What I Am Exploring for SIG Events in 2016


I have had guilt feelings of late, because I have not written any blog posts for a while. While I have been doing some tweeting, and writing some Facebook postings, they are no substitute for blog posts, I feel. These other forms of social media don’t allow you think out loud and share some ideas, and reflect in writing on issues and developments that you find interesting and important.

And since we are now in December, and I am starting to plan SIG events for next year, I thought I would share some of this planning/thinking/exploration in a post, and also encourage all of you to submit comments and/or suggestions for topics and/or speakers that I should consider for next year.

Here are some of the things I am working on and I will amplify on each of these a bit more under the headings below:

  • EdTech—Actually the intersection of technology, education, learning and training (more on this below)
  • Hackathons—In context of Open Innovation
  • Industry-University Collaboration—Looking specifically at Silicon Valley and Stanford University but also UC Berkeley
  • Crowdfunding—Perhaps also looking at the broader issue of crowdsourcing
  • Silicon Valley Innovation Outposts—A topic you may have seen covered in some of my earlier blog posts
  • Future of Corporate Learning—Another topic that I have been covering a bit in some blog posts
  • Connected Cars—And perhaps the broader topic of Disrupting Transportation

EdTech

If you have been following this SIG and our activities over the years, including numerous blog posts I have written since the SIG was launched—or have come across research reports or articles I have written in my many years at SRI International and SBI—you know that EdTech is a passion of mine. This is perhaps logical in that Silicon Valley is the global epicenter for EdTech, with numerous EdTech accelerators, lots of angels and venture firms that invest in EdTech, and many “edupreneurial” students coming out of Stanford and other academic institutions in the SF Bay Area.

Another reason why we will likely have more events that address specific topics and issues in EdTech is also that we—i.e. Silicon Vikings—recently was awarded a research project from Nordic Innovation (which funds Nordic research projects with money provided by the Nordic Council of Ministers), and this project (which I am the project leader for) builds on another project (Nordic Edupreneuring) I worked on three years ago. We now want to build on and expand that work, and help build a vibrant and collaborative Nordic EdTech Network and community. Part of our work will be to identify and profile Nordic EdTech companies and describe the Nordic EdTech landscape and its dynamics. As the project evolves we will share insights gained and relate them to what is happening in Silicon Valley and other parts of the world.

EdTech is a term that has no agreed upon definition, I think, but it focused on the use of technology--especially Internet-related technologies (and includes Web-based platforms, game-based learning using PCs, tablets, mobile phones, etc), simulations, and various forms of more "emerging technologies" such as virtual reality, virtual worlds, and augmented reality. While many think of EdTech mostly for schools, i.e. K12, we also are interested in Higher Education, Corporate (and Government), as well as consumer-focused education and learning. We are inclusive and therefore are interested in education (i.e. formal education in schools and universities, etc), learning (which can be informal and consumer-based, for instance), and training (workplace and enterprise-based).

We plan to kick off our EdTech coverage in mid-January, when a Finnish friend and colleague—Jari Multisilta, a leading EdTech academic and researcher and now EdTech entrepreneur—comes to visit and we will hear about Jari’s new startup (using video for storytelling, among other things) as well as from some other local panelists who are working with video and other technologies for learning—either in schools, higher education and/or industry.

Hackathons

I have been intrigued by what I have learned over the last 4 months or so while coming up to speed on what is going on in this area, and how hackathons are becoming an integral part of the “open innovation” policy of large enterprises. Hackathons are often put on and managed by organizations such as AEC Hackathon, which held AEC Hackathon Helsinki, part of Slush Hacks. AEC Hackathon was co-founded by my friend Damon Hernandez, whom some of you might have met when he was an expert panelists at our meeting in San Francisco on Virtual Reality last August). Hackathons are also put on by individual companies, as well as by accelerators, such as GSVLabs, Rocketspace and Plug and Play.

I recently read about a number of hackathons that took place this Fall in Finland, including one that Damon participated in for AEC Hackathon, but a number of others took place before or in connection with Slush (one of the largest startup conferences in the world, which attracted over 15,000 attendees, where large numbers of Aalto University students helped to make it happen). According to “In Finland, Big Businesses Get Scrappy with Startups.”

“In the old factory district of Helsinki, Finland, in a 4,000-square-foot electric power plant known simply as Kattilahalli ("boiler hall"), more than 500 developers and creatives gathered for the largest hackathon ever held in the Nordics. Known as Junction, the 48-hour hackathon boasted nearly 1,000 applicants from more than 35 countries and touted impressive co-organizing partners, including Uber, Shopify, and Klarna, among others, taking place on November 6-8.”

I have had discussions with Damon about doing an event on the hackathon phenomenon, where we would expect to examine the role hackathons are now playing, especially in the context of corporate innovation, and we hope to have corporate perspectives as well as hearing from one or more of the local accelerators that organize hackathons for their corporate clients.

Industry-University Collaboration

Last week, we—Silicon Vikings and representatives of all the Nordic bridge organizations [including Innovation Norway, Tekes, Innovation Center Denmark, Team Finland, Vinnova and Enterprise Estonia]—met at Stanford University with many of the current scholars at SCANCOR to learn about each other and to start exploring how we can better work together on issues of mutual interest. While many of the scholars have more longer term, academic research interests that contrast with many of the shorter term, operational interest of startups that many of the bridge organizations focus on, we nevertheless heard a number of topics that would be of mutual interest. Some of these include various aspects of innovation, or more specifically around “digital transformation," that are of interest to large Nordic enterprises as well as some of the SCANCOR scholars and their academic colleagues at Stanford,

We also know that UC Berkeley hosts many Nordic scholars and students—including many Norwegian students who come every year to study and gain practical experience in entrepreneurship—so we will explore how we can also better connect with UC Berkeley and connect its Nordic visitors to what the Nordic community in Silicon Valley is doing.

Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding and the broader trend of “crowdsourcing” (increasingly a part of “ enterprise open innovation” strategies) has been of interest to me since it first entered my radar (when we discussed it a long time ago in our Scan sessions at SBI. I was therefore sorry that I could not personally take advantage of an invitation by David Bratvold (a crowdsourcing expert and consultant) to attend crowdopolis in SF. But David was kind enough to let me pass my invitation to my good friend Jeff Saperstein, who attended and greatly enjoyed the conference.

Since Jeff’s positive experience, combined with his own interest in the crowdsourcing/crowdfunding trend, we have been discussing the possibility of organizing an event around these issues. Jeff has been in contact with some people at IBM who use crowdsourcing internally, and he also suggested we consider timing our event in such a way that it would fit with Jon Medved’s travel to Silicon Valley, so he could talk about what his OurCrowd is doing to help crowdsource funding for startups companies (including in Israel).

I also know that crowdfunding is of great interest to my Finnish friends at Tekes, so it would be nice to coordinate with Tiina Tanninen-Ahonen, who leads the Silicon Valley office for Tekes, to get some of the Tekes perspectives into the session and perhaps be able to include Nordic crowdfunding trends in the discussion at our session.

Silicon Valley Innovation Outposts

If you check out blog posts in the Silicon Vikings blog, you will see my four posts relating to the topic of Silicon Valley Innovation Outposts (SVIOs). These generated quite a bit of interest, I was happy to see, but most comments have come via LinkedIn and via Twitter rather than directly on our blog. So, if you do read the blog posts and have some comments—including if you take issue with some of the things I say, of course—please use the comments section in the blog to share your thoughts.

Since my first blog post on this topic—in April of this year, so time flies—much has happened:

  • A small number of us—Evangelos Simoudis (Trident Capital), Liana Mortazavi (Panasonic), Mario Herger (Enterprise Garage), and I—have formed a small “community of interest” around this topic, where we share information and discuss issues and developments, especially relating to Silicon Valley, but also more generally. We have also identified others with interest in the topic. And we have pooled out data bases and now have a lists of around 163 companies, and we will keep on adding new companies as we learn about them, and also add information about what specifically they are doing, etc.
  • Evangelos and Steve Blank (one of the most well-known entrepreneurship-focused academics (and practitioner) at Stanford) have also started a collaboration project, initially focused on writing some blog posts--see here and here--and they are also considering writing a book on the topic. I am very pleased to see them doing this, and expect to see some great analysis and insights coming out of their work.
  •  Mario Herger’s work and writing. My friend Mario—who moved from gamification work at SAP to hang out his own shingle and writing many great books on the topic of gamification, soon realized that gamification was only one of many areas in which enterprises needed help, so the scope of his work has continued to expand and, of course, including innovation outposts (and here is a recent blog post that Mario wrote on the topic.)
  • XploreIT at Innovation Center Denmark. Right after writing my initial blog post on SVIOs, I met with Anders Christjansen and Henrik Bo Larsen at ICD, and we had a great discussion around the topic, and, of course, the Nordic context, and to what extent Nordic enterprises could benefit from having SVIOs. Some months later I found out they had launched XploreIT, and already working with a number of Danish companies to help them innovate better. I applaud their work and hope large enterprises in the other Nordic countries also give careful thought to whether and what they might want to do in this area. Some things are starting to happen, I am happy to report, including large enterprises taking new initiatives to work more closely with startups. Some of this takes the form of large enterprises joining incubators or accelerators—and Statoil and Telenor are now part of Startup Lab at UiO—and a recent article pointed out that many large Finnish companies are now participating in or even organizing their own hackathons, as a way to come up with “disruptive innovations.”

Future of Corporate Learning

Again, I must admit this is a topic that has been of great interest to me for many years, partly a result of having done research in this area while working at SRI and, later, at Strategic Business Insights (SBI)—and leading the research program, Learning on Demand, for about 10 years. I think we have a long way to go before corporate learning in most organizations really meets the needs of workers, and most technologies we today take for granted—social media, mobile devices, online video, and others—are not today used much in corporate learning (as Josh Bersin and his colleagues at DeLoitte have documented—in their graphic “Slow adoption of leading-edge learning tools”, p 36 of Global Human Capital Trends 2014: Engaging the 21st Century Workforce).

Yes, I realize that some structure, and perhaps even some “top down” learning processes may be appropriate in some corporate learning contexts, but I still think that corporate learning should be much more user/learner-driven than what is the case today in most organizations. I am concerned that many who argue otherwise are more concerned with selling training courses or other tools and technologies that users/learners are not likely to use or to find meeting their needs--and in the end, will not have a significant impact on learning.

If this topic if of interest to you, read my two blog posts here and here, and look for the event I hope we can have some time in 2016 where I will have panelists with interesting insights and practical experience with designing and implementing “next-generation corporate learning.”

Connected Cars

This is the topic which I probably know least about right now, but my friend Evangelos Simoudis has focused on this for some time, and I have Driverless Futures colleagues and Explorer colleagues at SBI who have analyzed these developments at considerable depth. In my SVIOs posts I discussed the proliferation of outposts that the auto companies or auto supply chain companies have set up in the Valley, so it is clear that the region has become a hotspot for next-generation technology and out-of-box thinking about what the auto and even the transportation industry will look like in the future.

Some of my Silicon Vikings colleagues also have interests and connections that could come in handy if we decide to take a look at what is happening around this area, and perhaps to also see what all of this means for the Nordic region. It would be interesting, for example, to see some of the connected or driverless cars in the context of “smart cities” and next-generation urban designs where the Nordics are quite active, if I understand it right.

 

We hope that many of you will join the events of the SIG I chair but also events organized by my colleagues in the other SIGs of Silicon Vikings. You will find great networking opportunities—and networking is of course the lifeblood of Silicon Valley—and you will likely learn a thing or two from our expert panelists that we bring you. So come and join the fun in 2016.

Please use Comments section and/or write me directly: Eilif.Trondsen@SiliconVikings.com

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