Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Can solar, batteries and EVs disrupt energy industry?

We are at the cusp of an energy revolution.
This blog is a look at how three technologies – solar, batteries and electric vehicles (EVs) – are poised to disrupt a $6 trillion energy industry over the next two decades.
I had the chance to sit down with Ramez Naam, the Chair of Energy & Environmental Systems at Singularity University and acclaimed author of the Nexus series, to discuss these major forces and their implications.
Let’s dive in.

1. Creating an Abundant Solar Economy

In 88 minutes, 470 exajoules of energy from the sun hits the Earth’s surface, as much energy as humanity consumes in a year.
In 112 hours – less than five days – it provides 36 zettajoules of energy. That’s as much energy as is contained in all proven reserves of oil, coal and natural gas on the planet.
If humanity could capture 1 part in 1,000 (one-tenth of one percent) of the solar energy striking the Earth – just one part in one thousand – we could have access to six times as much energy as we consume in all forms today.
These staggering numbers, in combination with an exponential decline in photovoltaic solar energy costs ($ per watt price of solar cells), put us on track to meet between 50 percent and 100 percent of the world’s energy production from solar (and other renewables) in the next 20 years.
Solar is already undercutting coal and natural gas in sunny geographies.
Take a look at the plummeting costs…
(Graph: Decreasing price per watt of photovoltaic cells)
Over the last 30 years, solar module prices have dropped by a factor of 100.
Critically -- a new solar price record was set in Chile just a few weeks ago at $0.0291 per kWh – 58 percent less than the price of natural gas from a new plant!
And this is just the beginning. How cheap can it get?
The graph below shows that, if solar electricity continues on its current demonetization trajectory, by the time solar capacity triples to 600GW (by 2020 or 2021, as a rough estimate), we could see global unsubsidized solar prices that are roughly half the cost of coal and natural gas.
(Decreasing costs of solar electricity relative to other sources)
This is without factoring in the cost of air pollution and carbon pollution emitted by fossil fuel power plants.

2. Battery Technology is Reaching an Inflection Point

Of course, one limitation of solar is that it’s only available during the day. We’ll need breakthroughs in battery technology to transition fully into a solar economy.
The good news is that battery technology and energy storage are also hitting an inflection point.
Here are five trends shaping the future of battery technology and energy storage:
  1. Lithium-ion Technology: Lithium-ion batteries have been seeing rapidly declining prices for more than 20 years, dropping in price for consumer electronic uses by 90 percent between 1990 and 2005, and continuing to drop since then. This price reduction is coupled with an 11x increase in battery storage capacity per $100 since 2000.
  2. Scaled Production: The rollout of Tesla's Gigafactory makes $100 per kwh lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles possible by 2020. This price point would yield an astonishing $0.11 per kWh electricity storage -- or, in other words, allow you to fill up the equivalent of a tank of gas for $9.35.
  3. Flow Batteries: Flow batteries are just starting to come to market and have been proven in the lab to operate for 5,000 charge cycles or more. This is a 10x improvement over standard consumer lithium-ion batteries.
  4. Compressed Air Storage: Companies like LightSail Energy are creating physical components rated for 10,000+ charge cycles.
  5. Time of Use Arbitrage: The U.S. is increasingly going to time-of-use charges for electricity. Right now that means charging consumers a low rate in the middle of the night (when demand is low) and a high rate in the afternoon and early evening (when demand is at its peak, often twice as high as the middle of the night).
These are just a few of the developments happening.
The real key here is that we are going to see a mindset shift in the near future. It will just be accepted that every home will be powered by a combination of batteries, rooftop solar and electric vehicles (i.e. Tesla's vision)… and we'll gawk disapprovingly at the idea of driving an explosive, expensive and environmentally damaging gas vehicle, and so on.

3. Electric Vehicles (EVs) Are Gaining Speed

Electric vehicles (EVs) are taking the transportation industry by storm.
Within the next two decades, EVs will undoubtedly be the cheapest and most widely used vehicles on the market.
Take a look at the chart below. By roughly 2030, EVs with a 200+ mile range are going to be cheaper than the cheapest car sold in the U.S. in 2015.
(Decreasing cost of EV from 2016-2035)
The primary factor driving this decreasing cost is that EVs are inherently simpler devices only possessing 10% of the moving parts of gasoline-powered vehicles (cheaper to build, cheaper to maintain).
Every major car manufacturer is working on electric vehicles – the number of EV models on the market has grown from 2 in 2010 to over 25 today.
Just four months ago, Tesla Motors shattered expectations with the biggest one-week launch of any product ever by taking 400,000 preorders for its $35,000 Model 3 (implying $14 billion in future sales).
Ford has followed suit, investing $4.5 billion in electric cars, and will be adding 13 electric cars and hybrids by 2020, making more than 40 percent of its lines electrified.

Bringing It All Together

The convergence of solar, energy storage and electric vehicles (EVs) creates a trifecta of disruptive forces hitting the energy industry over the next two decades.
Again, in 88 minutes, the sun provides 470 exajoules of energy, as much energy as humanity consumes in a year. Just think about this…
This raw energy combined with the economic feasibility of solar, advancements in energy storage, and the resurgence of the electric car will allow abundant cheap energy for everyone on the planet.
This is an incredibly exciting time for the energy industry, and an incredibly exciting time to be alive.

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This is the sort of conversation we explore at my 250-person executive mastermind group called Abundance 360.
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3 Great New Books I Really Enjoyed

Several friends sent me books this summer. Paper ones with nice inscriptions. (It’s hard to autograph an eBook.) Here’s a quick overview of three I really enjoyed. I think you’ll enjoy them too.

Novel: Mystery/Thriller

The Sterling Forest by John Fenzel

If you’re into thrillers that are “ripped from the headlines,” this is a guilty pleasure in which you should absolutely indulge. The Sterling Forest is a complex mystery about Daniel “Danno” Tory, who is America’s newest congressman and the tabloids’ “Most Eligible Bachelor.” But when a beloved uncle passes away, Danno discovers a secret that challenges everything he thought he knew about his family’s past—a secret that threatens his political future and even his life.
I’m a big fan of the book, and I’m a bigger fan of the author. My friend John Fenzel is a retired senior Special Forces officer who served on our nation’s battlefields throughout Europe and the Middle East. He served on the personal staffs of the Secretary of Defense, the Army Chief of Staff, and the Vice President of the United States. Following the Cold War, he led the first U.S. deployments to the Baltic States. He is awesome, and the book is awesome. ‘nuf said.

Money & Business

Television: Innovation, Disruption, and the World’s Most Powerful Medium, Volume 1: The Broadcast Age and the Rise of the Network by Seth Shapiro

I’ve been a student of the television business for my entire career, so you can imagine how excited I was to read Seth’s latest work. He’s done a great job of wrapping the history of TV into an easy-to-understand, entertaining work. For you industry veterans, it has wonderful anecdotes and stories you will truly enjoy. For you readers who are simply interested in the television business, it is a good introduction.
Full disclosure: Seth and I have known each other for years and he is a senior advisor to our company. That said, this is a book I would have liked even I didn’t work with the author. You’ll like it too!

Self Help/Reference

Writing Without Bullshit: Boost Your Career by Saying What You Mean by Josh Bernoff

I met Josh years ago when he was an analyst at Forester Research. He writes in a very straightforward style and is particularly good at getting to the point. Like all good researchers, he did some research to determine if this book needed to be written.
After analyzing the experiences and attitudes of 547 business people who write at least two hours per week for work, excluding email, here’s what Josh found out:
“Only one-sixth of them identify themselves as writers or editors; the rest are business owners, executives, managers, analysts, and other professionals. They write everything from reports and marketing materials to web copy and blog posts. For these professionals, reading and writing is a full-time job; they average 25.5 hours reading and 20.4 hours writing per week.
The poor quality of what they read frustrates them. They rate the over-all effectiveness of what they read at a pathetic 5.4 out of 10, and 81% report that poorly written material wastes their time. They complain that what they read is too long, poorly organized, unclear, and full of jargon.”
The results were clear. The world needs better writers! And Josh took it upon himself to offer assistance. If you thought The Elements of Style was useful, you’ll think Writing Without Bullshit is useful too.

The More You Pay Attention, the Luckier You Get

Early this morning, I walked straight out to sea. In the photo above, I'm standing about a mile from the shoreline, but the water is only two inches deep.
I'm on Cape Cod in Massachusetts, on the Brewster Flats. At high tide, the water near shore is over my head. At low tide, the ocean retreats about a mile and a half. Even when you get to the ocean, it is just inches deep for almost as far as you can see.
So if you want to go swimming at low tide, you're out of luck. But if you want to go swimming at high tide, it's beautiful.
Timing is everything.
As the tides change, small fish dart back and forth at the edge of the ocean. They exist in a tiny, ever-changing zone between the ocean and the beach. By edge, I mean the water an inch or two deep that flows back and forth as minuscule waves lap the sand.
For these minnows, timing is the difference between life and death.
It's tempting to think that we live and work in a safer zone, with greater margin for error. In reality, we're a lot more like those fish than many folks imagine.
As I write this, The Once and Future Hurricane Hermine may or may not be churning towards us. This peaceful beach may or may not turn into a dangerous and foreboding landscape. The houses at the water's edge may be untouched, or they may be damaged.
It all depends on timing... will the storm linger in warm waters long enough to strengthen significantly or will it veer towards the coast?
We live in a ridiculously thin atmosphere surrounded by trillions of miles of frigid, airless space. We also exist on Earth during a time when it is not too cold and not too hot.
(Strike that. In some places, it IS too hot already.)
Success as a human being is dependent on a good sense of timing. You don't necessarily have to be smarter or more talented than others, you just have to have a better sense of timing.
If you know when to ask for a raise, when to buy - or sell - a house, when to start a company, when to propose, when to say yes (or no)... you will have a wonderful life.
Sadly, many people lack good timing, for one simple reason: they don't pay attention.
Do you?
Do you notice when your boss seems a little preoccupied?
Do you recognize when the market starts to shift ever so slightly, which may be an early sign that this would be a splendid time to start that company you've been dreaming about?
Do you notice hundreds of little shifts that happen every day, all around you?
You should.
The more you want something, the more important it is to pay attention. The more you pay attention, the better your timing gets.
This, by the way, is why some people are so "lucky".
They pay attention.
Fortunately, I am willing to share with you my one-step, guaranteed method of paying attention:
#1: Pay attention
#2: There is no step 2. Just pay attention.
Bruce Kasanoff ghostwrites articles for innovators, investors, and idea people.
Three hours later, I took this photo from shore. The arrow shows roughly where I took the top photo, looking back in this direction.

Could AI And Big Data Help Create This 'Luxury For All' Utopia?

As someone who watches technology trends closely as part of my business, I have been thinking about the future impact of all the technology innovations and automation we are currently experiencing and on the cusp of achieving.  Many of the headlines I read about these trends — and even some I write — predict some pretty negative consequences right along with the monumental achievements and improvements.
While improvements in machine learning, artificial intelligence, big data, and robot automation could mean huge advances in medicine, science, commerce and human understanding, it’s also undeniable that there will be consequences as well. These technological advances represent a significant challenge to capitalism. Together, they are poised to potentially create jobless growth and the paradox of an exponentially growing number of products, manufactured more and more efficiently, but with rising unemployment and underemployment, falling real wages and stagnant living standards.
In fact, it’s already begun.
The rate of technological progress and worker productivity is on the rise, butwages are stagnatingfactories are eliminating jobs, and researchers estimate that anywhere between 35 and 50 percent of jobs that exist now are in danger of being lost to automation.
But what if the prognosis weren’t all doom and gloom?  What if all this automation were instead to provide so much luxury that we enter a post-work era, when humans are required to do very little labor and machines provide everything we need?
This is the theory of ‘Fully Automated Luxury Communism’, an idea and ideology that in the (near) future, machines could provide for all our basic needs, and humans would be required to do very minimal work — perhaps as little as 10–12 hours a week — on quality control and similar oversight, to ensure luxury for everyone.
Robots, AI, machine learning, big data, etc. could basically make human labor redundant and instead of creating even further inequalities it could lead to a society where everyone lives in luxury and where machines produce everything.
(Think of the egalitarian society of The Federation portrayed in Star Trek where physical needs are met with “replicators” and other advanced technology, and you have a pretty good idea what they’re talking about.)
“There is a tendency in capitalism to automate labor, to turn things previously done by humans into automated functions,” Aaron Bastani, co-founder of Novara Media and a “luxury communist” told The Guardian. “In recognition of that, then the only utopian demand can be for the full automation of everything and common ownership of that which is automated.”
In fact, the idea of a luxury communist utopia isn’t exactly new. Sure, this version has cool robots, but historians can trace the idea back as far as the 19th century.
The trick, however, is subordinating the technology to global human needs rather than profits. But this has been the sticking point for communism since its conception.  Without profits — or some other strong inherent incentive — what motivation is there to innovate, to adapt, to improve? Many historians agree that communism in Western Europe failed due to stagnation and a failure to adapt, because its constituents were not motivated to produce more than the status quo in any area.
That isn’t to say I think the idea is all bad, either. Putting modern technology to work for the people is an excellent goal, and democratizing the advantages of our advances is already happening.  It is a worthy cause to bring governments and nonprofit organizations onto the same technological footing as for-profit companies could result in huge strides towards improving living conditions, decreasing crime, ending poverty and other problems.
And it’s also true that technology must be seen not just as the scythe, reaping jobs and opportunities at every turn, but also the sower of new opportunities to replace the ones that were lost.
But I’m not sure we’ll ever reach a state of “Cartier for everyone, MontBlanc for the masses and Chloe for all,” as Bastani preaches.
Where do you think we’re headed as more automation, robotics and technology come on the market? Are we in for an economic apocalypse as the robots take all our jobs, or more towards a utopian future in which the machines create a paradise for all? As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
Thank you for reading my post. Here at LinkedIn and at Forbes I regularly write about management, technology and Big Data. If you would like to read my future posts then please click 'Follow' and feel free to also connect via TwitterFacebookSlideshare, and The Advanced Performance Institute.
You might also be interested in my brand new and free ebook on Big Data in Practice, which includes 3 Amazing use cases from NASA, Dominos Pizza and the NFL. You can download the ebook from here: Big Data in Practice eBook

Independent Elderly - An Internet of Things use case?

While it is imperative that the Elderly must be taken care of by the younger generation, it is inevitable that at some point in time, the Elderly has to face situations where they have to be independent to some degree in their lives. Thus, their empowerment for independent living at home has been forthcoming for some time. In this article, we explore the role of Internet of Things (IoT) in empowering the elderly.
One of the many use cases for Internet of Things (IoT) that I have come across is Healthcare. Some uses of healthcare IoT are mobile medical applications or wearable devices that allow patients to capture their health data. Hospitals use IoT to keep tabs on the location of medical devices, personnel and patients. IoT can be used to collect and share patients' biometric data and monitor them after they've been discharged from a hospital.
Internet of Things can be a powerful enabler for Independent living at home for the elderly. To that end, we need an integration of home automation and emergency communications. This requires incorporation of IoT enabled household products into the homes of the Elderly together with a central control device or a smartphone application that can be used with relative ease to control these IoT enabled devices. 
The users also ought to be able to access panic buttons or an emergency communications device that can be used to send pre-programmed messages for different kinds of emergencies, to the appropriate people  (always informing the near and dear ones and selectively informing the doctors and the nurses, the police, the firemen or other emergency services).
Home surveillance is another feature that can be incorporated, but it is not for those who are very protective of their privacy. Instead of visual surveillance, a less intrusive form of surveillance may be tried out using a wide variety of sensors – bed sensors – to ensure the user gets enough sleep, pillbox sensors – to ensure the user takes his/her pills if he/she has any, washroom sensors, smoke sensors and so on. One major class of devices that can be used are medical wearables that monitors the heart rate and pressure, and administers different medicines periodically or reminds the user to take his/her medicines.
This is not an exhaustive list of things we could do. I am sure we will be able to reach much better refined solutions through brainstorming and having open discussions with the experts in the relevant fields and the general public having different perspectives and solutions. Technology is not for replacing the actual human interaction with all its emotional complexities, but rather to complement and enhance it. We as a humanity, strive towards reaching closer to the best solution through constant innovation.
Do let me know about your thoughts in the comments.

Drone Ecosystems

Despite a slow and hesitant start in legislative terms, the United States now seems to be laying the foundations for the development of a whole ecosystem related to using drone technology for commercial uses.
Less than three years after Amazon’s first announcement about using drones for logistics, which it was later detailed, along with the first battery of doubts about their viability, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has just announced that we are “one of the most dramatic periods of change in the history of transport “, predicting that there will be more than 600,000 commercial drones in the air within a year, and millions by 2020.
The first official logistics shipping in the history of the United States, 4.5 kilos of medical supplies to a rural clinic, took place on July 20, 2015, just a year ago. The history of the commercial use of drones runs parallel to the development of the recreational market drones, but differs from it, as is logical, in terms of requirements.
Following the regulatory challenges raised by these devices when they became the top Christmas gift of 2015, with more than a million of them placed in the hands of mostly completely inexperienced users desperate to fly them as soon possible, aseries of rules were imposed, an online registry was set up for owners, althoughnot all bothered to, while an Android and iOS app, B4UFLY, were created for new owners, providing geolocated information on the limitations in certain places.
Regarding their commercial use, where there are other players in addition to Amazon, the FAA’s legislation turned out to be more lax and permissive than expected. Getting a commercial pilot’s license to fly a drone is apparently not as simple as passing a driving test, but there is now a specific exam requiring study of an 87-page guide.
Meanwhile, applications for drones of all kinds are being developed: Africa is seen by many as a test site for commercial uses, while Arab emirates like Dubai, with their towering skyscrapers, offer an ideal environment, and we may well seehomes redesigned to provide landing spaces for drones… although there is stillsome resistance.
Will drones really become the way goods are delivered in the near future, as the FAA says, a revolution in logistics and freight? Does the technology add up in terms of cost and operational use? Obviously, not all freight will be carried by air, but it could play an important role in some areas, especially if costs are reduced by no longer needing human drivers. Plans are already underway for fully automated drones equipped with anti-collision sensors. From being little more than an expensive toy, drones are now about to redefine transport in many ways.
In a few years, seeing drones flying across the sky will be part of everyday life, another scenario that many people still see as science fiction, but that the FAA and many industry players insist will be science fact. Like them or not, when the deadline for the launch of an ecosystem with technology, people, companies and legislative environments is between one and four years away, we can safely say that the future is already here.

Twitter and Apple - Is There a Future?

A couple months back I had written a blog titled: "Should Google Admit Defeat and Buy Twitter" that was widely read. Today I'd like to discuss Twitter with Apple.
Apple has had a long history of leading the way through innovation. Even the harshest of critics cannot deny that the arrival of the iPod, iPhone, and iPad changed everything by defining the needs that consumers didn’t even know they had. However, the winning formula has started to highlight a few weaknesses.
In recent years they seem to have lost their way, and many are asking if they have even forgotten how to innovate? iPad and iPhone sales are now on the decline, and the Apple Watch is failing to capture our imagination. Meanwhile, the impending announcements no longer create the same level of excitement that they used to.
Before the arrival of the next big keynote speech, it seems the tech press are more concerned with Apple's mysterious antics on Twitter than any new Apple products.
Despite signing up on Twitter back in 2011, the @Apple account remained unused with the default egg profile picture. However, on Thursday evening an Apple logo and custom banner appeared on the profile causing widespread speculation about what Apple might be planning.
Shortly after the Twitter account went live again, Apple shared a promotional tweet reminding users about next week’s event. The tweet urged Apple fans to retweet the status in order to get an event reminder. Obviously this had led many to wonder if there is more to the story.
Apple is no stranger to the social media platform. There are already several accounts heavily used for support and information on iTunes, Apple Music and the App Store. But Apple has been averse to promoting its products and services via third party platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
Why wait all these years until now to wake up to the dormant official corporate account? Refusing to promote their products on social media has given Apple a reputation of being somewhat aloof. In the good old days, they created a reputation for being different, superior even in some respects, perhaps a class apart from the rest and claimed to refuse to cheapen their brand through third party channels and social media.
Today in 2016, it seems that a little extra help might be needed for Apple to remain at the top of the tech heap. The white noise of social media is a far cry from the clean and minimalistic Apple stores. But maybe we need to look beyond the impending keynote speech and think bigger in order to understand what could be on the horizon for Apple as well as for Twitter.
Could Twitter and Apple be on the verge of announcing a massive collaboration project? I can't help but think there is much more to this story than Apple simply deciding to tweet its iPhone 7 launch.
The New York Times recently reported that Twitter was ready to take a big gamble on live streaming. Having already paid the N.F.L. approximately $10 million to stream ten games, it seems the social network might be ready to evolve, pivot or even re-invent itself depending on your viewpoint.
The attraction for users is that it takes away the hassle of paywalls and issue-logs. Football fans simply need to open up Twitter in order to get their sporting fix. Could this new direction suggest that a Twitter app on Apple TV would be the next natural step? It would certainly help fans watch video content on a bigger screen.
Twitter has been struggling to secure any form of growth and the streaming of events could be the silver bullet needed to broaden its appeal to mainstream users. Apple has also experienced a slowdown in growth and there is an increasing sentiment that they might have finally peaked. In many ways, Apple and Twitter are ideally suited to help improve each other's prospects.
After Microsoft's recent acquisition of LinkedIn, many analysts quickly asked if anybody was going to buy Twitter? In fact I even argued not too far back that Google should be buying Twitter. Sure Google and Facebook would be the prime suspects with the most to gain from such an alliance or acquisition. But is it really unthinkable for Apple to throw their hat into the ring and buy themselves a seat at the table of social media?
All waits to be seen of course but I have a sneaking suspicion that Apple might prove that they still have a few surprises up their sleeve.

5 Reasons Many African Businesses Do Not Survive Beyond A Generation

IBM. Coca-Cola. Ford. Nestlé. Pepsi. General Electric. Procter & Gamble. Bacardi.
I’m sure these names ring a bell. Apart from being large, highly successful global businesses, they also have something very interesting in common:
All of them have been in existence for more than a century.
Yes, started over 100 years ago, the entrepreneurs who founded these remarkable businesses are long dead, but these companies have continued to exist, thrive and expand even after the minds that conceived them left this earth.
Some of these businesses, like Ford and Bacardi, have remained within family circles, and passed through successive generations. Other businesses — like Coca-Cola, IBM, and General Electric — have changed hands several times but continue to exist and expand as very successful companies.
Do family-controlled businesses have a better chance of ‘multi-generational survival’ than non-family-controlled businesses?
Interestingly, there’s some interesting evidence in favour of family-controlled businesses. However, to my mind, both types of businesses have a good chance of survival if some things are done right.
Across Africa, the situation is quite different. Apart from a handful of small family businesses, and a few others with colonial ties, it’s often not the norm to find African businesses or brands that have survived beyond their founders.
For some strange reason, after the founder retires or dies, the business starts on a path of slow or accelerated death.
In this article, I share my thoughts on this ugly trend, and five of the biggest reasons why most African businesses don’t last beyond a generation.

1) Poor Succession Planning

Africans typically don’t like to think or talk about death, grave misfortune or permanent disability. It's no surprise the insurance business isn't a top performer on the continent, compared to other climes.
While nobody would wish for misfortune or death, they’re some of life’s risks and realities. And we must always consider, and plan for them.
However, while human life is finite and vulnerable to death and misfortune, a business can ‘theoretically’ live forever.
The best time to find a successor with the right level of commitment, vision and zeal to lead a business beyond the lifetime of the founder isn’t when the founder retires or is on his/her deathbed.
Finding the right successor to take the reins of a business is a conscious, deliberate and calculated process (or decision) that should not be left to chance, or emergency situations. Actually, the earlier the process of succession planning is started in the life of a business, the better.
Death, misfortune, and accidents never give advance warnings. There’s an intrinsic risk in every young business that it could cease to exist if the brain behind it suddenly disappears (probably due to death or illness), or is no longer available to nurture, drive and grow the business.
Actually, planning for succession doesn’t have to be tough and complicated, like most entrepreneurs think. The secret is to make the conscious decision, and start the process early.
Successors could come from anywhere. They could come from within the family (children, siblings etc.), or they could be business partners who share the risk and ownership of the business with you. Successors could also come from your most promising employees.
Once you have identified the likely candidate(s), it’s important to get them more involved in the business and groom them for leadership. They need to understand the nuts and bolts of the business and share a strong interest and passion in growing it into a bigger and better organisation.
If you identify any skills or knowledge they may be missing, invest in their learning and training. Formal education, short courses, mentorship, coaching and exposure are critical to the nurture and grooming of successors.
Whenever I discuss succession with entrepreneurs, the most common kickback I get is: “what if these potential successors know too much and become 'dangerous' to the business?”
That’s a valid concern, but to my mind, the risk of the business going extinct due to poor succession planning is far more dangerous and outweighs this common concern.

2) Small thinking

There’s no crime in starting small. Most businesses start small. Often, the mistake is staying small and ignoring possibilities for growth.
Many African businesses remain small all through the lifetime of the founder. And I think one key reason for this is many founders in Africa think small. What stops that small corner shop from becoming a national or international franchise? Why can’t that popular neighborhood product or service that you provide become a national brand?
Did you know that Coca-Cola was initially developed as a patent medicine; an elixir that claimed to cure morphine addiction and headaches? This dark-coloured drink, developed by a local drugstore owner in 1885, has now become a hugely successful international brand – a casual drink that now exemplifies fun, friendship and refreshment!
To my mind, small thinking undermines the possibilities and potential of many businesses in Africa. If only we knew how big some of our local products and services could truly become, most African founders would test the limits of their vision and challenge themselves more.
By thinking big, the possible lifespan of your business automatically increases. Growth and expansion are objectives that could take several generations to accomplish, and embracing this vision can eliminate shortsightedness and increase your horizon of possibilities.
The best part: thinking small – like thinking big – costs nothing. Just do it!

3) Lack of structure and business systems

One key trait of successful businesses, especially those that have existed through several generations, is the existence of a clear structure and business systems that help the business to operate effectively.
Structure is essential to every well-run business because it provides order, assigns responsibilities for key activities, and improves accountability. The reality is, many African businesses cannot function independently of the founder.
For example, if the founder is out of town for any reason, or unavailable to sign cheques, suppliers and employees may not get paid on time. If she doesn’t OK a deal, it’s likely to fall through. His involvement in the business is often so centraland too personal that it gets in the way of everything.
Business systems are also very important. How many medium-sized businesses on the continent actually have policies and procedures that govern everything from recruitment, employee conduct, finance and accounting, among others?
How many businesses actually keep accurate and up-to-date records of their activities, including complete information about operations, finances, transactions, customers, suppliers, employees and everything else?
It’s not surprising then that the most critical information and records concerning most businesses are housed in the heads of their founders. They seem to be the only ones who know where everything should be and how the business should run.
With this kind of ‘organised chaos’, it’s almost impossible to carry on a business when the almighty founder is suddenly unavailable.

4) Blind to business trends and changes

Another strong feature of businesses that last beyond a generation is their ability to adapt. In a world of constantly changing markets, consumer trends, socio-political influences and outright disruption, adaptation is a key strength of businesses that will survive today and in the future.
It's a simple rule; adapt or die!
Many businesses seem to think that they’ve found a formula for success that will remain effective for a thousand years.
Big lie.
Entrepreneurs are often too focused on running their businesses that they don’t take the time to look into the distance to think, strategise or identify current and future threats or risks that could significantly affect their business, or worse still, kick them out of business.
In today’s globalized and interconnected world, one disruptive idea or business in a faraway country can totally change the landscape of your industry or market so fast you may never find the time to think or plan.
Looking into the future, and observing changes and trends in both the local and international market place has become increasingly important for African entrepreneurs and businesses. With a growing number of foreign businesses and brands expanding their footprint in Africa, even small family-owned corner shops and neighborhood businesses may not be spared.
To survive in these times of rapid change, entrepreneurs need to be open-minded and must not take everything for granted. Unlike a few decades ago, no business is too big to fail these days. One little unknown startup could have your business for lunch if you’re not prepared to adapt.
Among several others, Über is one typical example of a foreign disruptive idea/business that is changing the landscape of business across Africa – urban transport, in this case. Gradually, Über is eating up the market share of traditional city taxis across Africa, and providing new opportunities for anyone to enter the market.
My advice: stay in the know about developments in your market and industry, both locally and globally. Seek out innovative ways and technologies to make your business run more efficiently; make your products and services more valuable; keep your employees committed and effective; and improve the satisfaction of your customers.
In today’s internet-obsessed world, it’s cheaper and easier to find the information you need. You just need to know where to look, and how to find it.
Here’s one of the most interesting places to get started: The Top 30 Most Powerful Websites for Entrepreneurs and Investors in Africa.

5) A dominant ‘lifestyle’ mentality

I watched an interesting and thought-provoking TEDx Talk by Visu Thembekwayo about some of the reasons why African businesses remain small.
He makes a strong point about the business philosophy of the average African entrepreneur. In this part of the world, the success of a business is often seen by many entrepreneurs as a mandate to shore up their lifestyle.
Fancy cars and homes, globetrotting, expensive clothing, extravagant spending, and lavish displays of wealth are all too common. I guess prudence and moderation are hardly metrics to live by, especially when it comes to showcasing your success to friends, family and associates.
In my opinion, a dominant lifestyle mentality does two dangerous things to the longevity of a business.
The first is distraction. The funds you’re using to shore up your lifestyle can actually be dedicated to improving and expanding the business into a much bigger success. Those funds could also be used for strategic investments that diversify or consolidate the business, making it stronger and more resilient. So, using proceeds from the business to celebrate your ‘success’ is really a sign of small thinking.
The second is you’re sending the wrong signals to your employees and potential successors. People are watching. If you treat the business like an ATM, it’s going to be really hard for anybody else to manage the business with diligence and prudence.
If we see a business as an asset that should be nurtured and expanded beyond our lifetime, maybe we wouldn’t do our best to suck the life out of it, or just see it as a tool to serve our lifestyle needs.

Putting everything together…

Africa can have its own IBMs, Coca-Colas, Fords and Nestlés. But it will not happen by chance. Entrepreneurs on the continent need to take quick, deliberate and calculated steps to navigate the roadblocks and risks I’ve shared with you in this article.
Our continent has several unique products that have the potential to become global brands and build international corporations. While they could become global brands all the same, with or without African entrepreneurs, it would be great if we can pull this off ourselves.
Do you think there are other reasons African businesses aren’t surviving beyond the founders’ generation?
Let’s talk in the Comments section below!

8 Things Employees Desperately Wish Managers Would Do More

The gulf between manager and employee can often seem impossibly wide. Yet employees in these situations rarely feel empowered to offer criticism (even constructive criticism) to their superiors at work. But what would they say if they could?
TINYPulse asked 1,000 workers what they would change about their managers, and many of the answers came down to interpersonal skills.  Unfortunately, people are often promoted based on their hard skills rather than soft skills.
In my experience, I’ve seen eight distinct things employees tend to wish their managers would do more:
It’s the number one thing employees complain about when it comes to management: lack of communication. This includes communicating expectations, goals, deadlines, metrics, and more. If you can’t communicate, you aren’t going to be an effective manager.
It may sound redundant, but a manager needs to actively lead the team, not just hope things happen the way they’re supposed to. This includes having a strong vision for projects, holding regular check-ins, and keeping employees accountable.
Great managers help buffer their teams from outside forces. This includes protecting the team from outside threats and losses, and removing barriers and obstacles that appear in the way of achieving the team goal.
Procure resources
Another main job of a manager is to ensure that the team has everything it needs to meet the goals. This could include financial and material resources, but also getting answers or input from other departments, getting more time for certain projects, or getting buy in from other departments.
A great manager is also a connector who helps people communicate and connect in smart ways. They facilitate relationship building both inside the team and outside the team with other key players.
A little thank you can go a long way when it comes to keeping employees happy. Managers who notice when things are done well and thank or praise the responsible parties are much more likely to be well liked and trusted.
Most employees want to move up in the company or in their careers, and managers should take the role of helping to train and educate employees so that they can do their best now and in the future. If you’re not available or qualified to train in a particular field, open up possibilities for your employees to take seminars or online courses to improve — and encourage continuing education.
Micromanagement is one problem that will quickly erode employee satisfaction. Employees want to know you respect them enough to give them an important project, and that you trust them enough to do it. Be there to help as necessary, but allow the employee to figure it out. That shows great trust.
Of course, employees might also wish they could get a raise, or make other changes that are beyond a manager’s direct control, but these eight qualities show up again and again in the great managers I’ve known and studied.
What would you add to this list?  What other qualities do employees want more of in their managers? I’ll be interested to read your thoughts in the comments below.  

Apple iPhone 7: Are You F#$king Kidding Me?

Let me get right to the point. The new iPhone 7 is a fantastic, awesome, incredible, spectacular iteration of the iPhone 6. Great processor (a quad-core, 64-bit A10 Fusion), outstanding rear-facing camera (12 MP), a new wireless chip (W1) to facilitate Bluetooth connectivity, iOS 10, a pressure-sensitive home button, and taptic feedback. Oh, yeah, there’s one more thing …
There’s no headphone jack.
Calm down, fan people – I’m going to make my case.
It would have been fine to replace the 3.5 mm jack with an additional lightning port. If the iPhone 7 had two lightning ports, you would be able to do all of the following:
  • Listen to Music While Charging Your iPhone
  • Talk with Wired Headphones While Charging Your iPhone
  • Use a Payment Dongle While Charging Your iPhone
  • Do Anything Other than Charge Your iPhone While Charging Your iPhone

The iPhone 7 Has Only One Lightning Port!

Which means that to do any of the above, you will need a huge dongle like the Belkin Lightning Audio + Charge RockStar.™ It’s not the $40 price tag that bothers me, it’s that I need to carry it in my pocket at all times.

Or if you reject the idea of using headphones with a lightning plug, you will need an adapter cable (included with your iPhone 7).
Or you can purchase a different dongle with one 3.5 mm jack and one lightning jack.
Oh, wait, there’s one more thing …

You Will Also Need Two Pairs of Headphones

No device you own is compatible with lightning plugs. So if you want to use your new lightning connector headphones to video chat (Skype, Facebook Messenger Video, Google Hangouts, etc.) on your laptop, you’ll need a “female-lightning to male 3.5 mm adapter” (which currently does not exist) or you’ll have to use your old headphones. In fact, if you want to listen to anything on any device other than an iPhone 7 (including your MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, all iPads, iPods, etc.), you will need an adapter that does not yet exist or your old headphones or earbuds.

Why Defend an Ancient Technology?

The venerable 3.5 mm headphone jack is a minified version of a hundred-year-old, single-use, antiquated, old-fashioned, generally awful receptacle for an equally outdated 3.5 mm plug. It comes in a few iterations. TS (tip, sleeve) for mono audio. TRS (tip, ring, sleeve) for stereo. TRRS (tip, ring, ring, sleeve) for stereo audio with a microphone. TRRRS (tip, ring, ring, ring, sleeve) for stereo audio and a video signal. It has been around since the earth was cooling. And while it generally sucks, it is the world standard connector for consumer-grade headphones and earbuds.

Shelly, You’re on the Wrong Side of History – The Future Is Digital!

Yep. It sure is. And the lightning connector offers 24-bit, 48 kHz lossless output, which you need like a hole in your head with the 29-cent transducers on the business end of consumer-grade earbuds! If you compress your music files by checking the “convert higher bit rate songs to 128 kbps AAC,” you cannot – not won’t, cannot – hear the difference between analog or digital earbuds. The audio resolution simply isn’t there. If you’re walking outside or in any environment where there is a noise floor of any level above perceived quiet, the difference between analog and digital open-air (as opposed to sealed-ear) earbuds or headphones is imperceptible.
Digital is not the future; it has been around for decades. And those of us who record for a living have been using super high-end digital-to-analog converters (you can’t listen to a digital signal; it must be converted to analog for you to hear it) for years. That’s not what is happening here, so don’t start with me about “digital.” Unless you pioneered digital audio, work in the business, or have an EE in physics, you don’t know enough about it.

The Future Is Wireless

OK, let’s talk about wireless. The iPhone 7 is not wireless; it now has more wires than any other device I would even consider putting in my pocket. If it were wireless, it would be Qi, PMA/AirFuel or A4WP Rezence inductive charger (“wireless” charging pad) compatible. It is not. Add the power cables to the audio cables to the dongles and adapters, and you are in a sea of cables – the iPhone 7 is as far from wireless as you can get!

What about the New, Cool W1 Chip?

I love it. The W1 chip will make it easier to connect Bluetooth devices together and has many advantages over the current implementation of Bluetooth.
Your current Bluetooth-compatible wireless headphones will work with the iPhone 7. The battery issue will be the same non-starter it has been since you purchased them. Now instead of walking through the airport or train station waiting area muttering “Charge, charge” hoping a Good Samaritan will take pity on you and offer their spare wall brick and lightning cable, you will resort to violence because you will need to charge your iPhone AND your wireless headphones. “Officer, see that the crazy person over there? The one rocking back and forth in the corner who just keeps repeating, ‘I need power, p-o-w-e-r.’ That’s the person who hit me in the head with a huge dongle and stole my charger.”
Wireless headphones are awesome for runners or people who work out. They’re great for short-term uses. If you have the discipline to charge them every day and don’t use them too much, they might be a solution for you. For everyone else in the world, throwing a pair of wireless headphones in your backpack or purse is a useless gesture. They do not hold their charge indefinitely.
The downsides of wireless headphones are well understood by everyone who has ever owned a pair. Even Apple’s new AirPods, which are optimized for long(er) battery life, need to be charged every day. (BTW, and I’m being super serious now, do AirPods present a choking hazard for children? They look pretty small.)

It’s the Thinnest, Most Beautiful iPhone Ever

You will love the fit and finish of an iPhone 7 for the first three minutes you own it. Then, you are going to put it in a case so neither the color of the iPhone nor its relative thinness will matter at all. Any case that can protect the device will make it way thicker, and even Apple’s own preggers-looking iPhone 6s Smart Battery Case completely covers everything but the front of the phone.

Shelly, You’re Too Stupid to Own a Smartphone!

So here’s the thing. The “future is wireless.” We are quickly heading toward a world dominated by wireless networked devices. Soon your Apple Watch, some kind of VR, AR or Mixed Reality glasses, and some kind of implant will get us closer to Ray Kurzweil’s Singularity. How soon? Three years? Four years? By 2040? (That’s the median between Vernor Vinge’s and Ray Kurzweil’s revised estimated dates for the Singularity.)
We’re going there; there’s no question in my mind. That said, there’s no rational explanation for making the iPhone 7 incompatible with every other consumer electronics device on the planet (including every Apple computer ever made).
If the near-term future is wireless, why change the jack now? Demonstrate to the world that 3.5 mm jacks are valueless, and it will be obvious when to remove them. Floppy disks died by themselves, as did CDs and DVDs, because there were better, easier, simpler options that everyone was naturally gravitating toward. No one, and I mean no one, has ever gone to bed at night and, in that special moment between being awake and asleep, had a heavenly voice say to them, “Life on earth would be better if we could just lose that ancient 3.5 mm audio jack. Remove it, and all the problems of humankind will disappear as this evil excuse for an audio connector, this scourge, nay, this blight on the people, is banished from the earth!”


Apple senior vice president Phil Schiller defended the removal of the “ancient” 3.5 mm audio jack thusly: “It comes down to one word: Courage.”
Sorry, Phil. Courage is “what makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist or the dusky dusk.” And “what makes the muskrat guard his musk.” It has absolutely nothing to do with the kind of torture you are about to inflict on millions of loyal iPhone users who did nothing to you, Phil. Nothing but put $240 billion in cash on your balance sheet and make Apple one of the most valuable companies in the world.
And so I shall end as I began and simply ask, “Are you f#$king kidding me?”