“BMW Welcomes” Explores the Future of Mobility (Video)


What moves us tomorrow?

That’s the question BMW posed to its expert speakers at BMW Welcomes, held at BMW Welt in Munich, Germany, on June 23. where I served as emcee of event. BMW Welcomes gathers transportation futurists from around the globe to examine topics from Hyperloop to space travel.

In this video you’ll learn:

  • What is the future of mobility?
  • How is the space industry going to enable change?
  • How will Hyperloop going to change transportation?
  • And more.

What ensued was riveting conversation about the future of mobility and how major automotive players and international technology innovators are rethinking car ownership in favor of new transportation innovation and sharing behaviors. The Collaborative Economy will play a role, though it’s only a starting point for change. The future goes beyond self-driving cars, holding promise for a complete transformation of all aspects of society and transportation.

Event speakers included:

  • Frank Salzgeber, Head of Technology Transfer Program Office, European Space Agency
  • Daniel Wiegand, Startup presentation: Lilium aviation
  • Dirk Ahlborn, CEO Hyperloop
  • Mariana Avezum, Startup presentation: WARR Hyperloop
  • Oliver Heilmer, Head of Interior Design BMW, BMW Group

BMW defines “Future Mobility” as the way we will transport ourselves in the future by significantly increasing range, speed, and acceleration of our journeys, while simultaneously reducing cost and environmental damage. Watch the entire event below for more insight into the projects that will shape our lives forever.

Market Snapshot: Crowd-based Insurance Startups on the Rise


Insurance_10 (2)

Above Image: Crowd Companies has identified more than a dozen crowd-based insurance startups emerging from financial industry hotbeds like London, more will emerge from each region.

Crowd- and peer-based business models have impacted the hospitality industry, transportation space, financial sector, and other industries as indicated within the latest Collaborative Economy Honeycomb 3.0.

We’re now seeing the rise of a growing set of startups in the insurance industry that are enabling P2P, pro-rata coverage or crowd-based models that leverage the crowd. These emerging insurance tech startups include mostly peer-to-peer offerings, with a handful that are also improving the delivery of insurance through new technologies.

P2P insurance allows for more people to be insured by aiding underserved markets. It provides coverage for gig workers in the collaborative economy, while collective purchasing yields preferential pricing (or even funds returned) to those subscribed to peer-based insurance programs. With most of the emerging startups acting as brokers, the insurance carrier startups are still forthcoming in the insurance world. Lemonade is a clear example of this (though they’ve yet to launch).

There are several companies popping up for specialized insurance, too. From insuring cyclists to pet owners, and one––Bought By Many––that specializes in ‘long tail’ insurance. This means insure those items that aren’t often insured. Then, there’s Trōvthat provides ‘on-demand’ insurance, for those who want to insure in the moment by simply snapping a pic in the app, granting fast coverage. It’s coverage for when people seek access over ownership.

The map above of crowd-based insurance startups isn’t complete; there are more emerging, and we expect for each geographic region to develop their own capabilities. See the table below for additional details.

Sample of Crowd-Based Insurance Startups: 

Startup Category Description
OnSource On-Demand Inspection On-demand visual inspection by a group of independent crowd workers
trov On-Demand Insurance On-demand protection for belongings – home, auto, personal property. Easy to turn on/off.
Tong Ju Bao P2P Broker TongJuBao is a P2P insurance platform that helps its users manage risks. TongJuBao was developed by QiBao Investment Consulting (Shanghai) Co., Ltd, a WOFE (wholly owned foreign entity) and is ultimately controlled by its French founder, Tang Loaec. (CB Insights)
Broodfonds P2P Insurance – Crowdfunding Group of freelancers crowdfunding each other’s sick leave
PeerCover P2P Insurance – Crowdfunding Join group, pay fee upfront, users decide if claims are fair and can get up to 5x your balance to cover claims. ‘Crowdfunded cover’
MetroMile Pay-Per-Mile Auto Insurance Metromile is a car insurance startup that offers pay-per-mile insurance and a driving app. It is currently the only company offering pay-per-mile insurance in the United States.
CommonEasy P2P Insurance Broker CommonEasy is a peer-to-peer insurance platform that utilizes the power of the crowd to collectively insure and protect material possessions, homes, and livelihoods.
Besure P2P Insurance Broker Peer-to-peer risk sharing for property insurance, not currently launched.
Friendsurance P2P Insurance Broker Pools users into small groups. Brokers with 60 insurance partners.
Inspeer P2P Insurance Broker Users form small groups for auto, motorcycle, and home insurance. Users pledge to cover up to a certain amount.
Guevara P2P Insurance Broker – Auto Pools friends and acquaintances, or other small groups, for car insurance.
Gather P2P Insurance Broker – Business Business insurance shared across a group/community.
Bought By Many P2P Insurance Broker – Long-Tail Works with insurers to develop policies and negotiate discounts for long-tail insurance needs like pet insurance, cyclist insurance, etc.
SafeShare P2P Ins Broker – Share Econ Develop insurance products and partner with sharing economy businesses to offer users and providers insurance solutions. Work to fill in the gaps of insurance for Sharing Economy providers and users.
Cycle Syndicate P2P Insurance Carrier – Cyclists Bike insurance shared over a small group. Insurance held by cycle syndicate.
Lemonade P2P Insurance Carrier Lemonade is peer-to-peer insurance and one of the only carriers, but they’ve yet to launch. Groups of policyholders pay premiums into a claims pool, and if money is left at the end of the policy period, they get refunds.
Uvamo P2P Insurance Carrier Uvamo, which plans to launch by the end of the year, aims to cut administrative costs by offering property and casualty insurance direct to consumers online. Those policies can then be diversified and grouped into a pool, which collects all the premiums paid by the policyholders. -CNBC


Additional Resources:

Want to inspire Intrapreneurship in your company? Open this box


Can you let your employees take charge of innovation – with little managerial oversight? When employees are empowered to make a difference on their own – to lead rather than follow a managerial directive – the innovation process takes on a life of its own.

Adobe Kickbox, a physical box of practical tools and resources for employees to innovate rapidly and independently, fosters innovation in every pocket of the company. It helps capture grassroots innovation happening at the edges of the internal network.

At more than 11,000 employees, Adobe is a large software company in the heart of Silicon Valley. Such companies can struggle to keep talent when the best and brightest are often lured away by promises of lucrative start-ups and entrepreneurship. By focusing on fostering intrapreneurship in its employee base, Adobe offers the empowerment needed to keep staff engaged and challenged while directly contributing to product R&D and company growth.

Although today Adobe Kickbox can be used by any company, it originally began as the sole innovation process used at Adobe since 2012.

Since its inception, more than a thousand new ideas have been prototyped using the Kickbox process. Once Adobe realised the potential for Kickbox to support innovation in all companies, it began offering its resources free for download at Kickbox.Adobe.com. Thousands of companies and organizations have already downloaded the kit in multiple languages.

What, exactly, makes Kickbox so different and so successful? Adobe Kickbox pulls employee innovation out of people’s brains and into action, using the following tools in a training session:

  • Prepaid credit card with $1,000 for project research and proof-of-concept (empowerment)
  • Starbucks gift card (caffeine)
  • Chocolate bar (sugar)
  • Complete directions for Adobe’s innovation process (some structure)

Once an Adobe employees completes the final phase of the innovation process directions, they’re then awarded a “Blue Box” (with its secret contents undisclosed) and assigned an executive sponsor to bring their ideas to fruition. Your guess is good as mine, as what’s in there – but that desire to get to the next level will drive motivation.

How to ensure quality ideas while still “failing fast”

The goal of the Adobe Kickbox innovation process is to increase the rate of failure by making small bets on ideas in a really fast, decentralized way. It intentionally “breaks” all of a company’s processes and requires leaders to completely rethink their innovation funnel. But, in the end, it will result in diverse ideas and products that customers actually want. To fail fast, employees follow the Kickbox’s six steps to innovation.


  1. Inception. Motivating Innovation of new ideas.
  2. Ideate. Brainstorming to come up with new ways to help customers and employees.
  3. Improve. Polishing Ideas to refine before taking to market.
  4. Investigate. Talk to customers and test directly. (This is often where the $1,000 prepaid card comes in, as employees create a proof of concept to show that customers would want and adopt their idea. This may include advertising, A/B testing, or hiring the crowd to build a prototype.)
  5. Iterate. Evolve hypothesis based on findings from the investigation.
  6. Infiltrate. Pitch to management. (The final pitch in step six must end with a request for money – budget/resources – in order to secure c-suite commitment. Those with hard numbers from the tests stand to gain more traction)

Using this process, Kickbox teaches people to innovate when there is no innovation programme within the company. It requires no infrastructure, no leadership review and deliberation, and comes with complete directions. To ensure quality of ideas, Adobe also requires employees utilizing Kickbox to first attend an instructional class, a foundational course many other companies have since replicated.


Kickbox innovation requires complete commitment, even to points of contention

In order for Kickbox to be successful within an organisation, companies must adopt the six-step process fully, without exception. In a Crowd Companies innovation council call, Mark Randall, VP of Creativity at Adobe, shared three big points of contention that companies most struggle with in Kickbox adoption:

  1. It must be open to all employees. Kickbox won’t be successful if it doesn’t embrace the fact that a good idea can come from anywhere, in any department, not just marketing or product development.
  2. Employees are empowered to pursue any idea. The empowerment for all employees to explore democratises innovation and puts trust into action.
  3. Intrapreneurs must receive “no-look funding” in the amount of $1,000. This is a critical part of the “special sauce” that makes Kickbox successful. It’s a significant risk to invest in ideas blindly, but Adobe found that people spent their money much more carefully than they did using normal budgetary allocation.

Kickbox inspires profound changes in employee behavior and their relationship to the company. You can download Adobe Kickbox here to begin the full innovation process today.

I’ve worked with Adobe for many years, and they’re currently a customer of my company, Crowd Companies, an innovation council.

This was originally posted on the Virgin business blog.

Collaborative Economy Market Contraction Signals Maturity



Above Image: a butterfly emerges after contracting in a cocoon.

You’ve probably read the article from Salon, with its sarcastic title and detailing of several failed on-demand, Collaborative Economy startups. A few people asked for my thoughts

First, our data shows that the Collaborative Economy movement is here to stay,. We see people increasingly adopting sharing behaviors , startups like Uber are profitable in the United States, and the UK government is  offering a tax credit for people who participate in it. It’s not going away––but we do need to cull the herd.


Second, signs point to the fermented froth fizzing out as we enter Phase 4 of tech market maturation: Contraction…

The Collaborative Economy Market is Changing:

Too many damn startups are doing the same damn thing. Lisa Gansky’s massive directory of startups in this space tallies at a whopping 9,703 startups. In our latest Honeycomb 3.0, we reviewed 450 startups, but only about 250 made the cut. We found many startups doing the exact same thing as others, often in the same regional area! Take San Francisco’s recent valet app market, for example: there’s Zirx, Luxe, and Carbon all fighting for me to download their app so they can park my car in the city’s insane downtown area.

VC welfare strings are starting to tighten. The Salon article refers to investment funding as “VC welfare,” which gave me a chuckle.it’s true; this market has been funded plenty, as shown in our massive spreadsheet on funding. It indicates that, in previous years, there’s been a total of $28 billion in VC funding poured into this market. Why is this? VCs wanted to see market traction (even if the startups weren’t in the black), and they were hoping to fund the next “unicorn,” which there are dozens in this market. On my analysis post on VentureBeat, we found that much of the funding centralized last year on the billion dollar unicorns––although I’m expecting the rest of 2016 to soften on VC funding.

Startups are disappearing or consolidating. There have been quite a few companies that have fallen off the Collaborative Economy honeycomb, including Homejoy, Sidecar, TheStorefront, Zirtual, Spoonrocket, and others listed in the Salon article. With that said, there were acquisitions as the market merged, including: Blablacar acquired Carpooling.org, Expedia acquired HomeAway, Outerwall acquired Gazelle, and defunct Sidecar sold its assets to GM.

What it Means to Enter the Contraction Phase

This is normal, alike every tech cycle. I’ve been in Silicon Valley for nearly 20 years and have experienced three tech cycles: dotcom, social media/web 2.0, and now the Collaborative Economy. In each phase, we see the same patterns of market initiation, massive funding of clones, a shakeout, the consolidation, integration, and then maturation. The Gartner Hype cycle’s universal framework indicates we’re now near the “Trough of Disillusionment,” and preparing for the “Slope of Enlightenment” which suggests market maturity with fewer players.

Market consolidation means the leaders will get even more acceleration. The Honeycomb graphic, is our attempt at representing global startups in each sector, sorted by industry hexes. We had to prune out existing startups as some hexes like Transportation, Space, and Money were so crowded with clones, they wouldn’t all fit. Furthermore, as startups hit the deadpool, the remaining startups would gain even more acceleration as they can clinch more of the market––making it even more difficult for new entrants. If a startup is in the lead –they’re likely to stay in the lead.

The market is scrutinizing profitability of startups, as we enter this next phase. While investments are still occurring, the rate of heavy investments in 2015 seems to be slowing. In earlier market phases, startups were rewarded with large valuations for market adoption––but not measured on profitability or to get “in the black”. Now, the Collaborative Economy startups will need to make their balance sheets work in order to get closer to their gigantic valuations.

So what does the future hold?

Expect a Honeycomb with just about the same amount of hexes, but we’ll see less logos in each hex as the market weens off performance strugglers. Perhaps we’ll make the logos larger of the dominant players as these startups continue to integrate. They’re already integrating within city landscapes, brokering with governments and partnering with large corporations for business deals. Soon, we’ll be entering the next phase: Normalization.

(Image used with creative commons license from Morgan Schmorgan)

Honeycomb 3.0: The Collaborative Economy Market Expansion


The Collaborative Economy enables people to get what they need from each other. Similarly, in nature, honeycombs are resilient structures that enable access, sharing, and growth of resources among a common group. Our latest version of the Honeycomb framework, Honeycomb 3.0, shows how the Collaborative Economy market has grown to include new applications in Reputation and Data, Worker Support, Mobility Services, and the Beauty Sector.

Get the Honeycomb: Register to Receive a High-Res Version
This is a market map to help you understand how every industry can benefit from the Collaborative Economy by partnering with new startups. Advance to the registration page, or click on the image below to see the larger version.

Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 11.56.43 AM


Our Research and Design Process
Honeycomb 3.0 was a large undertaking. At least 460 startups were reviewed, and 280 were chosen to be included in Honeycomb 3.0.

We researched and analyzed the impacts of new startups within the sharing economy since the publishing of Honeycomb 2.0 in December 2014 (and, before that, the original Honeycomb in May 2014). This time around, we specifically focused more on international startups, startups that are on the upswing, and those receiving a lot of funding. The goal was to take a current snapshot of the “A-list” companies in the space.

Determining which startups to include required reviewing vendors included in previous Honeycomb versions, startups included in our funding spreadsheet, the overall market, and suggestions from our network. Each startup that was considered was evaluated separately for meeting sharing economy criteria, its relevance to the market, its function, and location.

This process led to uncovering new trends in the sharing economy and establishing new categories, subcategories, and some re-organization of previously established categories. There was also some startups from previous Honeycomb versions that no longer exist or had been cannibalized, so they were removed.

Honeycomb 3.0 is not intended to be a complete market picture, as there are thousands of other startups out there. We chose those that we found best met our criteria. You can use the blank template below to fashion your own version, too.

Make Your Own Honeycomb, with this Blank Template

Honeycomb3_blank_F (1)

You can create your own honeycomb, for your specific region or industry sub-category, or simply one that’s focused on your view of the world. We’d love to share it, collaborate, and make this a resource for everyone.

Additional Resources

 Startups and Services featured in the infographic:

Analytics and Reputation
Driver Services
Ridescout http://www.ridescout.com
What’s the Fare http://www.whatsthefare.com/
Identity and Reputation
eRated http://www.erated.co
HireRight http://www.hireright.com/
Karma https://havekarma.com
Onfido https://onfido.com/us
Traity https://traity.com/
TrustCloud https://trustcloud.com
Veridu https://veridu.com
Vijilent http://www.vijilent.com
Renter Services
Beyond Pricing https://beyondpricing.com/
Everbooked https://www.everbooked.com/
Kigo (RateCoaster) http://kigo.net/
Smart Host http://vr.smarthost.me/
Corporations & Organizations
Employee Services
Slice Rides http://www.slicerides.com
Twogo https://www.twogo.com
Button http://www.usebutton.com
Cloud Commerce Factory http://www.cloudcommercefactory.com/
Crowdtap http://home.crowdtap.com/
eYeka https://en.eyeka.com/
Innoverne http://www.innoverne.com/
Juggernaut http://nextjuggernaut.com
Marketplacer http://marketplacer.com/
Mila https://www.mila.com/
Nearme http://near-me.com
Sharetribe https://www.sharetribe.com/
Tilt https://www.tilt.com
Supply Chain
Cargomatic https://www.cargomatic.com
LocalMotion https://www.getlocalmotion.com
WoNoLo http://wonolo.com
Food Delivery
Farmigo http://www.farmigo.com/
GrubMarket https://www.grubmarket.com/
Saucey https://sauceyapp.com/
SpoonRocket https://www.spoonrocket.com/
Sprig https://www.sprig.com/
UberEats https://ubereats.com/eats/sf/
Shared Food
Bon Appetour https://www.bonappetour.com/
Eatwith http://www.eatwith.com
Feastly https://eatfeastly.com
Leftoverswap http://leftoverswap.com
Mealsharing https://www.mealsharing.com
Vizeat https://www.vizeat.com
Shared Food Prep
Barnraiser https://www.barnraiser.us/
Kitchen Surfing https://www.kitchensurfing.com
Kitchit http://www.kitchit.com
Munchery https://munchery.com
Rub & Stub http://spisrubogstub.dk/en/
The Food Assembly https://laruchequiditoui.fr/en
Loaner Products
Bagborrowsteal http://www.bagborroworsteal.com
Hey, Neighbor! http://web.heyneighbor.chat/
Open Shed http://www.openshed.com.au/
Peerby https://www.peerby.com/
Pley https://www.pley.com
RentTheRunway https://www.renttherunway.com
Rocksbox https://www.rocksbox.com
Maker Movement
Brit + Co https://www.brit.co/
CustomMade http://www.custommade.com
Etsy https://www.etsy.com
Make http://makezine.com/
Maker’s Row http://makersrow.com/
Shapeways http://www.shapeways.com
Techshop http://techshop.ws
The Grommet https://www.thegrommet.com
Pre-Owned Goods
Craigslist http://sfbay.craigslist.org
Ebay http://www.ebay.com
Kijiji http://www.kijiji.ca
Moveloot https://www.moveloot.com
OfferUp https://offerupnow.com/
Poshmark https://poshmark.com/
TradeMe http://www.trademe.co.nz
Wallapop http://us.wallapop.com/
WarpIt https://www.warp-it.co.uk
Yerdle https://yerdle.com
Bemyeyes http://www.bemyeyes.org/
CoHealo http://cohealo.com
Crowdmed https://www.crowdmed.com/
Helparound http://helparound.co
Curbside Care https://www.curbsidecare.co/
Dispatch Health https://www.dispatchhealth.com/
Doctor on Demand http://www.doctorondemand.com/
Eaze http://www.eazeup.com
Heal http://getheal.com
Medicast https://www.medicast.co
Medneo http://medneo.de
MedZed http://www.mymedzed.com/
Pager https://pager.com/
RetraceHealth https://retracehealth.com/
Stat http://signup.stat.com
Book sharing
Chegg http://www.chegg.com
Sidewalk http://www.gosidewalk.com/
Zookal https://www.zookal.com/
Coursera https://www.coursera.org
Khan Academy https://www.khanacademy.org
SimpliLearn http://www.simplilearn.com
Thinkful http://www.thinkful.com/
Udacity https://www.udacity.com
Udemy udemy.com/about/
Gibbon https://gibbon.co
Instructables http://www.instructables.com
Maven http://www.maven.co
P2P University https://p2pu.org/en/
Sharing Academy http://sharingacademy.com
Skillshare http://www.skillshare.com
uTest https://www.utest.com/
Local Delivery
Deliv https://www.deliv.co
Favor https://favordelivery.com/
Ghosttruck http://www.ghostruck.com
Instacart https://www.instacart.com
Kanga http://getkanga.com
Lugg http://lugg.com/
Postmates https://postmates.com
Shadowfax http://shadowfax.in/
UberRUSH http://blog.uber.com/RUSH
BellHops https://getbellhops.com
Nimber https://www.nimber.com
PiggyBee http://piggybee.com
Roadie https://www.roadie.com/
Sheaply http://sheaply.com/eng/pages/display/home
Shipster http://shipster.co
Shyp http://www.shyp.com
Transfix http://transfix.io
MakeSpace https://www.makespace.com
Roost https://roost.com
Stashbee http://www.stashbee.com
Mobility Services
Rides as a service
BlaBlaCar http://www.blablacar.com
Bridj http://www.bridj.com/#home
Chariot https://www.ridechariot.com
Didi Kuaidi http://www.xiaojukeji.com/
Easy Taxi http://www.easytaxi.com/
Flywheel http://www.flywheel.com/
Gett http://gett.com/nyc/
Grab (GrabTaxi) https://www.grab.co/sg/
Hailo https://hailocab.com
Juno https://www.gojuno.com/
Lazooz http://lazooz.org
Loup http://loupapp.com/
Lyft https://www.lyft.com
OlaCar http://www.olacabs.com
RallyBus http://rallybus.net/
Shuddle https://shuddle.us/
Surfair https://www.surfair.com
TianTian http://ttyongche.com/
Uber https://www.uber.com
Wingz https://wingz.me/
CARMAnation https://www.carmanation.com/
Filld http://filld.co/
JustPark https://www.justpark.com/
Purple http://purpledelivery.com/
YourMechanic https://www.yourmechanic.com/
Valet Services
Caarbon http://caarbon.com/
Luxe http://www.luxe.com/
Valetanywhere http://www.valetanywhere.com/
ZIRX http://zirx.com/
Circle Up https://circleup.com
Crowdfunder https://www.crowdfunder.com
Experiment https://experiment.com
FundingCircle https://www.fundingcircle.com
Gofundme http://www.gofundme.com
Indiegogo https://www.indiegogo.com
Kickstarter https://www.kickstarter.com
OurCrowd https://www.ourcrowd.com
Pave https://www.pave.com
Bitcoin https://bitcoin.org/en/
Coinbase https://www.coinbase.com
Dash https://www.dash.org/
Litecoin https://litecoin.org
Ripple https://ripple.com/
Able https://www.ablelending.com/
Faircent https://www.faircent.com/
Kiva http://www.kiva.org
LendingClub https://www.lendingclub.com
Prosper https://www.prosper.com
RateSetter http://www.ratesetter.com
Zopa http://www.zopa.com
City Sponsored Bikes
Bicing Barcelona https://www.bicing.cat/
Hangzhou Public Bicycle https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hangzhou_Public_Bicycle
Santander Cycles London https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/cycling/santander-cycles
Velib http://en.velib.paris.fr
Getable http://www.getable.com/
MachineryLink https://www.machinerylink.com/
Munirent https://www.munirent.co
SeeClickFix http://www.seeclickfix.com/
YardClub http://www.yardclub.com
99Designs http://99designs.com
Cloudpeeps http://www.cloudpeeps.com
Crowdspring http://www.crowdspring.com
FieldAgent https://fieldagent.net/
Gigwalk http://www.gigwalk.com/
HourlyNerd https://hourlynerd.com/
Kaggle https://www.kaggle.com/
Nabbesh http://www.nabbesh.com/en/
Payable http://payable.com/
StaffJoy https://www.staffjoy.com/
Universal Avenue www.universalavenue.com
UpCounsel https://www.upcounsel.com/
Upwork https://www.upwork.com/
Airtasker https://www.airtasker.com/
Ask for Task https://www.askfortask.com/
Bannerman https://getbannerman.com
DogVacay https://dogvacay.com/
Fancy Hands https://www.fancyhands.com/
Fiverr https://www.fiverr.com
Musketeer http://www.getmusketeer.com
Taskrabbit https://www.taskrabbit.com
WeGoLook https://wegolook.com/
Zaarly https://www.zaarly.com/
Personal Space
9flats http://www.9flats.com/
Airbnb http://airbnb.com
CanadaStays https://www.canadastays.com/
Couchsurfing https://www.couchsurfing.org
Flipkey https://www.flipkey.com/
hipcamp https://www.hipcamp.com/
Homeaway http://www.homeaway.com
Homeexchange https://www.homeexchange.com/en/
HouseTrip https://www.housetrip.com/
Love Home Swap http://www.lovehomeswap.com
Nightswapping http://app.nightswapping.com/en/
Onefinestay http://www.onefinestay.com
Tujia http://tujia.com/
Xiaozhu http://www.xiaozhu.com/
Work Space
Breather http://breather.com
CoPass https://copass.org/
HiRise http://gohirise.com
Liquidspace https://liquidspace.com
PeerSpace http://www.peerspace.com
Pivotdesk https://www.pivotdesk.com
Sharedesk http://www.sharedesk.net
Storefront https://www.thestorefront.com
WeWork http://www.wework.com/
GridMates http://www.gridmates.com/
Solar Mosaic https://joinmosaic.com
Vandebron https://vandebron.nl/
Yeloha http://www.yeloha.com/#howitworks
Fon https://corp.fon.com/en
Open Garden http://opengarden.com/
Serval Project http://www.servalproject.org
Vehicle Sharing
Loaner Boats
Boatbound https://boatbound.co
Boatsetter https://www.boatsetter.com
Sailo https://www.sailo.com/
Loaner Vehicles
Atzuche http://www.atzuche.com/
CambioCar http://www.cambio-carsharing.de/
Car2Go https://www.car2go.com
DriveNow https://us.drive-now.com
easyCar Club https://carclub.easycar.com/
Flightcar https://flightcar.com
Getaround https://www.getaround.com
Scoot http://www.scootnetworks.com
Sharoo https://sharoo.com
Turo (RelayRides) https://turo.com/
YongChe http://www.yongche.com/
Zipcar http://www.zipcar.com/
Wellness & Beauty
BeGlammed https://beglammed.com/
Belita http://www.belitaindia.com/
GlamSquad https://www.glamsquad.com/
MyGlamm http://www.myglamm.com/
Priv http://www.gopriv.com/
Swipecast http://www.swipecast.com/
ClassPass https://classpass.com/start
Coachup https://www.coachup.com
Entrenaya http://www.entrenaya.com/
Kindly http://kindlychat.com
PopExpert https://www.popexpert.com
Vint https://www.joinvint.com
Zeel https://www.zeel.com/
Worker Support
Friendsurance http://www.friendsurance.com/
Guevara https://heyguevara.com/
MetroMile https://www.metromile.com/
Renter Services
GuestHop http://guesthop.com/
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Don’t Suck. How to Successfully Moderate a Conference Panel


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This post has now become recommended reading for moderators at Ad:Tech 2008, SXSW (see FAQ #10), and more. This post is reprint from a few years ago, but is just as relevant, as the industry prepares for another busy conference season.

Most Panels Suck: How To Stand out from Others
Sadly, the value of most panels are really poor, and this is mostly due to the lack of moderation. Yesterday, I heard that one nervous moderator asked the panelists to introduce themselves (which was his job), then went directly to Q&A, providing little structured value to the audience. On the complete opposite end, I’ve seen one self-important moderator answer questions from the crowd, when it was his job to field questions to the panelists.

How to Successfully Moderate a Conference Panel:

Objectives and Ideology


Think of the audience as your customers
Treat the audience like your customers, they’ve paid with money and time to come to your panel. Your job is to give them the information they need, or to entertain them, and often both. You’ve one of the most difficult jobs as you’ll have to set the pace, maintain some control, but know when to back off. Remember that you’re here to serve the audience first and panelists second.

Picking the right panel members
Often, a moderator is asked to select the panel, this isn’t always the case, but more than likely you will be involved in the approval process. Find folks that are experts in the field and have varying points of view. I find that 3-4 panelists is ideal, any less becomes difficult to flesh out all the viewpoints , and anymore becomes unwieldy. One time, I was 1 of 5 panelists, and I think I spoke a total of 5 minutes, a real waste of time.

Find out what success looks like
Look at the context of the conference, what is it about? who is attending? what are the other panels? Ask the conference organizers what success would look like, what questions does the audience want answered and what is their level of sophistication?



Get to know the panelists
This is often difficult as many panels never meet in advance, but in our social world many folks are online and can be found. Do Google searches on their name and the topic at hand, and you may be surprised what you find online.

Research the topic
The most entertaining panels have a dash of debate, look at an issue from many angles, practical steps to get started, and tell a few jokes. Find where the points of contention are and be sure to bring it up, this is how you’ll bill the panel. Use a blog post, Twitter or other feedback tool to glean questions from the community.

Properly market the panel
Successful panels will often have a title that is catchy, in tune for the conference, and has a detailed summary of what the audience will get out of it. You should blog about the upcoming panel, and the panelists should too.

Develop agenda bulletpoints
I try to establish some general high level bullets, 3-5 is good, so it helps the panelists to prepare and research. Don’t get into overly detailed questions, you never want them to be overly rehereased. I always have some secondary questions if no one asks questions, and it’s best to throw some curve balls to panelists after they warm up.

Have prepared notes
Print out the research you did of their bios, points of contention, the high level agenda, and follow up questions you may want to do. I’m known for requiring the panelists to bring a case study or example with measurable results.

Before you use powerpoints, really think it through
In most cases, panels should focus on the discussion and interaction between the panelists. Presentations should only be used in these situations: They add value by visualizing a conceptual concept, you’ve some industry stats that preface the event, or there’s a funny video that gets the crowd warmed up. Have a mental checklist: Is this going to add value? Does this give each panelist an equal response? Is this truly necessary?

Have a pre-briefing meeting
It’s really hard to get panelists to all get on the phone together, I can only think of a few times when this has worked. Instead, have a quick meeting in person before the panel actually happens, it will only take 15 minutes. This is good bonding time, be sure to remind them of the general structure, but make sure they’re relaxed and going to have fun. Listen carefully to the conversation, as you’ll pick up interest points that will help you setup questions while on stage.

Prepare all your notes, laptops, make sure everyone has water before you get on stage, in some cases, plan out where folks will sit. Remind the panelists, yourself, and the audience to turn off cell phones. Smile a lot, and have fun…ok, now we get on stage.

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On Stage


Be a leader and know the impact of body language
I’ve studied this a few times, when I moderate, the body language I give off will be echoed by the panelists. If I sit up straight, or if you fidget, they will follow, the same happens when you speak. Look at the panelist when you ask a question, then look at the audience (they will follow suit), If you look at the panelists after you’ve asked a question, they will instinctively look back at you, an odd site to the audience. Unless responding to another panelists, the panelist should be addressing the audience so keep your attention on the customer.

Set the stage by providing context
As the first speaker the moderator should set the stage by quickly give an overview of why this panel was accepted, and what you’re going to cover. I tend to avoid the usual banter about ‘how this panel is going to be great’ or make length introductions about panelists, that usual pretty-talk is often low value. Next, give a brief introduction about the panelists –but save the lengthy bios for the pamphlet or website — folks know how to read. (submitted by Dave Pelland)

The first question should be a warm up
You should tee-up the crowd, and the panelists by asking a broad, easy question. Ask for a definition, or talk about the history of the topic, or why this topic is so interesting to the panelists.

Ask about benefits and opportunities
Some moderators let them conversation dive into the weeds too fast, focusing on ratty details, nuts and bolts before prefacing ‘why’ these things are important in the first place. Guide the panelists to discuss the benefits, and why these things are great in the first place.

Ask about risks, challenge the panel
The audience is tired of industry zealots. We all know the panelists are passionate experts in their field, but you need to ensure a balanced viewpoint is given. Give an example of how it’s not worked, and then ask the panelists to explore the risks. Give them the opportunity to talk about overcoming pitfalls, your audience won’t want to make the same mistakes.

Monitor the back channel
Monitor the “backchannel” which are conversations in IRC, Meebo, or Twitter about your panel. After the very disruptive revolt at SXSW 2008, moderators and speakers need to pay attention to how the audience (customers) are responding to what’s happening on stage. As Web 2.0 expo, I scanned twitter via my mobile device in real time and made live changes. (added March 2008)

When to Assert Control


Never let panelists pitch
This one really irritates the audience, as they’ve spent time and money investing in a panel, they don’t want to hear vendor pitches. Typically, when one vendor talks about how great his company is, the next panelists will need to one-up, and it never ends. The moderator needs to pre-warn panelists that won’t tolerate this vile deed, and will cut them off in public, and that’s embarrassing for everyone. BTW: If you’re in the audience and you see this happen, you have a right as a customer to demand them to stop, if not, vote with your feet and complain to the organizers, or ask a pro-rated payment of your wasted time.

…but let them tell a case study
I prefer that panelists demonstrate their expertise by showing their experts in the field, or provide a case study how their customers have been successful. There is a very thin division between this and a vendor pitch, so it’s best to remember that a panel is more like a white paper, not a brochure.

Keep on track
Panels will often get off-track to new discussions, while that’s certainly normal, your job is to gently bring it back into context. You’ll have to re frame a question or ask for further explanation on the topic.

Redirect panel hogs
Although rare, some panelists will overstep themselves and overpower the other panelists. It’s your duty to find an appropriate time (watch for when they breathe) and interject in a nice way. Compliment their opinion, and be sure to pass a question to the deserving panelist. (Insights from a concall with Warren Pickett of Ad:Tech)

Interaction gives life to a panel


Listen in
Watch the body language of the panelists, the one who wants to get a word in will be giving you non-verbal indicators, the audience will give off vibes of attention, boredom, or even disagreement. You’ll find little disagreements between panelists, be sure to pick up on those to segue to the next panelists, ask them for a contradictory point of view. This can be difficult.

Let the panelists talk to each other
Don’t over structure your panel by leading into a moderator question and response pattern alone, allow for some healthy banter between the panelists, and let them chatter, jab, and joke among each other.

Know when to pass the mic
Don’t let any particular panelists dominate the session over others, you can interject between their breaths and quickly pose the same question to the other panelists. I realize this seems rude, but this is your job, you represent the audiences time

Know when to shut up
I’ve been a panelist many times, and have certainly been annoyed when some moderators go too far, they may try to make it more of a game show, insert too much humor, or answer the questions from the audience. Don’t be that guy. Success happens when good conversation starts to take place on it’s own, and you only need to gently guide.

Field questions from the audience
Always repeat the question from the audience, so everyone can hear and it’ll get on any recordings. Summarize long winded questions from the audience. Don’t let an over active commentator steal the show by asking too many questions, suggest that some discussion can be followed-up after the event. If there are no mics in the audience, you may need to walk down and bring the mic to them. Ensure that the questions are spread from different folks, and only let a single person ask a second question once everyone has had a chance.

Two Rules for Q&A: State your name, and make sure the question is a question
Questions are key to drive interaction, but before you take questions, let the audience know these two rules:  1) Get context from those that are asking questions on their name and company, this way the panelists can respond to first name to those who are asking, and have greater understanding. 2) Require that questions actually be questions.  We’ve all experienced the self-promoting pitch or the lengthy diatribe from an passionate audience member, so make sure the focus is still on the experts on stage.  The rest of the audience will appreciate it.

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Wrapping things up, Successfully


Ending the panel
Finally, at the end, let the members talk about where they can be found online, or where others can learn more about them. It’s best if you start, in order to set an example. “I work at company X in Y role, I can be found online at Z”. Thank the panel and audience, then prepare for the audience to come up to the stage and have 1:1 discussions.

Encourage the discussion to move online
Often the conversation between the panelists and members was so engaging that the never want to stop discussing it. Create a wiki, forum, or Facebook group to continue the conversation. Also assign tags at the session so that anyone who is blogging about it will be found. If you’re a blogger you may want to write up a wrap-up and link to anyone who took pictures. Thanks to Zena in the comments for this suggestion.

Final touches
Later, send a thank you email to all the panelists, keep in touch with them, and always cherish how well this has gone for you. Congratulations! you’ve just moderated a successful panel!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this how to guide, I’m often hired as a keynote speaker for business events, but have spent my fair share of time, also moderating panels.

This is just my perspective, be sure to read what others have written on this topic:

If this post helped you moderate a panel, or you’ve further suggestions, please leave a comment.

(images from: pexels, unplash, and again on unsplash)