Evan Spiegel : Meet the man behind the “ghost” App.

Great Evan-gelist… invented the App of the future! Snapchat, with its white ghost-shaped logo, is the temporary photo and video messaging company, which is very popular among millennials. What is exciting in this story is not the App itself but how a simple college assignment was transformed into a USD 19billion worth company? This is the story of Evan Thomas Spiegel, co-founder and CEO of one of the largest and fastest-growing social networks on the Internet.

Enfant Terrible

Despite Snapchat‘s phenomenal global success, the first version of the app was a flop! Picaboo, which failed to get off the ground, was rebranded Snapchat with a few more features. Today, at 25, Spiegel runs a multibillion dollar corporation with hundreds of employees and which has more than 130 million daily active users, chiefly millennials. Son of successful lawyers, John W. Spiegel and Melissa Ann Thomas, Evan is nowadays known to be the world’s youngest billionaire who will be remembered for turning down a USD 3billion offer from Facebook! “There are very few people in the world who get to build a business like this,” he told Forbes at the time. “I think trading that for some short-term gain isn’t very interesting.” Another college dropout like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg, Evan quitted Stanford University just a few credits short of earning his degree. He was more concerned about completely focusing on Snapchat and its growing success than graduating!

Working the system

Spiegel clearly believes that understanding the patterns behind things and making them work in one’s favour can be more rewarding when it comes to business. When speaking to young people wishing to become entrepreneurs, he stated that: “Life isn’t fair and it’s not about working harder; it’s about working the system.” He also advised them to dare create something that you don’t want to sell.

So far, Evan has been “working the system” quite well, in his professional and private life as well, by dating Australian supermodel Miranda Kerr (ex-wife of Hollywood superstar, Orlando Bloom)! So, how is the kid-turned-celebrity-CEO going to work the system and transform Snapchat into a sustainable and profitable business? Well, it doesn’t seem like Mission Impossible for this enigmatic and resourceful young man whose “Mission Impossible style detonation technology” promises to bring a lot more than “ephemeral” image sharing! Stay tuned!

Consequently, Evan Spiegel strongly believes in Snapchat’s business model. He often claims that : “There is real value in sharing moments that don’t live forever.”  It would be interesting to see if he succeeds in transforming an App into a sustainable business. Well, we now hope that he lives up to the challenge of building something that will ultimately “live forever”!

Snapchat: Sustainable business model or fad? Post your comments below!

Omnichannel Revolution underway…

“Omnichannel” is not just the new buzzword to replace “crosschannel” or “multichannel” in the constantly evolving world of Marketing terms. In fact, these terms are very often incorrectly used or used interchangeably by some pundits, as if they had the same meaning! While multichannel simply means having a presence on more than one channel or platform and crosschannel is about, seamlessly and interchangeably, using multiple channels to market, sell, and interact with your customers, on the other hand, Omnichannel is about true continuity of customer experience beyond a single brand’s universe!

The Ultimate Customer Experience

The reality today is that Internet has forced the pace of evolution on businesses in every field or industry globally! Nobody is spared! Customers’ expectations have changed a lot in the past decade and social media has totally evolved the engagement between brands and their customers. For brands, an Omnichannel strategy, designates the aim of delivering consistent brand experience across all possible channels. Brands adopting an omnichannel strategy are wary about providing the same experience and message across different channels and devices involved within their interactions with customers. As a result, businesses are very attentive to the fact that the customers’ shopping journey is not fragmented, but completely seamless. Keeping up with the aspirations of tech-savvy customers regarding brand visibility, availability, service quality and satisfaction are the prerequisites in an Omnichannel environment…

Omnichannel: Turning Evolution into Revolution

Omnichannel is not just a marginal evolution of existing concepts but something that is absolutely going to revolutionize the retail, marketing and global business landscape! Customers are already transacting in an Omnichannel way, and hence, for brands, this can be translated as follows: aligning the brand to the connected-customer needs in order to generate brand loyalty and secure competitive advantage. In other words, it allows brands to get closer to their customers and make customized offers and at the same time, it brings many virtues to customers including enjoying the convenience of their preferred channel, a wider selection of items and a wealth of buying opportunities. Renowned brands like Sephora, Starbucks, Virgin Atlantic, Disney or Macy’s are already reaping the benefits of this strategy. Let’s take Macy’s. There has been a stark contrast in earnings compared to the lackluster figures reported in previous quarters driven mainly by Macy’s investments in its digital efforts. The famous US department store’s omnichannel strategy has been finally paying off!

Will Omnichannel become omnipresent? One thing’s for sure, it is a win-win for everyone! Not to mention that it blurs the lines between online, brick-and-mortar, smartphones and social media for a five-star seamless shopping experience. There is no doubt that Omnichannel is gathering momentum. Not only is it here to stay but businesses not yet present in the Omni arena will strive hard to compete!

Do you know other successful examples of an Omnichannel Strategy ? Feel free to share.

Ultra-exclusive social Networks

Tired of Facebook? Too many invites, pokes, unrequited connections or even worse, leaks in privacy… Well, you will soon be able to leave the world of “been there, done that” behind when you discover these new exclusive networking sites …

Welcome to the social world!

Over the past two decades, one of the most dynamic developments related to digital media has been the rise of social network sites. Despite what you would have thought that the current buzz around social media would facilitate engaging in meaningful conversations with like-minded people, it has, in fact, become quite challenging… Do you remember being a member of a “cool club” in your student days? Yet, once anyone can join the “cool club”, it’s not cool anymore! This very idea has given rise to a new breed of ultra-exclusive social networks.

So if you are tired of being overwhelmed with irrelevant connections and want to have meaningful exchanges with your peers, take a look at these five top-notch social networks…

A new breed of social networks

Seeking to engage with like-minded individuals all around the world? Affluence brings it members exclusive, high-quality content and advice from industry experts on topics like art, technology and travel. Squa.re is a community-generated internet TV focusing on nightlife, style, high living and luxury travel. The world of Eleqt will help you live your “life in style” by keeping you up to date with the latest trends from fashion to finance. It’s also a great tool to meet fascinating people during exclusive social events, as well as discovering the finest buzzing hot spots from restaurants, hotels to nightclubs. Along the same lines, Pursuitist showcases remarkable experiences and products by bringing you the hottest information on online travel, style, food and top leisure destinations. And last, but certainly not least, EO, with their “business-oriented” vibe, lets you engage with the world’s most influential community of entrepreneurs.

Ultimately, it’s about who you are, what you are achieving and how you are achieving it that will define where you want to be in the world of social media!

Are you a member of a high-end online social network? Is it worth it? Share your thoughts with me.

Picture above: Courtesy of Brainsonic ©

Internet of Things (IoT): The rise of the machines!

If you grew up with James Cameron’s Terminator epic, you might perhaps feel a little uneasy about the Internet of Things. But you better start getting used to it as the rise of the machines revolution is well underway! You’ve heard about connected people (Web 2.0) or connected machines (Web 3.0), the Internet of Things (IoT) is actually the next great phase of the Internet (Web 4.0), a scenario connecting inanimate objects to our needs and desires. These objects could literally be anything from your keys, to refrigerators, lavatories, traffic stop lights, cars, the list really is endless.

IoT: The smart revolution

Are objects around us getting smarter? Physical objects are made “smart” by connecting them to the Internet utilizing ubiquitous sensors aiming to track all sorts of data. People very often tend to hang on the “Things” aspect of IoT. Actually, the real value and insight comes from the data provided by these objects or devices. For the first time in history, we have data on almost anything: from how we brush our teeth to how we drive, how we eat, how we sleep and so on. Today even wigs are getting smarter and your lavatories too! Well, it might seem crazy but imagine your lavatories providing health related insights about pregnancy, bacterial infections or even prompting you to seek medical advice! While smart cement equipped with sensors used in the construction of bridges or buildings will alert us to fix problems about cracks or shocks before causing human tragedies! Despite such benefits, IoT is seen by many as a major challenge to our privacy that needs to be addressed before it goes mainstream!

IoT: Redefining industries and economies

After the introduction of the steam engine (1st), the setting up of assembly line mass production (2nd) and the establishment of automation (3rd), it is now time for the fourth industrial revolution. Already tech giants are getting involved, viewing this as a logical progression from the personal computer and smartphone of previous decades. What does it mean for businesses? This isn’t just about money savings, but this is a huge and fundamental shift. The fact of starting making things “intelligent”, is going to be a major engine for creating new products and services. IoT is paving the way to a whole new “smart” Industry or Industry 4.0, which will very soon become the new Manufacturing standard! And what’s in for us, customers? On top of enjoying a “Smart Home Ecosystem”, where household chores can be handled by opening up an app, everything surrounding us will soon become vital communication tools in helping to make our lives easier, healthier and more productive. Although it all sounds like a futuristic life, thanks to IoT, the future has never been so close!

“The IoT has the potential to transform our society, economy, and how we live our lives,” Samsung CEO Boo Keun Yoon said during a keynote speech at the CES 2015 trade-show in Las Vegas. If organisations are struggling to cope with the rising tide of data volumes at the moment, they’re going to be overwhelmed once the IoT gathers real momentum. Why? Because the IoT is not just about gathering data; it’s also about the analysis and use of that data. And how firms approach this will be key to their success.

Is IoT the next industrial revolution? Feel free to post your comments!

Picture above: Courtesy of Brainsonic ©

Virtual Reality: The journey From Fantasy to Fact

Remember Marty McFly’s hoverboard from the movie Back to the Future, or Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak? Well, as unbelievable as it may once have seemed, science and modern technology finally caught up with the fantasy world. Indeed, today several futuristic gadgets that once only existed in the pages of fantasy novels or in science fiction movies have become a reality – or are about to any minute – and virtual reality (VR) is no exception!

Welcome to the future!

Virtual reality caught the public’s attention in the late 1980s, but at the time, the expectations of its potential far exceeded the lived reality that it delivered! Despite the growing interest in VR, virtual reality was still just another synonym for science fiction since technology wasn’t yet up to snuff.

And then quite suddenly — barely three decades later, the future knocked on our door and the futuristic fantasy became a reality! From students attending virtual classes, to virtual shopping with your avatar trying on clothes, or attending a concert featuring world famous artists across the globe, virtual reality is becoming more real than reality ever was! Ready or not, VR is about to change life as we know it on this planet. This new market will, in turn, create a new demand for a wide spectrum of virtual products and service providers. And this time, it’s for real!

A new dimension of opportunities for businesses

When it comes to business, the possibilities of making use of VR technology are endless. Virtual Reality technologies have evolved dramatically in the last few decades and this new industry is now picking up speed and rushing headlong towards a fierce competition between a handful of famed tech companies. The different VR competitors fervently believe that there’s a much higher interest in virtual reality than the average person might assume, whether for gaming, entertainment, education, business training or commercial applications. At the moment, the two major leaders in the VR industry include prominent firms like Facebook – who for USD 2 billion acquired the Oculus Rift device and Sony with its VR device, Project Morpheus. While both have been leading a David and Goliath kind of battle, other important tech companies including HTC (HTC Vive), Samsung (Gear VR), Microsoft (HoloLens) or Google (Cardboard) have also joined the ruthless competition.

Everything that’s been happening lately in this new industry seems to lead us into the dream of the future, that is seemingly just waiting for us over the horizon! Although the journey from fantasy to reality in the virtual world seems so compelling… no matter what, virtual spaces are still human ones, filled with human hopes and fears, thus inevitably blurring the line between virtual reality and real life! The sceptics among us may fear that the opportunity to lead a “second life” limited only by the imagination might cause some people to totally withdraw from the real life…

If you’re tempted to walk into new dimensions and experience worlds without limits or perhaps you think it’s only a fad? Share your thoughts with me.

Picture above: Courtesy of Brainsonic ©

Leadership and Management style: East tops West

Different cultures can have radically different leadership and management styles, and if you want to do business cross-border, you better be fully cognizant of what it implies. While, American CEOs tend to adopt a more charismatic and innovative style and European leaders would opt for a participative and socially responsible approach, Chinese leaders, who have the reputation of a directive and didactic modus operandi, have evolved and become more people-centric and insightful. 

Western Leadership : Influential and ethical

Western leadership principles have been focusing on elements such as profits, human relationships, and long term strategic planning. Whether in Europe or USA, employers emphasize the value of respecting employees, valuing their contribution and promoting their career development. Now what about the personality of those business leaders? Nowadays, U.S. executives are usually known to be charismatic and influential, whose fame and force of personality impress the global business landscape as well as the media! Charismatic leadership has come to be the ideal for American businesses: Steve Jobs, Tim Cook, Warren Buffet, Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos incarnate those magnetic leaders!

The business culture in Europe may be a bit less star-focused but EU leaders believe in effective and ethical leadership incorporating a more participative governance model. Corporate Responsibility is not a fad, but an imperative for the European counterparts like Stanislas de Quercize (CEO of Cartier), Timotheus Höttges (Deutsche Telekom), Jean-Paul Agon (L’Oreal), and Gérard Mestrallet (Engie ex-GDF Suez), just to name a few, who value above all sustainable business growth.

Chinese Leadership : Ying and Yang

Profit was seen as contrary to the righteousness of mainstream Confucian teachings. Traditional Chinese leadership principles include considering ethical aspects above the achievement of profit but also comprise leading by example in terms of promoting equality, simple living and harmony. Today, Chinese workplaces have evolved and the concepts of leadership too. Long gone are the days when the social and cultural environment in China was extremely hostile to private enterprises. By integrating methods from Western management approaches, through education abroad and exposure to Western organisations present in China, Chinese leadership paradigms have changed but without losing sight of their rich cultural heritage.

There may still be major disparities like for example, political connections and family control tend to be more common in Asian businesses, unlike Westerners who groom their successors from talented employees in the workforce instead. Yet, Chinese business leaders including Jack Ma (Alibaba), Lei Jun (Xiaomi), Ma Huateng (Tencent) and Wang Jianlin (Wanda) have successfully reversed the prevailing cultural prejudice.

While the leadership style of Westerners haven’t evolved much in the last decade, the new generation of Chinese leaders have made a great leap forward by taking the best from traditional Chinese and Western leadership styles.

In fact, Global Business leaders can really make a difference in the way corporations affect the world. Clearly, no one leadership model is a universal remedy. But nowadays, CEOs are expected to adopt a more people-focused, ethical, innovative, long-term thinking and planning approach, and providing for the interests of a broad range of stakeholders, including the environment and future generations. Well, it is no easy job, as Globalization and major global concerns keep challenging leadership styles and practices as a whole! 

What other qualities do you expect to see in Global Business Leaders? Share your thoughts!

Picture above: Courtesy of Brainsonic ©

Wearable Technology: Blending function with fashion

When it comes to wearables, people instinctively think about smartwatches or Google glass as “techy” accessories designed for men! Contrary to popular belief, wearables are not just a man thing! A study by The NPD Group, the US market research company, revealed that women (58 percent) outnumber men among prospective buyers of wearable technology. However, wrist-bound wearables and smart glasses aren’t the only things we expect to see! Smart jewelry and fibre-optic fabrics are two categories among others that are making headway in this new industry being particularly eyed up by high-end fashion companies!

Data, data, everywhere: But “wear”, why and how to use it?

In our big data era, data is of no use if you can’t see it when you need it! Wearable technology is an electronic sensor worn by the user that captures information about motion, location, speed, visualization and more. The promise of wearable technology is bringing into your field of vision the requested data which becomes accessible anytime you decide to glance at it! In other words, it brings the power of the smartphone but this time out of your pocket! Today the biggest market in wearable technology is health and fitness. Yet, wearables can be used not only track your heart rate, blood pressure and food consumption details but in other industries including security (road safety or self-defense), mining (safer workplace), construction and energy sectors (easily seeing inside pipes and walls), retail (increased productivity by accessing information on-the-go) and of course fashion.

Chic FashionWare

Perhaps the biggest complaint about wearables was their lack of aesthetic qualities. In other words, both genders liked using them, but for consistent wearability, women wanted more options, particularly more stylish ones. Things have changed a lot and today more and more fashion designers and retailers are collaborating with the tech world and all of them having one common goal in mind: “women” ! Designer Tory Burch created a line of sleek, sexy skins for FitBit, Diane Von Furstenberg worked with Google last year to come up with designer frames for Google Glass, Rebecca Minkoff is developing a notification bracelet that lights up when you receive a phone call or text and more recently Michael Kors also expressed an interest in breaking into the wearable tech space but without getting into specifics!

Ergo, it seems that Technology has finally found its way into the fashion industry, thus raising some important questions: Will this new smart fabric technology market be led by tech giants or by fashion houses? Will we soon be wearing gadgets instead of carrying them around with us? Indubitably, women are the heaviest users of today’s most vital technologies, hence compelling companies to keep women in mind if they want to compete successfully in this flourishing industry! 

Wearable Technology: Is fashion going to revolutionise this industry? Post your comments.

Picture above: Courtesy of Brainsonic ©

Luxury Jewellery : Ethics and Sustainability

Luxury brands, particularly those associated with jewellery, exude a seductive aura of prestige, wealth and exclusivity. No doubt because of the highly decorative, but hardly practical nature of its products, this industry wouldn’t seem prone to ethical and socially responsible behaviours. Yet, you’ll be surprised to learn that in recent years, the luxury jewellery industry has been taking such business ideals as sustainability, ethics and traceability very seriously.

Luxury and sustainability – an oxymoron?

In today’s booming luxury jewellery industry, sustainability – for a product that ultimately is dug out of the earth – seems like a paradox. You probably wouldn’t expect to find those two words in the same sentence, and many even see them as oxymorons. For the average consumer, luxury denotes pricey, high(est) quality, beauty and rarity; whereas the term sustainable means durable, renewable, green and eco-friendly. Can luxury therefore both foster values of quality and sustainability? In an industry relentlessly tormented by the spectres of environmental destruction and pollution, human rights violations, smuggling, armed conflicts, corruptions and other abuses related to precious stone mining, it is no longer possible to to turn a blind eye to these ugly truths! For many big players in this traditionally consumer-centric industry doing the ‘right thing’ has become an imperative, including educating buyers about the importance of ethically sourced raw materials.

“Positive Luxury” for happy beautiful people!

Fuelled by demand from China and India, the luxury jewellery industry, now worth €13 billion according to Bain & Co, emerges as the driving force for the overall luxury market. And, due to this steadily growing demand, it has become essential for the industry to embrace the new ethical gold standard of social and environmental principles. By placing social and environmental priorities on par with the quality of material, beauty of design and innovative technological processes, the jewellery industry has committed itself to proving that sustainable luxury is far from being an oxymoron! Legendary companies such as Cartier are striving to create a more transparent, collaborative and socially responsible luxury industry. Only recently, this renowned French jeweller even joined the Sustainable Luxury Working Group, a consortium of socially responsible firms – including Chloé, Kering, LVMH, Mulberry Group, Ralph Lauren and Tiffany & Co – who have pledged their commitment to promoting sustainable practices in business operations.

Chopard, Tiffany & Co, Asprey and Fabergé were the first sustainability pioneers – who blazed the trail for an ever-increasing number of brands willing to commit themselves to bringing long term change to this multi-billion dollar industry. With a reputation unhappily tarnished by political and medical issues, the jewellery industry’s sincere efforts to endow its ethics and working conditions with the golden lustre of social conscience and ecological sustainability is a gain for everyone, consumer and producers alike.

Is sustainability a response to outside pressure, or rather a driver of creativity and innovation?

FOMO

Is your smartphone the first thing you pick up in the morning and the last thing you check at night? Do you spend hours scrolling through your social media feeds? And on top of that, your social calendar is oversaturated? Yet still, do you constantly feel that you might be missing out on the best events?! Well if you answered “yes” to the questions above, then, it is quite likely that you are suffering from FOMO or Fear of Missing Out!

FOMO Phobia or Addiction to Social Media

Welcome to the FOMO era! While FOMO has, in fact, existed for centuries, its prevalence and intensity has greatly accelerated over the past few decades. Thanks to the advent of the internet, and particularly social media, today we live in an information-rich (and obsessed) society. Thus enabling FOMO “addicts”: in just a click they can scrutinize the highlights of their “friends” lives in real-time. All they need to do is rush to their Facebook feed! This addiction to social media is undoubtedly the main cause behind this 21st century syndrome. The expression has become so commonplace that it is now in the Oxford dictionary, who defines it as: “Anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website”.

FOMOitis

Phobia or hysteria? There has been a lot of research on the topic and it seems that FOMO can have a real, detrimental, impact on psychological health. Constant phobia of missing events can cause anxiety and sometimes even depression, especially for the under-30 crowd. In extreme cases, these social insecurities can even lead to violence and feelings of shame! So why can’t we just unplug? Instead of living and judging other people’s lives, why can’t we just enjoy our own? Fighting the symptoms of FOMO can be really challenging. Here are a couple of questions that you should consider before engaging on a FOMO crusade. Do I envy those having a more exciting and/or interesting life than myself? In which case do I need to change something in my own? Can I afford to embrace this lifestyle I envy? Is it just an “ephemeral” or is it going to enrich my life in the long run?

It’s a shame that our addiction to social media, and technology in general, can keep us away from living our real lives to the fullest! So, if you are in the hottest place in town and you are still wondering whether you picked the best option, then step back, take the short quiz above… Well, are you succumbing to your FOMO?

Are you in the grips of FOMO-addiction? Share your thoughts below.

Picture above: Courtesy of Brainsonic ©