November 24 and 25 2013 saw the 13th annual ‘Silicon Valley Comes to Oxford’ event take place at Saïd Business School. The event is Europe’s leading entrepreneurship and innovation forum and aims to bridge the gap between the business market and business education in order to explore contemporary issues and create future visions of business success through a range of debates and masterclasses along with a variety of networking opportunities.
Monday’s discussion centered on the third wave of the digital revolution and how this has and continues to affect business. Talking at the event was lawyer Dave Philips of Sidecar Technologies, a San Franciscan startup which has utilized app technology to build a social transportation network. The app lets everyday drivers get paid to pick up passengers going in the same direction and focuses on providing mutually beneficial social journeys.
Philips discussed his experiences at Sidecar with students of Saïd Business School and scrutinized the tension between ingrained governance and culture of a company alongside the innovative game-changing thinking often involved in startup companies. He talks of the difficulty of scaling up a company defined by its informality and community culture into an internationally successful business. He says, “The moment companies become big enough, they find themselves having to conform to a code that is just not equipped for the blurred lines of the sharing economy,” and, he points out, this sort of regulated work environment is often detrimental to innovation.
Startups need to be a part of the digital revolution while understanding traditional business models
Sidecar’s success, Philips believes, is due to the use of the digital market and social media to not only provide a service but also to create an informal community. This new kind of ‘network transportation’ is needed to find new pathways through business conventions in order to keep the values the company was founded on. Phillip’s legal background also came in handy in the identifying what workarounds were permissible by law.
Philips’ parting thought was regarding the need for a new company to be keyed into both tradition and innovation. “We will see more startups providing these informal, sharing, match-making solutions in every sector from education to health, but real success will only come to those who can navigate between the two worlds of traditional governance and disruptive start-up.”