And no. I am not quitting, don't worry. But yes, its the 10 year anniversary of my consultancy, today. Wow. Time flies. I started my consultancy on this day exactly ten years ago, October 1, 2001. I left a wonderful job and department and boss, and my office with window and sea view at Nokia HQ. Some said I was mad, but those who knew me, said almost unanimously that they agreed, this was what I was truly destined to do, to become one of the voices for this young industry that was mobile, 3G, data business back then. And note, this is a very long blog article of personal thoughts and memories, it has very little of knowledge about the normal topics on this blog so unless you'd like to read about my views to the past 10 years of my consultancy and my books, speakerships, customers, press and colleagues, you might not want to read this. I wrote already one look back at the past 10 years of 3G yesterday which is more of interest to those wanting to learn about this industry. This blog is to my fans and clients and colleagues and friends, to thank them.
October 1 2001, was the day the 3G era started. On that very same day NTT DoCoMo became the first mobile operator/carrier to move from the 'digital' 2G mobile telecoms era to launch the 'high speed' 3G mobile telecoms era. I called myself a 3G Consultant at those early days.
Understand just how young this industry was at that time. The world had less than 800 million mobile subscribers at the time (12% of the world's population had a mobile phone account). Today the world has 5.6 Billion (80%). Or to bring it really home, I had two phones in my pockets back then just like now. Both were top end smartphones, one Nokia branded and the other a rival just like now. But consider what were two of the top phones 10 years ago, compared to now. I bought the brand new SonyEricsson T68 and got one of the first models sold in the UK, a very early production model, that still had 'Ericsson' branding, not SonyEricsson. This was the award-winner phone for the time what an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy might be today. Just think. No 3G, no WiFi, no GPS, no camera! no music player, no real HTML internet. And while this was one of the first color screen phones, how massive was that screen? Try 1.5 inches. Yes, your iPhone screen can fit FOUR of these T68 screens inside of it with room to spare! And what was the resolution of that postage stamp sized screen? Try 101 pixels across and 80 pixels down. An iPhone 4 screen today has literally about 100 times more pixels
It would be an astonishing story to just look at the last 10 years in this wonderful industry, comparing the mobile world ten years ago to that today, but that will have to wait for another blog. I want to dedicate this blog today to what made my consultancy a success these past years. My customers. My readers. My publishers. My colleagues and friends. You the visitors to this blog and my Twitter followers, and countless audiences at conferences. I have truly been blessed getting to have the best job in the world, the past ten years. This blog is for you!
MR MOBILE CONSULTANT-DUDE
My consultancy - and my career as an expert in this field - would not have survived on my book royalties alone. I owe my 'James Bond lifestyle' to my customers, who appreciate my advice and most tellingly, who keep coming back year after year. I do no selling of my services, zero. I know many of my consulting colleagues may wish they would have it 'so easy' as many have to do a lot of selling. Yes, I'm a marketing-oriented guy and I plug myself at every opportunity like the best of them, but I don't need to sell my services. And look at who is out there. I make it clear, that when I talk about my customers, I only mention my 'reference customers' by name. Those are companies that have said in public that they use my services. My real customer base is much bigger. But these are companies who openly mentioned that they have used my services. And again here, I must tell you, that I have never once asked any customer 'may I use you as a reference.' I did that earlier when working as a sales representative in selling computer networks for OCSNY in New York City, and whenever our company landed a 'major' known client like for example the Economist Newspaper Group's new corporate headquarters office when it moved from London to New York, or the NY Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) or the United Nations Security Council (all clients of mine at the time haha, that I 'landed' to sell them computer networks back in the early 1990s) - we would ask permission to use them as reference customers.
At the start of TomiAhonen Consulting, it was actually my intention to follow up with my clients and ask them permission to use as reference customers, as I did have quite impressive clients right from the start. Except that I didn't have to. As soon as my first book came out, and I was quite literally 'the guy' in my field - it seemed that everybody who was seen having coffee with me somewhere suddenly wanted everybody to know, that they too knew Tomi Ahonen..
So I was quite stunned to find how many truly big major corporations and brands in our industry openly said they work with me. I never needed to go back and beg for permissions to mention their names. Now look at my reference list. Note, its not that these companies say they have worked with 'someone' from my company - these companies all say that they have specifically worked with Tomi Ahonen, me!
CHECK OUT THE CONSULTING CLIENTS
My reference customer list starts with the biggest mobile operator group by revenues, Vodafone. And the biggest mobile operator by subscribers, China Mobile. The world's biggest mobile handset manufacturer, Nokia, The biggest telecoms equipment vendor on the globe, Ericsson. Also the biggest computer maker, Hewlett Packard. The biggest IT services company, IBM. The biggest internet company, Google. The biggest mobile internet company, NTT DoCoMo. The biggest mobile services developer, Buongiorno. The biggest chip maker Intel. The biggest engineering company, Siemens. Thats 'everybody'. Even before Nokia bought their partners out of the Symbian partnership, Symbian was a reference customer of mine, what was then the biggest smartphone operating system by far. This list is the only platinum-level reference customer list on the planet for any consultant haha. And I have it all. I do not need to 'prove' my credibility anymore.
Almost every time when I have a new client nowadays, the client came to me, because someone very senior in that company already knew me - typically that person was hired from elsewhere where I had been used before, and they strongly recommended me... That is the kind of key to success, that no amount of money can ever buy. And it is also the best guarantee of remaining in business this long. My clients do value my work.
I want to mention, however, some clients specifically. A few of my clients, some on that list and many others, have given me work for long periods of time, or many times, so rather than just being highly recognized brands, these companies have given me a lot of work over the years. These are the kind of 'VIP' customers of mine. They start with Vodafone, Nokia and Telenor. These three have given me business from day one and have used my services regularly. I am so grateful to you! Then I have to thank Ericsson, NTT DoCoMo, Axiata Group, Three, RIM, Google, Digita, China Mobile, Ogilvy, Vodacom and from earlier in the past decade, Siemens and Motorola. Thank you so much. There are others who have also done so, but are not 'reference customers' - so in keeping with the NDAs, I want to thank the rest of you, you know who you are, anonymously here. Thank you!
And I would ask for your indulgence, I really do have to mention all of my reference customers, you would not be able to read this blog today, or follow me on Twitter, were it not for these kind companies buying my consulting services and keeping me in business. I will still keep this with major corporations and brands known more than within their own countries, so I will remove the small start-up and small tech support companies. But yes, in alphabetical order (removing the above obviously), thank you to Amdocs, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, BBC, BNP Paribas, BT, Celcom, Comverse, DHL, Elisa, Emap, Finnet, France Telecom, HSBC, LG, Meriti. M1, MiTV, MTS, MTV, O2, Orange, Partner/Orange, SK Telecom, SMLXL, Symbian. Telecom Malaysia, Telefonica, TeliaSonera, Tigo, Turkcell and Xtract. Thank you all!
What do I do with these types of customers? Sometimes its 'really senior' level 'strategic' consulting, the kind every strategy consultant would love to have, advising the Board or the CEO's Management Team about where the industry is going. But at other times its an internal 'event' like the annual managers' meeting of the company where they want an insiprational speaker to come and liven up what is otherwise an internal event. Then there are times when it is a project, so the 'mobile advertising' team of the company needs a workshop or the 'VAS services' or the 'mobile banking team' or whatever group would like some hands-on advice to get started. With mobile operators/carriers its often marketing related too, like when they rolled out 3G, how to do the launch marketing of 3G, or perhaps some segmentation work or pricing or service portfolio etc.
Then there are the 'futurist training' and 'tech change training' types of jobs. A media company wants to learn about mobile for example (or vice versa, a telecoms company wants to learn about media, etc), so those teams and managers within their organization who need to know, will come to their event, perhaps built by me and some of my partners and consulting friends, or sometimes I am just the outside speaker brought in to juice up the day or days. I am often used then to help judge ideas and give my feedback on what their teams have come up with, etc.
Quite common are internal events to learn about the ecosystem, in particular about the 'clients' so for example the network providers will want to understand their clients, the network operators/carriers better, and will have me provide not just my insights, but also - remembering this is now their sales and sales support teams - also how to 'sell' to their clients, the kind of 'insider tricks' that one needs to know about whatever I was invited to speak about. Same for example for handset makers, or say advertisers, who will need to sell what they learned from my workshop about mobile advertising, onto their clients, the brands. And so forth.
And often I am used as a highlight speaker with company hosted events to their clients or the industry. So a major mobile tech company may use me as one of their speakers in their big event about mobile, or sometimes, when a company is part of arranging a general industry event, they feel Tomi's story would be good to hear, and the company will help arrange me to speak at the event, including covering my travel costs, effectively sponsoring me. Yet another variation is the 'client workshop' where one company, for example a major tech provider, is arranging a one-day workshop for one client of theirs, in one country, and they use me as the highlight speaker as a kind of start to the day, where their own staff will then continue the rest of the day. But as this is a one-client event, and obviously usually this is very deep partnership relationship, the stuff covered is very confidential and long-reaching.
I may even be asked to leave after my presentation, haha, as they will then discuss the specifics in their business etc. Thats ok, I'll then go to my hotel and sit by the pool, do some Twittering or write a blog etc. And I understand, the client used me in part to help draw senior participation to their event - we often give autographed copies of my latest book or something like that to VIP guests etc - and that is ok. Nobody has ever told me to change my story to suit their products or needs (but what I do - wisely as a consultant interested in the long term relationship, not a one-time gig - I of course try to incorporate something from that customer's current product or service offering into my presentation, where it fits. Nobody would ever hire me, if they know my story is opposite to their current need, haha, so there is no danger of there not being any such area of agreement).
Sometimes my job takes the full day or even several days, can run from very early with breakfast meetings at the hotel to late night parties after the work is done. Other times they may fly me in half way across the planet to do a 30 minute quick look into a given area of our industry, and then they run late, the time is cut so that I only end up speaking 15 minutes. I get paid the same, either way, and as long as the customer is happy with my work, I am satisfied. But yes, I live a charmed life.
Of this work I cannot comment further, for understandable reasons. Even years later, it would not be proper, and in every case I am under NDA so it would be also a breach of my agreement with my client. But we can be pretty sure, most of it would be roughly in line with what the mobile industry is doing or will soon be doing anyway.
I LOVE MY READERS
So then my books. Ever since I knew how to read, I have loved books. I was taught to respect books, I had the biggest library of books from among all my friends in my teens and in my early adult life. I would go to bookstores and lose all track of time. It would not be unusual for me to come out of a bookstore with a dozen new books, and more than once I have bought the same book twice over a short period of time, a couple of times even have started reading a new book, only to recognize 'I have read this book before'. My number one favorite place in the world is any bookstore in any language that I can read fluently. My second favorite place - is a library ..in any language that I can read fluently.
My English Teacher, Sr Renee Brinker at the English School of Helsinki taught me truly to love language, writing and reading (and books and authors). My parents encouraged that passion and I was always showered with many books for Christmas and birthdays.
MY 12 BOOKS
I had finished the manuscript for Services for UMTS (co-edited with Joe Barrett and co-authored with a dozen of Nokia's best experts) well before I left Nokia, but the approvals process inside Nokia was taking its time so what was in essence a year 2001 book, didn't come out until March of 2002. By the time the book was released, I was already finishing my second manuscript so S4U as I think of it, is a bit of an orphan in my book collection. While S4U did become a global telecoms bestseller, in fact number 1 world's bestselling telecoms book of the month of October 2002, still I knew even as it was my 'only' published book yet, that a far better, more current book was about to be released.
The following book, M-Profits is what I consider my masterpiece. Where S4U was a kind of hybrid book, not really engineering but looking at services and apps in 3G, M-Profits was purely a business book. The business book, the first business book of this, the most complex technology ever, and the most complex business ever - and the fastest-growing trillion-dollar industry ever. How do you make money in mobile. For all my twelve books, more people have sited M-Profits as what changed their lives, their businesses, their careers, than my other 11 books combined. Yes, it was much due to the timing. But also, the book was written with a kind of freedom. I had proven myself to Wiley, they didn't care what I wrote. I was no longer employed by Nokia so the Nokia PR department didn't care. And no co-authors, no co-editors, so I could say what I really felt and really believed. And very amazingly still today, I can take quotes from that book, which predate what very esteemed experts now say, but I said 9 years earlier.
And when people ask me what I do, I tell them my consultancy focuses on how to make money in mobile. For all the other things I do from marketing and segmentation workshops to statistics and forecasts to service design and case studies. I always come down to the money. Where is the money is my mantra. So the other eleven books yes, have all been good to explore some areas that often have greatly added to my knowledge and knowhow, but the most simplified 'Tomi Ahonen at his core' book is M-Profits. Where are the profits of this bewilderingly complex industry. And that theme is still highly in demand today. Tomi can you come tell us how to make money with smartphone apps, or how to make money with Location-Based Services, or where is the money in Mobile Payments and Mobile Banking etc.
I am not going to discuss all of my books here now. Books are a vital part of who I am, but there are other things I do want to discuss. And with books, we will have their 10 year anniversary early next year haha, where you'll get the dirt on every book and the funny stories relating to them.
I do want to mention 3G Marketing. My third book, co-authored with Timo Kasper and Sara Melkko, was celebrated by John Wiley as the fastest-selling telecoms book of all time, as it went into its second printing in five months from launch. They brought me to Cannes to the 3GSM Mobile World Congress, the biggest telecoms event in the world, to have a book signing event to celebrate the second printing.
I need to mention CDB, Communities Dominate Brands, the signature book to this blog, written with Alan Moore. The book is still being referenced quite frequently as a must-read book for those in the advertising and marketing industries. It was obviously the world's first business book about social networking, and bear in mind, we wrote it when there was no Twitter, no Facebook, no YouTube, no FourSquare and no Farmville. But that we got it so right, is amazing and yes, while CDB is not a 'mobile' book, we were the first in the world to say that social networking would go to mobile. It was obviously also the first published book to explain 'engagement marketing' which is probably why so many advertising execs think of it as the bible for marketing and advertising for this century.
So many more. I love to write, but there would be no books, if there were no readers. You my fans, have made me a bestselling author many times over. My next book, Digital Korea (co-authored with Jim O'Reilly) was even serialized by a Korean IT magazine. Wow. Mr bestseller indeed. You guys have been buying Mobile as 7th of the Mass Media, my Pearls Volumes, Vol 1 on Mobile Advertising, Vol 2 on Mobile Social Networking and now the newest, Vol 3 on Mobile Money just released a week ago. I also wrote my Almanac (into its third year) and my Phone Book. And to top it off, this January, I released the 350 page ebook Tomi Ahonen The Insider's Guide To Mobile, as a totally free edition in its basic ebook version. If you have not read any book of mine, go now to Lulu.com and get your free copy of The Insider's Guide. It is my latest thinking on the whole industry, so it builds on M-Profits, and on 7th Mass Media. And yes, that book was for you, my readers, as my gift. Totally free (its printed edition should be out soon, which you can buy on Amazon if you want the traditional hardcover version into your library).
But seriously, I love meeting my readers, especially those who have bought one of my books. I say it in my books, I say it here on the blog and I really really do mean it. I love autographing those books for you. If you do have one of my books, and you come to see me speak somewhere, please do bring the book with you, I am most happy to autograph it for you, and to talk extra long with you about your business and why your read that book and what you thought of it. I am not JK Rowlings. I am not mobbed by Harry Potter fans haha. I meet typically one or two of my fans at an average speakership. There honestly is nothing more delightful for me, that to see a fan who brought a book and asking for an authograph. I will love to sign it for you.
Then there is the respect by my peers. I am truly humbled, that I am now referenced in over 100 books by other authors already. In less than ten years from my first book. Some (obviously nonfiction) authors will find a few references of their book before they die, and then more long after they are gone. Few are lucky enough to find ten references of their works while they live. I've seen 100 books already mention me and I haven't even stopped writing yet. I am far from retirement and while I have not tried to compare to the other major authors of this field, I may be the most referenced author in mobile. That is part of what drives me to write more. If my writing didn't touch anyone, I'd stop. But if other authors - and gosh, we authors have big egos - if other authors think so kindly of me, to mention my thinking in their books, that is the best endorsement I can have, that I am still contributing to this industry.
And what do I love to do apart from writing books and meeting my readers and fans? Anyone who has seen me speak in public know that Tomi Ahonen loves the stage. I love to speak in public. I was part of Nokia's 'Talking Heads' circle of execs at the HQ who did the big talking gigs, the visiting press and financial analysts and CEOs of clients etc. I might do the exact same presentation to four separate VIP audiences the same day (not every day, usually about three or four presentations per week). And I had had plenty of visibilty and practise - and training - before setting up my own shingle. But since October 2001 I have truly had the privilege of living the James Bond lifestyle thanks to what we in Finland called 'tele tourism' - travelling to telecoms conferences. In my case, invariably it was to deliver a keynote or to chair or often to do both.
Excluding the time before I started my own consulting business, so just after Oct 1, 2001, I have had the privilege to speak at 215 conference speakerships in the past 10 years. I say I do 20 conference speakerships per year, the math now says its been 21 and a half, on average, haha. Thats pretty close. But 21.5 speakerships in a year of 52 weeks, minus holidays, has me speaking pretty much exactly once every two weeks on average, at public events. I counted earlier this year, that I have now been seen speaking in public by a cumulative audience of over 100,000 people (counting the time obviously before 2001 as well). I think I've touched "a few people" haha. Some do come from the audience and tell me they flew to that event just to hear me. Some travel across oceans and continents, to hear me. That is truly uplifting and humbling at the same time.
I work hard at my craft. I want to make sure my audience feels they learned something. I know it is impossible to satisfy everybody, but I try to cover as much as possible, with some stats, with some jokes, with some case examples, with some humanizing elements, with user experiences. I personalize for that country audience with their currency and some of their local companies as examples where I can, etc. I also use all the ways we are taught to speak persuasively, eye contact, stepping away from the podium, not turning my back at the audience (ie not looking at my slides on the screen) and so forth. I am proud to say that in audience reviews, I have been ranked the top speaker of speech at every event I've spoken at now for seven years straight. The last time I was ranked only second best speaker was when I did a last-minute replacement speaking gig when I still lived in London and the local conference producers all knew they could call Tomi Ahonen a few days before an event if there was a cancellation, and Tomi would step in.. And even back in my Nokia days, my reputation as the top speaker was so strong, most senior Nokia execs refused to speak after me haha. In major Nokia events, I'd be put to speak last in the day, or last before lunch..
215 public speaking events over the past 10 years. Thats a lot of speaking. Most who speak a lot, tend to do the same countries and same events. I have worked particularly hard to bring my visibility to new markets and new audiences. I have been seen speaking in public in 51 countries on all six inhabited continents. That is certainly one of the biggest total 'footprints' of public speaking in terms of the globe, and probably, if you remove the PR speaking of companies who send speakers to promote their wares, but only counting speakers who are invited because they actually are famous as speakers rather than their company sponsoring the event, probably I have been seen most widely of any mobile industry related speaker. Again, I have no numbers on this but considering the industry and its dramatic changes, that is probably true.
Its not amazing to speak many times in your home country, and as I've lived in three countries during my speaking career (counting back to my times at Nokia and Elisa), its not really astonishing to find I've spoken many times in Finland or the UK or Hong Kong. But after those, where have I been seen the most? After my home countries, the nation that has requested my speeches the most has been.. Japan. The single most advanced country in mobile, has been kind enough to invite me to speak at 11 speaking events in just the past 10 years actually. And the beautiful thing about speaking in an advanced market, is that I can take it also as a learning opportunity, to meet with local colleagues and find out whats new.
Next is France with 9, then Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany, the USA with 8 speakerships each. Spain and Singapore have seen me 7 times in the past decade. Austria and South Africa 6 times each. Colombia and Malaysia 5 times or averaging once every two years. So nations in Asia, Europe, North America, Latin America and Africa have asked me to visit them so frequently I've been to those countries at least once every two years. It has been a privilege.
WHAT DID I TALK ABOUT?
Its also interesting to look back at the events and the topics. Early on, the conferences were often about the forecasts for the future, and pending launches of various technologies, like 3G, MMS, etc. Then they shifted more to the launches and marketing of those. The marketing events went from talking of getting new customers to churn and loyalty. The social networks phenomenon came. In telecoms the fixed-mobile story was something we often saw early in the past decade, it was more about digital convergence towards the end of the decade. And mobile advertising and mobile commerce and location-based services would be recurring themes over the past decade. Some 'fashions' came and went like mobile TV while today's smartphone apps, while highly popular topic now, may also be seen later as having been such a fashion.
In 2001 it was much about 3G revenues, forecasting those, and where was the money in mobile. In 2002 the story got a lot more glum, so we had events about 'saving' mobile haha, and how to 'recover' revenues and profits etc. But 2002 was mostly about what are the new services, the search for the killer app in 3G. GPRS and MMS became hot topics over the next few years. 2003 was a lot about the rise and fall and perhaps rise again of 3G (the deepest despair for 3G). And I was often asked to talk about what was actually making money in mobile. In 2003 I spoke the first time at a handsets-specific event. In 2004 I was starting to do presentations specifically with a 'global overview' to mobile services. Many event producers had noticed that their audiences loved how I brought case studies from other markets. And I was starting to get requests to talk about the future of mobile. Profits and also marketing/segmentation were often the topics I talked about. The first time I spoke at a developer event was in 2005. A lot of my presentations that year were about the customers of mobile. And my first presentation on 'Communities Dominate' types of topics was that year. It was also the year of the first mobile TV event.
In 2006 I started to get more interest out of the advertising industry to talk about mobile. It was also when I introduced the concept of the 7th mass media as my topic and would do 7thMM presentations for a couple of years to come. 2006 saw the first presentation that was 'only Tomi's Pearls'. Digital convergence was now emerging as a hot topic too. 2006 was the first time I focused on the multiple subscriptions as a tull topic in my telecoms marketing speaking. Digital communities were very much in the topics in 2007. Mobile banking and m-commerce became more visible in 2008. The business models in mobile social networking would follow in 2009. And I did my famous 'Next 4 Billion' presentation in 2009 for Picnic, the presentation whose video has had over 30,000 viewings and is still today quoted as visionary. 2009 was also in light of the economic downturn, bringing topics of efficiency into my speeches. 2010 the FIFA tournament was a brief bit of excitement. The more sustainable theme for the year was innovations and magical experiences. Retail also emerged as a topic area for mobile. App stores and smartphone apps emerged as a hot topic I was often seen speaking about. And this year 2011 I'd add now mobile money as a strong topic area.
Thats a quick look down memory lane at the topics of my presentations. Wow what diversity, eh? At least I am not forced to repeat myself from day to day, from year to year, haha. This is a wonderful time to be in mobile!
SO MANY MEMORABLE EVENTS
But let me mention a few particularly memorable events. My most 'impressive' speaking merit is of course the strategy keynote to the 3GSM World Congress that I gave in 2005 when the World Congress was still held in Cannes (its now held in Barcelona). This is the most prestigious single speech you can give in this industry, the nearest thing in the telecoms business, to what the US President delivers as his State of the Union speech. And I may be the only non-CEO of giant telecoms corporation to be allowed to deliver that strategy keynote, I'm pretty sure I'm the only consultant to even be allowed into that session haha, where the others were panelists. This is my famous 'machine guns' presentation, and very many of those who saw me live, say its the best presentation they've ever seen at the World Congress, before or after..
I did practise that speech over 20 times. And it was a pure custom speech, never done before or since. I had shown little teasers of what was to come in a few conferences in early 2005 but since, I've only used parts of it in workshops, the actual Cannes Strategy Keynote has never been shown again in public in that form (of course. I never repeat any presentation in its entirity, except if explicitly asked to do a repeat, like RIM did with their Blackberry Connects with the Experts Series, where they booked explicitly the same presentation from me to the different cities they did the event series). I was so nervous stepping up to that stage, but also so relieved when my opening joke worked and then to get the thundering applause afterwards, that was amazing. It was one of those events where the applause seemed like it would not stop, and I had to ask the audience to stop clapping..
A particularly heartwarming moment for me was the Telecoms Forecasting conference by IBC in October of 2001. I had just left Nokia and I was chairing this forecasting event as I tended to do most such events at the time. And remember, I'm only days into my new life as a consultant, no longer Mr Nokia Consulting dude. And would you know it, a friend of mine was speaking, from Telenor, who said it was such an honor to speak at this event chaired by Tomi Ahonen, because Tomi was involved in the modelling of Telenor's 3G business case. My jaw must have dropped. I could not believe what I had heard. I would hear such comments often ever since, but this was the first time, and it was at a time when I felt desperately in need for 'any' reference customers. I would have been happy with any start-up nobody heard of. I was only days into my new business. And here, one of the ten biggest telecoms groups of the world, said their most important strategic plan, their 3G business case, was done not by 'people working with Tomi' but done with Tomi. I beamed. I didn't need to go begging for endorsements now, if Telenor says they use Tomi Ahonen, anyone in the mobile industry knows that name.. I was set.
My first 'rock star' moment was at CommunicAsia in Singapore in 2002 (Asia's biggest telecoms event). After my presentation I was 'mobbed'.. Now the situation was somewhat contrived, my publisher had sent over 30 books to be given out at that event. So I mentioned that in my speech, that immediately after it, at the coffee break, if anyone wanted, we'd be giving out free books. So the moment I stepped down from the stage, a crowd enveloped me, just like a rock star haha.. But nonetheless, I did have that moment of being rushed with a crowd around me.. That was the only time we gave out free books like that. Since then every so often I do get a small mob after me, might be as big as a dozen people, but its never quite that big as it was in Singapore - was probably 50 people or more haha. I wished I would have had more books to give out, as they ran out very fast.
NOT ALL PLEASANT MEMORIES
Its not all happiness in telecoms land. My worst reception ever after a speech was a bit before I left Nokia. I presented the second day keynote at the first mobile internet conference of North America. I was Mr Nokiadude, I would tell them how you could make money with mobile, today. And sure enough, if you follow my writing, you know, Tomi talked about SMS and ringing tones.. Yeah. In year 2000. In the USA. They almost boo'ed me off the stage. Ok, no boos and no rotten tomatos were thrown but seriously. Not one business card. I was the loneliest person at the coffee breaks. Nobody - nobody wanted to talk to the weird Nokiaguy who talked about SMS, that'll never happen here, craszy Finn, and ringing tones? Whats that? Ain't gonna happen.
If anyone of that audience had bothered to give my ideas a chance - I gave all the facts, stats, numbers and case studies (remember, commerical SMS started in Finland, invented by my mentor, but at this time in the USA, SMS was not even inter-operable among carriers) and ringing tones? I was literally the world's first person to talk about ringing tones outside of Finland, as it too was invented in Finland and one of my closest friends worked on the team that developed it. So I was among the first to know. But yes, if someone had bothered only to give me the benefit of the doubt. To take my slides, and go check on it. They'd be a millionaire easily today. The rapper 50 Cent would become the first US pop musician who sold more ringing tones than singles; and a few years later, a presidential candidate Barack Obama would become first to use SMS to announce his VP choice rather than press conference. So over time, I was proven to be right. The fastest way out of 2000 into 2001 in the USA to make money out of mobile was SMS and ringing tones.. But I had been too much ahead of the time that American audiences would be willing to believe. I learned a valuable lesson in 2000 at that event. To not take cutting edge stuff to America. Since then I've been greatly cheered when I leave the stage on American soil too, but I do tone down the futurist stuff and stick to more of the basics when talking to any laggard nations like the USA and Canada (no offense, I am just stating the facts)
And there is the total opposite too. There was one event in London about the mobile web 2.0, by Informa in 2007. So this was 'Communities Dominate Mobiles' right? It was London, I had only recently moved here to Hong Kong so the local scene still fully knew me. And the speakers to that event were particularly the whose who of mobile social networking. The event was like family. It was the first time that just about every speaker referenced me in some way, several mentioned that they work with me, others quoted my stats or my theories or showed the Flower Diagram from CDB the book, etc. The event was not so much a 'conference' as it felt like family. More than half of the audience knew me personally, all the speakers knew me, and everybody believed 100% in what I had been saying about the industry. My keynote drew thunderous applause and it was one of those events where just about all delegates stayed well past the end of the drinks reception.
THE JAMES BOND LIFESTYLE
I have had my James Bond moments too. I spoke at the biggest national telecoms event in Malaysia in November of last year. The telecoms minister spoke there and all the biggest bosses of the companies. And I did a keynote. So then at the lunch break I do what I always do, I try to mingle. So with it being a buffet dinner, I ate my main course at one table, spoke with those fellow lunch-mates, exchanged some business cards, and then excused myself and ate my desert at another table, to meet more of the conference delegates. And I was speaking with the men sitting to the right of me for a while. And then turned to the ladies to the left of me. They were pretty but rather young, I thought probably pretty new to the industry, maybe in marketing or product management or something, fresh out of college. I asked which company they worked for, and they said, they're the band.
They're the band? This didn't register. I must have looked puzzled, one of the three girls explained, they are the band that will perform tonight at the party. The BAND? Well, yes, these three pretty ladies were in fact The Senoritas, the 'spice girls of Malaysia' Malaysia's biggest girl band. And here I was, Mr James Bond, hanging around with three hot chicks at lunch. I usually try not to be a pest to celebrities I might see on my travels, but hey, lunch! I did ask to take a picture of them and they kindly agreed. One of those 'this only happens to Tomi' moments haha.. A true James Bond moment.
But again, its not all fun and games. I once spoke in Perth Australia, at an event in 2004. The main presentation was fine. Then the event split into streams and I had a second presentation in one of the streams. I went to the assigned room and waited for the session to start. A couple of people were there. And then the time came to start. One of the speakers got up who would do the first speech and also chair the session. And he looked at the room, and laughed and remarked, that we have four speakers scheduled and in addition to me (himself) there are only the three of you here in this room, so clearly its only the four speakers here today. And then he showed his title slide - one of the three other people in the room, looked at the slide, apologized, said he was in the wrong room and left.
We had four speakers scheduled to speak, and only three people in the room! We had an audience of 'minus one' haha. Yes, one of the speakers even didn't show up. So yeah, thats the life as a public speaker. Some are great, some are not so great. Like when the airport shuts down, they start to lock down the place and the cleaning teams come in, and you still don't see your driver, and you don't speak the language, and your mobile phone battery is dead so you can't call your contact. Yeah. That happened to me too. I won't say where. My driver did show up shortly thereafter, greatly apologizing. He had had a broken tyre..
But then there was the time I was censored! 15 minutes before I was to speak, my name was on the speaker agenda on the screen, I was fully miked up to go, I was suddenly told that I could not speak. This happened last year in Canberra also in Australia, at the Mint Directors Conference (national mints, as in the people who manufacture and print our money, coins and banknotes). Don't get me started on that.
If you want to read the full 'scandal' check out this blog about it. I did get my revenge, I showed the censored speech (or the offending parts of it) to every audience who wanted to hear haha.. The stupid part is, that I spoke nothing new, the 'offending' slides were already in the public domain prior to that event and if the organizers had bothered to check, they had my slides for more than a month prior to the event. If they didn't like something, they could have asked me to say it in some other way, which I would have done because I was there to try to tell the mint directors, that while the manufacturing of cash will come to an end - killed by mobile - that won't happen soon and they have a long career left etc. But no, the organizers felt too threatened and didn't allow me to speak.
There are so many memories. In Amsterdam at the 3G event in 2003, I started my keynote with a poem, and ended with the ending to the poem. The cute part is, that the chairman was so swift on his feet and good with language, he wrote a short poem then to thank me for my keynote. That was amazing. Its only the second time someone has written a poem for me.
NOBODY EXPECTS THE SPANISH INQUISITION
Then there is the revenge of the translator. I often have presentations translated. In Sao Paulo Brazil, at the MoMo event, my friend Martin Feldstein of Meriti and chairman of ForoMovil came to act as my 'translator'. We wrote a play. So the audience initially gets to hear me speak in English, and they see a 'subtitles' section to my speech, the bottom of each slide is blacked out, and there is translation to Portuguese in white letters on the bottom. Not translating what is on the slides (that is in English) but rather, translating what I am saying, which often is quite different to what is on the slides, obviously.
We practised this many times with Martin so it was in synch, much like the subtitles on TV or in the movies. Well, after a couple of slides, the translations start to 'go wrong'. First, it looks like Martin is lazy, or not paying attention. Then there appear typos in the translations, and soon real mistakes. Then as the audience is getting quite upset with this translation guy, the first obvious jokes come in - where he clearly has translated something in reference to what I said, not translating what I said. Then he - the translations - start to mock me and complain about me being the prima donna etc.. The audience gets in on the joke and soon they anticipate each next translation knowing there will be jokes in all of them. If you've seen the opening titles to Monty Python's Holy Grail - the Sweden jokes about the moose bit my sister, etc that were mixed with the opening credits - that was the kind of humor we were aiming at. The presentation - in fact a play - was a big success and we repeated it - with Spanish subtitles but same jokes - also in Buenos Aires Argentina and Caracas Venezuela. My 'international play' and truly a memorable presentation and no doubt a weird experience to the audience as they first grew increasingly uncomfortable with the incompetent or even rude translator, until the audience gets it, that this is a comedy.
There were moments of incredible honor. Like at the CTIA (North America's biggest telecoms event) in March of 2003 in New Orleans, when the WCNC arranged the world's first event about the services for 4G. We had a kind of panel of 3G services experts collected by Dr Roberto Saracco who heads TIM's (Telecom Italia Mobile) Research Lab. And while we all had of course done a lot of thinking of what to say, Roberto, knowing that I'd be well prepared, said, that since I wrote the book about services for 3G, why don't I start the discussions, with my view about the services for 4G. In a very literal sense, the first person to talk in public about services for 4G, was yours truly.
Another was the 20 year anniversary of cellular telecoms in Canada, in Ottawa in June of 2005. This was the huge celebration event for mobile in Canada, all CEOs of all carriers spoke as did the minister etc. And the keynote was by their good friend, Tomi Ahonen. But the topic? The next 20 years of mobile telecoms! This was by far, by far the most challenging presentation I was ever asked to deliver. I rose to the task. I predicted Ottawa would with the Stanley Cup in 2025, that got me the crowd. And as part of my predictions for 2025 I said 'Tomi Ahonen retires, visits Ottawa to event celebrating 40 years of mobile, and we all laugh at Tomi's silly predictions from 20 years before'
And then my fans and friends.. In South Africa Vodacom was about to start their 3G network in November of 2004, and they decided the first 3G call would be a video call. And to do that, they had the local mobile service developer community gathered for a big 3G event. And they wanted a surprise guest to do that call. They flew me in to Johannesburg not just to be part of that moment, but to be the 'celebrity' who made that call. They had a camera on the screen of the 'receiving' phone of the video call. Then my 3G videophone would call that, so the audience could see who it was and hear me. Right? So I call in. The audience recognizes me and applauds, and they think I am calling from London. I am actually hiding outside the conference room, and step into the room and walk towards the stage and the audience goes wild, that I am there with them. And then I do my keynote of course.. But what an honor. The first 3G call, the first video call on the continent of Africa. And what a privilege.
Or in Colombia, another nation that just keeps calling me back. When they had the Andicom event (biggest telecoms event of Latin America) in October of 2008, the opening session featured a video about Colombia's industry (remember this is a regional event) and about the Andicom event. In the video they highlighted four and only four of the hundreds of speakers at the event - the President of Colombia, Mr Aribe would deliver the opening address. There was a local tech guru that I didn't recognize. And the anchor of CNN en Espanol, a former Miss World and Colombian; and Mr Tomi Ahonen.. Wow. I like to think of myself as 'big' within the telecoms space but not to be mentioned in the same group as the sitting President of a country or a former Miss World..
I have so many golden memories of my speaking engagements. Like last year at Abu Dhabi with the World Summit Awards, the only awards in tech that are sponsored by the United Nations. I delivered my keynote yes, but the organizers had arranged some very nice entertainment at the end of the first day. It had several options of local famous tourist destinations. And one of the options for us speakers was to be taken to Yas Marina racetrack and be driven around the Formula 1 circuit in a two seater race car, by a professional race driver for 4 laps. Only a handful of the speakers took this option but I sure did. It was not an F1 car, it was 'just' a proper race car of a lesser series but this was a real racing car with a real professional race car driver. I have never witnessed g-forces like that. I am a huge fan of rollercoasters but this was by far the best rollercoaster ride ever. Do it if you go to Abu Dhabi!
I could go on and on, but lets stop the conference speakerships here. Let me mention one plug. If you happen to have your event near the F1 race in your town and you happen to have some tickets and can spare one for me - I'll move heaven and earth to be speaking at your event haha..
And then I also 'collect' James Bond countries. James Bond has so far travelled to 48 countries in the movies. I've been to 35 of those already. But if your event is in one of hte more esoteric of the Bond countries, you know, like Madagascar or Afghanistan or Bolivia or North Korea or Kazakhstan - do not fear that Tomi might 'not want to come here' - if its a Bond country, I'll love to come there. And even if not, I really do think I have lived a blessed life. I have seen enough of London and Paris and New York and Tokyo. Those audiences have seen quite enough of me haha. If you have an event in an Emerging World country, no matter how 'poor' or 'underdeveloped' - that will not scare me, I will love to be there with you. Drop me an email and lets make it happen.
Then if you are a consultant (or author) you want publicity. You want your name in the news so that prospective customers who never knew of you, can find you; you want your name in the news so that the current prospects decide to hire you, to affirm that you clearly are the hot name in that area; and you want your past clients to read your name in the press to know they were using the right guy, to feel good about the money they had spent.. Yes, we are all media hogs.
As I said, being part of Nokia's 'Talking Heads' group, I had a huge surge of publicity from 2000 to 2001 and by the time I left Nokia, I had already many prestigious press references. But my fave publication has always been the Economist. Right after I started, in October, the second issue of the Economist that came out, 13 October - had a surprise for me - in their story about the biggest gamble in business history (mobile 3G and the related mobile internet) - they quoted me! And this was totally unexpected, I had not been interviewed by the Economist recently, this was a quote from the Spring, that the journalist had taken when interviewing Nokia execs and he had then held until that bigger cover story and special report was published. I was the happiest man in the world. I had just been quoted in not just perhaps the most respected newsmagazine and business magazine of the world, but also in my favorite publication. Let me reproduce that quotation here, I am quite happy too about what the journalist, Tom Standage decided was worth printing, said by Tomi Ahonen:
But the combination of personalisation, location information and a willingness to pay makes all kinds of new business models possible. Tomi Ahonen, head of 3G Business Consulting at Nokia, gives the example of someone waiting at a bus stop who pulls out his Internet-capable phone to find out when the next bus will arrive. The information sent to the phone can be personalised, reflecting the fact that the user's location is known, and perhaps his home address too; so bus routes that run from one ot the other can appear at the top of the list, saving the user from having to scroll and click through lots of pages and menus. A very similar service, which allows users to find out when the next bus is due by sending a text message from a bus stop, is already available in Italy. (The Economist, Oct 13, 2001)
After that I really did feel like my job in attempting to get media visibility was 'complete' haha. The thrill was not as big when I 'got' the Times of London or the Financial Times or Wall Street Journal or Business Week or Forbes etc. But also it is a kind of unfair system, I am now quoted absolutely regularly in not just the tech and telecoms media but also in the mainstream media and am often on TV. I really do not need that publicity anymore, but the fact they use me, means that the young new consultants have an even harder time getting visibility, because the press always go back to quoting the old dudes haha.. I know it seems unfair. But yes, early in my career, I would meticulously list every press clipping on my website and add it to my CV. After a while the list got so long, I stopped with the quotations, and only collected the names of the periodicals. And later, I would stop doing that too, and only add 'major' press to the list. So here is how I list my press refernces if someone asks, haha, as an appendix to my CV (note this list excludes any book reviews, these are stories with actual 'quotes' of what I've said). Its a pretty good list of press, and pretty darn global in reach, isn't it..
Daily Newspapers and Daily Business Papers: Bisnis Indonesia, Brisbane Times (Australia), Business Day (South Africa), Business News Americas, Business Times (Singapore), Capital (Romania), CNet Japan, Corriere della Sera (Italy), Courier-Mail (Australia), Cuba Si, CWW (China), De Pers (Netherlands), Diario de Noticias (Portugal), DR (Denmark), El Espectador (Colombia), El Mercurio (Chile), El Pais (Spain), Express (Belgium), Finance (Slovenia), Financial Times (UK), Financial Times Deutchland (Germany), Finaciarul (Romania), Finanstidningen (Sweden), The Guardian (UK), Haber 10 (Turkey), Helpix (Russia), Het Nieusblat (Belgium), India Times, Invertia (Chile), Invertia (Peru), Jakarta News (Indonesia), JoonAng Daily (South Korea), Kapital (Bulgaria), Kathimerini (Greece), Kommersant (Russia), La Capital (Argentina), La Nacion (Chile), La Republica (Colombia), Le Monde (France), Newstin (United Arab Emirates), Nikkei (Japan), The Oberver (UK), People's Daily (China), Prensa Libre (Guatemala), Rakunalniske Novice (Slovenia), San Francisco Chronicle (USA), Santa Fe New Mexican (USA), Seattle Times (USA), Sina Com (China), Sisli Gazetesi (Turkey), Sydney Morning Herald (Australia), Taipei Times (Taiwan), Taloussanomat (Finland), The Times of London (UK), Ufasat (Russia), Valor Economico (Brazil), Vanguardia (Mexico), WA Today (Australia), Wall Street Journal (USA), Wirtschaftswoche (Germany), Yediot Aharonot (Israel)
And thats only the beginning. Then there are the major business weeklies, newsmagazines and other business and marketing magazines as follows: Asia Africa Intelligence Wire, Barrons, Brandweek, Buergerwelle, Business Week, BusinessOnline (Italy), Canadian Business, Challenges (France), Confidence Quarterly (South Africa), The Economist, Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), Fortune, Globes (Israel), Japan Corporate News, Kreativ Magazin (Hungary), Magazine News, Management Team (Netherlands), Marketing Facts (Netherlands), Marketing Week, Mladina (Slovenia), Negocios (Brazil), New Zealand Marketing Magazine, PME (Belgium), SDA Asia, Strategie (Slovenia), Terra (Colombia), Talouselama (Finland), The Age, The Edge, Trends, Trouw (Netherlands)
Note the above lists are not anything like complete, haha. And I could add hundreds more in tech and telecoms magazines and news sites and so forth. But yes. Again, ten years and wow, what a list of press? Yes, I guess, my thinking has been influencing others and helping them find this mobile industry, hasn't it?
For any journalist reading this, I keep saying the same thing. I love talking to journalists because they do not necessarily know specifics of the mobile industry, but they are specialists in asking penetrating questions. Very often the first person in the world to pose a given question to me was not the strategy director or head of research by some global company in mobile - it was most often a journalist. I love the challenge of a fresh question, and I also love the process of talking with journalists this way, as it helps give me 'advance warning' about a given thought, which then propels me to think about it more and prepare, when inevitably that question WILL be asked by some others, weeks or months later. And with the above press visibility, I can honestly say, I do not need to be quoted (but I love to be quoted) in the press. So if the journalist is looking for background info, or following a lead, talking with Tomi does not require them to print something that I said. I'm totally ok to help the journalist today, maybe in the future they come back and might quote me then. I am far beyond needing the visibility anymore haha..
But again, confession time. I do read everything I find of myself, and I do the 'ego surfing' like the best of them, about once per week I'll do a search of Tomi Ahonen and Tomi T Ahonen and Communities Dominate blog to see if we've been quoted somewhere. And a couple of times per year, I'll do the same for all of my book titles, because if I search for Ahonen, I get a thousand stories about Janne Ahonen the ski jumper plus other Ahonens (its a very common name in Finland). But some will reference my book by name so searching the book names will discover some of those stories.
But Communities Dominate. There was a time when you got a Ph D and lectured at the best universities and wrote the books and were respected. Today it means collaboration, especially in an era of blogs, Facebook and Twitter. Today an expert is defined most of all by his or her peers, the followers the meritocracy that comes from the social networks.
So I have to thank those of my colleagues who have helped my consultancy, my career and my visibility. I don't know where to start, there are many who have been so instrumental but if I think of the ten years of TomiAhonen Consulting, then one name has been there from the very start all the way to today, and that is Lars Cosh-Ishii of Wireless Watch and MoMo Tokyo. He's stood by me like a rock, he has helped me countless times, secured business for me, found me speakerships, helped me sell more books, helped promote me, and whenever I have asked him for any kind of assistance he's been there immediately and completely. I also try to associate myself with nice people, helpful people and people who share (as opposed to rude people, unhelpful people and those who take but don't give - there are plenty of those to go around in this industry). And even among all the nicest people of this industry, I think the universal consensus is that Lars is the nicest man in mobile.
There were people who were instrumental from the start of my consultancy, from my former boss Ilkka Pukkila at Nokia to Jouko Ahvenainen then of Xtract, to Voytek Siewierski then of NTT DoCoMo. Their careers have all meandered as it does for us all so the needs have since diminshed for contacts but early on, they were very important when my young consultancy really needed friends. Steve Jones at the 3G Portal was a loyal and consistent friend at that time and helped me get some useful visibility in editorials he'd let me write to his popular 3G newsletter of that time. The first 'new' supporter that became an instrumental supporter of TomiAhonen Consulting was Peter Holland of Oxford University, and soon thereafter, Alan Moore with whom we obviously wrote the book and collaborated on this blog. A steady rock of a friend and co-conspirator on a multitude of projects has been Ajit Jaokar, not just publishing three of my books but we continue to co-moderate Forum Oxford and co-chair the related annual Conference for Oxford University.
Here in Asia I had a lot of support for many years from Neil Montefiore then the CEO of M1. Sharon Haran then of Partner/Orange in Israel was a steady supporter until he left telecoms for other challenges. One of my closest confidants here in this region has been Alex Tan of Nokia. Meanwhile new friends made in Europe who I greatly trust are Dan Applequist of Vodafone and Krzysztof Procska then of Polkomtel. Recently I've become very close with many collaborative projects with Jonathan JMac MacDonald and with Gerd Leonhard. Mike Wright of Striata essentially built my reputation in South Africa arranging many jobs there. Martin Feldstein of Meriti and ForoMovil did the same for my reputation in much of Latin America. Faith McGary of KGB is another regular supporter as is Ed Candy over at Three and of course Jari Tammisto at MoMo. I would thank Jim O'Reilly simply for helping make Digital Korea the book possible, I could not have written it without him but Jim was a big supporter of mine from long before and would deserve to be on this list even if we had not written the book together. He now works with Samsung.
This kind of list will never be truly complete, but there are several names I have to mention, who have helped me significantly or advised me or opened doors that I didn't know existed. Antti Ohrling, Matti Makkonen, the kind of names who are legends (Matti invented SMS, was my last mentor at Nokia; Antti is now with Blyk, a legend of Finnish digital advertising, I was a fan of him long before I thought of writing books about this industry. It still gives me goosebumps that Antti even knows my name, or that he's willing to have a drink of aged Single Malt Whisky with me from time to time). Or Rory Sutherland of Ogilvy, I could listen to Rory for days.
And so many brilliant experts in their fields. Mark Curtis until recently CEO of whatever the company is that makes Flirtomatic. Mike Beeston, Olof Schybergson and especially Christian Lindholm of Fjord the most astonishing creative digital agency that understands mobile. Russell Buckley previously with Admob and Google. Tony Fish of AMF Ventures. Chetan Sharma the author. Vic Keegan who recently left the Guardian. Ewan McLeod who is still writing for Mobile Review and Emily Turrettini of Textually. Plus Kei Shimada of Infinita. Ted Matsumoto of Softbank. Alan Hadden of the GSA. Claude Florin of HP. Peggy Anne Salz of Mobile Groove. Peter Vesterbacka of Rovio (ie Angry Birds). The author Paul Golding then of Motorola. And a bunch of Nokia colleagues who have since moved on, especially Lauri Kivinen now CEO of YLE, Arja Suominen now with Finnair, and Keith Pardy now with RIM. And let me still mention Mike Short of O2/Telefonica and the MDA, Nicanor Santiago of Axiata, Madanmohan Rao of MoMo, Sigve Brekke of Telenor, Akihisa Fujita of D2C, Mark Newman at Informa, BJ Yang of AirCross, Roberto Saracco of TIM, Simon Cavill of Mi-Pay, James Peh Frenclub, Peter Miles of SubTV, Heikki Karimo IBM, Juan Lontok and Rick Constanzo at RIM, Ernst Axelbank of Artificial Life, Ville Virtanen at Tieto, Raimo van der Klein of Layar, Helen Keegan Tanla, Patrick Scodeller of M1, Taina Kalliokoski of Fujitsu, William Volk of Playscreen, and my friends Steven Epstein, Timo Kasper, Walter Adamson, Jackie Danicki, Aaron Chua, Alex Kerr and Sara Melkko.
And you know what? There is inevitably that celebrity thing. I know some who read this blog will think Tomi is the big guru and some 'fans' who meet me the first time are clearly delighted to meet me in person. I appreciate that greatly but I honestly think I am not worthy. But I think you'll get what I mean when it happens the other way around. So take some big tech writers and bloggers. Om Malik or Howard Rheingold or Robert Scoble the Scobleizer. I quote them all the time. Then suddenly on some blog story or Tweet, I find them quoting me? Wot? The first time that happened I was so astonished they could possibly have heard of me, far less that they felt my little thought was worth repeating. I was beaming for many days. Cool. What I have tried to do, as much as possible, is always to credit also the ideas that I have learned from someone else. When I tweet, to mention of course where it came, but increasingly on this blog, to also mention if I thought of something, due to a Tweet, and then mention both the real names of, and the Twitter handles of those people who caused that thought or found me that link to whatever story it was. Many have written in private that they felt it was a great moment to them when Tomi mentioned their name on the CDB blog. I truly know how that feels, and believe me, that never goes away; it is the same for me.
If I have been able to see further, its because I've been standing on the shoulders of giants. If you look at my Twitter feed, you see regularly me quoting Ajit Jaokar or Russell Buckley or Jonathan MacDonald or Dan Applequist or Tony Fish or Alan Moore etc. I am blessed to be able to call these people my friends and to count on them to guide me, to advise me, to mentor me, to warn me, to debate with me and to support me. To council me. Thank you! My consultancy would not have been viable this long without your support!
ICING ON THE CAKE: OXFORD
And one more thing. I respect knowledge and obviously an university education. If I was forced to pick one university above all others, which I respect the most, sorry Harvard and MIT, sorry Standford and Cambridge, I'd pick Oxford University. I am not a Ph D, my degree is only an MBA. I therefore was not ever expecting to be invited to teach at 'any' university far less Oxford. So imagine my astonishment when I first met Peter Holland of Oxford University who asked if I could deliver a course for him around the topic of my first book, Services for UMTS. A 3G services course.
At Oxford? Oxford not the town, Oxford as in the University. Yes. Not a full semester course, I wouldn't have time for that, but a two-day or three-day short course? But being fully part of the 'faculty' at Oxford University? Yes. With the Department of Continuing Education at Rewley House. Wow. I could never ever in a million trillion cazillion years imagine this day could come. I had thought in the back of my mind, that I should go back to University some day, to get my Ph D, but before that would happen, no way I could be lecturing at any university, far less Oxford University. But yes, that too. Peter and I have been arranging now a series of these courses every year, around topics from my recent books. Currently we are running Mobile as 7th of the Mass Media, two days Oct 26-27. If you wanted two days of Tomi Ahonen but didn't want to pay the normal consulting fees, this is your way. The Oxford University course is far cheaper even than any conference workshops. And you get your Oxford University course certificate too. Two days and you can rightfully say you've also attended Oxford.. No prior techncial knowledge required (and you get an autographed copy of my book too!). To find out more, see Tomi Ahonen Oxford University Course Mobile As 7th of the Mass Media.
And after the courses started, at one point we had a brainwave with Ajit Jaokar, Russell Buckley, Peter Holland and me. I don't remember exactly who and how and what, but we decided to launch a neutral, always-free, invitation-only based expert community, online, around Oxford, about mobile. We called it Forum Oxford, and Ajit and I would co-moderate it. That became the meeting place for just about the whose who of mobile gurus and thought-leaders. We counted at one point we had over 40 published authors in mobile as our members, and 16 of the 20 best-read bloggers were active on Forum Oxford. We heard that the Forum is read 'religiously' at headquarters from Nokia to Google to Vodafone. Yes, Paul Golding, Russell Buckley, Tony Fish, you name it, the big names are there. Recently especially after Twitter, the intensity of discussion has calmed down somewhat, but just about any topic in mobile has some of the best expert discussion on the Forum, and you'll be amazed how long ago that topic was started.. Come take a look. If you'd like to be invited, write to me or to Peter or Ajit, there is obviously no fee, and never will be a fee to be a member. All we want, is for you to care about the future of mobile haha. You don't need to write or 'participate' just being there is good enough. But try asking a question or commenting, you'll find the most intelligent discussion about mobile anywhere, without any of the trolls and flaming you may find on open comments at many blogs.
And the Forum was such a success - we soon had 2,000 members and Martin Feldstein set up the Spanish-speaking sister forum called ForoMovil with another 2,000 members already - we decided to set up a face-to-face meeting, a 'real' conference. We called it the Forum Oxford Conference and it turned out into a huge success. Since we had some of the best minds on the Forum, on the hottest topics, talking about the hottest companies, we easily knew what companies and what speakers to invite to speak. And then the members knew each other from the Forum, so they were also very well familiar with their views. The atmosphere at the Forum Oxford Conference is unique, everybody knows everybody. The debate and dialogue is far more intelligent, the questions after the speakers far more piercing, the responses far more thorough. There are no corporate pitches and sales speeches. No speaker needs to tell us who their company is, we know that, they get straight to the point, etc. By far the most facts-filled, useful conference in mobile. And yeah - its once per year, the next Forum Oxford conference is one month from now, October 28, at Oxford University in Oxford, a short bus ride from Heathrow airport of London. Come on over, this is the one event you will remember as incredibly well worth your time. There are free drinks for two hours after the event - and most of the delegates stay long past that, and then go onto a nearby restaurant still to continue. There is nothing in mobile like the Forum Oxford Conference. Consider joining us this year (and my course is immediately before it, you might want to take all 3 days).
I live a charmed life. I get to do the two things I most love doing, speaking in public and writing books. I get to travel the world and see all exotic places, but travel in good style at my customer's cost, and get to sleep in good hotels, and am fed good local foods in good restaurants. I hang around with nice people who are kind enough to clap after my presentations. And sometimes I meet fans who have even bought one of my books, who come politely asking for an autograph. This is the best job in the world and I cherish every moment of every day. I wake up in the morning eager to go to work. I don't even think of this as work. I feel like I am paid for just having fun. Even Hong Kong's National Day celebrations fall conveniently on Oct 1, so I get to see a nice big fireworks display on the day of my consulting company's anniversary, haha.
My career in consulting is all thanks to you. My 7,000 followers on Twitter. The 2 million visits to this blog. the over 100,000 who came to see me at conferences. The countless who bought my books to make me a bestseller many times over. And most of all the clients who bought my consulting services. Thank you! I love doing what I do. As long as you countinue to buy my books and my consulting services, I will be here to provide them. And as is my style, I try to give you more than what you expected, and to share as much as I can for free. So yes, if you have not read it yet, please go now to Lulu.com to download my 10th book, the free one. 350 pages of my very best thinking about mobile of today, and into this new decade. The customers, the services and apps, the revenues and profits with all the stats and case studies. Get the free download of The Insider's Guide as my gift to you, you don't have to wait for the paid book to appear on Amazon.
Thank you for letting me have this career. For ten years I have been the happiest man in mobile!