Futurelab's Thys: in innovation 'the wrong questions turn out to be the right questions'
What I know though is that Alain is the author of one of the most important Marketing presentations that I have seen at slideshare.net, which I keep using over and over again, and is entitled marketing accountability (you will find the direct access to the presentation at the end of this article). Alain Thys's biography is also very interesting.
He describes itself as a "shopkeeper". He has had extensive experience in European advertising and marketing at companies like Mexx and Reebok. He was in charge of marketing at Reebok Belgium for a while, when it was decided to merge it into the Dutch arm of the company, at the beginning of the 1990s, and that's when the Internet arrived. It is also when Alain discovered these "funny computers" and the things that we could do with them. A 3-year stint in the Netherlands at the head of the Reebok marketing unit ended up in a re-org and a sabbatical in Mexico (lucky him!).
At the beginning of the year 2000, he then decided to go into start-up mode and work for a joint-venture in which AOL, and LVMH (Louis Vuitton) were involved. Their new plan was a groundbreaking online idea for the travel industry. This was "way ahead of what was done in those days with regard to online travel". In fact, it was a bit like à la carte holiday packages, what is commonly described nowadays as dynamic packaging (although very little of it is still to be seen in the field, which means that it's still ahead of its time).
The usual cash burning story about 2000 bubble start-ups is unfortunately repeated in this venture of Alain's: a $130 cost per customer was leading unfortunately to a meagre revenue of $16, hardly enough to generate profit. Vision doesn't always lead to profitability, but there is one thing about visionary people, is that they shall never be deterred. And that's exactly why Alain decided to move on to the next idea. So he started a new incubator for e-payment in Ireland, related to mobile payment. He admitted to having a lot of fun creating the new start-up, and he did this for a couple of years before joining a media group in Belgium in 2004-5.
This media group, itself a media pioneer in Belgium, led Alain Thys to focus on "creating new things and generating new profits". He admitted to "not being very knowledgeable about the Internet world" which actually led him to ask "the wrong questions, which turned out to be the right questions".
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