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Five things we learned at Web Summit

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Web Summit 2021 in Lisbon brought together over 40,000 of the tech industry’s best and brightest. With so many thought leaders in one space, there were some great conversations taking place. Here, we crunch our five key takeaways.

1. A new era of tech regulation is coming

  • Founding partner of the venture capital firm Elevation Partners, Roger McNamee compared the tech situation to regulation of tobacco in the 1950s, arguing that change and overhaul is inevitable now.
  • He believes that we are likely to see regulation in three key areas: safety, in terms of things such as deep fakes, privacy, and competition.
  • McNamee was bullish on regulating firms seeking to extract and manipulate consumer behaviour. “Extracting the essence of our humanity in data form and then using it to manipulate our behaviour is as unethical as child labour and it should be banned the same way that child labour was banned,” he said.

 

2. Education about AI is critical

  • Journalist Rob Pegoraro interviewed MIT Sloan Management Review editorial director David Kiron and BCG managing director and senior partner François Candelon about the coauthors’ recent study, The Cultural Benefits of Artificial Intelligence in the Enterprise.
  • The authors found that people don’t trust AI because they don’t know it or understand it. However, when corporations use AI, employees report increased satisfaction.
  • How can organisations get buy-in for AI? Start with a couple of use cases in pilot programs. These will need to progress through the company and ensure it has impact.
  • Organisations should also bring AI to the core of processes.
  • Candelon argued that educating the C-suite about AI is very important, and developing an organisational ‘culture’ of AI outside of values becomes a source of competitiveness.
  • There are three core pillars of AI that executives need to understand:
    • The ability to process big data in real time
    • Achieve granular capabilities  
    • Scale at zero marginal cost

 

3. Gen Z are digital natives who need to be reached differently to older generations

  • FaZe Clan COO Jaci Hays shared how focusing on three critical pillars to reach today’s youth made the esports organisation a cultural phenomenon. 
  • Gen Z really wants to be spoken to in their own language, and at a time of their choosing.
  • Gen Z are digital natives who consume through a different set of constructs.
  • Gaming is the social currency of this demographic.
  • Music and gaming continue to intersect.

 

4. Retail is only just beginning to explore the possibilities of tech

  • H&M Group sees the future as an opportunity to think big and do big things with tech. H&M Group CTO Alan Boehme looked ahead to the future of fashion and retail.
  • Operating in 75 markets, serving 1 billion customers annually, ‘What If?’ is the founding question of H&M which drives innovation.
  • Personalised and on-demand production is the future of retail: for example, ‘What if?’ sizing was unique, ‘What if?’ there was more than shopping, ‘What if?’ fashion could transcend physical identity.
  • Fashion needs to explore up-cycled, on-demand and personalised at the same time.
  • Berlin-based Made of Air converts greenhouse gases into usable material by transforming waste residues from the wood industry into a carbon-negative compound that can replace plastic in a variety of applications. Sunglasses are its first product.
  • Keep an eye on body scan technology — production is now custom and on-demand.

 

5. Startups need to focus on customers and smart scaling

  • Dawn Capital partner Evgenia Plotnikova discussed the art of finding market fit for startups. 
  • One of the most common questions entrepreneurs ask successful founders is, how do you really know when you have an idea that will fly? 
  • Series A is typically when the company has found product market fit and then it becomes more about the company.
  • Product-market fit (PMF) is an art and a science, defined as customers are desperate to buy your product, they can’t live without it and will pay for it.
  • How do you know you’ve found PMF? The company product isn’t about what features are needed to find PMF, you spend your time keeping up with demand.
  • At the end of the day, if people are buying it that’s the best measure.
  • Biggest mistake for startups is scaling prematurely.


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