MagCloud – Do It Yourself Magazine Publishing …a Cool Idea with Loads of Microbusiness Potential

HP is currently running a beta of a new online service called “MagCloud“.  The service allows anyone to produce a magazine and print it – on demand – for $0.20 a page.  The service also offers an online store to allow publishers to sell their magazines.  The service will take care of printing, mailing, subscription management, and more.

HP’s longer-term plan is to sell their specialized printers and inks to businesses who will offer regional on-demand printing services.

This ability to do on-demand printing of magazines can allow smaller operations and professional service organizations to offer new services to businesses which need to quickly and cheaply produce magazines.  One of the benefits offered by the service is the ability to do tweaks to the magazine master document much more quickly and with less cost then traditional methods of producing magazines.


Making Technology Happen

I have the first and second edition of this book on my bookshelf.  It is concise, practical advice for starting and running a technology/knowledge-based company… and it is written by a local tech leader – Denzil Doyle!   For those trying to figure out where to start and what to do I recommend this book as a good place to start reading.

Making Technology Happen describes in detail the techniques used to identify and exploit technology and how to build and manage a technology-intensive company around that technology. It covers such activities as ‘go-to market’ strategy development, general management, investment analysis, organizational development, and competitive market analysis – all from the perspective of a technology-intensive enterprise. It is used by governments and technology transfer professionals across North America, as well as by entrepreneurs and business executives

Ottawa 2.0 – The Flint Michigan of Canada’s High Tech World?

The Citizen published an article on the key role Nortel has had on the Ottawa high tech market, noting that there are no replacements for Nortel waiting in the wings to step-in to the void.

Here is a list of potential impacts on the City of Ottawa in a post-Nortel scenario:

  • Ottawa will increasingly rely on the Federal Government for our local economic future (3Q08 city reports put 75% of Ottawa’s economy as being linked to the presence of the Federal Government in Ottawa)
  • Ottawa economy will decline in size and associated tax base which will lead to reduced city services and programs due to:
  • Ottawa economic growth prospects will decline as the city becomes increasingly less attractive for knowledge-based multi-nationals to locate/expand in Ottawa due to declining size and skills of the local workforce brought about by:
    • Continued emigration of knowledge-workers out of Ottawa (Stats Canada reports have highlighted the lost high tech capabilities and workforce emigration away from Ottawa –  2 in 5 laid off tech workers left Ottawa)
    • Continued reduction in base of knowledge-workers with current experience (Stats Canada reports have highlighted that 4 of 5 laid off tech workers did not find work in tech)

Ottawa may soon be the “Flint Michigan of Canada” when it comes to high tech.

Of course, there are always  career opportunities available in ceramics and pottery.

How do Keystone Organizations in the “Creative Class” Ecosystem-based Economy Make Money?

Keystone organizations in an Ecosystem need money to operate and sustain their functions.   The nature of how the keystone organization makes money depends upon whether it is a not for profit (social economy business) or a for profit (commercial business).

A not for profit Keystone organization typically makes its money through some or all of the following means:

  • Selling memberships
  • Selling consulting services
  • Selling documentation and books related to the Ecosystem platform product
  • Accelerating feature developments on the Ecosystem platform product in return for cash
  • Selling support for the Ecosystem platform product or service
  • Selling advertising on Keystone-associated websites, printed publications
  • Selling t-shirts/etc with the Keystone logos/tag-lines
  • Soliciting donations from Ecosystem users/consumers, e.g. through Paypal
  • Running conferences and symposiums
  • Selling company/product listing services for Ecosystem suppliers
  • Selling training services/courses related to the Ecosystem platform product
  • Selling certifications for products which use the Ecosystem product platform
  • Selling infrastructure services which the Ecosystem product uses, e.g. webservices
  • Selling sponsorships to commercial organizations in return for access to Ecosystem members, e.g. through offering of meetings, special offers/discounts from commercial businesses to its members
  • Government grants

A for profit Keystone organization may also make its money from any of the above, but may also include some or all of the following as key sources of revenue:

  • Sales channel and associated contract/transactions between consumers and suppliers of the channel  (e.g. Apple Apps Store, oDesk)
  • Selling products that are complimentary to the base product platform and other Ecosystem members that the Ecosystem is based on (and not competing directly with the Ecosystem suppliers)

Emerging New Channels to Market for “Creative Class” Microbusinesses

For a start-up, one of the biggest challenge is gaining access to customers and being able to transact business with them as easily and quickly as possible.  In the last 5 years,  new business models have been emerging that help reduce that challenge, referred to as Ecosystem business models.

These new business models are providing knowledge workers (aka the “Creative Class“) access to ready-made delivery platforms and selling channels to a well-defined market.

These emerging channels to market typically provide a means to connect suppliers with consumers, usually handling the transaction between the two as a trusted mediator (taking a percentage in return for the channel services, e.g. selling platform, marketing, customer management, fulfillment, transaction handling):

  • Apple Apps Store – sells applications to Apple iPhone phone users, handles delivery and payment, payment is via iTunes account
  • Google Android Market – sells applications to Android mobile phone users, handles  delivery and payment using Paypal
  • Amazon Webstore – sell your wares online, access Amazon shoppers and Amazon store tools, handles payment using Amazon account
  • 99Designs –  companies/individuals post requests for graphics designs and designated “prize money”, companies/individuals post responses, the winning design selected gets the “prize money”
  • oDesk – teams or individuals post skills/availability, companies/individuals post jobs with desired fee for completion (fixed rate or hourly)
  • Shutterstock – royalty-free photographs, individuals/companies provide photos and get paid based on sales
  • Innovation Exchange – companies/individuals post challenges and cash, suppliers post responses
  • Mechanical Turk – people post questions/tasks, suppliers post answers/accept task
  • Cafepress – individuals/companies generate graphic content, Cafepress puts it on mugs, shirts, etc and handles all fulfillment for the supplier
  • Amazon Kindle – sell eBooks via Amazon and their new eBook reader
  • uTest – on-demand software testing
  • Crowd Spring – similar to 99Designs
  • Lulu – sells self-published books
  • Beta Test – links beta-testers with software publishers (e.g. iPhone)
  • Eclipse Foundation – links Eclipse IDE consumers with suppliers who build on top of the Eclipse open source IDE platform
  • Just Parts – links consumers of auto parts with suppliers
  • Top Coder – links software designers with companies who respond to contest proposals
  • Article One Partners – offers rewards for finding prior art against posted patents
  • Spot Us – allows journalists to post story ideas and solicit funding from public

One channel which can be very significant for Microbusinesses is Paypal –

  • Paypal – “one-click” purchasing between suppliers and consumers.  Many niche sellers, e.g. 3rd party add-on suppliers for Joomla! use Paypal as their transaction vehicle.  Most eCommerce solutions provide a gateway to Paypal as the payment means.  Paypal itself also can accept credit cards on behalf of a seller.  Paypal by itself provides access to a group of consumers who are comfortable transacting business online.  Paypal provides a trusted supplier relationship between the buyer and the supplier.  I have to confess I never thought Paypal would amount to anything when I first heard about the business many years ago…

Lead to Win Ecosystem Announced

On Feb 12th, during a presentation at MaRS in Toronto, Tony Bailetti announced the launch of the Lead to Win Ecosystem.


The Lead to Win ecosystem will be headquartered in Ottawa,  it is focused on:

  • Facilitating the formation of multi-location, international teams
  • Equipping teams to exploit the new creativity economy
  • Supporting teams’ rapid start-up, operations and execution
  • Linking teams to opportunities and channels

The Lead to Win ecosystem is based on the 2002 Lead to Win program which was extraordinarily successful in delivering meaningful and measurable economic development results to the Ottawa region.

If you are interested in more information on the Lead to Win ecosystem or want to be a part of it – drop a note to Tony Bailetti, and read the material on Business Ecosystems on this site.

Is The Recession The Best Thing to Happen To Canada?

There are two interesting new ideas that I find very promising, and if the City of Ottawa is able to capitalize on them, it may create a major new source of growth for our local economy.

Richard Florida is a professor at the Rotman School of Management in Toronto.  His primary area of research is that of the “Creative Class”.   Dr Florida argues that the economy is shifting away from routine-oriented jobs to creativity-based occupations.    He also argues that the ability of an economy to adapt and weather disruptions are greater for a creativity-based economy compared to routine-jobs based economy.   Dr Florida recently delivered a report to the Ontario government on this topic – it is interesting reading.

In Ottawa, we have Tony Bailetti, a professor at Carleton University.  His primary area of research is that of  “Ecosystems”.   He argues that the business models of the world are changing.   During the Industrial Age – companies were vertically integrated.  During the Technology Age – companies were horizontally integrated with outsourced partners.  In the emerging Ecosystem Age – Dr Bailetti argues that it is all about creative knowledge workers and collaboration.    An ecosystem is not a single company, but rather is a collaborative community formed around a central keystone organization that facilitates collaborative relationships and access to wide established markets.  And this is more then just a theory – Ecosystems exist today and their numbers are growing.   A leader in this emerging Ecosystem business model is headquartered in our city! The Eclipse Foundation is a very successful keystone organization — they are at the heart of the worlds most successful Integrated Development Environment platform.

Ecosystems are a means of organizing and enabling knowledge workers, leveling the playing field against established Technology Age and Industrial Age competition, and flattening the world relative to allowing world-wide virtual teams to come together to create innovation, wealth and economic growth.  Ecosystems effectively give a practical framework around how we can capitalize on the power of the “Creative Class”.

Dr Florida and Dr Bailetti’s work have evolved independently but are very complimentary and timely.

I would love to see Tony and Richard get together as  their ground-breaking ideas represent a strong opportunity for Ottawa, Ontario and Canada to re-invent itself.

If you are one of those people who is planning  to create their own microbusiness and you are looking for ideas to pursue – you would be wise to learn more about what Ecosystems are and how you can capitalize on them.   The good news is that Tony is planning to make an important announcement on Thursday about a new initiative related to Ecosystems that you will want to know about – because it can help you – I’ll post an update to this post on Friday.