Profiting from disruption – technology is changing our world

More than 2000 women (and a few brave men) sat in the dark for 3 hours yesterday, in a Barbican hall. They were gathered for the 12th Deutschebank Women in Business meeting aimed at inspiring potential and existing entrepreneurs to take advantage of technology-based disruption.

David Rowan editor of Wired Magazine noted that business disruption is now the norm. Visionary businesses are emerging to solve problems, including:

He outlined megatrends and related examples, which represent areas for further disruption and opportunity, including:

  • “Software is eating the world”: Proliferation of new tools across industries will reform incumbents e.g. new financial tools, Bitcoin
  • “Anyone can”: Accessibility for personalised manufacture has radically increased e.g. 3d printing has advanced to the stage where you can 3d print a Stradivarius violin
  • “Education dematerialisation”:  The rise of free education on-line vs existing highly physical and expensive model e.g. the Khan academy has had ¼ billion viewings
  • Mobile matters”: 1m new smart phones are now sold every day!
  • “Personal reputation as your most important asset”: Klout quantifies the reputation of a person based on social media, high scores get free entry to American Airlines lounges
  • “Transparent data”: Data is visible. This has been used by Elon Musk to refute a NYT report on the Tesla – he could bring out the actual data log.  It is used by Walmart to create a new product – Cake Pops, which have subsequently become a best seller.

Guests were then treated to a superb line up of inspiring ‘action hero(ines)’ – people that are taking up opportunities offered by these disruptions to build visionary businesses and ventures.

Wendy Tan White looks like a model and speaks with the articulation of a public school background.  If that doesn’t get attention, she co-founded Moonfruit, which was recently sold to Yell for $37m.  She stressed in driving forward a new business and dealing with the fear of the unknown to “Throw your hat over the wall – you have to keep going, climbing over to fetch it”. Your hat may just come back with a $37m price tag! In addition, she spoke of negotiations with potential investors and the importance of clarity “What can’t you compromise on?”

Julie Meyer, is a visionary who has always been one step ahead of technological change. She founded First Tuesday and now runs an investment company called Ariadne.  A timeous move – the number of start-ups in the UK rose to 500 000 last year. Of these, she sees 60-80 per month. She notes that few succeed – but not because of lack of cash “Money is available – it’s mostly a problem with the business model that causes companies to fail”. She looks to invest in people that “Are obsessed – that have a chip on both shoulders – have something driving them, something to prove”.  The panel spoke not of failure, but of “pivoting i.e. changing direction when something doesn’t work”.  Julie noted that there is a “Very fine line between success and failure – often its just luck”.

The soulful Eric Whitacre, composer and conductor, brought a creative dimension to the discussion.  He spoke of the parallels between conducting and running a business team “When you control too tightly, the orchestra plays from fear – they can only raise up to the level you set for them, the place you bring them. When you are open they add far more depth and perform to surprise you”. He used the power of social media to unite individuals from all over the world in a virtual choir. This experiment has taken wings – underlining the possibility of remarkable creation, through combining passion and play.

The overarching message is one of the opportunity to be an active, entrepreneurial player taking forward these trends and ideas which are changing our world. Ready, steady, go!


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