Launching at Shift Forum, JFF Labs partners with innovators to scale economic advancement solutions for the 99 percent
As many of you know, this year’s Shift Forum is the second annual gathering of leaders convening to address big issues we won’t have a second chance to solve. If last year’s event symbolized a collective recognition of the problems we face, this year marks a shared commitment to move the needle in addressing them. Key pillars include business transformation, politics and policy, and the future of work. All of us are concerned with how we will pull off the moonshot of our time — establishing social contracts for the 99 percent. Specifically, how will we sustain families and opportunity for dignified work in the face of automation and rapid change?
To that end, I’m heartened to spotlight a unique effort — the launch of JFFLabs — and I am equally thrilled to say it was created as a result of last year’s Shift Forum.
I caught up recently with Maria Flynn, CEO of JFF, a leading national nonprofit that drives transformational change in the American labor and training markets. Maria was a powerful star at the Department of Labor before spending 10 years leading JFF’s Workforce team. Last year she became CEO at JFF and is casting a vision for a future in which economic mobility, dignified work, and automation are equal partners in the American dream.
As an enthusiastic cyclist and environmentalist, I’m quick to notice the tragedy of the commons flourishing on the premises of personal transportation, especially in the U.S.
Big cities are going car-free. London’s Mayor Saqid Khan’s newest “London Plan” envisions that 80% of all trips in London will be made by foot, bicycle or public transport by 2041.
Without this shift away from car use, London cannot continue to grow sustainably. […] The design and layout of development should reduce the dominance of cars, and provide permeability to support active travel (public transport, walking and cycling), community interaction and economic vitality.
London is one of a number of major cities committing to the future where getting from point A to point B doesn’t depend on personal cars.
Using Maslow’s famous framework for product planning
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is one of the most well known frameworks of all time. Famously, Maslow draws the pyramid of human needs where lower layers of the pyramid represent the more basic needs (for example, physiological and safety needs) while each level above moves towards transcendence and self actualization. As the theory goes, one can only satisfy the needs at a certain level after satisfying the needs of the levels beneath it. If the lower need has not been met the person will not have the motivation, focus or capability to work on a higher need. For example, you won’t be bothered to worry about your social standing if you are starving, naked, and sick.
Appropriating Maslow’s model and applying it to something I am working on has been an interesting exercise over the years. Most recently, we did this at Varo Money to help us think differently about our product roadmap and 2018 strategy. Here’s how we thought about it in regards to our business. I think it can be applied broadly as a simple, useful framework for startups.
This series concludes with a hard look at why we need new sources of capital for founders
The final story in our premium Medium series from author (and software company founder) Luke Kanies explores the need for alternatives to our current system of venture capital. In Kanies’ words, our system looks stable, but most companies follow the same playbook: They try to get their investments to the magic number of $1 million in annual recurring revenue (ARR), raise an A round of funding, and keep on the funding train until you go public or go bust. This system forces founders to contort their companies to fit the funding schedule rather than discovering their own destinies. Kaines believes that instead of continuing to fund disruptors, VC will itself be disrupted with a better alternative.
It’s time to get serious about the role of business and tech in our society. Join us in San Francisco for the Shift Forum.
The initial lineup for the Shift Forum is now online. It’s always a let down when I see it on the page — the names and session titles never do justice to the people who are coming or the tapestry of conversation that will ultimately flow from the event. So I’m sitting down today to try to weave a bit of color into the stark black and white of the agenda’s format — in the hopes of enticing you to come, yes, but also to frame the conversation for those who are participating.
When we started thinking about the Forum two years ago (next month’s event is our second annual edition), we knew that business in the United States was at a crossroads. Trump had not yet won the Republican nomination, and Big Tech still enjoyed unrivaled admiration around the globe. Still we sensed storm clouds forming — and since then a cynic could argue that the deluge is upon us.
Or, how to get three stories into one headline. Happy Friday.
It was a week crammed with worthy stories, so here’s a bit of a retrospective, with a dollop of today’s most interesting stuff on top. Enjoy, and have a great weekend (oh, and by the way, the Shift Forum agenda is up. And it’s awesome. More on that in my next column).
It’s as if they read my piece last Friday! But of course these changes have been in the works for more than a year. Unfortunately, this changes nothing in the ad model, which is the driver of the toxic externalities. MQ: “Thursday’s changes raise questions of whether people may end up seeing more content that reinforces their own ideologies if they end up frequently interacting with posts and videos that reflect the similar views of their friends or family. And bogus news may still spread — if a relative or friend posts a link with an inaccurate news article that is widely commented on, that post will be prominently displayed.” Also: Did Zuck Just Drop Acid?
A tech giant partners with a bioinformatics pioneer to create an entirely new kind of genetic map.
I believe that all reality is information, and all information creates reality. I am not alone in this belief, but it is nevertheless controversial. Regardless, around this maddening thesis revolves nearly all the intractable problems, paradoxes, and opportunities of modern science, technology, and quite possibly policy and politics. The more we informatize the physical world, the more we can ply its unknown depths.
But there’s so much of it, this information. The recursive joke of an acroamatic god — we understand that information drives everything, but there’s simply too much information to understand. Start with our very minds — comprised of 100 billion neurons connected in no less than 100 trillion paths. Each synaptic firing across one of those hundred-trillion possibilities comprises an informational declaration — and each neuron may fire up to two hundred times a second. Don’t ask me how much potential information that is — I can’t do the damn math.
When is the last time you really revisited the assumptions baked into your pricing strategy?
Technology enables much finer control over how you price goods and services, which means you’ll be hearing a lot about “dynamic pricing” in the coming months. Dynamic pricing refers to the practice of updating prices based on current market demand and supply. While yield management, a form of dynamic pricing, has been practiced in industries such as airlines and hotels for years, technology is enabling a wider range of companies to adjust their prices according to market dynamics.
Upstarts and even incumbents can use dynamic pricing strategy to upturn an industry. Some industries may think they’re immune to such developments, and it might seem odd to imagine certain kinds of companies practicing dynamic pricing — seeing bananas sold with an electric price tag changing amount every few minutes would be unusual. Until it’s not.