Author Archive

‘I don’t know how many Gs our plane reached…’

Posted on: April 22nd, 2024 by Smpl Team No Comments
Meet Line Hjartarson, design thinker, leader, and new Chair of SmplCo. Here, Line talks about her eclectic career, the wild experience that introduced her to the world of entrepreneurs, and why the sound of cowbells makes her shiver.
SmplCo cair, Line Hjartason, abseiling down a waterfall.
“I love to throw myself into new things,” says Line

I’m a bit like Pippi Longstocking

My career has been one happy surprise after another. I never really planned it out. Instead, I’ve just been led by my curiosity, a love for tackling challenges, and a knack for jumping headfirst into new adventures. 

I guess you could say I’m a bit like Pippi Longstocking; super curious and never afraid to learn something new if I find myself stumped. 

I started off my studies in something similar to computer science and my first gig was creating interactive learning tools for the offshore industry. 

Then, almost by chance, I found my way into the creative world when an ad agency was on the hunt for someone with my digital skills. 

I spent years coding, animating, designing, and doing all sorts of digital work, before shifting closer to the tech world – where I got to flex my project management muscles –  and then into full-time design work. 

Each time it was a case of getting an itch and wanting to learn more. 

After all that, it wasn’t a big leap to blend my tech background and design skills and jump into the world of data and industry, which is where I am now.

SmplCo chair, Line Hjartason, giving a presentation

My first experience with entrepreneurs was WILD

… It also opened my eyes to the entrepreneurial mindset, which is an amazing thing.

My first start-up project was with a couple of eccentric pilots who were dreaming big about launching a platform for selling planes.

During a trip to an industry event, one of the pilots offered us an aerobatic flight. The thing is, I have an awful fear of flying and he was a stunt pilot!

He assured me he’d be cautious and we agreed he’d give me a taste of it, teaching me about G-forces along the way. 

It was wild, like being in a super-fast car, way up in the air with the most stunning views.

SmplCo Chair, Line, in the cockpit of a two-seater stunt plane
Line, feeling the need for speed

I don’t know how many Gs I hit, but my colleagues who opted for the full stunt experience came close to five… and ended up green-faced and rushing for the nearest bushes. 

The project gave me my first taste of business and product development, as well as working with creative, entrepreneurial types.

I loved it, and lot of that joy came down to the entrepreneurial spirit.

Whether they’re in startups or big companies, entrepreneurs’ energy and positivity are just contagious.

Mastering the Art of Simple

Solving complex problems and finding simple solutions is my jam. I believe you should be able to explain even the hardest things so that your Mum gets it.

School wasn’t my thing. Not because I wasn’t smart, I just learned differently. I’d spot patterns to simplify things to make it stick in my mind. I was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult and, in hindsight, that makes a lot of sense. 

In the big tech world it often feels like you need a PhD to follow along. A lot of times people don’t understand and, because no one likes to feel or look stupid, they often don’t ask for clarification.

That gap in communication is a missed opportunity when it comes to everything from selling a product, to just getting people on board with your vision (and making them ambassadors for it).

That’s exactly why I joined SmplCo. Firstly, there’s a genuine need for fresh perspectives to perfectly capture market fit, customer journeys, and so on.

Secondly, you have to be able to present these elements in a way that’s both visually appealing and easy to grasp.

And those are two areas where the SmplCo team shines.

SmplCo in action

The sound of cowbells makes the hairs on my neck stand up…

Travelling is my greatest passion, especially when it’s solo and totally spontaneous. It’s led me into some crazy situations, but I always come back with stories and lessons learned. 

One of my fondest travel memories is a trip I took to a tiny village in the Swiss Alps. 

Getting there was an adventure in itself — a train, a cable car, and a hike were just the start. 

I stayed in this charming old B&B run by a 95-year-old guy named Walter and it was straight out of a scene from “The Sound of Music”.

Mornings meant fresh bread and local cheese, and nights were for cozy bonfires with a few other guests. It was magical. 

A cow in the Alps with a snowy mountain in the background
Alpine cows… who knows what they’re thinking?

Hiking in the Alps one day, I ended up alone among these HUGE cows, each with a giant bell around its neck.

The noise was unbelievable, and walking through them felt like navigating a bovine minefield. 

They were just chilling and munching on grass, while I was trying not to get bowled over by them. I made it through, but the sound of cowbells still gives me goosebumps!

If you want to catch up with Line, or talk to the team about how we can bring your Big Idea to life faster, more efficiently – and considerably less stressfully! – than anyone else, we’d love to hear from you.
Click here to email our MD Andreas, or leave us a message here.

How one big corporate nailed digital innovation

Posted on: March 20th, 2024 by Smpl Team No Comments
Meet Vibeke Lavik Bjaanes, Innovation Manager at SR-Bank. In this interview, she shares how the bank became so good at digital innovation – something many big corporates struggle to do.

Firstly, why do you think you were the right person for this job?

I studied economics, then spent six years as a consultant at a leading global consulting company.

I think innovation was always the way I was going to go. I have a need to create things and I want to see new ideas come to life. That’s what drives me.

And, just as importantly, I like talking to customers and getting their feedback. You’ve got to have that passion if you’re going to create the right things in the right way for the right people.

4 members of the SR-Bank Innovation team - 2 women, 2 men - standing on a staircase
The Innovation Department: (l-r): Pia Fischer, Ramtin Matin, Karl Arne Tveita, and Vibeke (not pictured: Simon Havnen Ullsfoss. Credit: Mari Løvås)

How is your team set up?

SR-Bank has an Innovation Department, and within that there are four full-time employees dedicated to digital innovation. We have the main responsibility for innovation in the bank.

In addition to that I’ve teamed up with colleagues from different departments across the bank to focus on one specific innovation project. We named ourselves the “Taskforce”.

This is a great set up; it means we can tap into people with different skills and perspectives – for example one is a designer, another a bank advisor, others in business development.

So, it’s a diverse group with lots of different backgrounds.

This is important because we bring different mindsets and perspectives. The thing that unites us is a serious customer focus and a desire to solve problems for them.

Another thing that’s unusual about it, is we’re all women.

The Taskforce team:  Linn Skundberg Jensen, Lene Skjæveland Bø,
Lena Mangersnes, and Vibeke

How did you get executive buy-in for it, in the first place?

We invented this set up ourselves as the best way to deliver innovation in the bank. Then we took it to the bank’s leaders and asked them to bless it.

Importantly, we didn’t promise a lot of money to start with. The money comes after.

What we did make was clear there was a problem with the bank’s growth ambitions, when you looked at them through a digital lens.

The leadership team agreed with us that the business needed scalable, innovative digital solutions to meet its growth plan.

We offered to prove our concept by taking on a project. They were very happy with how that went, so we got another project… and it just went from there.

It’s crucial when you pitch something new to align it to the wider business plan. Show leaders what’s in it for the organisation and for them.

Man standing with his hands in the air. He's wearing a hoodie with 'We Shape the Future of banking' written on it.
Now, that’s some clear messaging…

Where did you start?

We brought people together who we liked to work with; people who were creative, but who also triggered ideas and discussions. Also, we chose colleagues who were quite new to the bank so they had fresh perspectives on how things could be done.

Once we found the right people, we knew we had to start working in a fresh way. After all, we wanted to try something that no one had tried before.

Within the Taskforce, we have set our own culture that has proven to be a smart move.

We have primarily worked in locations outside the bank, we have worked long-days together, and we know each other very well.

This has allowed us to create an atmosphere and a psychological security where we can share crazy thoughts and ideas.

Vibeke talks about our first – TOP SECRET! – project, together

What was the biggest obstacle you faced?

I think there are two big ones: history and prioritising resources.

Banks – like a lot of big companies – have special areas that they are very good at and which they have been very successful in for a long time.

If you have a business model that has worked well for 100-years, then being an innovator will always be a challenge.

On top of that, to carry out a digital innovation project, you must have dedicated resources from the organisation.

If that comes at the expense of daily operational activities, it’s hard to persuade people to prioritise setting aside those resources.

All that means – particularly early on – you have to tell a great story.

We had to make leaders see the potential for making money and for saving money. Then we had to show it would make life easier – for customers and for bank staff.

Prototyping can really help with this, by bringing ideas to life very quickly.

I took one of your [SmplCo] prototypes into a leadership meeting and they were blown away by it. It was really cool and only took five days to complete it.

‘Just act casual.’ The SR-Bank Taskforce, with SmplCo’s Jingjing and Andreas

How do you know which ideas are good and which aren’t?

We have a very structured innovation process, which has six steps. It goes like this:

  1. Generate ideas: we find as many ideas as we can from inside the team and from around the business; opportunities and problems that need to be solved, either internally or for customers.
  2. Evaluate ideas: we worked with the organisation to choose strategic areas to focus on. We use these as guidelines to prioritise ideas that hone in on both customer and business needs.
  3. Score the idea: next our team looks at the proposal and evaluates it from the bank’s perspective, scoring it based on desirability, feasibility (can it be done?), and viability (will it live and grow?). That’s up to us. If the idea gets a good enough score, then it goes on for further investigation.
  4. The problem/solution phase: here we look at whether this is a problem that needs to be solved and ask if we can provide enough evidence that the solution is viable. Now, talking to the customer becomes important. We either share the idea itself, or we go further and conduct user testing with a prototype.
  5. The Product/Market phase: If the customers like the value proposition we’ll create a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) that delivers the core value of the product or service to the customer and get feedback on it.
  6. Scale and hand back: If the testing all goes well, we will build the product or service and hand it over to the owner to roll out.

Are there any big wins you can talk about?

I think we are the only bank with our own AI GPT – it’s called SR-GPT.

This is an internally developed GPT, made for SR employees, and is an alternative to an Open AI solution.

It helps employees in the bank to find and share information quickly and efficiently, improving productivity. 

Hello, there.

Another win was a chatbot, which came from investing in an early-stage start-up.

You don’t always have to create everything yourself. Someone else might be able to solve the problem for you. The key is to pinpoint the right problem and best solution in the first place.

You can read more about that chatbot here.

Are there any lessons from projects that didn’t go so well?

Problems tend to come when there are two things wrong.

Firstly, you don’t have stakeholder alignment. We had one project where people got really upset when they weren’t involved at the right time.

Secondly, you must convince people to have a customer mindset. These days you can’t simply dictate to the customer – whether they’re internal or external. You’ve got to test and get feedback.

What you give them doesn’t need to be perfect, but it can be too late if you don’t involve the users from the start.

However, if you do test and listen and learn, that’s when the magic happens.

If you’d like our help with your innovation agenda, let us know. Our SmplCo strategists and designers have helped numerous clients find their market fit, get stakeholder buy-in (& budget!), and win the first customers for their new products and services.
To find out more, can email our MD Andreas or just leave us a message here and we’ll come straight back to you.

‘I thought the client was going to cry…’

Posted on: January 3rd, 2024 by Smpl Team No Comments
SmplCo partners with tech incubators to bring entrepreneurs’ ideas to life, delivering a higher return on investment and getting results faster than ever before.

Here’s one example of how we’re doing that in the beautiful city of Trondheim, Norway’s tech hub.

The Incubator

Proneo is one of Norway’s leading incubators, fostering innovation and sustainable growth in both existing businesses and start-ups. 

The incubator has supported thousands of start-ups since it was founded 15 years ago.

Proneo: the big numbers

The Challenge

Our goal is to:

  • give Proneo’s start-up clients the strongest possible chance of success in their early stages
  • give Proneo a higher return on its investment in start-ups
  • boost the incubator’s enviable reputation for innovation

To do this, SmplCo needs to help Proneo’s digital start-ups to:

  • Rapidly define a version of their idea that is most likely to succeed
  • Create tangible evidence of their value, to win over stakeholders (who range from investors to wider team members, beta customers, and more)
  • Save time and money by promoting a ‘fail fast or succeed quickly’ approach 

To deliver doing this, we aim to remove many of the barriers that plague start-ups in early stages of development. Our partnership with Proneo is designed to:

  • Cut out lots of meetings and discussion time
  • Remove confusion, misunderstandings and misinterpretation
  • Enable start-ups to quickly get market insight, then adapt their ideas accordingly 
  • Cut the number of iterations an idea needs before it is proved or disproved 
Trondheim: where tech and tradition go hand-in-hand

How’s it going?

SmplCo’s advisors have all walked in the shoes of Proneo’s start-ups, having built and sold our own companies (including a $3bn tech unicorn).

We know how to find where the true value of ideas lie – something the team at Proneo quickly recognised.

‘Getting ideas out of entrepreneurs’ heads can be really painful,’ says Jørn Engvik, an advisor to Proneo whose own start-up, Hoopit, will soon reach one million members.

‘But SmplCo doesn’t just do that; you help the start-ups find what’s most important and where they should focus, then help them define their vision and decide how bold they should be.’

What you guys are doing is brilliant

Jørn Engvik, Proneo advisor and renowned entrepreneur

Jørn smiles as he recounts the story of a (top secret!) AI education service we worked on together at Proneo. 

‘When you presented your prototype, I thought [the start-up client] might start crying!’ he says. ‘They had this idea in their head for years and you really caught the essence and value of that idea. It was amazing to see.’

Jon-Ivar Holmslet, Project Leader at Proneo, said our approach – which focused around our 5-Day Prototype service – had an immediate impact on that start-up.

‘We were struggling to get someone on board with this idea; someone with a big network that we needed to tap into,’ he says.

‘Then I showed her the prototype you made, and the discussion totally changed. She saw the value immediately, and started listing who we should be talking to about it.’

Jørn Engvik, Entrepreneur and CEO of Hoopit

The Deep Dive

What the big problem for incubators?

‘When you start working with start-ups you have to get over a big hurdle,’ says Proneo advisor Jørn Engvik. ‘That hurdle is how to get ideas out of an entrepreneur’s head and down onto paper, because that can be really painful.’

Often these ideas come spilling out in a confused way, with gaps in logic, process, who the audience is, what they need… and more!

Many promising start-ups fail at this stage because a simple lack of clarity around the founders’ vision means the value of a product can be easily lost.

This can be fatal to start-ups trying to trying to get stakeholders on board, whether for investment, user testing, or any other number of things.

Jon-Ivar Holmslet, Project Leader at Proneo

‘With software, you often succeed because of who you get onboard, not because of the software itself,’ explains Proneo project leader Jon-Ivar. ‘To do that you have to be able to demonstrate what that value is and how you’re going to deliver it.’

‘The thing is, the people who have ideas for digital start-ups often find it difficult to explain them and demonstrate what they want to achieve,’ he adds.

‘At Proneo, we have all these models for value and delivery and stakeholders, but they don’t help the start-ups explain what the user experience will be like.’

It’s around this time many digital start-ups suffer death by PowerPoint, when their confused and confusing visions are presented to stakeholders.

And there’s another big problem that hits entrepreneurs hard at this stage.

‘Many companies haven’t even thought about how they’re going to deliver the product,’ says SmplCo’s General Manager, Andreas Melvær, who leads our Proneo partnership.

‘We’re talking about the flows and structures that are going to deliver the service, and which are the most important things – particularly if you want to prove to stakeholders your idea will succeed in the real world.’

Andreas Melvaer, Managing Partner of SmplCo, in our Norway office
Andreas Melvaer, Managing Partner of SmplCo

How are Proneo and SmplCo fixing the problem?

It all comes down to expertise, both SmplCo’s and that of Proneo’s advisors.

Andreas from SmplCo explains our own approach is based on the deep experience within our consultancy.

‘Our advisors are all entrepreneurs themselves, who have built businesses,’ he says. ‘That means we’re very good at taking ideas, understanding where the value lies – even if the entrepreneur can’t explain that themselves – and then filling in the blanks.’

Two entrepreneurs working on ideas on a white board
Two entrepreneurs preparing to present ideas at one of our Proneo workshops

To bring that value to life in a meaningful way, our immediate focus is on the core user journey. 

‘First you must ask “what will be the beating heart of my service?”‘ Andreas says.

The answer to that will be based on who you are creating the earliest version of your product or service for.

‘You will make something different if you’re creating something to woo investors, than you would if you were aiming to align teams, test with users, or something else,’ Andreas says.

This is when having the expertise to fill in the blanks becomes crucial.

Andreas says entrepreneurs tend to fall into one of two categories:

  1. The Techies: those with technical knowledge but not the domain knowledge (i.e. they have a good idea on delivery mechanisms, but little insight into the what the customer wants)
  2. The Subject Matter Experts: those who know what the customer needs, but has little or no idea how to deliver on that need

‘Once we’ve recognised where in that spectrum they lie,’ he says, ‘we can tailor our approach, starting with the most important user journey.’

Andeas and his team ask key questions like:

  • who are the users?
  • what is the core thing they’re trying to achieve by using this product?
  • what are the three pieces of functionality you want to deliver that are unique to you, which will help the user achieve their goals

By following this process we get a great sense of what the product or service should be and how it should be delivered.

Then it’s time for the next round of magic as our designers begin our unique 5-Day Prototyping process. 

In a week’s time the start-up will have a clickable prototype that showcases their vision and let them tell their story in the best possible way.

And, don’t worry… It’s OK to cry when you see yours!

An example of one of our 5-Day Prototypes (not a Proneo client)
If you are part of an incubator and want to supercharge the progress – and success rates – of your clients, get in touch.
We have offices in Norway, the UK, the US, and Hungary, but we operate all round the world. You can drop our MD Andreas an email here, or leave us a message and we’ll come straight back to you.

Want digital success? Get out a pen and paper

Posted on: October 4th, 2023 by Smpl Team No Comments
Smpl digital design expert, Magnus Petterson, explains the first five things you have to do to create a successful digital product or service.

If you’ve got a great idea for a digital product or service, there are some crucial steps you need to take before you start any kind of development. And – despite this being 2023 – that includes making good use of pen and paper…

1. Ask Big Questions

Firstly, if you’re going to get your Big Idea right, you need to focus on a clear goal.

That goal must be specific.

Too many people want to be all things to all people. You will never succeed – far less change the world – if you don’t offer a specific solution to a specific need.

As we often tell clients: ‘There are already way too many solutions out there that are in need a problem’.

Ask yourself questions like:

  • What is my (product’s) purpose?
  • What are my (product’s) unique selling points (USPs)?
  • What am I going to change?
  • What am I going to do/make better?
  • What problem am I going to solve for my audience(s)?

Find your purpose. Solve a problem. Then the world will be your oyster.

A schematic of one of Smpl's client protoypes
Behind the scenes of a digital prototype… These get complicated fast, so keep it simple

2. Rise above the detail

People with great ideas often get very excited about those ideas and how they’re going to change the world… and that’s quite right!

You must have passion for your idea or it’s never going anywhere. The problem comes when that turns into a desire to get everything done at once.

Trying to do everything at the start kills digital projects.

Magnus

All too often clients are thinking of a certain mood or feeling of an app, well before they get the fundamentals in place.

They’ll say something like: ‘The app has to look really polished, like that Apple app with those cool blue buttons!’

Again, I get it, you’re excited. That’s great. But think of digital design like creating a sculpture.

If you want to sculpt a person, you don’t start with the nose or the eye. You start with a big rock and create a rough shape. This is like the big idea that holds all the potential.

Then you chisel away and refine that shape, then you refine it a bit more, ­­ until you get the sculpture you want that is full of beautiful detail.

But your statue never starts with that detail. You always start with the big idea.

In more practical terms, you don’t make an app for the sake of making an app (or at least you shouldn’t). You make it for specific purpose. You make it to solve a problem.

The start of the process is not the time to obsess over whether your buttons are going to be blue.

Magnus working on a product… with blue buttons

3. Think beyond your customers

‘Know your audience’ is one of the most quoted pieces of advice when it comes to designing digital products and services.

This is correct and something that is crucial to know when you’re answering the Big Questions in Point 1, above.

BUT, here’s the big mistake people make with audiences: they think about their end-user(s) then stop there.

Yes, it’s crucial to define your end-users from the outset as they are ultimately going to decide whether your digital product or service is a success.

But remember they may not be the audience you have to appeal to first – the audience whose buy-in will make or break your product at the very first step.

First among equals

Your first audience could be beta customers, but it could just as easily be colleagues, investors, partners, of any other number of groups.

It’s CRUCIAL to remember this when you come to making an early prototype to show off your idea (something, in this day and age, you really have to do).

Think of a prototype as nothing more than a sequence. So, on top of being visually engaging, your prototype needs to take a specific person/audience on a journey to a specific place.

For that to work you need to be clear who your that relevant, early stage audience is, as well as who the end-user is.

For example, if you have a booking app that makes money from taking bookings on behalf of hotels, to impress investors you might want to focus on how cleverly and slickly you can take potential guests to your ‘book this room’ page.

But, on the other hand, if your app makes money from ads within it, you’ll want your prototype to demonstrate how easy and effective it is for advertisers to display their ads.

In both these cases the ultimate user goal is the same – to get people to book rooms via the app. But prototypes for those two audiences will not look the same, nor will they perform the same tasks, because you are selling a different benefit to each.

So, don’t just target an end user with your early design work. Make sure your prototypes are giving the target audience at that stage of the product development lifecycle what they need.

4. Don’t be afraid of sharing

We love a good workshop at Smpl. That’s because getting people in a room and throwing around ideas is so effective when it comes to digital innovation. (Find out how to host an awesome workshop here.)

When people get together and talk it is a recipe for inspiration and creativity.  When we meet and thrash out ideas we find new perspectives, interesting chemistry, and untapped creativity.

At the same time the different perspectives that arise help rule out ideas that won’t fly (and save lots of time and money in the process), while also offering the opportunity engaging your stakeholders early, helping them buy into your journey.

Workshop attendees hard at work
A Smpl workshop in action

Even if you don’t want to do something structured as a workshop, the lesson remains: you mustn’t be afraid of sharing ideas.

Some people don’t like to share because they are worried others will not be impressed by those ideas.

Trust me, it’s unlikely people will laugh at your ideas. If you are in an organisation or surrounded by people who will laugh at you, then arguably – as an innovator – you’re in the wrong place.

Let’s get crazy

Still, worrying is natural, I get that. So, if you or your colleagues are worried about sharing ideas because of being judged, I suggest that when you get together you start by getting people to come up with way out ideas.

As crazy as they can think of.

That takes the edge off and makes thing less tense. And it’s so hard to be creative when you’re tense. This exercise helps create a fun vibe. And, more often than you’d think, throwing out those dumb ideas leads to finding a real gem.

The second biggest concern with sharing ideas is the fear that someone will steal them.

The truth is people rarely steal other people’s ideas when they are shared (unless it’s out-and-out corporate espionage, of course…)

That’s because people are usually way too busy themselves to steal your ideas.

And so what if they do?

It’s incredibly unlikely that’ll they’ll end up doing the same thing in the same way as you. I can pretty much guarantee your product or service, when it launches, will be substantially different to where you started out.

5. Put pen to paper

Smpl is all about rapid, effective digital prototyping. But before we make the 1s and the 0s dance across your screens, we like to go old school and break out the pens and the paper.

A paper prototype is like a lo-fi, rough idea of what you want to achieve. But it is also a useful way to see things from a different perspective (often that of the user), test your idea, dodge pitfalls, and see if your intentions and customer journeys are clear to others.

Smpl designer, Tore, working on a paper protoytype
Before you go digital, go back to basics with a paper prototype

The first way to do this is to create placeholders of empty smartphone and laptop screens (these could be a simple as rectangle shapes on a page).

Using these placeholders or containers, you need to create your core customer journey, but on a very high level.

Think of it like trying to explain your idea to a child. It will need to be brief and clear if it’s going to work.

Simplify and clarify

The joy (or frustration!) of this activity is that, on each page you use to map that journey, you will have very little room and will not be able to go into much detail.

This is good.

Paper prototyping is all about forcing you to simplify and clarify.

As soon as you begin, you’ll realise how little space you have and how difficult it’s going to be to communicate your idea with your users. But this is an essential task. (N.B. Don’t cheat. Don’t say: ‘I will add something here’ and that you’ll work out what it is later. Anything you put in your diagram needs to be properly explained.)

At the other end of the scale, don’t be afraid of not having enough on the screen. People tend to want to fill an area.

Instead, remember that empty space is your friend.

Adopt the old maxim: it’s not finished until there’s nothing left to take away.

Magnus

Let’s go back to the booking app idea. When creating a paper prototype, you’d say to yourself: “I want a customer to book a room. What are the most important steps on that journey? What do they need to know? What are the most important clickable elements? What do they need to be able to see? What will stop them from following that journey?” And so on.

When you have the answers you would sketch them out on however many pieces of paper you need.

Getting ready to present paper prototypes at a Smpl workshop

A great exercise to do after you’ve created your paper prototype is to get someone else to take your pages and present the idea back to you, as they understand it.

Just give them the pages, without explanation or prompts from you. When they present it, you’ll instantly see what works, and where confusion or problems arise.

It’s also great fun.

One final thought about paper prototyping: sometimes filling in diagrams of smartphones or laptops won’t work. If you have a specific process that needs a flow chart, then use that method (for example, if you must demonstrate a step where data goes to a specific server in a specific place).

To tap into Magnus’ expertise, as well as the deep design and development experience we’ve got across Smpl, get in touch.
You can email our MD Andreas, just leave us a message here and we’ll come straight back to you.

Client case study: Raising millions for robots

Posted on: May 8th, 2023 by Smpl Team No Comments

The Client

Remora Robotics

Our client uses autonomous, underwater robots to monitor fish farm environments and clean nets. This helps farmers create optimal conditions for both their fish and their business.

Remora Robotics 5-Day Prototype

The Big Idea

Create a prototype to show how Remora Robotics is going to transform itself from a robotic cleaning service into a comprehensive data solution for the aquaculture market.

This prototype could then be used to engage with investors and customers to get the backing Remora needed to bring the platform to life.

The new platform will use data from Remora’s robots, as well as aggregating fish farmers’ other information sources. This will let customers:

  • improve environmental conditions and fish welfare
  • simplify and streamline their operations
  • save money (on repairs, escaped fish, and more)
  • deliver superior food to consumers

To achieve this, the new platform must enable farmers to:

  • monitor the position and progress of Remora’s robots using interactive maps and live video
  • collect and analyse real-time data collected by the robots, detailing:
    • the state of nets (and any current or potential damage to them)
    • the quality of environment the fish are living in (e.g. water oxygen levels)
  • integrate other sources of data they are collecting through other systems

How did it go?

It went this well!

Project Summary

Remora used Smpl’s super-fast workshop and digital prototyping service.

We delivered a clickable prototype of Remora’s new dashboard data service in five days.

The prototype lets customers shape Remora’s forthcoming product to their needs, gives them a feeling of ownership, and helps secure buy-in to the future service.

It has become an important part of Remora’s business model, as the company looks for more ways to support their customers.

Screenshot of Remopra Robotics prototype platform
The 5-day prototype platform Smpl created for Remora

What did the client think?

“To be honest, I was sceptical about your 5-Day Prototype promise” (says Remora CEO, Brage Amundsen). “In the past, it’s always taken me so long and been so costly to get this kind of thing done.

“But I was wrong. You were very professional and honest. When you promised something, you delivered it.

“The digital prototype is excellent. It has a very clean set-up and the design is simple and intuitive. It takes no time to work out what to click, where to click, and why.

“It gave us something professional that we can show to investors and customers that they can engage with – rather than us just explaining the idea.

“It became way easier to win people over with your prototype, rather than with slides and sketches.”

Brage C. Amundsen, CEO, Remora Robotics

Remora Robotics team with some of their robots
Remora CEO, Brage (2nd from R), with his team

The project in depth

The problem to be solved

The idea for Remora’s autonomous, underwater net cleaners was born when the team visited a fish farm.

“There was a net-cleaning boat there, vomiting out smoke,” says CEO Brage Amundsen. “Four guys were on deck carrying huge hoses, blasting the fish farm nets, which can be very stressful for the fish. Right then we knew there had to be a better way of doing this.”

Fish farmers have a mandatory requirement to keep nets clean to ensure continuous water flow through them.

This prevents biofouling [an accumulation of microorganisms, plants, algae, or small animals], keeps oxygen at optimal levels, and lowers stress and sickness in fish.

Ultimately that leads to a better product for consumers.

Brage knew automation was the answer.

“Our robots don’t just appear and clean and leave,” Brage says. “They are methodically cleaning all the time, monitoring the environment, and spotting problems, like algae growth or holes where fish can escape. This makes farmers’ business more effective and efficient.”

Film from a live Remora robot feed.

Brave new world

Remora’s solution was not just technological.

“We created a whole new business model,” Brage says. “Traditionally farmers get charged per square metre for a one-off high-pressure clean. Instead, we offer fixed costs per month and a continuous cleaning service.”

Once the robots were in place, monitoring and cleaning nets, Remora focused on a bigger opportunity.

“We started using a basic webpage that was built in-house to monitor and track the robots,” says Brage. “But we wanted something more sophisticated and better looking that customers could personalise and use themselves. This would give them a huge amount of value.”

Remora’s ambitions didn’t stop there.

“Today cleaning is primary, but we see it becoming secondary – part of a much bigger offer,” says Brage. “We want to create a data solution that brings together all farmers’ data in one place and lets them run their business much more effectively.”

The begin bringing this vision to life, Remora turned to Smpl.

A screenshot from Smpl's 5-day prototype for Remora
A screenshot from Smpl’s 5-day prototype for Remora

The Solution

Often clients come to Smpl with a Big Idea that requires shaping, both strategically and tactically (for which our business advisory team is standing by).

But Brage’s vision for the new dashboard was clear: he wanted to start creating the data platform of choice for the aquaculture industry.

“First, we needed a platform that farmers could use to monitor our robots,” he says. “That needed to cover operating times, current positions, and an interactive map of where they’ve been cleaning.”

Layered on top of that would be a dashboard where farmers could access and analyse real time data from the robots.

“Farmers need to be able to visualise data that the robots are collecting and understand the environment the fish are living in,” Brage says.

“That means giving them the big picture, as well as granular data – like the water oxygen content in a specific location. That way they can optimise operations.”

Remora team member lowers a robot into the water
Let the cleaning and monitoring begin…

Getting started

Our partnership started with Remora’s senior team meeting Smpl’s designers and engineers at a workshop, run by our Head of Design, Andreas.

Here we discussed immediate needs, as well as the future strategy.

“You guys got the concept really fast,” says Brage. “In that first workshop we were already navigating through design, user flows, and key areas of focus.”

Armed with the output of the workshop, Smpl’s team went to work on the digital prototype.

“The idea of a fast, clickable prototype was very attractive,” says Brage. “In the past, it’s always taken so long and been so costly to get this kind of thing done.”

“I was sceptical you could do it in five days, but I was wrong. You promised something, you delivered on it.”

Creating a digital prototype

The dashboard we created together lets fish farmers choose the KPI’s that are most important to them. This is delivered via graphs, data points, maps, and videos.

It has become an important tool for Remora to develop and market their idea.

 “It’s way easier to engage with customers and win them over using your prototype, rather than trying with slides and sketches,” Brage says.

“It’s something we can bring into meetings for customers to look at and click on, instead of just explaining the idea to them,” he adds.

“You captured the essence of what we wanted really well, as well as the different levels of data we wanted to present.

“Users can see and organise information, from high-level data down to specific issues in specific places, quickly. Which is just what we wanted.”

Remora robot on a net underwater, cleaning algae off
What a difference a robot makes…

The Big Question

What did Remora think of working with Smpl?

“A lot of effort went into creating what we needed,” Brage says. “On top of that, you were very professional and honest.

“We felt like you really understood what we were trying to do and were in control of it,” he adds. “You delivered more than we expected and, at the same time, built in the flexibility we needed for future development.

“Our goal is to make customers familiar with our new product, get feedback, give them some ownership of the final solution, and make sure our new service can be easily integrated with farmers’ current systems.

“What we’ve created together does all that.”

If you are creating something brilliant from scratch – or looking to build and improve on what you’ve already got – we’d love to hear from you.
You can drop our MD Andreas an email here. Alternatively, leave us a message and we’ll come straight back to you.

Client case study: Prototypes that win customers

Posted on: April 13th, 2023 by Smpl Team No Comments

The Client

Compera

A platform offering simple sustainability reporting for companies, including analysis of their entire supply chains.

Compera dashboard mock-up with graphs and charts
The 5-day prototype we built for Compera

The Big Idea

To create a single destination for companies – and their suppliers – to easily collect, validate, and present their ESG (environment, social and governance) and sustainability data.

This platform needed to:

  • enable companies to get control of their sustainability data and meet legal and customer reporting requirements
  • help big companies consolidate and compare firms from across their entire supply chain, turning sustainability into a criterium for supplier selection
  • ease the reporting burden on suppliers – and stop them being excluded from tenders – by making reporting simple, reasonable, and repeatable

In creating this ground-breaking service, Compera aims to build a simpler and more transparent ecosystem for sustainability reporting.

This will, in turn, help industry reduce its environmental footprint and be prepared for ever-changing regulation.

Project Summary

To date, Compera has used two of Smpl’s core offers:

  • Our business advisory service helped clarify and focus Compera’s approach to its brand, platform, and system, using our team of highly-experienced business leaders
  • Our 5-day prototyping service delivered a clickable prototype that became a key tool for winning customers, getting wider stakeholders on board, and even winning awards
A schematic of one of Smpl's client protoypes
Behind the scenes A LOT of work goes into our 5-day prototypes…

What did the client think?

“Working with Smpl was a dream start for a start-up. Your advice and prototype helped get us in the room and win contracts – and an award!

“Smpl has helped us turn something highly complex into something simple and visually beautiful; something that potential customers can quickly understand and engage with.

“You helped us make the system easy to navigate and made communication with stakeholders and customers a lot less complicated.”

“I would not recommend Smpl… to our competitors! But I would seriously recommend Smpl to other companies, whether they’re start-ups or established companies that need help developing their solutions.”

Lene Koll, CEO

Lene, CEO of Compera, with her award and some flowers
Lene with Compera’s (first!) award

The Project In More Depth

What problem needed to be solved?

“The problem today is two-sided,” says Lene Koll, CEO of Compera.

“On one side, the EU now requires all large companies to include their value chain in their climate accounting.

“Those required to do the reporting represent only 1% of the companies in Europe.” she adds.

“However, the reality is that they must now obtain information from all companies in their value chain – and that means a large proportion of the 99% of companies that do not have reporting requirements today.

“So even though sustainability reporting is not an official requirement for the 99%, it quickly becomes a customer requirement,” Lene continues.

“The problem is many of these businesses are unsure of how best to collect, analyse and present their own information, as well as suppliers’ data.”

Lene points out that many suppliers – particularly those in the SME market – are even worse off.

“Even those who already report on sustainability find the work challenging, resource-intensive, and that it does not yield results,” she says. “But many SME’s don’t know where to start when customers – or potential customers with lucrative tenders – demand sustainability data.

“This means they can easily miss out on contracts; and it’s made worse because reporting mostly takes place in Excel spreadsheets, which can take ages – and it’s always done differently.”

The solution:

Compera saw an opportunity to create a solution that delivered:

  • a top-down service for companies needing to track and report on their whole supply/value chain
  • a bottom-up solution that helps SMEs in the supply chain to collect and deliver data to their clients

“We wanted to ensure companies could access a simple platform for consolidating and comparing firms in their supplier portfolio,” Lene says. “If you can do that then sustainability becomes a competitive element and one of the criteria for supplier selection.

“On the other side of the coin, we wanted to ease the reporting burden for suppliers by making reporting and information sharing simple, reasonable and repeatable.”

Getting started

Lasse is a start-up expert who has created several businesses himself. Those include ForgeRock, which became a unicorn (with a $2.8bn valuation) when he floated it on the New York Stock Exchange last year.

Our relationship began with Compera’s team meeting members of Smpl’s business advisory board, including Lasse Andresen.

“Lasse’s background and experience made him perfectly placed to offer advice on Compera’s vision, strategy and tactics,” Lene says.

After discussions and workshops, led by Smpl’s Head of Design (and King of Workshops) Andreas, we created a super-fast prototype, using our 5-day Prototype Method.

Compera CEO Lene with Smpl's Lasse and Andy, standing in the office hallway
Lasse, Lene, and Andreas at Smpl HQ. Clearly happy with their day’s work

Award-winning

“We gained access to Smpl’s entire arsenal of expertise,” Lene says. “After the workshop and some great discussions we got a clickable prototype. And that contributed to our first contract.”

That contract is with one of the biggest firms on the oil and gas industry, Equinor.

“We particularly like how easy it is to understand and navigate the prototype, which we’ve found customers really appreciate.

“It’s become a key part of how we present Compera to customers and other stakeholders. It helped us win our first award too.”

“The prototype has also given us a better understanding how to order the next phase of system development,” Lene adds. “Our experience indicates that if the order is bad, the project often becomes much more expensive. So, we think we’ve probably saved a lot of money here.

“Now we are ready to take the next step and develop a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) version of the system for our pilot customers.”

Compera's Pål and Lene on stage talking about their platform
Compera’s Pål and Lene selling the sustainable dream

The Big Question…

What did Compera think of working with Smpl…?

“One of the big differences between Smpl and other agencies is you really got the problem we were trying to address,” says Lene. “It can be a real showstopper when an agency doesn’t understand what it’s building.

“Smpl’s strategic advice made it easier to explain our solution in a jungle of other systems and market noise. That gave us greater weight and impact in dialogue with customers and other stakeholders.

“The prototype has won us meetings and got us up the management chain,” Lee adds. “That’s because potential stakeholders could clearly see what we were working towards. They could also see we had a system they could use and benefit from.”

“We also predict the prototype is going to save us a lot of time and money as we go forward. It’s designed so we can adapt to feedback from customers and quickly adjust the content during development.”

If you are creating something brilliant from scratch – or looking to build and improve on what you’ve already got – we’d love to hear from you.
You can drop our MD Andreas an email here. Alternatively, leave us a message and we’ll come straight back to you.