YPO Innovation Week 2019 Day 2 Tackles Technology Adoption, Fintech and Doing Business in China

2019 YPO Innovation Week continued Wednesday with chief executives around the globe joining the discussion both at in-person events and a virtual workshop. Discussions centered around why businesses sometimes miss the boat on innovation, why Waterloo has become an innovation hub and what foreign businesses often fail to comprehend when attempting to enter the great market of China. The following is a glimpse of today’s takeaways.

Virtual – Get your business ready today for what matters tomorrow

A technological revolution doesn’t happen overnight. It can take years, even decades, before it seemingly in a flash, materializes.

In his virtual presentation on the future forward and future ready mindset, Pascal Finette, Singularity University’s Entrepreneurship and Open Innovation Chairman, used Apple’s 2001 launch of the iPod to demonstrate his point.

“Four years before the iPod, we had the first MP3 player — the MPMan, an improvement over the Walkman, with its cassettes, and the Discman, with its CDs,” says Finette. “But the problem was its memory was small; you could only have about 30 songs on it.”

He says Apple asked the critical question: Can you envision a future without a digital music device? The answer was no. Apple then mapped out the “gestalt” of the product — looking at it holistically. They asked themselves if there was:

  • Social acceptance
  • Related technologies
  • Adopters
  • Regulations

Pascal Finette - FAIL stands for First Attempt In Learning

By going through this process, Apple identified the future product would need more storage and access to broadband. Finette recommends every company exercise the same process when considering new products.

“With that, they started moving along the knowledge adoption curve,” says Finette. “They didn’t release anything, but they started building. They realized with 1,000 songs, a forward button wasn’t going to work, so they invented the click wheel.”

He notes that during those four years of development, Apple didn’t introduce a digital music device, but was working its muscles so when the technology and the market were ready, the product could launch and experience success.

Pascal Finette-Future Forward and Future-Ready Mindset

“You need to remain on a continuous applied knowledge curve, you need muscle memory in your company so that when the timing is right, you can strike,” he says.

The event host, Nikolaus Weil, CEO and Founder of Mindex GmbH, asked Finette how leaders can create a learning culture in their organizations.

“You have to redefine failure as learning,” Finette says. “No one likes to fail. I say FAIL stands for First Attempt at Learning.”

Waterloo Breeding innovation

How did the culture of innovation put Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, on the technology map? For starters, the Sedra Student Design Centre at the University of Waterloo has dedicated more than 20,000 square feet of space to design teams and student projects. There are more than two dozen design teams, all of which are student-led, and many of which represent Waterloo internationally. It is the largest facility of its type in North America. YPO Innovation Week 2019 Waterloo Panel

“There are things happening at the University of Waterloo that are hard to believe are actually possible. If we think we are a tech-focused society today, 10-15 years down the road, things will be completely different,” says Murray Gamble, President, The C3 Group.

China Fintech and what foreign businesses don’t ‘get’

According to Elaine Ann, Founder and Director of Kaizor Innovation, China is a “super big” market with 1.3 billion people. China has five times the population of the United States and business competition is much greater.

To develop your business in China you really need to understand its unique technology ecosystem. For example, China is ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to fintech.  Elaine Ann YPO Innovation Week 2019

Using technologies like WeChat Pay or Alipay, people in China not only pay for their purchases online, but they can also tip their waiters — and rate them like you would an Uber driver elsewhere in the world.

Face-to-pay is a technology being adopted more and more in China, allowing facial recognition technology to be used to pay for goods and services. You can walk into a KFC in China, pick up your food, and a scanner will recognize your face and charge your Alipay account.

For western businesses wanting to operate in China, Ann says it’s important to first understand the technology used in China, the culture and the people.

To develop your business in China you really need to understand its unique technology ecosystem – Elaine Ann, Founder of Kaizor Innovation

“Most of the world uses western technology. China has a different technical system, and the pace is very fast. If you move slow, you can be eaten up,” says Ann, who consults with foreign businesses wanting to scale in China.

In addition to the fintech discussion, YPO members discussed why they chose to set up in Shenzhen, which like Hong Kong was once known for fishing and manufacturing and is now an incubator for cutting-edge design, culture and technology. Frank Lin, founder of Gradient Healthcare, sums it up succinctly.

“Shenzhen is different from Beijing and Shanghai. It’s easier to find investors here. You can find Chinese investors, also Hong Kong and Singapore investors. You can find international investors,” he says.


YPO Innovation Week 2019 runs through Friday, 17 May. A complete listing of events and registration information is available at www.ypoinnovationweek.com/schedule.
You can access more of YPO’s executive learning events from our 2019 Innovation Week here.

YPO is the global leadership community of more than 29,000 chief executives in 130 countries who are driven by the belief that the world needs better leaders. Each of our members have achieved significant leadership success at a young age. Combined, they lead businesses and organizations contributing USD9 trillion in annual revenue. YPO members become better leaders and better people through peer learning and exceptional experiences in an inclusive community of open sharing and trust.