Following this summer’s climax of the ARISE Venture Programme – run by EIT Digital, which aims to support innovations and young entrepreneurs in the Balkans – at which the Slovenian project partner, the Ljubljana-based ABC Accelerator, hosted seven of the most promising startups from the Western Balkans, a Meet&Match was held on Tuesday, 25 September. The event organized by ABC Accelerator and EIT Digital, which took place at the IBM Innovation Centre in Ljubljana, was attended by Slovenian startups and representatives of established Slovenian companies. One of the lectures was held by Andy Baynes, a former executive at Apple, Nest, and Google, and an investor in innovation and startups, who, among other things, spoke about the future of blockchain and the transition of financial transactions to mobile platforms. He also expects to see wide deployment of autonomous vehicles in the air, and not on the roads, whereas the first mass use of AI-driven robotics will happen in outer space.


After the introductory address by Thomas Köster, International Outreach Lead at EIT Digital, in which the great potential of South East Europe was pointed out – the organization had already invested in seven companies – Andy Baynes, who is also one of the mentors at the ABC Accelerator in Ljubljana, took the stage to talk about the importance of innovation.

Companies need to think about where their clients are going

“Companies don’t always find it easy to recognise and develop useful ‘problem solving’ innovations and customers aren’t always good at knowing or predicting what problem they need solving.  Successful Innovators are ones that know how to innovate in this direction – not where they are today,” stressed Baynes, and illustrated this by presenting Nest’s thermostat, which knows when the user is not at home and is able to turn off the heating automatically. Nest customers can also adjust the temperature remotely using Nest’s mobile app. The influence of this energy-efficient device has resulted in over 12 TWh of energy being saved since the first Nest Learning Thermostat was sold in 2011.

As Baynes told Energetika.NET in an interview in January 2017: “There is a connected devices revolution emerging and energy is the common OS that connects all these devices, and in many cases makes them relevant. Business models that will succeed in the residential space are the ones that understand the direction that the customer is travelling in, companies that care deeply about customer experience and can innovate on all fronts; platform, hardware and software. Knowing how to fail quickly is also an important survival trait for today’s startups.”

Strong innovations usually have modest beginnings, however, they develop quickly – especially if they are truly hot innovations, said Baynes at September’s Meet&Match, and quoted the successful industrial designer Jony Ive, who said that creative ideas are very fragile in the beginning, making it easy to suppress them. For this reason, Baynes believes that they should be protected and nurtured as much as possible, after all – as he was able to demonstrate – they can turn out to be an innovation such as the iPod, iPad, and iPhone.



Photo: Siniša Kanižaj, ABC Accelerator

Banks and financial transactions of the future

Since any progress, innovation or achievement is born out of some sort of effort, Andy Baynes advises that “people should do the things that are hard, as they are usually the most worthwhile. However, don’t forget to set yourself a goal, that is, a mission, as otherwise, hard soon becomes impossible. Hard work is not necessarily hard, if it is something you believe in.”

At September’s Meet&Match Baynes also offered the following guidance:

  • Meet customers where they’re going, not where they are.
  • Keep it simple – choreograph your customer experience.
  • Make it tangible and rewarding.
  • Iterate success, otherwise fail quickly and pivot.

He also gave the basic design principles:

  • Ask not what the product does, but what problem will solve?
  • Instead of aiming for a minimum viable product, aim for a minimum awesome product.
  • Do the things that are hard. If it isn’t hard, it probably isn’t worth doing.
  • Make sure what you do is a mission. Without a mission, hard becomes impossible.

In his conclusion, Andy Baynes offered a glance at the near future, predicting that 80% of the high-street, walk-in retail banks will close in the next five years. He predicted that most future financial transactions will be on mobile platforms and will be supported by a new generation of banks that could include Telcos, Energy utilities, and Fintech startups. He believes this is fertile ground for blockchain which in his opinion could support as much as 20% of all financial transactions within five years.

Additionally, Baynes expects to see wide deployment of autonomous vehicles in the air within fifteen years, whereas the first mass use of AI-driven robotics will happen in outer space.