What the Heck is a Futurist?

Futurist is a term that has been thrown around a lot lately. However, do you actually know what a futurist is? No, they aren’t fortunetellers and they aren’t alchemists either. Futurists are actually a lot like journalists. Rather than reporting on what has already happens, they report on what is only beginning to happen. Then, they analyze that information among various environments. Basically, futurists find what is just on the edge of society – they can identify the trends and technologies that are just on the periphery, but will become the center very soon.

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What about the history of futurism? It all started in the 1940s actually. Ossip Flechtheim, a German professor started to speak and write about the need for “futurology” courses at universities. However, then the two world wars happened and this idea was put off. In the 1960s, a second wave of futurist stepped up to the plate and developed statistical models. They used computers to determine how society would look like in the future. Different from today, futurists at this time were primarily concerned with the far-future ramifications of things such as space travel, the Pill, artificial intelligence, overpopulation and other things of this sort. While people like Arthur Clarke, Theo Gordon and Eric Jantsch imagined what would be possible with science; Daniel Bell, Bertrand de Jouvenel and Yujiro Hayashi wondered what these things would mean for government policy, democracy, journalism, economic welfare and academic independence.

So, as you may have guessed – we are now in the third wave of futurists. The work done in the 1960s has provided a substantial backdrop for what is done today. Taking that and developing it, futurists connect the dots that seem to be unrelated at first. They accurately identify trends and understanding of how they will shape tomorrow. It kind of sounds more like a science experiment – gathering research, then looking for explicit and implicit patterns. Next, futurists will apply those patterns to the consumer to determine whether the consumer and the marketplace is ready for the change. The last step is pressure-testing the trends to see what could possibly occur. That’s right, we’re talking probabilities, not prophecies. In the very end, futurists develop strategies and explain what to do about it. There are specialties as well. Some futurists stick to computing and biotech or future of the cosmos or future of aging.

It definitely sounds a lot more complicated than both you and I probably previously thought, but it does sound like an intriguing career, doesn’t it?

There’s Opportunity in Brazil

“They have a joy for life in Brazil unlike any country I’ve ever seen.” – Morena Baccarin

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Today, Brazil is facing high interest rates, rising inflation and unemployment. However in this scenario, there is an opportunity to innovate and reinvent old industries. As a result of the first two world wars, many inventions were created. Just a few examples that were born in crisis are the zipper, the drone, the wireless radio, chemotherapy and even the Internet.

Although there has been volatility in Brazil’s market, the country has been doing well. It has an energetic democracy, growing middle class and Brazil’s GDP has risen to $2.2 trillion, making it the seventh largest global economy. Even though the GDP growth was actually flat, Brazil’s web and mobile sectors increased by over 20 percent. Brazil also has 199 million people under 30 years old and 30 million people crossing the poverty line, becoming new consumers.

All of these factors contribute to why I believe that this is such a conducive time to invest in online and technology startups that are focusing on consumer consumption, small businesses and credit. I think that it will be these successful technology innovators that contribute to more economic vitality and broader growth in Brazil, not the proposed Austerity Plan.

Let me explain an example with BankFacil. They are financial tech innovators that are democratizing access to affordable consumer credit. How do they do this? BankFacil enables secured, online loans with the aim to reduce interest paid by families and the time that is spend on paperwork by banks. They use digital channels that eliminate the high costs of physical branches. The clients can manage the process with much less democracy.

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There are some intriguing mobile innovators such as Qipu, an accounting app for nano-entrepreneurs; Grubster, a restaurant service that is similar to Reserve; Memed, an online medical database and prescription platform kind of like Epocrates; and Pipefy, an online team management and workflow platform.

It is inevitable that Brazil’s citizens will be more mobile-driven. A research survey from eMarketer showed that the number of smart phone users in Brazil will increase from 39.7 million last year to 77.6 million over the next four years.

There is a saying that goes, “the same wave that drowns one person is the wave that propels the other.” It is times like this that disruptors have a huge opportunity to deliver and leverage technology. Innovators in Brazil, now is your time to be brave and motivated – go after the market and you will be successful.