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Bartlomiej Owczarek weblog

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3D map visualizations of data from presidential inauguration

Some impressive map overlays (phone calls data during Obama inauguration):

I find visualizing data to be such a cool topic – which can easily be seen from the number of posts related to statistics on Ogito blog, like this one.

But there is often a gap between aesthetics and usefulness of advanced visuals.

To be useful we typically require easy access to lots of context, to be able to draw any conclusions from the data, for example:

  • ability to drill down – investigate what contributes to the variable value
  • ability to compare variable level through time
  • ability to compare variable level in case of different objects (e.g. competitors, regions, etc.)

(Ogito statistics for cities — registration required to see the charts — use simple Google Charts and tables with links to underlying sets of objects, and this is already enough to get the basic understanding outlined above)

Sometimes complex visualizations add difficulty to perform these basic operations rather than reduce it.

Smava launches as the first international P2P lender in Poland

Smava, a German social lending site, announced its official launch in Poland today.

Social lending (or p2p lending), for those unfamiliar with the concept, involves people lending money among themselves with intermediation of an Internet portal like smava.

In Poland three such sites operate already, and all of them started activity last year. I wrote about them after bootstrap meeting, roughly at the time when all three were launching, and then I organized a research between Accenture and Gemius to have some insight into how the Polish Internet users like this idea.

There is no doubt that P2P lenders like the Polish market, though, since very few countries have four players, like we now have after Smava opened.

How Smava wants to differentiate itself? I noted the following:

  • Conservative risk policy. They seem to have rather strict loan granting procedures. Scoring model was developed (and will be maintained) by BIK, the credit office. Documents and employment information are verified
  • Automatic and free of charge (from what I understood, updated: free of upfront fee) collections procedure. Other sites also claim to have collections, but perhaps it does not work as well as advertised
  • Anonymity. The parties don’t need to know each other unless collection procedures need to be launched. This would make me feel better as investor. Other players were missing this one when we compared them mid last year
  • Quantification of expected risk for the investor. Meaning one can see expected cost of risk based on borrower’s risk rating. This functionality was highly emphasized though I cannot verify how better it is that competition

Other features of the service seem in line with the market. Smava’s vice president Arek Hajduk told me, though, that the platform Germans have is 2-3 times more complex that the ones he had seen before. Arek is a P2P veteran who was launching social lending startups in Denmark (Fairrates) and in Canada (IOU).

Smava’s target group are “good” banking customers. People with poor risk profiles will be rejected and not allowed to use the site.

Down payment for mortgage was quoted as one interesting market niche, and recent experience that my mother had seems to confirm that this is an opportunity. Even if loan term of only 36 months might make the installments quite high. Banks started to demand down payment recently, and people often end up missing 10-20k euros to close their deal.

Business model is based on the fees. Borrower pays 1% of loan amount after loan is granted, investors do not have to pay. There was some discussion at the conference if the fees are not too low to built a sustainable business. Nevertheless, Smava wants to reach break-even point within three years.

What are Smava’s chances on the market?

Hard for me to say since I don’t follow it very closely. Everyone at the conference was taking shots at Monetto, the site which a year ago was boasting to have the most secure platform. They launched late, apparently raised the expectations too high, and failed to deliver. Perhaps Smava can take their place as the “high end” P2P player. Finansowo, on the other hand, is a rather different niche, more “social” than “lending”. That leaves us with Kokos, the third player. I don’t know how well they are doing.

Smava says that financial crisis didn’t reduce the loan volume in Germany, in fact it actually increased, so that shouldn’t be a problem.

Works on smava started in March 2008, and took about 6 full time programmers to finalize. Makes me a little bit uneasy about my 3-months, 1-non-programmer startup, but hey, they probably didn’t work seven days a week.

I wish Smava best. I would consider them for the time when I will have burnt all the money for startuping, but probably their advanced risk procedures would not let me in (if they are any good).

One conference to present them all [CEE markets]

Gemius is preparing for this year’s Internet CEE conference. It will take place in October.

(picture above of work on a promotional clip for the conference)

I did not participate in the last year’s event personally, so I cannot say anything about networking opportunities during the conference.

But I browsed the materials, and found them really interesting. Presentations from every nearby country, lots of data. I could get an overview of the whole region (from the point of view of web activities) based on this one conference.

Report: social lending in Poland

Report from our research on social lending in Poland is now publicly available.

You can download it from Gemius webpage:

English version of the report

Polish version of the report

The research was an idea I had after February Bootstrap meeting devoted to social lending. Initially I thought of writing a simple article, but then decided that it would be cool to have some original primary data. So I asked Gemius (leading Internet research agency in Poland) to participate, and then involved Accenture as well.

Below a couple of comments and slides from the report. (read more…)

Kokos will cooperate with Allegro

Kokos, one of the social lending sites in Poland, announced that it started cooperation with Allegro, the dominant online auction player (through antyweb).

According to the research that we did (Accenture and Gemius), this is a rather promising idea for Kokos – Allegro is the top site that potential borrowers actively use (i.e. visit at least once a week):

(there is similar data for potential investors, among which Nasza Klasa has better penetration)

The full report will be public shortly, also in an English version.

Trend watching: John Hagel

I wanted to mention John Hagel’s post a few days ago, but couldn’t find time till now. He presents agenda for the new year, mentioning couple of things which might be inspiring.

Increasing value of deeper relationships, against the background of social “transactions” dominating the Internet.

Diminishing value of advertising. “Longer-term, I anticipate that most businesses online will have to make money the old fashioned way ? by offering products, services and experiences so valuable that people will actually pay money for them.”

Increasing value of leadership. “In times of great uncertainty and rapid change, unprecedented opportunities arise to shape our environments to create even more value. Shaping requires deep insight into the fundamental forces at work and powerful personalities to communicate conviction and persuade many who are on the sidelines that the rewards outweigh the risks.”

Trend watching for 2008

My colleagues shared with me two resources for latest trends. Thanks. – 8 important consumer trends for 2008:

  1. Status spheres – there are different “status spheres”, or “a variety of lifestyles, activities and persuasions, which can be mixed and matched by consumers looking for recognition from various crowds and scenes”. Examples: traditional sphere (status by luxury), transient sphere (collect as many experiences as possible), etc.
  2. Premiumization – trend to create premium versions of products and services
  3. Snack culture – “embodies the phenomenon of products, services and experiences becoming more temporary and transient; products that are being deconstructed in easier to digest, easier to afford bits, making it possible to collect even more experiences, as often as possible, in an even shorter timeframe”
  4. Online oxygen – “consumers needing online access as much as they need oxygen”
  5. Eco-iconic- “Eco-friendly goods and services sporting bold, iconic design and markers, that help their eco-conscious owners to visibly tout their eco-credentials to peers”
  6. Brand butlers – companies going out to provide useful services to potential customers (e.g. toilets at the concert) instead of advertising. Hmmmm.
  7. Make it yourself – “the next frontier will be digitally designing products from scratch, then having them turned into real physical goods as well”
  8. Crowd mining – rewarding crowds for valuable deliverables (fellowforce would fall into this category)

The second is an article on BBC – The shape of things to come. They list following trends, some are overlapping with the above:

  • Make it yourself
  • Local networking
  • See-hear-buy (ability to buy product instantly, like a song playing in the restaurant)
  • Think blue (from the sky – carbon labeling)
  • Secret bling (less obvious exclusivity, “being in the known” required to recognize the value of the objects)
  • Radical transparency (services to remove unwanted personal information from the open web)
  • Body language (devices understanding gestures)

China not so easy for the VC

Article by David Hornik (VC) on his impressions from trip to China.

One line summary (I’m in a hurry:): Chinese market is great, but there are few real entrepreneurs. And there is no effective legal protection for investors, so you have to count on the culture not to get screwed by Chinese entrepreneurs. But unfortunately the culture makes it ok to screw foreign investors.

Can one make an immersive Flash game?

I was examining Flash games, because I was curious if one can build a truly interesting game on this platform.

That, for me, would exclude asteroids, pacman-like games and so on. I like immersive games, which are able to tell the story and create a relation with the character. That points in the direction of role playing games.

After examination, it seems that making this kind of games is pretty much possible (even though most of the stuff online, and there is really a lot, rarely raises to the level above trivial).

Below some examples. (read more…)

Flash games: M. Skutnik

Yesterday I got to fight zombies, but today I bumped into works of Mateusz Skutnik, which are a bit more refined than that. I was pleasantly surprised, that while looking for quality stuff, works of someone from Poland pops up.

Instead of shooting, the games are more into exploring rooms, finding stuff and solving riddles. As for me – on a minus side, there is less mood than in zombies and no soothing action (shooting), on the other hand, exploration is a plus. I believe mixing action and thinking and mood is the way to go, riddles alone may get tiring after some time.

See here for one called Covert Front. First episode. I finished it myself so I am proud.

Covert Front

I clicked a bit around and it turned out that Mr Skutnik is a rather known Polish illustrator. He co-created a cartoon illustrating one of the Polish philosophers. Read some of his blog. Impressive.

First cool flash game I played

I’m thinking if it is possible to make a cool game online, let’s say in flash.

So far the coolest game I found is Last Stand:

Last Stand

Not exactly the deepest story, but still I played till I finished it.

Maybe not deep but it has: a dark mood, exploration element (new weapons), and shooting which is cool.

Adsense performance on blogs: 0.02% CTR, eCPM 0.06$?

Found this post accidentally: Blog Tip: Do NOT Put Adsense on Your Blog.

Its point is that Adsense brings so little revenue on a blog, that it is not worth bother to use it.

Quotes numbers which give 0.02% CTR (mine is 0.13%), and 0.06$ eCPM (mine is 0.$19). Hey I’m not so bad – relatively:)

Still it’s clear that ad performance on non-targeted blogs is very low.

Google market cap at $199b

Short of $85b to catch Microsoft at $284b.

Google hires in Wroclaw

See here on Google Poland blog.

They say new “innovation center” is just opening.

Job list includes following positions in Wroclaw:

  • Director, Online Sales and Operations
  • IT Field Technician
  • Online Customer Support Specialist – New Graduate
  • Online Sales and Operations Coordinator (Czech/Slovak)
  • Online Sales and Operations Coordinator (German market)
  • Online Sales and Operations Coordinator (Hungarian)
  • Online Sales and Operations Coordinator (Russian)
  • Online Sales and Operations Manager
  • Team Lead, Online Sales and Operations

From the list it looks more like an operations and customer service center, with some local testing, rather than anything related to innovation. More of that in Krakow. But maybe it will change with time.

I couldn’t help but notice that there is also the following position on the list:

Emerging Markets Strategy Associate – Europe

Position based in London or Warsaw or Budapest or Istanbul or Prague.


The Emerging Markets Associate will work with the emerging markets team to lead strategic and operational initiatives that are critical to the ongoing growth of the company. Initiatives that the Associate may help drive include: projects to enter new markets; projects to implement our new sales channel strategy in those markets; and projects to build and train new teams in those new markets. The Associate’s role will be to provide the project management skills, analytic “horsepower” and business judgment to drive such initiatives.

Our ideal candidate will have demonstrated top quartile performance in a consulting, investment banking or line management role, and have graduated at or near the top of their class from a leading graduate academic institution. We are looking for self-starters who can work in a rapidly changing industry, tolerate ambiguity and demonstrate problem-solving leadership with limited oversight. Experience in a technology-driven industry is required, and fluency in an Eastern European language is required.

Sounds like interesting job indeed.

Whatever happened to social bookmarking

Some time ago I wrote a couple of post about social bookmarking, namely about starting with and later reviewing Blinklist. And now, since I cannot sleep in this Moscow, I took a look at Alexa chart to see how the guys are doing… but what’s this?

Delicious alexa chart

Similar story in case of Blinklist and Simpy.

Seems social bookmarking is out of fashion lately. Oh, and it seems Philipp Keller has already written about it. So we are in trough of disillusionment stage now. And I’m not even ashamed of what I wrote on “Peak of inflated expectations”, just still amazed how did I manage to write such a long review of Blinklist. And Simpy review was supposed to be even longer, and I even had a nice pyramid diagram of the bookmarking phenomenon, but I never got to finish the article.

Anyway, Philipp’s identification of hype stage would match my case, too, since I don’t use anymore. Actually I didn’t bother to reinstall the plugin after swapping the laptop. And interacting with web interface is slow and you have to navigate the pages and wait for them too load… makes me rather stick to the messy bookmarks menu in Firefox.

But that gives me some idea about the next hype stage, “slope of enlightenment”. Integrate bookmarking seamlessly into browser (not only tagging, but also browsing and searching) and it will finally work as it should, and I will use it again.