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The influence and reach of technology across every industry cannot be denied. Whether you’re in finance, medicine, transportation or marketing, technology has completely invaded the way you operate. Perhaps no one understands this better than David Kirkpatrick, CEO & Founder of Techonomy, Author & Journalist.

From the customer-centric nature of Amazon to The Facebook Effect, David has a unique and brilliant take on the breadth of technology’s impact. We chat about recognizing the influence of technology, understanding the social responsibility of major tech organizations, and our  firm’s new strategic partnership with Techonomy. Take a listen below.

I have heard countless young companies talk about hockey stick growth patterns but over time you learn how rare they actually are. So when mentions of blockchain technology formed a clear hockey stick in our social media trend data, we started paying attention. It is clearly time to take a closer look at some places where this technology may be grabbing a foothold.

Management of Patient Medical Records

What if all patient records from all health providers were available in a unified and unmodifiable form? What if access to these records was controlled by each patient or their legal guardian? What if this system drastically reduced data management costs while improving overall security? This system is possible for a medical records system controlled by a blockchain. Based on this vision, numerous companies have raised a lot of money to try and make this happen.

Unfortunately I see a blockchain based system of this type as being at least a few years away. In the mean time new regulations are forcing hospitals and other medical facilities to move to digital records in the next five to ten months. This is a big problem for those pursuing blockchain solutions for health records and is one of the reasons why I do not see blockchain playing a major role in this aspect of healthcare in the short or even the medium term.

To understand why it can take years to create a blockchain solution consider this list of huge challenges:

  • Identity Management
    • To strictly manage control of medical records so that only authorized people can see them we have to be sure that people are who they say they are.
  • Permissions Management
    • We have to have a flexible system for allowing access to records that can handle a huge number of standard and emergency scenarios.
  • Data Management
    • While we want to protect individual’s records, aggregate data across a population can have a huge positive benefits for the industry. Providing a secure solution that protects individual’s records but also accurately reports on populations is not easy but blockchain solutions are in the works such as Project Enigma at the MIT Media Lab.
  • Systems Integration
    • Existing software systems using a staggering variety of protocols and formats for their data. Getting agreement on standards and then creating adapters to conform to those standards is a gigantic enterprise that will require large scale industry cooperation.

So the big prize of Health Care Records on the blockchain seems out of reach for the foreseeable future. Where are the real opportunities for blockchain?

Identity Management

Plugging in a blockchain-based plug-in module to reliably handle the identities of patients and health care professionals could be huge for the industry. Fortunately, this is true for almost every industry and not just healthcare. Accordingly, there are hundreds of companies, large and small, working on this problem.

Last May a huge step forward was taken when Microsoft, Uport and several other companies formed the Decentralized Identity Foundation ( to create consensus standards for identity management. Since then another 25 companies have joined the effort including IBM, Accenture and Hyperledger. This unified effort seems to be the best hope for a blockchain-based identity system within a year or so although there is competition from the ICON foundation among others.

Organic Material Supply Chain Management

Tracking the movement and delivery of drugs, organs, blood, tissue and the like is a huge problem area in healthcare. Billions are lost from fraud, theft, and spoilage. Here a blockchain-based solution can serve to track the movement of shipments by adding records to the blockchain at each step of the delivery process. The unmodifiability of the records provides a reliable means to discover exactly where the problem occurred when goods are lost or stolen.

A few months ago we learned that IBM is spearheading a blockchain-based supply chain solution in food delivery along with partners including Walmart, Dole, Kroger, Unilever, Hersheys and other big names in agriculture and food processing. This suggests that blockchain is ready to make a difference today by improving the efficiency and security of the world’s food supply.

It turns out that the leaders of top pharma companies were not ignoring this trend. According to an IEEE report, most are involved with or else thinking about starting pilot projects along these lines. The first public announcement of a blockchain drug supply chain pilot project came on September 21 when Genentech and Pfizer revealed that the MediLedger Project is underway using JP Morgan’s Quorum blockchain.

Of particular note is additional technology provided by a startup company named Chronicled. They provide a portable temperature logger that puts temperature data on the blockchain as well as a tamper-proof sticker that makes recording the movement of drug shipments dirt simple.

A wonderful thing about this use case is that with enough automation at the various shipment checkpoints there may be little need for the people moving the materials to change the way that they perform their work. This makes technical adoption easy.


At this point it is entirely reasonable to maintain a skeptical attitude towards blockchain-based solutions in healthcare, however the chance for disruption is very real. My assessment is that Supply Chain Management will be the initial ‘killer app’ for blockchain in healthcare, but there are other interesting projects worth knowing about as well. We will present some of these in a future blog post.

If you want to know more about this topic I suggest starting with the recent presentation by the HIMSS Blockchain Work Group entitled ‘Navigating the Blockchain Landscape’ (

If you have your own hot story about anything in the healthcare industry, let W2O Group help you build your very own social media hockey stick.

Tell us about your new company, Kaleido Insights? And what was the inspiration for the name?

Jeremiah: We’re a new boutique research and advisory firm, with four analyst partners. We’re focused on the buyers within large companies, who are often in marketing, innovation, product, strategy and beyond. My partners are Rebecca Lieb, who focuses on marketing, media, and content;also Jaimy Szymanksi who focuses on customer experience and digital transformation; and Jessica Groopman whose expertise is in autonomous technologies like IoT, Blockchain, and artificial intelligence. I focus on Corporate Innovation and new business models.

We’ve all seen an increase in the rate of emerging technologies, and it’s leaving business decision makers overwhelmed and confused as how to possibly keep up. Our brand, Kaleido (like Kaleidoscope) reflects how  so many different technologies, like the shards within a kaleidoscope, create a fragmented, chaotic environment for companies. We try to provide clarity through the ever shifting lens. The tripartite logo represents our unique methodology on how we analyze any technology: impacts on Humans, impacts on Businesses, and finally the impacts on the larger Ecosystem.

This is your third research firm – the last two being Forrester and Altimeter – how is Kaleido Insights different?

Jeremiah: Ah yes, great companies, great experience all who taught me a tremendous amount, I’m grateful for those experiences. Currently, Kaleido Insights is the only independent analyst firm focused on the buyer side. There’s larger analyst firms, but it’s easy to differentiate from them as a smaller, more nimble organization.

What are the focus areas of Kaleido Insights (would be good to hit hard on the analytics/data piece here)?

Jeremiah: Kaleido Insights’ coverage areas don’t focus on single point technologies, but rather on the ‘horizontal’ areas that remain core to any business—the areas that are constantly impacted by emerging technologies. Collectively, these form a foundation for any digital innovation strategy. Our 4 coverage areas include:

  • Customer Experience: Including deep analysis on consumer-facing programs, technologies, empowerment, and the organizational transformations required
  • Business Models & Monetization: Including the impacts of emerging technologies on monetization models, and the role of innovation programs
  • Marketing & Media: Including emerging practices in content and marketing strategy and execution and how to align hyperlocal, local, regional, corporate, and global teams for success
  • Automation: Including the ever-evolving role of devices, algorithms, and architectural innovations in product, service, and process automation, driven by IoT, artificial intelligence, blockchain, and beyond

You mentioned in your announcement that you will continue to run Crowd Companies as well. Will there be synergies/overlap between Crowd Companies and Kaleido Insights?

That’s correct, Crowd Companies, which I started around 4 years ago, will continue forward under my leadership, with a seasoned team in place. Crowd Companies is a peer-to-peer council for corporate innovation and digital leaders –it was important to segment an advisory services firm away from the council. This separation is common at other large Industry Analyst firms, too. It’s possible we’ll have overlapping clients but the business models are significantly different.

Who is your dream customer and in one sentence, why should they be working with you?

Jeremiah: Our dream customer is a business leader at a large complex company that needs help innovating their digital strategy. They want help in charting the path, researching the market, and then collaborating with our team on an actionable road map that they can execute, while we coach the team. We’re seeking those long-term relationships so we can aid them as they shift their businesses to adapt to the many technologies that are constantly emerging.

You recently ran the Spartan Beast World Championship. You mentioned in a Facebook post that it was one of the hardest things you’ve ever done in your life. How does that compare to starting a business?

Jeremiah: We all spend most of our adult lives focusing on our career (often even more effort that we focus on our fitness) so getting back into shape was a significant challenge. It took about 3 years to get into shape so I could finish the 17 mile race in Tahoe with 38 military-style obstacles, but I got it done. With that said, it wasn’t easy, while the professionals finished in just over 4 hours, my time was just over 9 hours. What’s the insight and how it applies to business? With ample research, training and dedication and you can accomplish your goals in all areas of your life. On a personal note, I strive to balance three things: family, fitness, and being a founder.

From ubiquitous technologies to data privacy to multi-platform convenience, Europeans are on the verge of redefining how consumers and brands interact

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is quickly becoming more and more accepted not only in our personal lives but for business as well. It seems like each day we are exposed to a different AI application and with it a new experience. AI is the enabler within a digital world that is changing the customer journey offering a smoother path toward purchase, an instantaneous set of data to strengthen knowledge, and a more seamless way of living life.

Here in Europe, there is a growing AI industry spread across a number of countries.  This solid infrastructure represents the next generation of business putting European companies at the forefront of this new technology and with it the challenge of navigating new pressures – both political and societal. Today, UK has the strongest AI ecosystem followed by German, France and Spain.

So where does this leave us from a communications and marketing standpoint?

First and foremost, the coming age of AI provides an early blueprint for how companies can convey their business mission, purpose, and efficacy. It begins with an analysis of the organisation’s influencer network. Meaning those constituents who are interested in your products and services, policies and beliefs, and who are shaping your story and carrying your messages. This ecosystem allows you to determine the vagaries of opinion across countries, boundaries, and regions.

Among the areas where AI is finding a home throughout Europe include: call centres, wearables, fitness, health and wellness, home security, HR recruiting, note-taking, banking, virtual assistants, payments, conferencing, search, lighting, energy management, warehousing, customer service, video games, robotics, etc. The benefits of AI revolve around a richer, more seamless customer experience tying people more closely to the brand in large and small ways such as product customisation, ordering ease, addressing issues promptly, faster turnaround, and more choice.

The promise of AI is the result of a digital world where technology places control in the hands of the marketplace.

With that in mind, savvy organizations are incorporating new elements into marketing and communications programming to move their business and mindset to the future including gaining knowledge, input, and acceptance of AI.  Among the areas being addressed:

1. Bridging the Present With the Future

Rethinking the overall corporate narrative to paint a picture of what the future can look like

2. Discovering New areas that Improve Customer Experience

Identifying customer service connections where AI provides a high-quality experience

3. Balancing any Arguments That Might Impede Progress 

Providing well thought-out points of view (POV) supporting a more digital experience for customers and employees

4. Engaging in Real-Time Discussion and Debate to Build Confidence and Trust 

Creating interactive tools and apps to generate discussions and debate that leads to stronger policies and clearer decision-making  

One of the most important issues regarding AI, as well as all digital intelligence, has to do with security and privacy.  In April 2016, the European Parliament approved the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which goes into effect in May 2018. The measure is meant to protect an individual’s personal data and information and therefore privacy. As AI becomes prominent security and privacy will rise in importance providing fertile ground for organizations to declare a competitive advantage if their policies protect consumers and employees.

The future in many respects is already here as AI is changing expectations in the marketplace and the workplace. For European brands, who acknowledge this technological revolution, Top of the Document a proactive communications and marketing effort focused on education, efficacy, and dialogue will not only accelerate these changes on macro level but will position them in a much stronger place for growth.

As someone that started podcasting over 10 years ago, it’s amazing to look at how this medium has evolved over the years. Left for dead back just a few years back, podcasts have made a major resurgence thanks to the popularity of shows like Serial, Crimetown and Presidential.

Back in February, we at W2O launched our own new audio series called the What2Know Podcast. The show focuses on learning about best practices, insights and innovation from a variety of industry experts. And while the show caters to leaders in the marketing and communications space, we work hard to make these entertaining (and valuable) for anyone that chooses to listen.

Now that we are 32 episodes in, it felt like the right time to take a look back at some highlights from our guests who have included some incredibly talented people ranging from celebrity chef, Tyler Florence, to Founder of the LAGRANT Foundation, Kim Hunter. Our topics have ranged from using social media to creating amazing fan experiences to escaping from Vietnam with a broken back and dysentery.

Here are a few of my self-created awards from yours truly:

  • “Dumbest moment” Award — Normally, I try and do a fair amount of research before each of my interviews but this process sometimes gets short-circuited when serendipity strikes. Just such a moment happened at the NewCo Shift Summit back in February when I bumped into Grammy-nominated singer/SuperPhone CEO, Ryan Leslie, in the hallway. I hadn’t had Mr. Leslie on my list of interview targets but after hearing his keynote presentation, I realized he was a “must get.” Luckily, I was able to do some crash research on him and had enough material to go on. So we sit down and before I hit the “record” button, I address him as Leslie Ryan. Duh. This turned into a laughable moment soon thereafter when we started the interview and Mr. Leslie waves his conference badge at me as I introduce him so I won’t mix up his name again.
  • “Most enjoyable” Award — While I’ve really enjoyed doing many of these interviews, I was pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable my interview with Stephanie Cathcart, global head of external affairs for GE Oil and Gas, went. Following Stephanie’s talk at the National StratComms Summit, I knew we were like-minded but five minutes into our conversation, there was just this incredible chemistry. She is a total digital nerd and understands the importance of great content.
  • “Best music connection” Award — I had met Comcast’s Chief Product Officer, Chris Satchell, several months before at a VIP party hosted by Comcast in support of the Olympics. Our mutual friend, Brian Solis, introduced us and we chatted for a good 30-40 minutes on at a rooftop bar in the Dogpatch neighborhood of San Francisco. The interview itself was a lot of fun because Chris is an absolutely brilliant technologist but at the end when I asked Chris about the “one album” he would chose to listen to on a deserted island, he shared his top three. And of the three: 1) Achtung Baby, U2, 2) Dirt, Alice in Chains and 3) American Idiot, Green Day, I could have easily chosen any of them for my “deserted island” album. I knew at that point that Chris and I would become good friends.
  • “Sweating bullets” Award — Similar to my “Dumbest moment” Award, I had the luck of sitting down with Mark McKinnon, the Executive Producer/co-host of Showtime’s, The Circus (also the campaign strategist for President George W. Bush, Senator John McCain and former Texas Governor, Anne Richards). I hadn’t expected that I would be able to interview Mark so when he agreed, I was on cloud nine. Unfortunately, the podcast unit I normally used was back in San Francisco so I had our second unit shipped from Austin. Three minutes into the interview, the batteries died and the bag the unit came in didn’t have backup batteries. Needless to say, I spent the next 10 minutes apologizing profusely to Mark while my colleague, Ally Masi, ran around like crazy looking for four AA batteries. Fortunately, the batteries were found and the show continued. And Mark was the consummate guest.
  • “Holy crap I can’t believe I’m talking to this person” Award — I’ve been a huge fan of the musician, ZZ Ward, for five years now. I’ve easily listened to her album, Til the Casket Drops a few hundred times and was quite impressed by how engaging yet approachable she was on social media. As luck would have it my friend (and President of Techonomy), Josh Kampel, knew her manager. Several weeks after I first connected with ZZ’s people, I was able to land an interview with Ms. Ward. It was one of the few I’ve had to do over the phone but it was still one of my all time favorites.

It’s been an awesome 32 weeks ride with some amazing guests. I look forward to the next 32. A big shoutout to all you listeners. And a special thank you to Blaire Clause for producing the show and Maya Ollie for creating the accompanying blogs and social posts.

You can listen to an abbreviated audio recap of the show below. Subscribe for our weekly updates!


Technology continues to move business forward. Businesses tend to adopt new technologies when they provide tangible productivity or efficiency gains. Many times, businesses adopt new technology to stay ahead of their competitors. But that adoption can take years, or even decades for companies to implement. Blockchain is one of those early-stage technologies with massive potential to impact commerce.

I bet that’s what Crowd Companies CEO Jeremiah Owyang thought when he wrote this blog post in late 2016 seeking input for a report on blockchain technology. A few months later, he and co-author Jaimy Szymanski published a report. Their report discusses practical applications of the technology across 10 different industries. Additionally, the report also details six roadblocks to adoption that businesses must overcome.

At this point, even though the technology has been around since 2009, many don’t have a clear understanding of blockchain beyond a cursory familiarity with the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. Those of you looking for a deeper understanding of Bitcoin can check out Motherboard’s primer which includes many articles on the topic.

Blockchain technology is the public ledger that makes it all work. It can also facilitate all kinds of transactions. Jeremiah and Jaimy define blockchain this way: “At its simplest level, the term ‘blockchain’ is used to describe an immutable ledger that exists online, usually fully transparent that stores data in ‘blocks’ once it is approved by the network to meet the standards of the chain.”

The report also calls out smart contracts as a key component in moving adoption forward. Smart contracts define the rules and penalties of an agreement, just like traditional contracts, but with one key difference—smart contracts automatically enforce these obligations.

Smart contracts open up blockchain to the legal industry and  the nine others highlighted in the report. Two industries that stood out to me: 1) Energy – As more households adopt solar energy to power their households, they sometime generate excess energy. Blockchain makes decentralized energy transfer possible via micro-transactions between the seller and purchaser and 2) Travel and Hospitality – Blockchain could enable a “single passenger ID” that could replace multiple documents needed for travel—ticket confirmations, IDs, passports, loyalty cards, etc.

In terms of the six barriers discussed in the report, slow verification speed is probably the biggest current barrier to adoption. How slow? Currently, blockchain verification can take up to 15 minutes to verify a single transaction, vs. the 39 transactions per second that a global financial services company processes, according to their EVP of Operations and CTO. Since the verification process is compute-intensive, it will get faster over time as technology improves. Jeremiah expects companies to deal with this shortcoming in the short term by “utilizing private, commissioned chains.” Longer-term progress will rely on collaboration between businesses and government. And speaking of government, regulations and policies around the technology will be slow to materialize.

In terms of business adoption, blockchain technology reminds me of where social media stood about 10 years ago. Lots of folks saw potential for corporate use, but it took a lot of trial and error before more companies adopted it. I think the technology adoption lifecycle applies here. As more businesses start to see pilot successes and efficiency gains, more companies will join in.

The report covers several good uses cases. One other that wasn’t part of the report: British artist Imogene Heap is experimenting with blockchain as an alternative to iTunes and streaming services. Money that comes from purchases of her new song through blockchain goes directly to producers, writers, musicians and engineers who produced it.

What are your thoughts? Are their industries or business use cases where you see blockchain technology being adopted more quickly over the next three to five years?


Hard to believe, but it’s already that time of year again. The 2018 SXSW PanelPicker goes live today. You have between now and July 21st to submit ideas for consideration. This year, the SXSW folks expect to receive over 5,000 submissions. That kind of competition means brands and individuals need to stand out from the crowd. But how best to do that?

Hugh Forrest, SXSW’s Chief Programming Officer, provides several clues:

  1. Review the sessions and topics resonated in 2017: Unfortunately, there’s not an easy way to filter videos from the SXSW YouTube channel since so many of the older videos have more views overall, but Hugh posted 10 great SXSW 2017 videos volume 1, volume 2 and volume 3 to help. Same goes for SXSW on SoundCloud. Hugh posted 10 top SXSW 2017 podcasts volume 1 and volume 2 to help there as well.
  2. Go Deep: Hugh makes it clear that topic depth matters more than width or breadth. That’s way the SXSW team prefers solo spots over panel sessions.
  3. Focus on the Future: Throughout its history, SXSW focuses on what’s next. But discussing current trends isn’t enough. Hugh’s timeline? Think 3 – 5 years out.
  4. Hugh’s also been pretty blunt about what not to do part 1 and what not to do part 2.

Note in the two what not to do posts, Hugh’s pretty clear that diversity matters. Diversity issues—both in terms of gender and ethnicity—will continue to be an important topic. Furthering that discussion in a meaningful way will be a priority in 2018.

One last thing you can do to improve your chances: attend one of the remaining SXSW Meet Ups. The SXSW team runs  local events in a handful of cities (the Brooklyn Meet Up happens tonight). It’s a place to ask SXSW staffers about the process or other specific questions.

I attended the Austin Meet Up on June 14. That’s where I got to ask for more detail about the selection process overall. Here’s what they told me: they put a lot of stock into original ideas, and reiterated the focus on future-oriented topics that look 3 – 5 years out. They notice if it’s someone (or a brand) that’s spoken before. In those cases, it’s important that the idea explores a new angle or represents a big validation or major progress against earlier ideas. They also look for engagement spikes in the PanelPicker (lots of votes, comments, etc.), so that does influence what they consider as well.

It’s a good reminder that the PanelPicker process is not the only thing that counts. Public votes that come from the PanelPicker count for 30%. Feedback from the SXSW Advisory Board, a group of industry experts from around the world, counts for 40%; lastly, votes from SXSW staff members count for the remaining 30% as they look to strike a balance between new and veteran speakers. See the SXSW PanelPicker About page for more details.

Visit or click on the image below. All the best to those of you who will be working on submissions over the next few weeks!

One of the steps required by the FDA of biotech, medical device and pharmaceutical companies before launching or “commercializing” a new drug/device is to test the drug/device with a certain number of patients. As you can imagine, finding and recruiting the right patients into these clinical trials can be difficult, especially when it comes to rare diseases or uncommon disorders. In the past, companies leveraged radio ads, billboards, ads at bus stops among other techniques but as the world becomes more digital, these tactics have become more expensive and less effective.


Last week, I had the opportunity to sit down with our partner and the founder/CEO of Seeker Health, Sandra Shpilberg, to discuss how companies like hers are leveraging digital marketing to recruit patients more effectively. During our half hour conversation, Sandra and I talk about:

  • The evolution of clinical trial recruitment (CTR)
  • How the web and social media have impacted CTR
  • The impetus for Sandra starting Seeker Health
  • The importance of being “clean and compliant” when recruiting
  • Who and what are inspiring her today

Thank you Sandra for taking the time to chat! I feel a little bit smarter and hopefully our listeners do too!

Note: during the interview, Sandra cites the book, Founders at Work, as one she is in the process of reading. Both of us referred to the author as “Jennifer Livingston.” The author’s correct name is “Jessica Livingston.” We both realized this after the interview but I chose to keep the section in because I liked her thought process about how the book was a quick and efficient way to learn about forty different startup founders.


About a year ago, Uber and Lyft abruptly left Austin after disagreements with the city’s requirement for fingerprinting drivers. Things changed when House Bill 100 was signed into law on May 17.

Fast forward to May 29, when both Uber and Lyft returned their services to Austin. Their respective marketing machines are making it clear they’re back. I’ve seen signs around the city, received emails like this one below from Lyft offering credits to use the service over the next few days. And I’ve seen lots of Uber ads in Facebook throughout this time as well.

Lyft returning to Austin offer

So, what effect has their return had on local ride-sharing companies that have been filling the void for the last year? They’ve all taken big hits. Fare has already made it official announcing they are leaving Austin earlier this week.

Fasten CEO Kiril Evdakov is still bullish on his company’s prospects: “We’re thinking about growth thresholds, not about decline thresholds.”

What got me thinking about all this was the Here and Now interview of RideAustin COO Marisa Goldenberg. the non-profit company grew from about 300 rides a day to over 20,000 during the SXSW peak. According to Marisa, RideAustin saw a 55% drop in business in the first full week of Uber and Lyft’s  return. She also blamed seasonality—the first few weeks of June tend to be lower ride volumes overall. RideAustin hopes to make it through the summer months to get back to a threshold of 20,000 rides per week. That’s the target the company needs to hit to sustain their nonprofit business.

Click on the image below to get to the story where you can hear the interview with Marisa.

Here and Now - RideAustin interview with Marisa Goldenberg

Personally, I’m pulling for RideAustin. What are your thoughts? Have you returned to using or driving for Uber and Lyft now that they’re back, or will you rely on other options?

Say “hi.”

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