What Roberto saw this week – 31 August 2017

It’s important to remember that innovators in business don’t always get a platform.
Gary Hamel

I am in an analytical mood today. Let’s talk about how technology is changing the world so much that a fast-food joint is launching its own currency. About disruptive transformation in grocery retail. And let’s reflect on some new economy cheerleaders missing the point entirely.

Burger King launches WhopperCoin crypto-cash in Russia
One that I find very interesting personally. While at the Blue Lab, we explored blockchain in the context of peer to peer energy sharing. At the Co-op, I can’t but reflect on the fact that members earn and spend cash rewards based on their shopping with us, and the potential that blockchain may unlock should the ledger be public and the rewards tradable. Looks like Burger King Russia have been drinking from the same fountain. It will be fascinating to see how this develops.

Amazon Cuts Whole Foods Prices as Much as 43% on First Day
According to the article:

Price was the largest barrier to Whole Foods’ customers. Amazon has demonstrated that it is willing to invest to dominate the categories that it decides to compete in. Food retailers of all sizes need to look really hard at their pricing strategies, and maybe find some funding sources to build a war chest

I think the initial observation is right. But industry analysts often suffer from tunnel vision, and in this case I think there is evidence of this here. This is not (just?) about Amazon engaging in a price war: this is Amazon doing what they do best – driving volume, which generates hoards of data, which in turn can be turned into value in many ways. Move the burden of generating revenue from a single cohort (the consumer) to an entire ecosystem of paying participants. If this succeeds, retail will never be the same again, and consumers everywhere will benefit.

Disney will pull its movies from Netflix and start its own streaming services
At the opposite end of the consumer-centric spectrum, Disney has decided to pull out of the world’s most popular video streaming platform, one its fans have clearly voted with their wallets for, and instead build a walled garden around its magic kingdom in order to maximise its profits. In TV, Disney channels are popular. But in my view this is less let’s build a different channel and more let’s build a different TV. Would you buy a dedicated TV set just to watch a brand’s content? And even if you did, would you keep adding them once the other brands decide to follow suit? People prefer the everything store and see what’s next precisely because they’re not tied to an allegiance with this or that brand. Good luck House of The Mouse, you’re going to need it.

We need to nationalise Google, Facebook and Amazon. Here’s why
A good, if slightly sensational analysis of the winner takes all markets created when Platform businesses enabled by the Internet enter the competitive fray. Followed by an 18th century solution to the quintessential 21st century challenge. There is merit in Nick Srnicek’s analysis: opaque, gigantic private companies are grabbing more and more of our lives and our data, devising ever increasing value extraction from their user bases. And yet, the same Internet that facilites these practice is ignored when thinking about possible strategies to cure the disease.

If we don’t take over today’s platform monopolies, we risk letting them own and control the basic infrastructure of 21st-century society.

Indeed, let’s take over today’s platform monopolies, but let’s do it in the same throughly modern way in which they operate. Let’s come together as users, as netizens, using the same platforms and network effects that they so effectively use. Parochial city-state nationalism will fail, but a self-organising global movement of co-operating individuals may prevail. The answer is not to be found on the dusty encyclopaedias of old, but on the very successful model that makes Wikipedia the information powerhouse it is. We don’t need the state, we need to breed a movement.