What value do you think digitalization will unlock in emerging countries?
I believe very strongly that digitalization will be the key to future economic growth and job creation for countries, big and small, around the globe for the foreseeable future. First, smart, motivated people are everywhere, not just in tech hubs like Silicon Valley, New York, and London. An organized, well-supported entrepreneurial ecosystem can serve as the foundation for future economic growth through the development and support of entrepreneurs and the startups they create. Every city and country should be developing and implementing a plan to develop a tech-driven, entrepreneurial ecosystem with the goal of accelerating digitalization and the job creation that comes with it.
As business, government, education, and more become more and more digital, there is going to be a huge need for workers with digital skills. Now is the time to invest in skills training and certification programs in order to meet the demand that is either here or definitely coming.
One way of doing this is by leveraging the local Chamber of Commerce as the lead and organizer of this effort. Think about this, every city, state, and country around the world has some sort of Chamber of Commerce-like organization that, in theory, is one of the best-connected organizations in town. The Chamber often sits squarely at the center of government, business, finance, education, NGOs, civic orgs, etc. Two ways for an entrepreneurial ecosystem to be successful are to either have a large exit that produces economic success for their workers, who, in turn, invest back in the community or a convener like a local tech hub.
Over the past few months, I have been spending a lot of time with business leaders, NGOs, and government officials all over Europe and the Middle East, talking about building robust entrepreneurial ecosystems with the Chamber, or Chamber-like organization at the center. This is an incredible opportunity that I would like to see accelerate all throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Africa in the coming months and years.
Are there different types of digital transformation?
Most definitely, there are many different ways in which organizations can undertake digital transformation. An organization’s specific approach will depend on its needs, goals, and resources. Some common types of digital transformation include:
- Automation: Automating processes using digital technologies can help organizations to improve efficiency, reduce errors, and free up staff to focus on more value-added tasks.
- Data-driven decision-making: Organizations can use digital technologies to collect, store, and analyze large amounts of data, which can help them to make more informed decisions.
- Collaboration and communication: Digital technologies can facilitate collaboration and communication within organizations, enabling teams to work together more effectively.
- Supply chain optimization: Digital technologies can help organizations to optimize their supply chains, improving efficiency and reducing costs.
How do you see technology evolving over the next years?
By far, the biggest area of growth is happening in the Artificial Intelligence space. AI, as an accelerator of possibility, is just getting started. Recently we have seen a flurry of AI-powered tools released to the public, and already we are seeing real-world use cases being developed. For example, ChatGPT, created by OpenAI, has been used to write a movie script, write code, and turn unstructured data into structured data. As these tools learn and become more sophisticated, the use cases for how to use the technology will grow. Even as I type this article, AI tools are assisting me with fixing my many spelling mistakes in real time!
We hear all sort of things about Web3, Metaverse, etc. Could you please make sense of it for us?
The whole Web3 space is a vast and incredibly complicated topic. Still, it’s about advancements in technology (i.e., blockchain) accelerating the dispersion of power from a centralized few tech or corporate giants to the individual. Some of the real-world improvements that Web3 promises to deliver are privacy, security, and interoperability. On the flip side, famously, Elon Musk and Jack Dorsey think the whole thing is mambo-jumbo marketing speak.
Whatever Web3 is and becomes, it is evidence of rapidly evolving technology that enables people to use the Internet in a way they never have before. If that means more privacy, security, and accountability, then that might be a good thing.
What should we expect regarding the Metaverse? How might it change the way we work, shop, socialize, etc.?
I believe it’s less about legless avatars floating around in a room and more about blending the real world, augmented reality, and virtual reality. This “blended reality” will have lots of practical implications, like in education, manufacturing, and medicine. Think about practicing surgery with your peers from around the globe in virtual attendance dozens of times on a virtual human before attempting the real thing.
If you are a retailer, it might make sense to meet your customers in an enhanced Metaverse environment in order to offer them access to the brand, the experience, and the product in a way the physical world cannot. This is what Gucci is doing, and it has been a great learning experience for everyone involved. It also has us talking about the brand, so there’s that.
All of this is going to take some time to play out, so the important thing is not to wait to see what happens but to start experimenting with it today. The more you can learn early, the better prepared you will be for whatever this ends up looking like in the future.
In these uncertain times, what message do you have for business leaders and companies?
I think the important thing to remember is that these uncertain times will eventually pass. Leaders today who remain optimistic, lean into change, and go all in on digital will be the winners in the future.
There are a lot of speakers on the topic ‘Change’. What makes you special?
I’m not sure about the “special” part, but what makes me unique is that I spent 20+ years at Google, since the beginning, really, helping write one of the greatest business stories of all time. I saw how smart people activating an ambitious, if not audacious, goal can literally change the world. Lots of people and businesses have an impact, but what we were able to do at Google, on a global scale, was truly once in a lifetime. There is so much to share with audiences of all sizes, the lessons go on and on.
I am also lucky to continue to serve on the board of what was rated prior to the pandemic the top private tech incubator in the world, to be a part owner of, along with the guys who used to run the World Economic Forum, a thought leadership business in France and to advise founders and VC funds around the world. You put all of this together, and I have a unique and valuable perspective on building and scaling in today’s digital world. It’s a message that is relevant to all.
What do you do to make sure that people think, feel and act differently after your presentation?
There are a number of things I actively focus on in order to make working with me worthwhile. First and foremost, I am really easy to work with. From the moment I touch down at the airport until my departure flight home, I am there for my client. Of course, there is the speech, but I always ask what else I can do to help add value. 1:1 with local business leaders? Run a workshop with the team? Conduct media interviews? Attend a dinner with government officials? I always say yes, to all the above and more.
Second, when I speak, I do everything I can to ensure that my talks are both “interesting and actionable.” It’s one thing to inspire an audience with some amazing message, and many people do that. I prefer to give attendees a handful of actionable next steps they can take when they return to their office on Monday. Nothing pleases me more than to see attendees taking notes while I speak, and they then take one, two, or more ideas into the field and find success. People are busy, and their time is valuable. If I can give them a couple of ways to be more successful at whatever it is they are doing, then that seems like a good use of everyone’s time.
After a keynote, what is the overall feedback from your attendees?
I’ve been lucky to have audiences that have been receptive to my message and have provided positive feedback. Recently I was speaking to a large audience of retail executives in Dubai and received the following feedback from the CEO of the event: “Ted, was truly an amazing presentation you delivered. Your presence was so important in providing credibility to our organization and the RECON event. All positive comments from our delegates on your content and your delivery.
- Thank you!”
You met a lot of people from different cultures, do people fear those upcoming technologies or are they expecting the change to come?
It’s an interesting question, actually. There are lots of different takes on where technology is headed and the impact it is having on industry. In the end, we see most often how the adoption of various technologies impacts the employee and their job. At the end of the day, people want to be successful in their roles, meet their quota, get paid, be recognized, whatever. If technology is going to block any of that from happening or, worse, replace me, then I am not overly excited. On the other hand, if I see that adopting X tech is going to make my job easier and make me look like a hero, then I am all in.
What are your goals for the future?
In 2023 I will be focused on a number of efforts, all under the umbrella of digital transformation. First, I will continue to speak to audiences all over the world in an effort to deliver an important message at scale. Second, I will be more focused on working with VC and PE firms as well as boards of directors on specific digital transformation efforts. Finally, I am also focused on helping cities/states/countries build strong and supportive entrepreneurial ecosystems with the goal of helping create jobs and economic vitality.
I consider today to be an era of unlimited opportunity, but it is going to require a change in mindset and a leaned-in approach. As I mentioned earlier, I expect the next great brands to be born today, and I want to do anything I can to help ensure that happens.