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Kauffman fellow Wilbanks explores KC’s Fiber opportunity (Video)

Kansas City March 26, 2012 by Michael Stacy Only 17 days until Big Omaha. Get your tickets before they sell out!

The second installment of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation's Google Fiber Speaker Series did little to lower an awfully lofty bar set in the series' first session. 

John Wilbanks (left), who's a senior fellow in entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation and an expert on open content, open data and open innovation systems, delivered the second address of the series earlier this month at the foundation's headquarters Kansas City, Mo.

Following on the heels of the series' first talk by Startup America Partnership CEO Scott Case, in which Case challenged Kansas City to leverage the arrival of Google Fiber to create 2,500 companies and 10,000 jobs, Wilbanks discussed similarly ambitious ideas for Kansas City.

Wilbanks framed his discussion of what the ultra high-speed network could mean to the metro area using a paradigm famously employed by former United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld: the known knowns, the known unknowns, the unknown knowns and the unknown unknowns. Wilbanks divided business opportunities that could crop up on account of Google Fiber into those four categories.

  • Known knowns - "The service model." Kansas City can attract business models that are mostly based on incremental advances to existing technologies. They're not truly disruptive, but they could create some jobs and opportunities.
  • Known unknowns - "The convention model." Kansas City can use its high-speed network to attract events that require that sort of speed, providing a boon to ancillary industries in the area. 
  • Unknown knowns - "The capacity model." Certain data-intensive companies could jump at the opportunity to process data much more quickly, and only a handful of places are in competition with Kansas City for such companies. "You can start to draw in the big data people," Wilbanks said, “if you start to get the reputation as a place that just has a giant fire hoses of data.”
  • Unknown unknowns - "The design model." These businesses require the most imagination — a little insanity, even — but also present the greatest opportunity. Instead of thinking in terms of business plans that appear rational by current standards, people must push the envelope and think of things from a design perspective, Wilbanks said. “If you start to think fictionally instead of business plans," he said, "you can go some pretty interesting places."

Wilbanks' most intriguing big-picture observations made came during his concluding remarks (shortly after the 39:30 mark of the video above), just before he opened the floor for questions.

"The success of this project would be being radically and completely surprised by the industrial sectors that emerge from gigabit, as opposed to saying, 'We’re going to be satisfied if what we do is incrementally make Netflix faster,' " Wilbanks said. "I think that would be a failure of imagination and its also a failure of the geographical opportunity."

Wilbanks said he expects gigabit speed to be ubiquitous in 20 years. But if Kansas City can make the most of its early access to that bandwidth, Wilbanks said, it's not unrealistic to think the area could harness Google Fiber in a fashion similar to how Silicon Valley used its abundance of silicon chip innovators and manufacturers once upon a time.

"Silicon Valley … took advantage of the window where it was geographically limited," Wilbanks said. "And you're going to have that window here. … So how do you take advantage of that short window?"

To see Wilbanks' address in its entirety, watch the video above. For a slide-by-slide look at the presentation, check the slides embedded below.

 
Credits: Video from kauffman.org. Photo of Wilbanks from kauffman.org. Slides from slideshare.net.
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