May 10, 2022
Min read

How to Build a Time Machine

Chris Hale

All over the world, tens of thousands of organizations are doing mission critical work to improve people’s lives. This work is often tied to an audacious goal: eradicate malaria; prevent starvation and crop failure; get emergency services delivered; build and commission a new hospital; improve digital connectivity for rural populations or deliver clean water across the country. The consequences are massive and real and the timelines to meet these goals are somewhere between yesterday and ASAP

Kountable has been working alongside these organizations for the last seven years and has helped to improve their execution toward the audacious goals listed above. We’ve walked a few thousand miles in the shoes of these ambitious organizations and the small businesses that serve them. We’ve learned how challenging it can be to work in emerging markets, depend on underdeveloped banking, procure across borders and to have the delivery of your life-changing product or service dependent on analog, highly siloed, undercapitalized partners.  

What we’ve seen is that these challenges can result in prices at the point of care and delivery that are over 100% higher than they could be, and much higher than they ever should be. If prices are 100% higher, then scarce funding is going half as far. This means hitting these goals takes longer than it should—at least by double.

The delay is often measured in quarters or years and almost always in lives lost. “Takes longer” unfortunately means more malaria cases, more crop failures, no emergency services, old and crowded hospitals, no access to the internet and scarce or dirty water.  

If only we had a time machine to get us life changing results faster…

Fortunately, the “time machine” in this case is not some work of sci-fi fantasy. The blueprint is simple: use technology to digitize, network and capitalize these execution pathways and accelerate goal achievement—and here’s how we’re building it:

Kountable network surrounded by the UN SDG icons

Analog to Digital

In the last 20 years, devices that used to be considered “supercomputers” have become ubiquitous and cheap(er), and sit, readily accessible, in over 3 billion pockets world-wide. E-commerce has grown through platforms like Amazon, Alibaba and Shopify. Consumer and retail lead the way, with B2B gaining steam and industrial still in the early days. In each case though, when analog becomes digital, things get cheaper, faster, and more reliable and the resulting competition among providers improves choice, quality and almost always, cost.  

Digitizing commerce and procurement has proven to be a game changer and is phase one of our time machine blueprint.

Siloed to Networked

Networks don’t require software. We all had networks before Web2 digitized them, but networks have never seen such growth, scale, reach and organization as they have through software. In addition to growth, software makes networks easier to maintain, manage, and curate. People, partners and customers that you may have otherwise never acquired or have lost touch with due to a lack of proximity are now a simple click, push notification or post away. Finding the goods and the partners you need is assisted by algorithmic search. 

This transformation isn’t as ubiquitous yet as the devices that powered it. The human and business networks responsible for the mission critical execution described above are still very much analog. They don’t work together all of the time. They’re often a collection of businesses and organizations with different priorities that need to come together quickly to improve healthcare, energy, education, food security, and connectivity. They aren’t as connected, resilient, agile and efficient as more mature networks. 

These networks, though, are among the most important networks of the next 50 years. They are the execution networks responsible for the global transformation we need to respond to climate change, improve access to technology, global markets, healthcare, food security and clean water. 

Kountable has learned to build execution networks that are centrally managed and locally populated. We’ve learned to capture the best practices across markets and to distribute these to the edges of our network where they can be the most impactful and effective. There, the success of local businesses means the success of the local economy and also means that the network gets stronger with every cycle. Building resilient networks is phase two of the time machine blueprint.

Unfunded to Capitalized

Money is a signal of trust. Money doesn’t flow where trust doesn’t grow. Trust is built through connection, relationship, information, and collaboration. Trust is built from working side-by-side, succeeding and sometimes failing together. Trust is built through exhibiting an agreed upon,  shared and widely witnessed set of behaviors that are repeated over time. Executing these mission critical projects, procuring and delivering quality goods, keeping commitments, sharing in contracted successes and communicating through problems and sometimes through failures is really hard work, but it’s the hard work that trust is built on. 

Our platform is built to teach, amplify, broadcast and promote these trust-building behaviors. It is built to learn them and to codify them into digital workflows that can be propagated across the network and used to repeat the virtuous cycle that results in the growth of trust and the flow of capital—and with capital, goods.  

Members who join Kountable know right away that they're signing up to be part of a trust network where being a good actor and working with the simple to follow process is what unlocks their growth and the continued growth and success of the platform. We’ve seen this process result in the success of over $70M in mission critical projects, with thousands more projects worth hundreds of millions in the queue to be digitized, networked and capitalized.

In the work we’ve done with corporate responsibility and sustainability officers, governments, multilateral organizations and global NGOs, we’ve seen the time machine in operation firsthand and the difference it makes. In our earliest days, we saw critical projects sit and languish as we worked with organizations to make this network more effective and efficient and smarter. We’ve also seen what happens when you flip the switch and the gears begin to spin and the dials begin to whirr, and you end up pulling timelines forward by years, maybe by decades—and most importantly, by millions of lives saved.

In John Doerr’s latest book, he discusses using OKRs to deliver speed and scale to execute on the most important jobs of our time. Many of these jobs are the same mission-critical projects and programs that end up on the Kountable platform. OKRs are a mechanism to deliver speed and scale at speed and scale. On the back of the book is a quote from someone who worked at one of the largest beneficiaries of Kountable’s execution network, the UN:

We are immersed in the most amazing transition that the human race has ever started...Forget gradual shifts, forget linear changes, we are in a world of exponential transformation."  -Christina Figueres, formerly of the UN 

It’s going to take all of our best thinking, people and platforms across the globe working together to deliver this transformation at the exponential speed and scale needed to get the work done in time. 

What other products, platforms and networks can we combine to further multiply speed and scale, supported by the Kountable Time Machine? What kind of exponential transformation could we engineer together? 

If you’re an innovator with a transformational product or technology solution that needs a time machine, or that could help our global network accelerate this transformation, we’d love to hear from you, and we invite you to join the Kountable network.

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