneurship will never change.

For this reason, we are thrilled about the emergence of crowdinvesting as a tool for the entrepreneur. Starting in July, entrepreneurs around the world will be able to watch companies use crowdinvesting, where investors (ie. anyone) can buy equity in a startup company for as little as $10, as a way to raise seed capital. That’s because Seedrs, the first regulator-approved crowdinvesting site in the world, will open its doors to the public in the UK in July.

So what is the significance of crowdinvesting for the entrepreneur?

  • you can raise seed capital for your new venture or small business quickly (realistically in between 15 and 90 days) and efficiently from your networks online
  • when legalized in your geography (right now in the UK, soon to be launched in the US), you bypass ancient securities regulations; therefore, legal costs will be greatly reduced and restrictive shareholder limits will be lifted
  • you get great exposure for your new product/service, build social capital and you can use crowdinvesting, or crowdfunding (where funds are raised on a donation basis), to test market demand for your venture (see the Pebble case study)

How does the process work?

While there may be certain platform-specific requirements, the following are the general requirements to launch a crowdinvesting campaign:

  • video – a video will help give potential crowdinvestors a feel for the team behind the venture and what the company is all about
  • business plan – founders will be required to disclose at least the basics of their business, especially the business model and how they plan to make money
  • financial model – investors will want to know what their capital will be used for (projected expenses) and the founders need to know how long the capital they raise will last (revenue projections)

(Seedrs, the FSA-regulated crowdinvesting platform in the UK, does not require companies to post financial projections)

Once you have these components, and get approved to launch your campaign on the crowdinvesting platform, then the campaign is ready to go live and the real fun begins.

If the crowdfunding industry has given any indication, then many entrepreneurs seeking crowdinvesting capital will greatly underestimate the effort required to successfully raise the required funds. To successfully execute a crowdinvesting campaign (see blog post Strategies for a Successful Crowdfunding Campaign(Strategies for a Successful Crowdfunding Campaign))), the following factors need to be taken into consideration:

  • valuation – how much are you valuing the company at given the amount of money you are asking for?
  • capital raise – how much do you need to startup versus how much can you realistically raise from your network?
  • communication strategy – what is your communication strategy during the campaign to ensure that you raise the required capital?

With crowdfunding, where the money is raised via donations, almost all successful campaigns require at least 30% of the initial capital to be raised via friends and family; therefore, it makes sense that anyone who wants to go out and raise crowdinvestment capital have a strategy to raise at least the first 30% from the 3Fs (friends, families, fools) before even launching the campaign.

Beyond that, there are a few other important factors that need to be taken into consideration:

  • shareholder management – how will you manage a multitude of shareholders?
  • future capital considerations – how will you ensure that you don’t over-dilute your initial crowdinvestors in future capital raises?
  • legal backend – how will any legal disputes be resolved with shareholders?

Using Seedrs in the UK as an example, the company acts on behalf of the crowdinvestors as the shareholder representative to ensure that the best interests of the crowdinvestors are fully taken into consideration. They deal with all the legal backend as part of their fee (7.5% of funds raised on successful campaigns) and also own a part of the company (7.5% taken from investors) to ensure their interests are aligned with the success of the company.

And remember, crowdinvesting is an ‘all or nothing’ proposition. You either raise all of the required capital or you get nothing. Unlike crowdfunding, you cannot raise more than the amount of capital you seek, so it is important to evaluate crowdfunding (see post Strategy Sessions: Crowdfunding + The Social Enterprise) as an alternative strategy if you are an entrepreneur.

At LumosForBusiness, we have spent all of 2012 studying the crowdfunding movement. It started in January with a two-month trip to study the cultural and social dynamics behind crowdfunding in Argentina and Brazil ( More recently, a trip was made to London (see post Finance 2.0 – Wall Street meets The Web) to talk with Seedrs and study crowdinvesting. With Obama approving the JOBS Act and the seeds planted in Ontario to bring crowdinvesting to Canada, we believe that crowdfunding/investing will become the new strategy for the entrepreneur. If you need to be convinced, just check out the recent article in The Economist.

So that is Strategy Session number two! Let us know what you think … it is a very deep topic, one that will be talked about much more in the future. Any feedback from entrepreneurs of all shapes and sizes would be appreciated.

+ Building Blocks for the New-Era Business
+ Finance 2.0 – Wall Street Meets the Web

Crowdfunding Strategy – Summary

Trends and Research – Summary

PLAN – the Business Model

This is our first official Strategy Session post. What we want to do is throw an idea out there and spark some dialogue about how to make it work in the marketplace; if you have any ideas leave a comment, Tweet us (@LumosBusiness) or email us.

The world is changing – fast! While news of bank failures and corporate scandals may dominate the headlines of most business sections, a new paradigm is emerging in business that centres around social innovation, crowdfunding and the new economy. If you were one of those people who thought the iPhone was revolutionary, wait until you see what happens when this stuff hits the market. Which is why we are focusing our first ‘Strategy Session’ on Crowdfunding + Social Enterprise, as we believe the combination will help produce a whole new breed of businesses.

If you haven’t read any of our blogs up to this point, you should know that we absolutely love social enterprises (see blog post Social Enterprises and the Rise of the Impact Entrepreneur) and crowdfunding (see blog post Finance 2.0 – Wall Street meets the Web). What gets us even more excited, however, is the opportunity to combine the two. In other words, we want to look at ways to use crowdfunding to launch social enterprises.

So where do we start?

Let’s assume that you are an entrepreneur in one of two scenarios:

  • you are an individual who is passionate about a certain social cause and you want to launch your own social enterprise
  • you are a social entrepreneur with a new social enterprise and have no financial backing other than your own resources

In either scenario, there are two imminent challenges that you face as an entrepreneur:

  • how do you fund your social enterprise?
  • how do you develop a business model that will allow your social enterprise to be self-sustainable?

For the first question, theoretically there are several possible answers (friends and family, grants, etc.), but in today’s world these options are becoming less and less viable. So we are going to look at a strategy to launch your venture using crowdfunding:

  • you launch a crowdfunding campaign with the goal of raising enough money to get your social enterprise off the ground
  • you offer unique rewards to people that are directly tied to your social enterprise in order to incentivize participation and sharing: this could include product/service presales, special event invitations, exclusive content access, meet the team, etc.
  • you create your crowdfunding strategy in a way that allows you to raise money from people in both your immediate networks (typically the first 25 – 30% needs to come from friends and family for successful campaigns) and outside of your network (potential customers, social organizations, corporations, etc.)

What will be accomplished?

First of all, you will raise enough money to get your idea off the ground in the cleanest, simplest way possible. There is no equity to distribute, forms to fill out, etc. Secondly, it will allow you to test demand and get some feedback as to how well received your idea is in the marketplace. Thirdly, and most importantly, you will develop ambassadors, spokespeople and salesmen for your social enterprise.

All of this is very important for many reasons, but one in particular is that it will give you time to develop an answer for question number two – how do you develop a business model that will allow your social enterprise to be self-sustainable?

We believe that the social enterprises that will achieve maximum impact in the years and decades to come will have their own self-sustaining business model. This way, they won’t be reliant on outside funding to survive, they will be able to self-adjust to market forces and they will be able to raise strategic capital to scale when the time is right.

Developing a business model (learn about The Key Components of a Business Model), however, takes time and testing. Raising money and developing a strong community via a crowdfunding campaign is a great way to buy yourself the time to be able to test out a business model.

All that being said, to successfully fund a project on a crowdfunding platform is easier said than done. Most people think you just put the project on the selected platform and oila! – you’re funded. Unfortunately, it’s not like that.

If you are interested in developing a strategy for your first crowdfunding campaign, first of all read our blog post, Strategies for a Successful Crowdfunding Campaign. Then take into consideration the following factors:

  • geography: geographically speaking, what platform is the best platform to launch your crowdfunding campaign on?
  • amount to raise: how much do you need to raise in order to get going versus how much do you think you can realistically raise from your network?
  • strategy: how do you time your campaign with your move into the marketplace?

So that’s what we have to say in the first (of hopefully many) post(s) in the Strategy Session series. Let us know what you think!

We are on Twitter or you can contact us if you want to discuss this more. And stay tuned for more content, including next week’s Strategy Session, about Crowdinvesting + The Startup, and our new series that will feature amazing crowdfunding campaigns from around the world.

+ Building Blocks for the New-Era Business
+ Finance 2.0 – Wall Street Meets the Web

Crowdfunding Strategy – Summary

Trends and Research – Summary

PLAN – the Business Model