Tuesday marked the opening of YPO’s 2019 Innovation Week with a virtual event plus in-person gatherings for members around the globe. Topics discussed included 3D printed buildings, dispersed innovation, robots and cryptocurrencies. Each event featured prominent thought leaders who helped guide conversation around innovation.
Virtual: Hire talent where you find it, then constantly communicate
Innovation Week’s initial 2019 virtual event featured Founder and Co-CEO of Techstars David Cohen, who shared his thoughts on creating and managing dispersed innovation.
“Intelligence and skills are distributed around the world, but opportunity is not,” Cohen says, paraphrasing WordPress Founder Matt Mullenweg. He notes that WordPress is an extreme example of a “dispersed” company, with 100 percent of its 680 employees working remotely in 68 countries. Cohen cautions using the phrase working remotely and promotes the term dispersed in its place.
“Working remotely creates an us versus them situation,” explains Cohen. “It’s home office versus everyone else.”
To successfully create and manage a dispersed company, communication is vital. Cohen advised leaders to:
- Over-invest in communications technology
- Establish and train everyone on your standards of communication
“And record everything,” he adds. “Say something repeatedly because not everyone is going to hear it the first time. Maybe they can’t be on a call because it’s taking place the middle of the night where they are.”
Technology either already exists or is in development to make becoming a dispersed company possible.
“The tools are there, you just need to choose what works for you and to create a standard for communication,” he says. Cohen points out that at Techstars email is used for work or answers needed within a week. A messaging app is used for more urgent communications, while a file-sharing app is used for something that needs to happen today or tomorrow.
Hiring employees with the top skills isn’t the only consideration to success either, he notes. “Too many people hire for skills rather than motivation,” he said. “You need to keep people aligned with the mission.”
Philadelphia: Revolutionizing construction with 3D printing
Innovation was three dimensional at the Innovation Week event in Philadelphia which focused on exploring housing design using 3D printers. This technology translates the virtual into the physical — a revolution for accelerated building.
In discussing how robotics is revolutionizing the construction industry, Steve Pierz, Chief Innovation Officer at Fastbrick Robotics, shared that 98 percent of all construction jobs are over budgeted and include too much waste.
“We are taking the robot out of the factory and moving it outside no matter the conditions — wind, rain, heat, cold,” says Pierz. There is less risk to human safety, and robots can do tasks faster than any human can. Waste is also reduced to less than 1 percent. “We are changing the paradigm of construction — everything is done on site. We know that things will show up and they will fit every time,” says Pierz. “You can have building on-site and pre-fab combined.”
From a customer-service perspective, Pierz says they have information on every block made and can share that with customers. “That is a huge value to our clients.”
Keegan Kirkpatrick, CEO of RedWorks Construction Technologies, focuses on disrupting the supply chain, making construction less costly. “The construction industry is spread a little too thin,” says Kirkpatrick. “Demand is up, and labor prices are high.” Supply chain holdups result in delays in new builds. “We want to reduce that delay.”
According to Kirkpatrick, the solution is an on-site 3D printing platform for masonry — 3D printing bricks using induction heating and the dirt beneath your feet. This process reduces cost from 30-40 cents per brick to a few pennies.
“We are focused on making a system that is ultimately more adaptable, to reduce reliance on the supply chain and specialized labor, and we want to give the builder the most amount of freedom and resources on-site,” he explains.
AI SpaceFactory’s CEO and Creative Director David Mallot is introducing the tech mindset to architectural design — and outer space. “We have launched the final phase to visit and build on Mars. The idea is that we should not import to Mars because it’s too costly and time consuming,” says Mallot. “We need to construct a habitat from the materials that we find on the ground on Mars — the ultimate on-site construction set up!”
Mallot’s team won first place in NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge with a building material 40 times stronger than concrete.
Adam Kushner, President of Madco3d, says, “3D printing is everywhere — from construction to human organs. 3D printing is going beyond just recreating; it’s improving design structurally, making them more useful and adding longevity.”
Kushner is building his own home with 3D printing technology. Challenges include how to reinforce concrete, print horizontally, ensure scalability and secure building permits. The type of machinery will depend on the materials you use, and of course you need to know how to design in 3D, he explains.
Genesis Dimensions CEO Kaleb Steinhauer stated that if we focus only on materials cost, we miss the full picture. “You need the robotics and software components as well,” he says. “This is when we can talk about scalability. Bring larger scale robotics systems into a job site, and you’ll have very little physical labor. Little by little your commercial building will be printed on site — insulation and HVAC is already included.”
The benefits of 3D construction, according to Steinhauer, are more structurally sound building with free-form capabilities, flexibility, extremely strong materials and faster completion. “Ultimately this saves money,” he says, adding, “It is safer, fewer people will get injured and insurance costs will be lower.”
Waterloo: Difference between success, failure boils down to reaction to disruption
CEO of Waterloo-based Kik, Ted Livingston, told the crowd gathered for a fireside chat that his goal is to create Money 2.0 with his cryptocurrency, Kin.
“I think cryptocurrency could replace U.S. currency in as close as six years,” he says. “For the first time, banks are going to face one of the greatest opportunities — and one of the greatest threats. Cryptocurrency allows you to move money digitally, with no third party.”
Livingston shared his three keys to success:
- Stay focused on the big opportunities
- Make time for yourself
- Be part of a great peer group (like YPO)
Livingston praised the University of Waterloo for having the “highest quality of software engineers in the world.”
He adds, “I want to be as close as I can to that source of talent and meet those students before anyone else can.”
Toronto-based journalist and author of Losing the Signal — the Spectacular Rise and Fall of Blackberry, Jacquie McNish, shared the five lessons learned from the Waterloo-based maker of the Blackberry:
- Being disrupted is the biggest risk today.
- If you can’t pivot quickly, you will lose.
- It takes more than great technology to win – you must change the rules.
- Scale matters. You can have the greatest technology, the greatest team, but you need to have the resources.
- Leadership must accept that when the game is changed by a competitor’s disruption, decide how you are going to challenge it.
“Everything we do is going to be disrupted,” McNish explains. “What matters is how you respond. Your survival depends on that and on your willingness to accept that everything you believe in today will have to change.”
YPO Innovation Week 2019 runs through Friday, 17 May. A complete listing of events and registration information is available at www.ypoinnovationweek.com/schedule.