The Collaborative Economy Sets the Stage for Autonomous Innovation

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First, we had the Internet Era, when a few people could publish online and e-commerce is born.

Then came the Social Media Age, when anyone could publish online using social tools, including brands. The digital communication floodgates were opened.

Today, many companies are trying to get their arms around the Collaborative Economy, as customers use common technologies to create and share products using P2P commerce. People increasingly get what they need from each other.

But, our digital evolution doesn’t stop with the Collaborative Economy. While we’re deepening our understanding of sharing behaviors, service marketplaces, and the Maker Movement, the next digital era is emerging: the “Autonomous World.” (See below image) In the Autonomous World, we see machines replace humans to deliver even greater convenience and efficiencies. The Collaborative Economy lays the necessary foundation for the Autonomous World to thrive.

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Above Image: The Four Digital Eras

How, exactly, does the Collaborative Economy lay the groundwork for new business models in the Autonomous World?

In the Collaborative Economy, people often access what they need from each other, rather than buying products for ownership. By gaining access to products and services through on-demand business models, customers reduce the need for ownership. Autonomous technologies like self-driving cars are going to extend the access model, by enabling cars to be hailed on-demand rather than having to own vehicles.

At Crowd Companies, we define the Autonomous World as follows:

[Autonomous World: A future state when intelligent technology systems, operating without human participation, enable new business models in a more efficient society]

These intelligent technology systems can take the form of many hardware and software products, including self-driving vehicles, drones, and other artificial intelligence. The Autonomous World is our futuristic vision, with society experiencing an inevitable “semi-autonomous world” with minimal human interaction before fully autonomous systems are operable and dependable.

Here’s an example: we’re already seeing the foundation laid for autonomous vehicle penetration in the ride-sharing and carpooling market of the Collaborative Economy. These services have grown significantly in recent years, with more than 11 million people in the United States utilizing ridesharing services today. By seamlessly ferrying customers at the tap of an app, Uber, Lyft, BlaBlaCar, and others contribute to our increased preference of vehicle access over ownership. Eventually, when drivers are ousted in favor of autonomous cars, riders will experience more efficient routes, increased safety, and reduced transportation costs.

That’s right, the human drivers, whether they be taxis or Uber drivers, will be cut out by robots who can do it better. Alphabet (formerly Google) is leading the way, currently working on a ride-hailing service that utilizes its self-driving car fleet, while GM is close behind with its recent $500 million investment in the development of an autonomous fleet utilizing Lyft’s platform exclusively.

When intelligent technology systems operate with minimal human participation in the application of driverless cars, all industries must adapt to an inevitable transformation of societal behaviors and expectations. At Crowd Companies, we’re exploring these disruptions and impacts as our members chart new territory within their innovation programs.

We’re releasing a research-based infographic to the public this week that will further explore the industrial impacts of self-driving cars, and a more in-depth report exclusively to Crowd Companies members. In our research, we continually seek answers to two key questions:

  1. What role do humans play when robots do it better?
  2. What are the business strategies required to compete in the autonomous world?

I look forward to getting your feedback and would love to explore how our innovation council can help you weather the autonomous disruptions that lie ahead.

Auto industry goes head-to-head with Silicon Valley’s self-driving innovators

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Above: Daimler AG’s Dieter Zetsche and Mercedes executives with the new semi-autonomous Mercedes E-Class at the 2016 Detroit Auto Show. Image Credit: Naias.com

This post originally published on VentureBeat, based on my recent trip to the Detroit Auto Show.

Google and Tesla may be pushing full-speed ahead in their self-driving car development and testing, but auto manufacturers aren’t sitting idly by. Judging from the outputs of this week’s North American Auto Show in Detroit, as well as CES in Las Vegas last week, it’s clear that incumbent car companies are rising to the challenges of competing in an autonomous world.

Silicon Valley startups and tech giants are launching many threats to the traditional auto industry as part of the Collaborative Economy movement, from ride- and car-sharing platforms like Lyft, Uber, RelayRides, and Getaround, to more recent innovations of autonomous cars that will further enable ride access over car ownership from Google, Uber, and others.

This is forcing brands like GM, Ford, BMW, and Mercedes to reconsider their product offerings to focus more on becoming “mobility companies” that offer an array of services that satisfy the needs of their evolving customers. These pivots are evident in a host of recent announcements of partnerships, investments, and new programs:

I had the privilege of attending the North American Auto Show this week in Detroit, as a guest of Ford, and it was obvious by the announcements and unveilings that car companies want to evolve into new markets — markets where they sell more than just cars. Ford’s CEO Mark Fields spoke during an event, boldly stating that, “We are a mobility company.” The same trend is evident in BMW’s new service offerings across the entire mobility experience. It’s about more than getting from point A to point B for today’s customer. The value proposition is shifting.

To break new ground, auto companies are becoming tech companies. They’re partnering with Google, Microsoft, and Amazon, rather than building from scratch. They’re taking a page from startup playbooks and investing in peer-to-peer car-sharing and ride-sharing companies. Most importantly, they’re seeing new business models emerge and are quickly adapting to disruption.

They must enable rather than resist, leaning in to survive. This includes the building of autonomous vehicles that encourage “rides as a service” behaviors rather than ownership. Motor City may not be operating on as aggressive of a timeline as Silicon valley, but it has a seat at the table. Auto manufacturers are predicting self-driving car consumerization in three to four years, versus Tesla’s expectation of one year and Google’s current deployment of cars already in California.

We’re in the midst of a significant transition for auto companies as they realize a future where people may not want or need to own vehicles. These manufacturers must continue evolving in step with customer behaviors, offering access to vehicles and rides-as-a-service programs as expectations rise. Acquisitions will continue to make headlines as Detroit’s powerhouse manufacturers offer their expertise to Silicon Valley technologists and vice versa.

We can expect to see more changes in an exciting year ahead as auto companies become mobility services and tech companies become auto companies.

Here comes the Autonomous Vehicle Arms Race

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Above: Sci Fi movie Minority Report envisions a future of fast-moving networked cars

We’re one week out from the Detroit Auto show, 2016, which I’ll be attending. In this new market, many established auto manufactures have shown prototypes, made pronouncements, while young upstarts release their vehicles at CES, all while partnerships between established tech startups and traditional players are announced with great fanfare.

This new Autonomous World has evolved from the Collaborative Economy movement: Uber, Lyft, Didi, Ola, BlaBla have all taught us that we don’t need to own a car to achieve mobility. We can summon a car, on-demand, using an app, whisking us away to our location, without the frets of parking, the stress of driving, and associated management woes of vehicle support. The tenant of “access over ownership” is also driving the Autonomous Vehicle movement, the pains of managing a car can dissipate.

Before we move forward we must acknowledge when companies announce self-driving features, there’s a wide range of features, from driver assist (like helping to park) to autopilot features (auto slowing when a traffic jam is spotted ahead) to full autonomous like Google’s car –which lacks any steering wheel or pedals, learn about the four different phases of self driving maturity in this industry-referenced graph.

The purpose of this post is to aggregate the numerous self-driving car deployments in the industry show the acceleration as the next phase of technology disruption. At Crowd Companies, we’re hosting an event for our members, and launching a premium report that will answer questions on what the business models are of the future, when robots are more efficient than humans. To track this movement, I’ll aggregate (with your help) the players quickly moving into this Autonomous Vehicle market, listed in date order:


Autonomous Vehicle Arms Race Timeline:
While many car companies have secret prototypes testing away from prying eyes, the criteria of this will seek publicly referenced articles from credible source that include testing announcements, spotted prototypes or full blown unveilings.


A quick analysis indicates: the deployments are coming from three groups: 1) Established mainstay auto manufactures, 2) Upstart players, like Tesla, Faraday, 3) Tech startups like Baidu, Google, Uber, and supposedly Apple. There’s a variety of deployments from simple self valet parking, driver assist features, to full freeway driving management.

If you’ve updates, you can leave a comment below, or tweet at me at @jowyang, so we can collaboratively keep this list going, to show the acceleration of this arms race.

If you want to learn how these technology disrupt business models from hospitality, logistics, health and wellness, short haul airlines, insurance and more, this post outlines the major changes coming. The biggest question, which we plan to ask and answer is: “What role to humans play, when robots do it better?”

Welcome my friends, to the Autonomous World.

2016 Brings Additional Enrichment, Growth to Crowd Companies Innovation Council

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It’s almost a new year, and we have a lot planned for 2016 to help our members grow their Collaborative Economy programs here at Crowd Companies, which we founded two years ago. I wanted to share with you five items that we’re focused on:

  1. Content and discussions that focus on “how to” deploy in innovative markets,
  2. Leading our members through the six-phase Innovation Journey methodology,
  3. Over five physical events, plus private roundtable dinners for members,
  4. An additional topic focus, the “Autonomous World” (drones, self driving cars, AI)
  5. New employees, to serve our growing member base

Next year, we’ll focus even more on the “how to” of program development, providing the in-depth tools you need to determine opportunities and begin defining initiatives related to the Collaborative Economy, innovation, and other disruptive technologies. To do this, we have a number of offerings planned:

Building Out “Crowd Innovation Journey” Resources, a Roadmap for Business Change
If you attended our October Main Event in San Francisco, you’ll remember our Innovation Journey, a framework we developed to guide members through the six stages of program development, prototyping, and deployment (see below). 

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In 2015, we began organizing existing Vault resources by phase of Innovation Journey, and in 2016 we’ll be building out a series of useful tools that align with the initial stages of this journey. These tools may include:

  • Member Program Spotlights
  • Company Adoption Survey
  • Feasibility & Readiness Diagnostic
  • Use Cases by Industry Vertical
  • Business Case Template
  • Partner/Supplier Tools
  • Collaborative Economy Business Models Report

Hosting In-Person Events and Online Session, Group Calls
We have five in-person events planned for 2016 (with some additional regional roundtables in the works), in addition to your monthly session calls with industry thought leaders and group calls with fellow members. These events are included in your membership:

  • Tour and Salon: Future of Mobility in the Age of the Autonomous World, Jan. 21 | 3:30pm – 8:00pm | Silicon Valley
  • SXSW Brunch Member Panel and Social, March 12, 2016 | Austin, Texas
  • Spring Summit: Co-innovation for your Brand, April 28, 2016, with optional evening tour April 27 | Hallmark HQ, Kansas City, Missouri
  • European Summit: The Global Collaborative Economy, June 22, 2016 | BMW HQ, Munich, Germany
  • The Main Event, October 5-6, 2016 | San Francisco
  • Regional Roundtables,  Feb in NYC | Others to be determined

Expansion of Crowd Companies’ Topic Coverage: Autonomous World
As previewed by our kickoff event of the year, Crowd Companies will be broadening its coverage in 2016 to include additional topics that affect our innovative members. The council will continue to support its members as they deploy Collaborative Economy programs, while also expanding its focus to assist members as they adapt their business models to other tangential technologies that stem from these crowd movements.

The first focal point you’ll begin to see content and resources emerge around is what we’re calling the “Autonomous World” where robotic hardware and software perform tasks once performed by humans, often using the same business models from the collaborative economy. In January, we’ll be hosting a member event where we’ll examine the impact of self-driving vehicles, drones, and artificial intelligence on all industries and society as a whole. Also release a research report for members and and a related infographic for public consumption.

Adding a New Member Success Manager to our Crew
Finally, we’re pleased to announce the newest Crowd Companies staff member, Carl Bohlin, whose primary goal will be to understand our members needs, and strategically matching them to a variety of innovation resources that the council offers. Crowd Companies has over 200 members, spanning 50 companies, across multiple countries, as such, Carl will work with Angus on member success initiatives to assist the council in its growth along the Crowd Innovation Journey. He has more than 7 years experience in managing peer-to-peer councils at Forrester and Giga, and has a background in IT and financial services. Carl joins us on the east coast.

If you work for a large company, and want to learn more about membership, please submit your details to our online submission form2015 flew by, and I’m looking forward to growing with you all in 2016. Let’s keep the momentum going. Cheers to you and your loved ones in a prosperous new year!

Warm Regards,
Jeremiah

Why a Strong Brand Matters in the Collaborative Economy

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In a recent webinar, I joined Andrew Reid, founder of Vision Critical, to discuss the new rules of the Collaborative Economy. The webinar explored three paths established companies can take to successfully compete with the likes of Uber, Airbnb and Instacart: through price, convenience and brand.

As we revealed in the webcast and in the accompanying report, brand is the most useful path for companies with strong brand recognition and positive brand sentiment. This is particularly true in markets where customers are sensitive to risk.

This finding might seem counterintuitive. Afterall, startups—the small guys—have driven the growth of the Collaborative Economy. But our report, based on feedback from more than 50,000 North Americans, clearly shows that in almost all categories of the Collaborative Economy, a single player dominates the market. That’s why Uber is practically synonymous with ride-sharing, Kickstarter with crowdfunding and Airbnb with house-sharing.

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Positive brand recognition is huge for top players in the Collaborative Economy. For instance, more than 40 percent of North Americans have heard of market leaders like eBay, Craigslist and Uber. Many of these same players also have positive reputations, as the infographic below shows.

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In short, the scrappy innovative startups of the Collaborative Economy have become big brands themselves.

The big lesson: your brand still matters in the Collaborative Economy. The rise of on-demand technologies doesn’t change the fact that brand recognition and market dominance are still closely related. In fact, across all age groups, brand is as important as convenience in determining whether a customer will consider sharing or buying. Brand trust determines whether buyers will choose traditional buying over sharing, and vice versa.

The enduring importance of brands is good news for established companies. Here are three strategies for companies that want to take advantage of their brand name in the collaborative economy.

  1. Partner with companies that have strong positive brand sentiment. This provides a level of brand trust, which is useful in encouraging people to try your initiatives in the collaborative economy.
  2. Leverage your own brand to increase your collaborative capacity. Determine if your brand has strong positive recognition, and if it does, make sure your brand is front and center as you launch sharing programs.
  3. Focus on customer experience to build your brand. For companies that are already well known, providing a high caliber of customer experience assures the continued strength of your brand—a necessary step in attracting customers in an era of collaborative consumption. Engage with your customers frequently to identify ways of providing a more seamless experience, and build your brand over time using customer insight.

For a deeper dive on the use of brand as a competitive advantage in the collaborative economy, watch a recording of the webinar The New Rules of the Collaborative Economy.

Convenience as a Source of Competitive Advantage in the Collaborative Economy

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In the on-demand, peer-to-peer movement called the collaborative economy, many rising startups are offering convenience to attract new users and customers. In this new economy, Uber and Lyft provide rides with just a few quick clicks on a mobile app—no credit cards or cash to fuss with. Buying on eBay today is often easier than going down to the consignment store to find pre-owned goods. Finding a professional on TaskRabbit is more convenient than the traditional way of hiring full-time staff.

As we revealed in The New Rules of the Collaborative Economy, a report I co-authored with tech strategist Alexandra Samuel, convenience is the number one factor cited by people for their latest participation in the collaborative economy. More than three-quarters of the people we engaged with said convenience was the reason they used a sharing service—beating price and product or service quality.

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In the report, based on a study by Vision Critical, the leading customer intelligence platform provider, we also revealed that about a third of would-be buyers are swayed to consider sharing services that make it easier and more seamless to access goods and services.

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On the flip side, however, fewer people are interested in conveniences that could come from buying (services like a home furnishings or gift store that offer personal shopping and delivery). In other words, adding extra services to traditional ways of buying might not suffice. In the long-term, rethinking your infrastructure to enable on-demand and instant access to your products and services is a necessary step to competing in the collaborative economy.

In the short-term, established companies that want to offer convenience for sharers have a few strategies:

  1. Emphasize convenience for your affluent, professional customers. These people place a premium on their time and are more likely to switch to sharing if it’s more convenient to do so.
  2. Leverage sharing startups to offer convenience. Many sharing startups already have the structure to offer web-enabled instant access to products and services. Partnerships with startups could be an easy for companies to offer the convenience that today’s empowered customers are looking for.
  3. Bring local and customer-made products to your store experience. At our upcoming webinar, we’ll share some examples of big retailers that are bringing maker goods from sharing companies like Etsy to make it convenient for customers to buy unique products with a local flavor.

 

To learn how established enterprises are using convenience to compete in the collaborative economy, please join me for a live Vision Critical webinar on December 1.