The innovation supply chain: How ideas traverse continents and transform economies (originally Tech Crunch)

June 3, 2020

This piece originally appeared on Tech Crunch on November 27th 2018. 

The innovation supply chain: How ideas traverse continents and transform economies

While Westerners often associate the invention of calculus with 17th century European luminaries like Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz, its theoretical foundations actually stretch back millennia. Fundamental theorems appear in ancient Egyptian work from 1820 BC, and later influences sprout from Babylonian, Ancient Greek, Chinese and Middle Eastern texts.

Such is the nature of the world’s biggest ideas — concepts that arise in one corner of the world provide the scaffolding for future advancements. Realizing the true potential of any idea takes time and requires input from diverse cultures and perspectives.

Technological innovation is no exception.

In the tech world today, this is playing out in three important ways:

  1. business models improve when they become global;
  2. the best ideas are increasingly starting internationally; and
  3. testing globally is a differentiated strategy.

Ideas improve as they scale globally

Like calculus, technological innovation benefits from international iteration.

Ridesharing, for instance, started as an innovation pioneered by Uber and Lyft in San Francisco. Yet startups rapidly exported the model globally. Such evolution reflects local needs. Take Go-Jek, a ridesharing app that is now a dominant local player in Indonesia. Although Go-Jek “replicated” the model, they also took a highly localized approach, applying the Uber/Lyft concept to Jakarta’s existing informal system of motorcycle taxis, “ojeks.”

Yet Go-Jek realized that ojek drivers had the potential to do so much more than just move people around. The company aims to maximize driver engagement throughout the day and has built a multi-service app that allows them to not only transport people, but also deliver food, packages and services. As Nadiem Makarim, Go-Jek’s CEO put it, “In the mornings, we drive people from home to work. At lunch, we deliver them meals to the office. In the late afternoon, we drive people back home. In the evenings, we deliver ingredients and meals. And in-between all this, we deliver e-commerce, financial products and other services.”

Silicon Valley used to have a monopoly on the idea, manufacturing and distribution of innovation. No longer.

The model of leveraging a single ridesharing platform to deliver a range of services is undoubtedly different from the Silicon Valley original. In Silicon Valley, an array of companies offering Uber for X have sprung up, yet some of Uber’s latest product categories — like UberEats — seem more akin to the Southeast Asian model.

Tellingly, Go-Jek’s vision incorporates inspiration from another geography: China. In China, platforms like Tencent’s WeChat offer a range of direct and third-party services spanning ride-hailing, shopping, food delivery and, of course, payments. WeChat payment functionality (like Ant’s equivalent) is nearly ubiquitous in major Chinese cities.

Click here the complete article: