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Spark the Change: Sparkling Disruptions

A new transportation system that enables people to live and work anywhere, networking through an app to share stories and get ideas that change your company, and high-speed internet through space to connect people everywhere on the planet; these are sparkling disruptions which were presented at the "Spark the Change" conference.

Spark the Change Paris 2018 was held in Paris, France, on June 26, the tagline of which was:

We bring series of inspirational talks from people who already went through a positive change before, and are keen to share their learnings.

The conference talks covered three themes:

  • Sparkling Disruptions
  • Building Tomorrow’s Company
  • Unleashing People’s Talent

InfoQ is covering this event with articles, summaries, and Q&As. This article summarizes the talks on sparkling disruptions.

The first talk at Spark the Change Paris was by Dirk Ahlborn, CEO and founder of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies. He spoke about bringing disruptive innovation that enables people "to live and work anywhere" to the traditional transportation industry.

Hyperloop is developing a new transportation system, based on tubes that create a low-pressure environment in which capsules can move fast using less energy. The idea for this kind of transportation system was described in a whitepaper by Elon Musk, CEO and founder of Tesla and SpaceX. Musk handed the concept to the public and Hyperloop decided to pick up this challenge.

To investigate if it would be feasible, Hyperloop explored the economics of public transportation. Many metro systems are heavily subsidized by governments, said Ahlborn. The Hyperloop system will be fully sustainable based on solar powered. The aim is to keep the operational costs as low as possible.

The technology that Hyperloop will use was already there when they started. Hyperloop has built their company differently, by collaborating with partners that are knowledgeable in vacuum tubes, lightweight materials, transportation systems, etc. Ahlborn explained that they are building a platform to bring partners together. With digitalization, doing everything online, they can keep costs low.

They started with 100 people in the feasibility study, and are growing fast. Now there are 800 people working for Hyperloop. They select people who are eager to do this and want to go on this mission. As a CEO of a company, knowing that people will show up to work even if you have no money in the bank is amazing - it shows they believe in the project, said Ahlborn. A trend that he mentioned is that more and more people will be working for multiple companies, either getting paid with salaries or with stock.

Question everything, the way we work, but also have fun, was Alhborn’s closing statement.

Next, Ludovic Huraux, CEO and founder of Shapr, spoke about the power of serendipity and networking. Serendipity is the art of finding something great without looking for it, said Huraux. It’s about being curious and open to new things and people. He suggested scheduling an hour for luck each week. When you meet someone new, don’t set any expectations, said Huraux. Think about what you can give and be useful and generous. You never know what will happen, he said.

Earlier InfoQ interviewed Huraux about the power of serendipity and networking, and asked him about cultural differences when it comes to networking:

Huraux: I have definitely discovered that people in the US are a bit more open to the idea of networking. In the New York specifically, it doesn’t take a lot of convincing to get a professional to join Shapr and grab coffee with someone new, since that is already part of the mindset. However, I have definitely seen a shift in Paris in the last few years, and I think people are starting to get more comfortable with the idea of meeting for coffee with someone new!

A conversation with someone who works in a completely different field can spark the idea that changes your company. Meeting new people can give an outside perspective on your projects and help to look at them in new ways; it gets you out of your own head, argued Huraux. Serendipity is an attitude, a mindset. Huraux called it a lifestyle where people are open to meeting one another and helping each other out. Everyone has a story; if you say hello you can be part of it, he stated.

The last talk on sparkling disruptions was by Christophe de Hauwer, chief development officer at SES. He spoke about digital disruption through space.

The space economy is growing due to the increasing demand for connectivity. SES Satellites is a satellite operator that offers end-to-end solutions for video and networks. De Hauwer gave the example of airplanes: more and more airlines are offering WiFi on their flights. This often still is expensive for the passengers, but as the costs go down it will become more common.

Historically, projects in space were done by large government organizations, but now this is changing as smaller companies have begun executing those projects. These days there are also many investments in startups doing space projects, said De Hauwer. Satellites are becoming fully digitized. This innovation lowers their weight, and the digital technology also needs less space. These developments are changing the type of services that are possible, said De Hauwer, it provides flexibility and it’s lowering the costs of existing services.

High-speed access to the internet is still limited. In developed countries, 84.40% has access to the internet of which 24% is high-speed access. In developing countries, only 42.90% has access with 8% of them having a high-speed connection. Satellites can provide high-speed access everywhere on the planet.

Future articles on Spark the Change will explore talks about the conference themes Building Tomorrow’s Company and Unleashing People’s Talent.

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