The Week in BIG Ideas Volume 3
By Beverley Hammond
Founder & CEO
I am excited to be speaking this week at The Future Design School Young Innovators Camp where youth ages 10 to 14 are learning critical thinking skills, design methods, and the fundamentals of entrepreneurship then building new business offerings. Ages 10 to 14. WHOA, right?! In my session, I am engaging them around the topic of “Understanding Your User” or in Republic parlance, “Empathy” – the important verb that underpins everything we do.
Undoubtedly next week I will be sharing some of the BIG ideas that come out of Young Innovators Camp, but the opportunity really got me thinking about the extraordinary quantity of big transformative ideas generated by (and at the risk of sounding like my mother) ‘young people today.’ Not just Millennials, who’ve rightfully been dubbed “the entrepreneur generation” but now Gen-Z’s – those kids born between the mid ‘90s and the mid 2000s.
As one 21 year old University of Southern California student Daniel Gross, so aptly describes the phenomenon, “I think we live in a generation of people who have grown up with access to so much information and with figureheads and fairy tales like the Zuckerberg story or the Snapchat story that have made it seem like creating an app and making a billion dollars is a very attainable goal.”
Indeed, there has not been another period in history where so much has been contributed by so many, so young.
BIG Idea #1: A Better Way to a Better World
“Our mission is to make the world a better place.” This ambitious phrase, whether stated or implied, underpins much of what we see coming out of the millennial start-up scene, and gives hope for the future to those of us from the generation that basically screwed it all up.
But changing the world is a lofty goal. There is so much to do and so many old-world industries that need re-vamping to “better” the world. So, what does it actually mean and where does one start? Those are precisely the questions Kairos (which is an Ancient Greek word for ‘the right, critical or opportune moment’) asked when they looked at how to help start-ups achieve their goals.
Founded by 28-year old Ankur Jains, Kairos in simple terms, is an incubator and funder of early stage companies that is structured as a holding company. Entrepreneur Magazine calls it “a company that makes companies.” But theirs is not the typical approach to capitalizing on ideas that can change the world while generating good return on their investment (ROI).
Instead, Kairos take a laser-like focus by identifying specific real-world problems and the industries associated with them, then funding or founding efforts to solve the problem through disruptive industry ideas.
They define themselves as a “global community of innovators,” not a VC or an accelerator which ironically is disruptive in the industry that’s funding disruption.
Theirs is a deliberate approach to “focusing the next generation on problems worth solving.” Perhaps as a sad testament to the number and extent of the problems that need solving in our world, Kairos launches a new enterprise every few months. The majority of their companies were founded by people under the age of 30 and the total value of those companies to date is an astounding $6.5 billion plus. Wow!
Not surprisingly, they begin by undertaking a lot of research on the most relevant human problems and what solutions exist – at any stage, anywhere on the planet - to solve them. Where they determine the problem is best solved through public policy or by established companies or NGO’s for example they don't go there. In their words: “we’ve spent the past ten years identifying problems that are best solved by entrepreneurs. We eventually pinpointed critical life stages where old industries and governments have failed to provide for our communities. We now partner with the brightest minds around the world and dedicate our time to building businesses to address these specific problems.”
Today, Kairos is bringing together the resources and finances necessary to tackle five specific human challenges:
1) Student loan debt;
2) Cost of rent;
4) Job Loss; and
5) Senior care.
Of course, they have probably only just started making their list because, as Jain says, “We’re young. Time is on our side.”
BIG Idea #2: Some Powerful Food for Thought
Speaking of a world that needs changing – few people realize that there is actually a legal restriction on providing full-time employment to individuals with Down Syndrome. I’m not talking in Saudi Arabia – this is a fact in many parts of the western world.
In the United States, the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) has been lobbying hard to change that law. But as anyone who has practiced or witnessed the practice of lobbying will tell you – it can be a dry, bureaucratic, tedious process.
So, the NDSS elected to do it differently. As part of their new #LawSyndrome campaign [I just love that campaign name, by the way, and think it has a broader application] which, they say “aims to raise awareness of antiquated laws that hinder individuals with Down syndrome from pursuing a career or independent living” they leveraged the power of experiential marketing to go beyond just talking to politicians.
Last fall, a new pop-up restaurant opened on Capitol Hill in Washington, run by individuals with Down Syndrome. They called the restaurant C21 (in reference to the extra 21st chromosome that causes Down Syndrome) and they celebrated opening night by inviting several Members of Congress along with a number of VIPs and others to a unique dining experience.
The campaign in conjunction with a roster of agencies, is of course, supported by earned, and social media tactics. While it is only a pop-up, the restaurant itself will not stop operating – with the plan to essentially move the experience and the message around to different States in the Union.
I can’t overstate how much I adore this idea. I know from personal experience the contribution an individual with an intellectual disability can make to a business. Maybe, just maybe, through exposure like this, people in power will come to realize it too.
As a post script, if you’re interested in hiring someone with an intellectual disability into your workplace in Canada contact the Canadian Down Syndrome Society (CDSS) or the Canadian Association of Community Living. In the US, contact NDSS.
BIG Idea #3: From Pug Bongos to Beaches – the Adventures of Captain Obvious
I closed out last week's blog with an emerging trend in the world of wedding proposals. This week, in celebration of the recent engagement of our very own Jessica and the new campaign by Hotels.com, I’m closing on another trend in matrimony – the popular act of forcing friends and family to take time off work, travel long distances and spend money to witness your vows – the ever-popular destination wedding. [In full transparency – I had one of those long before they were the rage]
If the “sweet sound” of those Pug Bongos wasn’t enough to make you aware that Hotels.com does destination weddings, you can’t possibly miss it now that Captain Obvious has taken on a new persona to promote the service, Chaplain Obvious.
In this latest campaign – the first wedding-focused spot from Hotels.com - the quirky buffoon, clad in faux-military dress, who has become a household name since being introduced to the world in 2014, assumes a new role as wedding officiant…at a real-life wedding.
Staying in character throughout the event, Chaplain Obvious offers some pretty important advice to the nervous bride and groom: "Don't go to bed angry. Or sad. Or excited. Or so happy. Basically, you want to be tired. That's how sleeping works." [And this is where you say “thanks Captain Obvious”]
Hotels.com not only taps into a profitable trend with their new offering and the new campaign, but they do it in a way that directly targets their audience. Sorry! TV, there is no over-priced 60-second Golf Channel spot for Chaplain Obvious. Instead, he goes where the millennial audience actually is - YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, supported by paid media on each of those platforms.
It’s entertaining and, I predict, it will be effective. But just a word of caution if you decide to watch the spot: select the one-minute version and not the four-minute video to avoid Chaplain fatigue (his schtick gets old quick in large doses) and so you don't have to witness the un-edited awkwardness of the real-life couple and their guests.
That notwithstanding, props to our old friends at CPB for this next dimension in the evolution of Captain Obvious. In truth, highly identifiable spokespeople are terrific, but they run the risk of becoming “one trick ponies”. This new campaign ensures the Captain, er Chaplain, stays relevant and in so doing keeps the love alive.
If you’re enjoying (or even remotely interested in) this blog, please pass it on and please feel free to share any ideas – your own or others – with me at email@example.com using the Subject Line: Here’s a BIG Idea.
Until next week, stay BIG!