Speaking about Digital Disruption at #WKF2015

I was invited to speak about Digital Disruption at the World Knowledge Forum in Seoul based on the story of Doodle and the rise of our application to become the world’s standard for online group scheduling. Here are some of my notes and some of the questions answered to a highly interested forum. The crowd consisted of business people, startup entrepreneurs and education specialists from all over Asia and a good number of students from local Korean Universities.

Speaker at the World Knowledge Forum in Seoul
Speaker at the World Knowledge Forum in Seoul

My explanation of Doodle as the perfect case of digital disruption emphasised on the need of startup entrepreneurs to come up with an idea that substitutes a real problem. The founders of Doodle really got that point right: how can we use a digital tool helping us to avoid unproductive series of messages, calls, whatsapp messages and the like: the solution is Doodle helping you to become productive when managing your time. On average we save 15 minutes time in creating an appointment of four or more people – that is what we call productivity application.

Current trends for Doodle besides being a great showcase for digital disruption in action is that we realise that social scheduling is global and not only European. Doodle grows fastest outside Europe, scheduling appointments is really a global challenge.

A real success factor for Doodle was that the inherent virality helped keep marketing costs low initially. For every Doodle poll set-up new users were invited by the initiators, hence the usage of the application grew by itself. Wonderful!

And last but not least we are seeing a huge mobile shift with the usage of Doodle’s apps and mobile-web solutions growing rapidly and we forecast a 50/50 split of mobile vs. desktop usage to happen in 2016, at the latest.

In subsequent discussions I was asked about the challenges for founders and in my view these are pretty much the same, whether being in Europe or Asia. There are a few secrets of startup success, in summary I would name these Top 3:

1. Timing is crucial – in my view you could even without any money and with an average founding team become successful if your product fulfils a real market need at the right time, hence customers begin to love your product or service and purchase your offering. Take that money and invest in a great team and improve your business case.

2. Good Idea and Business Model – this is what makes startups grow big. Think big when founding, take your time when setting it up and don’t be shy to change parameters when needed.

3. Founding Team – yes this should be a team, at least in my view. You definitely need an idea person to be complemented by someone who can deliver the product. Both are needed and both are complementing each other with their individual strengths. Make sure that you are founding with partners that you can live with for a long time, almost as if this is your ‘business’ marriage.

So what are the differences to startups from the Silicon Valley or even add-on challenges European or Asian startups face. I guess I’ll write about this part in another post, as I have to board a plane now to fly back to Europe.

It was fascinating to be speaking in Seoul at the World Knowledge Forum, many thanks to the organisers and to all contributors of making this forum and my discussions such a great experience.

Michael Brecht