Thanks to Intuit being awesome, I got to spend the last two days at TechCrunch Disrupt London. Think Comic Con for startups building next gen products. Amazing speakers showing off everything from robot dogs that can open doors, to a new flight aggregator that can get me home to SF for £200. As a PM, keeping a pulse on innovation is super valuable, but also just fun. For those of you who haven’t, do yourself a favor and go watch Silicon Valley, season 1 ends at Tech Crunch Disrupt in CA.
Wanted to summarize some of things that struck me or stood out to me. Feel free to comment for clarification on anything!
1.Machine Learning is the New Cloud:
Machine learning is eating everything. This conference was basically, “Taking normal products/processes/services and making them infinitely better using machine learning. One of the VC’s who spoke said it best, “You can’t build a company in the next 10-20 years without machine learning and AI being fundamental to your business.” Every single company that presented was using machine learning in some form. It is one thing being told something is important at work, it is quite another to see how every just assumes your product or service should have machine learning baked into it.
So what actually is machine learning?
If you have five minutes, read through this: http://www.r2d3.us/visual-intro-to-machine-learning-part-1/ Awesome explanation and fun visuals. Otherwise, think of machine learning as a type of artificial intelligence that allows programs to teach themselves when exposed to new data.
So a simple example (which I am definitely not working on 😉 ) Lets say you wanted are headed to Glastonbury/Coachella/Bonaroo or any other music festival, and you were wondering which artists to go see.
The Old Way: The program would look at other various data points to figure out who it thinks your favorite and least favorite artists at that festival will be. The inputs are maybe 30% your age and gender, 30% others reviews of artists, 30% your listening history, and 10% your horoscope. It would then spit out a ranking based on an algorithmic model using these inputs.
Machine Learning Way: First, do everything the exact same as we did the old way.. Then as each user creates a review, the program will alter the model above so that the actual results get closer and closer to the models original output. With enough data (users providing data), the model prediction would not only mirror the actual results, but it would have the flexibility to change as the music scene changes.
AI and machine learning (and neural networks) can get infinitely more complicated than that, and be applied to basically every industry, but that’s as far as this blog will go for now! Super thought-provoking to be in this atmosphere and get inspiration from a ton of cutting edge companies. Thanks Intuit!
2. Will Brexit Ruin Everything?
Brexit is causing quite the stir in the UK Tech scene. Three of the keynotes were based on Brexit and the potential implications on technology in Europe. The biggest area of anxiety for UK tech companies is losing international STEM employees. Of all the tech companies started in the UK in 2015, 42% of founders are not from the UK. The UK has about a third of the Europe tech scene, but it is a fragile hold, and the rest of Europe is becoming increasingly attractive for startups and big companies. The sentiment was not that Brexit will cause companies to leave, rather new companies will just choose not to come.
Best quip here was, “It is so difficult to build a company in the UK, that you actually have to be a more talented entrepreneur to build the same company here as you would have in the US.
3. Live is the New Frontier
Companies are taking a new approach to innovation (backed of course by Machine Learning). Basically, how do we change the content you see based on what is going on or what you need at this exact moment. If you have seen any of FaceBook’s advertisements at the moment, live streaming is a huge priority. In fact, I just whipped out my phone and watched the same speaker I am watching in person at Disrupt, live on the top of my FB news feed.
Another startup that presented figured out how content providers should serve up content to a customer based on their current session and clicking. So imagine if the CNN news application reconfigured the articles it shows you based on the old method (history, search data trends, etc..), but also based on your current 5 minutes spent on the CNN app. CNN can figure out my interests RIGHT NOW, and serve material accordingly. Incredibly powerful/scary technology.
The last example I will give is the founder of CityMapper App. If you live in London you know that this application is by far the most ubiquitous city specific application. You tell CityMapper where you want to go, CityMapper tells you the 10 different ways you can get there, how much they cost, and how long they will take. It uses open government data to tell you with insane accuracy when a bus will arrive, whether the bus or train is a better call for right now, etc… Its not using timetables, it is using actual live data from busses, trains, etc..
“We don’t spend any money on marketing. Running our business is simple. We just focus on finding good people to solve these hard problems.”
Summary: Live Wins.
Other interesting or exciting insights or products I saw:
- Welcome our new robot overlords
- Open Bionics(https://www.openbionics.com/) showed how they are creating custom prosthetic arms. They have partnered with artists and big media companies (Disney!) to make custom arms. Especially with kids this is incredibly valuable
- Olly is a robot (think the voice from ‘Her’) built by Emotech that develops a personality based on you and your interactions with it (http://heyolly.com/) Super useful and strange to see how the personality molds to the user.
- Boston Dynamics is just building incredible robots.. If you haven’t seen this video watch it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8YjvHYbZ9w
- Make banking cool again
- FInTech has done a bunch of things really well. Venmo does personal payments better than anyone else, Lending Club does lending better than banks etc etc. That said, anyone in banking will tell you that startups will never do everything together as well as they do.. Well N26 (won the startup competition at another TechCrunch two years ago) since then they have expanded their millennial focused bank to 17 countries in Europe. The kicker is their value add is basically building a platform that brings all of these decentralized fintech products together in one consistent phone banking application. (https://n26.com)
- Jukedeck is wonderful
- No specific point here, these guys are another previous winner of the startups competition at Disrupt. This app is just amazing.. https://www.jukedeck.com/ They basically use artificial intelligence to create a soundtrack to your video for you. The crazy part is the songs are VERY good and sync with the tempo and events going on in the video. Combine this with someone the crowdsourced/AI video creation apps, and you could theoretically create an incredible video or advertisement without actually recording anything. Unreal.
I honestly could keep writing for a while, but I have to catch a train home to do some actual work 😃