Great interview with legendary startup entrepreneur and ‘OG of Lean’ Steve Blank on why strategies that work well for startups get lost in translation to the enterprise.
Big companies typically do a bunch of things. It’s become a fad — they set up incubators, implement lean processes, and create minimum viable products. That’s great! But then the leaders ask, “How come we haven’t moved the needle or seen better revenues or profits?”
Most corporate accelerators and incubators are trying to duplicate a process they don’t quite understand. They create a series of innovation activities, but they don’t create an end-to-end process to deliver products and services. To make innovation an integral part of the organization, it needs to be owned by the appropriate units. There needs to be a vision of how the incubator either delivers through existing units or turns into an independent entity. My guess is that in 90% of the cases, companies haven’t developed a clear route from the incubator’s output to the delivery channel.
Lots of great stuff in here, including Blank’s take on why GE’s major innovation efforts have failed, the importance of a go-to-market strategy in innovation efforts, and the fact that Blank and his protege Eric Ries disagree on how to implement Lean in the enterprise. Blank also says he’s working on a new book for large corporations on this very topic.
Very interesting look at the business model for Bird’s electric scooters, and how they’re taking a ‘business in a box’ (BiaB?) approach to expansion. Will internet franchises be the new Software as a Service business model?
The “business in a box” model allows for significant de-risking of product-market fit (which is very hard to achieve!) by providing a proven product to sell. Nearly 55% of small businesses in the U.S. fail within the first two years, and 40% of these failures are due to the fact that there’s no market for the product or service. A “business in a box” removes the “idea risk” from a venture, leaving the entrepreneur with geographic and operating risk.
If executed well, these models can be value accretive for both the parent company and the individual operators. The parent company benefits from faster and more capital-efficient geographic growth (no need for market launch or operations teams in each city), lower real estate and inventory risk, and better local execution. The entrepreneur benefits from the ability to be his or her own boss (the American dream!) without having to develop an innovative product and establish a standalone company.
While the headline shouts ‘blockchain’ the real story here is SecureKey, a Toronto startup that raised $26M in late 2016 from the Big 5 banks to build VerifiedMe. While SecureKey has provided online digital identity services to the Federal Government since 2012, the launch of VerifiedMe is kind of a big deal. The native mobile app enables you to use your phone as a secure digital identity device, leveraging banking-level security to access government and commercial services; online, in-person and over the phone. Think of it like a Google or Facebook sign-in service – but without Google or Facebook (or SecureKey) ever seeing or storing any of your information.
The network is built on collaboration between banks, telecom firms and credit agencies, and SecureKey Chief Executive Officer Greg Wolfond said he expects Verified.Me to be used by consumers to prove their identities to access health records, open accounts at banks and telephone companies, and get government services by the end of this year.
“Everything from being able to see your health records in a secure way, being able to open a new bank account, being able to get a new phone -- all this stuff that’s so time-consuming and painful is going to get easier for consumers,” Wolfond said in an interview. “They’re going to be able to share their data in a secure and trusted way, which they never really could before.”
I’ve been fortunate to have spent time with the SecureKey team over the past couple of years and this service is going to be everywhere before long. Being ready on Day One to make secure, completely private connections to federal and provincial governments, major carriers, banks and credit bureaus is huge, and hints at some the cool integrations we’ll see later this year. Last fall we talked to Secure Key Chief Identity Officer Andre Boysen about the digital identity service – you can watch the video here.
This is an incredible amount of growth for a product that was launched in 1996 and still functions in many of the same ways, and it looks like mobile has been pouring on the fuel for more growth ahead:
Interac has released its stats for 2018, its findings show a 54 percent increase in transactions from 2017. Between consumers and businesses, more than 371 million Interac e-Transfer transactions occurred in Canada last year.
The vast majority of those transactions are deposited on a mobile device. About three in four consumers deposit transactions using their phone. In addition, over half of transactions are under $200, with the average size for e-Transfers being $357. These stats are similar to those from 2017.
Interac also started investing in their next generation of products and services through a R&D team in Waterloo’s Communitech, so it’ll be interesting to see how they keep their hold against scrappy startups looking to take some of their market share while they continue to deal with slow-to-move financial institutions implementing their products.
Given the remove most of us have from the supply chain that provides our chicken strips, burgers and bacon, would it really make a difference to you if your ‘meat’ was tissue grown in a lab, or some vegetable-based substitute? Ultimately it may come down to a question of cost, as lab-grown meat products become cheaper than the real thing.
Despite high-profile deals in the sector, the industrial meat industry faces a rising tide of challenges, in the form of interrelated business, ethical, and environmental concerns. Today, they also face a unique political situation — since the US and China entered into their trade conflict, shares of WH Group have dropped nearly 50%.
Meanwhile, startups using technology to engineer meat in labs or manufacture it from plant-based products are rising in popularity. Meatless food products from beef-free burgers to pea-based shrimp threaten the future of the meat giants.
In addition to offering new products, these startups have the potential to upend all parts of the meat production process.
Going forward, the meat value chain could be simplified dramatically, as the “clean meat” lab or factory could take the place of farms, feed lots, and slaughterhouses.
source: CB Insights
From my personal experience the soy-based Impossible Burger is excellent, and Beyond Meat’s burger has been a runaway success at the Canadian locations of the A&W fast food chain. That said I’ll be refraining from eating any insects – regardless of how much Jeff Bezos appears to be enjoying himself here.
Excellent list from WiredUK to add to your podcast playlist. Some really interesting ones in here, including a new one from Gimlet:
A new podcast from the folks at Gimlet Media, Without Fail is an interview podcast where host Alex Blumberg interviews people from the worlds of business, sport and culture. As the name suggests, it has a particular focus on how they failed and what they learned while doing it. The opening two episodes are a fascinating conversation with Andrew Mason who founded, and was then fired from, Groupon.
It’s been pointed out that at its 1988 peak Kodak employed 145,000 people and had a market cap of $30B, while WhatsApp employed only 55 people when it sold to Facebook for $19B. That’s an extreme example of the disproportionate shift in wealth within tech, but it’s symbolic of a much larger problem. Homelessness is a crisis in tech hotbeds like the Bay Area, Phoenix and Austin, where senior software engineers easily command salaries of $300,000 – $400,000. A talented friend of mine who recently spent a year at Yelp in SF expressed shock to a colleague at the scale of the problem and was advised that “it takes about 1-2 months to no longer really see the homeless”.
Of course this is not just happening in the software hotbeds of North America. Vast swaths of the manufacturing industry that effectively created a middle class in the post-war period are now being gutted by a number of factors – globalization and automation being the primary causes. And it’s not for a lack of jobs – employment is actually at record highs – it’s the low pay, tenuous employment and exorbitant cost of housing.
The forecast of an America where robots do all the work while humans live off some yet-to-be-invented welfare program may be a Silicon Valley pipe dream. But automation is changing the nature of work, flushing workers without a college degree out of productive industries, like manufacturing and high-tech services, and into tasks with meager wages and no prospect for advancement.
Automation is splitting the American labor force into two worlds. There is a small island of highly educated professionals making good wages at corporations like Intel or Boeing, which reap hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit per employee. That island sits in the middle of a sea of less educated workers who are stuck at businesses like hotels, restaurants and nursing homes that generate much smaller profits per employee and stay viable primarily by keeping wages low.
Chart: The New York Times | Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Brookings (productivity)
The next decade will be a defining moment in our history. AI, automation and technology in general are rapidly bifurcating society into haves and have-nots. The industrial revolution of the late 1700’s sparked a societal move from a mostly self-sustaining agrarian society to a mostly capitalist urban one, creating the original titans of industry and a lot of severe poverty along the way. It took about a hundred years to implement the mechanisms to create a more equitable society (specifically post-war social welfare and housing and labour reforms). The current shift, observed through increasing wealth inequality, is arguable deeper, and unquestionably much more rapid.
History has shown these patterns do have a breaking point, and while ours might look a lot more like Elysium than Les Misérables, let’s hope we can restore some balance before we get there.
An interesting development from MIT where they have learned to shake some of the bias in a data set out of a trained model without losing precision.
The algorithm can learn both a specific task like face detection, as well as the underlying structure of the training data, which allows it to identify and minimize any hidden biases. In tests the algorithm decreased "categorical bias" by over 60 percent compared to state-of-the-art facial detection models—while simultaneously maintaining the overall precision of these systems.
While the last year’s inaugural Techstars Toronto cohort seemed to have quite a few under-the radar companies primarily in the product-market fit or early scale-up stage, the just-announced 2019 cohort features a number of established teams. Toronto entertainment app MadLipz has over 35M downloads across 100+ countries (either you’ve made a voiceover parody yourself using their app or you’ve probably seen your 12-year-old nephew make a meme using it!).
For proptech, govtech, crypto, to traveltech, finance and open loyalty networks – the 2019 cohort certainly seems promising:
This class builds upon the success of our inaugural class in 2018 from which 10 fast-growing technology companies were launched across several verticals including AI, food technology, virtual reality, financial services, construction tech, enterprise SaaS, and more. These companies were successful in raising well over $10M of follow-on capital collectively immediately upon graduation and, of greater significance, growing their businesses into viable disruptive tech companies.
If you follow the startup scene you probably remember Rypple, which Dan Debow co-founded and later sold to Salesforce, or the recent start-ups Helpful and Dialogue that he co-founded with former Pivotal Labs VP Engineering Farhan Thawar.
We’re proud of everything we accomplished here at Helpful, and we wanted to say thank you to all of our customers. We learned so much working with you and we are indebted to you for your support and partnership. But all good things must end, and over the next two weeks we’ll be shutting down Helpful Video and we’ll reach out to help you transition to new software. Stay tuned for more updates on the future of Dialog.
Every ending is also a new beginning. That’s why we’re excited to announce that we will now be joining the amazing team at Shopify to help them make commerce better for everyone.
Congrats to the team – the deal looks like and acqui-hire with Debow and Helpful co-founder David Pardy taking corporate development roles at Shopify, while Thawar will take an executive role in the Engineering department. The rest of the Helpful and Dialogue team will also be hired into various roles within Shopify.
Whether you’re a developer, technical recruiter or just curious, HackerRank’s 2018 Developer Skills Report is a fascinating and comprehensive summary of programming and developer trends. The well-funded startup allows technical recruiters to create programming challenges and run live coding sessions with potential candidates. In their 2018 survey they interviewed nearly 40,000 developers on a variety of topics (with breakdowns by age category) from preferred programming frameworks, what languages developers are planning to learn next and what developers look for in a company when job searching.
We launched HackerRank in late 2012 with the goal of matching every developer to the right job. And the growth has been amazing — we reached 3.2M developers in the community and powered 2% of all developer hires last year.
For the first time, we surveyed the HackerRank community to get a pulse on developer skills (when did they push code for the first time, how do they learn coding, what are the favorite languages and frameworks, what do they want in a job, what hiring managers want in a candidate, and more). There are some great insights, from 39,441 responses, that we are happy to share with you today. Did you know that 1 in 4 developers learned to code before they could drive?
Some interesting bits: Python continues to be a popular and accessible multi-purpose language (notably in ML applications) and interest in Kotlin has jumped sharply, owing to its adoption as the official language for native Android development. Value in good work-life balance and professional growth opportunities trump compensation by a significant margin, and vastly outstrip company size/stability and perks. Digging a bit deeper into what ‘work-life balance’ policies matter, developers unanimously valued ‘flexible work hours, support for remote working and a focus on outcomes, not hours worked’ as the top three factors.
Not to be outdone, Stack Overflow’s annual developer survey interviewed over 100,000 developers, and is definitely worth a read as well.
Peter Jackson applies his know-how and WETA effects team to restore WW1 film shot over 100 years ago – with incredible results.
The documentary, which will screen nationwide Dec. 17 and Dec. 27, concentrates on the experiences of British soldiers as revealed in footage from the archives of the Imperial War Museum. Jackson and his team have digitally restored the footage, adjusted its frame rate, colorized it and converted it to 3-D. They chose not to add a host or title cards. Instead, veterans of the war “narrate” — that is, the filmmakers culled their commentary from hundreds of hours of BBC interviews recorded in the 1960s and ’70s.
The result is a transformation that is nothing less than visually astonishing.
Burger King’s one-cent Whopper offers a Taste of the Robocar Future
I don’t know if this is horrible or genius, but it’s definitely a prescient take on the future of location-based targeting of autonomous vehicles.
Jump forward a few years, though, to the day when computers take the wheel: Suddenly this sort of campaign becomes less gimmicky and much more pervasive.
You get a hankering for fast food, call up a robocar, and enter McDonald’s as your destination. Burger King has paid extra to reach McDonald’s-bound riders. So as the car gets going, you get this message on one of the many interior screens: Special offer! Head to Burger King right now and get a free order of Cheesy Tots™ with your order of any burger! Touch here to accept a rerouting. This will add three minutes to your trip time. You hit the button and the car takes you to the Land of Whoppers.
Wonder if Planet Fitness will be targeting you with an offer of a free ride to the gym a couple hours after you’ve downed those burgers and fries.
Gotta hand it to Elon Musk, the man has ambition. According a proposal unanimously approved by the FCC last month, Musk’s SpaceX company is building the Starlink satellite broadband network will launching the first of 12,000 satellites in 2019 with network services commencing in 2020.
SpaceX plans initially to launch 4,425 Starlink satellites into a low-Earth orbit followed by an additional 7,518 satellite at an even lower orbit. The first group of satellites will operate at an altitude of 1,110km to 1,325km and will form the backbone of the company’s Starlink broadband service. The additional satellites will circle the Earth at altitudes from 335km to 346km and will boost capacity and lower latency, especially in densely populated areas. Because of these low orbits, SpaceX says its planned Starlink broadband network will have latencies as low as 25ms and gigabit speeds that will rival existing cable or fiber optic systems. Not only will it be fast, but the Starlink network also will reach those areas that have poor or no internet connectivity.
For some context on the scale of this project, there are currently less than 1,900 active satellites in orbit. Musk plans to add nearly 12,000 over the next decade.
Though the SpaceX proposal is by far the most ambitious, it’s not the only company hoping to win where Iridium so spectacularly failed two decades ago. OneWeb, Orbcomm and Canada’s Telesat – and yes, a resurrected Iridium – are all hoping to get in on the global satellite network game, which despite the infrastructure cost may make a lot of economic sense.
Here’s a pretty chill video visualizing how the network works:
Congrats to our friends and former TWG coworkers Megha and Satraj, who’s 9-month-old startup has just been acquired by Coinsquare for $12M.
“We have enormous respect for what the BlockEQ team brings to Coinsquare.” said Cole Diamond, CEO of Coinsquare. “They are one of Canada’s best tech teams, and the product they’ve built is immensely valuable. That combination in partnership with Coinsquare’s technology means that we have the opportunity to build amazing things for the cryptocurrency community in Canada and far beyond."
The TWG connections on this one run deep. Megha and Satraj became TWG employees in 2016 when TWG acquired their mobile dev shop B House, and TWG invested in (and provided office space to) BlockEQ when they decided to launch the Stellar exchange startup earlier this year. As it happens, Coinsquare is also a company TWG made an early investment in, as well as rebuilding their web trading platform and their original iOS and Android apps in 2017. We couldn’t be happier for Megha, Satraj and Jon!