The fundamental issue of trust in technology and the ways to deal with it

The Founder and CEO of Skyscanner Gareth Williams.

In an age of exponential advances in technologies, that soon seemed destined to remain part of the sci-fi movies, people around the world are having a hard time catching up with all the breakthroughs emerging from the IT industry.

As with everything new we face, there is fundamental issue of trust between customers and the tech innovators, trying to build a new digital world for all of us. There are numerous questions that the IT experts need to answer, before the public starts perceiving trends like the rise of AI and automation as something positive for the future.

Right now, most of us see the global tech giants collecting billions of data units from their users and doing whatever they want with them. But companies like Amazon and Facebook are now promoting customer obsession as the right way of doing business in the digital age and are leading the pack towards a more secure and trustworthy user interaction.

Among those responsible companies is Skyscanner – one of the largest online search engines for comparing prices of flights, hotels and cars for hire from all over the world. Its Founder and CEO Gareth Williams was among over 300 top level speakers at this year’s Webit.Festival Europe and explained to the guests of the event what are the best ways to start a digital business and to earn the trust of your customers.

He thinks that although the users still are not very interested in the ways big companies use their personal data, history will look back and judge them for the decisions they make today.

“It seems to me that there is a fundamental issue of trust and we have been packaged up as units of data. Right now, Wall Street brings global economic crashes. It is seen in a bad light by huge parts of the population and I’m wandering if we are heading in the same direction”, the entrepreneur said.

Williams warned that now it is still legal to unite people as packages of data and do what you want with them, but noted that he is proud that when Skyscanner set up its goals, the leading aim was to become the most trusted and most used online travel brand in the world.

Nearly 15 years after its launch, Skyscanner connects more than 60 million people every month directly to everything the travel industry has to offer. The company is also powering travel search for over 1200 partners through its Skyscanner for Business products.

Talking about the impact of aviation, Williams quoted the English pioneer in this field Claude Grahame-White, who in 1914 predicted that the globe will be linked by flight and nations will become so knit together that they will grow to be next-door neighbours – something we can easily notice in Europe since the end of the World War II.

“What railways have done for nations, airways will do for the world”, Claude Grahame-White said.

The Founder and CEO of Skyscanner Gareth Williams.

According to Williams, the rise of information technology in the recent decades, combined with the constant growth in aviation demand created amazing business opportunities that people like him managed to use.

Recent survey by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) showed that aviation could be worth $88 billion to the world economy in 20 years. Part of the reason for that is the new regulation on private jets that Chinese authorities adopted last year.

Gareth Williams said that while entrepreneurship may be defined as the pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled, the best definition for good management is quite the opposite – the pursuit of opportunity with complete regard to resources currently controlled.

He thinks that the key to building a successful company is the right combination between these two driving forces – spirit for entrepreneurship and managerial realism.

“Pretty much that is illustrated by the Skyscanner’s modest past from our early days starting with very basic website and zero funding for the first 5 years. And we kept on trying to get the balance right between that entrepreneurship and that management of the chaos. And we kept on doing it as we went along and so that each year we are modestly increasing the number of people who chose to come back to us”, the CEO said.

Williams quoted the famous former CEO of Southwest Airlines Herb Kelleher, who once said that if the Wright brothers were alive today, Wilbur would have to fire Orville to reduce costs.

While this may seem a little too harsh, the right cost management is among the key factors for the aviation industry – something that was showed 30 years ago by American Airlines. In 1987 the company managed to save $40 000 by eliminating one olive from each passenger’s salad plate.

The expert suggested that the most important factor for making a successful digital business may be how frequently the user need your product or service. The Co-founder of Google and CEO of Alphabet Larry Page calls the process of determining this “The Toothbrush Test”. Before launching a product or service for the mass public, he ask himself if the average person would use it at least twice a day.

Williams’s recipe for success in the digital world includes building a team with more product designers and engineers, rather than investing in the great profit extraction engines of the world like Google, Facebook etc. Then you need to go to something that is frequent enough to get the word of mouth and advertise itself.

You may watch his full lecture here:

If you want to keep up with the latest trend in the world of digital economy and technology, then Webit.Festival is the right place for you. Visit our website and book 2 of our Super Earlybird tickets for Webit.Festival Europe 2018 for just €100.

Feel the Webit vibe with some of the best photos from this year’s event!


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