THE BIG SCHLEMAZEL

I’m not gonna lie, 2016 was not a vintage year in consumer tech or politics. My lovely old Jewish neighbour called it the Year of the Big Schlemazel – a very fitting Yiddish word for a clumsy moron with nothing but a string of bad luck. After Yahoo’s fatal cyber security leak, the final demise of the Pebble smartwatch, Samsung trying to kill us with their combustible Note 7 phones, and Facebook becoming Fakebook, we’re inclined to agree that the year was mostly a write-off in tech as well as on the campaign trail.

However, not to let it get us down too much, after much sieving through the dross that the Big Schlemazel brought us, here are a few gems that are worth mentioning, if only to keep the tech hope up…

Fans open their wallets 2016 was a breakthrough year for start-up brands. Young companies were busy crowdfunding from fans on platforms like Crowd Cube and Seedrs. Fans’ cash is creating more of an even playing field for young brands to compete with the big consumer giants. People can now support their favourite products with a bit of spare change for equity and see companies like BrewDog (the Scottish craft beer brewers) growing from a tiny brewery in Scotland to a serious contender against the behemoths like Heineken and Stella. These new kids on the brewing block are throwing out the rulebook in their quest to create a beer that we really love.

No more Spandex, people! It’s not just beer that’s benefiting from access to new growth via crowdfunding, but emerging fashion brands too! Bluebella, a new, fast-growing fashion-forward lingerie company fronted by Roger Taylor’s (Queen’s legendary drummer) daughter Tigerlily, has taken on much bigger and more established lingerie brands and has just raised over £1 million via Crowd Cube, achieving twice the original target. The injection of funds is helping the brand challenge the incumbents and disrupt what’s become a stale, boring diet of never changing Marks & Spencer traditional undergarms. Growth hacking has spread from tech accelerators to fashion – we can’t wait to see what the Bluebella design team will come up with next.

Who makes your shoes? Live streaming the shoe creation process by Spanish masters of footwear straight from the factory to Instagram has put another small company on the map. Miista, the much-loved east London shoe brand, is practicing what they preach and throughout 2016 has offered frequent live video streams featuring their best craftsmen (and women) from their Alicante factory.

In support of ethical brands, customers are increasingly interested in the provenance of their shoes and clothing, so we salute Miista CEO Laura Villasenin for taking the leap and lifting the veil on fashion secrecy to share the beauty of their handmade shoes with the fans. Hopefully in 2017 factory transparency will become a default for fashion houses around the world. Meanwhile, learn about the fashion making magic here.

Mean, green data hosting machine Datacentres are one of the dirty secrets of the tech world and a massive challenge for climate change action. They look like medieval dungeons, hosting hot servers in dark dingy basements and using an unimaginable amount of energy to run (and even more to be kept cool).

With the mad rush from ‘under-the-desk’ servers to cloud hosting, 2016 has been the year that companies increasingly started paying attention to energy prices and the climate impact of their datacentres. Google and Apple, not to mention Microsoft, hosting is falling behind as they prioritise scale over green rating. Enter the Scandinavian green philosophy, as Sweden is leading the way with the development of green datacentres. Their secret is hydro energy, which in Sweden comes at a rock bottom price and with sky-high green credentials. Hydro66, a leading British green hosting company, is based there and in 2016 it’s shown that datacentres can be fast (even when not located in your home country), fully green and have a zero impact data hosting rating for all of your company’s data as well as customers’ cat photos. Facebook followed suit and has now opened a new facility next door. Here’s hoping that 2017 will be all about ‘how green is your cloud?’

Checkout revolution Sweden’s not just leading in green cloud initiatives. After years of stagnation and waiting for checkout enhancements, customers were close to giving up the wait and moving en masse to Amazon Prime. However, there are signs that in the last part of 2016’s Big Shlimazel there’s a light at the end of the checkout tunnel for web shops. Topshop and Polarn O Pyret have just integrated Klarna, a super fast payment process that they expect to improve user experience (and thus purchase completion) very considerably. Reducing the steps of checkout drudgery and making delivery before the payment’s even taken from your bank account must clearly count as e-comm magic. Try it for yourself! Available for Magento as well as Shopify Plus.

maxresdefaultLast but not least – which product gets the prize for best Xmas present? Our vote goes to the Ricoh Theta S 360 camera – it provides great 360° stills if you want to show the boss how the new pop-up fit-out is coming along. The video’s not quite there yet but it is coming. Want!

Wishing all our clients, suppliers, collaborators and supporters a very Happy New Year!