Monday, October 29, 2007

New homepage

If anyone has read articles about prediction markets in the mainstream press and their role in business, the same examples are usually cited: HP, Eli Lilly, Abbott Labs, Best Buy, Google, Microsoft, and a few others. While some of these initiatives continue today, some happened several years ago.

Similarly, in terms of their effect on business processes, prediction markets have been discussed in the mainstream press in a very limited context: predicting sales, predicting project completion dates, and conducting popularity contests for new ideas. These uses are interesting, but they have been discussed more as a novelty than in the context of the return on investment they bring. We know this because we hear it from companies we talk to every day: "we considered prediction markets 2-3 years ago and talked to some people about them but we couldn't find a good use for them" or "prediction markets sound interesting - how exactly would we use them?" are the initial (and uphill) conversations we often start at. We then start working with these companies to help identify use cases that do drive business value. Not surprisingly after many conversations like this, some patterns have emerged.

We got in to this business for two reasons. One, because we felt like we could bring some innovation to the space in how prediction markets are run, and more importantly, because we knew there were a lot more things to help organizations with beyond predicting printer sales and project completion dates.

On the first objective, we feel we've come a long way. We made a trading interface accessible to a mass audience inside an organization, we created the ability for that same mass audience to run their own prediction markets, and through our pilot program we now allow companies to trial our entire prediction market platform on their own with no delay having to interact with us. Two years ago the only way to run a prediction marketplace was to roll your own or call a vendor/consultant and have them set up software and run markets for you. It took many weeks, often months. Today with Inkling Markets it take seconds.

But all of that is just technology looking for a problem if organizations can't figure out a good value proposition for prediction markets. That's why, as we continue to focus on our second objective around business value, we've decided to hone our message, and in fact focus our entire business, on 5 key business process areas:

Improve forecasting of key performance indicators
Track and raise awareness of key success metrics to identify and mitigate risk factors before it's too late.

Expose product quality problems early
Identify design and production anomalies before a product (physical or virtual) is brought to market to avoid expensive repairs and recalls.

Predict risk to your supply chain
Run a "web" of markets about the risk factors to your supply chain to predict internal and external events that would cause inefficiencies or disruptions.

Foster a culture of innovation
Determine which new ideas and process improvements will have real business impact vs. the "nice to have."

Create new interactions with users
Build a dedicated community of users around a marketplace of questions relevant to your business area and brand.

Some of these have been covered before, but others have not been discussed at all or outside an academic setting. Regardless, we've picked these areas to focus ongoing because there are business cases and return on investment discussions to be had for each. And if prediction markets are going to become ubiquitous in organizations as we feel they should, this must continue to be the starting point of every conversation we have, not their novelty or vague statements about "increased productivity," "collaboration," or "increased innovation."

In the coming weeks and months you'll be hearing a lot more from us about these process areas. In the meantime, we've started by revamping our corporate homepage which is available now:

inklingmarkets.com

If anyone has any questions, feedback, or problems with the new site, please let us know.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Radiohead Changing the Music Industry - Predict How

Yes, our business is providing a platform for organizations to run their own prediction markets, but the founders of Inkling happen to be big music fans, specifically the band Radiohead.

How is this relevant? Recently Radiohead announced there would be no set price for their new album "In Rainbows." Instead they would let their fans decide what it was worth. When you go to download their album (and it's only available by download, there are no CD's) you say what you want to pay. Fans are elated, the music industry is horrified.

We thought it would be fun to set up a marketplace to try and predict what the average price is fans will actually pay. We also ask questions about other performance metrics such as unit sales and industry impact of this new pricing model.

You can get to the new marketplace by going here: http://radiohead.inklingmarkets.com

We've left the ability to run your own markets on so if you want to ask other questions in addition to the ones we've seeded, go ahead!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

We now support OpenID

An OpenID is a single username and password that lets you login to any site that accepts an OpenID. Having an OpenID means you don't have to remember a username and password for each individual site you visit but a site is still able to conclude you are a valid person by making you confirm via email you are who you say you are.

We've gone ahead and implemented OpenID so if an Inkling marketplace manager turns it on, you now have a choice of how to sign in to any Inkling marketplace: your OpenID or a traditional username and password generated by Inkling. We've turned it on for our public marketplace so everyone can see how it works.

Also, for organizations wishing to do "single sign-on," OpenID is an interesting alternative to consider. However, we will always still offer our web service which allows organizations to easily use their own authentication system for their users logging in to Inkling.

If you don't already have an OpenID and want to try using OpenID on Inkling or other enabled sites, just visit the directory of OpenID providers (it's free to get one) or use the provider we use: MyOpenID.

UPDATE: a quick update on our Inkling pilot program. We now have close to 60 trial marketplaces up and running. They continue to be a mix of big business, individuals, and academics. We are very happy we decided to open this up as there is clearly a demand to see just what running a prediction marketplace yourself is all about.