The future of marketplaces

Marketplaces are some of the hardest businesses to build (as our own testimony at PeoplePerHour shows). They are complex beasts with lots of moving parts, the parts need constant tweaking and polishing, and the sum of the parts – when they are put together properly – is greater than the whole (the ‘network effect’). It takes a lot of hard work, analysis, creativity and most of all persistence to get to what’s commonly called ‘critical mass’. But once you do marketplaces are some of the most defensible and beautiful businesses.continue reading »

Are you thinking long-term enough?

Warren Buffet was once asked by Jeff Bezos a long time friend of his: “you are the second richest man in the world and yet you have the simplest investment thesis. How come others didn’t follow this?”  To which Warren Buffets responded: “because no one wants to get rich slowly” 

In a nutshell that’s what’s wrong (or rather what’s not quite right) with a lot of the investment community today, from public markets to private equity investors and unfortunately it trickles down into too many companies. You can’t time-box success. You can’t sprint a marathon. And you can’t measure success with speed but only by the  magnitude (and significance) of the end result.  Building to flip is easy. Building to last is difficult and you cannot take short cuts.continue reading »

Who stole my fruit?

The last decade or so has been paradise for entrepreneurs mainly because as the world shifted more online and on mobile devises there was so much low hanging fruit up for grabs.

Times are now changing. This is not to say that there’s no longer opportunities. There will always be. But now they are shifting to much harder problems to solve.

Much like any new revolution. When industrialization happened, anyone with a conveyor belt a-la Henry Ford’s could churn half-decent products out the door that would sell. Not for very long but they’d sell.

Today to compete in manufacturing you need state of the art equipment, R&D and people. And you probably need to be in China to compete on price.

The same is happening in technology I believe. The name of the game for the past two decades was getting content and inventory online and creating tools to make it discoverable. Starting with the browser, then directories like Yahoo and Craigslist, then search engines like Google, then social networks like Facebook and now Instagram.continue reading »

How the power of the crowd will transform business

One revolution that’s in the making today is that of the crowd.  There’s  lot of literature around it but it hasn’t yet transformed business in the way i think  it inevitably will.

The staffing industry today is a whopping $450 Bn market. Of that only a mere $1Bn has been captured online. That’s 0.2% penetration.

If we compare that with commerce which leads services, there’s somewhere between 10-15% of the total value of commerce transacted online today and that’s projected to increase to over 50% in the next decade.

In relative terms the market of eServices is where eCommerce was in 1996!continue reading »

Who will disrupt the Googles, Amazons, Facebooks and Apples of this world ?

The grip that these companies have today is almost unbreakable. But – that’s a grip on the de facto platforms of today. Meaning the internet, mobile and computing devices as we know them.

As history has taught us, what’s easier than breaking a grip that strong, is to render the platform its gripped on obsolete. Kodak was unbreakable in film. Until digital came along.  Nokia was unbreakable in mobile devices. Until smartphones came along. Dell was unbreakable in computers. Until  tablets came along.

I think what will disrupt these de facto goliaths of today is a move to a completely new playing field that will render the internet, and computer devices – including mobile devices – totally obsolete and unnecessary.  Yes – unnecessary. And that will happen in the next two decades. continue reading »

There is nothing ’emerging’ about emerging markets

I am still shocked that most people in America and generally Western Europe don’t get that today there is nothing ‘emerging’ about ‘emerging markets’. Other than legacy terminology. What we call ‘emerging’ are economies which are some of the most cash-rich, innovative, fast-moving and have some of the best educational systems in the world. And if we don’t wake up and smell the coffee, we will all work for them very soon. Samsung employees over 270,000 people, is world leader in products the majority of Korea couldn’t even afford 10 years ago and today they sell more of them than anyone in the world (phones & TVs included). The world is moving incredibly fast and we are still tied to outdated terms like emerging markets. Let’s wake up!

The importance of the knowledge economy in solving long term unemployment

Elaine Pofeldt wrote this great piece Is Your Next Great Gig in Indiain Forbes yesterday after a long discussion we had about how, in the midsts of long term dwindling exports with competition from low cost production in the East, western economies should be turning their focus to finding new sources of competitiveness.

I believe that one such source is the knowledge economy. And what underpins that in turn is our education system, the liberal arts and culture. Things which are harder to replicate overnight.

And so without realizing it i think there is a whole ‘export economy’ under our nose waiting to explode. The internet now empowers people to sell their creativity, their artistry, their numeracy  skills, research, writing skills and so much more we take for granted, to entrepreneurs and businesses out in the emerging markets where some of those skills are in short supply. Not all, but some.

I see this somewhat a nano version of the traditional hiring of management consultants like the McKinseys of this world, which much like the skills that i refer to above, are again a franchise of the US eductaion system. This is of course a gross simplification but in essence they commoditized the ‘Harvard MBA’ and exported it the world over transferring best practice of the American corporation at the top end of the food chain.continue reading »

The death of the Corporation

The freelance economy now accounts for over one in three people in the working population. That’s over a trillion dollars in the UK and US markets alone.  Over $1bn per annum is spent today online in hiring and paying for freelancers a figure which is projected to grow to $5bn within the next 3-5 years according to Industry analysts.

Most people associate the move to this new way of working as a drive to cut costs and be more flexible. All of which is true. However, I believe the biggest benefit of this new way of working is not in cost cutting, and I make the case here by drawing on our own experience at PeoplePerHour of eating our own cooking. The biggest benefits of freelance working  – if implemented correctly – are a drastic increase in productivity.  I argue here that what drives that in turn are two things: 1) hyperspecilization ie breaking traditional more generalist jobs down to smaller ones and hiring people who are experts and super focuses on those jobs, anywhere in the world, to execute them , and 2) accountability.  Which comes from transforming the traditional employer- employee relationship to one of  service provider – client.continue reading »