A challenge to students in my next B-School session. Very often, young entrepreneurs feel disadvantaged if they do not have coding or technology skills. Although cutting-edge technology has a very valuable place (think of oncology research, space travel) most successful start-ups are based on really old development.
When Pokemon Go was figuratively and literally everywhere earlier this year, Augmented Reality (AR) came into sharp focus. Virtual Reality (VR) got a bit of a halo effect. Check out a prescient article in fasctcompany.com that indicates that investments in the AR and VR space will exceed $150 billion (http://bit.ly/2eeB3la).
However, this article is really about the profitable use of old technology. AR and VR have actually been around for a long time. It was conceptualised by L. Frank Baum (Wizard of Oz) in 1901, executed by Morton Hellig in the 1950's and named by Thomas Caudell in 1990. Niantic (www.niantic.com) tapped into the collective conscience of kids who grew up in the 1990's playing with and physically gathering Pokemon monsters.
Right now, in my specialist area of Digital Payments, there is a lot of energy around contactless.
Fact: contactless payments are based on a trick used by German bomber pilots returning to base in WW-II. A specific aerial manoeuvre created a distinct radar pattern that identified them as friendly. The British progressed it by tagging their planes thereby creating the first active contactless system. The next time you tap your smart phone to pay, imagine that you are a WW-II ace pilot! And also check out the companies that are in the forefront of the next wave of payments.
And the Wild West? In 1891, James Fargo (the head of American Express, then a mail delivery company) asked Marcellus Berry, his accountant, to create an easily recognisable but guaranteed instrument that would allow travellers to carry money safely. It was still the days of the Wild West. Marcellus basically took the centuries-old guaranteed letter-of-credit and modified it using the concept of a unique identifier, i.e. a signature. That really is the beginning of the entire story of digital payments, cashless societies, et al.
When I look at the incubators and innovation labs locally, I see a high focus on technology. An equal focus on creativity and soft skills would be value-enhancing.
The writer is director at Vyashara and a digital banking and digital payments evangelist, practitioner, advisor and consultant. Views expressed are his own and do not reflect the newspaper's policy.
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