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  • Manfredi Sassoli

A tale of two cities

After an intense week of holiday I though I'd share a few observations about life and work. I went to two conferences, one in Paris and one in San Diego.

 Here is what I found:

- Leaving London once in a while, it's good for you (a tad obvious I know)

- I have been to Paris many many times, yet its beauty surprises me every time: seeing beauty is also good for you!

- Paris never changes, and it has a chilled and slightly decadent vibe

- I first heard about Network businesses in a talk by Peter Hinssen four years ago, (his first slide was about the novel "A tale of two cities"), I have been studying networks ever since, and I was in Paris to attend the Platform Design master class by Simone Cicero: his knowledge on the topic was inspiring 

- While his passion was inspiring, his view on how nothing exists in isolation, but everything is part of an ecosystem was even more captivating

The master class was spread across two days and attended by about 35 people. Having spoken to a few of them here is what I learned.

- La Poste, the French national mail system is one of the most innovative companies around (still not easy to survive e-mail)

- Air France are also investing in innovation, it's funny how they have a platform idea that is just like the one from La Poste, it was also interesting to see how they immediately thought about creating one together (rather than competing)

- I met Giuseppe Leoni, he is the MD of a cutting edge innovation consultancy called E-lab: they have a number of major clients. His knowledge was impressive. What I found particularly interesting is that Giuseppe is over 50 and his company is based in Modena a provincial town in Italy. Innovation can come from anywhere!

- I met with my friend Isabel, her start-up is running out of cash but they are about to sign two major corporate clients, (it's a B2B company). l think she will close the deals: her business idea is solid and she is remarkable. She is the main reason I invested in the business. For the foreseeable future people make businesses, not AI (being aware that her business has an AI component to it)

- Creating new platform businesses is getting harder: the next frontier is outside of digital. The Tech giants owns the digital space, the physical space is still up for grab and it can create even stronger ties. This will be facilitated by IoT as the physical world becomes infused with digital technology.

I then went to San Diego to attend the Growth Hacker conference held by Sean Ellis, the guy who basically invented "growth-hacking". For those who don't know growth-hacking is an approach that joins marketing and product to maximise a company's growth - it's often adopted by tech companies. Being California the land of tech and innovation, it seemed like a great opportunity to hear what the though leaders had to say. Some reflections:

 - San Diego is not that pretty but the weather is amazing, not only it's always sunny but the sunshine is bright and fresh. If you ever have to describe the perfect climate, just say: "like February in San Diego".

- I went to a bar to watch the Super Bowl, the first time I ever watched American football. I learned that: 

           - American football games are long, but fun

           - If a guy is sitting on his own in a bar in the states...they're usually up for a chat


Now about the conference:

- Growth hacking is a lot about putting the right processes together and breaking down organisational silos

 - The next layer of sophistication comes from qualitative insight, that's what separates the good from the best

 - In order for the right processes to be followed properly one needs to have the right culture and that stems from the Mission of the company, a WHY.

 - There were mainly two types of audiences at the conference, those below 30, who were the people doing growth-hacking and those above 40, looking to learn what is growth hacking

 - The ones below 30 were doing stuff, but I am not sure they knew why.

 - I met a lady, an experienced marketer, from a company that delivered an online self-improvement solution. They really want to make people live better, they certainly had a WHY

 - I met an eclectic man who was the president of a renewable energy company, their goal was to stop global warming. He had a WHY

 - I heard a talk about the impact of AI in marketing: watch this space

 -I did not hear about growth hacking physical products. I'm sure this is difficult, but again, I think that's where the frontier is

 - I met Sean Ellis in person, the man behind the event. He is not just someone who knows his stuff, he is also a really nice guy. I think that's part of the reason for his success

-The most interesting topic was probably about how one moves from a local maximum to a global maximum, how one moves away from tactical incremental optimisation and makes bold steps to deliver step changes in a company’s performance. There were a couple of interesting views on that, personally I believe that in order to maximise value capture, the moves need to be strategic and therefore based around platform strategy. I know that Simone Cicero is exactly looking at this space: joining Growth Hacking with Platform Design.

 - Two rather successful start-ups have contacted me asking for my contribution. I know the founders of both. I like to think that apart from my skills, they got in touch because they know they can trust me (again, people)

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