Crowdfunding – the best way to fund projects?

©GlennCarstens-Peters/unsplash.com

©GlennCarstens-Peters/unsplash.com

For a few years now, crowdfunding has become a new tool for start-ups to fund their projects. There are many crowdfunding websites (for example Kickstarter, Indiegogo and GoFundMe), but all of them share the following model: a platform which allows entrepreneurs to launch a fund-raising campaign for their projects and to get in touch with potential supporters (also called “backers”), who make the realization of these projects possible – thanks to their contributions or donations.

On these sites, you can find a large variety of campaigns focusing not only on new technological tools, but also on new food innovations or even helping someone in need.

Two of the most famous and successful campaigns are “Exploding kittens” and “Flow Hive”. The first one is about a card game which was launched in 2015 on Kickstarter. The initial goal was to reach 10,000 dollars, but the creators managed to raise almost 9 million dollars in just 24 days. The latter is an innovative beehive box that allows bee keepers to harvest honey without disturbing the bees. The project was launched on Indiegogo in April 2015. More than 13 million dollars were raised in less than a month. These examples are only two of many that show how successful crowdfunding campaigns can be. Everything you need to have is a creative idea that excites potential backers and get them to investing in the realization of the project.

But is crowdfunding really the best way to fund projects?

Certainly, there are a lot of advantages for both the entrepreneurs and the consumers or supporters. The biggest advantage is that start-up companies can raise money more easily than via traditional means (e.g. bank loans or private investors). In fact, companies don’t have to worry about negotiating with investors and don’t have to deal with finance charges – in this way it could also be less time-consuming. Also, the entrepreneurs can find out how much the consumers are interested in the product or service, or if they like it in the first place. In addition, they can count on their supporters for striving to promote the project which results in an extension of the customer base. Furthermore, the backers often receive particular benefits for their support, such as a discount if they purchase the complete product/service or special gifts and gadgets. Finally, fund-raising campaigns usually provide a higher degree of transparency, which means that the progress of the project is visible and the funders are in close contact with the entrepreneurs, giving them feedback if it’s necessary.

On the other hand, there are some disadvantages that you should consider before launching a crowdfunding campaign. It could be a problem if you don’t protect your idea with a patent or copyright. In this way, someone who sees your project could steal it, and then it could be difficult to prove that you are the original inventor. In addition, once you raised the money, you cannot change your project drastically. From the consumer’s point of view, there are other disadvantages to consider. In some campaigns, companies promote some extra characteristics or options which can be unlocked only if a certain amount of money is reached. Well, sometimes projects depend too much on the sum of money collected and are in the end not realized after all.

In conclusion, crowdfunding is a great possibility for start-ups without a big budget to realize their projects. Crowdfunding strengthens a country’s innovation capacity, because creative ideas that could not be realized without help are supported and put into action. Especially when the project is not too complex and the realization does not need a big investment, founders can take crowdfunding into consideration. However, you should always be aware of the possible disadvantages and potential problems that this kind of funding can involve. But: If you consider all risks and decide to give crowdfunding a try, maybe with a bit of luck your dream can come true.

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Modern PR and Classic Heros

©ErikaWittlieb/pixabay.com

©ErikaWittlieb/pixabay.com

What do Spider-Man, the new Edeka commercial and good PR have in common? It’s all about heroes! The hero is the center of every story – thus, he is of great importance for PR, too. For some years, storytelling has been the PR and marketing trend per se. Now, some may claim that PR managers have always been telling stories. That is true in the sense that PR has always been helping journalists to find stories or companies to tell their story. But modern storytelling goes far beyond that. It is narrative, creative, and creates exciting stories around brands, products and companies. Stories concentrate information in an entertaining way to make it easy to remember. A good story is also emotional and arouses familiar feelings. That means, storytelling is entertaining, emotional and sticks in the recipients’ memories. Furthermore, today’s digital media landscape offers various new ways of telling stories multimedia and in different channels.

Who or what is a hero?

A good story stands and falls with its main protagonist – the hero. But who is a hero and what makes a good hero? For modern storytelling, it is important to create a hero who is basically “one of us”. The hero as one “who is naturally equipped with respectable appearance and extraordinary strength, who has gained glory from heroic deeds, and who stands out from all others”, is not a very contemporary characterization. The hero should not stand out by appearance or ability, but rather be like you and me. He has to deal with the same problems like everyone else. This means, a good hero is a regular person with whom the recipient can fully identify.

(This characterization of the hero also makes a great part of the success of contemporary Marvel superhero movies like Iron-Man, Spider-Man and others. The heroes of these movies have fantastic abilities – which make them super-heroes – but they are rooted in reality and have to deal with everyday problems.)

The hero’s journey – all-inclusive in 12 steps

Besides the hero, there is a second requirement for good stories: structure – and this is definitely nothing new as well. The so-called hero’s journey is the archetype of every good story and has been told as long as we can remember: from the great antique myths to current Hollywood blockbusters, almost every popular story follows the same structure. This structure has been elaborated by Joseph Campbell in his 1949 book The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Campbell divides the hero’s journey into three acts which consist of a total of 17 steps. Screenwriting expert Christopher Vogler modernized Campbells ideas and reduced them to 12 steps. Let’s look at this version of the hero’s journey to find out how typical hero stories should be structured:

  1. „The Ordinary World“: The journey of the hero – who is not yet heroic – begins in everyday life. There exists some kind of problem which all members of society suffer from.
  2. „The Call to Adventure“: Our protagonist recognizes that the problem must be solved. He hears the call to adventure.
  3. „Refusal of the Call“: At first, the hero does not answer this call because if he did, he would have to get out of his comfort zone.
  4. „Meeting with the Mentor“: The protagonist meets his mentor, who inspires and convinces him to start his adventurous trip. The mentor does not necessarily have to be some wise old man with a grey beard. As in the case with Edeka’s new commercial Eatkarus, it may only take a bird to inspire the protagonist to become a hero.
  5. „Crossing the Threshold to the Special World“: The hero starts his journey.
  6. „Tests, Allies and Enemies”: On his journey, the hero has to overcome obstacles and fight sinister foes. But he also finds friends and allies along the way.
  7. „Approach to the Innermost Cave“: We are now approaching the story’s climax as the hero is near his destination.
  8. „The Ordeal“: This is the story’s climax – the final decisive fight. The hero (almost) always emerges victorious.
  9. „Reward“: The hero is presented with some kind of reward for his glorious victory. This reward may be special abilities, knowledge or tools.
  10. „The Road Back“: The hero starts his journey back home.
  11. „The Resurrection“: Our protagonist has gone through a transformation. From an everyday normal person, he has turned into a true hero.
  12. „Return with the Elixir“: The hero returns home with the reward he received for his victory. With this special tool, knowledge or ability is now able to solve society’s problems. He uses his power for the greater good.

This twelve-stepped journey can be divided into three acts: Steps 1 to 5 make up the story’s first act, which introduces the initial situation and main characters. The second act consists of steps 6 to 9, where the main plot and climax take place. Steps 10 to 12 make up the third act which closes with a happy ending. This means, the hero’s journey follows the classical three act structure of exposition, confrontation and solution.

Classic Stories in modern make-up

Let’s recapture: How we tell stories underlies constant change. Digital media offer a multitude of ways to tell stories. In contrast, the stories we tell are basically always the same. It has always been true that good stories need strong protagonists and exciting conflicts to win over the recipients’ favor: A hero moves out on an adventure, he overcomes obstacles and returns home to solve society’s problem for the greater good.

Despite all the changes and the fast pace of our digital age, the hero’s story is a constant we can rely on. The recipient is already familiar with this story. Thus, these stories are so easy to remember and they promptly evoke well-known emotions. The recipe for success may go like this: Take Vogler’s classical hero journey and root it in the recipients’ lifeworld. Add a strong hero who is easy to identify with, add a pinch of suspense and humor and finish it off with a happy ending. Voilà – that’s storytelling!

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High-tech and Medicine – Five Current Trends

©JesseOrrico/unsplash.com

©JesseOrrico/unsplash.com

A knee prosthesis produced by a 3D printer or a robot performing surgery are no longer story material for science fiction movies. In the last few years, there have been spectacular achievements in the field of medicine. We have introduced you to various of these developments on our blog over the past year and have already written about Dr. Google, wearables in healthcare and Medicine 4.0.

However, major advancements of tomorrow’s medicine still lie ahead. Medicine and technology merge with one another more and more in the era of digitalization. The human is at the heart of it all – due to highly developed high-tech solutions not only as a patient, doctor or nursing staff but also as a part of the algorithms. Medicine is becoming more individual and precise, which still does not make it less complicated.

The following 5 current trends accompany us on the way to the medicine of the future.

1. Dr. Robot

Keyword accuracy: Dr. Robot has been part of many German hospitals for a long time now, for example helping doctors with tasks such as tissue removal (biopsy) to ensure a precise removal of the sample. The machine is capable to maneuver the needle in a rapid and precise manner, which normally is time-consuming and quite a struggle. The doctor then positions the biopsy needle and the robot sets it. In this way, moving it unintentionally is out of question.

Nanobots are another revolutionary development – a Nanobot is, so to speak, a doctor the size of a pill, which goes into the patient’s body for a checkup. These machines, which are as big as cells, stimulate bone formation and mark tumor cells. Although the development of micro-robots has just started, they should be able to contribute to the cure of cancer in the future.

2. Intelligent Diagnosis

Machine learning and intelligent systems are of great importance not only in a digital factory. Artificial intelligence is also an essential factor in the field of medicine. With the help of data collection and analysis, irregularities are filtered out which contributes to the early detection of diseases like e.g. Parkinson’s or facilitates the detection of pharmacological interactions during medication intake.

3. 3D-Print

Human spare parts produced by a 3D printer – that still does sound like science-fiction. Just think of the many successes of the German Paralympics athletes who are active in sports and can take part in normal life thanks to leg prostheses. Innovative prostheses accumulate energy and can be moved by muscle impulses.

In the future, 3D printers can also be used otherwise. Research teams are currently working on producing human skin, which can directly be printed on a wound.

4. Big Data

The large datasets that are now available are the foundation for tomorrow’s medicine. This is why, in comparison to the past, the patient plays a more important role now. Clean eating and healthy living are the big trends of our time. Both wearables and health related apps are part of a healthy lifestyle and enable us to control our health and even forward data to our health insurance and doctors. Thus, higher priority is being attached to health provision. However, from a data protection point of view the demands are also increasing and the large data volumes pose risks for personal privacy.

5. Personalized Medicine

The four first-mentioned trends culminate in a new supertrend in the health care system: the personalized medicine. Nowadays, as a result of technical innovations, it is possible to develop personalized treatment methods and produce medication for individual patients that are perfectly coordinated with each body, hence the side-effects are rarer. So far, there are only 50 personalized medications on the market, with this figure set to increase in future.

Accordingly, the journey towards the medicine of the future promises to remain exciting. Just like the digitalization in our everyday life, many of these trends initially seem unimaginable – be that as it may, in a few years they will likely be widespread treatment methods. However, one thing must not be forgotten: In the end, tomorrow’s medicine and all of its revolutionary innovations shouldn’t be measured by the greatest possible generated excitement and attention, but it should be measured by the effect it has. Ultimately, it is medicine’s duty to heal people and decrease suffering – not to hit the headlines.

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How was that offside?

Technology such as the video evidence could make this question be a thing of the past. However, they are still under discussion in sports.  

©NathanShively/unsplash.com

©NathanShively/unsplash.com

On the first Sunday in February, the Super Bowl, the biggest single sports event in the world, took place in Houston. While players and officials from the New England Patriots started celebrating after the last play of the game, the referees took a second look at it in the Video Booth. Granted, in this case, they confirmed the decision they had already made on the field. It could have been different, though.

During an NFL game, the coaches can challenge a decision from the referee twice and ask for video evidence. After the two-minute warning in both halves and in overtime, every play that brings points on the scoreboard, every play that results in a fumble or interception, and every other tight decision will be viewed automatically. The video evidence is well-established in the NFL. In tennis, they also use visual aids to see where exactly the ball has landed on the court. It seems that only in soccer the opinions about technical aids, and especially the video evidence, are divided.

In recent times, technology has been implemented in soccer as well. Systems such as Hawk-Eye and Goal Control have been used in order to tell the referee if the ball was behind the goal line. The video evidence has also been used, for example during the 2016 FIFA Club World Cup in Japan and during the Dutch KNVB Cup. In March, German referees will also have the chance to test it. During training sessions, clubs use devices such as vests and chest straps in order to evaluate data of players (GPS, heartbeat, running performance). Also, there are cameras which record every pass and every path during the game. The latter is being used by clubs to analyze games and player performances. The use of certain devices is pretty common in many different sports. A lot of people think it is the right way, because you have to keep up with the times and possibilities are sufficient. Technology is constantly evolving and the image quality gets better and better, making wrong calls on the field even more obvious and visible.

Now, what are advantages and disadvantages of using technical aids in sports? It’s a huge topic and we cannot talk about every single sport. On the one hand, sports is about humans and they do make mistakes. However, that is exactly what leads to emotions and discussions. On the other hand, sports is all about money, a lot of money. Business is merciless. In this regard, it is not fortunate when a human mistake costs the game and maybe costs a club millions of dollars. It is an argument that is brought up a lot in this discussion.

Soccer, for example, is a sport that has comparatively little interruptions and people fear that too much use of technology and breaks in the game might change that. It could be the same for other kinds of sports. In football, breaks are integrated anyway, so that might not be a factor. In ice hockey, the video evidence works and is accepted and well received. One important question in this context is whether it is guaranteed that the technology always works correctly. It’s especially important for those devices used in official games. Those used in training are not exposed to the assessment of the public.

In conclusion, you can say that this really is a difficult topic. Referees who make mistakes are part of the game, especially in the culture of soccer. On the one hand and from my own experience and player’s point of view, I would say that there should be as few interruptions in the game as possible. Although, one has to say it also depends on the fact if you’re leading the game or not, speaking of momentum. On the other hand, you want to win every game and not be affected by wrong calls of the referee.

Is there maybe another system that supports both cases? What do you think about technical aids like the video evidence or other devices which you might know from other sports? Share your thoughts with us.

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I’m 20 years old and I follow 137 channels on YouTube

©EstherVargas/flickr.com

©EstherVargas/flickr.com

In fall, I wanted to buy a raincoat to protect myself from the rainy weather. If I would ask my mother how digitalization influences my buying behavior in the case of my raincoat, she would probably say that I am going to buy it online. Of course, she is right about that. I am still a fan of real-life shopping, but it is raining. So I go ahead and do my research about offers and popularity of water-repellent clothing. But on my way towards a dry fall season, my steps go a little bit further.

After I got an overview and chose a couple of interesting raincoats, I open my website of trust: YouTube. I spend the next hour watching people, that I have never met before, unpacking their new raincoats and examining them up to the tiniest detail. I am not able to make a reasonable buying decision without watching at least 10 reviews on YouTube. In the end, I am as exhausted as if I would have tried on all jackets myself. Nonetheless, I can be proud of myself, because I have done all that without moving or changing from my pajamas into everyday clothes.

So, this means that I let people on the internet decide what I should buy. This aspect can be extremely important for companies, because I don’t trust their commercials on TV, but the opinions of random people on the internet. Brands need to recognize and use this potential in order to reach me and other people my age.

In the case of the raincoat, it would probably be sufficient to post a video where any random person talks about the product. There were not as many videos about raincoats, so I had to take what was available and rely on less known YouTubers. In other areas like smartphones or beauty however, there are so many videos that a no-name channel doesn’t suffice. In that case, I need the help of larger YouTube cannels.

Because I am on YouTube a lot, I know about different areas of the YouTube scene and recognize quickly, whether it is a popular and trustworthy channel or not. When I am looking for a new phone for example, I remember some channels from the last time. Also, I see how popular a channel is and choose accordingly how relevant this channel will be for my decision. But I don’t only base my decision on the number of subscribers; I also check how integrated the channel is into the community of other large channels. I need to have the feeling that the YouTubers are telling me their honest opinions. Trust is a very important issue. Of course I know that most products are usually sponsored, but if YouTubers only say positive things all the time, they lose their trustworthiness.

When companies promote their products on YouTube, it is not sufficient to be present. They also need to understand the culture of YouTube and recognize the most important opinion leaders in the respective area and cooperate with them.

The opinions of some YouTubers are so important, that they can become a real problem for some brands. It happens that I don’t buy a certain product because of the negative opinion of a YouTuber I trust. Companies need to be aware of what is being said about their products on YouTube and act in case of a negative assessment by an influential person. When working with a young target group, the contact to online influencers is almost as important as the contact to the most important print media.

In PR, those topics can’t be missing, because this young target audience gets a large part of their information from social media. That is why it is important to know the scene on YouTube and cooperate with the most relevant channels in order to reach and influence a young audience.

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