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DIGITAL TRENDSPOTTING 2019:1A — Having a Brutal First-Mover-Disadvantage in One World, While Having to Run for it in Another

Much of what we will see from the social context of this year’s Digital Trendspotting 2019, is in many ways the reasons why some of us in the middle of 2018 realized more and more the benefits, even the necessity, to move both technology development, the venture and — in the end — even ourselves to the other side of the globe.

The starting point for such a pivot is always what kind of change one wants to achieve, at the high level divided into two different types:

1) Using new technology to repair old processes

2) Using new technology to innovate totally new processes

Whether one academically calls it 1st v/s 2nd loop learning, evolution v/s revolution, quantitative v/s qualitative change etc., in the first case one has to adapt what one does to existing systems, where all dissonances must develop in friction between the old and the new so to speak. It does not necessarily have to be unsexy, but can on the contrary in many instances concern a genuine improvement with streamlining of what is happening today.

At the same time, there is still a huge difference between these two ambitions. In the 1st order change we would have made the horse carriages lighter and giving the wheels better ball bearings, while in the 2nd order we invent the car; in the first order we streamline mail order monumentally through e-commerce, while in the 2nd order we disrupt the whole music industry by inventing Spotify.

More specifically, if a company like AIAR had the ambition to make a 1st order change, then the important thing 2018 would have been to get a “foothold” within the established economy, preferably first at local level. At the same time, within AIAR as well as most other disruptive companies, we have not for one second played with any other idea than to succeed with a 2nd order change for the learning industry (a “Spotify of Learning” so to speak)— where we started by launching the world’s first AI-supported learning app on Google Play and AppStore. And we have definitely had no other ambition but the international— where we where “born global” with our 200.000 first members from 165 countries in general, and predominantly from Asia in particular.

In such a case a “foothold”, perhaps especially a local one, does not make for a success, it works against success (which is exactly how it looks like in the industry for MOOCs and eLearning right now, i.e. all major players have far too big “footholds” in the old way of learning, to ever be able to catalyse a revolution towards the new).

What one though can say about the ambition of a 2nd order change is that timing is everything — one can be premature (first-mover-disadvantage), one can be perfectly perfect (first-mover-advantage), or totally too late out (late follower). When it comes to my own business insights from 2018 — after a totally insane work load and more than 100 travelling days to 25 places — my take above all is this: AIAR is in Europe in general, and perhaps in Sweden in particular, way way ahead of its time.

Should AIAR therefore have stayed in Europe, we would have become known as the pioneer company which was well ahead of its time (I myself had two such ventures before, perhaps “cool” for the ego, but not so “cool” neither for wallet or prosperity so to say :-D). But in AIAR’s case, experience shows that it is more a matter of geographics than econometrics.

While in 2018, working with locally renowned VC companies and extremely sharp vice presidents for some of Europe’s largest (and thus the world’s largest) private bankers, I had to explain what an “immutable leader” is. At the same time I got in totally vibrating places like Singapore, Hong Kong, Seoul, Ho Chin Minh, Dubai and Bahrain etc., completely bombarded (!) with smart and initiated questions — where I really had to stand on my toes to win the battle (which of course I do, but it’s the process we talk about 😊).

The point is, of course, that it is easier to invest in something that you fully comprehend, than something you do not understand. And here AIAR both in Europe and America is extremely far ahead (“first-mover-disadvantage” if you wish, “disruption” if you happen to meet someone who dares to “chance” with some “funny money” so to speak :-D). But in the case of Asia, however, AIAR is completely (!) in line with the gigantic technology revolution that is taking place there, where we, if we didn’t hurry, instead wouldend up coming behind :-O :-D

Had I known what I know today, I might not even have started a company like AIAR in Europe today at all (unfortunately, for purely macro-political, in the long run these are no super fun things we talk about :-/). It is easy to say with hindsight, but the biggest challenge for us has actually not been to determine whether the timing is right, but locating WHERE timing is right.

The result of this process is that as sad as it might be to shut down in one country, as equally strategically pleasant it is to open up in three new ones. In 2019, therefore, our planet will experience a digital explosion beyond this world in one of the planets largest and most crucial areas — but this time, the gaze will have to be moved somewhat, more specifically to the other side of the globe ;)

Nevertheless, I hope that this year I will still see all of you, and I am pretty sure that the year ahead of us will make some of you quite surprised, if not even amazed and, most preferably, changed :) So far, it is “for me to know and for you to find out” — but soon we will be seeing each other, and until then…

… I just want to wish you a really happy new year :-);) :-D

/ Rufus, December 2019

· Published sections on social context: Foreword, Section 1A, Section 1B, Section 1C, Section 1D, Section 1E, Section 1F

· Published sections on AI so far: Section 2A, Section 2B

· Digital Trendspotting 2019: The trendspotting is released as a serial at the dawn of the New Year. It will be delivered both in Swedish on LinkedIn (, in English at Medium (, and sometimes with some video abstracts on our block chain journey (



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Rufus Lidman

Rufus Lidman

Data disruptor with 50,000 followers. 300 lectures, assignments on 4 continents, 6 ventures with 2–3 ok exits, 4 books, 15 million app downloads.