Founders Forum Returns To Reunite The Tech World

This month saw the return of Founders Forum for the 15 th edition of its flagship London
forum on June 16 th & 17 th .

It's a focal point for the tech ecosystem among European entrepreneurs and globally,
bringing together the most forward-looking founders, investors, and corporate leaders
including Al Gore, Eric Schmidt (Google), Biz Stone (Twitter), Sir Tim Berners-Lee (World
Wide Web), Natalie Massenet (Net-A-Porter) and Demis Hassabis (DeepMind), among
many others.

This is also where Founders Intelligence was born. FI exists to bring insights, strategies and
practices from that world to corporates looking to grow in an entrepreneurial way. Our team and network access give us a unique perspective that we're excited to bring to the likes of Facebook, ITV, Unilever and BP from our offices in London, Berlin and Sao Paulo.

We'll be bringing you many take-aways from this year's iteration soon! To give you a flavour of what you can expect, we've resurfaced some still-fresh insights from the past events’ discussions, debates and pre-pandemic dialogue that emerged from this inimitable annual gathering.

Read on for more from past years on the future of work, e-commerce, media and corporate innovation – all of which are just as relevant today as they were a year ago.


THE FUTURE OF THE WORKPLACE

We discussed the future of work and how to raise an entrepreneurial workforce with a panel including founders and leaders at Harvard Business School, the Financial Times and Equinox Group, the global lifestyle and fitness company. Some key insights we had:

  1. Working habits of next generation of employees will impact the modern workplace environment. It is increasingly important to take into account the changing needs of contemporary employees whose work and personal lives are blending. Flexibility and personalisation will become cornerstones of new working environments, with employees increasingly expecting a hybrid model - companies will need to think more about how they reinforce their values, culture and connections with their team members wherever they might be.
  2. We are all professionally hyphenated now. We are this AND that and will be many things over a lifetime, many of them simultaneously. Our multiple and ever-evolving professional personas demand new educational forums for both structured and self-directed learning and a growing focus on adaptability, wellness and creativity. The employers that enable and provide for this will reap benefits in creativity, innovation and retention.

THE METEORIC RISE OF E-COMMERCE

We touched on the meteoric rise of e-commerce with Natalie Massenet (Net-A-Porter / Imaginary Ventures), Stephanie Phair (Farfetch) and Jeffery Rayport (HBS) speaking on the needs of millennials and Gen-Zs, and how legacy retail might need to learn a thing or two to adapt to the digital transition. In particular, they stressed that dynamic, digitally-native infrastructures are interacting to create new cross-industry business models. Multiple data sets from across channels can be blended together to generate new insights and create new products, touching on everything from finance to e-commerce.

On the distribution side, we talked about the future of next-gen omnichannel brands. Andy Katz-Mayfield (Harry’s), Steph Korey (Away), Jenny Fleiss (Rent The Runway) and Josh Silverman (Etsy) told us how distribution channels are getting narrower. Whether content, product or service, it's getting harder to win in the age of winner-takes-all everything-to-everyone platforms. The new brands rising to the top tap into real white space, solving true customer pain points, offering experientially or physically unique products/services and cultivating reach through omnichannel strategies from day one.

THE INTERSECTION BETWEEN MEDIA & TECH

An impressive line-up of the most influential publications worldwide spoke on the future of media. Mark Thompson (New York Times) Roger Lynch (Conde Naste), and Nancy Dubuc (VICE Media) are betting on bundled subscriptions - the increasingly preferred model in media. Barriers to entry are high, particularly as brand and content matters when getting people to subscribe – and as quality, trustworthy journalism becomes rarer, premium brands may be able to charge more. While Big Tech players still have distribution power, there’s now pressure on them to help pay for the content that keeps users on their platforms.

Lord Tony Hall (BBC) and Jimmy Wales (Wikipedia) explored the intersection of journalism and tech in creating a healthy public discourse. The era of fake news requires renewed investment in journalism and rethinking social media regulation: ****social media is now a key source of news, but it is not regulated like media companies. Journalists often do not have the resources to build key relationships and cover stories of local interest, and high-quality stories struggle for both funding and visibility.

THE OPPORTUNITY FOR CORPORATE INNOVATION

At Founders Intelligence, we're particularly interested in how corporates can contribute to building the global tech ecosystem and fuel innovation. Rajeev Misra (Softbank Vision Fund) and Caroline Hyde (Bloomberg) spoke about how corporates often kill good ideas. Too often, they aren’t looking for innovation, they are looking for solutions to known problems, and institutional ‘immune systems’ are primed to attack the disruptive. For companies to develop true innovation, it often needs to happen outside of the mothership - the question our clients often ask is: what might work and how can we bring it in successfully?

And how do you find new pockets of growth when you're already at scale? For Max Conze (ProSiebenSat.1), Ronan Dunne (Verizon) and Linda Faye Levinson (Jacobs) corporate innovation needs protection from the ‘top’. Leaders need to have the vision and conviction to protect these efforts from those corporate innovation “antibodies” and give it the space to grow. Dealing with an uncertain future requires a portfolio approach and multi-layered integration to provide the best chances of success - along the way, corporates need to protect some ugly ducklings on their way to becoming unicorns (while also recognising when to call a spade a spade, to mix metaphors).

What can we expect this year?

Founders Forum is returning in full force this year to cover some of the most pressing global themes, from the rebirth of traditional industries, to building a sustainable future and what's next for culture, art & society.

And for the first time ever, Founders Forum will launch our own sustainability-focused event, entitled the ClimateTech Summit, where the most forward-looking founders, investors and policy-makers will discuss how to accelerate climate-focused technologies to achieve Net Zero and restore our ecosystem.

Stay tuned for more!

At Founders Intelligence, we help major corporations access new growth opportunities by innovating around their business model and consumer propositions.