The World Is More than Flat

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\"\"By Robin Lewis

Thomas Friedman, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, journalist, and New York Times op-ed contributor, authored the book The World is Flat, published in 2005. In a nutshell, the thesis of the book claims that “when the world is flat, you can innovate without having to emigrate.”

He defined his reference to the world being flat as a more level global competitive playing field among industrial and emerging market countries. And individual entrepreneurs, as well as large and small companies, “are becoming part of a large, complex, global supply chain extending across oceans, with competition spanning entire continents.”

Thirteen years ago, when the book was published, Friedman cited the drivers of the flattening as the collapse of communism, the dot-com bubble (leading to the over-investment in fiber-optic telecommunications) and an outsourcing of engineers enlisted to fix the perceived Y2K issue (“the end of the world” as computers would freeze up, or something like that).

Well that was then. And I’m sure you are as amazed as I am that even the genius, brilliant Thomas Friedman, could not have envisioned the profound and massive impact that the technology accelerant would have over those next 13 years to make the world even flatter.

The iPhone was launched in 2007, and maybe Steve Jobs understood what it would unleash, but nobody else could have. It has been central in connecting everything and everybody in the world. And the speed of global networking is mindboggling.

The advancement and speed of technology catalysts around the globe has also made it possible to innovate anywhere in the world and share and/or expand those innovations anywhere on Earth in a matter of minutes.

So, the world is, indeed, is way more than “flat.”

Anil Aggarwal and Zia Daniell Wigder realized this from their get-go launch of Shoptalk in 2016. That’s why they have evolved their model to aggregate all of the great innovators from around the world to share their knowledge and ideas with the entire global retail ecosystem — essentially a global “school” in one location on an annual basis.

A Global Lens on Retail Disruption

By Zia Daniell Wigder

The retail and ecommerce ecosystem is changing globally, with no single country or region dominating when it comes to innovation. To fully understand how retail and ecommerce are evolving, a global lens is essential.

Shoptalk’s 2018 agenda will feature more than 70 speakers from outside the U.S. Here are four of the regions and countries you’ll see highlighted at Shoptalk: Europe, Latin America, China and Israel. This callout features just a few of the innovative, international companies on our agenda.


Europe is home to some of the most exciting retail innovation in the world. The Shoptalk lineup includes a wide range of European speakers including innovative grocery and CPG startups from the Netherlands and Germany, groundbreaking luxury retailers in the UK, disruptive fashion businesses from France and global clothing retailers from Spain. We’ve highlighted some of the incredible speakers who will discuss the European retail and ecommerce landscape.

  • Picnic is a revolutionary Dutch online grocery startup with a cutting-edge logistics model and fleet of custom-designed electric trucks built for use in urban areas. In just two years, Picnic raised an unprecedented $100+ million in funding to support the growth of the new mobile-only service. The CEO of Picnic, Joris Beckers, will take the stage at Shoptalk to highlight how he built this “modern version of the milkman” and turned the company into one of Europe’s best-funded, most talked-about commerce startups.
  • MATCHESFASHION.COM was founded in 1987 as a single bricks-and-mortar store in London focused on a range of luxury designers. Today over 80% of MATCHESFASHION.COM online revenues are from outside the UK–the brand delivers to over 176 countries, with the U.S. equal to the UK in terms of revenue contribution. Today the brand features 450 established and emerging designers. MATCHESFASHION.COM was the first luxury brand in the world to offer on-demand 90-minute delivery; 50% of sales are generated via mobile. The brand maintains four physical retail spaces in London with a new retail concept opening in 2018. In this session, Ulric Jerome, the CEO of, will discuss the growth of the global luxury sector and how companies can meet shoppers’ needs through a variety of different physical and digital retail formats.
  • Having started out as a wool mill and grown to become a legendary catalog business, La Redoute is now the leading fashion and homeware ecommerce pure player in France, with counting over 9 million unique visitors every month. With a wide range of private-label brands, roughly 75% of turnover is realized by La Redoute’s own products and brands. La Redoute is present in over 26 countries and sees 30% of turnover from outside of France. The CEO of La Redoute International, Michael Truluck, will discuss how he’s helped take an iconic French brand into new global markets and brought French fashion and homes items to shoppers around the world.
  • Founded in 1984, Mango is a $2.7 billion Spanish retailer that sells women’s, men’s and children’s clothing. Although Spain is the company’s largest market, Mango operates a network of 2,200 stores in 109 countries. In this session, Roger Graell Sole, Mango’s Global Director, Online Sales will discuss how the company serves customers across Europe through both digital and physical channels, and what he’s learned about catering to European shoppers as compared to others around the globe.
  • 10-year-old mymuesli, a customizable brand of breakfast cereal and other food and beverages, is one of the great success stories of the German startup scene. While it is not the first to apply the concept of mass customization to food, mymuesli is often credited as the first food company to use this type of customization successfully. In this session, Max Wittrock, the Co-Founder and CEO of this profitable, growing business will discuss how he built a wildly popular brand in Germany from scratch, then successfully expanded into other European countries including Switzerland, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK.

Latin America

Retail and ecommerce players in Latin America have embraced a variety of innovative business models and technologies to win over shoppers in a region with a population of over 650 million. Success in the region is not easy: Latin American retailers have to overcome hurdles that range from complex taxes in Brazil to low credit card penetration in Mexico and logistics challenges in almost every country. In spite of these obstacles–and in many cases, because of them–Latin American companies have learned to be creative and adaptable. In this session, we’ll hear from three preeminent retailers in the region.

  • Established in 1976, C&A Brazil (a division of German mega-retailer C&A) operates almost 300 stores in every state across the country. The company offers fashion trends adapted to the tastes and style of Brazil\’s 200 million consumers, as well as mobile phones and electronics. The CEO, Paulo Correa, will discuss how he manages the company’s digital business alongside a nationwide network of stores, and how he’s learned to navigate the complexities of operating a nationwide retail business in Latin America’s largest economy.
  • Founded in 1999, Argentina-based Mercado Libre boasts the largest online commerce and payments ecosystem in Latin America. With GMV of $8 billion in 2016, the company’s marketplace is present in 18 countries and has a registered user base of over 175 million. The SVP and Head of Marketplace at the company, Sean Summers, will highlight how the company has grown into a dominant ecommerce force in every market in Latin America and highlight opportunities for brands interested in selling in the region.
  • Tiendas Elektra is the largest specialty retailer of appliances, consumer electronics, furniture, motorcycles, mobile phones and computers in Latin America. Mexico-based Tiendas Elektra has 1,143 points of sale which are focused on underserved social classes throughout Mexico and Central and South America. The Global eCommerce & Omnichannel Director at the company, Juan Carlos Garcia, will discuss how it uses digital channels to reach these consumers and what challenges retailers can expect to face in serving shoppers across the region.


Innovation in China arguably happens at a faster pace and on a larger scale than anywhere else in the world. With over 700 million internet users and 1.4 billion mobile phone users, China serves as a testbed for digital innovation unlike any other. One of our Shoptalk sessions will feature two senior leaders from the titan of ecommerce in China, Alibaba. They will discuss how the company is transforming not just online sales but traditional retail, as well.

  • Founded in 1999, China-based Alibaba now ranks as the largest retailer online and mobile commerce company in the world by GMV: Last year $547 billion in GMV was sold through the company’s Taobao Marketplace and Tmall platforms, the two dominant players in C2C and B2C ecommerce in China. The company is well established as a global leader in retail innovation, operating a wide range of other businesses in areas from cross-border ecommerce (Tmall Global) to wholesale commerce ( to cloud computing, digital media and entertainment and more. The company has major investments and partnerships in other areas such as payments (Ant Financial, owner of Alipay) and ecommerce logistics (Cainiao). In this session, we’ll hear from the President of Alipay North America, Souheil Badran, and the VP/GM of North America at Alibaba, Lee McCabe, as they discuss why brands and retailers should look to China to see what the future of retail looks like, how Alibaba and Ant Financial are helping Western brands succeed in the China market, and what opportunities exist to capture the Chinese tourism market.


Israel\’s startup ecosystem is known as a powerhouse in areas such as adtech, fintech and cybersecurity. But today close to 350 ecommerce startups exist in the country, putting it on the map as a key innovation hub for the retail and ecommerce industries. These startups are tackling everything from AI-based search, marketing, personalization and analytics to warehouse robotics, IoT and a variety of new technologies targeted at the fashion industry. This session will highlight four Israeli startups at different stages of maturity.

  • Yotpo, a marketing platform that enables brands to collect, curate, manage and respond to user-generated content, has raised over $100 million in funding since it was founded in Tel Aviv in 2011. The company has since expanded its use of AI and machine learning and also extended its international reach, opening a large office in New York. In this session, the Co-Founder and CEO of Yotpo, Tomer Tagrin, will discuss how he built a successful tech company by tapping into talent in Israel, what it took to scale it into a global organization and what he sees as the next successful wave of startups coming out of Israel.
  • Optimove, which has raised $20 million in growth capital, provides a personalized relationship marketing technology. The software brings together web analytics data and behavioral data with machine learning and AI algorithms to predict customers’ future behavior at all stages of the customer lifecycle. This enables marketers to optimize the specific promotion and channel based on the consumer’s likelihood to respond. Optimove was founded in Tel Aviv in 2009 and subsequently expanded operations to London and New York. The Founder and CEO of Optimove, Pini Yakuel, will highlight how he’s leveraged the unique technology and business talent in Israel to build this fast-growing company and what new technology innovations in Israel he considers the most revolutionary.
  • Syte provides visual artificial intelligence that understands what shoppers are looking for. Consumers can take a photo and upload any image to get a selection of similar and matching items—they can then discover new products, compare items and shop any that are of interest. Syte was founded in 2015 in Tel Aviv and raised a total of $8 million in funding. In this session, the Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer, Lihi Pinto Fryman, will present her take on starting a business in Israel, why the country has become such a powerhouse in machine learning and artificial intelligence and the unique aspects of building a business in the field of visual search.
  • Feelter, a startup founded in Tel Aviv in 2013 that has raised $4 million in funding, aggregates and filters product reviews, mentions and other user-generated content. By stripping out irrelevant, fake or inappropriate content, feelter provides consumers with detailed information on the product they’re considering and helps retailers boost conversions and reduce shopping cart abandonment rates. The Founder and CEO, Smadar Landau, will discuss her unique journey to becoming an entrepreneur, her perspective on the overall startup ecosystem in Israel and what new companies and technologies in the country excite her most.



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