Archive for the ‘VIP’ Category

Communications and Media

August 10, 2018

Communication.jpeg

FountainBlue’s August 10 VIP roundtable was on the topic of ‘Communications and Media Trends and Predictions’, hosted by ForeScout. Below are notes from the conversation.

The conversation ran a wide gamut of topics from leading communications and media in tech companies and for start-ups, to the trends around communication and media industries. Our executives in attendance agreed on the following.

  • Effective Communication will become ever more critical. 
  • Everyone is responsible for communicating on point, on message, not just people who have the title and job description around communications.
  • The convergence of technologies and industries make for a complex, complicated and interrelated ecosystem of players – all of whom are integral to the success of the industry.
  • In an age of the empowered customer who insists on getting data anytime (24×7), anywhere (independent of location), anyhow (across devices), we must be prepared to respond in a timely and detailed matter.

As such, great leaders must be able to navigate:

  • the technologies integral to the way we run our businesses today;
  • the privacy concerns of consumers and companies within and outside an organization;
  • the convergence across industries and sectors;
  • the leaders in other roles within and outside their organization;
  • the industries adjacent to their own

The importance of collaboration between leaders and companies is key because:

  • The pace of change is mind-boggling. No one person can track it all.
  • The advancements in specific technologies are significant and ever-evolving. 
  • The security of the brand and impact is on the line.
  • Knowledge and information will reside across leaders, functions, companies and industries.

Below are suggestions and best practices given the above.

  • Tell a story which draws out emotions and speaks to the truth.
  • Educate everyone within the company about appropriate communications and messages.
  • Learn from what others are thinking, saying and doing in this field. Change is happening quickly!
  • Remember that anything you’ve ever communicated is fair game, and may come back to haunt you!
  • Watch for applications who may gather data without permission, or manipulate you with the information collected even with your permission. 
  • Be an educated Prosumer – one who creates and consumes content. 
  • Segment your audience and strategically message to them, based on their interests and priorities.
  • Document in written communications who the intended audience is.
  • Keep your communications simple but meaningful. Speak the language of your intended audience.

Below are thoughts on trends around communications and media.

  • Balancing privacy, security and access will continue to be key. Emerging companies in this space will ensure maximum accessibility and flexibility – across devices, across content, between interval and external devices, while also ensuring privacy and security for everyone.
  • There will continue to be opportunities around collecting a comprehensive, dynamically-updated database of devices and managing them.
  • There will continue to be strategic consolidations between networking, telecommunications, entertainment industries and companies. Users will benefit from more seamless integrations of networks, more integrated presentations of content options, and even more safety and security functionality at the home.
  • There is and will continue to be an excess of content and data. There are therefore opportunities for filtering out content based on the real interest of people. Companies who do that right, without pushing their own agenda first (e.g. promoting companies who have paid more in ads), would be more respected for their authenticity and for representing the truth.
  • AI and ML will continue to be part of customized solutions.
  • Direct-to-direct communication will help ensure security, and minimize potential interception of communication – intentional or otherwise.
  • There’s an opportunity to curate content to reflect what’s really happening, the real truth, not manipulated messages. Perhaps crowdsourced creation of content, including the input of people with true identities, would help elevate the validity and the veracity of communications.
  • With data provided by leading marketing technology companies, both established and emerging, companies and leaders can have enough data to understand the buying decisions of targeted users. There’s a huge opportunity for companies who can get this piece right.

Any way you slice it, there’s a lot going on around Communications and Media trends. Connecting with other leaders and with market trends will help us all stay on top of the opportunities and challenges ahead.

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Smart Cities, Smart Buildings

July 17, 2018

building

FountainBlue’s July 13 VIP roundtable was on the topic of ‘Smart Cities, Smart Buildings Trends and Predictions’. Thank you also to our gracious hosts at Ford and to our participating executives. Below are notes from the conversation.

The perfect storm is bringing together technologies and industries and solutions to make cities and buildings smarter, serving an ecosystem of broad and diverse players. There’s a lot at stake, and everything is evolving quickly. Success with this opportunity involves:

  • A collaborative mindset which is open to technologies, solutions, and processes introduced by other leaders, companies and industries. 
  • An adoption of cutting hardware and software technology solutions, and even more importantly, the elegant integration of same.
  • A customer-centric, tech-philic, data-enabled approach to delivering solutions.
  • A vision for a future which leverages technology to make life easier for more people.
  • An ability to respect the volumes of data generated, and then to filter out the noise and collect actionable information which will efficiently prescribe measured actions.
  • A deep respect for the privacy of users, while also delivering to their specific and detailed personalized needs.

Below is advice offered by the participating executives on how to facilitate leadership and innovation which creates smarter cities and smarter buildings.

  • Define standards which are approved by a wide range of partners across the ecosystem. 
  • Everyone across the ecosystem must work with policy-makers to help ensure the success of entrepreneurial and business initiatives which spawns innovation and economic growth.
  • Have regular open conversations in community and encourage and reward win-win collaborations.
  • Understand the business models for proposed solutions, especially when you’re supporting cities, who have not traditionally had the financial resources and risk-taking mindsets necessary to adopt game-changing technologies that make life easier for citizens.
  • Accept that users will insist on bringing their own device to work and want to work from anywhere. Corporate and community leaders must figure out how to make everyone’s data safe and private despite these choices.
  • It’s always about the data. Make sure that you Focus on quality data (not just noise), that the right people Access the intended data, and that you can fluidly Manage how data is generated, accessed, used and distributed.
  • Focus on creating specific use cases for adopting technologies and processes and business models which would benefit all participating parties.  
  • Be mindful of the many innovations happening in Asia, specifically Shanghai. Don’t assume that Silicon Valley and the US are leading the way.
  • Look not just at the technology and economic progression of the company/team/industry, but also at the social impact and long-term sustainability of the decisions made. 
  • Although we are always looking for sexy technologies and solutions, it’s always about the people – our customers who adopt it, our staff who implements it, our leaders who influence adoption.
  • Sometimes adopting a technology without a specific goal in mind might deliver results beyond your imagination. Case in point, in Shanghai, $1 sensors were put on manhole covers because it was easy. Although it wasn’t planned at the time, the result was better traffic management and control, better road safety and quality around the manhole, less theft of manholes, decreased number of vehicles who didn’t get smog-checked, and increased ability to track stolen cars.

Below are thoughts and questions to consider when investigating opportunities for Smart Cities and Smart Buildings.

  • What technologies would increase public safety and minimize crime?
  • How will analytics help cities to better serve residents?
  • What’s the best way to get from point A to point B?
  • How can we improve parking, and therefore better manage congestion?
  • How can we measure the time and energy used and saved in a building with more granularity? with more regularity?
  • What can we do to support over-strained city resources as people flock to cities and as more huge cities are born?
  • How will sensors integrate with AI and ML to create actionable data, not just noise?
  • How can we continue to optimize storage, access and connectivity when demands grow at such an alarming rate?
  • How do we keep in front of the bad guys who would jeopardize our safety, compromise our network, steal our personal data?
  • How can we all more efficiently and effectively work together to deliver customized services to workers and residents in growing cities?
  • What can be automated and what should not be automated?

We are all impacted by the choices made by leaders and companies to create smarter cities, especially as the greater majority of us will move to cities in the decades to come. The leaders and the innovators will define which technologies, which processes, which solutions will succeed, and who will benefit from these successes.

Food for thought:

https://www.mercurynews.com/2018/07/13/microsoft-president-calls-for-regulation-of-facial-recognition-technology/

e-Commerce and e-Marketing Trends

June 1, 2018
ecommerce
FountainBlue’s June 1 VIP roundtable was on the topic of ‘e-Commerce and eMarketing Trends and Predictions’. Thank you also to our gracious hosts at eBay. Below are notes from the conversation.
There has been so much transformational change in the world of e-Commerce and e-Marketing over the past couple of decades. Below are some trends and predictions on how these trends will progress and how they will impact each of us.
 
The E-commerce highlights from Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends report (May 31, 2018) shows the following:
  • E-commerce sales reached upward of $450 billion, a 14 percent year-over-year increase reported in 2017.
  • E-commerce represented a 13 percent share of all retail spend (both online and physical retail sales) in 2017. As e-commerce continues to grow, physical retail sales growth is trending toward deceleration, with less than 3 percent year-over-year growth.
  • Mobile shopping is also on the rise, with mobile shopping app sessions growing 54 percent year over year. In fact, mobile shopping represented the fastest-growing app session, ahead of music/media/entertainment (up 43 percent year over year), business/finance (up 33 percent year over year), utilities/productivity (up 20 percent year over year) and news/magazines (also up 20 percent year over year).
Our participating executives agreed that the volume of information and data is mind-boggling. But the effective marketer and leader will categorize and leverage that information so that it’s sorted and actionable. 
  • Urgent and immediate cases are quickly triaged and acted upon with special parties as necessary. This is especially true with suspected fraud and technology glitches.
  • AI is leveraged to ensure the efficient handling of common, lower-level problems or questions or concerns.
  • Algorithms and architecture will help ensure companies have scalable and robust infrastructure necessary to scale operations.
There is also agreement that today’s customers are very demanding. Doing the above also helps companies to better support their customers. With the data, we can better understand current and anticipated needs and more quickly address technical and process issues which interfere with our ability to give customers what they need. Consider these trends around customer needs.
  • Customers are taking urgency to the next level, even asking for 10-minute delivery windows! Categorizing what you can practically deliver when will help companies better and more efficiently serve customers. Same day, two day and one-week deliveries will be much more regularly requested, so companies will have to find efficient ways to make it happen.
  • Local ethnic and specialized goods will be requested. Creating a platform where multiple physical store fronts can leverage technology to deliver goods from these multiple stores to sites throughout the neighborhood would be a good win-win solution.
The big companies such as Amazon and Google are already successful in the market, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities ahead. Below is advice on how we as leaders can best take advantage of these trends.
  • Adopt digital solutions from the top down, from the bottom up. Integrate it into your culture.
  • Enhance physical stores, embracing technology solutions.
  • Provide personalized solutions for customers.
  • Respond to their needs of the customer real time.
  • Design robust loyalty and rewards programs.
  • Provide your high-impact customers with specialized perks, with special treatment and access.
Below are thoughts on the opportunities ahead for e-commerce and e-marketing solutions.
  • Provide chatbots which are embedded into the shopping experience so you can quickly address questions and concerns. 
  • Provide platforms which seamlessly address the customer from search to order to fulfillment.
  • Consider separating the delivery from the e-commerce solution.
  • Consider partnering with other companies to provide specialized services. As a retailer, you might want someone else to provide the mobile and web platform for delivery, as a technology company, you might want to have someone else distribute the goods for example.
The bottom line is that everything is trending toward e-commerce and forward-thinking leaders are responding to that trend.
 
Resources:

Energy and Utilities Trends and Opportunities

May 7, 2018

EnergyUtility

FountainBlue’s May 4 VIP roundtable was on the topic of ‘Energy and Utilities Trends and Predictions’, hosted by EPRI.

The focus on generating and distributing a reliable, cost-effective energy source remains the goals of our consumers, companies, utilities, cities and countries. But the needs of the “customer” are making that progressively more difficult. Couple that with the tech-savvy, real-time update needs of empowered customers around the world and the problem seems almost impossible to solve. 

Our executives in attendance all remarked on the mega trends around the energy sector and how they are impacting everyone across industries, across geographies, across technologies. Keys to managing and staying on top of these trends include:

  • The need to collaborate across sectors, technologies, companies, and nations to provide solutions which optimize energy generation, leverage sustainable practices, and manage storage and distribution for maximum benefit for all stakeholders.
  • Enterprise Customers need to actively become involved in defining the problems faces, adopting technologies which optimize benefits for all.
  • Policy-makers need to be more flexible and open to change, for changes need to be made to support the massive energy demands of customers.
  • Local utilities serve both the commercial and consumer markets. Providing proven, scalable and sustainable solutions will remain challenging. Partnering with other utilities and other organizations will help develop communities, share learnings and resources, and better anticipate and address energy-related needs and concerns of customers.
  • As customers get more involved with generation through solar, wind and other renewables, it helps in some ways by increasing the amount of available energy, but also complicates matters and puts a strain on the grid as well, for generation happens only at certain times of day.

Below are some of the opportunity areas mentioned in the discussion:

  • The nexus between energy and water  
  • Microgrids to provide energy to smaller villages
  • Using data-rich, crowd-sourced reports to inform stakeholders, customers, policy-makers, etc.,
  • Apps and business models which use energy as part of the shared economy
  • Cybersecurity: Nuclear, Power Delivery, Generation, Storage
  • Lithium and Cobalt batteries and how they can be better mined and recycled
  • Recycling of batteries in general
  • AI and big data solutions around energy at work and at home
  • Smart mobility which help communicate energy needs
  • Smart city solutions which help generate, distribute, manage energy
  • Robotics solutions around energy generation and distribution
  • Utility-owned batteries
  • Hydrogen fuel cells

We repeatedly remarked on how empowered customers, volume of data generated, huge international markets, sustainability demands, the power of the millennial generation and other factors will all significantly impact our growing need for energy.

The challenge is how we can also consider all these factors in creating long-term and short term goals, while serving local, regional and international markets. Success factors might include:

  • Creating and supporting collaborative networks focused on creating innovation around energy
  • Supporting win-win solutions for this vibrant ecosystem of stakeholders 
  • Accepting and working with slow-moving, fragmented utilities, outdated infrastructure to make this happen
  • Designing the types of dynamic AI, HW and SW (vs static), data-based, flexible and scalable solutions which will serve the customer base
  • Designing for a long-term view, while supporting the short term revenue needs for key stakeholders

The onus will always be on each of us, as leaders in technology and business, across roles, companies, sectors and nations, to collaboratively deliver solutions which work for all.

Automotive and Transportation Trends and Predictions

April 9, 2018

transportation

FountainBlue’s April 6 VIP roundtable was on the topic of ‘Automotive and Transportation Trends and Predictions’, hosted by Intel.

Our executives in attendance represented a broad spectrum of entrepreneurs and executives with broad and deep experience around transportation. The conversation ran the gamut between autonomous vehicles to plugging stations to chips and security and AI. Despite the range of topics, our executives agreed on the following:

  • Although we have made a lot of impressive advances in the past few years/decade, autonomous vehicles are not quite ready for prime time. The technology, the policies and the public sentiment have significant challenges currently, which need to be overcome before mass adoption takes place, and autonomous driving becomes commonplace.
  • Infrastructure challenges such as roads will be barriers to successful transportation and automotive solutions. Mundane things such as sensors on the roads may impact sophisticated solutions such as self-driving cars. Becoming aware of these problems will help facilitate the collaborations and work needed to address the policy, technical, and tactical issues posing barriers to successful and consistent implementation of integrated transportation solutions and systems.
  • Perhaps having separate standards for autonomous lanes and human-driver lanes might make sense in the interim, as having a mix of both may more likely create problems.
  • AI, ML and other big data software solutions will continue to be integrated with hardware such as chips, sensors, drones, IoT solutions as we work collaboratively to develop future transportation and automotive solutions.
  • Balancing privacy, security, and access will become increasingly more complicated and more necessary as automotive and transportation solutions become more sophisticated, and more integrated into our day-to-day lives.

It takes an ecosystem of providers and partners to transform the transportation and automotive industry.

  • Entrepreneurs, Corporate Executives, Government Officials, Technologists, Utilities etc., must collaboratively shape, fund and develop transportation and automotive options for the future.
  • The interdependencies between technologies and solutions makes it difficult to innovate in a silo, no matter how brilliant the foundational technology.
  • The volume of available data (historical and current data from a wide range of sources) coupled with the rapid, real-time changes of that data and the complexity and sophistication of the technologies used (big data, mobile, IoT, sensors) makes it impossible for any one company or organization or government to address all elements of an integrated transportation solution. 

We conclude by agreeing that partnerships across leaders, across companies, across sectors, across technologies will be necessary imperatives. Progress may be slow toward that end, but it is both necessary and inevitable. 

Healthcare Trends and Opportunities

March 5, 2018
Healthcare
FountainBlue’s March 2 VIP roundtable was on the topic of ‘Healthcare Trends and Predictions’, sponsored by our gracious hosts at Samsung.  
Our executives in attendance represented a broad spectrum of entrepreneurs and executives with broad and deep experience around healthcare. Each is focused on moving the needle forward, coordinating with a broad spectrum of stakeholders.
It’s clear from our interactive conversations that hardware and software work together to serve the needs of the customer, but ongoing customized services, personalized to the needs of each customer make a huge difference. But how to make that happen strategically and tactically is no easy feat.
Part of the challenge is the fragmentations in the marketplace. Various stakeholders might have access to different sets of data, for example, without the ability to interpret that data, while other stakeholders don’t have enough information to make recommendations and assessments or plan product feature sets.
It’s the old chicken and the egg question – if the markets and data is fragmented, how do we create a solution which suits most, and if we want it customized, how will we fund and deliver individualized solutions?
But these problems need to be solved. The market opportunity is HUGE and the biggest tech giants are jumping into the market, solving slices of the healthcare problem. Below are some predictions on trends:
  • Early detection, pre-screening and even prevention will be hot areas of opportunity.
  • Adopting a holistic approach to healthcare, a view of the full person rather than a set of metrics.
  • There will be some standardization and definition-setting around digital health and what it means and what it covers. Collaboration and coordination will be easier once we have that base understanding.
  • Cyber security around healthcare will be ripe with opportunities. But what’s a real use case that’s relevant, fundable now? A problem we can solve today with today’s customers and today’s technologies?
  • Telehealth will go prime time. 
  • People are recognizing the importance of apps, the effectiveness of coaching. They are taking responsibility for their own health.
  • Apps and programs around Artificial intelligence will be key to customizing solutions and providing input and feedback real-time, affecting real people and their real-time needs.
  • Solving the unstructured data problem and connecting that with structured data from multiple sources is a real problem. Once solved, there will be huge opportunities for many different types of solutions.
  • Different countries have different types of needs around health, and are embracing and adopting technologies at a different pace. Successful entrepreneurs will factor in the needs of each country, the technology adoption rate of customers in that country, and the policies and protocols of local and federal governments, etc., in making product and marketing decisions.
  • There is a huge market for serving health-minded communities with similar needs and backgrounds. Not only could you connect the members to specific services and support, thereby hopefully positively impacting their health, you may also connect them to each other and make it easier for them to purchase ancillary products and services.
  • If having a division at the FDA is an indicator, Femtech will one day soon be hot.
  • Solutions for customers to self-manage chronic diseases through a software and hardware combination will continue to be well received.
  • The changing rules of insurance companies is already putting more onus on the hospitals, which makes them more receptive to solutions which would improve the level of care at the hospital, and also as patients leave. What’s the opportunity around this?
  • There’s a high consumer demand for customized solutions, integrating hardware and software and providing real-time information and personalized support.
Key to the success of healthcare related ventures is the need to innovate leveraging technology, to collaborate with a broad spectrum of stakeholders, to facilitate success with policies and protocols at the government, enterprise and personal levels, and to coordinate with leaders and innovators to bring products and services to customers/patients in need.

Big Data, Machine Learning and AI: Trends and Predictions

February 3, 2018

BigData

FountainBlue’s February 2 VIP roundtable was on the topic of ‘Big Data, Machine Learning and AI: Trends and Predictions’. Please join me in thanking our participating executives and our gracious hosts at Nutanix.

Our executives in attendance represented a range of roles and companies, all with a perspective on how the data, the applications, the solutions, the challenges are impacting our companies and our day-to-day lives. Below is a compilation of ideas and thoughts from our conversation.

We began with the ideal qualities of Big Data: 

Velocity (how quickly the data is moving), 

Virality (how quickly the solutions are adopted and spread), 

Volume (the sheer quantity of data) and 

Veracity (the truth provided by the data).

With the advancement of infrastructures and systems, and with machines and solutions becoming quickly more versatile, more useful, more relevant, companies, leaders, industries are all adopting a wide range of solutions, which benefit everyone across the ecosystem – internal and external to the individual, team, company, geography and industry.

‘Wow’ was the collective response when we heard the wide-ranging use-cases around big data – scenarios which affect ourselves directly and indirectly, scenarios which makes us dream bigger, yet also be more wary about our safety, our privacy, our security, our future.

If machine learning can now help us see trends faster and better than the typical evolved and trained human, then it’s up to us to manage and design solutions to better serve every one of us. We mentioned a few times our concerns about the ethical and human elements surrounding the data – to help ensure that we apply it for the betterment of humankind, our environment, our ecosystem.

The advice and suggestions collectively as a group are summarized below.

  • Choose open source as a foundation for growing solutions and offerings to target markets. Actively participate in the open source community to give back, to influence the direction, to expand and create collaborative networks.
  • There’s value in the data, and winning companies will learn how to monetize on it, while also respecting the privacy and rights of the individuals who own the data.
    • Not all data is treated equal, so categorizing into data types will help build a standard and help respect the privacy of the users, the intentions of the solutions.
  • In this digital economy, data is the currency. Ensure Access, Security, Reliability, Speed, Versatility, Accuracy, etc., of same. This is not an easy task with the 4 Vs of data highlighted above.
  • Privacy, Security and Access will be consistent challenges and themes. 
  • A focus on customers and their demands for personalized access to data real-time provides a challenge and an opportunity in all industry sectors.
  • Heavily-regulated industries including healthcare and finance provide specific niche opportunities around the data due to the regulations and policies and lack of standards for the industries.

Highlighted opportunities and challenges are listed below.

  • There will be a battle around standardization, data location – Edge vs 5G for example, 
  • Balancing privacy, security and access
  • Selling your own usage data
  • Leveraging automation and robotics to better perform – more precision, more dexterity, less tremor, better access, use lighting and imaging
  • Leveraging data for diagnostics will add value across industries
  • Analyze trends to better predict and serve customers, to more strategic invest in ideas and companies
  • Understanding usage, sentiments, trends and tendencies is a huge opportunity and will only get bigger. 
  • With successful understanding of a broader range and larger volume of data real-time, there are opportunities to decrease churn, increase revenues, increase positive resolutions, increase Net Promoter scores, increase customer loyalty and referrals, etc.,

But the human will also be necessary.

  • As a sanity check for the data.
  • To program the HW/SW solutions and identify what’s relevant, what’s actionable, what’s valuable.
  • To provide feedback and intelligent guidance to automated scripts.
  • See beyond the data and its implications to imagine or extrapolate a trend or idea.

The bottom line is that Data and Content are in charge and affecting each of us across roles, industries, geographies and scenarios and collaboration is key. Energy and technology will help ensure the safe, secure real-time access to data which is actionable. Everything will be different, and yet the same, perhaps at a different scale.

IoT Ecosystem Trends and Predictions

January 12, 2018

IoT

FountainBlue’s January 12 VIP roundtable, on the topic of ‘IoT Ecosystem Trends and Predictions’. Thank you also to our gracious hosts at Flex.

Our executives in attendance represented a range of roles and companies, all with a perspective on IoT successes, trends and predictions. Below is a compilation of ideas and thoughts from our conversation.

The range of IoT devices and the impact on users at work and home is overwhelming, and the data generated by all these devices is even more so. 

  • There will continue to be a push-pull between features and solutions craved by users and privacy and security demanded by corporate stewards, parents, and other responsible parties. 
  • Successful IoT companies (and responsible adult parties) need to communicate transparently and make considered, proactive choices on which devices to employ under what circumstances, and to create and enforce policies which would help others to do the same.
  • Successful companies will continue to gain market share in specific industries by delivering customer-driven IoT Use Cases.
  • As the convergence of industries continues to evolve, it’s important for product and company leaders to connect with the larger ecosystem of stakeholders and collaborate to deliver coordinated solutions. 
  • Consider joining consortiums around Open Source and Security and Blockchain as they connect stakeholders in order to co-innovate and share best practices.
  • We are gradually evolving to standards in the IoT space, which will help everyone better manage and predict the behavior of IoT devices which impact the people and the network.
  • Be bold, but also become more fully aware of the risks you’re assuming when you download apps and software, especially as it may affect the security of your network, the privacy of your data.

Trends and Predictions

  • Watch for leading companies including Siemens and GE, Emerson and Schneider and the Industrial IoT solutions they will create for enterprises.
  • Watch for security and standards and privacy software solutions which will help manage the proliferation and distribution of IoT devices.
  • Which companies will collect the HUGE volumes of data collected by these devices and provide reports which are usable and actionable?
  • There are HUGE opportunities for the aging market around IoT. Which companies will reach out to this open, large market with a wide range of needs ranging from transportation to e-commerce to entertainment?

The bottom line is that in this Age of Information, companies who can deliver the devices and actionable information and customized products and services will be well rewarded.

M&A Best Practices

December 1, 2017

Mergers

FountainBlue’s December 1 VIP roundtable was on the topic of ‘M&A Best Practices’. Thank you also to our gracious hosts at Intel.

Below is a compilation of ideas and thoughts from our conversation.

Our executives in attendance emphasized several times the importance of leadership and transparent communication, especially when companies and teams are undergoing great change. Below is some advice to support a successful M&A experience.

  • It helps to have an experienced team representing the acquiring company, with exceptional communication and listening skills.
  • Escalations and conflicts will happen, but if you work with a proven playbook, if you’re open about processes and procedures and cultural expectations, it increases the likelihood of success.
  • Knowing the reason for the merger and acquisition in the context of the larger market trends will greatly impact its acceptance from within the company and also externally.
  • Marketing and operations and IT all have roles in ensuring a smooth integration. Inspirational and authentic communication of intentions and progress will go a long way in growing the trust factor, which helps everyone involved better perform despite ambiguities.
  • Empowering those in charge to take risks and make things happen during an integration is a key strategy for helping two parties get better connected. 
  • Cut back in areas you need to as you integrate, but also make sure that you invest back in strategic, key initiatives.

Below is advice for start-ups who are seeking to be bought out by big corporations.

  • Be big enough in size and stable enough in technology before you seek an acquisition. Consider also corporate investment opportunities even while you’re small.
  • If you’re not ready for an acquisition, consider partner with an existing partner of the targeted acquiring company.
  • Understand the larger market trends and technology needs and see where your solution might fit into these needs, and which companies might have an interest in your technology.
  • Be ready for a culture shock going from start-up mode to corporate, which is by nature more slow-moving and process-driven.

In the end, start-ups are known for innovating, but not scaling. Larger companies are known for scaling and systematic processes, but not necessarily R&D. A successful marriage between the two would help all parties better deliver to customers, and better meet market needs in general.

In Search of Unicorns

November 3, 2017

FlyingUnicorn

FountainBlue’s November 3 VIP roundtable was on the topic of ‘In Search Unicorns’. Thank you to this month’s participating executives and to our gracious hosts at Western Digital. Below is a compilation of ideas and thoughts from our conversation.

Our executives this month had extensive experience with both large companies and with start-ups and even investment/corporate development experience. They had the following advice regarding the search for unicorns.

  • No matter where you are in the start-up-to-enterprise spectrum, remember that:
    • Companies big and small are challenged with integrating new technologies and solutions into their offerings in order to stay relevant to their customers and keep up with market demands.
    • Leaders from start-ups and companies need to balance their desire to manage innovation from within or create innovation at start-ups and get integrated into the enterprises. 
  • Work efficiently and effectively, within the environment, culture and ecosystem you’re in. 
  • The flexibility and excitement of a start-up might be better than the stability and resources of a corporation and vice versa, depending on your current objectives and perspective. Choose the best option for yourself and be open to re-evaluating your selection.
  • Develop a comprehensive plan for creating, nurturing and growing technologies and ideas organically from within a company, and also strategically identifying and integrating start-ups worthy of acquisition.
  • Find adjacent technologies and markets for current solutions so that you can expand into new areas.
  • Create and manage an ecosystem of partners to support development and business expansion goals.
  • Keep passion and innovation alive, even when a company gets big and processes slow down how quickly things can get done.
  • Watch how the Terrible 5 (Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Apple, FaceBook) are impacting other companies in your space and respond accordingly.
  • Ensure a culture fit with potential acquirees to increase the likelihood of a successful integration.
  • The hiring of quality technical people will challenge the growth trajectory of companies big and small.
  • Focus first on the trend, then on the people who can create a solution to address that trend, and then on the idea.
  • When creating a new solution in the same market, having the same clan of co-founders makes sense. When creating a new sector and market, recruit from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences and help the team work together.

Here are some hot new areas to watch for:

  • Machine Learning and AI solutions which automate reporting and processes
  • Technologies and solutions around self driving cars 
  • Fitness and health-tech solutions for the consumer, but perhaps paid for by insurers, companies, even the government
  • Hardware and software solutions which leverage open source modules
  • Aggregating, managing, organizing, searching, storing huge volumes of digital content
  • Practical wearables which are also disposable
  • Device/IoT security and management
  • Edge computing as the evolution of embedded computing
  • Block chain use cases in finance, healthcare, transportation etc
  • Integrated services and solution will be more prevalent than individual devices/units/sales

The bottom line is the unicorns are not born overnight. There are plenty of technologies and leaders who have the potential to become those billion-dollar-unicorns. Actually achieving that unicorn status will take collaborative, systematic execution on plans extended periods of time, riding market waves and serving customers over five to seven years.