Apr 20, 2021

Opportunities for the next decades

1. Shared Mobility

To clarify from the get-go, shared mobility means car-sharing (free-float: ShareNow, CityLink; P2P: Turo, Getaround), bike-sharing / micro-mobility (Lime, Bird, Voi, Tier), ride-sharing (BlaBlaCar, Waze Carpool), ride-hailing (Uber, Lyft, Didi, Grab), as well as on-demand transit / DRT (Via, Chariot, ReachNow, door2door).

To some, “shared” has a communitarian, even communistic sounding. Despite global efforts to further socialise public transport, there is an ever growing demand for private, on-demand mobility. The real reason future mobility is shared is as capitalistic as it gets: it’s more efficient, thus cheaper.

Just like in many other areas of life (accommodation — Airbnb, etc), people are starting to realise mobility is not an end in itself, but a goal to an end: in this case, reaching the destination. When speed and cost come more and more into play, both personal vehicle ownership and traditional public transport (route based, fixed schedules) become evidently obsolete. But what is often overlooked when analysing changing behaviours is that people have a limited mental capacity, and every micro-management decision eats into that. Otherwise said, owning your means of travel incurs precious mental costs. The same way driving a car in the city was in the past seen as a status symbol of the upper class, in the future it will also be a status symbol — of the lower class.

Nonetheless, we see 2 important reasons for which people (including myself) will still want to own a car they can easily access anytime:

  • leisure and family travel: there are some who predict the car will become a synced family mobile hub, acting as the backbone of mobile entertainment (music, personal development, travel etc).
  • Black Swan emergencies: having your own car is a great insurance during catastrophes, from earthquakes or other natural events that paralyse a city, to pandemics that restrict public (shared) travel.

I’m most optimistic about P2P car-sharing and ride-sharing (because they help offset existing fixed costs stemming from depreciating assets), and on-demand mobility (because it offers comfort similar to that of ride-hailing, at costs similar to that of traditional public transport). All of these have not been possible before, and now are — all because of mobile technology and changes in human thinking.

2. Contextual & Transactional Social

Why are the Like and the Feed the Holy Grail of Social Media? Because they currently work and they have been continuously optimised to deliver views, and thus — advertising money.

But the Like says less and less about the quality or relevance of content. The number of Likes just shows how catchy or click-baity a post is.

Meanwhile, the Feed is no longer an elegant way to catch up with friends and news, but a tiring and overcrowded mindless (but endless) low quality entertainment stream.

When experts predict the future of Social Media, they talk about the complete switch to mobile, the need for privacy or security, the increase in video consumption, ad-free or freemium business models etc.

While these are all valid trends, I believe the biggest trend of them all is the evolution of Social Media into Contextual and Transactional Media. Context over Content. Pull over Push. Relevance over Engagement. Action over Feeling. Capital over Social Capital.

The current social media landscape is yet another anomaly of the early web age. Online social media will start mimicking our real (social) lives. Both online and offline we are presenting a polished image of ourselves, but offline social is (or was — and will be again) less about content and more about context. Offline socialising was (and will be again) about context, about interests, about activities.

Content was all about a persona’s timeline: the who and the when. Who (plus with whom) is doing something and when is it happening (posts are about the past, scheduled events are about the future).

On the other hand, Context is all about the setting: the what and the where. What are you engaging in and where are you. It might sound like scheduled events answer these 2 questions (what and where), but this was the old push approach. Creators pushing something to happen. The new what and where are pull — the platform observes what is happening and attracts co-creators. Happenings will be less defined and more serendipitous, and thus better suited to our social needs. Where will no longer be about location (understood as an objective geographic address), but about locus (a subjective place, product of our imagination). Physical geography is not the same as mental geography. An activity space 10 km away might be mentally closer than an activity space 100 m away. And the social platform will know this, because it has access to our mobility patterns, as well as our intentional and relational patterns.

A contextual social platform will understand our behaviours, our habits, our moods, our fears, our struggles, or our aspirations, all placed neatly on a sort of mindmap that the future social platform will connect with others’ mindmap. This will all stem from a geo-located sentiment analysis AND personalised recommender system.

Instead of scrolling and seeing posts from friends (who) having done or planning to do things (what), you will get a notification / open a mindmap of social possibilities (what & where).

You will find compatibles (friends of the past or of the future) in a similar current mindset, and happenings within your target area. For example, a parent might be “directed” to a relevant playground together with their kid. That playground will not be the closest one, and nor will there be an event scheduled there. But there, they will find a happening (play date) with compatibles (other parents). The system knows the parents will enjoy that specific playground (because of their individual preferences, which have matched that playground’s attributes), that those parents have that place easily within their mental map (close to a place they know or frequent), that those parents will enjoy each other’s company (due to their overall personalities, current moods and personal challenges), and that they were available during that interval of time (the system knowing their typical patterns, as well as their daily intentions). The social platform will have created a happening with people who might not know each other — but who it knows are compatibles. There is no need to set or confirm anything in advance. There is no need to coordinate with anyone. If you miss the happening, there will be enough others to co-create it. If you liked or didn’t like the happening, the AI-driven platform will know how to adjust accordingly in the future. We have many more examples in mind, but I’ll leave those to your imagination.

The second core feature of the future social platform is that it will be (more) transactional. Many of our social relationships are transactional and the fact that social media doesn’t mimick this is mind-boggling. Whether you’re buying or selling products or services, it makes sense to have it all placed in a online social context (much like it is now offline). This will enable not just more (efficient) trading, but also more efficient reputation systems (again, just like we had in the past — and worked wonders for quality control and consumer protection).

Online has pushed brands to act more and more like people — personas with their own communication style, tone of voice, even feelings and social interactions. This is yet another temporary exception that our grandkids will learn about in disbelief. The best way to sell is through people, based on their own reputations and recommendations. This is why influencer (and referral) marketing is growing — but it’s not enough. What will change the game for social e-commerce is an online currency, one that is global and freely-transactable (but more on this, later). Add to this a neutral, federative and trust-minimised, reputation system and you’ve got yourself a killer combo for international P2P commerce.

So what will that social platform look like? First of all, it has to be a platform that is not out of this world, running parallel to it (such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter), but is of this world. A visually intelligible platform where the offline and the online can merge seamlessly. A platform that is not a social network, but a(n existing) network that is social at its core.

The social platform of the future might emerge from an e-commerce platform, a payment system, or — my personal favourite — a maps provider. So whether the future social network will come out of Amazon or Alibaba, PayPal or Revolut, Google (Maps) or Apple (Maps), that’s to be seen. We believe Google (through Maps) has an unfair advantage that will be hard to dislocate.

3. Nude Property / Usufruct

As we move into more unfamiliar territory, this might be the first time you learn about Nude Property. But before we write down the definition to the term, let me first talk about an emerging societal problem for generations to come.

On the one hand, we have an aging population which puts a heavier load on depleting public pension systems. On the other hand, people are already having less and less children (which is why the Ponzi schemes called public pensions are falling apart). Thirdly, due to ever-growing inflation, we have increasing amounts of money meant to buy a fixed amount of real estate. So young people with little savings simply can’t afford to buy a house.

What this means is that pensioners are growing poorer and homeowners are getting fewer. What changes the game is the fact that more and more pensioners do not have kids (or, even sadder, have become alienated with them). This means they have nobody (they love) to inherit their properties.

This shows us that even if poor in cash, pensioners are rich in assets. Meanwhile, while aspiring home-owners are also poor in cash, they are (typically) rich in another limited asset: time.

What if there would be a way for young people to buy houses from old people, but with the latter being able to continue living their lives in their current homes, and the former getting a better deal than through mortgage / bank financing.

This is all possible through a legal agreement that deals with Nude Property and Usufruct. In our example, this is what it means: pensioners sell the title to their house, while retaining the right to live there. Young people / future home-owners essentially buy what is called the “nude property” (aka technically they become the new owners, without having the right to evict the current residents), while the current dwellers (the pensioners) have the right to use (hence the “usufruct”) the house during their lifetimes.

Why is this a great deal? Pensioners get to sell their house (cash in) AND continue to live in it. Young people get to buy a house at a fraction of its value, either as a future residence or as an investment. The deal can be sweetened even more: there can be little upfront and payments can be done monthly — this makes it ideal for elderly who simply want to double or triple their pensions, and for young people to save/invest recurringly in a (generally) safe asset class: real estate.

Ok, why haven’t you heard about this?

To be honest, I have no clue. In my naivety, I thought I came up with this brilliant idea and when I researched it, I found out it does exist — of course. Why people (young and old) don’t take advantage of what seems like a no-brainer option for many I don’t really understand. It might have to do with elderly people being scared of “selling” their only house, or young people not having a long enough home or investment horizon. It might be that we’re reluctant to trying things that seem odd, or that having a less than optimal home ownership arrangement is just business as usual.

The very fact that this isn’t happening on a massive scale for me points out the potential behind this opportunity. And my bet is that there will be more to take it.

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