SOFTBANK HOMES IN ON SERVICE DISRUPTORS
If you want to keep a finger on the pulse of high-performing companies tipped for stand-out unicorn status, look at where Japanese conglomerate SoftBank invests. Its latest target is Klook – a global tours and activities company based in Hong Kong. SoftBank Vision Fund is investing $225 million – more than half of Klook’s total $425million funding round.
This follows an investment in OYO (valued at $5billion) – the Indian based budget hotel chain – and Grab (Valued at $14billion), South East Asia’s ride hailing provider which recently received $1.5 bn of Softbank funds. The Japanese company is also a key investor in WeWork (valued at $47billion) in which Softbank placed another $2billion, taking its total investment to $8billion.
“Beyond their core business function, what (these companies) all have in common is enabling greater ease and accessibility for lifestyle-related services”
All of these companies are high performing, agile and growing at breakneck speed. They are nimble where others are tardy and innovative in the face of adversity. Beyond their core business function, what they all have in common is enabling greater ease and accessibility for lifestyle-related services, whether that be travelling, working, sleeping or getting active.
It may not say ‘wellbeing’ on the tin but the premise of what they do, the efficiency and the purposed service provision, means they provide solutions to problems in a stress free, lightning fast manner. And that’s not to mention the disruption they will collectively cause to less contemporary service provision models such as hotels.
Anni Hood, Chief Executive, Well Intelligence
WHY TOURISM MUST DELIVER CONNECTION
The red flag has been raised: the ‘build it and they will come’ strategy is no longer a winning formula for Dubai. A recent Financial Times report states: “Hoteliers are slashing room rates as tourism growth slows, hampered by the strong dollar-linked currency and a surfeit of new rooms.”
The Emirate has seen an oversupply of hotel rooms in anticipation of the World Expo 2020, which could attract 25 million visitors. Property prices have been dropping since 2014, and a combination of regional political dynamics, the financial downturn and weakened currencies, is precipitating a drastic rethink in Dubai’s economic strategy that has tourism at its core.
Dubai remains an extraordinary destination for its opulence and ‘world first’ architecture, never mind the unquestioned respect for what has been created in the last forty years.
“Emotion is the currency of the day and destinations that fail to cultivate connection that reaches beyond shopping will struggle to have a sustainable model.”
But alongside currency fluctuations and over supply of bedrooms it faces an obstacle that is less tangible: the desire for meaningful connection when visiting a destination. Emotion is the currency of the day and destinations that fail to cultivate connection that reaches beyond shopping will struggle to have a sustainable model.
Saudi Arabia, a close neighbour, should take note. Its Red Sea development zone has been described as one of the “last unexplored frontiers in tourism” and is the flagship of the Crown Prince’s economic diversification plan. The Kingdom already faces a similar challenge to that confronted by Dubai decades ago: to relax its laws and embrace the West’s more liberal culture if it wants to attract tourists. The country also has public relation issues to overcome from recent events (notably, the murder of the journalist Jamal Kashoggi) and a metaphorical mountain to climb in dispelling its poor humanitarian track record.
Tourism strategy in the Gulf and beyond will inevitably shape in response to a growing consumer call for purpose, meaning and a desire for emotional connection. Failing to recognise that will not be economically palatable.
Steve Dunne, Chairman, Well Intelligence
THE DAWN OF THE SUPERHUMANS
Just as with advances in AI, there are as many perils as there are promises about the opportunity and effects of synthetic biology. What’s already anticipated is the prospect of reprogramming embryos to prevent disease or disability; or the opportunity raising the greatest ethical concern, namely to create designer babies and artificially enhanced humans.
The scope of synthetics is vast. Last week Burger King introduced a beefless Whopper into some of its restaurants – the ‘meatiness’ comes from engineered plant protein and signals a shift towards a diet with lower environmental impact. That’s a positive on the one hand, but we know nothing as yet about the effects on our bodies of this contrived ‘meat’.
Bio-hacking is also about modifying our biology, but this time it’s about optimisation through lifestyle shift, usually in adult humans. The aim is to elevate our performance though a personalised lifestyle formula, determined via epigenetic testing, or simply through consciousness of how much better we feel when certain activities, food choices and services are chosen.
“Bio-hacking is also about modifying our biology, but it’s about optimisation through lifestyle shift.”
Bio-hacking seeks enhanced physical, cognitive and emotional functioning – and it’s done the hard way compared to embryo re-programming. But is this also the smart way?
What’s really needed, it seems, is to discover, whether through artificial or bio-hack means, a superhuman formula for performance that could in tur add an extra dimension to all levels of wellbeing service. Keep a sharp eye on this space!