India is a moonshot economy: Jack Hidary, Google X Senior Advisor

Jack Hidary, Google X Senior Advisor, was hosted by Kalaari and talked to tech entrepreneurs in Bangalore about creating moonshot companies. Jack is a successful serial entrepreneur in diverse domains such as technology, energy and finance. He deeply enjoys tackling hard problems and championing 10x thinking among tech entrepreneurs.

Highlights of the session

In a truly invigorating and thought-provoking talk, Jack explained why moonshot thinking is essential to creating a billion-dollar opportunity. Having over fifteen years of experience taking moonshot bets, he gave his inputs on best practices around “Thinking 10x”.

Today, more and more startups are battling for key resources – human capital, financial capital, media attention, consumer mindshare and partnerships. The data shows that a moonshot approach, rather than an incremental approach, attracts the lion’s share of these resources. Jack predicts that in the next 24-36 months, we will see the first few trillion-dollar companies in the world and it is no accident that these will be technology companies which have broken the mental barriers through moonshot thinking.

“In this time, this year, this moment, in terms of the non-linear space that we are in, both in the Indian startup ecosystem as well as in other places, we are really faced with moonshots or destruction. It’s no longer about disruption, but about destruction”

For example, tech giants like Apple have not just disrupted the music industry, they have put its very existence in jeopardy. Not adopting to technology has led to the decline of the music industry, with revenues from CDs and traditional media being miniscule. For growth, it is necessary for companies to find multiple billion dollar markets and thinking big is the only way to get this right. This will happen in more sectors exponentially. According to Jack, the moonshot effect is strengthened by several factors, one of which is the mobile phone revolution.

“India is a fascinating story in terms of mobile growth because it’s not only leapfrogging the landline, but also the feature phone. Most people getting a phone for the first time in India are going right to the smartphone.”

Everyone today, has access to a lot of algorithmic power and tools at minimal costs, and we see sector after sector getting crowded easily as the barriers to entry are low. Jack has some advice for young entrepreneurs on how to differentiate in such a scenario and build a moonshot startup:

  1. Think 10X then 100X. Push yourself and take the time with your team to challenge them to adopt 10X thinking. The outcomes can be surprising. Bring in outsiders for some unusual thinking. Solve hard problems intentionally.
  2. Hire problem solvers with a diverse skill set. People who have faced massive challenges and worked through them across a variety of sectors and have demonstrated resilience will be the best to tackle tomorrow’s problems. The nimbleness that the companies need now is critically biased towards problem solving and less towards pedigree. The best people will always be attracted to the bigger, bolder vision.

He says that in India, there is a trillion-dollar opportunity to take the country from 87% cash transactions to a mostly digital economy, which is bigger than Uber’s entire opportunity space. This requires non-linear and exponential thinking.

Jack stresses on the fact that thinking 10X is not just applicable for e-commerce, mobility etc. but also in the physical nature of how we interact with materials. 3D printers which are disrupting the steel industry are a great example of moonshot thinking applied to the physical world.

It took 45 years to get the first 3 billion people online. The next 3 billion from India, Africa, and South-east Asia will be connected to the internet in 5-7 years. Who is best positioned to serve these 3 billion people? That is a moonshot opportunity according to Jack.

His final advice to entrepreneurs:

 “Do not compete with incumbents, rather find a new, challenging green field”