Why Tech Disruption Knows No Global Borders

The U.S. may be the undisputed heavyweight of tech. But don’t underestimate the rest of the world. In recent years, a growing array of countries—including the UK, Ireland, Japan, India, Israel and South Korea—have emerged on the global radar. Today, great ideas and disruptive business models come from just about everywhere.

After spending a week touring startup technology companies in France, it’s apparent that the tech environment is changing. There, tech incubators, accelerators and business hosting and development firms such as Numa, Usine and Startup 42, with support from the French government and venture capital, have spawned a wave of successful companies, including intercity ride sharing firm BlaBlaCar and one-stop train ticketing company Captain Train. For example, the former is now valued at about $1.6 billion. It has 25 million members in 22 countries.

France, like many countries, is serious about becoming a world-class player. The digital sector in the country is currently growing at a 2.6 percent annual rate. More importantly, foreign investment in France is increasing by about 12 percent a year. France is also investing approximately €20 billion to build out minimum 100-megabyte broadband across the entire country—from the Alps to the ocean and villages between—while radically upgrading mobile capabilities. By 2021, “We expect France to be the most connected country in Europe,” said Axelle Lemaire, of the French Ministry of State for Digital Affairs.

Meanwhile, countries like Finland, Colombia, Chile, Mexico and Lithuania are becoming formidable global startup tech centers.

CIOs and other business executives face a new reality: we live in a rapidly changing world and IT opportunities now extend beyond the R&D lab or across a partner network. Already, about 45 percent of Fortune 500 firms participate in open innovation programs that partner with small entrepreneurial startups (the figure is a whopping 92 percent in France). These small companies gain access to capital and corporate discipline while these enterprises get back in touch with their entrepreneurial inner self.

Although it’s important to protect intellectual property within these arrangements, it’s also necessary to step outside the now obsolete concept of hoarding all thinking, information and data. We have entered a new era where collaboration and transparency rule. Organizations that buck the trend may find themselves increasingly isolated—and eventually disrupted.

Within this increasingly entrepreneurial framework, CIOs must think about new and different types of partnerships—such as open innovation programs—that span companies and countries. Yet it’s also important to understand the types of crazy and incredible ideas that are streaming out of startups everywhere. This may lead to new ways of thinking about business and technology. It is the essence of innovation.

Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard writes about business, technology and other topics. His book, The Internet of Things (MIT Press) was released in the spring of 2015.

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