Innovation is a tricky thing. It happens all the time, and while it is unfolding, so many things go wrong. We have learnt that again just last week, when Terra’s UST stable coin suddenly was worth much less than a dollar, burying the entire Terra LUNA blockchain and dragging the Cryptomarket into a new Crypto winter. What a timing to host the first BI Web3Connect Global Demo Day.

What seems to be a timing-nightmare for hosting such an event is in fact a blessing. In the midst of the crypto-industry’s Lehmann Brothers / Housing-Bubble-Burst moment, BI held the first edition of its global Web3Connect format. An event that brings together startups from its Web3 portfolios with more than 500 investors from all around the world and the wider Bertelsmann Tech & Data community. Despite being in such a volatile market environment, the fundamentals for the value that we see in blockchain technology and the Web3 has not changed a bit. This event has shown that again, indicating that underneath the hype, there is gigantic transformative potential waiting to be leveraged across industries. And with that, also major threats waiting for those who sleep.

Innovation poses an ever-present threat to the status-quo, so it requires attentive decision-makers. At the same time, not every innovative trend is relevant for every business, so it also requires decision-makers who are able to prioritize, and separate the noise from the signal.

Some innovations are loud, clear, easily understandable and not difficult to mediate. Electricity for instance, the invention of the wheel, or antibiotics. Others come along very quietly, seemingly changing only minor details in how things are done, but with huge impact. Identifying these innovations is much more difficult, and neither under- nor overestimating them is a huge challenge. Once these innovations unfold, they can explode at any moment and develop traction at a pace that makes it incredibly hard to keep up with. Once you realize that the once minor detail in fact has a truly disruptive impact on how you think and lead business, it might already be too late.

We are not there yet with blockchain technology, but the technology does exactly that in the long-run. As Jamiel Sheikh, our opening speaker to the Web3Connect Global Demoday opened his speech: “The blockchain solves exactly two problems. It solves the double spend problem, and it does that without the need for an intermediary.” Two things, that Bertelsmann’s Businesses are engaging with regularly.

While a few years ago, it seemed like everyone was trying to search for problems that fit the solutions blockchain technology provides, the sophistication of the underlying infrastructures, smart contract functionalities, different types of architectures and the global blockchain community have matured at breathtaking pace. Now, it is not necessary to search for problems that fit the solution anymore. Real world use-cases have become apparent, and in a sense frightening.

Blockchain technology has the potential to merge us into a new era of online engagement and facilitates the transfer from an internet of information to an internet of value, by introducing the concept of provenance content – by introducing scarcity to digital assets. At the same time, it opens new gateways for alternative, more human-centric business models in financial service, and has the potential to dramatically enhance the efficiency of our global supply chains. We do not know how far we will go. But we know that the technology will affect us in some way or another, forcing us to be proactive.

First initiatives at Bertelsmann have started in 2018, and more and more initiatives followed in the aftermath. But momentum within the group has really started picking up last year, driven at different ends of the Bertelsmann Groups, in different initiatives and get-togethers. Mastering Web3 innovation has become a group-wide, collaborative endeavor, and with that, Bertelsmann follows the example of the entire Web3 ecosystem.

The Bertelsmann Corporate Tech & Data team led by Rhys Nölke is spearheading a number of internal initiatives alongside Arvato Systems, bringing together stakeholders from all business units and divisions, raising awareness and picking brains in the form of a cross-divisional “Web3 Action Plan” facilitated by the Tech & Data team. At the same time, Bertelsmann Investments has steadily expanded its footprint in the Web3 ecosystem, with its portfolio now including 18 Web3 related investments. With BI Web3Connect, BI and BAI Capital have now said “Hello!” to the ecosystem. More than 1300 people participated to watch the demos of 21 startups. The business models were indicative of the innovation coming out of the ecosystem. From digital fashion and wearables for sport fans, as Fancurve provides it, over the Web3 Social Media and Protocol DSCVR to interactive Web3 services by TAXA, the startups showed how innovation is unfolding in front of our eyes. Carsten Mönning of the Corporate Tech & Data team supported the event with his keynote speech on the second day –providing insight to the initiatives Bertelsmann is taking, and the priorities for the group – a relevant information to the ecosystem, and a potential USP to BI in the ecosystem.

At Bertelsmann Investments, we will continue to scout the global VC landscape for attractive business models facilitating the transformation to a Web3 driven internet of value. The Tech & Data team will deepen their efforts to build internal muscle to react to the dynamic developments, and to help the group to pivot into new realms of business, when necessary. And without a doubt, we will continue to collaborate on this tremendously important topic. Innovation might be a tricky thing, but most of the time, it is worth the while.

By Martin El-Khouri