While in the Bay Area for a series of meetings last week, I was thrilled to participate in the festivities for OpenCo SF 2013, organized by BattelleMedia and Walmart's Brian Monahan (who also hosted the VIP Plenary Reception).
Full disclosure: The Bay Area has a special place in my heart. It's where I "grew up" in my marketing, media, and management career and had the honor of working alongside many digital marketing pioneers. I have a fondness and appreciation for the spirit of innovation that resides in the Bay Area. Although San Francisco might not be the primary hub of media spending today, the city's commitment to innovation, its environment, and its impact on the business community and economy are undeniable.
OpenCo represents a forum for the intelligence, inspiration, and passion that is currently catalyzing new ways of business. The change agents participating in the event went well beyond the great tech and new media giants headquartered on the peninsula. I heard from and visited a number of innovative companies over the course of my two days there, including 140 Proof, Dijit, WideOrbit, UM's Mad Valley, ShareThis, Verizon, Nextdoor, Charles Schwab, KITE, Cloudflare, and many others. The experience was compelling, and it was inspiring to see a commitment to innovation on display at companies of all sizes, across many verticals.
One of the most powerful sessions that I attended was the Plenary Session featuring OpenCo co-founder John Battelle and Neil Ashe, president and CEO of Walmart Global eCommerce. Walmart is not the first company that comes to mind when I think of innovation, and the organization hasn't been portrayed in the most positive light in recent press. However, the open discussion during the session drastically altered my perception of the retail giant. It shed light on the Bay Area Walmart team's mission to "save money, live better." In his typical fashion, Battelle asked Ashe the tough questions, and many insights emerged.
A few of the session's "ah-ha" moments that forced me to reconsider my perceptions included the following revelations:
- Walmart is committed to sourcing $50 billion in local (U.S.) products as a means of bringing jobs back to the U.S.
- Walmart Global eCommerce employs more than 2,000 people in the Bay Area alone, many of whom are digital marketing pioneers.
- Even though the division is only two years old, Walmart Global eCommerce alone generates $10 billion in revenue and would rank on the Fortune 500 list.
During the session, Ashe noted that "the real opportunity is at the intersection of physical and digital worlds." I agree. This holiday season and over the next six months, I believe we're going to see a vast sea change in the commerce world, thanks to nascent technologies and continued growth in e-commerce.
I, for one, am going to be following and supporting our friends at Walmart Global eCommerce as they drive a retail revolution that will ultimately better serve both our nation and environment.