Collaboration was definitely the theme that stood out for me no matter where I turned this week. From the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference to a Tech meetup to the much awaited first glimpse of Microsoft’s SharePoint 2013 (beta version out this week, so a limited preview of this). There were other themes too at the conference and meetup – the usual suspects – Gamification, Big Data, Design, Social, Crowd funding/sourcing/consumption. Instead of listing everything I heard and saw, I’ll highlight a couple of my favorites, both leaning towards a principle of a shared economy.
At the Fortune conference, Brian Chesky explained in detail how he arrived at his business model for Airbnb and what are some of the success factors behind this phenomenon of collaborative consumption through an online marketplace of rentable spaces. Homeowners have willingly turned their homes into mini hotels by renting out for daily or weekly stays, Airbnb recently clocked its 10 millionth stay (impressive growth for a company that only started in 2008). His story was brimming with passion, perseverance, hard work, humility and lessons learnt (had many mentors to thank).
Another idea for collaborative consumption was also raised in a start-up pitch I heard at the NJ Tech meetup (Hoboken) this week on bike sharing. Bike sharing programs have been around for some time, but the theft rates associated with them usually mean they are not taken too far. So in this case the entrepreneur is looking at deploying ‘smart bikes’ rather than ‘smart racks’ (coin operated parking racks). These smart bikes would have their own mobile apps that would help with the reservation, geo-spatial tracking, roadside assistance, real time alerts and aggregated route data - these will also have their own lock mechanisms. Based on use, incentives will be thrown in for a reduced carbon footprint (clever commercial partnerships and co-branding can be weaved around this). The customers would be the same as any bike share program - cities, municipalities and universities that can install a few bike racks and rent out these bikes, to introduce an alternate form of shared public transport through an eco-friendly program. The real time data on the bike and the user will help make the bike share program viable and even create a community of co-users.
Lastly, of all the talks I have heard on Gamification Gabe Zicherman’s has to be the most entertaining and well-rounded (would recommend the second half of his keynote at TNW2012). Gabe spoke at the NJ Tech meetup where a diverse group of biztech entrepreneurs, developers, angel investors, CTOs and a handful of curious first timers (like me) showed up with a great deal of interest. The lady I sat next to during the presentations had a Ph.D. and was a Data Scientist at a New York education-based startup. The meetup lived up to its mission of ‘Inspiring Ideas, Sparking Connections’.
As for the photo above, it’s from the Ellis Island museum. This summer instead of taking our two young sons to their obligatory annual American history lesson in DC, we stayed closer to home. A refuge for many immigrants over the years and an adventurous quest for many others, America has a colorful tapestry with a unique story and Ellis Island was the gateway for all those who were interested in becoming part of that story. I attach it to this blog post, because both Ellis Island and these tech meetups share something in common – it doesn’t matter where you’ve been, but where you’re going – some will win, some might not (but not for want of trying).