Ag Unicorns, Leadership Perils for Subject Matter Experts, A Deficit of Leadership + more


While there’s an abundance of articles out there about any numbers of startups in a multitude of verticals, but we don’t often hear much about the agricultural space.  Since 2008, however, a lot of acquisitions have been taking place, with the “Big Six” ag companies spending upwards of $31B in the past eight years.  What there investing in skews towards digital ag, with the hopes that new technology will allow farmers to make better decisions real-time and tie them to their providers data platform.  That all makes sense, as using data to drive decisions is why big data is and will continue to be dominant, but what makes it hard for big Ag companies is that many times they have to sell to farmers who are using aging infrastructure and technology.  The key challenge? Finding ways to enable farmers to both better leverage their existing equipment while building platforms that takes some of the burden off their shoulders.

There are many chat platforms out there today that one wouldn’t think the sale of Yahoo’s properties to Verizon would have chat users concerned, but apparently the messenger platform is used by more than just consumers; apparently the world of crude oil trading depends on it for both gossip and contracts.

If you’ve never heard of until this last week when Wal-Mart announced they’d pay $3.3B for the company, I’m not surprised.  I’d only heard about it because of this guy who put up $18k to “win” a stake in the company.  Well, he’s now $20M richer for his investment, and L2 has a hilarious analysis/analogy that outlines why Wal-Mart would spend so much for a company that, well, has produced so little.

So Uber made some headlines last week, and there’s also some fallout from the Didi deal already: it may line the company up for anti-trust scrutiny.  Also, Quartz asked the question that no one else has: with Uber on an unending ascent and investors clamoring to get in, what does it look like to short it?

Many times we see subject matters experts thrust into leadership positions with little forethought or training.  I think the typical thought process is that if an individual is thriving at the work they are doing, they would be the best person to lead and mentor others because they could then pass that knowledge on.  strategy+business tackles this topic this week, with the three perils SMEs face when they lead: the ability to break free of their comfort zone and then “helicopter,” the ability to “code switch” (or avoid reverting to jargon), and the need to “lead up” to a boss or other person up the hierarchy who may have little expertise with a very specific and technical problem.  We work with seasoned practitioners every day who are likely challenged by these very pitfalls and it provides us with the opportunity to serve them through mentoring.

HBR has two head’s up articles for us this week: the first is about “smart drugs” and how they’re likely going to start showing up in our organizations.  The second, how our diversity programs may be helping out women but not minorities (or vice versa).

We often talk about how the developing world depends not on a PC but their mobile devices for internet access, a variety of transactions, and social connectedness, but we don’t have to look at South Africa or India to see this at play, we can look in our own back yard.  Today, Latino families in the U.S. are much more likely to have a mobile device versus a PC at home.  To me, that means we need to stop catering to a declining population and start pushing more towards a mobile versus desktop interface even in the developer world if we want to win at digital.

Remember Gopher protocol?   Here’s a great article about the rise and fall of it.

It’s funny that this summer has seen many naysayers about Augmented Reality and then Pokemon Go happened.  People didn’t need a headset of any kind, and it’s been almost addictive to its users along with leading some players to interesting scenarios.  What’s next?  Well, it may lead to a change in our zoning laws and even, maybe, selling the “digital rights” to your own home.   Here’s also a great look at how AR can speed up construction projects.

Not to debunk a good thing, but for all the hype we’ve been hearing about 5G, here’s a good reality check for what it will take to make it happen.  Hint: we’re gonna need a whole lot of investment in infrastructure.

There are a lot of naysayers out there who say that Apple has lost its former glory, that the company will never have another iPhone.  Well, yes, of course they won’t.  The iPhone was what is considered innovation on par with the Internet or man flying, the horseless carriage.  It only makes sense that a company would get one of those, not a slew.  Instead of looking for the next iPhone, Apple is in it for the long game, and that game is looking pretty good.

For those who wondered what happened to Here, one of the remnants of Nokia after the sale of its mobile device IP to Microsoft (which has been completely written off at this point), they’re out looking for investment after being bought by a consortium of German auto makers.  Now, this may seem like an odd non-sequitur, however if you look at who the buyers were versus who once owned the mapping technology, and the trend in the industry for who is purchasing mapping entities as a whole (outside of Google, ESRI, Digital Globe and the other big names), more and more of these acquisitions are by either automakers or those who depend on routing (like Uber and their continued purchases).  I’m well removed from this world at this point, but it’ll be interesting to see how the metadata these companies collect are then translated to effective autonomous routing (the backbone of autonomous cars).  Better said, it’s not really about the maps anymore.

I’ll end this week pointing to this excellent piece by Jon Lonsdale about the deficit of leadership we face today, and that while we may have many people who are good managers, maybe even good leaders, there is a lack of great leaders in Silicon Valley.  That’s not just an epidemic there, however – it’s hard to find truly transformational leaders this day and it has me curious as to why.

The barrage of today’s work place has led people to become more and more miserable and disengaged at work.  In this talk by Yves Morieux, Morieux discusses six rules to simplify work.

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