Digital TV receiver Xoro DTV-M5

I got a new digital TV box (Xoro DTV-M5)  which is capable of receiving Saorview channels from the ever friendly guys over at  TvTrade.ie and I have to say I’m very impressed with it.

It’s a receiver capable of  displaying HD at 1080p,  digital teletext (Mheg5), subtitles, pause &  record (you’ll need to use your own USB key), view pictures & play movies (AVI) from external storage devices.

The box construction is sturdy, not the prettiest thing you’ll ever see but is quite compact. The remote control is functional and standard compared to a lot of boxes like this. The front of the box has USB slot (for external storage devices), a LED channel display, a channel up/down and a power button.

Around the back, are the SCART & HDMI outputs which is great for old and new TV’s. (see picture for other inputs/outputs).

Setting it up was really easy – connect antenna, connect hdmi to TV and plug in. Starting the box for the first time requests you to scan for channels.  It found all the Saorview channels (Tv/Radio) in a few minutes. Just so you know – I don’t have an antenna mounted on the house so I used my trusty small whip antenna which worked just fine once it was outside the house. As you can see from the photos in the gallery the strength wasn’t that great but the quality was good and I didn’t have any glitches with the picture.

Only RTE2 is broadcast in HD at the moment and you can really noticed the difference between SD and HD.  The 7 day EPG works as you expect and it’s easy to navigate no problems here.

Plugging a USB key into the port on the front enables the PVR features, hitting pause works well and is handy if someone rings you in the middle of watching the Father Ted or something 😉 You can rewind, skip forward just like regular PVR.

The only problem I came across was with the USB key and recording. My USB key is quite old and was nearly full with about 400Mb free but it caused the box to freeze on one occasion. The remote couldn’t turn the box off so I had to unplug and restart it. I found a different key and couldn’t recreate the problem so it might have been the key.

The USB key happened to have a video file and it played just fine – the box supports a wide range of video formats: mpg, avi, vob, dat, asf, mkv, rm, wmv, tsf, and qt.

I didn’t try viewing pictures, nor did I try all the games.. only tetris but who really plays these kind of games on tv anymore? I also didn’t try the recording of programs listed in the future – when I do I’ll update the blog post.

TvTrade.ie have a real gem here with the Xoro DTV-M5. It delivers exactly what it promises and it’s a bargain with the current promotion of this new Digitial TV receiver!

The only downside of the box is that it doesn’t have a satellite FTA receiver built in – but at that price it would be impossible to squeeze it in and I can’t really complain as this box packs in so much already.

9/10

 

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Beware of deals too good to be true

Early in the year I bought a hotel package deal. Nothing special there – I know a lot of people who buy daily deals, groupons etc.  but this was my first deal and I have to say I was a little exited about it.

The deal was from boards.ie and it was for a nights stay in the Prince of Wales in Athlone with dinner for two, a bottle of wine, breakfast and a late checkout. The price? 79 euro. Bargain. It was from boards.ie but it could have been from anyone.

I rang in May looking for a Friday night but couldn’t get a Friday Night – “All the Friday & Saturday nights for boards vouchers were gone”. I also rang in June & July and got the same response. It seemed only mid-week slot were available which doesn’t suit most people. With the voucher due to expire in September I decided we would use it when we got back from holidays .. to help us ‘adjust’ into the Irish Summer.

I booked it for a Thursday night.  The Prince of Wales (if you google them) states it’s a recently refurbished four star hotel but it doesn’t really have the facilities that you expect for a 4 star hotel. If you put the Sheraton (also 4 star) beside the PoW it’s hard to understand why the Prince of Wales is a four star hotel.

We checked in fine, the receptionist asked what time we’d like to reserve our meal for – we agreed 8pm. The room, on the 2nd floor, was  clean and typically what you get from Irish hotels today. The room was a little stuffy so we opened the window to get some fresh air. The window looked out over the square and towards the entrance of the town shopping centre and consisted of a main window and a second separate sliding window.

Around 8pm we went to have our dinner. We headed towards the Restaurant but we were told it was closed and that we could have our meal in the Pub arena. The pub had the usual combination of high tables and low tables with plenty of televisions showing a championship soccer match on all of them.

There wasn’t many tables left as most people were having a drink so we ended up under a large flatscreen TV – not ideal as you think most people are staring at you!  We got menus only to find out the usual menu wasn’t the menu for voucher holders. The voucher menu didn’t really have a great choice but we found something to eat. Having dressed up a little bit we felt a little overdressed in the pub to be honest.

The bottle of wine was a very cheap and cheerful Cono-Sur bottle which retails about 5euro but listed as 18euro in the wine list.

The mushroom soup starter was dire, one of the main courses (beef) was dry and tasteless. The other main course (chicken) was fine but the vegetables were over cooked and soggy. Desert wasn’t anything to write home about either.

As we were finishing up we noticed the pub was starting to fill up with people out for the night – as it turns out the Prince of Wales has a nightclub and it swung into full swing by midnight. We went back to the room and the noise from  the people coming and going was booming into our room with the windows opened so they had to be closed. With no air-con the room was hot & stuff and not conducive to sleep. Also the low-frequency booms from the nightclub music didn’t help at all in getting some sleep.

It was about 3am when the music had stopped , the people had gone home and when we eventually got some piece and quite.

Not being happy campers we left early in the morning without the breakfast . Being a bit peeved with the whole experience and just wanted to get out of the place as quickly as possible and promising never to return.

It’s left me very wary of hotels that advertise via daily deals, I also put my hands up that  I didn’t do my research either – the Prince of Wales on their homepage advertise the nightclub and hen parties – so the moral of the story is beware of the deal that seems too good to be true and do your research!!

Putting my mini-rant aside – the bigger picture is that hotels could be getting a quick revenue injection from deals like this but if the experience is bad it will hurt them in the long run. A bad customer experience will ensure that customer doesn’t return and tells other people of how bad it was and to avoid them. The exact opposite is also true – so hotels – if you’re listening – get it right. Give Friday/Saturday nights, open the restaurant, give good food and wine.. and for the love of gaud put guest miles away from the noise if you have to have a nightclub!

In an Internet based startup? You should apply for iGAP.

iGap is drawing to a conclusion, just one more session on funding which will be delivered by  Brian Caulfied @BrianCVC . Brian, who gives VC’s a good name, is one of the main organisers of iGAP along with Ray Walsh (EI) and Sarah Buckley (EI).

iGAP is a programme that is designed specifically to help early-stage internet companies to develop that clarity and to give them tools to help them to execute on the strategy they have defined.

It’s the “clarity” bit I’d like to explore a little more. At Cauwill we have a great product that works well internationally. We have (international) customers in the travel sector some of which pay, others are very slow to pay 🙁   Before embarking on iGAP we identified a few concerns with the sector which would prevent growth & scaling. iGAP  confirmed our concerns and has helped us to formulate a plan to tackle a new sector i.e. get our value prop and promise statement for the sector,  how best to approach it and the best route  to market. We had a tendency to build things first and then go  to market. iGAP helped to us to step back from the product & features and focus on a strategy before building/coding anything.

So how did iGAP change the way we do things?

I firmly believe it’s a combination of quality speakers and the format of iGAP that makes it a success. I’ll get back to the speakers in a moment but I’d like to focus on the format.

  • Training – I hesitate to call it training.. it’s more than training. Speakers provide insight into their businesses, how they run things, how they set the team up and how things work in web businesses.
  • War Stories – we get to hear from those ahead of us about how they got there.. and in some case what they did wrong to cause the company to fail. for example Colm Lyon of Realex Payments, Ray Nolan of Worky.com, Feargal Mooney of HostelWorld, Niall Harbison of Simply Zesty, David Lenehan of Polldaddy and others too numerous to mention here but thank you all for coming in and talking to us.
  • Networking – everyone on iGAP is encouraged to network, get to know everyone one the programme and the past programme. iGAP also run several events/panels in parallel where more networking is possible. They even had the Telegraph in and several iGAP companies got profiled on it. A common thread with a lot of the speakers was that b2b business can be very personal and finding the right person is half the battle.
  • Open and Sharing Environment – after ‘training’ we go to our cohort groups which is run by the facilitators. Here we openly discuss the day and discuss the ‘homework’. Companies bounce ideas off each other and a lot of good stuff comes out of the cohort meetings. We are all in the same boat so it’s easier to row together and share our pains than remain in isolation. Some of the feedback at times can be brutally honest.

I know many such management training and incubation programmes exist, we were on LEAP which was good for us at the time, but iGAP is different because it focuses specifically on the needs of internet businesses.  Over a period of seven months, six modules were led by international lean start-up and customer development experts such as Eric Ries, Scott Rafer, Paul O’Dea , Justin KnecthSean Ellisand Oren Michels .Over the programme they addressed issues such as lean startup theory, product market fit, monetisation strategies, internet customer acquisition, business development using APIs, etc.

Here is a quick synopsis of the content covered by the speakers

Paul O’Dea : Provided the Business battle card. This a great way to get an overview of the your business in 5 questions:

  • What do you want to be famous for?
  • Who are selected customers?
  • Where is your measurable value?
  • Why should customers choose you rather than your competitors?
  • How will you get your product to market?

Eric Ries : What can I say? This guy has changed the way we do things in Cauwill. We love the lean startup theory and before we do anything we pause and think  – how can we do this the lean way? If you’re reading this – thank you so much Eric.  #leanstartup #MVP

Scott Rafer :  Scott dealt with the business models and understanding your customers sales funnel. The better you know your customer – the better chance you have in closing out a deal with them. “Startups fail because they lack customers and a profitable business model” – Steve Blank

Sean Ellis : Delivered content on Marketing and Customer Acquisition. Really enjoyed this talk. Everything in the presentation is based around the Startup growth pyramid. At the base of the pyramid is correctly finding product market fit. He provided us with a set of questions and one very tough task – asking your customers how they would feel if they could no longer use your product. It’s a horrible question because we live a world where we (startup companies) think our product is super cool and everyone should love/use it .. we just don’t want to hear potentially bad stuff from customers. You know what? This was a great (tough) task and helped us to improve our product market fit.  Do it here http://survey.io

Justin Knecht : I was too ill to attend Justin’s talk, but catching up from Ian and hearing his thoughts on the module this was also another great presentation with real insights into user centric design. I’m currently going through the slides so I’ll update this post with my thoughts at a later stage.

Oren Michels : Up there with one of the best speakers I’ve had the pleasure of listening to. This guy is all about biz dev. Very clear delivery on how to be stronger with customers and help prevent the sales funnel from filling up with ‘Barney Deals’. Oren mixes in stories from The Valley which are very entertaining! The timing of this talk was just serendipity.

iGAP has provided us a framework to structure our decisions and do things faster. It’s not rocket science but it is definitely some form of science – mixed with a bit of luck. We still have things to fix but we’re confident that with a clear focus and sticking to a good strategy we’ll be fine.

Walking on Water.

Tuning BBC One HD on Sky

From  November, viewers who have HD, either via Freesat, Freeview, Sky or Virgin, will be able to tune in to the new, dedicated BBC One HD channel, which will simulcast with BBC One. Like its standard definition counterpart, BBC One HD will broadcast 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

It hasn’t made the regular Sky EPG so you’ll need to tune it in. It’s really easy – here’s how on a Sky HD box.

1/ With your digibox turned on, press the “Services” button

2/ Select ‘Options’  and then scroll over to  “Add Chnls”

Set

Update: (July 2011)
Frequency: 10847
Polarisation: Vertical
Symbol: 23000 (used to be 22000).

Press the Yellow ‘Find Channels’

Select BBC 1 HD and Press ‘Select’ when complete.

You’ll now find BBC 1 HD in the ‘Other Channels’ . Just in time for Match of the Day (which is just amazing in HD!).

Seedcorn Presentation

I’d like to share with you the format of our Seedcorn pitch. For those who don’t know what Seedcorn it’s a business competition where you submit your business pitch, do two presentations pitch and you could walk away with an investment!

The business plan submission part is over, but don’t worry it happens every year, for those companies selected for the regional finals they will be doing a pitch in the next week or so. For those who make it past the regional final they’ll get to pitch at finals late in November.  Our pitch changed a bit from the regional to the final but not radically. Both of us presented. We divided it up into 3 separate parts, one of us did section 1 and 3 while the other did section 2. We also made sure the person that did section 2 introduced themselves prior to section 1. This helped the panel hear from both of the team on the first slide.

  • 1st part focused on the problem and the product.
  • 2nd part focussed on the customer and business model
  • 3rd covered business operational topics

So what did our slides cover? Well there was a lot of pictures and we tried to storytell rather than lecture.

Slide 1: Company Logo, Name of Promoters,  Contact details.

Slide 2: We wanted to make the problem real to the people we were pitching to. We wanted from the get-go to connect with them. In our case we help people from getting lost, so we showed pictures (no text!) of a GPS device, Sign Posts and an arguing couple!  We wanted to convey the problem of getting lost, how current technology (gps/signpost) can let you down.

Slide 3: We focused on the GPS device and its evolution towards mobile platforms and what this meant ( again all pictures). We had done  research on the people on the panel and we would mention hard to find place names that were local to the panel. Again trying to make a connection.

Slide 4 : We showed the panel pictures of smartphones (iPhone, BlackBerry, Nokia). Again we were trying to connect with them and the phones they had in their pockets and making the product real to them.

Slide 5: Showed big badges of SMS, EMAIL and Twitter and an example of our product.

Slide 6: Then was a demo of the product. (video swf – 35 seconds long)

Slide 7: Benefits of product in 10 words. (1 big logo of our product & 4 bullet points)

Slide 8: Who would Buy our product? Outlined ALL the various sectors that would buy it, about 20 words. (5 bullet points)

Slide 9: The sector we targeted first and the value of the addressable market. (2 big graphics & 25 words)

Slide 10: Was a slide with why companies in our target market would buy from us. (2  Big graphics & 4 words)

Slide 11: What our customers say. A big and very positive quote from our customers (name and logo) (20 words)

Slide 12: How we charge for the product. (4 bullet points & 15 words)

Slide 13: How much money the company could make. Table y1,y2,y3.

Slide 14: Who’s the competition.(4 big graphics, no text)

Slide 15: The Risks. What are the risks and how we mitigate these risks. (1 big graphic, 20 words)

Slide 16: Who is going to executive the business plan. (brief outline of the founders and advisory board) (Only names were shown)

Slide 17: A big graphic of Milestones of our achievements to date and looking into the future milestones.

Slide 18: What we need and Why. This is basically the Ask Slide “we want XXXk euro and this is what we are going to spend it on”.

We then left this slide up and did a quick summary of the presentation. Then we invited the panel to ask questions.

iGAP2

Cauwill got accepted on to the Internet Growth Acceleration Programme (iGAP).

iGAP is an intensive management development programme aimed exclusively at high potential internet companies.

It’s a real interesting time at the moment and we got some challenges ahead so iGAP is coming just at the right time.

It’s happening over the next six months,according to the blurb iGAP will equip managers within the Irish internet industry with the practical tools needed to formulate aggressive international growth plans and scale their businesses.

The first introduction day is Wednesday where we get to meet all the other participants. I’m going to blog (and maybe tweet) the events  as they happen. As part of the introduction email Enterprise Ireland sent a word document with directions to East Point.. a word document!! All they really need is  http://directions.to/ei in their emails   🙂

A guide to winning the Seedcorn competition – Part 4

This post concludes the series.  Grab the Business Plan template [here] (word document) which has all three previous posts plus extra comments from the IntertradeIreland Cube document.

To summarize:

  • Make every statement count – be clear, be precise
  • Don’t be technical (after all it’s a business plan)
  • Make the job of reading the plan easier,  visually alert the investor to things they want to see
  • (Early Stage/Startup Companies) If you have paying customers this is a big deal..
  • Really make the executive summary stand out. Give the investor the motivation to read on.It really should be a self contained document that you can extract and it makes sense by itself.

Checklist:

  • Business Overview (what you do and why)
  • Size up the market opportunity
  • Industry Analysis
  • Describe the team
  • Explain the business model
  • Show Financial projections
  • Show Funding sources (and usage)
  • Exit
  • Appendices/Schedules

Personally, I want to wish all entrants for the InterTradeIreland Seedcorn competition the best of luck and cannot wait to see who gets selected this year both as regional finalists and overall finalists. Winning the investment really has helped Cauwill. Financially it helped out but the PR and confidence it gave was worth than the money – as a result we’ve had a great year, signed more customers and are now looking to take our 1 year old company to the next level!

Finally, if any one entering the competition wants to get in touch please feel to do so.

Regards,
Ronan.

A guide to winning the Seedcorn competition – Part 3

Part 3 of the guide covers: the Operations, the Key Risks, the Financials, the Funding and the very important Exit.

These sections really bring the plan to a close and it’s focused one major thing: Think Jerry Maguire – think “Show me the Money!”.

You need to show the money (twice).

  1. Money that company will make from the product year to year
  2. The amount of money the company will be turning over in 3 / 5 years

Remember you are inside the mind of an investor.. if they are going to but €MONEY into the company they will want to see a return of, say, 10 times €Money. You have to be realistic. You can’t sell an iPhone App to every owner of an iPhone. You’ll get a % (a two digit number if your lucky). Investors are very smart and will therefore spot any flaw.

The last section is “The Exit”. For us (and presumably others) this was a very short section – we clearly stated what we wanted to happen in 3 years. The investor wants to see an exit otherwise no matter how good everything is they won’t invest. Scroll down to see an answer investors like to see.

Tomorrows post will conclude the series and have a word document template with even more comment!

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A guide to winning the Seedcorn competition – Part 2

Part 2 of the Guide will cover the Product, The  Business Model and The Management.
These are big sections and require you to think long and hard. It requires getting inside the mind of an investor. This is tricky and the investors mind you get into might not be the investor that is reading your business plan. This is where a bit of luck comes into play. The seedcorn competition will try and match your business sector with an investor in a similar sector – it won’t be a perfect match.

Time to get inside the venture capitalist who is now looking at  your business that offers:

  1. a clearly specify the product or service
  2. a large potential number of paying customers
  3. at a price well above what it would cost to produce i.e making a profit (while delivering customer satisfaction)

What else do you need to let the investor know? You need a good business model. One that offers genuine choices of:

  1. Who is the target customer? Why was that target sector chosen?
  2. What is the product?
  3. How is the company planning to deliver the product and maximise margins?

I can’t stress enough that this needs to be in plain and simple English – no jargon!  Each of these points has to be obvious to the investor.

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