Scope2016 - page 31

t Skidmore I suffered FOMO—fear of
missing out—when my friends talked
about their study abroad. So I quit the
basketball team and studied in China,”
recalls Eli Johnston ’14. Now it’s FOMO no more:
Johnston is back in Asia, where he’d vowed to re-
turn, and he’s a very marketable professional in
a very exciting economy.
In China, he studied international business and
interned at the Ogilvy Mather ad firm. Upon gradu-
ation he chose a job with AlphaSights—“a very cool,
forward-looking ‘knowledge brokerage’ company,”
he says—and then moved to another such firm, the
Futures Company, which studies social and market-
ing trends and provides the information to help
businesses plan their strategies.
“When I wrote a paper on women in India and
ways for business to tap into them as a market while
also helping them progress socially,” he recounts,
the director of Futures’ Asia region got him a post-
ing at the fast-growing Singapore office. Since then
Johnston’s travel and research in the region have
included giving a keynote address at a Facebook con-
ference in Jakarta and meeting with staff in Honda’s
innovation lab in Tokyo.
Futures’ survey research has taught Johnston
that “consumers are more and more conscious of
supply chain, sustainable production, and other
corporate responsibility factors. I see this as a huge
opportunity for businesses to boost their profits
while promoting social innovation.” Another lesson:
“Artificial intelligence is already more advanced
than you might think. I mean, there are robots that
can decipher the emotions conveyed by a painting—
pretty crazy!” He says AI-controlled driverless cars
could be in circulation within a year or so.
Meanwhile, Johnston revels in Asia’s vibrancy
and promise. He’s befriended fellow expats and had
roommates from Singapore as well as Germany,
India, France, and Indonesia. He says, “It’s estimated
that two-thirds of the global middle class will be in
the Asia Pacific by 2030. So many economies are
growing, and societies are changing so fast.”
Recently change again came to his career, as he
switched jobs to become head of corporate innova-
tion for Impact Hub’s Singapore office. He says, “My
job is to help link big brands like Coca-Cola and JP
Morgan with the techies and entrepreneurs who use
Impact Hub’s shared spaces for startups.” Budweiser,
for example, seeking help with its brewery in China,
invited young innovators “to hack it out” and pitch
their solutions to Bud executives.
On the side Johnson runs Own Your Brilliance, a
firm he created to engage college students in devis-
ing market solutions that also address social issues.
Working with Professor Cathy Hill and the Career
Development Center at Skidmore, he organized an
“Impactathon” on campus in September; more are
planned for universities in the Philippines, South Af-
rica, and Australia. First OYB asks participants which
of the United Nations’ sustainable-development goals
are most important to them. Next it forms them into
teams that mix majors and skills, and then leads them
through “ideation exercises” and other coaching.
After two and a half intensive days, they present their
ideas to a panel of investors and entrepreneurs.
Johnston says OYB’s business model involves
“charging a small fee to participants, sharing in the
percentage taken by a crowdfunding company that
our innovators work with, and taking a small stake in
each new company that emerges.” In the US this year,
crowdfunding just might raise more money than ven-
ture capital does, so Johnson asserts, “it’s not a fad; it’s
a new, democratized business paradigm.”
OYB’s seven employees include Josh Chaco ’16 and
Rachel Dance ’16. “We’re on three continents in four
time zones,” Johnston says, “but we meet weekly on
Skype.” Good thing he’s as quick and nimble as his
industry.
—Susan Rosenberg
Trend tracker
Eli Johnston ’14
helps businesses
innovate.
Benjamin Chia
Driving
tomorrow’s
trends
“A
SKIDMORE COLLEGE
29
1...,21,22,23,24,25,26,27,28,29,30 32,33,34,35,36
Powered by FlippingBook