Silicon Valley Change League Tour – Day 1

InSites Consulting was recently elected as one of the winners of the BNP Paribas Fortis Change League competition, putting companies in the spotlight that have been (radically) redefining themselves in light of a changing environment. Being among the winners, Tim Duhamel and I have the unique opportunity of spending a week in Silicon Valley with a group of 18 other Belgian entrepreneurs and CEOs, tapping into the ground zero of innovative ideas, disruptive technologies and entrepreneurship. Every day, we will write down our learnings, thoughts and ideas based on what we have experienced.


Our first stop is Wearable World, an accelerator and end-to-end platform for technology companies from inception to exit, focusing on hardware and IoT. Cultivating an IoT mindset inside the workplace and proactively looking at how this technology can be leveraged for growth is their mission. Their focus areas are smart cities, agricultural technology, transportation, retail and healthcare and insurance, with notable portfolio companies such as Skully, TZOA, and CreoPop. Striking examples of companies applying wearable technology are Mondelēz International, demonstrating through technology that chewing helps people concentrate when feeling stressed, or, in the field of agricultural technology, a marihuana self-growing device for personal usage. Looking at the market landscape of IoT, Kyle Ellicott (Founder & Chief Labs Officer) says it is not consolidated, but is becoming increasingly commoditized. That is why it is critical to integrate the unique value of different best-in-class players. The power behind Wearable World is that it sets up classes of new start-ups, with collaboration and idea sharing both crucial to maximize chances of success. When it comes to data, Kyle says data are becoming very normal and ubiquitous in all of our lives. An interesting question to think about: “Why would we possibly want to unplug ourselves?”

Our key take-away

The wearables and IoT revolution will lead to a second wave of consumer emancipation, after the first wave which was created through the social media revolution. People are becoming masters of their own lives, understanding themselves and the products and services they use better than ever thanks to technology. Think about how your brand can support driving more consumer autonomy!


Yong Kim, co-founder of Wonolo (Work.Now.Locally) was our next host. He came from Korea to the US at the age of 15, after begging his parents to pursue the American dream to make a life for himself. Not able to speak English, he needed to work and study really hard to find a job. That feeling stayed with him and is still at the core of the Wonolo business idea. He started his presentation by highlighting the difference between a random stranger volunteering to drive you to your desired destination and the Uber service. The answer is trust, not the application in itself.
Similarly to Uber and Airbnb, Wonolo is in the on-demand space, yet solving problems companies have instead of consumers. They solve the tension between the plentitude of jobs available, yet not being filled in as a result of complexity and inefficiencies, with a specific focus on e-commerce logistics and hospitality. Wonolo takes care of the whole process for the end user, from matching available jobs and available workers to checking the criminal background of people, onboarding them based on 5 different criteria, tax handling, payment and so on. So far, they have 100,000+ sign ups and 40,000+ jobs filled in in just one year time. They build trust among job seekers and contractors with an average NPS score of 65, both from a demand and a supply perspective. The cool thing is that nobody has done this before: having people work for companies for just of few hours or days. It puts specific challenges on coping with existing regulations and legal frameworks. That is the Wonolo app was developed together with lawyers and legal specialists, so as not to infringe any existing rules and laws. His major take-out from start-ups: “It looks really glamorous, but the core of it is dealing with hassles, experimenting things yourself and just making things happen.” The proof: the co-founders are expected to use Wonolo themselves, picking up on jobs and experiencing what it is like to use their own service.

Our key take-away

The marketing research industry is facing a similar tension as described by Yong: how to bridge the gap between brands in need of more responsive consumers and consumers willing to define the future of brands. We need to think about ways for the marketing research industry to develop the kind of trust Wonolo is achieving through feedback systems.


After enjoying a greasy hamburger at Super Duper, Josh McCalin (Engagement Manager Fortune 500 enterprise program) welcomed us at IndieGogo. Started up in 2008, Indiegogo is now one of the global leaders in crowdfunding. Today, the crowdfunding space is worth $34B; it is expected to grow to $100B by 2025. By democratizing funding (400,000+ campaigns per year), Indiegogo helps fill a massive gap in providing access to capital, helping small entrepreneurs as well as larger corporations (like GE, Sony or Hasbro) to source, improve, sponsor and/or validate innovations. For the latter group, crowdfunding is the ideal way to benefit from a ‘fail fast’ principle. Over the course of just 30 days, companies will get critical feedback on features, price, messaging and so on, while at the same time building awareness for the new product. One example related to innovation validation is how GE used a campaign to prove market demand for Opal, a nugget ice making machine for the home. Another example related to innovation sourcing is how Hasbro Gaming Lab is enabling people with fresh ideas to help them create new Hasbro products. If successful, the idea owner gets a percentage of the revenues generated from the product. For fresh entrepreneurs, crowdfunding can act as a kind of ‘acid test’ for venture capitalists to prove that there is an actual market for the product or idea, given the reality that the funding of a project is being exchanged with pre-ordering the product. The core competence of Indiegogo is to maximize campaign success rates by applying all the knowledge they have on what has been driving success or failure from previous campaigns (e.g. execution of the pitch, activation of the campaign, attracting and targeting people to the site).

Our key take-away

Indiegogo taps into the logic of behavioral economics to test and optimize the performance and go-to-market strategy of new products. In addition to asking what people want, our industry needs to learn from companies such as Indiegogo to tap into real rather than claimed or intended behavior.


Katy Keim (Chief Marketing Officer & GM of Lithium Social Web) and Ravi Kumaraswami (Senior Vice President of Sales & Chief Revenue Officer) started their presentation by quoting John Chambers, CEO of Cisco Systems: “Forty percent of businesses in this room, unfortunately, will not exist in a meaningful way in ten years.” Buyers forever changed: wanting more, wanting it now, easy and enjoyable. Expectations got an entirely new level upgrade, considering best-class companies as the new standard. Everyone (no industry is exempt) is now competing with Uber, Amazon and Google, causing a fundamental shift in economic models. According to Katy, the great opportunity for brands is that customers are relying on each other (78% of consumers trust peers, 14% trust advertising), allowing them to close the gap between heightened consumer expectations and economic business models which are under pressure.
Taking a total community perspective, Lithium taps into the power of the crowd (publicly) to acquire customers, better serve them and drive innovation. For example, in the giffgaff community, the average response time to a question on the community is an astounding 0.9 seconds! What’s in it for community members? Surely not compensation, but a rather unique access to specific information or features, ranking in the community and profiling of community members revealing their specific strengths and competences to the company they contribute value to. Community super users have a specific status, being respected and trusted stronger as they are an expert in a specific domain or have contributed in a very significant way.

Our key take-away

In line with our own vision and belief, Lithium lifts on the power of peer-to-peer collaboration and problem solving to help brands stay future-proof. Don’t forget how important intrinsic motivation and gamification are, while you are at it!

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