December 03, 2016

Where Is Your Delight?

by Digitalization, Point-of-View

Originally published in OpusCapita Journal.

Jonas Kjellberg, a serial entrepreneur, an investor, and an author,  has always been interested in the ways that the game is changed. He shared his inspiring insights and visions on digitalization and the disruptions ahead with us.

“Is it the big that beat the small, or is it the fast that beat the slow?”

Whenever Jonas Kjellberg, a serial entrepreneur, an investor and an author, asks this question, the majority of his audience would bet on the fast beating the slow. Kjellberg, who is probably best known as the former CEO of Skype, wonders whether it really is true that the fast win.

“If we look at the stock exchange, most of the successes there are the big companies. And most of my failures as an entrepreneur have happened when I have been really fast and I have been beaten by the big players.”

On the other hand, Kjellberg says he is often amazed about how difficult it is for the big companies to innovate into tomorrow’s delight – into the future success that is built on the customer experience, and satisfaction that is driven, for instance, by the features in a product or a service that are unique, compelling and new to the market.

“The delight needs to be discovered, invented – and reinvented. At some point your delight may turn into a commodity that your competitor, perhaps the fast one, can deliver as well.”

So the question above is actually a trick question: it depends. Kjellberg, who is Senior Advisor of BCG Digital Ventures and nowadays lectures on entrepreneurship at Stanford University and gives keynote speeches on creating a winning sales culture, says that for a company to be a true game changer, it needs to build a product beyond competition, and understand how to unlock both growth and customer acquisition, and the important thing: do it when the world is ready for that change.

Unthinkable transactions ahead

Jonas Kjellberg says he has always been interested in the ways that the game is changed. He believes that the next disruption might very well happen in the banking sector. If you need proof, he urges you to look at the venture capital investments made in fintech startup companies in recent years.

“They have multiplied. And if you look up the alternatives for going to a bank for service today, you will realize there is a huge variety of new services available already. I believe that blockchain technology has the potential of being the internet of banking,” says Kjellberg, who, until recently, was in charge of the internet investment arm of Kinnevik Group, and made successful investments into several startup companies, among others, Zalando and Rocket Internet.

“I had to spend quite a lot of time convincing people around me that yes; people will want to buy shoes on the internet. At the end of the day, Zalando defines itself as a tech company that operates in the fashion space. I talk a lot about friction-free stories that companies need to share. It is as simple as stating who or what we are, but I have found that it is surprisingly difficult to get a clear answer to this question in the corporate board rooms.”

Back to the banking and financing industry, Kjellberg points out that the emerging financial technology is about to decentralize the situation.

“Banking today is totally centralized. With blockchain technology, everyone will be able to participate. The impacts will first be visible in all types of purchasing, and in a few years’ time we will see a lot of new transactions that aren’t even thinkable yet. You could pay me to use my Netflix account for the evening, and I would know that I would get paid.”

Evolving banks

Kjellberg compares the situation the banks are facing now to the change that took place within the telco industry after the release of the first iPhone, and the rise of the apps. The revenues from the value-added services were not captured in the existing companies, and instead they went to the newcomers of the app industry.

The development of financial technology does not necessarily mean that banks are going to vanish, either. According to Kjellberg, it is more a question of evolving.

“In general, most established companies are good at cutting cost and optimizing efficiency. After all, it is fairly easy – all you need to do is focus on doing the right things in the right way. And the same goes for the functionalities of a product: they are easier to solve than to truly look into the future, and to innovate into tomorrow’s delight.”

“Functionality is of course vital. It is the grounds for customer satisfaction – but don’t forget to look around the corner!”

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