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Introduction: 2020 Vision

I know it seems you just read Ready or Not recently. Four years doesn’t seem that long. But when I think of the changes and leaps the world has made in the past four years, the first Ready or Not feels ancient. 

All right, that may be an exaggeration. But hear me out. When I wrote Ready or Not in 2016, I was looking at the world with the eyes of an engineer. After more than a decade of building startups and contributing to the world’s biggest technology and computing firms with my engineering products in Silicon Valley, I was excited by the arrival of the future I long waited for. Sure, it wasn’t how the movies I grew up loving envisioned it to be. There were no flying cars or robot armies. Yet. 

But I saw that the building blocks of the next technological revolution were already coming into place. They were creating impactful strides that will prove to transform the way people will live their lives. 

“Digital” was the word that people either aimed to be or transform into. As the Chief Strategy Officer of PLDT Inc. then, I knew firsthand how important it was for big businesses to disrupt themselves before they got outraced by the next new startup. Back then, PLDT was on the heels of laying out its next big plan, as its core business of fixed-line telecommunications was getting usurped by its data business as the main driver of profits. 

In a country of Internet-savvy citizens, it was important for the country’s largest telco business to change strategies, quick. 

The Internet, the great equalizer of the millennium, has ushered in innovations that would transform the world as we know it, as more vie to become digital. Suddenly, being digital for businesses meant more than just having a website, or projecting reports on screen rather than on paper. It meant more than just buying the latest computers, or installing the latest online security systems. 

In 2016, being digital meant using digital tools for digital partners in every segment, sector, and member of the business. For small enterprises, that meant adopting an online payroll system to ease the HR department of paperworks. For retailers, that meant including e-wallet payments in brick-and-mortar stores, or building an online store altogether. That year, the new wave of innovations had started to disrupt legacy processes and businesses. “Disruption” was not just a buzzword, it was the reality. 

I saw it when China’s tech giant Alibaba bought a controlling stake in Lazada and became a more mainstream e-commerce platform in the Philippines and the rest of the region. Its influence was so immense and palpable that it even convinced the country’s largest mall operator, SM Malls, to sign up a partnership with Lazada, just so they could sell their inventory online. 

I saw it when Silicon Valley’s poster boys, from Apple to Amazon, wielded the data they held from the millions of customers using their platform into the driving force of their businesses. As they tapped artificial intelligence to provide smarter solutions for customers, it was so transformative that it shaped shopping habits. 

In Los Angeles, I saw how the customers in line at my favorite café switched from paying with physical credit cards to paying with Apple Pay. And how I’ve come to rely on Amazon as the service to deliver the latest gadgets I will most likely want in my kitchen, and in less than 24 hours. 

In less than a year after publishing Ready or Not, the Bitcoin I thought would be transformative by 2025, was already making headlines after reaching historical numbers, hitting almost US$20,000 in value.1 Suddenly, the online ledger it was running on, blockchain, became the technology engineers and innovative entrepreneurs tinkered on, producing startups left and right and helping change decades-old business processes and government systems. 

Convenience was becoming the standard everywhere. Those who were informed by the new innovations knew they could do things quicker than ever before. The efficiency enjoyed online is now also expected offline, too. I saw this when 3D printing grew more popular in the West, and how it slowly came to Philippine shores. In different parts of the country, either in commercial spaces or the homes of geeks and nerds like me, there are printers that can produce prototypes in less than a day. 

E-commerce, big data, blockchain, internet of things, and artificial intelligence were the innovations that were starting to alter the way businesses did business, changing lives in the process. But they were just beginning then. Four years later, these innovations have not only helped businesses transform, they have also spurred the birth of new companies altogether. 

As a consultant of the biggest businesses in the country with my company, Amihan Global Strategies, I witnessed firsthand how organizations slowly adapted into “digital” ways. For example, the country’s largest bank, BDO Unibank Inc has now activated biometric technology leveraging facial recognition to increase security and convenience of digital banking. 

The country’s largest microinsurance provider, CARD Pioneer Microinsurance Inc., has collaborated with my own startup hub Talino Venture Labs, to build an insurtech firm called Saphron. Today, their agents now cut the process of onboarding new clients from hours down to mere minutes, thanks to AI-operated chatbots. 

These new developments have led me to think that the innovations of 2016 were just the beginning. Today, they have either become more sophisticated or have given birth to new uses. 

In this book, I tackle how e-commerce has become so immense in scale, it’s giving birth to new channels like the Superapps. And yet in emerging countries like the Philippines, offline agents are still important links for those in rural areas to participate in the digital economy. 

The digitization of cash is also becoming more crucial to make e-commerce transactions an even better experience. This also makes online security even more critical, like how artificial intelligence and biometrics are now used to protect customer assets and identities. We’re also seeing how online transactions and activities are now becoming decentralized in the blockchain, going back to the roots of the Internet as power goes back to the user.

Like the first Ready or Not, this isn’t a how-to kit or an all-in-one guide. It’s meant to be a peek at an even more exciting future, and will give you greater insight for taking the first, or further steps to successfully participate in the growing digital world. Because whether we’re ready or not, the future we used to talk about is already here. Not just in the West, but in the Philippines and certainly in many parts of Southeast Asia. It’s a race to digital transformation, and the question is no longer about why you should adopt digital technologies, but when.


This is an excerpt from Ready or Not 2020. To Read the Full Book, Order Here