Many successful innovations aren’t particularly novel or clever, but succeed because they are carefully timed to coincide with other complementary developments: they harness the “winds of change.”
This award is for those who spot what’s just around the corner soon enough to take advantage of it.
There is an app for most things these days. From ordering food to supermarket shopping and booking a hotel (and checking in and out of it), there is a dedicated app. But there is only one app that allows its user to do all of those things: WeChat Pay, in China.
Originally a social app, WeChat garnered a massive user base through continuously improving and optimising its features, enabling people to connect with friends and send voice, images and videos. Building on this consumer-centricity, WeChat Pay was way ahead of the curve in anticipating the era of multimedia convenience and the preference for being able to pay for unconnected items through a single platform. But making a purchase is not simply about payment. The overall experience throughout the consumer journey is now a vital part of the transaction.
The digital transformation of the consumer experience is not just about online services. In offline scenarios, with WeChat Pay smart payment devices, users can login to WeChat and conveniently access WeChat Mini Programs, WeChat Coupons, and a range of other functions. Users can enjoy these services whenever they need, even when they forget to bring their mobile phone, while merchants can improve their management efficiency and discover new possibilities for innovative service.
Since its launch in 2013, WeChat Pay has quickly become the undoubted leader in China’s mobile payment industry. WeChat Pay’s daily payment transactions exceeded one billion in 2019. Not so much harnessing the winds of change, perhaps, as blowing a hurricane through the entire payments industry.
Follow on Twitter: @Wechatpay
London-based insure-tech start-up Flock pioneers the use of big data in insurance, augmenting traditional risk-assessment models with new datasets to provide real-time risk analysis. Their app instantly converts the data into an easy-to-understand insurance policy. Users can see how changes to their behaviour can change their risk, ultimately affecting the cost of insurance. In partnership with Allianz, Flock has launched a suite of risk intelligence and insurance products for the drone industry.
The timing for Flock’s launch of their first product couldn’t be better. Without any historic data, insurers had been struggling to develop the perfect product for drones. With drone flights on the rise, the market was crying out for a better way to model and prisk the associated risk. Flock had the capability and was ready to partner with insurers to launch the innovative insurance products the market needed. Having perfected the product with drone pilots, Flock is now focused on growing market share in drones and expanding into new insurance markets.
Flock is worthy of the Harnessing the Winds of Change of Award for three reasons. First, its drone insurance product was perfectly timed with larger trends concerning drones – drone use has been on the rise and Flock was ready with a product that met an unmet market need. Second, it is applying innovative technologies to revolutionise insurance, helping drag the industry into the 21st century. Finally, its focus on safety through behaviour change taps into broader societal trends around using behavioural economics to make the world a safer, smarter place. Has any company ever harnessed the winds of change to better effect?
Follow on Twitter: @Flockcover
Dedicated to expanding healthcare access and saving lives around the globe, Zipline is the world’s first and only national-scale, autonomous drone delivery service: health workers text orders for medicines – including emergency blood supplies – and receive their deliveries in 30 minutes, on average. Service scale is vast: distribution centres can deliver to an area of 20,000 square kilometers and typically serve between two and eight million people. Deliveries are made from the sky, with the drone descending to a safe height above the ground and air-dropping medicine by parachute to a designated spot at the health centre it serves.
Since launching the service in Rwanda in October 2016, the company has made more than 13,000 deliveries, about a third of which have been in life-threatening emergencies. Zipline now delivers more than 65% of Rwanda’s blood supply outside the capital, Kigali and in April 2019 launched the world’s largest drone delivery network in Ghana.
Zipline’s commercial partnerships with Ghana and Rwanda, which will serve more than 22 million people, will help save tens of thousands of lives in the near future, with the broader goal of serving 700 million people in the next five years.
If ever there were a Real Innovation Award for literally harnessing the wind, Zipline would win hands down, every time.
Follow on Twitter: @zipline
Launched in 2012 by three Oxford University graduates, Husayn Kassai, Eamon Jubbawy, and Ruhul Amin, Ofindo deployed natural language processing (NLP) and comparatively simple machine learning to make the process of document verification faster and more efficient. Just a few years into the business, however, the founders realised that the winds of change were howling through the sector as the demand for security and verification mushroomed.
Deciding to pivot the company to focus on biometrics instead of document NLP, they found the perfect product-market fit with fintechs looking to exploit recent advances in facial recognition systems to improve the identification processes. With demand booming, the switch has proved incredibly successful and Onfido (a portmanteau of the Latin words for “trust” and “confidence”) recently placing 2nd in Deloitte’s 2018 UK Technology Fast 50 for FinTech due to its four-year growth rate of 3,857%. Now on the road to a £1 billion valuation, the company has gone from being a simple document-verification firm to a deep-tech company at the cutting edge of facial biometrics – all through one perfectly timed pivot.
Follow on Twitter: @Onfido
Once upon a time, long before the internet, a ‘destination’ was a place you went to on a map. At some point, the word acquired a sense of glamour, of desirability – we had destination holidays, destination stores, destination restaurants – even destination weddings. All consumer desiderata, based on geography. The internet age revolutionised consumer behaviour through ecommerce platforms such as ebay and Amazon, which provided vendors with a platform to sell any product. But they weren’t destination platforms. Then, in 2008, along came José Neves and Farfetch. Neves’ genius was to foresee that the internet could give smaller boutiques and shops – who might not have the skills, time and resources to create and maintain their own websites – an online presence. And, by in effect aggregating the wares of individual vendors, the platform could become an extremely attractive shopping destination in its own right.
Of course, he could have simply replicated the traditional wholesale model by purchasing merchandise to sell online – but that would mean inventory risk and significant working capital. Instead, he created a platform on which high-end brands and smaller boutiques alike could sell their clothing directly to the consumer.
In September 2018, Farfetch listed on the New York Stock Exchange with a valuation of over $5.8 billion. It was reported that Neves will net $1.2 billion from the IPO. He didn’t create the conditions for the mass adoption of e-retailing but, by positioning Farfetch as a global platform with competitive omnichannel capabilities, he anticipated the disruption that was soon to hit the high street – and capitalised on it to maximum effect by positioning Farfetch as a destination site.
Follow on Twitter: @farfetch