Whitespace Co-Founder, Andy McCartney shares why he really doesn't want to be called an entrepreneur.
Because that’s when it goes wrong. Take large enterprises - they struggle to be innovative because they’re trying to anchor the new to the old. Take a car for example. They think innovation is going from a combustion engine to a battery, That’s not it at all.
Look at what’s happening in hospitality. We all thought Deliveroo and JustEat were disruptive but someone else is coming along who realised you don’t need a restaurant at all. They have a warehouse which they’ve set up as a co-working space for chefs. Now all you need is to be able to cook and a logo for the apps and you can sell your own food for cheaper than anywhere else because you’re not paying overheads like a restaurant. It’s creating a whole new way for people to set up businesses. That’s real innovation.
Large, established enterprises can’t behave the way they’ve always done. They can’t evolve on their own. They used to be able to do it all - from making the wheel nuts to the showrooms. But now when you’ve got a connected car that they want to sell in Russia but Russia won’t have a public internet, now you’ve got to work with large tech companies and they’ve got to work with ISPs like Vodafone and EDF Energy. Before you know it, one car company needs six partners just to have a car on the road. And what about allowing Amazon to deliver parcels into the boot of your car when you’re not home? Or if the owner decides they want to rent out the car if they’re not using it for a lot of the time? The number of partners you could be working with is infinite.
This is the challenge ahead of us.
The goal for innovation should be to make products which are accessible to the greatest number of people in society. I’m a big fan of Tesco and Lidl. You can have £10 in your wallet or £100 and you can still get products - food, clothing, household goods - from them. It’s a different experience but you’re not excluded. Like Uber - you could be a student and use it, but you’ll probably share the car. If you have a bit more money you get Uber X and a Prius. More still, and you go Uber Exec. You just have different experiences along the way.
If you can think of something that anyone with £1 in their pocket to £1m can access - that’s innovation. Look at budget airlines - I’m a huge fan. It’s phenomenal that travel has been cracked wide open by this industry. But again back to the car industry - it hasn’t done this. If I want an electric car, the minimum I’ll pay is £40,000 and that’s not very innovative.
There are some industries which are in for a tough time. Airlines haven’t changed in 100 years - it’s still two wings and petrol-guzzling, and it needs to find new ways of interacting with the customer. The car industry faces a kicking and so too does the financial industry - it’s been holding people to ransom for so long through things like only giving out mortgages if you’ve had debt. Retail has been struggling for a long time because the high street is so slow to change. While I hate what lockdown and this virus is doing to people in society, this time in our lives is radically disrupting every industry and it’s past time this happened.
The solution will come from genuine collaboration. It’s difficult with lockdown and lack of travel or the times we’d catch up with a drink after a meeting. People think video calls are collaborating. They’re tools, just like a screwdriver. Having one doesn’t make you a good mechanic. We need free-flowing talk which is done securely and respectfully. The big enterprises can’t be honest about all the times they failed to get something right - they’ve got shareholders and competitors to consider.
Collaboration doesn’t come without trust. Jobs, Gates, Brimer - they came around a common passion with no concern of the fallout. Wrong was as good as right. So we need to create environments where people can communicate without repercussions. And we need to look outside our own circles to people with smart ideas from other industries. After all, the co-working space for chefs was dreamt up by someone who’d never worked in hospitality.