“As a startup, you need to ask yourself ´Is this a problem worth solving?´” says Christian Uribe, the head of Telenor Group´s frontrunner startup, Capture.
The value proposition of Capture is straightforward: Customers get safe, easy, cross-device storage for their pictures and videos while Telenor gets higher data revenue per customer and decreased churn. Capture is rated higher by its users than competitors such as Google Photos and Dropbox.
“To us, this is about mobile first. You need to solve the functional and social jobs of customers: how do I safely store the pics I have on my phone and how can I share them with friends,” says Uribe. He recently joined Telenor from one of Norway´s software success stories, Opera, where he headed up large product development projects.
Today, Capture is live in nine of Telenor´s countries – in both Asia and Europe – while two more are testing it. As a startup, Capture positions itself close to the core of Telenor´s main telecom business. The team counts 35 people, in Trondheim, Oslo and Bangkok.
“Our primary market are the millions of Telenor customers. If you´re a Telenor customer, we give you unlimited storage. If you´re a private customer you still get two gigabytes which is enough to back up around 1000 photos, depending on your phone’s camera. This segment constitutes 30% of our user base, which for us validates the hypothesis that the value of our product has universal appeal. Understanding our user base helps us focus on providing value to our local companies,” Uribe points out.
How do I provide value?
And that´s a key question many of Telenor´s marketing and distribution executives around the world are asking themselves. “How do I provide customer value in the digital future?”
“We challenge Telenor´s local companies to consider whether they should spend a dollar with us or a dollar selling a SIM card. With Capture, they get more loyal customers and that´s worth a lot in today´s market context,” says Uribe.
Capture enjoys the direct access to the distribution muscle of one of the world´s largest mobile operators, to the potential envy of other startups. How does 220 million potential Telenor customers sound? Not bad, but Christian Uribe and the Capture team still face difficult discussions with local executives. How far will they allow local product customization, for example?
“Being a startup inside a multinational company is a significant benefit, but also a challenge. The idea of “making it” is different for a startup inside a large company versus a standalone startup. The Capture team is essentially one of the digital frontrunners inside Telenor; we are on the very edge of the learning journey the group is on. So, for example, we face situations where some of our vocabulary and language doesn´t correspond with the rest of the company. What does a lean methodology really mean? What is fast experimentation in practice?” Uribe asks.
Spearheading new methodologies
At Capture, they are spearheading lean product development methodologies. Their build-test-measure cycles are aimed at minimizing waste, iterate faster and find features that matter to consumers.
“Telecom firms too often embark on journeys where they think they know what consumers want. With our approach, we start by checking if there is a problem in the first place. We use surveys to find out if there is a market. If there is a market and we have a solution that is superior – only then do we start the heavy investment in development, IT and programming. We are research-heavy,” Uribe says.
( Video case: Telenor Sweden has built a photo universe around Capture):
A Trondheim brainchild
Capture didn´t emerge out of nowhere. Capture (or “Min Sky” in Norwegian) is the brainchild of Netlife Backup Solutions, a storage firm based in Trondheim, Norway, which was acquired by Telenor a few years ago. The original team of six is still around.
Their offices in Trondheim are inspired by “Monkey Island,” the legendary adventure video games series. The meeting rooms, colours and other elements of the offices take their inspiration from the game. Software developers need to concentrate, so meeting rooms have been set up with excellent soundproofing. They also have a meeting room customized for “standing meetings.”
“The Telenor Fornebu offices are great but not always optimal for software development. They were set up to fulfil another kind of work. To foster creativity and innovation we need large wall space for whiteboards and design flows, open spaces for stand-ups and casual brainstorming meetings. So this is an area we are working on,” Uribe says.
In the Capture team, everyone has a voice. They take ideas and test them out. If the idea sticks, they make a mock product, then start building it. They fail fast, learn from the failure and move on to the next plan.
“We are able to work like this inside Telenor and that´s fantastic. We feel like we are breaking new ground on behalf of the company. And make no mistake, while Telenor is a safe environment for testing ideas, failing on the big journey is still an option,” Uribe says.
“Our primary challenge is to hire the right people. We need to convince them that Telenor is serious about the digital transformation it has embarked on. From my view, Capture is living proof that building digital services for the mass market on top of our core is possible and profitable,” Uribe says.