7 ‘tech shifts’ that will change the way we do business

Minette Navarrete
Here are key takeaways from 4 Years From Now, the Mobile World Congress event for startups and investors
In Four Years From Now event, the future was something coming in waves: tangible and unrelenting, but not something one could hold in the palm of one’s hand.4FYN photos from Minette Navarrete

BARCELONA, Spain ­– “The future is already here: it’s just not very evenly distributed,” said William Gibson, American-Canadian writer who has been called the “noir prophet” of cyberpunk science fiction.

Attending the Four Years From Now (4YFN) event illustrates that point in dramatic fashion. Slightly overshadowed by the main event dominated by high profile new product offerings at the recently concluded Mobile World Congress, the 4YFN event focused on startup innovation ecosystems, the founders, investors, and trends that will shape the world in the coming years.

Everyone at the event was similarly enthralled by thoughts of the future, though one not yet defined by devices, products, and software. 

The future discussed here was something coming in unrelenting waves, but not something one could hold in the palm of one’s hand just yet.

1. “Homo digitalis”

We are evolving into “Homo digitalis,” said John Lunn, senior director of developer and startup relations at PayPal and Braintree.

The current notions of usability are that tech is designed around intuitive user experiences and real-world usage habits. An example of which is food delivery apps built upon the traditional food delivery business.

These habits are changing, too, as the use of tech modifies the way we do certain processes such as reading a book or getting directions.

We are now building new habits as technology allows us to do more and different things. Mobile phones led to the taking of selfies, and obsessive checking of email and social media for instance.

Much has been written about how the present and future generations use technology for self-expression. Beyond our behavior, technology is being developed around human physiology and psychology.

At the fringes, we are seeing how hardware, software, and biology come together in “splices” that can be used for auto-identification, as well as to address a number of other health-related issues.

Technology is creating more advanced forms of identity authentication using heartbeat patterns such as Bionym’s Nymi, brainwaves being developed at the University of California at Berkeley and arterial/vein configurations.

In-ear and subcutaneous magnets are also used to bring hearing to deaf people, and possibly deliver music in the future.

2. Technology as “magical”

The current generation, in both developed and emerging markets, is no longer impressed by tech. To them it is just the way things are.

Corporations cannot claim to be innovative, simply by “going digital” by having a presence online and on social media. To truly engage their customers where they are, companies need to rethink and re-design product and service offers around their customers’ evolving habits.

Tech needs to be invisible. But even as an invisible underlying layer, it is expected to offer a broad range of capabilities for users.

Beyond extending user’s capability, there is also a return to design.

Notegraphy, a Barcelona-based startup, styles itself as the “Instagram of words.” The app provides a range of striking original graphics and typography to add beauty to the words that people post on their social media, or save to their personal galleries.

It’s a proposition built upon beauty, and they have raised a total of  €575,000 (around Php 27 million) based on this proposition.

3. Community collaboration

Networks of individuals and organizations are now delivering services that used to be delivered by companies.

Similarly, the way we used to rely upon financial institutions is shifting to FinTech, with algorithms used in everything from stock purchase recommendations to credit ratings and loan qualifications.

Platforms and companies are shifting from being merchants to enabling marketplaces. Like marketplaces, the motivations are a combination of economic and non-economic factors. There is value beyond pricing; and community standing is a valued attribute.

Community standing and reputation are gained not necessarily through purchasing the most goods or flashing the most prestigious brands. In many marketplaces, individuals strive to be recognized for how they support other people’s goals through crowd funding, or how they serve the community in general through reporting potholes or bribes.

4. Data is the new “oil”

Data is now a high-value commodity. Many people are sitting on large sets of data, but not everyone realizes it is there, or knows how to properly use it. Over the long run, however, data could hold the same value for everyone once everyone starts to use it well.

Data is needed to fuel better management strategies to engineer operating efficiencies and to deliver customer delight.

Going into the future, companies will stay relevant through intelligent use of data. Otherwise, they risk overlooking their customers’ warning signals, and slowly becoming irrelevant.

5. Human touch needed

The Internet of Things – sensors, meters, wearables, devices, and networks that are auto-managed through pre-set parameters and algorithms – was a constant theme throughout the event.

Far from being utopian however, there is a maturing sense that this new universe is increasingly resource-constrained by real world concerns such as battery life, processor limitations, and durability.

The real world is unpredictable and because of this automatic processes need to be self-configuring. Hence, these automated processes will need to be deeply thought-through from the beginning. By humans, of course.

6. Global is the new local

There is an emerging broader understanding of how interconnected markets and lives across the world are.

In parallel, there is a sense of a bigger opportunity for corporations, startups, and investors. Geography is no longer the barrier to creating value from collaboration; rather, differences in economy, regulations, and culture are.

These differences underscore the importance of connectors to link problems and solutions; innovators and investors; inventions and the market; agility and scale.

The increasing globalized world does not just create the situation of “the world is my oyster” but also “the world hosts my competitor.”

7. Non-typical venture capitalists

Established multinationals were a prominent presence at the event. A common thread running through them is that their traditional business models are under threat from customers’ changing views about the utility of their products and services, and the emergence of non-traditional competitors.

Emerging market public players such as cities and public institutions are also becoming stakeholders in driving innovation forward.  

With no legacy interests, and the prospect of leapfrogging established markets and players, these unconventional competitors are turning the fast-changing environment to their advantage.

The only way for a big, traditional business to compete is by recognizing that speed gives a competitive advantage.

The large companies present at the event are creating new capability through hiring external talent, creating new processes even before these shifts are obvious to mainstream business. ­– Rappler.com

  Minette Navarrete is President of Kickstart Ventures, Incorporated, the corporate venture capital subsidiary of Globe Telecom. She is a member of the Ayala Corporation’s Innovation Advisory Council, and Globe’s Innovation Advisory Board, and is concurrently Vice-Chairman of Yondu, Globe’s wholly-owned technology solutions company. Minette has held a number of CEO/COO positions in various industries, ranging from Philippine startups to iconic global companies.

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Minette Navarrette is one of our speakers in #ThinkPH The Next Big Idea: Platform Thinking. Learn more about the event here.