Francois Marmion: For every challenge there is a business opportunity

Tuesday, June 30, 2020
Do you keep your eyes wide open when it comes to seeing the opportunities and changes that lie ahead for your company? Join us into the future by reading the highlights of a workshop led by a futurist, former management consultant, CEO of two startups and now a startup mentor, an investor, and a lecturer Francois Marmion during Start:up Alpe Adria Summit in June 2020. His aim was to help participants develop a wide 360-degree scope in identifying new business opportunities and exploit trends. Francois showed us many of the things happening across different industries that we should take in the account for the future of our business and personal life as well.

First, let us ask you a question. Do you think you will experience this event in your lifetime: your children travel to Mars, fly in your autonomous car, live in a house built in 3D printing, command most of the tools around you by your thoughts or watching a football worldcup of robots?

These were some of the "warm-up" challenges Francois Marmion gave the participants at the beginning of his interactive online workshop. And guess what was the predictions that seemed the most realistic to most participants: our children travelling to Mars and living in a house built in 3D printing.

To put fun on a side, nobody knows exactly what the future will bring, but the point it's not about looking into the magic ball and predicting the future, »but to get prepared, look at different scenarios and identify new opportunities coming your way,« said Francois.


15 possible disruptions to come

In the first part of his workshop he presented 15 possible disruptions to come. Take a look at some of them.

Connected minds: brain computer interfaces enable mind-to-machine and mind-to-mind communication and brain implants improve performance at school and at work.

Ageing resolved: life extension possibilities will start to be available making a world a 4-generation world.

Precision food: the future of food is about macro need- saving and feeding the planet – adapting to everyone's personal needs and medical profile.

Biometrics everywhere: from street safety to retail, it will become the norm. While identification and payments are facilitated to the extreme by relying on simple gestures. For example, this year China has dramatically increased the number of facial recognition cameras used to track citizens, and the same will happen all over the world. It will be a massive B2B and B2C business. And, of course, it will come with a lot of ethical issues.

Large tech eat finance and healthcare: following the Chinese example, large Western tech firms are already taking over the financial services businesses and substantial chunks of tech healthcare industry to get ownership of big medical data and feed their AI algorithm. One of the companies already doing this is Amazon.

Many people don't believe that this is really happening and even more so that it will affect their business. But perhaps just keep this somewhere in your mind …

Potential broken tech monopolies: facebook, google, will most likely have big competitors …

Climate change.

DNA is king: genetic editing will be used in some parts of the world to design babies. DNA will be the key to our lives, used everywhere from prevention to cure. Although the scientists said that for ethical reasons this will not happen, two years ago Chines scientists announced that they had created the world's first genetically edited babies, twin girls. What will happen next?

Now a question for you: which one will most affect your business? Think and try to predict new opportunities in your field.



Three principles of changes

When talking about changes they are following certain principles. More changes will happen in the next 20 years that was happening in the last 20 years. So the change is not linear but exponential.

The second principle of change is hype at the beginning: we tend to overestimate the effect of a change in the short run. People think every will change suddenly. But announcements do not mean we are there yet. And on the other side, we underestimate the effect on the long run.

The last and third principle is lateral changes. Massive changes to your industry will most likely come from other fields: tech, science, infrastructure, entrepreneurship, demographics,… Have your eyes open and observe what is happening outside your field, because changes over there will affect your field as well. For instance, touchscreens have revolutionized all industries by enabling apps. Natural events like Covid 19 impacted massively the sharing economy, particulary car sharing and the supply chains. Climate change might kill some tourism and agriculture businesses and boost others.

For every challenge there is a business opportunity. Be the alternative provider. Develop the business model that will bring value to the people.


The future after Coronavirus

Francois served us at the end of the workshop with a very interesting international research, which he led in May and June of this year on the future after the coronavirus. With 236 respondents, mostly managers and entrepreneurs, the conclusions were:
  • it's not expected to be a great revolution when talking about the environment. Certainly, there is a greater awareness, but the changes will be far less than expected. We will not be so pessimistic: many respondents agreed that more people in big cities will cycle and walk and that people will spend more money on local food and products.
  • Geopolitics: the conflict between the US and China will grow. Most of the respondents believe that countries are becoming more selfish and that poor countries must fight the virus on their own.
  • Economy: we will experience the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression of 1929 and debt levels will remain extremely high for the next 10 years. Interestingly, respondents believe that most companies will ask their employees to continue working at home to save massively on rents.
  • Most of the respondents believe that there will be several more waves of the virus, that the states will not have enough money to really invest in a better health care system, and that supposedly "small jobs" (nurses, bus drivers, delivery man, cashiers, policemen, ...) will remain as "small" as before.
  • Winners and losers of the crisis: Germany in the major winner and the UK the major loser, CEE is neutral.
  • Winners and losers businesswise: the winners are either online or local, small off-line is the most fragile.
  • Winners and losers in tech: premium to e-commerce and Amazon, fragility of the startups.

What is next?

If you want to develop a 360-degree awareness of the upcoming changes and the problems associated with them, you must recognize the concerns and not ignore them. Francois suggests that you continue to innovate by finding new ways of doing things and investing in the (data) business models of the future.

You must have a positive mindset about the future and be fully aware of the issues. Find the right way to seize opportunities while respecting high standards of corporate digital responsibility.

*Start:up Alpe-Adria Summit was organized in the framework of the project Startup-up AA co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund in the frame of the Cooperation programme INTERREG V-A SI-AT.