Shalom from DLD Israel where cool people meet in the hot desert!, Gabriele Zedlmayer & Martin Drexler, September 24th 2019

Many people keep asking about the connection between Yossi Vardi, the famous Israeli VC and Hubert Burda. It all started with a small conference in Beer Sheva almost 20 years ago called “Cool people in the hot desert”. This first major conference of the Hubert Burda Center in cooperation with Yossi Vardi was created to build a bridge between Germany and Israel by fostering dialogue and collaboration in innovation. Today, in 2019 this exchange and collaboration is alive and kicking and we were lucky to once more attend the DLD Tel Aviv Innovation Festival which took place for the 9th time.

This year´s program also featured a very special event: Friends of the DLD family were invited to participate in the first Palestinian International Digital Conference which took place at the Convention Palace Company in Bethlehem featuring the Entrepreneurial Eco-System in Palestine. The conference was organized by the Global Shapers Hubs in Palestine which is a community of the World Economic Forum, in partnership with the Ministry of Entrepreneurship & Empowerment and Hubert Burda Media.

And what a great experience we had – the Prime Minister of the State of Palestine H.E. Dr. Mohammad Shtayyeh kicked the day off with a passionate speech about his country´s need to reinvent itself under very difficult political circumstances. He urged the young entrepreneurs from Palestine to act with an amazing sense of urgency as he kept saying that “Palestine should not aim to be up to date but up to tomorrow”.

Many cabinet ministers (Transportation, Entrepreneurship, National Economy, Telco and IT) supported the Prime Minister´s points with facts and figures from their respective departments. The highlight of the day were the start up pitches from a series of highly motivated young entrepreneurs from places like Bethlehem, East Jerusalem, Gaza, Ramallah and Nablus. Overall, a memorable experience for all of us!

On to DLD Tel Aviv

Again, DLD Tel Aviv was a trip worth making! was very well represented with Martin, Nicole and Gabi – and we also had a great time hanging with InspiringFifty winners Begonia Meraya, Katja Speck and Katja Hutter.

Main topics this year were AI for good, “start-up nations”, future of banking, mobility and education.

Themes that were repeated in many sessions and resonated with folks:

  • Reboot yourself (Mindset, Training, Embracing Ambiguity)
  • This is not Business as Usual
  • Change is faster than anybody can grasp
  • It´s all about the Mindset
  • Individuals need to take responsibility

  • As the world is experiencing the biggest and fastest transition ever, a common thread throughout the conference was the notion of the move from “shareholder value to stakeholder value”. Many of the panelists emphasized that innovation is a tool rather than a target and that business as usual is no longer an option and more and more companies are moving to a triple bottom line approach.

    Reasons for this change of mind are many folds: the business case, customer expectations, scarcity of resources, costs, and regulations to name a few. Representatives from the WEF emphasized that specifically the regulators are slow to adjust to these new realities as they are held back by legacy systems and are therefore moving rather slowly.

    One key observation was a sharply increasing trend in ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) investments with 30 Trillion dollars being invested in social impact funds. While this is a strong indicator that social and environmental concerns are increasingly part of companies’ strategies it is still not clear how quickly this will become a mainstream movement and whether governments will follow suit. What is clear however, is that we will need very tangible ESG measures and KPIs to better enable collaboration between different partners in the ecosystem.

    An interesting aspect was also the notion that for Innovation to flourish you need

  • a culture of risk taking and experimentation
  • a good balance between the three sources of capital: human capital, financial capital and intellectual capital
  • sensible intervention on behalf of the government – finding the right balance between too much regulation and too little intervention

  • Some governments are leading the way here as they are dismantling practices of the last 45 yrs., supporting more up to date and forward-looking directives.

    A recurring topic at the conference was education and training as we need to support the new reality of lifelong learning in a rapidly changing world. To better enable governments to support fundamental changes in their education system it was debated whether it makes sense to setup impact funds that have very specific education goals tied to them. For each country the idea would be to specify the number of girls to be trained, the number of boys, the number of disabled children, specific population groups and so forth. This would be managed like a business portfolio with clear KPIs and governments’ investments into the future of their kids could be directly tied to positive outcomes.

    It was highlighted frequently that changes are hitting us with exponential speed and that we need to take our destiny in our own hands and more or less reboot ourselves rather than keep repeating recipes that worked in the past. Life long learning is a new reality!

    Other interesting topics included the future of banking with new players in the finance space – highlighting that specifically Telcos have the infrastructure, client base, technology and data to play a major role in providing banking services to potential customers. Mobility was also big topic at DLD Tel Aviv – especially when it comes to autonomous driving. There was consensus that this is a gradual transition – first in restricted areas, then in smaller cities and only later a full implementation in large metropolitan areas. The major challenge being the interface between human and non-human drivers. People need to understand that the transition also means that the focus will be on commercial fleets versus individual cars.

    Many mobility experts believe that the technology is ahead of the business model and it will take a few years to figure out who owns what in the mobility space. And again, the ethical and governmental dimension plays a huge role and has not been figured out yet.

    On the topic of AI in general there were some good discussions about the need to bring a new kind of ecosystem together to design our future world – including psychologists, anthropologists, philosophers, researchers, politicians, non-profits etc. The general population also needs to start getting engaged in the discussion and decide for themselves what is acceptable to them versus not. A good example is that people tend to be quite negative when it comes to face recognition mechanisms being deployed, yet they fully support the progress in the space of autonomous driving. This area, however, is based on the very same technology.

    Overall, the conference was yet another wake up call to all of us. We need to be more “disobedient”, take more risks, experiment more, and keep building our skills and competencies to be able to make smart and informed decisions. And we need to speak up when it comes to the kind of world, we want to live in. This is the time to get engaged and help shape our future together and each of us plays a crucial role!, September 25th 2019

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