Boris is the wise ol’ CEO of TNW who writes a weekly column on everything about being an entrepreneur in tech — from managing stress to embracing awkwardness. You can get his musings straight to your inbox by signing up for his newsletter!
One of my favorite cocktail bars in Amsterdam is The Flying Dutchman. Great atmosphere, young and ambitious bartenders, and some of the most original and amazing cocktails you can find. Now obviously, I haven’t been there for a while, or to any cocktail bar really, and I truly miss it.
Now loads of companies are pivoting online during the pandemic, but if you would’ve asked me whether the Dutchman had a shot at it, I would’ve said “no.” There simply isn’t a way to recreate the experience online! But… then I heard about their new subscription model.
At first, I was cynical, but then I read their offer: You communicate with them via Whatsapp, and they send their payment requests through that too. Every other Wednesday, they send you a big envelope containing ingredients for three different cocktails. All you have to do is refrigerate the contents, and once you’re ready for your cocktail, you pour them over ice and add the suggested garnish if you’d like. Six cocktails for €35 a month delivered every other week! I signed up right away.
Then today, I stumbled upon this story about a drive-through striptease club in Oregon. They even have takeaway service for the food they make. Their kitchen is open, so apparently, you can watch a striptease show while you wait for your burger.
These Reuters photos of a strip club in Oregon operating as a drive through takeaway service confirm that we have reached the neon anime sci fi part of our future dystopia. pic.twitter.com/kRKOVz5CWE
— Sean Craig (@sdbcraig) April 30, 2020
My turn to adapt
Then we have conferences. My business.
I used to say you couldn’t replicate an offline experience into an online experience. The whole point was to meet people offline that you already were connected to online or to meet new people. But, the coronavirus crisis changed our world, and forced everybody — including cocktail waiters, strippers, and us — to innovate.
People still want to get together, do business, and share knowledge. Even though we’re stuck at home and at the mercy of a virus, we always want to stay busy and make progress.
What our team came up with is a whole new event concept we branded TNW Couch Conferences, and the first one we’re organizing is Re:Brand. These events are the digital version of our in-person flagship conference. There’s no travel involved as you only need an internet connection, a mug, and a comfy couch to enjoy world-class speakers and connect to your peers.
This is our version of the DIY cocktail at home: An online place where technology prosumers find inspiration, actionable knowledge, and insightful demos for new tools they can implement in their organization.
Now I’m not going to say it was easy launching this offering, but as I’ve mentioned before in my posts, there is a silver lining in our current crisis. We’re all forced to completely rethink our businesses and innovate our way out of this misery — an exhilarating challenge.
Don’t shy away from a transformation
Truth be told, we should’ve all been further ahead already. For years, or even decades, a lot of companies got away with a slow crawl towards being more digital. A few businesses were on the forefront, a majority was taking small steps, and a large segment was simply dragging their heels.
I vividly remember speaking in front of a group of media companies some years ago, about the future of digital. I thought I’d been invited to give them some good news and maybe some insight and inspiration. But as I received questions from the audience, I realized I was only there so they could blame me for their declining revenue.
They didn’t see digital as an opportunity, but rather as an annoying novelty that was complicating their lives. At one point I asked them: If there was a button you could push, that would make the whole internet disappear, would you press it?
It was the first time I got a positive response from the audience, as almost everybody put their hand up and cheered at the prospect. These media giants hated having to innovate and held out as long as they could — nobody can afford that luxury now.
There’s no way to turn back the clock, so you better get up to speed. We went through a transformation where print is now just no longer viable. As physical sales have declined, every newspaper in the world has come to depend on their digital editions.
And now we’re going through another transformation. Netflix used to be a cute little alternative to going to the movies, but now it is our only option. Conferences and events are going online. Cocktails are arriving by mail, and even strippers are changing their business models.
Back in 2000, we used to think ‘everything is going digital!’ And we would fantasize what the next thing would be that turned to digital. Software was eating the world. But then we got stuck in a midway station where too much money was made with old fashioned media and technology. The transition to digital turned out to be slow and gradual.
It is no longer gradual. It is immediate, and your audience is waiting for you to surprise and delight them with your signature cocktail… or striptease?