While I am using this extended time at home to try and develop my guitar playing, as a huge fan of films, Maria has just started a new online course in the history of cinema. One surprising thing that she told me was that the inventor of the photographic negative was Brazilian-French inventor Antoine Hercule Romuald Florence, who created it in 1833 in Campinas, in the state of São Paulo.
Now that I am living in Brazil I am much more senstised to the way in which so many inventions, works of art and literature, cultural movements and other significant creative developments simply have not received the global recognition they quite properly merit, this being just one example of many.
On a more positive note, Maria also spoke after her first lesson about the story of Marie-Georges-Jean Méliès, who was one of the most creative cinematographers of his era, developing special effects and editing techniques in his films as A Trip to the Moon (1902) and The Impossible Voyage (1904).
The striking thing for me about Méliès and other film pioneers of this era was how they explored this nascent technology by taking every advance to the absolute limit. We see this same attidude in the musical and sonic innovations of The Beatles, who showed no fear in dismantaling and desconstructing recording equipment, and finding ways to create songs, motifs and solos in ways never previously heard before.
The reason for this article is that yesterday I completed an interview for my old school which was asking some probing and interesting questions about what had been my inspiration and what had propelled me into my current work and role. This led me to think about the fact that I have always been curious, always experimental and always wanting to create things, and that this has always led me to looking for opportunities allowing me to enjoy this creativity rather than simply doing a job which finishes at the end of each working day.
Throughout the 90s I worked at British Telecom, first at BT Laboratories, and then in 96 I moved to BT Cellnet where I was the business development manager responsible for smart phones. This was a very exciting time to be working in telecoms and the internet, and I remember the same pioneering spirit across many different companies, all working both competitively and also co-operatively to develop the mobile internet, its protocols, platforms and value propositions.
Within BT Cellnet I was focused on music, games and entertainment, and in 1997 I become the co-founder of Genie Internet, one of the UK’s first startups, founded inside of BT who financed the project. At the same time I started work on developing one of the world’s first mobile gaming platforms, allowing me to work not only with some of the world’s leading technologists, but also with many of the most forward-thinking music and gaming companies who wanted to work with us to launch their content and apps on top of the nascent platforms which we were designing.
At times it felt that we had to design everything from scratch, and I remember the struggles we had with the complexity of online and mobile music solutions in the very early days, trying to understand how to manage the content, develop payment systems, design business models for multiple partners, deal with legal rights issues and cope with the lack of broadband at that time. But like all pioneering innovators before us, we had to continually attempt to see the component parts in new ways, and absolutely maximise any available technology to bring our visions to fruition.
Genie Internet reached an independent market valuation of £1 billion, making it one of the UKs most valuabe startups of its time. BT Cellnet did not though wish to invest in the creation of an additional mobile gaming service, and so Kevin Bradshaw, the technical consultant who I had been working with to define and build it, decided to leave his consultancy work to take the vision as the basis for a new startup which he founded, Digital Bridges, which soon became one of the world’s top three mobile gaming platforms, and which I would later join a year later.
With this insiders background in the birth of the platform age of business, I have always followed developments in this area, always believing in the potential of platforms for the positive good of the world. For this reason in 2015 I coined the phrase The New 4Ps (platforms, purpose, people and planet) as I was looking to find a way to explain how the new entrepreneurial reality was changing and that the original 4Ps of product, prince, place and promotion while still valid for thinking about marketing, were no longer able to fully frame this new reality and the importance of the emerging platform paradigm.
Two decades later it is therefore sobering to see how these developments have evolved into an incredible concentration of power, with Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet, Amazon, Facebook, Alibaba e Tencent now representing more than US$ 6.3 trillion in market value, meaning that seven out of ten of the most valuable businesses are now platform-based enterprises.
This concentration of wealth and technological power raises many important questions in relation to how we now see the evolution of advanced technology in relation to evolving to more equitable societies and restoring our planet’s depleted natural ecosystems. What does it mean to be human in this new reality which is emerging, and how will organisations and businesses evolve to ensure that they continue to be meaningful and impactful in our lives.
Through our work with Holonomics, 1STi and the Deep Tech Network, of which Maria and I are co-founders, we are finding that many people in our networks are finding the New 4Ps extremely useful in terms of their ability to frame new conversations and new questions.
We have been sharing many of these conversations through our Deep Tech Podcast, and in the coming weeks we will have some very special guests who will be discussing about how their organisions are already putting these ideas into practice. And in additon to the podcast, Maria and I, along wioth Igor Couto, CEO of 1STi, Brazil’s leading deep tech consultancy, we will be taking part in a webinar hosted by Hiria, where we explore deep tech and the new 4Ps, also taking questions from the audience.
While these podcasts and webinars are all in Portuguese, we also realise the responsibilities we all have for ensuring that the English-speaking world also has access to the conversations. We are sharing a lot of technical expertise and also guidance on how technology can be made accessible to all communities of the world, and for this reason we will soon be making another major announcement which will help the world understand just exactly what is happening in Brazil that is positive, constructive and innovative, to counter the predominantly negative narrative that is all that is being reported at this moment in time.
So in contrast to Antoine Hercule Romuald Florence who did not receive the recognition he merited, we now really hope to be able to shine a spotlight and showcase many extremely interesting people, projects and innovations from Brazil which have so much potential to impact positively on the world in so many different ways.
If you would like to join our webinar (Portuguese), it will take place on the 17th June at 6pm. Registration is free, simply sign up on the webinar home page here. I hope some of you will be able to join us in this continual and evolving conversation, exploring, envisioning and developing technology with soul.