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August 5, 2019

Would you rather kill or be killed? 

Doesn’t that question take you straight back to your most memorable game of 20 questions? This time, however, there’s not need to share your answer.

Ultimately, this Philosophy 101 moral dilemma often boils down to which option we ascribe the most value.

Merriam-Webster broadly defines a commodity as “an economic good.”  Traditional education and institutional investment experience would have us correlate commodities with tangible, physical things of value– like gold, silver, agricultural or packaged goods and the like. 

Yet, in our hyper digital age, even as it relates to products and services for which you are paying a heft penny, its becoming increasingly hard to differentiate between whether you are the product or the consumer.

So this week, we’re exploring how we re-frame our understanding of valuable commodities and what that means for life and business. 

Your Digital Self

In a recent article, Thomas Koulopoulos, proffers the most valuable 21st Century commodity is the digital self, which he explains encompasses “the collection of data that intimately describes you in a way that makes it possible to model your current behaviors and to predict your future behaviors.” Indeed, as privacy debates heat up and more restrictive legislative policies like GDPR are enacted, the volley for our digital footprints drives increased value. 

Yet, in her article “Why Data Is the Currency of the Future For Communities of Color,  Angela Benton, founder of Streamlytics and formerly NewMe accelerator, explains  that certain communities lack the opportunities to both understand the economic value and effectively monetize their personal digital commodities amidst a $200 BN market cap for data brokerage.  This begs the questions vis-a-vis our products: if data is the primary commodity, is access to it inclusive or exclusive.

Experiential Commodities

From AirBnb experiences to the $18 BN contribution tourists made to the Miami’s GDP.  When we consider the economic value of services and experiences, we realize that commodity is not just about stuff.  People place value of services that embody well designed user experiences and exceed user expectations. 

When service is the commodity, perhaps its value is best measure through experience and not transactional exchanges. This notion even extends to connecting capital to novel solutions to society’s most pressing problems through social impact bonds used to address youth unemployment in South Africa and Colombia, or Israeli coding schools for asylum based immigrants

Irrespective of the commodity you know best, are you creator, consumer or connector?

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