How Do You Disrupt AI, IoT, AR, VR and Blockchain? With Lots of Beer and BBQ.
Mike Koenigs sits down with Austin-based tech wizard Andy Timm.
9 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
According to McKinsey, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Accenture and Bain, the biggest opportunities for investment, jobs and new opportunities are in five key emerging markets: Artificial Intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) and Blockchain. Gartner predicts that by 2022 — just three years from now — the business value generated by AI alone will reach $3.9 trillion.
Nearly every industry will soon become dependent on or need to incorporate several or all of these technologies, especially fields like construction, real estate, insurance, retail, education and transportation.
Whether you work for a Fortune 1000 company such as GE, Ford, Honeywell, General Electric or Walmart, or you’re just getting started, your organizational needs are the same. You must have a team of visionaries, innovators, research and development talent, and rapid implementers or prototypers to figure out how to incorporate these technologies into new or existing products to remain competitive.
If you are planning to bring virtually any product to market, it must be smart and connected.
The challenge? Putting the right team together with the skills, expertise and connections to rapidly bring the right products to market quickly and cost-effectively. Most businesses simply lack incentivization models that reward people for taking the types of risks required to truly innovate.
So how do you disrupt these emerging technologies in an Austin, Texas backyard with beer, BBQ and some of the smartest leaders in the market?
Andy Timm at his Market-Disrupting Invitation-Only Backyard BBQ Brainstorm in Austin Texas
I recently sat down with Andy Timm. He is a former CTO of the one of the most recognized IOT companies in the United States, a creator, “Digital Orchestrator,” and an “Ecosystem Architect” focused on helping companies develop high-quality products, services and even business models. He’s created a uniquely collaborative process for low-risk innovation, research and development. He’ll take visionaries or product creators, and match them with vendors involved in these technology platforms. From there, he’ll work within organizations or companies, talking to their customers, and figuring out new business models to monetize these new ideas. He likes to say he helps companies “Race to the Top instead of Race to the Bottom.”
The bottom line? Andy has figured out a really unique way to decrease the costs and risks of R&D, prototyping and innovating new or updated products with emerging market technologies — in months, instead of years.
I was curious why Andy was so passionate about his business. I asked him about his background and exactly how he got started. Here’s what he had to say:
“I’ve always been a very curious problem solver. As a kid, I would take things apart. Every toy that I had ended up in a pile of screws and parts that maybe didn’t get put back together. One of the first jobs I had was mowing lawns so that I could buy an Apple IIc computer to write games and applications. There was no Google for instant answers or YouTube to show you how to do things. Figuring things out has always been in my nature. I started a couple of consulting companies to determine how enterprise technologies can be applied for companies like Dell, Nike and Boeing. In today’s world there are so many more choices. There are so many different technologies, and that’s only going to accelerate in the future. So my passion is helping businesses understand the opportunity that’s in front of them by applying these emerging technologies—that’s disruptive and fun.”
Modern tech primer
If you aren’t familiar with these new technologies, here’s a little background. The “Internet of Things,” or IoT, is a multibillion-dollar buzzword. It means machines talking to each other, which has been happening for 50 years. But as sensors get smaller and cheaper — and as networks become much easier to pick up anywhere — there’s been a massive upswing connecting everything.
We can get data from everything. The Amazon Echo is an example of IoT. I control the lights and air conditioner in my recording studio with an “Alexa” command or with my phone. (Everything in my studio is IoT-enabled.)
What do we do with this onslaught of data? It’s too much data for humans to figure out what to do. That’s where Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning come in. With these technologies, a computer “brain” can derive insights from a massive stream of information. Imagine an AI ingesting every poem that’s ever been written, or every law and court decision that’s ever been litigated, or every research study, summarizing everything so you don’t have to pour through tens of thousands of pages of content and data. All you do is look at the summary and make a decision that saves you time and makes you or your business tons of money. That’s a tiny glimpse of how computation power can help us make better-informed decisions.
Data is the most valuable commodity in the world because with it, businesses can predict demand, consumption and supply. But knowing what to do with it is the biggest challenge.
That’s where Andy comes in with his clients — connecting people, ideas and technologies. He solves the “how” with the “who” and the “what,” Texas-style.
When I asked him about the lack of female representation, Andy was the first to admit one of his next big goals is to find and cultivate deeper relationships with women in these historically male-dominated markets.
Data combined with IoT can revolutionize how we work and live. Andy describes a company he’s working with called RealWear, a voice-controlled, head-mounted tablet to “transfer knowledge.” Imagine a small tablet mounted to a hard hat that lets a construction worker or field technician glance at “just-in-time” sensor readings, manuals, repair videos, or even a virtual coach. That’s the idea of bringing the right information at the right time to the right person — who, by the way, can still use both hands to work on their task.
Let’s say you’re a worker in an oil field taking sensor data readings and sending it back to a data historian. You’re out in a nasty environment, wearing big gloves and trying to hit tiny buttons. It’s impossible! So, to save time and finish your task, you write down the numbers on a piece of paper, go back to your office, and type in all your data… but now the reading isn’t in real-time, which creates a new problem. (Not to mention the fact that you might lose that piece of paper or type some data incorrectly.) With a RealWear headset on the techs, they can speak those sensor data readings right into the headset, which are then immediately put into their system. Problem solved, with a simple solution: A headset and IOT platform network connectivity integration into a few enterprise systems.
What’s new and exciting?
So what is Andy excited about? What are some ideas that you may not have even heard of or knew was possible? Andy recently met with two researchers focusing on artificial intelligence, neural networks and brain-computer interfaces for several “three-letter” government agencies. They described the field of neurolinguistics and how, in the near future, researchers might be able to activate regions in the brain known to produce a great idea or “Aha moment.” The brain stimulation technology already exists; they’re currently trying to understand the inputs that allow for those circumstances to happen, and experiment with recreating it on demand. Imagine the possibilities when techniques like this become commonplace. Doctors, inventors, entrepreneurs, and you and I could tap into instant flow, and instant creativity. It’s mind-blowing and could completely revolutionize creativity and innovation.
Now imagine the possibilities when advanced brain-computer interfaces like Elon Musk’s Neuralink let us connect two brains to each other for direct, silent conversations… or when you can put on a cranial cap and write your next book using just your thoughts, relayed directly to your computer. It sounds like science fiction, but Andy has met with the brilliant minds who are working on this in research environments RIGHT NOW.
What’s most unique about Andy’s innovation process is that it doesn’t happen in a boardroom… it happens in his Austin backyard, over BBQ. The boutique concept started while Andy was the CTO of PTC, home of the industry-leading IoT platform ThingWorx. He regularly collaborated with a variety of different people, companies and opportunities and thought… Let’s get together at my home in Austin. We’ll have some BBQ and a few beers, and we’ll brainstorm.
He asks participants to share their answers to questions like, “What are you good at? What do you need? What do you bring to the table, and what are you stuck on?” Everyone scans their “rolodex” for connections that will help. That’s when the MAGIC happens. When you have an unstructured conversation within a widely-diverse group, our brains go in all sorts of crazy ways, and ideas happen.
Andy has seen businesses start out of these backyard conversations, and participants have had significant shifts in their business. The ideas that happen are important, but the relationships that are formed are priceless.
Bottom line … when we have a rapport and we actually like each other … we’re going to create better things a lot faster.
Andy is a perfect matchmaker because he understands emerging technologies, leadership, and the value of a robust professional and personal network.
If you’re interested in getting an invitation to one of Andy’s highly curated Backyard BBQ events, visit his website and someone on Andy’s team will get back to you and do a quick interview to determine if you’re a right fit.