Seismic Business Changes in the Age of The Many

this piece was originally a cornerstone commission for the C2 conference in Montreal


The world, it is a-changing. We believe that influence is shifting away from the corporate few and into the countless hands of savvy consumers, nimble entrepreneurs, and those bold organizations who dare to collaborate, even with their competitors. We believe that the strategies that grew yesterday’s giants are now recipes for their own obsolescence, and that tomorrow’s success stories will be built on a sense of collective purpose. We also believe that this profound mutation is completely rewiring how we collaborate, how we share, how we learn, how we work and how we build. We call it the age of The Many, and it is the central theme of this year’s edition of C2 Montréal, May 24–26, 2016.


Until we get to all the talks and the masterclasses and the workshops and the brainstorming and the Brain Dates that will be happening in just a few weeks, the C2 team recently spoke to two of the VC veterans selecting the 50 startups to participate in the C2xAccelerateMTL program, Jeff Clavier of SoftTech VC and Chris Arsenault of iNovia Capital. Here is their take on The Many, and on the ways they expect this profound mutation to affect the future of business.


Down with the silos, up with the mobile

Jeff and Chris agree that the greatest change is the breaking down of silos and closed systems. You no longer have one source for information that you must access only one way.


Jeff: “50 years ago, having expert knowledge was the key to success. Now, all you need is access to knowledge. The world has become way more connected and open as far as opportunities, but it is very difficult for closed silos to succeed. Everything is open now. Mobile and social are no longer advantages. We wouldn’t consider investing in something that isn’t mobile.”


Some verticals will particularly struggle as a result of this shift. Older ways of doing business involving retention queues and missing self serve options will lose out.


Jeff: “The on-demand economy is played out. Five or six years ago, there were a ton of group deal sites. Now, there is only one.”


Chris: “Anything that’s open is living and thriving. Things that have a lot of friction, or closed systems will not thrive. For instance, a lot of services still don’t allow you to pay online, with many tasks requiring a phone call. There are often as many as 5 different steps… this is a nightmare. This will not exist in the future, and companies that don’t enable people to easily use their services will not survive.”


Interacting with our robot friends

The unlimited potential of artificial intelligence and smarter technologies for learning and predicting extends to just about anything, including human behavior, but Chris expects that humans may experience challenges in how they interact with AI:


“I think it’s going to allow people to be smarter about their decisions. It will change behavior because we’ll be interacting more and more with machines. It’s not about giving orders, it’s about interacting. I have a virtual assistant, Ava, and she schedules my meetings. Once in a while, I thank her. That’s intriguing. She doesn’t really understand what it means to be thanked, but I do it. It’s going to be very exciting to see how, in the next 10 years behavior will change.”


Dealing with over-connection

Jeff says that on the consumer side, the constant connectivity has had unintended consequences, and that we might reject some of the ways we interact with technology as a result:


“We’re sort of over-connected. At some point, people are going to say “f*** it.” There are some restaurants already where you’re not supposed to take out your phones so you can just connect with those around you.”


Outsmarting the robots

An important insight that came out of these conversations is that the marriage of connected devices and AI is really bound to disrupt business as usual – in ways we cannot even begin to understand.


Chris sees a future where humans may evolve quicker than AI: “By default, if we just applied AI in every sector, we’d be better off because we would better understand everyone’s needs. The problem is that everybody’s needs are changing. Look at Generation Y. It’s not the same world. They come from a real time on- demand world. Millennial consumers and beyond, who hold all the future buying power, are so demanding and their needs are evolving faster than what AI can help us understand. We live in a constantly changing world.”


It doesn’t look like humans will be made obsolete by AI in the near future.


While the evolving desires and needs of The Many will grow, so will the lessons learned and advantages of freeing information and democratizing knowledge. According to Chris and Jeff, this is a most exciting time.


Chris Arsenault and Jeff Clavier are among the four veteran VCs in charge of selecting the 50 startups to take part in the C2xAccelerateMTL program at C2 Montréal, May 24 – 26. The deadline to apply is Friday, April 29 at 11:59 pm (ET).

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