Leon Ephraim

Visit Your Local Bakery Before Declaring That Digital Wallets Are The Future Near

There’s a lot of hype around digital wallets and apps and that makes sense, after all, how many billions of people purchase day to day items with pocket change every day around the globe?! But then again, how many of those are ready, or willing, to change their habits (bestowed on them by their ancestors btw) overnight because of some cool new app that was brought to life in shiny San Francisco by a group of freshly minted youngsters from Stanford? Probably a handful in certain communities in leading edge New York or trendy London, but not many in my local bakery. At least not tomorrow.

Startup fallacy — not every short term massive scale paradigm shifting technology is going to get adopted tomorrow.

When you bring into a room of bright, well intentioned people with entrepreneurial and programming skills most of the time the pure competitiveness of their creative thinking leads them to invent solutions for problems that don’t exist. Once and a while though, some magic happens and these new services actually do create a need that didn’t exist before but more often than not, they simply don’t prevail. One reason is that they happen in rooms. In secluded and privileged environments, with very high speed internet access, the latest iDevices and bowls of fresh organic fruit and bottled mineral water. Not exactly the neighbourhood of change. This easily foreseeable tactical error is at the center of more startup blunders than you can count and what's more astonishing, these “hackathons” happen under premium VC firms eyes, supposedly watching out for these types of mishaps. No wonder the tech world seems to navigate around the endless flow of game-changing PR keeping them comfortably away from the expected effects because the backdraft can be frightening.

One way to avoid this is to simply, get out of the office.

If one of these maverick founders actually went down to his or her local bakery and sat down and watched people as they rummaged through their handbags, coats and jeans for whatever they use for payment, one would comprehensively understand that the shift from the leather coin purse to the shiny surface of their iDevice (for those that have one) is going to be a long road. Especially if the bakery was somewhere outside hip & trendy Mission Street (SF). My point is, there are things that technology can improve on and even help create within our day to day lives but it all depends on adoption rates and those are heavily influenced by demographics, sociological and economical phenomenon that are readily understood by those that create new services and apps but not, lived.

I remember being astonished that Chase Adam was cherished like some messiah after his albeit (very) admirable speech at Y Combinator (video here), all he did was go out into the world and live, work beside and help his target population (and forgive for not mentioning others). It’s not always easy, pretty, glorious or fun but the experience is what makes some innovative services take off and others fall short. Taking a trip down to your local bakery can teach you a lot — that all this speculation that digital wallets will soon prevail depends on the evolution of many different ingredients notably, on both sides of the counter.