The 2017 K.E.Y. platform wasted no time in getting right back in it for its second day of presentations in the Conrad Seoul’s Grand Ballroom. Day 1 had set an all-encompassing background of #pandemonium accumulating in today’s geopolitical, data industry, climate science, and education world, and Day 2 endeavored to delve deeper into the challenges and opportunities presented to Korea, the U.S., China, the Middle East, and Europe in today’s digital landscape.
First up on stage on Friday were four gentlemen and a moderator set to talk about intensifying the hyper-intelligent digital economy. Right off the bat, we were all immediately treated to a new idea (to us non-business folk, at least) in the first presentation of the morning: that of “unicorns”.
Hyosang Ryou, Dean of CHA University Business School, spoke on a study of 242 unicorns, defined as startups that have exceeded $1 billion in valuation, in the context of the fourth revolution—big data, the “cloud”, and the “internet of things.”. Several different keywords were defined for us, including “decacorns” (unicorns exceeding $10 billion), “unicorpses” (unicorns gone out of business), and “exitcorns” (those which have been successfully sold off through MMAs or IPOs, e.g. Snapchat, MobilEye, etc). We were also walked through the idea of being “ubered”: to be, as a conventional corporation, put out of business by a fast-rising unicorn. Ryou talked about the idea of businesses “hedging unicorns” by allying with or buying out unicorns in order to avoid being usurped. He closed out by summarizing what made unicorns, despite their volatility, so dangerous, and what conventional businesses could learn from upstart business models: strong execution ability, confident leadership, and focus on shared economy and curation services.
The final speaker in the first “Plug-in & Talk” session was fascinating because he was a school dropout—not once, but twice. Sahil Jain, CEO of AdStage, dropped out for good reason, however, as he went on to co-found several companies after time in high school and UC Berkeley. A smartly-designed presentation and smooth delivery provided a polished cover for three main talking points: 1) “demand generation”, 2) “full-funnel advertising”, and 3) the multi-device, multi-channel, and multi-location customer characteristics. All three pointed to an overarching idea of concentrated efforts to engage the consumer beyond acquisition.
Our very own honorary S&S members, Grace Xiao, co-founder of Kynplex, and Aaron Polhamus, Director of Data Science at Credijusto, took the stage next, along with a Chinese big data analyst and a moderator, for the next Plug-in & Talk session. The focus for the afternoon session was “data-driven innovation”, still within the context of the increasingly digital economy.
Grace opened with a motivation for looking at big data in the first place: large quantities of data help scientists ensure statistical significance, limit side effects, and ensure effectiveness of, for example, new medicine. She then contextualized two specific examples of innovation dependent largely on big data: personalized and precision medicine, now a $40 billion industry, centered around genetics of individuals, and artificial intelligence (which was a big theme of Day 1). Just as important as the innovation is the communication that has opened worldwide: the internet of things and the cloud have cleared the pathways to open access, large data repositories, and even remote experiments, vastly increasing the data flux worldwide. Grace closed out her remarks by referencing the large challenge facing data moving forward: that of privacy, security, and rights and ownership, especially of patients’ genetic information.
After Guo Wei, CTO of Analysys, spoke about big data in China, including bike sharing as an example, and consumers being the centerpiece of data production, Aaron took the floor with the intent of answering the question: what is the distinction between data science being a critical component to your success and being an expensive distraction? To answer this question, Aaron described the case study of his company back in Mexico City, as well as outlining specific considerations to consider. After establishing that data science is not a goal, but rather a means to an end, Aaron spoke of 1) having a team member specifically excelling at data-driven decisions, 2) the size of a potential investment into data science, 3) building vs buying your data science infrastructure, 4) integrating engineering and data science, and 5) cross-departmental collaboration, e.g. with sales, so as to synergize the whole company without being tunneled into a data-only world.
Dean Sivara, Vice President of SAP, concluded the session by summarizing big data in the next generations of business, noting how 90% of the world’s data has been generated in the past 2 years, and how new business must implement real-time insights through embedded analytics, maximize speeds, improve user experience, and build architecture for lower Total Costs of Ownership (TCOs).
In what was one of the most compelling presentations, to me, of the afternoon, Jarl Frijs-Madsen, associated partner at Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies, gave the audience a broad-sweeping overview of the state of the renewable energy world. After identifying the megatrends pertinent to sustainable energy among the 14 megatrends defined by the CIFS, including globalization, technological development, demographic development, and immaterialization, Frijs-Madsen covered the exponential decay of solar prices and the next frontier of batteries and storage as solutions to intermittence. A very curious point he made was that of food and water problems potentially being solved by energy; he also presented us with the thought-provoking fact of conventional cars having 2000+ moving parts, but EVs only having as few as 18.
As the only speaker from the Middle East on that afternoon, Abood Al Sawafi, Vice Chancellor at A’Sharqiyah University, gave a presentation from Oman’s point of view. Despite the country’s innate penchant for oil, Al Sawafi encouraged a knowledge-driven economy, i.e. “knowledge-intensive activities” to find solutions to energy problems. One of my favorite graphics of the conference came from his presentation—it was one that related business value to time based on three stages: defense/extension, growth/renewal, and planting future seeds of a business.
The final segment of K.E.Y. Platform 2017 shaped up to be its most unique and compelling, as next up were talks on drones and smart agriculture. Pieter Blok of Wageningen Research, and Maira Groot Kormelink, Executive Director Asia of Clear Flight Solutions, combined company videos with broad-sweeping talking points as they individually presented to us their company products. Especially fun was a video demonstrating how an intelligent weeder could cut weeds at a rapid pace but recognize lettuce and refrain from cutting.
To conclude the conference, we were treated to a presentation on the state of education by Woo-Young Lee, the CEO of Korea Polytechnics, which is a network of colleges in South Korea. He established education as the base of a digital economy’s development, as students need increasing creativity and self-reliance to become what he defined as a “new collar” worker: one that can adapt his/herself to the fourth revolution, regardless of background. He referenced online EdX certifications at Harvard as just one example of, firstly, a move toward online schooling, but also a move toward employer preference for experience, rather than a traditional college.