April 7, 2014
The industry was slightly perplexed with Facebook’s unexpected purchase of virtual reality startup Oculus VR for $2 billion. It stands in stark contrast to other recent technology acquisitions, such as WhatsApp and Nest. There is no obvious marketing application, no instant access to an established user base, no hidden trove of patents. Instead, Facebook is finally using its riches to help realize Mark Zuckerberg’s idealized future in which people can “experience the impossible.” And they couldn’t have picked a better place to start.
So what are the implications of this bold purchase?
Facebook’s IPO afforded it the luxury to make bold acquisitions such as this one. But its new found position as a publicly-traded technology titan also brought its future under scrutiny. Facebook has acted with its purchase of WhatsApp and its failed bid for Snapchat. Those acquisitions collected headlines, but arguably lacked vision, and for some exposed some scrambling to quell concerns over its ability to maintain relevance within a fickle teenage demographic. The purchase of Oculus foreshadows a different Facebook, a more confident Facebook, one prepared to boldly move beyond its roots to deliver on Zuckerberg’s vision.
It isn’t clear where Facebook will go first with Oculus. Initial predictions range from monetized gaming to virtual reality “hangouts,” but both would require Facebook to develop well outside of its comfort zone. Indeed, it is folly to predict the future of Oculus, because its future does not lie in the hands of Facebook. Rather, it lies with a community of tens of thousands of developers and hardware startups who see its potential as a medium for their visions. Already, those visions are spectacular, e.g., simulated skydiving, tactile response and treadmills that let you physically walk in virtual worlds. Facebook are now a key part of this innovative sandbox.
In one sense, the closest parallel to the Oculus acquisition may not be a hardware startup like Nest, but instead an open community such as YouTube. In much the same way that Google receives credit for the innovation and content development which happens on YouTube, Facebook can grow its brand simply by fostering an environment that is conducive to innovation. As this community grows, Facebook gains access to more content, more data and ultimately more advertising revenue.
For advertisers, the Oculus ecosystem is a new frontier, and Facebook’s acquisition heralds the start of a gold rush. The easy thing to do is to sit back and wait until Facebook identifies the quickest paths to monetization. But realistically, traditional advertising opportunities on Oculus are years away. Forward-thinking companies should become the innovators, not wait for them. The possibilities for proprietary development are enormous: virtual showrooms, remote tours, customizable environments. Virtual reality is the most immersive experience available to developers today, and thanks to the vision of Oculus and the deep pockets of Facebook, consumers are finally ready to experience the impossible.
March 12, 2014
The above quote from Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In has led to the creation of a tumblr where women can speak out and share their fears. Women, in particular, hold themselves back by fear of the unknown; fear of failure, fear of speaking up, and fear of being judged. Being afraid stops all of us from dreaming and from reaching our goals. Last night Bloom kicked off their first event of 2014 with a panel debate about how we can overcome our fears to pursue our ambitions and achieve our personal potential.
The panel took it in turns to tell their personal stories about how they had overcome their personal fears and defined their own success. Dr. Dawn best known for her work on Channel 4′s award winning Embarrassing Bodies was a great example of how she jumped on each opportunity given, but also never gave up when faced with setbacks. Being a full time GP in Gloucestershire with her family, happy and enjoying life – most would already consider this woman highly successful with the perfect work/life balance. During her early career she started answering patient’s questions as an online doctor, which also led her to write for a women’s health magazine and then to being approached to audition for a Channel 4 programme. But she didn’t get the job. Dr. Dawn didn’t want this part of her career to end, and decided to take things into her own hands; approaching Sky to be their resident doctor on ‘Sunrise’. She secured the gig, which required waking at 3am to be in the studio for 6am for her 5minute slot, before heading back to Gloucestershire for her GP patients. After 6 months of this exhausting routine, Dr. Dawn sent off her video clips to an agent who had previously turned her down, got signed and has been leading her double life ever since. A true tale of determination and saying yes to every opportunity on the table, even if it results in short-term failure.
But seriously, what have we got to lose in taking risks?
Steve Hatch, ex-chief executive of WPP’s MEC, who is set to become the first regional director of Facebook in the UK and Ireland, took a risk just agreeing to be the only man on the Bloom panel (and pretty much the only man in the room). He also took a risk in 2004, when he told his line manager he wanted to spend 28 days retraining as a therapist. It was here that he realised that his ability to succeed was directly correlated with his ability to deal with conflict after a run in with an ex-SAS German man who proudly voiced his dislike for him on the therapist course. But Steve stressed how you need to be assertive and not aggressive. This is something that has been recently highlighted by the #banbossy campaign, currently trending on Facebook and Twitter. When a little boy asserts himself, he’s called a “leader.” Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded “bossy.” Steve even admitted how he has had to re-think the language he uses with his two children to encourage his little girl to grow up with the confidence and support she needs to reach her potential.
Steve finished with a great quote about boldness from William Hutchinson Murray, “until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back…Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”
Someone whose dream came true was Maria, a guest speaker on the panel from Eaves who was a victim of sex trafficking but is now successfully working and managing a store in the retail trade. Her story was empowering and put so much of our lives into perspective. This girl fought hardships neither I nor you could imagine from such a young age and she truly represented, ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’. She spoke assertively about how her best friend had sold her for $50 to the sex trade in South Russia, to being illegally imported into the UK, to finding the strength to run away and having to work tough jobs with long hours and no breaks to earn her way before being caught by our immigration services and held in a detention centre for over a month. Eaves reached out to her and offered her support to build her back up again into the wonderfully successful person she is today.
Following Maria’s story was a hard act to follow for Janet Hull, IPA Director of Marketing for fear of her story sounding shallow. But quite the contrary, as Janet’s rich tapestry of career experience and commitment to the industry led her to develop the creative pioneers challenge, which is an industry-wide hunt for digitally native school leavers to not only give them an opportunity to achieve their potential, but also a chance to infiltrate and change our industry. This initiative quite rightly awarded Janet with the coveted accolade of an OBE. But her achievement was down to persistence. Shortly after taking (only!) 3 months maternity leave, new management made her redundant. Instead of just accepting her fate, Janet made a stand. She didn’t want redundancy to be a label for unlucky talented individuals so placed an advert in Campaign calling out for other redundant people. The ad got her notice as someone with a point of view and the courage to voice it. She stood up for what she believed in, unafraid and took a risk which could have easily been a career ending moment.
It was a great evening that inspired all and I urge those of you who could not make it to get involved with Bloom’s mentoring programme. The programme offers junior women (up to 3 years’ experience) in the communications industry the chance to be mentored by a Bloom UK member for 10 months. The launch event takes place on Wednesday 9th April at Facebook in London and if you are interested in being mentored, contact Bloom at firstname.lastname@example.org