By: Alistair Croll, Content Chair
Historians will look back on the beginning of the twenty-first century as a time of unprecedented change. We’re in the midst of a shift that outstrips even the Industrial Revolution: the shift from atoms to bits. It’s hard to overstate the impact that a digital world has had on individuals, organizations, society, and even the human species.
In the business world, that transformation has been gradually, inexorably, exponentially growing. Slow at first, today digital is unavoidable. And the shift has given us a Cambrian Explosion of innovation.
On the one hand, digital has been an extinction-level event. Half a century ago, the average company on the Fortune 500 or the S&P 500 survived for over fifty years. Today, it’s lucky to be there for fifteen. If companies were people, this would be a global health crisis to parallel the Spanish Flu.
On the other hand, for every barrier and advantage that digital has stripped from old incumbents, it’s created opportunities for new upstarts. Just look at this chart from the Visual Capitalist:
Today’s greatest companies didn’t exist a few decades ago, in large part because the mechanisms on which they rely didn’t exist. Marketing was controlled, one-to-many, broadcast, and expensive. Feedback took months. Transactions were complex, controlled by banks. Whoever had capital had advantage. Budgeting and business plans mattered.
On the other hand, a startup thrives in a many-to-many morass of interactions with customers and competitors. Analytics makes real-time insight and adjustment possible. Anyone can set up a storefront, outsource a back office, and experiment. Burn beats capital; a business idea and some attention makes a five-year plan outdated as soon as it’s written.
For the past six years, Startupfest has charted the course of this innovation. Great founders, funders, veterans and thinkers from dozens of countries have gathered in the glorious summer sun of Old Montreal to learn, launch, and lick their wounds. Startupfest combines world-class content with a unique festival vibe, and has quickly become Canada’s largest startup event.
And yet, despite all its growth, Startupfest has focused on only part of the story. Because a new breed of startups, and the most agile, forward-thinking incumbents, are finding new ways to work together: Corporate accelerators focused on a specific industry or vertical; internal incubators to launch new ideas; innovation “garages” to tune up ailing lines of business with new thinking; corporate acquisition; company co-creation.
Early next year, we’re launching a new event: Resolve TO. It’ll combine the trademark energy and attitude of Startupfest with this new enterprise thinking in, Canada’s largest city. We believe that when the agility, energy, and unconstrained thinking of startups, meets the capital, market access, and brand power of the world’s great companies, the result is not just surviving, but flourishing, in the face of digital upheaval.
Resolve TO will bring together the best and brightest from startup and enterprise for a can’t-miss look at innovation, disruption, exponential growth, adaptive cultures, and emerging marketplaces.
You’ll see household names and global powerhouses next to rookies and unknowns—those who’ve changed the world already, alongside those who, as Steve Jobs put it, are crazy enough to think they can.
When we created Startupfest, we didn’t know what to expect. Six years later, it’s become the defining event for Canadian entrepreneurs and thousands of attendees from elsewhere. So it is with Resolve TO: We don’t know what will happen. We’re sure there will be partnerships, financings, customer development, co-creation, acquisition, and the launch of new projects and ideas.
Next year, let’s resolve to transform ourselves, and business as we know it, in the face of radical, constant change on a global stage.