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Designing for a Social Cause
The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.
— Alice Walker

This past weekend, I participated in a design hackathon to bring change to the Southern L.A. community. We were tasked with applying design thinking to solve specific issues facing this community. Most notable, a lack of grocery stores, high pollution levels, and a local 8.4% unemployment rate.

Our group decided to tackle the lack of funding that enters South L.A. We leveraged the creative capital held in Los Angeles and aimed to distribute it to South L.A. youth. The end product is Uplift, a mobile app that funnels philanthropic public donations back to the South L.A. youth arts programs.

 

I am extremely proud of what my team accomplished. If you have questions or thoughts about Uplift, please do not hesitate to reach out.

Going Global
Every man lives by exchanging.
— Adam Smith

A reality for most companies is the need to grow. We start offering a product or service in our home market and then eventually look to expand. We broaden our offering to tap new customer segments. Then we look to expand into new markets. The most prolific companies of the 20th century successfully expanded by building and maintaining operations abroad. They leveraged sophisticated delivery networks to move goods from one corner of the world to the other. However, much of what we know about our current economy going forward is that it will be digital. This presents new challenges for companies looking to deliver digital services abroad and the path to growth may look different

Cross-border bandwidth since 2005 grew 45 times. This chart predicts an additional 9x growth in the next five years.

This is not a surprise. We are communicating, transacting, and sharing data across borders more than ever. Since 80% of the purchasing power is outside of the U.S., it is highly unlikely this will slow down. The dynamics of the web and mobile ecosystem makes it very easy for customers to access. It's instantaneous and very cheap. It is exactly for this reason it's often difficult to stop a product's momentum. However, some countries have taken to policy to address the issue.

Netflix recently came under fire in Europe for not carrying enough local content. Each market is rightfully entitled to regulate industries, but this is such risk that digital companies need to overcome. It is likely this trend will only gain steam. Our challenge moving forward is in acquiring and retaining access to customers abroad. Big companies may take it upon themselves to address the issue, but it may be more advantageous for companies with limited resources to seek partnerships and work with the local markets.

Digital companies should leverage the knowledge they've built and provide this as a service to partners in new regions. It removes a lot of the dangers involved in marketing to a new crowd and avoids any legal issues. As with any new challenge, it's a great opportunity for new startups to tackle.

The theme we're likely to see in the next five years:

  • more attention focused towards global growth
  • increase access of new markets
  • on-boarding new markets to services provided by teams abroad
  • increase in non-typical multinationals

Massive potential for teams who can deliver:

  • easier access to local markets around the world
  • streamlined partnerships and M&As
  • increase share of resources and IP
  • easier and faster diligence in joint ventures
  • ease of access to resources protected by policy

As with new opportunities, the actual outcome may take a different form. Digital services will look to expand beyond their potential.

Market Needs

I tinker a lot. I grow frustrated with a product so I hack something together to fix it. However, I fall short convincing a friend or the person near me to take my newly built thing for a spin. My new "hack" did not meet her expectations or any need. Fortunately, it can be easily addressed by exploring the market before diving into the code.

It’s a scary thought: forcing yourself to stop and ask questions. But doing some homework can decide the fate of your project. Your first priority is finding out what the market already has that solves your problem (or frustration). Imagine your car broke down one early morning and you need to get to work. How would you do it? You can call up a dealership and buy a brand new car to take to work, find the nearest bus stop and take public transportation, or call a cab to pick you up and drop you off. These are all viable solutions that can do the job. How would your product compete?

Working backwards is your best bet at building something that actually serves your customers. It aligns their interests with yours and helps carve an entry for your team.