Frugal retail banking innovation meets social need and could disrupt sector

September 17, 2014 Leave a comment

compte nickel mobile-argent-mastercardIn his book No Bank (available here in French) Hugues Le Bret tells the story of Compte Nickel, a start-up that he and his associates created for the purpose of providing people kicked out of the banking system with an ultra-low cost alternative to receiving and making ordinary card payments.

Although, in a heavily regulated sector, the project required 3 years of massive effort, chasing the funding needed to obtain regulatory approvals that were themselves needed to give enough confidence to investors, the business model is very simple:

  1. The customer buys a €20 ‘pack’ at a retail outlet that is licensed to sell state-regulated products such as tobacco and lottery games. The pack contains a Mastercard and an instruction booklet.
  2. Following the instructions, the customer scans their ID at a specially designed terminal, and provides a physical address and an email address. This 5-min operation opens the account.
  3. The retail outlet manager then swipes the card that was provided in the pack, instantly checking that the account has been properly opened, generating an IBAN number and activating the card.
  4. With a few additional steps the customer uses a mobile phone to generate a PIN and the codes for online banking.

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“The world is moving from car ownership to car usership”

September 11, 2014 Leave a comment

Originally posted on InnovToday:

A BBC News article provides a great insight into the revolution in the making that the car industry is about to go through. KPMG sums it up in their annual survey of the auomotive industry: “The world is moving from car ownership to car usership.” Arguably it will take longer than headline-grabbing statements suggest, not least because a large section of the consumer base still feels a strong emotional connection to the car they own or that they wish to own, but it is undeniably underway.

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Innovating for the post-crisis rebound

September 11, 2014 Leave a comment

Originally posted on InnovToday:

creative-destructionSchumpeter defines innovation as a process of creative destruction. The point is not merely that innovation can still happen in times of crisis; it is that crisis are the best time for era-defining innovations to emerge. In yesterday’s session of the Mardis de l’Innovation cycle (in French), Marc Gigethighlighted a few powerful examples of companies, which emerged or re-emerged stronger out of the Great Depression of the 30s with winning products, such as GE and its refrigerators and washing machines, Converse and its emblematic (and ugly) shoes, or the entire machine-tool sector. As it turned out, the Great Depression became one of the most innovative periods in American history.

Today, some post-crisis winners are already emerging, though others may still be in the making. Examples include:

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Intellectual Property: the winning Mario Kart strategy

September 11, 2014 Leave a comment

Originally posted on InnovToday:

20131215-165406.jpg Patent searching, filing and policing is rapidly becoming a drag on organizations’ resources and agility. The likes of Apple and Samsung only manage to neutralize each other in epic but ultimately no-value-adding battles, pharmaceutical giants are increasingly pressurized to limit the reach of their patents, all industrial sectors produce patents in great numbers without preventing in the end everyone from copying everyone else. While I appreciate this is a simplistic generalization, I get the feeling that the whole business around patents has reached the point of creating more costs than benefits for innovative companies. The time for a new approach has come: enters Mario Kart.

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Time for innovation to make sense and for humanity to step on the path to progress once more

There-are-only-two-choices-make-progress-or-make-excuses_Ellen-MikesellOn Monday evening I listened to Etienne Klein’s thought-provoking talk at Les [im]pertinents in Paris: “is there a future for the idea of progress?” A physicist and philosopher of science, Klein is a strong advocate of the role of science as an engine of innovation but observes that in our so-called post-modern society the link between science/innovation on the one hand and human progress on the other hand appears to be increasingly tenuous, if not severed, in the minds of people. How did it come to this and how can we retake our future in our own hands? Read more…

Beyond 3D printing – it’s more than a Game of Drones: Smarter is Coming

20140521-161857-58737992.jpg 3D/4D printing and self-assembly materials trigger at the same time fear and skepticism: fear that masses of workers in the manufacturing industries will find themselves structurally redundant, skepticism that complex systems can ever be manufactured using these emerging technologies. Both this fear and this skepticism are misplaced, because they are based on the faulty assumption that new manufacturing/assembly technologies will replace old ones like-for-like.

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Cities to rise above Nations as the building block of innovation

20140521-110938-40178713.jpg More than half of humanity now lives in cities, a proportion that is expected to rise to three-quarters within the next 30 years. Squeezed between the critical mass of cities and the realities of the global economy, the traditional power of Nation-States is waning. Nationalists and protectionists of all kinds may not like it, but there is no way back. Nations are becoming ineffective at driving change, as politicians on any national stage are increasingly perceived as out-of-touch and their now structural inability to mobilize capital makes them irrelevant. Conversely, cities are rapidly appearing as the right perimeter to implement change. This is why this year’s MIT Europe conference “a blueprint to the future” is so heavily focused on urbanism.

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