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5 things I have learnt at Venture Café this year

I have experienced Venture Café for the first time in Boston, USA, when I was finishing my MBA studies some time ago. Venture Cafe concept appealed to me so much that I attended almost all of its Thursday Gatherings organized in Warsaw this year. Therefore, what is Venture Café, what value it delivers and to whom?

Venture Café is an open platform focused on gathering in physical place inventors, entrepreneurs and investors to connect them and make things happen. Thursday Gatherings combine well-curated panel discussions, educational sessions and demonstrations of new technologies. It enables  thousands of people to meet in 11 cities worldwide where Venture Café is present, including Warsaw from this year onward.

According to Kauffman Foundation fostering connections and learning among start-up ecosystem stakeholders, which Venture Café is all about, is even more important than creating start-up incubators or co-financing of venture capital funds.

Basing on attendance in Venture Café Warsaw this year I find their open gatherings as contributor to lifelong learning that enables one to stay on top of emerging trends, technologies and their implications. This year panel discussions covered future of work, new lifestyles, new communication, new finance, new transportation, new education and new retail.

Key trend affecting future of work is its automation

Key findings related to future of work are about risk of work automation and skills needed for new jobs. Globally required job skills are impacted by growing development of web-enabled markets, digital trade and cloud computing. In line with the emergence of new jobs, many stable roles become redundant, especially those related to information and data processing. Hence, skills of the future relate to ability to learn, unlearn and re-learn, and cooperation and communication in virtual teams set up with culturally diversified members working form various locations.

Key role of teacher is to navigate joint research rather than to be an expert

Trends affecting business and required skills influence on how people learn, and explain why one of the most popular MOOCs last year at Coursera was about how to learn new things effectively. Contemporary role of a teacher also evolves, and now is r defined as someone you are researching and exploring potential answers to questions together, rather than someone who is subject matter expert. This shift is related to growing trends of alternative free schools, peer-to-peer learning and forms of teaching combining blogs, podcasts and explanatory videos.

Key denominator of majority of customer segments is connectivity

Among contemporary lifestyles one can distinguish urban lifestyle, rural lifestyle and also a lifestyle called digital and automated. Often criticized Anglo-Saxon theories ,distinguishing generations such as generation “X”, generation “Y”, Millenials and generation “Z”, fade down in context of  a concept of generation “C” – where “C” comes from connected. This idea is proliferating well in the context of hyper connectivity in world of digitized interactions, processes and business models, where traditional segmentations of the market are failing and hyper connected single customer is king.

Key response to apocalypse of retail is customer service beyond one e-commerce delivers

Crowding out of traditional retail caused by rising e-commerce is called the retail apocalypse. It forces traditional points of sale to reinvent themselves, so they could offer more than what could be delivered through online orders of goods. Examples of such transformations include brands like Lululemon, offering yoga clothes and running gear, whose stores are more like showrooms where you can come and discuss about your passion and try out new products, or clubhouses for customers of Rapha, which offers cycling apparel. Nike has also reinvented itself to prove that it is much more than shoes and sports gear. Nike House of Innovation opened in New York enables one-to-one appointments with Nike Experts. In era of chat-bots and virtual assistants such as Google Assistant, Siri, Alexa or Cortana attention to human attention may become a good of premium character.

Maintenance of faith in people over algorithms, and stronger belief in purpose rather than profit are the core of the next stage of organizational designs, where jobs are self-organized, employees rather supported than supervised, and profits shared rather than accumulated. An example of so called benefit corporation is Patagonia, manufacturing outdoor apparel. It has on-site child development centers, encouraging parents to interact with their children throughout the workday. The company also dedicates 100% of its revenues on Black Friday to the planet, teaches customers how to do self-repairs of purchased gears, and offer  no-time-limited product’s return policy to minimize environmental footprint and maximize social-economic impact.

Key business models in hyper-connected world are subscription, membership and sharing economy

Pace of changes and hype connectivity typical for generation „C” contributes to shift in business models from traditional ownership to access without need of ownership. This is what membership economy, subscribed economy, and sharing economy are based on. Knowing that average car is not used by 90% of its lifecycle, future Tesla’s owners will enjoy earning profits from self-driving services of their vehicles, when they do not use them themselves. Lynk & Co is enabling car sharing to single users even today. Having access instead buying might even relate to subscribing to wardrobe service, fitted out with outwear and apparel you might enjoy for a season, and then would like to change.

Tendencies expressing the needs and possibilities to satisfy them might eventually convert into trends. The old saying “trend is your friend” might encourage you to visit the nearest Thursday Gathering organized at Venture Cafes locations worldwide, and follow sources often discussed by events participants such as Trend Nomad or Trendwatching. So, which next Thursday Gathering are you planning to attend?

Logistics

Connected Vehicles and Internet of Logistics

How to surf on edge of next industrial revolution and profit from convergence of communication, energy, and transportation infrastructure?

In The Zero Marginal Cost Society J. Rifkin explains tremendous shift in new forms of communication, energy creation and distribution, and transport and logistics resulting in  new industrial revolution that is happening now. According to J. Rifkin the changes we observe will converge to general purpose technology–Internet of Everything, which will be a platform consisting Internet of Communication, Internet of Energy, and Internet of Logistics.

J. Rifkin proves that in competitive markets, in order to win the market share, companies will have to continuously increase their productivity, and simultaneously decrease the marginal costs and prices of the goods and services sold. As a result, the marginal costs will be brought to near zero, what means they will not be subjected to the market forces we know today, and companies will have to learn how to profit from sharing economy and lateral economies of scale.

J. Rifkin provides great deal of insights for start-ups and start-up accelerators, which plan to surf on edge of next industrial revolution by helping existing market players to transform. As we all know, Google and Apple maximize usage of their technologies in existing vehicles and develop driverless technologies themselves to win Internet of Logistics. But let’s take a look at what other vehicle industry players do to catch up with new economy paradigm.

BMW  enables drivers to have remote access to their vehicle. My BMW Remote App enables you to check whether your car is locked or not, when you are not sure to have it locked when getting out. It also allows you to sound the horn, flash the lights, and turn on auxiliary heating or ventilation.

Daimpler, Audi, and also BMW in 2015 together purchased Nokia’s digital maps business for USD 3,1 billion to leverage connected cars solutions they work on. Now Mercedes-Benz offers mbrace – a digital concierge package that will help you out with dynamic route assistance in traffic or bad weather.

General Motors offers apps such as MyChevrolet, MyBuick, MyCadillac and MyGMC, which enable its owners to locate the nearest dealers, or schedule car maintenance, and also  find free parking spots. Another app of General Motors – OnStar leverages both geolocalization and big data to offer coupons for Exxon and Mobil gas station, and help you book  hotel rooms while you drive.

Toyota – which recently invested  USD 1 billion  in Toyota Research Institute (incl. research centers near Stanford University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology) -works on open source infrastructure, and develops solutions in telematics to enable safer driving experience. The former one  are also the cornerstone of digital innovation strategy in Mazda.

If J. Rifkin is right about Internet of Logistics, above-mentioned companies, leading in transportation industry, will soon find followers, and other transportation business players will look for solutions enabling them to adapt, distinguish, and compete. It might result in new, unexplored marketspace for transportation and logistics oriented start-ups.

Considering nearly 2 million of companies registered at Angels List, specialization in transportation and logistics seem to be less exploited by start-ups than specialization in energy and communication. Intensity of rivalry in this sector might be, therefore, lower than in the other, densely occupied sectors. On the other hand, because of industry regulation standards and high safety requirements, there might be a need for institutional support for start-ups entering transportation and logistics area.

Luckily there are more and more start-up acceleration programs that  specialize in transportation, logistics, and supply chain. Such accelerators are Dynamo Accelerator from Chattanooga, US, or The Logistics Tech Accelerator organized by RocketSpace with Lufthansa and MAN focused on solutions for smart warehouses, transport, and trade. The Logistics Tech Accelerator’s application process for start-ups opens in September 2016, and plans to kick-off in January 2017 in Vigo, Spain.

So ask yourself, what valuable company in transportation and logistics nobody is building yet.

Dzida!