The mid-week long read: our man in the valley
Trawling for talent in California’s digital heartland
Digitisation is the new watchword of progress, connectivity the likely glue holding everything together in our rather foggy future. In the heart of Silicon Valley, Thilo Koslowski, CEO of Porsche Digital, is manning a sort of outpost for Zuffenhausen where the firm’s technological prospects will be given the best chance to flourish. And where it hopes to find the answers to questions that have yet to be asked.
Here, in this hotbed of advanced thinking, thousands of start-ups employ eight million people, purposing billions of dollars of investment into visionary solutions for the modern age. And now the nascent ‘Porsche Digital Inc.’ is in the thick of it, with an objective to define and identify digital strategies and trends and tailor them to the brand.
Porsche Digital Inc. will soon have more than one hundred employees working on forging partnerships with technology leaders, innovators, and venture capital companies, as well as identifying young companies that can work together with Porsche on ideas and solutions for the digital future. Koslowski is travelling to meetings almost non-stop, plugging into the maverick grey matter of some of Silicon Valley’s most brilliant figures.
“This place has the right mixture of capital, expertise, and enthusiastic experimentation that lets you see how the world will respond to a new digital lifestyle.” Koslowski speaks from the heart, himself a valley veteran who has lived here for years. “It’s not possible to get a sense of it on a brief visit; you have to experience it in your day-to-day life.”
With a degree in business administration, Koslowski spent nearly twenty years working for Gartner Inc., a technology research and advisory company in California, most recently as Vice President and Practice Leader Automotive and Smart Mobility—a division that he founded in Silicon Valley in 1997.
During his time at Gartner, Koslowski was involved in the early digital transformation of the automotive industry. “The critical mass of creative minds allows this region to spot and try out trends sooner than other places in the world. ‘Failure’ is not a part of people’s vocabulary here. And that’s a good thing. The goal is to take risks, to learn, and to develop ideas further so the next version will be successful.”
In the spring of 2016 he came to Porsche to scout promising young companies that dovetail with the qualities of Porsche and can help shape the customer experience in the future.
“The car is the ultimate mobile device of the future, and we’re right where the future is becoming reality,” says Koslowski. “Porsche is similar to a lot of companies in the Valley. It got its start in a garage. It was founded to implement an ambitious vision with a high degree of technical expertise. Its main focus is on customer experience. In a data-driven world, however, the new engines are software and algorithms. That adds a new level of meaning to the fascination for the brand.”
The sort of thing on the table on any given day is fairly mind blowing. A firm currently in talks with Koslowksi called Halo is building a neurofeedback device that measures brain waves with the goal of improving muscle memory, something that could improve driving performance on road or race track.
“Cars are ultimately an extension of the people who help them perform better,” says Halo co-founder and CEO Daniel. “Better performance always starts at the top. For us that means top athletes; for Porsche that means racing.”
Koslowski is inspired by the potential benefits. “There’s no doubt that in the future we’ll be seeing more and more direct human–machine interfaces, which extend well beyond touch-screens or language. The ability to pick up on drivers’ mental activity in order to immediately offer them greater performance, safety, and health—that could be a promising option, and it’s one we’re already pursuing.
” Whether behind the wheel of one of his own air-cooled 911s, or the company Panamera, en route to another speculative tête-à-tête, Koslowski’s world is one of excitement and optimism. “We’re like a band leader looking for good musicians to play the best songs. Technology should make people’s lives easier and let them have new experiences. In order to make this possible, Porsche has to think ahead and dare to experiment.”