10 Trends Shaping Commerce + Culture


1. Can we meet? Americans schedule approximately 25 million meetings per day. Apps and AI that reduce the friction of finding times and places to meet will be a winner.

2. Opioids: More than 200,000 people in the US have died from overdoses involving prescription opioids over the past two decades. Drugs that can't be crushed and snorted plus reduce pain will be a winner.

3. Drinking: People in their 20s and 30s are drinking less alcohol. One in 5 millennials doesn’t drink, and 66% say that alcohol isn’t important to their social lives, according to a survey by Demos. Companies that provide beverages that also have health benefits will be a winner.

4. No phone vaca: According to a survey of 2,000 US travelers from Asurion, a mobile device insurance company, and OnePoll, a UK-based marketing research company. More than 20 percent of respondents said they checked their smartphones once per hour during their most recent vacations while about 14 percent said they checked it twice per hour. Activities and holidays that require full attention and participation will be a winner.

5. Sensible shoes: Women's sneakers sales increased by 37 percent last year, while high heels fell 11 percent. Clothes that are flexible, less rigid, and provide performance benefits will be a winner.

6. Voice is the new thumbprint: Interpol is considering using software that identifies criminals using audio. Apps and AI that provide access to information as simple as a voice command will be a winner.

7. Better, stronger, faster: Adding a bionic vest to a work uniform will augment human abilities. Performace clothing that takes the strain off the arms and backs of people working on tasks that require specialized attention and repetitive actions will be a winner.

8. The plastic straw is losing status: California, New York City, and the EU are all looking to outlaw plastic straws. Restaurants and cafes replacing straws with paper, metal or providing no straw at all will be a winner.

9. Having your smartphone nearby takes a toll on your thinking: Recent research investigated whether merely having one’s own smartphone nearby could influence cognitive abilities. In two lab experiments, nearly 800 people completed tasks designed to measure their cognitive capacity. The results were striking: individuals who completed these tasks while their phones were in another room performed the best, followed by those who left their phones in their pockets. In the last place were those whose phones were on their desks. Activities and business meetings that are smartphone free will be a winner.

10. The AI arms race: Algorithms trained on mountains of Chinese data may soon be making decisions that profoundly affect the lives of people in the US. The world's wealthiest companies are powerhouse data collectors and data users. Companies that capture the full value of their data will be a winner.

-Marc A. Ross

Marc A. Ross specializes in global communications, thought leader management, and event production at the intersection of international politics, policy, and profits. Working with senior executives from multinational corporations, trade associations, and disruptive startups, Marc helps business leaders navigate globalization, disruption, and American politics.

The 5G Race: China And South Korea Are Winning


The 5G race is being won by China and South Korea, according to a report conducted by research firm Analysys Mason and released today by CTIA, America's premier wireless industry association.

According to the research, China is in the lead, followed by South Korea, the U.S. and Japan. Germany, the U.K. and France are in the second tier of countries in terms of readiness.

America lags in “5G readiness” due to reliance on private providers -- Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint -- to build antenna infrastructure. China’s wireless providers, on the other hand, are streamlined by government mandate. 

Why this matters - 5G systems support 1k more devices per meter than 4G, using higher frequencies and secondary antennae to relay signals. It also eliminates the transmission inconsistencies and slowdowns caused by buildings, mountains, and crowds.

The global competition is propelling 5G development much faster than was originally expected, with carriers and some cities moving quickly to install infrastructure, said CTIA president and CEO Meredith Attwell Baker, a former FCC commissioner.

The Trump administration see this situation as a threat, especially from China.

Last month the administration blocked Broadcom's proposed buyout of Qualcomm on national security grounds. The administration also fears that Broadcom's business practices would weaken Qualcomm's and the U.S.'s 5G position — allowing Huawei a bigger advantage.

Key findings by Analysys Mason include:

All major Chinese providers have committed to specific launch dates and the government has committed to at least 100 MHz of mid-band spectrum and 2,000 MHz of high-band spectrum for each wireless provider.

Countries around the world are moving quickly to make spectrum available for 5G. This year alone, the U.K., Spain, and Italy are all holding 5G spectrum auctions.

At the end of 2018, the U.S. will rank sixth out of the 10 countries in mid-band (3–24GHz) spectrum availability, a critical band for 5G. The U.S. joins Russia and Canada as the only countries currently without announced plans to allocate mid-band spectrum on an exclusive basis to mobile by the end of 2020.

Countries like the U.K. and regions like the European Union are taking significant steps to modernize infrastructure rules to facilitate the deployment of 5G networks.

Read can read the report here:

-Marc A. Ross

Marc A. Ross specializes in global communications and thought leader management at the intersection of politics, policy, and profits. Working with boardrooms and C-Suite executives from multinational corporations, trade associations, and disruptive startups, Marc helps business leaders navigate globalization, disruption

POTD: a16z Podcast: Creating a category, from pricing to positioning


What do Klennex, FedEx, and Coke all have in common?

All three products are now universally used to describe a whole suite of competing and secondary products or services.

Kleenex is the word for numerous paper-tissue products.

FedEx is the word to for all overnight delivery.

Coke is the word for hundreds of soft drinks available.

Simply put, don't copy, create. 

It is better to create a new category where you can set price than try and improve a category where the price has already been established.

Creation means there is less competition and more riches to be had.

In this episode of the a16z podcast, general partner Martin Casado, who helped create the category of “software-defined networking” and Michel Feaster, CEO and co-founder of Usermind, who previously defined the category and discipline of “technology business management,” share their insights, in conversation with Sonal Chokshi. 

Category creation is all about creating a net new problem and a net new solution to that problem. This matters because if you create a category, you can set the price, the market size, and set the buying environment.

Of course, this isn't easy. You are asking customers to say yes to something that is new, possibly unproven, not trusted, or well known in the marketplace.

Speakers in this podcast suggest, "it isn’t just about making a dent in the way companies work and changing what people do every day… it’s about setting the price. And with that, comes creating the concept in people’s heads, defining the value, and setting the rules of the game."

As Henry Ford said, "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses."

Sometimes you need to create and lead.

For me, I find pricing to be the biggest challenge of running my business. And frankly, I have done a horrible job. From underpricing service offerings and products due to lack of confidence, knowledge, and experience. Coupled with working in categories with well-established rules and competitors selling "Kleenex, FedEd, and Coke."

When it comes to pricing so far, I have made every mistake.

From these failures, thankfully I have acquired new knowledge. I am firmly committed to the idea that setting the price point is vital because I want to guide the customer to what is good and what is bad. I want to control the customer from having the ability to make a comparison. I create the category. 

Simply put, being an entrepreneur and thought leader.

To do this, you need to execute these two things: First, you have to create the concept in the customer's brain - you need to get the customer to think about the problem and realize you have the solution. Second, you need to set the value by setting the price.

Creating an environment where the customer sees the world differently, recognizing there is a problem, and leading them to your tool to solve this irritation. That's the winning sales cycle.

Think like a storyteller and use narrative: Frame the problem, then make it top of mind, and finally set the value (price) to fix the problem.

Reinforcing with the marketplace that your differentiator is the right way to go - how you solve this problem is unique, better, and different and your unique, better, and different is defensible against the competition. 

Ultimately you want to create a buying environment where the customer sees you as the only solution to the problem, and there are compelling reasons why it is you.

When you realize business is a long game, and you can build a model that lets you survive long enough, coupled with teasing apart the signals from your first customers, and finally nailing some key moves early by setting the buying requirements… you can win.

Marc A. Ross specializes in global communications and thought leader management at the intersection of politics, policy, and profits. Working with boardrooms and C-Suite executives from multinational corporations, trade associations, and disruptive startups, Marc helps leaders create compelling communications, focused content, and winning commerce.