The perfect storm in transportation is near and … not just there

 

Not a big fan of breaking headlines but certain technology highlights in the last years are starting to connect better then ever before. And it seems that visionaries and industry finally start to agree. We are witnessing major trends that will re-shape whole industries in a shorter period that we have ever experienced before.

I am pointing at trends in transportation such as::

  • Carsharing
  • Electric vehicles
  • Autonomous driving
  • Machine learning

Carsharing has taken the market by surprise and is becoming more popular by the day. European providers like DriveNow and Car2Go address the daily transportation needs in the city while Drivy, Croove and SnappCar are taking a share from traditional car rental by using privately owned cars. These companies effectively reduce the number of cars on the streets, remove the burden of car maintenance and undermine the desire to invest 30K+ in buying a car. The idea is so good that carsharing is being eyed by established players such as EasyGroup, the company tasked to expand the EasyJet empire, or Europcar, the 2nd biggest European car rental company (via its investment arm).

Takeaway: expect less cars on the streets in the long term, less car sales and revenue from spare parts for car manufacturers.

Electric cars are around us and whoever has tried the i series BMW or Tesla, knows the driving experience if not better is at least at par with current cars. And the acceleration is unbeatable so I am definitely in :). But more importantly electric cars are simple, they have 18x less moving parts than a combustion engine car and thus need close to zero maintenance. And even if needed, I am in no doubt repairs will be done by a robot in the very near term. A major concern before, recharging, is becoming significantly less of a concern with battery life getting longer and charging stations growing in numbers.

The advantages of electric cars and wide acceptance of the public are being unmistakably recognised by car makers such as Daimler which recently announced its own Gigafactory. It came as a result of the acceleration of its electric car plans and backed by $11 bn. KUDOs should go also to Tesla which has pushed the whole car maker industry to move faster and bolder.

Takeaway: expect less demand for oil and gas, increasing uncertainty for energy companies, less revenue from spare parts for car manufacturers, job losses in car maintenance.

Autonomous driving and machine learning are no longer an innovation. Self driving cars are around us, make total sense and are here to stay. Machine learning as one of the ingredients of autonomous driving is being adopted so fast that it will soon be considered a commodity.  Autonomous driving makes our roads safer, eases traffic and saves us tons of time. It is good not only for private use but also in public transport and moving goods. There are already autonomous driving luxury cars and truck trains on our highways but have you thought about autonomous driving buses? Because it won’t be long before you find yourself on one of those.

Takeaway: expect job losses in transportation e.g. professional drivers, even greater increase in efficiency in transportation and car sharing, further reduction of vehicles on the streets.

So what would our life look like in less than 10 years? I think something like this.

The rosy part: Commute in cities either by car, bus or rail will be driverless. Most vehicles will be electric. Very few people will own a car. The fee from A to B will vary based on provider, vehicle brand, transportation experience e.g. the latest interior and entertainment Audi concept. It might even happen that cities abandon public transport and outsource it to private providers that offer autonomous fleets on demand. These fleets might well optimise the routes so that they do not follow a predefined route but drive commuters to their door.

Car manufactures will become vertically integrated fleet manufacturers and managers. New type of vehicles will emerge, many models will become obsolete and will be abandoned.

Technology providers like Google, Uber and other technology-first giants will enter the transportation sector, and will have an edge on autonomous driving technology over car manufacturers.

The not so rosy part: Professional drivers, mechanics, petrol station workers will become obsolete. Smaller car manufacturers will fight for survival, some brands might disappear. Garages will disappear. Energy companies will be seriously hit from lower than expected demand for oil and gas as well as investments in oil and gas exploration.

And to ease a bit my apocalyptic predictions, stay tuned for the next blog post about my exciting experience at the Founders Hack event in the city of Bielefeld.

The Netflix culture – a myth or a must for company growth and sustainability

This time my topic is around company culture and in particular the culture of Netflix. Also big apologies to those expecting my next post on blockchain, please have some more patience, it is almost there, and I just could not hold on to share this Netflix jewel.

My personal experience and believe is that culture does not come from senior management or below but is set by the founders and the CEO (if not the same). In that respect, Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, gave a stunning example on culture and leadership by putting it altogether in a not so short presentation (you will find it below). He published the actual presentation in August 2009 when most of us were worried about the financial meltdown and existential topics. May be this is why it took so long for people to actively talk about it (or maybe it is just my humble me noticing it just now).

Reed Hastings made it clear that instead of nice sounding values (and often fake ones), he has designed the actual ones for his company. And so that there is not too much interpretation involved, he added plenty of examples :-).

“The actual company values, as opposed to the nice-sounding values, are shown by who gets rewarded, promoted, or let go.”

Takeaway I: The nine Netflix values are as follows:

  • Judgement
  • Communication
  • Impact
  • Curiosity
  • Innovation
  • Courage
  • Passion
  • Honesty
  • Selflessness

Reed has explained pretty well what each one means so please take a look in the deck, below you will find just my own takes coupled with a bit of commentary.

For me values such as Judgement and Communication point towards resolving the plague of each business – employees NOT being empowered to make decisions and communication flowing efficiently. But there is a catch – this of course is only possible if the people in place are AAA professionals. Else said (Takeaway II):

“Great workplace is stunning colleagues”

and

“Unlike many companies, we practice: adequate performance gets generous severance package”

and

“We are a team, not a family – we are like a prosports team, not a kid’s recreational team”

Takeaway III: Reed also references to The Keeper Test manager case. This is something I have vaguely practiced but never managed to summarise it so crisp: if somebody tells you he/she will leave, are you going to fight hard to keep the person?

At Netflix internal attitude such as “cutthroat” or “sink or swim” are not tolerated. Yet, this can apply only for a AAA team that will tolerate fast learners or otherwise

“Sustained B-level performance, despite “A for effort”, generates a generous severance package, with respect”

“Sustained A-level performance, despite minimal effort, is rewarded with more responsibility and great pay.”

The focus on high performance comes on a seemingly scientific measure:

“In procedural work, the best are 2x better than the average.”

“In creative/inventive work, the best are 10x better than the average.”

Takeaway IV: The Rare responsible person – yet another ingenious concept. Reed is referencing to the rare type of attitude towards self improvement, self motivation and that can even be spurred in people that pick someone else’s trash in the office and throw it away.

Takeaway V: When company grows, it often fails to add proportionately top talent to its workforce. Sometimes I even believe managers are afraid to surround themselves with top people and see them as a threat. The solution – grow talent density faster than complexity. In other words outgrow complexity created by growth by hiring top talent at a faster rate than the growth itself (as much as you can).

Takeaway VI: Netflix is not in a safety-critical market such as running nuclear plants so it rather focuses on rapid recovery. This for me translates quite clearly to the Facebook’s Motto

Move Fast and Break Things

But at Netflix, also Fix fast. 🙂

Takeaway VII: Another interesting point is the Netflix approach to working hours and vacation: No 9am to 5pm work policy, no vacation policy. Practically no tracking, yet people are actively encouraged to take generous retreats and come back with fresh ideas. And on top

“Career “Planning” Not for Us”

Netflix has dismissed formalised planning including mentor assignments, rotations, multi year career paths.

“High performance people are generally self-improving through experience, observation, introspection, reading, and discussion.”

Takeaway VIII: Managing through context

High performance people will do better work if they understand the context. Highly Aligned, loosely coupled … approach for corporate team work.

and

Investing in context means – frequent department meetings, being open about strategies and results.

Takeaway IX: (Last one 🙂 Always pay top of the market and do not connect payment with the well being of the company as times change but you can be successful only with top talent.

payment is aligned with what the market pays and what would cost to replace such a person.

and

… side effect is that rarely there will be a higher offer if somebody wants to leave.

and

it is tolerable to talk to other companies and then talk to your supervisor about your actual market value

This is all from me for today. Hope enjoyed the read and I will follow up soon with my next article.

P.S. All citations above are courtesy of Reed Hastings.

Quick update: Taking on a new challenge in the fintech industry

It has been exciting 2 years at the helm of my startup incubator Stark Founders. Without doubt this has been the most rewarding but also dynamic part of my life. Must admit my previous 3 year tenure at Rocket Internet has prepared me well for this rollercoaster as some of you might know. 🙂

Looking back, I have extended my understanding of technology and business ecosystems, venture capital, business modeling and marketing with focus on B2B/B2C cloud based products, IoT and nearshoring outsourcing. I can say for sure that what I loved the most were the entrepreneurial minded tireless people I met on the way.

Several companies later (including one exit), it was time for a change. Me being me – why not experience a whole new industry? Since few months I am part of the amazing CrossLend team sitting in the futuristic Sony Center at the heart of entrepreneurial Berlin.

So what do we do?

Undoubtedly money is the rocket fuel for business growth. Lending in the form of SME, mortgage or consumer loans is an essential vehicle to maintain consumption of goods and services. CrossLend provides a solution to redefine the lending economy as we know it for both consumers and business. With its unique securitization service it allows to convert loans into bonds and thus gives investors access to asset classes unavailable before while enabling financial institutions to grant more loans.

Unequivocally identified as a truly innovative company, I am really happy to be leading the digital effort at CrossLend. And for those who want to join our amazing technology team feel free to apply through our careers site. We are looking to grow our team of product managers and engineers with financial services background.

Technology Series – The opening of Gigafactory 1 surfaced some impressive facts about this engineering wonder

So what is the Tesla Gigafactory besides clearly being a factory?

As its name implies, Gigafactory is an insanely big factory (actually is going to become a lot bigger), and it will produce batteries for the electric vehicles of Tesla Motors. That is not surprising considering the massive volume of around 500 000 vehicles per year that Tesla wants to produce towards end of the decade. This ambition is steered by Tesla’s mission to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy and to achieve that goal, Tesla wants to produce electric vehicles in sufficient volume to force change in the automobile industry. This apparently was not feasible to do using existing battery manufacturers so the true entrepreneur he is, Elon Musk decided to build his own factory. In his own words Elon said: “It has to be big, because the world is big”.

And while the plan was announced in 2014, last month the first part of the factory had its grand opening! The event emerged quickly in the press but then somehow got lost in all that sports events and probably holidays rolling out. For those of you who want to enjoy the video of the grand opening, here you go. Below I have put some interesting facts announced during the event.

  • The Gigafactory will be powered by renewable energy sources, with the goal of achieving net zero energy.
  • The factory current size is just 14% of its planned size. This article gives a good idea of construction progress with new sites starting already.
  • When complete, 93 Boeing 747 jets would fit inside, or in other terms 50 billion hamsters. 🙂
  • Design improvements allowed to increase initial battery production capacity per year from 50 GWh to 150 GWh.
  • When the factory is complete it will produce a higher amount of lithium-ion batteries than the world produced in 2014. And Tesla wants to build several of these factories.
  • In order to fit the maximum machinery in the factory and increase production speed, the engineering teams had to reinvent the battery production process.
  • The result: the factory strongly resembles a modular integrated circuit and claims a 5-10x increase in production capability. In Elon’s words: “… revitalising manufacturing”.

Technology Series – Is Ruby dying?

For those not into programming Ruby is a programming language. Ruby on Rails is a software library that extends Ruby and contributed hugely to its stellar adoption.

Many famous platforms are based on Ruby – Airbnb, Twitter, Basecamp, Kickstarter. Ruby programmers are probably the most tightly knit community of all programmers. But what is actually happening with Ruby.

There have been plenty discussions on the topic but they have intensified since 2015. If we discard the opinions of the hardcore proponents and opponents, it seems that there may be some sentiment in the direction, why would otherwise so many developers be asking this question.

Some arguments are based on counting the internet searches for each language, others on repository counters (repositories is where the programming code is kept), third on more or less established indexes.

Rankings
I actually looked at the popularity index TIOBE. Although it clearly shows that Ruby spiked in 2009, and then gradually faded away, it re-captured some positions in 2016.

Tiobe index ruby

A striking fact though is the adoption of Ruby is way under Python, PHP and Javascript, and ranks just above Delphi/Objective Pascal. If you do not believe me, check the ranking. That was quite a surprise for me.

Tiobe index of programming languages

No longer the new kid on the block
Besides, many of the comments I read point out Ruby is no longer the new kid on the block. So in a way it has lost some of its initial momentum, and that tendency is not being helped by the surge of interest for Python and Node.js software development.

Availability
May be the worst part is that good Ruby developers are hard to find and when you find them they are already working on an exciting project.

High cost
When you snatch a top notch guy, it usually comes with high price tag. Although many new business consider RoR as their first option, the cost combined with lack of available developers, makes them consider other options soon after.

Bottom line
I do not want to sound like I agree with such a strong statement but I see indications pointing to a decline. In my humble opinion, this is mostly thanks to the maturity of PHP and Javascript that bring a horde of skilled developers plus fast and feature rich frameworks. Still, many languages and frameworks have managed to recover and build on their community and the Ruby one is probably the best of all. Also no language dies out suddenly, especially with such a substantial codebase and famous companies using it.

If you happen to be into programming, what do you think?