Entrepreneurial DNA holds key to digital evolution

Entrepreneurial DNA holds key to digital evolution

Another topic covered was the future of commerce. We heard how the internet revolution isn’t about mass proliferation any more, but is defined by greater consumer sophistication, engagement and demands. Today there is no distinction between offline and online – a consumer can compare the price of a T-shirt on a phone, then pick it up at a collection point in a retail store. Customers demand that retailers are savvy and flexible.

Technology initially dehumanised shopping, but now that is being reversed and tech is enriching the retail experience. As the function of shops changes, so will the nature of how we navigate our towns and cities. Likewise, as people’s daily routines evolve, so will the way in which we need to consume vital services, for example health care. In an increasingly mobile world, there is no reason why small retailers and service providers cannot be empowered and row back against the emergence of megabrands that we have seen in recent years.

Over the past eight years, I have learnt that the attendees of Founders Forum always have the ability to surprise. Presentations are never run-of-the-mill – maybe because we seek to congregate groups of “intimidatingly impressive” people.

Rising Stars, Founders Forum’s showcase for the hottest new start-ups, provides an extraordinary showcase for entrepreneurs. Kate Stone’s Novalia, based in Cambridge, has developed touch-sensitive ink technology introducing two-way sensitivity to everyday media, such as retail display advertising. Another British company, Ensygnia, has developed what could be transformative technology for mobile transactions. And US-based Crisis Text Line is using technology to collect information about teenagers struggling with bullying and depression.

It’s not only about the newcomers, though. John Donahoe, CEO of eBay, gave a fascinating exposition on the opportunities and challenges of reacting to innovation as a major, global incumbent. eBay was a start-up a few years ago, too; not losing that entrepreneurial spirit is a key strategic priority. Acquisitions and “acqui-hires” – where larger companies acquire teams rather than the assets of a start-up, often when the start-up itself has failed – are one way to do this.

Ensuring the vitality of the entrepreneurial DNA in multi-billion dollar global corporates is complex. Without it, these companies run the risk of being disrupted themselves.

We also discussed the way in which technology continues to change us and our environment. That will owe much to the support – or at least the lack of impediment – of the political class. The Government has been largely supportive of the UK technology scene. In New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been instrumental in re-making the city a force in the digital world; the hope is that this will continue, whoever succeeds him.

Putting entrepreneurs at the forefront of this strategy has worked well so far – long may it continue. The city’s burgeoning digital scene has become intertwined with, and enveloped by, the wider business community: fashion, finance, advertising and media all complement each other alongside technology. An enterprise environment, in which they all can thrive, has been created.

This week sees the return leg of The Innovation Forum that we co-hosted in Los Angeles last February. Delegates will hear from industry leaders, such as Lucian Grainge, chairman and chief executive of Universal Music, about how content companies can generate significant revenues from digital distributors, such as Spotify or Vevo.

Grainge, who last year completed the audacious £1.2bn acquisition of EMI Recorded Music, symbolises the sort of entrepreneurial risk required to navigate the fast-changing technology environment. As head of the world’s largest music company, he demands that Universal continues to break new acts and manage its back-catalogue, including stars such as Katy Perry, while also exploring every new route to market that promises a commercial return. This is the balancing act that the entire media industry, in different forms, is trying to manage.

We will be co-hosting the event with the BBC and the Government, which should provide a fascinating blend of perspectives on the challenges and opportunities in the UK digital market. After witnessing some of the most powerful players in the US discussing the health of their industry I’m looking forward to hearing about the future of ours.

Jonnie Goodwin is founder of the merchant bank Lepe Partners and co-founder of The Founders Forum and PROfounders Capital

Finance News – Business news from the UK and world


Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.