If my company is massively successful, what will the world look like?

An interesting premise for a discussion, particularly when the speakers are from Autonomy, LinkedIn, Google and other companies that are setting out to change the way the world works.

Some notes from the discussion:


  • Sherry Coutu, Silicon Valley comes to UK, serial entrepreneur


  • Jose Ferreira, Founder and CEO of Knewton
  • Billy Boyle, Founder and CEO of Owlstone
  • Daniel Yates, Founder and CEO of OPOWER
  • Professor Chris Lowe, University of Cambridge
  • Megan Smith, VP Business Development & CEO Google.org
  • Mike Lynch, Founder and CEO of Autonomy
  • Reid Hoffman, Founder of LinkedIn

Jose Ferreira, Founder and CEO of Knewton. The future of Education.

Whatever you care about in the world – AIDS in Africa, Sarah Palin, the environment – you are really caring about education. Education is having its internet moment as we speak.

There will be less than 10% of the printed text books in the world today. Textbooks are a $ 110 billion a year industry.

Education is one of the four largest industries in the world – food, shelter, healthcare, education. Education is the only one of the four  that it utterly geared to digital delivery.

80% of the world’s school age children don’t have access to basic education – reading and writing. Jose contends that this means we are losing 80% of the world’s potential. [This is extraordinarily debatable…]

Estimates of the amount of education going online in 10 years range from 10% – 70%.

This will mean that any school can offer any subject as an online course. Any course can be offered on an incredibly granular level in order to suit an individual’s learned learning patterns.

Billy Boyle, Founder and CEO of Owlstone. The future of  smells.

Owlstone is a chipset that detects gases and can be programmed to detect toxic gases etc. What could you do with a small, cheap, electronic nose? At the moment, our technology is used in military applications to detect toxic gases and in industrial applications to sniff food etc.

Detectors can detect disease and illness in people’s breath. Integrating the ability to smell or detect specific gases, into mobile phones becomes possible. What is this smell? (Shazam for smells?). As the size of the smell database increases the value of the smell database increases.

Biggest applications for Owlstone in short term will be around healthcare and air quality monitoring.

Daniel Yates, Founder and CEO of OPOWER. The future of energy.

OPOWER is an energy efficiency and Smart Grid software company that helps utilities meet their efficiency goals through effective customer engagement. People think more about the efficiency in their car than their home though the homes is by far the most energy hungry. In the US, there are over 1,000,000,000 energy bills sent out every year. OPOWER allows you to make sense of your bill. OPOWER’s bill lets you compare your use against the area you live in, the most efficient homes etc etc.

Just by giving people more information about their energy use, they use less energy. OPOWER has saved enough energy to power a small city. They would like to change the energy mix of the US consumer by increasing efficiency savings in consumption.

“Our company was founded on a simple premise:  it’s time to engage the 300 million Americans who are in the dark about their energy use.  Co-founders and long-time friends Dan Yates and Alex Laskey combined their talents to actualize their belief in the power of information to improve people’s lives. Together, they envisioned a product and created a company that would empower people to make smart decisions that could conserve our resources and preserve our planet.

“From its founding in 2007 to today, OPOWER has established itself as the leading utility partner for energy efficiency and Smart Grid software services.  A rapidly growing team of software engineers, product specialists, behavioral scientists, and efficiency advocates is already engaging over 1 million homes each month, and we are on our way to engage millions more.

“Helping ordinary people find easy ways to save on their energy bills is our passion; making an unprecedented impact on the health of our planet is our goal. Company website.

Professor Chris Lowe, University of Cambridge. The future of smart holograms.

Smart Holograms

Smart Holograms

  • What is a smart hologram? Holograms that are sensitive to chemical or biological stimuli. Enable you to measure gases, ions, Enzymes, Oligonucleotides, cells and other things with far longer names.
  • They are important because the traditional causes of death – water, disease, sanitation, hygiene are being replaced with a whole range of things from obesity, heart disease, neurological disorders etc.
  • Smart holograms can monitor people for all sorts of symptoms and stages of disease from Healthy people through to the chronically ill.
  • Smart holograms will also have applications in a much wider range of industries from brand protection to consumer safety.

Megan Smith, VP Business Development & CEO Google.org. The future is where technology solves the world’s problems.

Google committed to putting 1% of profits to charitable uses when it IPOed. Google.org believes that technology can rise to meet some of the key challenges in the world today.

  • Google.org is trying to use Landsat images over time to start tracking the deforrstation footprint anywhere across the world for past 30 years – Google Earth Engine.
  • Flu trends – tracking 36 search terms for flu related symptoms across globe. Found it to be over 95% effective in anticipating flu outbreaks across the world.
  • Google Crisis Response – integrating the response to crisis with easy use of big data.
  • Google Books – Not a google.org initiative but shows what can be done by putting lots of information from disparate sources online.

Mike Lynch, Founder and CEO of Autonomy. The future in a world where Autonomy rules.

Autonomy founded on premise that computers don’t really work very well. In the 1960’s computers started being really useful when the world was defined in frameworks that computers can understand. A database driven world. The real world however is not as structured and ordered. Only humans can understand that stuff. Humans can only scale so much.

In the short term, we will see the software industry move away from the relational database.

When we are out and about, information will be everywhere. Information ubiquity. People will spend less time doing trivial things like tagging videos, monitoring buildings on CCTV etc. People will be freed up to do more creative things – caring for the elderly, sorting out the financial mess the economy is in etc.

Reid Hoffman, Founder of LinkedIn. The world of work.

Careers are dead.

  • How do you match talent and opportunities?
  • How do you get the right help in an innovative business in the right timeframe?

Reputation and trust networks are a key part of the process. Silicon Valley has operated and worked on the networked model for all of its existence.

Why did Boston develop so much more slowly than SV when in fact the two had a very similar set of characteristics EXCEPT Silicon Valley has always had a culture of open networks and sharing of ideas.

Does the digital divide foil the techonomy?

Mike Lynch sits on board of BBC so knows a little about the wider issues.

Two major barriers to broadband:

  • Geographic
  • Social groups – D, E and elderly.

Two things work in getting people online:

  • Advertising is a surprisingly good way to get people online.
  • Create compelling content – putting Strictly Come Dancing has a great effect that

Megan Smith

  • Watch out! The world is getting online!