Tag Archives: adapt don’t resist

Smart cars, civic innovation and makers

Todays destination was Columbus, Ohio for a mix of disruptive technology, urban regeneration and a maker organisation.

Tesla

If you don’t know what these are – you should because Telsa is changing cars and driving as we know it.  In summary, this was seriously amazing.   Their second quarter sales released today increased 52%…bear in mind the average sales price is USD $100k and their nearest top selling rivals average price is around a third of that.  I had a 20 minute test drive of model 85D.

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The standout features are:

  • Design…very simple but smart looking both inside and out.  You can custom build your car and the retail experience was more like browsing a clothes store than a car yard.
  • Smart technology is the second thing that confronts you…the door handles pop out, a huge 17 inch screen replaces all the clunky knobs and dials, while software updates constantly add improvements.
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  • Speed is what you notice when you put your foot down…the model I test drove does 0-100km in 4.4 sec, the next model up does it in 3.1 sec (i.e. it is quick!).  Car geeks check out all the specs!
  • Distance wise they do up to 270 miles on a charge and they have a great network of charging locations.

As I mentioned in Nevada, this is changing the way travel occurs and locations need to be thinking creatively, planning ahead and building partnerships with the new wave of transport.

Forge Columbus

Reese operates Forge Columbus, which is a civic innovation program collaborating with a number of partners.  We toured one of the projects they have been involved with in the East District of Franklinton which won a American Planning Association award last year.  The redevelopment is in the early stages and you can already see the rejuvenation occurring, much of it centred around a converted factory housing an award winning restaurant, recording studios, event space, cowork space, office space, a yoga / trapeze studio, and over 100 artists studios.  It will a place to watch in a years time, let alone five years…there’s that reinvention theme again…  Read more on Reese and Forge Columbus.  Here’s an outside snap of the building.

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Columbus Idea Foundry

Lastly, Alex gave me a tour of their setup which in Alex’s words has been built on hard work and luck.  The Columbus Ideas Foundry is the biggest ‘maker’ space in the US.  Read Time magazines take on makers or a view from The Atlantic about how makerspaces help local economies.  As one person put it to me “we are learning as a culture how to manufacture again”.  Check out this 3D printer which was made by a 3D printer…

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Alex shared his thoughts around the emergence of the maker movement due to the intersection of:

  1. free information and education – Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs)
  2. open source software
  3. prototyping tools such as 3D printers
  4. crowdfunding

So what do all these have in common?  They are all led by creative and passionate people changing the world we live in even if we can’t see it yet where we live.  Will we resist or adapt, and what are the opportunities we can create?

It started in a garage

Huge day as I sit here after midnight.

Today was the first day of scheduled meetings, so the real start of the trip and a test of my logistical skills.  I started the day in San Francisco, before heading out to Silicon Valley and have finished up late in Sacramento.  In between meetings I managed to sneak in a whirlwind tour of the Computer History Museum, a visit to Googleplex, a peek at the campus of Stanford University and a look at the garage where HP started.

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My original plan was to blog daily about the key insights from each meeting.  The problem with that is that the people I’m meeting with are so smart they could have a whole website dedicated to them (if they don’t already) which makes my original plan problematic!  So the revised plan is to give an overview of the organisation and share the most important insight.  Here’s my attempt to do it justice.

Working Solutions

Working Solutions provide microfinancing of between $5-50k.  Microfinancing is something many of us will have heard about, Kiva is a good example.  I see in NZ Lifewise has been at it for a while and Kiwibank has recently started.   Corinne explained how the key difference is that Working Solutions match the business up with a mentor for the life of the loan, which is usually 5 years.  They must be doing something right because the repayment rate is 97%.  The United States is similar to New Zealand in that the majority of their economy is made up of small businesses (note the size of businesses are classified differently in each country for obvious reasons).  Are there any bankers views on whether this has legs in New Zealand?

Kiwi Landing Pad

Pam is based at the Kiwi Landing Pad (KLP) and works for the New Zealand Consulate General West Coast, USA and is supported by Immigration NZ, NZTE and ATEED.  KLP is a great initiative, it is amazing how some workspace and great connected people can go a long way (thanks Sian Simpson for previous insights).  Pam identified an interesting intersection here for regions (especially outside cities) in how international talent can be attracted even just for short term stays, making it easy for people to invest and live, and leveraging existing and new international connections.

Computer History Museum

Marguerite has recently joined the Computer History Museum from Stanford University.  She is co-editor of three books, The Silicon Valley Edge (2000), Making IT: Asia’s Rise in High Tech (2006), and Greater China’s Quest for Innovation (2008)…so getting one insight from our meeting is tricky!

So I’ll try two insights instead.  The first was the distinction of two between innovation and entrepreneurship, where:

  • Innovation is creating disruptive technology and business models
  • Entrepreneurship involves starting, growing and scaling.

Would you describe your culture as one of Innovation and Entrepreneurship?  How would you score companies in your region?

The second insight is around how to enable regions to grow by:

  • Finding the unique competence or value proposition
  • Making this proposition dynamic over time, i.e. it will change
  • Balancing competition with being complimentary

Does your region have each of those attributes clear?

So, there we go.  As we all dream of replicating or having the next Silicon Valley in our region, remember it all started in a garage in 1938…

The future of shopping. Resist or adapt?

Following on from yesterday’s post about travel, this blog is about retail and the future of shopping, which is timely given the plethora of shopping options in the United States.

It’s got me thinking about a meeting I attended the other day to discuss the New Zealand economy where the concept I’m terming ‘resist or adapt’ emerged.  Given Taupo’s reliance on retail as an industry, inevitably the topic of online shopping was raised.  A great debate raged asking how to collect taxes on overseas purchases, how customer expectations about shopping experiences are changing and why people don’t buy local more often.  NB – They even have “buy local” at Safeway supermarket in San Francisco, with over 300 local items.

Safeway San Francisco stocking local products

After a lengthy discussion which was essentially about ‘how do we stop or tax people shopping online’, a man who had kept quiet the whole time spoke up.  He explained how he had moved back from a big city overseas where he had been on good money and had now bought a retail business.  He then delivered a line which at the time I don’t believe sunk in, but it’s stuck with me ever since – ‘you can’t fight this, you have to adapt’.  He then backed this up with examples of how their business was facing the same challenges regarding where people purchase but they were choosing to embrace an online channel including using online media content to attract customers from outside of New Zealand.

What is the future of shopping then?  This Harvard Business Review article is insightful in that most of what it talks about has happened four years later which is unusual for technology articles.  Here’s some of my thoughts for what this means.

As a consumer, not much.   Except that you will keep on shopping the way you have done, and in five years we will probably be shopping even more differently than today, we just don’t know it yet.

Change and action is needed on the supply side though.

Business model reality check.  Unless people have not done so already, business models will need to be examined to check if they are  still relevant and adapt if possible.  This may mean the harsh reality of shutting up shop but it might also create opportunities like changing suppliers, product ranges or markets.  Online is no longer optional but a necessity.  The best websites now allow you to do everything you want including comparing product features objectively, creating a wishlist, offering related products, seeing customer reviews, the ability to deliver or pick up in store, and the list goes on.  To put things in context, Amazon has had 20 years to develop their very intelligent website.

Customer service is king.  Now more than ever!  Word of mouth still exists, but now it is online in the form of ratings websites or social media, where word of mouth is permanently on the internet.  Tourists in particular use online sites as key decision platforms – so if you don’t have an online presence you are unlikely to exist in their eyes and if you rate poorly then forget it!  Are we in the age of the return of good old fashioned customer service training?

Physical shopping environments that customers love.  Customers don’t tolerate web sites that are five years old so their expectations of streets, building facades and in-store retail experiences are no different.  Will the increased spend on these translate in to a return or are rent yields going to decrease, just like the new normal for interest rates?  Having wifi is the norm not the exception, especially for international travellers.  What could be done with better data like foot traffic and analysing that data smarter using services like Google BigQuery?  In the same way products and service offerings pop up when you are online, there’s no reason retail can’t replicate this by using peoples phones or number plates as recognition in the same way your username or IP address is used online now.

Collaboration.  As change continues to occur rapidly, if like-minded people can be connected can they learn from each other to ‘adapt rather than resist’?