Transformative Ventures

Putting a ‘dent a in the universe’ is the goal of many mission-driven ventures. Those that succeed will create the new normals for a more vibrant, sustainable, and inclusive future. At Possibilian, we call them transformative ventures.

Seeking and achieving transformative impact is what we are most interested in. It’s also different than achieving incremental improvements, regardless of how valuable they might be.

To bring more colour to the differences, and what we’re most excited about in the years ahead, we’re pleased to share our perspective on:

  • Where does transformative potential comes from?
  • What are the current hotspots for transformative potential?
  • What do transformative ventures look like?
  • How can ventures manage for transformative outcomes?

Here’s to a better future, sooner.

Download of this deck is available here.

Transformation Hotspots

At Possibilian we are interested in how ventures can create a better future, a future that is more vibrant, prosperous, and sustainable. In this post, we’re highlighting a few areas where we see extraordinary opportunity for progress in the next few years as we emerge from the pandemic. While these overlap with existing transition pathways, and will evolve over time, they focus in on certain characteristics of the types of innovations we think have particular momentum and potential for transformative impact.

We call them Transformation Hotspots

  • Human Centred Social Infrastructure: Helping everyone and each other thrive.
  • Smart Food: Engaging, local, and sustainable food and agriculture.
  • Resilient Supply: Resilient supply chains and sustainable production ecosystems.
  • Collective Culture: Vibrant, participatory, cultural resurgence.
  • Boundless Collaboration: Working better, together, beyond boundaries.
  • Integrated Decarbonization: Building back, better, through decarbonization.
  • Embedded Interdependence: Crypto and cooperative inspired product, services, and systems.

Human Centred Social Infrastructure

Social infrastructure from education and healthcare to employment and social security, have all gone through dramatic shocks as a result of the pandemic. Old approaches and assumptions have been broken and bypassed, creating space for new solutions to emerge, particularly solutions that enable and put people first, remove barriers, and focus on the outcomes of their participants.

Catalysts: Regulatory resets; experiences of vulnerability; government funding.

Enabling Innovation Platforms: Cloud, Mobile Connected Devices, Frictionless Value Transfer

Existing Example: MeetFrank keyed in on the power imbalance between employees and employers, and uses technology to enable a new behavior that they believe can help democratize the job market.

Smart Food

Dramatic shifts in daily habits and lifestyles during the pandemic have meant more people are eating at home, often with limited supplies, while governments have had to respond to food crises among the most vulnerable. Collectively we are reconnecting with the importance of food. This connection will likely spur accelerated innovation around simple, smart, and sustainable food production, distribution, preparation, and delivery, with consumers expecting better quality and experiences, and governments investing in greater food security within their borders and for the most vulnerable.

Catalysts: Forced experience of prolonged home-cooking and staying at home; government investment in food security.

Enabling Innovation Platforms: AI, Robotics, DNA Sequencing

Existing Example: Jow is an example that shifts the behavior of grocery shopping to simply swiping and selecting simple, delicious and nutritious meals, making home-cooking easier, healthier, and fun.

Resilient Supply

Disruptions in supply-chains during the pandemic has raised the value in resiliency over efficiency. Buyers everywhere will be more conscious of ensuring essentials are always available. Part of that will include a rise in ‘good-enough’ solutions as well as enhanced use of intelligence and automation to ensure sufficient buffers, redundancy, and responsiveness.

Catalysts: Shift in procurement policy and practices across government, corporate, consumer.

Enabling Innovation Platforms: 3D Printing, Autonomous Mobility, Robotics, Frictionless Value Transfer

Existing Example:ProducePay grew out of the desire to build trust in every transaction, leveraging market intelligence and financing to create a stronger and more resilient produce supply chain.

Collective Culture

The COVID-19 pandemic is a profound collective experience, shared by all of humanity. That experience will undoubtedly be reflected in our art and culture. Our need to process that experience, reflect on life, and reconnect with each other will intersect with new media and technologies to spark a wave of innovation in media, entertainment, gaming and culture, including how we create and value it.

Catalysts: The pandemic experience; shift in how people value connection and culture.

Enabling Innovation Platforms: Mobile Connected Devices, Blockchain, Cloud

Existing Example: Otis believe that culture is a new asset, democratizing ownership of fresh, emerging cultural assets like collectible skateboard designs, sneakers, comic books, and art.

Boundless Collaboration

Mass physical-distancing forced organizations to adopt remote collaboration and coordination technologies. In addition to breaking down past limitations, as these technologies and practices persist, new opportunities for cost-savings, efficiency, and coordination will emerge alongside innovations that break down barriers in participation based on who and where people are.

Catalysts: Mass experience of remote work; blurring of work and social interaction experiences.

Enabling Innovation Platforms: Cloud, AI, Mobile Connected Devices.

Existing Example:Hopin aims to create better connections and a better planet by using online technology to re-envision how people can come together for offline, online, and hybrid events.

Embedded Interdependence

As organizations and individuals have heightened appreciation for our individual and systemic vulnerabilities there will increased acceptance and interest in our systems being more resilient. This creates and opening for the technologies and practices of the crypto and cooperative movements to become embedded in products, organizations, and systems across society.

Catalysts: Systemic failures from unaddressed externalities; recognition of interconnectedness; value of resiliency;

Enabling Innovation Platforms: Blockchain, Frictionless Value Transfer, IoT, AI

Existing Example: Leap connects distributed energy resources and owners of all types with grid operators through an energy marketplace that facilitates dynamic demand response.

Integrated Decarbonization

The pandemic provides a working example of the types systemic shocks and risks of inaction that have been feared from the climate crisis. As governments around the world introduce stimulus to stabilize and restart local economies, decarbonization solutions that also create jobs, improve wellbeing, increase resiliency and facilitate future infrastructure will have heightened interest.

Catalysts: Government stimulus; pandemic experience makes climate crisis implications more real.

Enabling Innovation Platforms: Energy Storage, Autonomous Mobility, IOT, AI

Existing Example: Wren helps consumers live carbon neutral through a simple monthly subscription, which gets invested in measurable, community-based decarbonization activities.

For more background:

Possibilian: Transition and Transformation Landscape

The world after COVID-19: A framework for considering the future.

TLDR: We already see signs for how our world might change, we just can’t be sure which changes will stick. There’s a wide range of possible futures ahead.

Over the past two weeks I’ve been collecting a range of perspectives on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, to get a sense of what the world might look like after.

Here’s where I’m at.

Why is this so disruptive?

Systemic failures as a result of the pandemic are impacting daily life and order. The speed and severity of these breakdowns is leading to rapid testing of what were previously ‘radical’ ideas. This creates an opening for meaningfully different futures to emerge.

How disruptive will this be?

The disruptions have been jarring. Almost no one could imagine the world as it is now only a month ago, nor can do they have a solid idea of what the future will look like next month let alone next year. So if we can’t yet see the future, let’s start with thinking about “how bad will this get”?

While we can’t be sure, it does look like our answer will depend on the following variables.

  • Duration of the pandemic
  • Depth of economic impact
  • Stability of the financial system
  • Quality of international cooperation
  • Level of civil unrest

How are we responding?

Next, we can look at how we are responding. In crisis, these are almost like existential missions, or a systemic immune response. These responses paint a picture of what our priorities will be during the crisis and as we emerge on the other side. How consuming and enduring these priorities will be depends on the previous question.

  • Solve the current pandemic
  • Prevent future pandemics
  • Create stronger safety nets and failsafes

Why could the future be different?

Once we have turned the corner on the current crisis, what is it that creates the opportunity for a meaningfully different future? From where we stand, it looks like there are three factors at play that could affect the rules, behaviours and beliefs that governed how our world worked before. While each are shifting already as we respond to the crisis, it isn’t clear if, how, or how far they will shift, or how permanent those shifts will be once we are through it.

  • Regulatory reset
  • Governance, leadership and responsibility reset
  • Individual reset of values, behaviours, and beliefs

How will the future be different?

From the changes that we are seeing so far, it looks like the shifts happening as a result of the crisis will follow along these paths.

  • From physical to digital
  • From efficient to resilient
  • From individual to collective
  • From market driven, to goal driven

While it seems a pretty safe bet that an accelerated physical to digital transition will stay with us, it is quite possible that the other three transitions don’t stick, or even, retrench. For example, if there is largely uncontrolled and unmitigated economic disruption, or significantly unequal disruption among nations, inequality could spike while also leaving everyone worse off, driving a further retrenchment towards nationalism and individualism.

The Bottom Line

Personally, I’m now leaning more optimistic in terms of our capacity to deal with this crisis and recover more quickly than our more dire predictions suggest. I expect that there will be significant and permanent shifts that come from this, but also expect a strong retrenchment that limits the advances we might think we can make based on where we are.

More than anything though, I’m seeing a broader range of possible futures than I did a week ago. While I’m no more certain which version will play out, I’m finding it a bit easier to process what’s happening and move forward. I hope this offers some of that to others as well.