Sep 262015

Presidents Obama and Xi have agreed to curb economic cyber espionage between the two countries during the Chinese Premier’s state visit to the United States today.

It’s a welcome move, but one suspects neither country will resist the opportunity to get a commercial advantage and increasingly the divide between a state and corporate interests has become blurred.



Sep 152015

“We’re building the cities of the future” claims David Plouffe, Uber’s Senior Vice President for Policy & Strategy.

Plouffe was speaking in Uber’s head office ahead of this year’s Dreamforce conference where the transportation disrupter was announcing the next phases of its Uber Business service.

While western societies still remain car dependent, there’s a shift underway as people prefer to live in the cities rather than the suburbs and the far flung exurbs, particularly for younger people. “For my generation it was a big deal to get a car,” says the 48 year old Plouffe. “Millennials today don’t have that same identification – they don’t want to own a car.”

That shift, which is not just confined to millennials, presents challenges for cities believes Plouffe. “Cities need to support people who are moving in at historic rates,” he says. “Our cities are facing huge challenges.”

“Every city is facing congestion challenges which will only get worse over the next ten to fifteen years as the number of people moving into the world cities at a historic pace.”

“Most cities do not have the will or the money to build new public transportation systems,” Plouffe says. “The only way they are going to deal with this is for people to buy less cars, families to only have one car and to reduce the number of cars on the road.”

Not surprisingly, Plouffe sees this as being where Uber can help in expanding accessible and affordable transport to parts of cities which are unlikely to get public transit and to increase the carrying capacity of existing infrastructure.

This is an interesting point of view and one that has some validity if we accept the view that ‘on-demand’ services like Uber and others are actually aimed at all groups and not just the affluent upper middle classes and the rich.

For cities struggling to meet the demands of growing populations and shrinking budgets, services like Uber and Lyft may be part of the answer. That though will take some reform and a change of attitude from many regulators.

Aug 262015

One of the least understood, but most important factors in modern industry is the logistics of moving supplies to manufacturers and goods to market.

Mastery of the supply chain is one of the key advantages Chinese manufacturers have says PCH Industries’ CEO Liam Casey in an interview with Fortune Magazine.

Fortune describes how Casey has become the ‘go-to’ man for companies wanting to outsource their manufacturing to China, a process that can be steep learning curve for an inexperienced startup team.

Since first travelling to China twenty years ago, Casey has been studying how the country’s manufacturers operate and he believes they are “light-years ahead when it comes to the supply chain.” 

That strength is something that shouldn’t be underestimated by China’s competitors and western countries hoping to rekindle their manufacturing industries as Chinese costs increase, getting goods to market is as much an value add as making the products.

Aug 212015
Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore presents the prize to the small businesss award winner

Yesterday I hosted the second day of the CPA Australia Technology, Accounting and Finance Forum that looked at how the accounting profession is being affected by the changing technology landscape.

There’s plenty to write about from the day and how the accounting profession is facing technological change which I’ll write up shortly but one theme from the day was striking – that older small businesses owners are struggling to deal with adopting new tech.

Gavan Ord, the CPA’s policy advisor warns older practitioners are opening themselves to disruption and  the Australian business community is in general is at risk as older proprietors aren’t investing or embracing technology at a rate comparable to their overseas competitors.

Older small business owners

That older skew in small business operators is clear, in 2012 The Australian Bureau of Statistics found 57% of the nation’s proprietors are aged over 45 as opposed to 35% of the general population.

Even more concerning is many of those small business owners expect to retire with a 2009 survey finding 81% were intending to retire within ten years – it would be interesting to see how those ambitions changed as the global financial crisis evolved.

A risk to the broader economy

This blog has flagged the risks of an aging small businesses community previously, but Gavan Ord’s point flags another risk – that older proprietors being reluctant to invest in new technology means a key segment of the Australian economy is unprepared for today’s wave of technological change.

A key message from the CPA forum was that the shift to cloud computing is radically changing the business world as sophisticated data management, analytic and automation tools become easily available. Companies, and nations, that don’t take advantage of modern business tools risk being left behind in the 21st Century.

Jul 052015

To snap myself out of the current ennui that has swamped me, I’ve a few ideas for a crowdfunded project. I’m interested in what people think of them, the first two are Australian focused while the others are more international.

All five of them revolve around the changing global economy and its effects upon societies, communities and individuals.

These are the ideas and I’d be delighted to hear some thoughts on them.

True Australian stories

Australia is in a time of transition. The upcoming Federal election may well determine the nation’s development over the next half century.

The idea of this project is to get out into the regions and suburbs which aren’t being covered – if not outright ignored – by the mainstream media and talk to the communities, people and businesses about how their worlds are changing and what they are doing to deal with it.

Re-inventing Australia

After a quarter century of continuous growth Australia has to make decisions on where its economy goes next. Successive governments have identified resources, agriculture, tourism, finance and education as the ‘five pillars’ of the economy.

This project talks to the people trying to make Australia’s five pillars work along with looking at those trying to build alternatives.

The future workforce

How does the global future workforce look? Will we be all contractors for Uber or Upwork or are there other models developing around the world.

What does the next phase of the industrial revolution look like for workers in both the developed and emerging economies? This idea is inspired Sebastião Salgado’s work.

The Second City project

Every major city has a less prosperous neighbour – Sydney and Newcastle, Melbourne and Geelong, London and Birmingham, Beijing and Qingdao, San Francisco and Oakland are examples.

How are those second cities faring in a global economy that’s increasing the wealth of the rich? What are the leaders of those communities doing to reposition themselves.

The next Silicon Valleys

While we’re focused on today’s global centres like California’s Bay Area, London and Shanghai there are other emerging industrial centres that will be the next generation’s Silicon Valleys. Who are they and what do they look like?

I’d be delighted to hear readers’ thoughts on these projects and any other ideas for similar ventures.

Jun 122015

Earlier this week Apple announced a range of new services at its annual World Wide Developers Conference ranging from Music to News.

The reports were bad news for companies like Spotify and Flipboard with some reports claiming Apple could destroy $1.8 billion of investors funds.

History though suggests otherwise, industry giants like Microsoft and Google have failed in the past to crush smaller competitors when they’ve entered a market despite the minnows expecting to be crushed.

The reason for this is the smaller company is often more focused on the problem at hand while for the larger organisation the revenue at stake is tiny. For a big organisation to properly execute on a project it has to have the support, if not being actively driven, by senior management.

So it may turn out those startups are not as greatly at risk as first appears. Certainly the reviews of Apple Music haven’t been good.

Jun 022015
Customers moving online presents challenges to hotels, cafes and restaurants.

Urbanspoon was one of the original restaurant review sites and it was a good resource for figuring out was good in an unfamiliar neighborhood.

Over time it fell behind and became irrelevant as other sites took over and it was neglected by its owners.

Now it’s been taken over and will be shut down by Indian startup Zomato.

The hospitality industry is tough and complex, something that’s not getting easier as keen young startups from unexpected places are entering the market.