Author Archives: John Koetsier

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Insights from the Future #10: Ethiopia accuses Chinese AI manufacturer of orchestrating its AI war loss (and profiting from the result)

This is the tenth chapter of Insights from the Future, a book I’m writing about technology, innovation, and people … from the perspective of the future. It is a collaborative exercise, and you are invited to participate.

October 11, 2037

The Ethiopian government has accused the Chinese manufacturer of its military AI of intentionally losing its recent war with Eritrea. According to the prime minister, Ethiopia turned down a major China-led investment in the months before what people are calling AI War 3.

“They told us there would be consequences,” Ethiopian PM Ahmed Siad said today at a press conference in Addis Ababa. “We didn’t know they would kill thousands of our citizens.”

AI War 3 is now over, with the UN having brokered peace between Eritrea and Ethiopia. But the aftermath is just beginning, and evidence is beginning to emerge that suggests the war may have been not just fought by AI, but ignited by Ethiopia’s military AI.

And, according to Ethiopian military sources, intentionally lost by Ethiopia’s China-sourced military AI.

General Abraham Katemi, for instance, said yesterday that there were multiple signals of impending hostilities from neighboring Eritrea that the Ethiopian military AI saw as evidence of preparation for war. However, it’s not clear that the signals were real, or that they necessarily were indicative of battle preparations, and Eritrea denies initiating the war.

Residents of the border zone between Ethiopia and Eritrea have refuted the AI’s claims that the Eritrean army was massing near Badme, Eritrea.

American artificial intelligence experts have been examining the data and attempting to determine what the AI saw and why it interpreted the data as evidence of hostile intent. However, understanding precisely why an AI draws any given conclusion remains a murky task, researchers say.

The Chinese manufacturer of the military AI suggests this is all grandstanding as a result of a defeat.

But Panda AI also supplied the Eritrean military, and there’s evidence that in the weeks before the war, Panda AI gave Eritrea a free upgrade to the latest version of its artificial intelligence. Ethiopia’s military AI, on the other hand, was several months out of date — an eternity in the fast-moving world of generative AI.

Jiang Li, CEO of Panda AI, says that’s just a coincidence.

“We update our software regularly, and sometimes the sales division will reward a good client with a free update. Ethiopia was actually scheduled to be updated months ago, but had missed a royalty payment.”

The investigation continues, but China has filed a formal protest with the Ethiopian government over the presence of American experts in the country.

In other news, major Ethiopian stocks were massively shorted the week before the war.

Some conspiracy theorists are suggesting that the opportunistic investors can be traced back to Panda AI insiders, who may have had insider awareness of the coming conflict … and perhaps even knowledge, they allege, of which country was scheduled to win.

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Insights from the Future #9: 10,000 dead as AI war disrupts communications, traffic, hospitals, power systems in African AI war

This is the ninth chapter of Insights from the Future, a book I’m writing about technology, innovation, and people … from the perspective of the future. It is a collaborative exercise, and you are invited to participate.

September 13, 2037

10,000 people are dead in eastern Africa as an AI war has spun out of control. The building hostilities between Eritrea and Ethiopia have been increasing for years, but now the war has spilled over their borders.

Hospital systems have been disrupted, power generation has stopped, and traffic systems are in chaos as each country has hacked their other’s control mechanisms. 350 were killed in Addis Ababa alone as Eritrea’s military AI targeted the city’s traffic systems, resulting in simultaneous green lights from opposing sides of intersections all over the city, and sending oncoming streams of traffic hurtling right into each other in variable flow rush hour lanes lanes on the Meganana bridge.

Self-driving cars were the worst enemy, however, as they went berserk, mowing down Ethiopian citizens on sidewalks and public squares.

Over 3,700 people were killed in as many as 973 incidents, causing mass panic. Locals have started to pre-emptively attack any self-driving cars they see. In response, Ethiopia has enacted an emergency law against any self-driving cars.

Unfortunately, the viruses and intrusions each combatant’s AI created have spread beyond the countries. Nigeria’s medical and traffic control have been impacted, as have Angola’s and Nimbia’s.

There have been isolated reports of impacts in other parts of the world as well, but Ethiopia and Eritrea’s military AIs are fairly rudimentary — nine-month-old models that cannot compete with protections from the newest and most high-tech systems most Asian, European, and North American countries employ.

The staggering loss of life in what is being called the 3rd AI War has renewed calls for AI arms control and the reduction if not outright banning of weaponized artificial intelligence.

UN ambassador Khofi Annan, a nephew of the former UN chief, called on both to control their AIs and stop any further carnage. A million marched in Cairo, calling for AI weapons to be banned, and protestors demonstrated at both Eritrean and Ethiopian embassies around the planet.

But the Chinese manufacturer of the AI systems said the protections were necessary, and that without their battle AIs, countries would be defenseless against attack.

“We provide protection for major governments from enemy attack,” said Jiang Li, CEO of Panda AI, while appearing at a trade show in Shanghai. “How they use our software is up to them.”

If there is a silver lining in the chaos and death of this third AI war, it might be that both countries have had little success in throwing their physical armies at each other. With communications down and transportation severely limited, it has been challenging for military leaders on both sides to command their forces.

Ethiopian prime minister Ahmed Siad has vowed revenge, however, as his country has been disproportionately impacted.

In related news, Tesla stock is down 10% over the last few days.

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16 Apple WWDC updates that are awesome for mobile app developers

Apple’s World-Wide Developer Conference was bigger than usual this year, with huge hardware announcements such as the most expensive Mac in history — yes, more than the 20th Anniversary Mac (and if you remember that, you’re old) — and massive platform updates like Sign in with Apple. In addition, Apple updated and/or announced not three, not four, but a record FIVE operating systems at WWDC.

Count them: iOS, MacOS, watchOS, tvOS, and the new iPadOS.

In all those updates there are plenty of goodies for mobile app developers and publishers that should expand your markets, boost your installs, make development easier, and ultimately … make you more money.

Here’s the top 16 that I saw:

1: Watch OS grows up

Watch OS now has its very own app store. That means it’s easier for people to find and use apps for their Apple Watch, but also means a bigger total addressable market for Apple Watch apps.


Because Apple Watch is no longer tied to iOS devices. Android users and others can buy an Apple Watch and immediately get full functionality, which should increase the number of people in the ecosystem.

Building, distributing, and monetizing Apple Watch apps has been challenging, but the device’s bigger screens in recent models and this new increased opportunity should lead to improvements.

Get the full list in my post on Singular’s blog …

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AI Will Transform 500 Million White-Collar Jobs In 5 Years; Silicon Valley Must Help

It’s obvious that artificial intelligence is already impacting the way we live. Every time we ask Siri to do basic math or Alexa to turn up the heat, we’re using AI.

But it’s unclear how AI is going to disrupt the way we work.

One thing we  do know: it will cost jobs. Estimates range from 40 percent of all jobs that exist today to a perhaps less credible 99 percent of all jobs as we currently know them.

But even as AI, with automation and robotics, destroys jobs, it should create new ones as well. That might be scant comfort for the tens of millions of workers whose jobs are likely to be eliminated, but it  does give us hope that as a society, we’ll survive the massive change that is coming.

Get the full story in my post at Forbes …

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Tesla’s New Autopilot ‘Violates State Laws’ According To Consumer Reports

Tesla’s new lane-changing feature is far worse than humans at changing lanes and does so in ways that violates state laws, according to a new report from Consumer Reports today.

As a result, it creates safety risks, CR says.

“We found that Navigate on Autopilot lagged far behind a human driver’s skill set,” Consumer Reports says. “The feature cut off cars without leaving enough space and even passed other cars in ways that violate state laws, according to several law enforcement representatives CR interviewed for this report.”

Even worse, Navigate on Autopilot doesn’t react to brake lights or turn signals.

Get the full story in my post at Forbes …

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Walmart’s Sub-$100 Tablets Are About The Future Of Retail, Not Apple’s iPad or Amazon’s Fire Tablet

Walmart isn’t competing with Apple. Walmart is competing with Amazon.

Walmart is releasing three sub-$100 tablets under its Onn store brand this week. They include an 8″ screen model at $64, a 10.1″ model, and the larger one with a detachable keyboard for $99. Each model has 16 GB of storage and uses Google’s Android operating system.

But the Walmart tablet isn’t about the tablet.

And it’s not about the top-selling tablet, Apple’s iPad, either. Rather, it’s about Amazon.

Get the full story in my post at Forbes …

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Most Drones Fly. This Drone Swims, Making Water The Next Frontier Of Droning

don’t feel guilty at all.

That’s because the drone I piloted had zero chance of impacting an aircraft. In fact, it can’t fly at all — except underwater. There, in its native element, it flew, in a sense.

Or swam, like a fish in water.

Get the full story in my post at Forbes …

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Google Backs Down On Smart Home Integration Changes (Sort Of), Commits to ‘Working With Amazon’

Last week Google announced the cancellation of its popular Works with Nestprogram, which allowed smart home technology to integrate with its Nest line of thermostats, cameras, and other products. Today it’s backing off that cancellation.

But only somewhat.

Get the full story in my post at Forbes …

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5 lessons Adobe learned growing from $220M to $5B in recurring revenue

In 2013 when Adobe launched Creative Cloud, the company broke with selling boxes and refocused on selling subscriptions (software as a service). At the time, the company had about $200 million in annual recurring revenue. Today, Adobe has over $5 billion in recurring revenue.

That’s important, because from an investor standpoint, recurring revenue is twice as valuable as non-recurring. This is something that doubles its enterprise value compared to a company that has to sell a new widget every month, quarter, or year. The reason is simple: Keep your customers happy, and the money keeps flowing in. No further sales efforts are required.

The story of how Adobe managed to accomplish that has been told, but what did the company learn in the process?

Get the full story in my post at VentureBeat …

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Adobe: 91% of companies are investing in voice technologies

More than nine out of 10 companies are investing in voice technologies, including voice-based commerce, according to an Adobe study released today.

Unfortunately, most of them are making a crucial error: They’re letting IT lead the project.

Just over a fifth of the 401 companies surveyed have released a voice app, and almost half (44%) plan to unveil one this year, according to the study. Most are playing the field, with 88% building apps for both Amazon’s and Google’s smart speaker and assistant solutions.

Get the full story in my post at VentureBeat …

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Google Just Handed Amazon A Massive Advantage In Smart Home Tech

“Alexa, say ‘Thanks’ to Google.”

We won’t see any message like that in the near future, but Amazon executives should be very happy right now. And the massive ‘Works with Alexa‘ program should build on its dominant marketing position in smart home technology to grow even stronger.


Google just took a big step backward from being the glue that ties a smart home together.

Get the full story in my post at Forbes …

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3 critical things CGOs (and CMOs) absolutely need to drive growth campaigns

In the simplest possible terms, a chief marketing officer’s role is to implement strategy that ultimately increases sales. A chief growth officer’s role is even simpler and more explicit: grow the company.

But how?

And what tools do they need to achieve those goals?

Singular is privileged to work with growth marketers at companies like Lyft, LinkedIn, Rovio, Wish, AirBnB, DraftKings, StitchFix, plus many more. We’ve seen what the best growth marketers the planet do, and we know what technology they use.

We also know how much data they have.

In a recent survey, 200 CMOs told us that their biggest challenge isn’t marketing data. Quite the opposite, in fact — they have plenty of data. They have avalanches of data.

And that’s the core challenge.

Get the full story in my post at Singular’s blog …

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Tesla Spends Zero On Ads. Here’s Where BMW, Toyota, Ford, and Porsche Spend Digital Ad Dollars

Tesla spends $0 on advertising, according to a new report from BrandTotal. But competitors such as Toyota, BMW, Porsche, and Ford spend heavily on the major social platforms: Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter.

Toyota, for instance, spends 62 percent of its social budget on Facebook. Porsche, on the other hand, allocates only 14 percent of its budget to Facebook, preferring instead to use 47 percent of its major social platform spend on YouTube.

Get the full story in my post at Forbes …

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Smartphone Shipments: Apple Down 30%, Samsung Down 8%, But Huawei Up 50%

The United States had the biggest drop in smartphone shipments globally in the first quarter of 2019, according to IDC.

U.S. shipments were down 15 percent as global smartphone shipments declined 6.6 percent, the research firm said. Total shipments in the quarter were 310.8 million units globally in the sixth consecutive quarter of decline.

But there were some bright spots.

Get the full story in my post at Forbes …

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An Air Quality Sensor Was The Only Warning That My Furnace Was Spewing Exhaust Indoors

We have a lot of smart home devices today. I have a Nest, an Amazon Echo, a Google Home, garage doors I can control with an app, and multiple other smart home technologies. But can you really call a home smart if it doesn’t know whether or not your most critical environment is safe?

After today, the answer is no. At least for me.

My home furnace was venting exhaust into my house for at least three to five months and I had no clue. Until I started using a home air quality sensor.

Get the full story in my post at Forbes …

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Dear Abby: My Boyfriend Is A Robot

September 4, 2022

This is the eighth chapter of Insights from the Future, a book I’m writing about technology, innovation, and people … from the perspective of the future. It is a collaborative exercise, and you are invited to participate. More details below the story.

Dear Abby,

I really don’t know what to do.

I’ve been having a long-distance relationship with a guy from Wisconsin for almost a year. We didn’t often video chat because he lives in a very rural location with extremely slow internet, so it was mostly text and audio.

Unfortunately, I recently discovered the audio was a complete lie.

Last week, my boyfriend’s voice completely changed! I was super-confused, but he acted like nothing had changed. When I kept asking why, he finally confessed: it was due to a Google Duplex update.

Apparently he’s really really shy, and never talked to a girl that he wasn’t related to before me. So he used Google Duplex, which sounds incredibly human, to type what he wanted to say to me, and Google Duplex said it in real time. Apparently Google uses artificial intelligence to create super-realistic human voices. I never had any clue it was fake.

It was so wonderful at first … he was so romantic, and said things just like I imagined lovers should.

But he could never come out to see me, and it was never the right time for me to visit, and it turns out that it was all a lie. I still don’t even know what his real voice actually sounds like.

Last week Google updated its voices, and all of a sudden my boyfriend’s “voice” changed. It got deeper and added a slight accent.

I’m not sure what to do. He’s begging me for a second chance, but I feel so betrayed. And I wonder why he couldn’t tell me months and months ago.

What should I do? Thanks for any advice you have!

-Confused in Vancouver

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5 massive factors changing the future of games: social, platforms, technology, monetization, and app stores

What is the future of games?

One thing we know: it’s going to be lucrative. The top 25 public game companies generated over $100 billion in revenue last year, according to a recent story on VentureBeat featuring data from Newzoo.

The largest, Tencent, had almost $20 billion in estimated game revenue. Sony, Microsoft, Apple, and Google are on the list. Activision hauled in almost $7 billion, and names like France’s Ubisoft, Korea’s Netmarble, and Japan’s Square Enix all generated more than a billion in 2018 revenue.

To state the obvious, games are a big deal.

But what’s changing in gaming?

Get the full story in my recent post on Singular’s blog …

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Report: Apple Is One Of Amazon’s Biggest Customers, Spending Over $350M Per Year

Apple’s spending heavily on Amazon this year. But it’s not TVs or health food or smart speakers: Apple is a top Amazon Web Services customer.

According to a new report, Apple spent $350 million on AWS last year, and is on track to increase that to $360 million this year. In addition, Apple just signed a contract with Amazon committing to spend at least $1.5 billion on Amazon cloud services over the next five years.

Get the full story in my post at Forbes …

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How will you be remembered?

Today I saw the old man at the corner house down the street and remembered the time he yelled at my son.

His kids are renovating the house. He’s very aged, slow, and fragile now, and it seems they’re getting it ready to be sold so that he and his wife can move into a condo, or maybe an old age home.

I said hello, but he didn’t hear me.

My only memory of him is when my kids rode their bikes through his driveway, which kinda cuts across his yard and connects the two streets that form the corner the house sits on.

That makes it perfect for jumping the slight rise from the road to his driveway and cutting the corner. So the boys did just that, probably a decade ago. Maybe Ethan was 12 or 13, and Aidan was 7 or 8.

He saw it, didn’t like it, came out, and yelled at them. They were a bit scared and unsure what they had done wrong.

That’s my only memory of him, really.

But it made me think. How will I be remembered?

We all like to do a million things, and we hope we’ll be remembered for our accomplishments. Most likely, though, we’ll be remembered for how we make people feel.

It’s something I’m going to try to keep in mind.

How will you be remembered?

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Can I tell you something about success?

Tonight my son came up to me and told me he was glad I was there.

He had a doubleheader today in baseball: two games. He plays center field and had a nice RBI double, but the play he was talking about was the game-ending double play.

We were up by one. The other team had a man on third and the winning run on first, and we only had one out.

Their next batter hit a ball high and reasonably deep — a great sacrifice fly ball to tie the game and send it to extra innings. But Aidan caught it in mid centerfield. Their base runner tagged up and ran to home. Aidan threw it on a rope to the catcher, who caught it on one hop right on home plate … and their runner ran right into the tag.

Double play. Game over. We win. The stands erupt and the team celebrates.

Aidan made a great play.

Later, at home, after a bath and some chill time with YouTube, Aidan came up to me and told me he was glad I was there and saw his play. Yesterday I had missed one … he had laid out, diving after a long run to make a spectacular out. But I mostly missed it, because I was working concession that game, and only saw it from a distance.

(Each parent takes three turns on concession through the year. It’s how we keep team fees down.)

He was happy that I saw his good play. That means in spite of my screw-ups, in spite of my failings, in spite of the things I should have done better, he wanted me to be there. It mattered to him that I saw his game.

It mattered to him that his dad saw him doing well. Saw his success.

That humbles me, and makes me incredibly thankful. And it makes me feel like I succeeded, too.

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Most businesses are not ready for voice searches

Amazon ushered in a new era of voice-first computing in mid-2015 when it launched the first Amazon Echo. Four years later, voice-activated assistants on myriad devices have proliferated widely, but Uberal, a location marketing company, found that few local businesses are ready to take advantage. In fact, only 4% have correct, up-to-date information on all the key platforms, according to Norman Rohr, the company’s SVP of marketing.

Get the full story in my post at VentureBeat …

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Scammers With Verified Instagram Accounts Cheating ‘Influencers’ With Fake Verification Service

Getting verified on social media is a big deal.

Verified users on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram get a special icon, comments by verified users on Instagram posts can get additional visibility, and verification can help in influencers getting sponsored by advertisers, which is why would-be influencers will try almost anything to get verified.

Making them, of course, perfect targets for a scam.

That’s exactly what’s happening, says Viral Nation‘s Travis Hawley.

Get the full story in my post at Forbes …

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Amazon Ad-Supported Streaming Music Could Double Jeff Bezos’ Ad Business Again

Amazon is currently in talks to release an ad-supported free version of its Prime Music streaming service, according to a report on the weekend. Spotify shares fell on the news, says Reuters, and Apple’s big services push could be affected as well.

But the really big news?

Amazon’s rapidly growing ad business could double again. And that could impact Facebook and Google.

Get all the details in my story at Forbes …

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Apple Now Faces 3 Separate Antitrust Accusations In Europe: Spotify, Kaspersky, and The Netherlands

In surveillance capitalism’s brave new era of data collection, privacy breaches, and fake news concerns, Apple has worked hard to position itself as the good guy of GAFA: the Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple group of tech titans.

That may not save it from antitrust investigation, however.

Get the full story in my post at Forbes …

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How Sonos Is Fighting Smart Speakers: Architectural Sound With IKEA (And A New Low Price)

IKEA calls it “our loudest lamp ever.”

Sonos calls it new competitive positioning, and a new market opportunity.

Today Sonos unveiled a new line of smart speakers in collaboration with IKEA. And the new products are key indicators of where the company is planning to compete with smart speakers from Google, Amazon, and Apple.

First with a sub-$100 fighting product.

And secondly, by making the hardware disappear.

Get the full story in my post at Forbes …

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Self-driving Cars In 10 Years: EU Expects ‘Fully Automated’ Cars by 2030

The European Union commissioner for transport expects full self-driving capability by 2030, she said this week at City as a Lab conference in Slovenia.

That’s an important part of her “vision zero” to reducing traffic fatalities to none.

“By 2030 we believe we will have the new generation of vehicles that will be fully automated,” EU commissioner Violeta Bulc said. “This year auto manufacturers added 15 new [safety and automation] features to all cars of all price levels.”

Get the full story in my post at Forbes …

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The World’s First 5G Subscribers Are 5 Korean Celebrities

Korea’s largest mobile telecom has activated 5G service for five Korean celebrities in what the company says is a global-first.

“The world’s first 5G smartphone subscribers are Baek-hyun and Kai from EXO (K-pop idol group), Kim Yu-na (Olympic medalist), Lee Sang-hyeok (“Faker,” esports player), Yoon Sung-hyuk (para-swimmer) and Park Jae-won (SK Telecom’s longest subscriber),” SK Telecom says in a release.

Get the full story in my post at Forbes …

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Google Inbox Is Dead. Spark Might Just Take Its Place As The Most Innovative Email Client

It’s done.

Google Inbox, a new way of looking at, answering, and organizing your email, has been shut down. Some of its innovations, such as smart automated replies and reminders, have moved to Gmail. Others, like grouping similar emails and snoozing messages, may follow.

But if you’re looking for an innovative new email client, Spark just launched today for Android.

Get the full story in my post at Forbes …

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‘AI Is Not A Light Switch:’ How Sprint Used AI To Personalize To Millions, Boost Clickthrough to 30%, And Improve Conversions 14%

Artificial intelligence is a wonderful thing. But perhaps contrary to popular opinion it’s not a miracle cure or instant fix.

The dirty little secret of AI?

It takes time — and sometimes a lot of time to get right. Perhaps even a year.

Rob Roy, the chief digital officer of Sprint, embarked on that journey over 12 months ago. Recently I interviewed him to learn how Sprint is using AI to personalize content and customer journeys for millions … and significantly boosting sales.

John Koetsier: What were your initial goals?

Get the full story in my post at Inc …

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The Past, Present, and Future of Mobile with John Koetsier

I was super-pumped to join Douglas Karr’s podcast, Martech Zone. He is amazing and does incredible work, so this was an incredible honor.

Check it out right here on the Martech Zone site …