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29th April 2024

Shojin: Democratising Real Estate with Next Level Property Investing

Welcome to The B Word, the podcast that unravels the intricacies of B2B branding. Our monthly episodes feature guests from diverse realms, including technology, venture capital, private equity, and more.
Together, we delve into the essence of branding, its mechanics, and its significance in the contemporary business landscape.

In this episode: we delve into the world of fractional real estate investment, demystifying complexities and exploring innovative approaches with Jatin Ondhia, CEO of Shojin Property Partners. Jatin also discusses Shojin's recent rebrand journey with Structure. So, tune in to discover how Shojin is revolutionising the real estate investment landscape and making it accessible to a broader audience.

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About: Shojin is a fractional property investment platform, its mission is to be the number one global marketplace for fractional real estate investing. Shojin strives to make real estate investing more fair, accessible, and transparent to everyone by simplifying and lowering the barriers for investing in institutional-grade opportunities previously only accessible to the ultra-wealthy.

Episode highlights:

Launching the business: what led to the co-founding of Shojin in 2009, and what gaps or opportunities were identified?
  1. Evolution from Personal Investments: Jatin explains that his background in real estate investment, influenced by cultural attitudes towards property, led him to accumulate a portfolio. Observing interest from peers in banking circles, he recognised a gap: many professionals lacked time or inclination to invest directly.
  2. Addressing Funding Gap: Shojin identified a lack of funding for mid-sized projects
    (£10-60 million), enabling developers to access capital and offering investors attractive returns (20-35% annually).
  3. Global Reach and Impact: Today, Shojin has investors from over 50 countries, spanning from individual investors to family offices, facilitating the funding of much-needed housing projects in the UK while providing attractive returns to investors.
Differentiation: what sets Shojin apart in its approach to shared investing and opportunities compared to others in the market?
  1. Differentiated Approach to Crowdfunding: Jatin explains that traditional crowdfunding platforms merely facilitate transactions without considering investor interests. Shojin, however, takes a more involved approach.
  2. Investor-Centric Model: Shojin prioritises investor interests by actively assessing project risks, monitoring progress, and ensuring alignment of incentives.
  3. Partnership in the Investment Process: Shojin is not just a funding platform but a partner in the investment process, co-investing and closely monitoring projects from start to finish.
  4. Aligned Incentives: The model ensures that Shojin only succeeds when investors do, creating a mutually beneficial and aligned relationship between the platform and its investors.
Education: how does Shojin prioritise education and financial literacy for potential investors, especially in the complex realm of property investment?
  1. Emphasis on Education: Jatin highlights education as a core aspect of Shojin's mission, recognising that not everyone is an expert in property investment. Despite the complexity involved, Shojin aims to demystify the process and empower investors with knowledge.
  2. Addressing Financial Literacy: Beyond property investment, Shojin seeks to contribute to broader financial literacy efforts. Jatin stresses the importance of understanding financial concepts, even at a basic level, given the deficiencies in traditional education systems.
  3. Accessible Resources: Shojin provides a range of resources on its platform to educate potential investors, offering guidance and information to ensure they make informed decisions. These resources aim to bridge the gap between complexity and accessibility, enabling investors to understand the product before investing.
Rebrand drivers: what were the main drivers behind Shojin's recent branding exercise, and what were you aiming to achieve through this project?
  1. Alignment with Current Identity: The previous branding felt outdated and inconsistent with Shojin's current identity, values, and working style. There was a need to realign the branding with what Shojin is today.
  2. Consistency Across Platforms: The inconsistency across various platforms, including the website, cards, and overall branding, highlighted the necessity for a rebranding effort to ensure a cohesive and unified brand image.
  3. Vision and Values: The primary goal of the rebranding project was to align the branding with Shojin's vision, values, and purpose as a business.

How does Shojin's rebranding effort align with its vision of democratising access to real estate investment, and what message does it aim to convey to its target audience?
  1. Alignment with Vision: The rebranding effort reflects Shojin's broader vision of democratising access to real estate investment. By presenting a more modern and accessible brand image, Shojin aims to reach a wider audience and make investment opportunities available to everyone.
  2. Engaging the Mass Affluent: Shojin recognises the importance of engaging the mass affluent population, which includes approximately 600 million individuals. The rebranding effort is aimed at making investment in real estate more relevant and appealing to this demographic.
  3. Professionalism and Trustworthiness: While aiming for a modern and accessible brand image, Shojin also emphasises professionalism and trustworthiness. The new branding conveys a sense of reliability and expertise, essential for attracting investors.
Expectations of the branding process: what were there expectations and experiences during the rebranding process?
  1. Jatin expressed that he approached the rebranding process with a meticulous mindset, often scrutinising each aspect to the 'nth degree'.
  2. Despite the intangible nature of branding, Jatin emphasised the importance of how the branding would make potential clients feel when they interacted with it. He highlighted the difficulty in striking the right balance between appearing professional yet accessible and avoiding the perception of being cheap or overly flashy.
  3. Collaboration with the marketing team, which offered diverse perspectives, was essential to ensuring the branding appealed to various demographics.
  4. His primary expectation was that the brand work would be something he felt proud to present as an extension of himself and the company's values.

What advice would you offer to others considering rebranding or undergoing a similar process?
  1. Give the rebranding process the time it needs and understand that it's more than just changing a logo; it should weave through the entire organisation.
  2. Clarify your objectives and desired outcomes from the rebranding initiative, involve key stakeholders from the beginning.
  3. Take your team on the journey with you, soliciting input and feedback to ensure buy-in and alignment across the organisation.

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Disclaimer: please note the conversations in this podcast does not constitute financial or other professional advice. You should consult your professional adviser if you require financial advice.

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26th March 2024

The Future of Hospitality: Rediscovering the Guest Experience in a Digital Era

Welcome to The B Word, the podcast that unravels the intricacies of B2B branding. Our monthly episodes feature guests from diverse realms, including technology, venture capital, private equity, and more. Together, we delve into the essence of branding, its mechanics, and its profound significance in the contemporary business landscape.

In this episode: we are exploring entrepreneurialism in the hospitality sector and are joined by Richard Valtr the visionary founder of Mews—an innovative hospitality management cloud. Richard is not just an entrepreneur; he's a trailblazer with an inspiring journey to revolutionise the guest experience. Richard talks about how his vision of improving check-in led to his founding Mews, which has become a unicorn with a valuation of $1.2 billion following a recent fundraising round.

Listen here:

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About: Mews operates in the hospitality industry, it simplifies and automates operations for modern hoteliers and their guests, empowering them to craft unforgettable experiences while also driving revenue. Richard Valtr, alongside his sister, conceptualised, created, and brought to life the Emblem Hotel in Prague. It was from this initial venture that the concept of the Mews technology platform emerged, scaling from a single installation to over 5,000 of the world's premier hotels. Richard's fervour for technology and service is matched only by his ambition to revolutionise the hospitality industry through cloud solutions, making it more enriching for guests and hoteliers alike.

Episode highlights:

Getting started: what was the inception of Mews?
  1. Richard wanted to transform his family hotel in Prague into more than just a tourist spot, aiming to create a community hub. Initially, the focus was on designing physical spaces to foster community interaction.
  2. The challenge shifted to scaling this concept for every guest, making them feel part of a community.
  3.  Richard realised existing technology couldn't support his vision for the guest experience. He decided to build the technology himself, assembling a team of programmers to develop what would become Mews. The process turned out to be much more challenging than expected. Richard didn't anticipate the need to build such a large company to transform aspects of the industry.

 

Understanding the brand vision: in the early days when trying to reach the hotel audience, did they understand your vision or was a lot of education needed around and did the brand help convey the vision?
  1. In the early days, they were fortunate to connect with like-minded individuals in the hospitality industry who cared deeply about creating great hotel spaces. Those individuals quickly understood the importance of their system and trusted that future developments would align with the vision.
  2. The brand is important because its something to hang your business ideas on. Brands should create 'space' in your audiences mind and resonate with them.
  3. Richard highlights the challenge of encapsulating the vision into a succinct brand, which is crucial for effective communication and success in product delivery.
  4. The importance of storytelling for entrepreneurs and brand builders mustn't be forgotten. Businesses need to craft a narrative that effectively communicates the current vision and service offerings while also leaving room for future developments and expansion. This approach allows for flexibility and adaptation as the brand evolves over time.
Changing your brand: is there a moment when you know you have outgrown your brand?
  1. Richard thinks that the cohesion between brand identity, proposition, and visuals has improved since the early days of the business by working with Structure who brought that cohesion, which was very important to the business.
  2. At the beginning, entrepreneurs or small teams may not have the resources or time to fully develop all aspects of the brand, but finding the right moment to pause, take stock, and reassess the brand's direction is crucial for growth.
  3.  Establishing a solid foundation for the brand allows for future growth and creativity.

 

Brand stretch: was it intentional to allow the Mews brand to stretch for events with various expressions, ranging from playful and colourful to more styled and serious?
  1. Mews strives to live its values, one of which is 'being human', which is core to the hospitality industry. Brand stretch allows Mews to bring this value to life, to be playful while remaining serious.
  2. Richard emphasises the importance of balance, both in team construction and in brand development, to achieve a full spectrum of attitudes which make up and personify the brand.
  3. Your team 'personality' is also your brand. Richard emphasises the need for balance in both building your team and brand development, suggesting that a brand's personality can be created by the tone and attitudes of its team members.

 

The brand evangelist factor: do customers who understand and engage with your brand become evangelists?

  1. Essentially yes they do. In general, embracing a brands allows people to project a version of themselves. There's a certain allure to aligning oneself with a brand that goes beyond mere superficiality; it's about tapping into a deeper ethos.
  2. People are drawn to the idea of affiliating with a brand that embodies a narrative they can relate to. It's about having a story to tell, explaining why they resonate with a particular brand's values. The richer and more profound this narrative, the stronger the loyalty it fosters.
  3. Consumers crave authenticity and depth in their interactions with brands – something that has been carefully considered and crafted.
  4. This is why, despite the complexities of pricing, there's immense value in being able to articulate why you identify with a specific brand.
Advice from an entrepreneur: what piece of advice would you give your younger ambitious self?
  1. Learning is important and can lead to different interpretations and understandings of information over time.
  2. Swallowing one's ego is a lifelong struggle but an important aspect of personal and professional growth.
  3. As an entrepreneur, there is a constant pressure to keep achieving more, which can make it difficult to feel successful or satisfied with one's accomplishments.
  4. Richard emphasises the value of surrounding oneself with people who are better than oneself and acknowledges the tendency to hire oneself out of certain responsibilities, which can be challenging but ultimately beneficial for the business.

 

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11th March 2024

Empowered by AI: Redefining Work and Creativity in the Web3 Era

Welcome to The B Word, the podcast that unravels the intricacies of B2B branding. Our monthly episodes feature guests from diverse realms, including technology, venture capital, private equity, and more. Together, we delve into the essence of branding, its mechanics, and its profound significance in the contemporary business landscape.

In this episode: Graham Cooke discusses the transformative potential of Web3 technology, its intersection with AI and its implications for various aspects of society, including business, creativity, equity, and decentralised organisations. Topics covered include the convergence of AI and Web3, the role of decentralised autonomous organisations (DAOs) and non-fungible tokens (NFTs), the mainstream adoption of Web3 technologies, and the profound shifts in work dynamics and creativity.

 

Listen here:

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Episode highlights:

What changes has Graham observed in AI and machine learning?
  1. AI has evolved from specialised tasks like playing AlphaGo or driving cars to mastering language and images, becoming more relatable and human-like.
  2. Language is at the core of our humanity, and large language models (LLMs) like GPT have revolutionised AI, making it accessible through chatbots.
  3. This shift has propelled AI to unprecedented heights, with chatbots and LLMs becoming the fastest-growing software as a service application ever, surpassing giants like Instagram, Facebook (Meta), and Google.
  4. The genius move of transforming LLMs into chatbots has made AI universally understandable, shaping the future of technology.

 

Given the dominance of internet giants like Google, Facebook, and Amazon, where does Graham foresee the greatest potential for disruption from Web3?
  1. Graham discusses the concept of disruptive innovation, citing Clayton Christensen's 'The Innovator's Dilemma' and the challenges faced by large companies in adapting to new paradigms.
  2. Google's reliance on its advertising revenue model, could be significantly disrupted by the decentralised nature of Web3 and advancements in AI-driven search technology.
  3. Graham emphasises the irony that Google, despite contributing to the development of large language models (LLMs), may face disruption to its core business model due to advancements in decentralised AI and digital twin technologies.
  4. Drawing on the parallels to examples like Kodak, which invented the digital camera but failed to capitalise on its own innovation, Graham suggests a similar pattern may unfold in the tech industry.
  5. While acknowledging that companies like Amazon and Microsoft may be less susceptible to disruption than Google, Graham predicts that the overall trend towards decentralisation in Web3 will eventually challenge traditional business models and lead to a "supply side revolution."

 

What is the relationship between digital twins, data ownership, and the potential for a new business model that values individual data contributions?
  1. Graham emphasises the need for individuals to own and control the data that powers their digital twins, ensuring that they remain relevant and valuable in the future.
  2. He discusses the potential for a new business model where individuals monetise their data contributions, shifting away from the current model where big tech companies hold user data hostage.
  3. Graham envisions a future where individuals' data contributions are pooled together for collective benefits, such as improving healthcare or advancing scientific research. And he advocates for a community-owned approach to data, where the benefits derived from data utilisation are distributed back to the community, aligning with the principles of Web3.
How do you see Web3 impacting the business landscape, particularly in terms of equity and the distribution of economic and health benefits?
  1. Graham highlights the fundamental role of business throughout history and emphasises that while business will evolve, it will remain essential to humanity.
  2. He predicts a shift towards a more equitable business model, with fewer trillion-dollar companies and a proliferation of mid-sized companies.
  3. Graham introduces the concept of the supply-side revolution, where Web3 disrupts how goods and services are created, leading to more cooperative and purpose-driven endeavours.
  4. He anticipates that working less and producing higher-value goods and services will become the norm, ultimately resulting in an improvement in the quality of products and services available to consumers.

 

How does Web3 empower individuals rather than replacing them with AI, and how does it facilitate a better quality of life by leveraging human creativity and knowledge?
  1. Graham challenges the mainstream narrative that portrays AI as a threat to human employment, emphasising instead that Web3 empowers individuals to live better lives.
  2. He suggests that Web3 enables individuals to derive more value from their knowledge and creativity, shifting away from grunt work towards more fulfilling tasks.
  3. Graham believes that even in roles traditionally considered non-creative, there are opportunities for moments of creativity and innovation, facilitated by Web3 technologies.
  4. He contextualises this shift within a broader historical journey, from peak centralisation during the industrial revolution to a more distributed and cooperative model enabled by Web3 technologies and AI.
How does Graham view the branding challenge associated with Web3 infrastructure technologies like DAOs, considering their primary function as enabling tools rather than consumer-facing products?
  1. Graham sees the branding challenge for Web3 infrastructure technologies, such as DAOs, lying in their role as infrastructure rather than consumer products.
  2. He emphasises that for the general public, understanding Web3 will come from experiencing the benefits it enables in their daily lives, particularly as more applications are built on top of this infrastructure layer.
  3. Graham predicts that as AI disrupts the traditional workforce, individuals will reskill and embrace Web3 technologies like DAOs and NFTs, leading to greater equity and value creation in the world.

 

What advice would Graham suggest to those looking to build Web3 or even Web4 products or services?
  1. Graham recommends reading his book "Web3: The End of Business as Usual", which is written for entrepreneurs and business leaders, providing insights into the future of Web3 without technical jargon.
  2. He suggests experimenting and exploring the space, emphasising the importance of curiosity and hands-on learning.
  3. Graham highlights the significance of using AI tools like chat GPT to simplify complex concepts and to enhance understanding.
  4. Overall, he encourages individuals to read extensively, explore, and stay curious about the potential of Web3 technologies.

     

     

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5th February 2024

A Founders Insights: Pioneering Entrepreneurship for Positive Impact

Welcome to The B Word, the show that unravels the intricacies of B2B branding. Our monthly episodes feature guests from diverse realms, including technology, venture capital, private equity, and more. Together, we delve into the essence of branding, its mechanics, and its profound significance in the contemporary business landscape.

In this episode: Andreas Brenner, Co-founder and CEO Jua.AI, shares his entrepreneurial Journey story, from turning around Avrios to cofounding the world's first end-to-end machine learning model for weather forecasting, to his ambitions for the future. Design by Structure recently undertook the brand work for Andreas' latest venture Jua.Ai.  We met Andreas while working on his former tech venture Avrios, working on both the brand and website.

Listen here:

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Episode highlights:

Andreas knew Avrios is a great company, but he was driven by the desire for a more ambitious impact in an new venture (Jua.Ai) for a purpose beyond cost reduction.
  1. Andreas discusses his move from fleet management business, Avrios in search of a venture aligned with advancing society through technology.
  2. Meeting co-founder and CTO, Marvin Gabler, during this time was pivotal.
  3. Passion for environmental modelling and atmospheric modelling is the driving force behind Jua.Ai. Both Andreas and Marvin have complete belief in Jua's potential for planetary-scale impact and the augmentation of human consciousness of nature through technology.
Jua's vision of environmental impact through technology: Jua is currently focused on solving a specific micro-problem related to training and high-accuracy weather data.
  1. Beneath the surface of the Jua tech, there is a powerful layer representing a bigger vision of using technology for critical environmental decisions, such as those related to crops and planting.
  2. Andreas emphasises the potential for greater impact by building and commercialising the technology. He believes in entrepreneurship for good, combining a mission-driven approach with a capitalistic approach to improve the world.

Being human and celebrating successes as an entrepreneur: Andreas acknowledges his need to improve celebrating the small successes as an ambitious entrepreneur.
  1. The entrepreneur journey requires many key skills, such as the confidence needed to make those big decisions in business - but it was a learning journey to prioritise his own wellbeing first so he could then be the leader he wanted to be.
  2. The approach to celebration is tied more to meaningful achievements, positive impact, and personal milestones rather than financial gains.
Importance of Purpose-Driven Brands and Branding Process: emphasis on purpose-driven brands and problem-solving is a key driver for Andreas.
  1. Positive experience with the branding process at Avrios, highlighting the methodological approach, competitive analysis, and clarity gained.
  2. Collaboration with the Structure team was valued for its combination of rational (analytical foundation) and emotional (connecting with the audience) aspects of the process.
  3. Unsolicited positive feedback received for Jua's website and presentations, indicates the effectiveness of the recent branding to connect with the audience.

The impact of branding on fundraising and partnerships: The brand adds an aura of authority to the project, helping to convey its potential and future impact–it has been a powerful supporter of Jua's outreach to the market.
  1. The brand, and the clarity brought by building brand pillars, has played a role in fundraising efforts. It has contributed to bringing clarity to partnerships with authorities in the U.S., the UK, and Switzerland, especially in meteorological studies.
  2. Unsolicited positive feedback from stakeholders, including responses and engagement rates, indicates the effectiveness of the brand in outreach efforts.
  3. The succinct messaging and visual identity of the brand are crucial in making a strong impact despite limited content on the website.
A founders perspective on the branding process: take a strategic approach to branding and its alignment with business strategy, and seek expert advice.
  1. Branding is not just about visual identity; it should support the business and align with its strategy. A common approach from some agencies is to focus on visual identity without understanding the strategic essence of the brand.The essence of the brand lies in how it supports the business and positions it to drive revenue.
  2. The key learning is to think strategically about brand and find a branding agency  that can align it with the company's strategy.
  3. A professional and credible brand contributes to the perception of the business -as confident (both entrepreneur and business) and sure of its direction.
Lessons learned: The advice Andreas would give his younger self revolves around staying true to what he wants to do and how he wants to do things.
  1. Openness to feedback is essential, but being confident in one's identified business opportunities and operational methods is crucial.
  2. Over time, staying true to oneself and core beliefs resulted in creating a workplace aligned with personal values and a source of pride.
  3. The key learning is to be open to feedback while simultaneously standing firm in what one believes in, shaping personal character and guiding business decisions.

"When it comes to branding a start-up, invest in your brand early in the business journey"
"Initially, I may have underestimated the significance of brand and design. I considered myself an analytical and rational individual, and struggled to grasp the tangible return on investment (ROI) of branding efforts. However, this process played a pivotal role in broadening my perspective and opening my mind to the value of brand and design."

Andreas Brenner, Co-founder and CEO of Jua.Ai

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