A rent increase led to Airbnb. Airbnb co-founder Nathan Blecharczyk talked about how his co-founders came up with the company out of necessity — a 25% rent hike they didn’t have the money for. They rented out a room on a weekend where hotels were booked for a conference and made money. But they went beyond the transaction, built relationships with those boarders and got the idea to go further. There were early struggles to raise money and win over people on the idea, and it took a while to “identify the value proposition.”
Innovation is easier and shorter-lived. Life cycles and monetization opportunity is measured now in months and weeks for many products, such as apps. Even with more manufacturing and labor-intensive products, there are subsets of short cycles. As PARC CEO Stephen Hoover said, planes may last 20 years now, but the avionics, in-flight entertainment and other featurers are routinely remodeled and upgraded. He also mentioned the likes of Airbnb, which is disrupting hotels not so much in the product but in how you find it. Cloud/social/mobile help undermine the barrier of capital intensity.
The shifting role of government in innovation. That same morning panel expressed the view that the basics of innovation and research are shifting from government/military-driven research to a private sector effort, but Deloitte’s John Levis emphasized that no company can go it alone. And government, OpenText Chairman Tom Jenkins said, must retain its role as a demanding customer that makes the early purchases that drive innovation.
“I’m sorry. I’m really, really sorry.” Crisis communication only works if the corporation or individual is willing to apologize, say what was done wrong, and ask for forgiveness, Frank Luntz says. He and other crisis-communication experts discussed the importance of sincerity, of empathy — which, oddly, is lacking in many people once they enter leadership positions. Beyond that, it’s about having a culture where problems and negative effects can be voiced and raised to the highest level, and possibly dealt with before it’s too late.
Women and the boardroom. The panel on “Women, Leadership and Economic Power” was a frank discussion of the progress, challenges and mindsets around women in the corporate world. One audience member asked late in the session if part of the problem was that the panel was 60% women and even a higher percentage of women in the audience. Meanwhile, turning the old phrase of “hiring the best person for the job” on its head, Sallie Krawcheck said companies “need to replace ‘I want to put best person in place’ with ‘I want to put the best team in place.'”
Cybersecurity is the next global battlefield, said former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta during the lunch panel. Hacking is simply a fact of life for U.S. companies — you can’t prevent them, but you need to be able to recognize and deal with breaches. That awareness and response is sorely lacking, though; “On average, a company will go 253 days before they realize that they’ve been hacked,” said Richard Clarke.
How antibiotics are killing us. Many of us are aware how antibiotics are overprescribed and how that practice adds to the risk of drug-resistant diseases, but you may not know the numbers presented today: About 2 million illnesses are caused every year by antibiotic resistance. Of those, there are 23,000 annual deaths, according to Dr. Tom Frieden, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.