Disruptive Technolgies: Paul Armstrong’s Roadmap For Future Challenges

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We spoke to former Myspace employee, now a speaker on the future of technology Paul Armstrong about his new book, emerging tech trends, and challenges that lie ahead for startups.

Paul Armstrong is an author, strategist, and speaker on the future of technology, disruption, mobile innovation, IoT, and the startup ecosystem. He runs the technology advisory Here/Forth where he helps clients understand trends and how to apply emerging technologies strategically.

We spoke to Paul about his new book Disruptive Technologies. It provides a roadmap for small organizations to assess, respond and problem-solve the upcoming challenges in technology including Blockchain (Bitcoin) and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Disruptive Technolgies: Paul Armstrong's Roadmap For Future Challenges

Paul Armstrong, author of Disruptive Technologies

Paul, how would you describe yourself in a few words?

I would say I am driven, curious and future-facing with a love of good design.

You’ve worked your way up in the business world, continuing to learn and discover emerging trends. How did your entrepreneurial journey start?

After I completed my Psychology degree I went to Los Angeles and stayed there for about seven years, I really enjoyed the hustle and lifestyle. I ended up working for Myspace with some extremely smart people and learned a lot about technology and how to treat others. I have always been interested in technology and why people use things and help others through it.

You’ve recently launched “Disruptive Technologies”, a book that offers startups a road map to face the upcoming challenges of technology. What can you tell us about these challenges?

‘Disruptive Technologies’ is a great roadmap for the upcoming challenges that startups will face – be that competition, changing landscapes or less VC funding. The book contains a concise guide on how to create a clear roadmap to assess, respond to and problem-solve: what are the upcoming changes in technology, roughly when to respond, and what’s the best response. The easy-to-master frameworks contained in the book offer decision and investment-making frameworks that are structured around three key dimensions; Technology, Behavior, and Data (TBD).

The book covers five key technologies (including AI, Blockchain, nanotechnology and 3/4D printing) but will also help startups navigate some other key issues such as the sharing economy, mobile penetration, millennial workforce, aging populations and rapidly evolving business models.

What are some of the key learnings of the book and how do they influence a startup’s business?

The biggest learning from the book surrounds the process of decision-making. The book includes several ways to make everything more manageable and explains how to regain and retain control in a world that only seems to be speeding up and becoming more and more unpredictable. We live in changing times but that doesn’t mean having to relinquish strategy or control.

Apart from releasing your first book, you’re also the founder of Here/Forth, a future technology consultancy, and are handling multiple projects at a time. How do you do it and where does your energy come from?

Here/Forth works with a wide variety of clients from brand new startups to the likes of Coca-Cola and PwC. I firmly believe it’s the variety that keeps us motivated (but certainly me). Beyond this, it enables the team to really see connections where others may not and also come up with products that can help multiple clients across multiple sectors. My energy comes from wanting to understand things – whether that’s a societal shift or the latest breakthrough startup. Knowing what’s working and why (or why not) is something that’s always motivated me.

A great example is #social_lens – the first paid Slack channel in the UK ($500 per annum) that agencies and executives at companies including Apple, Santander, Snap, Samsung, Land Rover are using to understand the big picture when it comes to social platforms and how to market to them when the goalposts continue to move.

What emerging technologies would you bet your money on and how will they influence startups?

Blockchain is the obvious one, it’s a foundational technology so in that way, we don’t really know what the potential is and that’s really exciting. The recent split means we are entering an interesting era – new rules are being created and the potential for disruption in multiple sectors is high. I particularly like Blockchain because it’s always pigeonholed into the finance bucket – a huge mistake – and because it has so much to offer the world – something I wrote about for Atlas of the Future recently.

Apart from Blockchain, I would also bet good money on energy startups – an area both ripe for disruption, but also with massive issues and problems to solve or sidestep. I have been impressed with Tesla naturally but increasingly I am looking to places like the Nordics, Tel Aviv and Berlin for more grass-roots efforts and different thinking. It’s an exciting time to be in the energy sector when you think of startups like Ambri and Teraloop.

What do you consider a successful startup and what does it take to become one, in your opinion?

This is a polarizing question for many and it’s not simple to answer. Sure you could go the funding, after IPO routes but these can miss the point. A startup is a business, a growing entity that has effects and responsibilities. Some startups never mature regardless of age and funding. Personally speaking, I think startups that are diverse, flexible and open (but strongly-led) have the most potential to succeed in the era we are moving into. The flexibility is key, not just to know when to pivot, but also when to just change things and try new ways of thinking and doing different elements.

What’s one piece of advice first-time entrepreneurs need to know?

I have two, one that spurred on a big part of the book and a more general (but equally important) one.

The first is that every problem has a technology element, a behavioral element and a data element (TBD/+ framework in ‘Disruptive Technologies’). The percentages will fluctuate but no issue is ever as simple or as complex as it seems once you break it down – I’ve made this front and center of my thinking processes for decades and it continues to stand the test of time.

The other is that it’s not all about you. Sounds trite but I meet far too many people who are either solving a problem that really isn’t a problem or who have huge egos with nothing to back them up. Understanding your consumer and realizing your potential is hugely complex and issues somewhat never-ending challenges. Confidence is a fine line everyone walks (and you must believe in yourself when you’re a startup) but knowing that you are part of the wider picture is much more likely to garner the startups results in a lot of areas.



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