I’ve been at the excellent DLD Conference in Munich for the last couple of days and it’s been a lot of fun. Great content and great networking. My day to day work of making investments and working with portfolio companies is mostly focused on practical matters concerned with the here and now and it is great to take a step back and think about the big picture every now again. It isn’t too much of an exaggeration to say that DLD has been all about the big picture.
The two biggest takeaways for me were:
- Leading companies are increasingly putting corporate culture at the centre of their efforts to build a sustainable business. Jenn Kim shared more of the inspiring Zappos story.
- The meme of abundance and scarcity. Technological progress is all about creating abundance where previously there was scarcity. Peter Diamandis shared a story about how in Napoleonic times aluminium was the scarcest metal known to man to the extent that Napoleon gave a banquet in honour of a foreign emperor where the foreign emperor ate with aluminium cutlery and everyone else ate with silver or gold cutlery. Since then the invention of electrolysis has unlocked all the aluminium that was previously unavailable because it was tied up in silicates and a scarcity has become an abundance. When we find a cost effective process for desalination the scarcity of fresh water will similarly turn to an abundance. JP Rangaswami also touched on this meme in his talk about the social enterprise. We now have an abundance of data which is creating opportunity in all sorts of areas, but with that abundance a new scarcity is created – privacy – and we are still figuring out how to deal with that.
Finally, I want to share a video that we saw yesterday. Regular readers will know that I’m a fan of Ray Kurzweil’s work, and in particular his predictions about the evolution of technology. I’m posting this short by Jason Silva because of the brilliant way it makes Kurzweil’s thinking accessible. The money shot comes around 1.45 when Jason describes how the cellphones in our pockets are a million times smaller, a million times cheaper and a thousand times more powerful than a $60m super computer was forty years ago. Think about that for a second and then imagine that progress in miniaturisation continuing. Hopefully it is now much easier to believe that twenty five years from now we will have computers the size of blood cells (running inside our bodies). Enjoy.