Meet RJ/ Zync

One day, three topics – at the diconium talks 2021, we address three major areas of digitalization together with renowned experts: Digital Commerce, Digital Growth, Digital Ecosystem. On September 30, founders, digital pioneers and technology enthusiasts speak about the latest developments and technologies in exciting keynotes. We introduce them and their vision of what makes a digital champion.

The engineer and passionate motorsport enthusiast RJ founded Zync in 2019, a software and intelligent data platform that enables next-level in-vehicle passenger experiences, including video streaming, gaming, real-time content and in-car commerce. Before she founded the company, RJ led and scaled up multiple high-growth technology companies in the US. An accomplished data scientist, RJ holds several patents in AI and sensor fusion. The analytics company she cofounded in 2008, Medialets, was one of the first mobile app analytics companies globally. It was later sold to WPP, the world's largest advertising conglomerate.

Franziska Leonhardt

diconium talks '21: RJ, Zync

In-car entertainment is today. Where will the Automotive industry evolve to?

Zync brings fundamental streaming media functionality to cars, including video and gaming. It’s pretty shocking that video streaming is not available in series production cars yet. It’s not really a technical problem at all.

Thinking about where the automotive industry will evolve to, well, this is the inflection point. This is do or die. There’s so much at stake, and it’s not a stretch to imagine that history will repeat itself like the handset industry: a power shift between hardware makers and software makers.

Hardware thinking, which until now has been the classical requirement for an automaker, is now facing a mandatory shift to software thinking. This shift starts and ends with people. Change is hard, and people don’t like change. 

Tell us more about your fascination for cars.

Coming from San Francisco, arguably the most digitally-savvy place on the planet, it sometimes feels like stepping into a time machine and going backwards 20 years when working with carmakers.

I have had a lifelong passion for cars. I came here to Germany to build Zync because I want to believe in the legacy automakers’ ability to change and adopt software thinking, but after four years, now I’m not so sure how quickly this will happen. Fundamentally, I am an optimist! I’m still rooting that the German automakers, starting at the leadership level, can open their minds further to a new way of thinking and a new way of working. This will be uncomfortable, but there is no progress without change. Bringing in outside experts who can provide fresh eyes to      existing products and reimagining them for the next generation. This what we do at Zync. It goes so far beyond video and gaming – it’s really about building automotive products with a new mindset.

Which technologies should companies keep an eye on?

The pandemic has poured fuel on the fire of many nascent technologies, namely Web3 and blockchain technologies. There is exceptional interest in how to better bridge the real and virtual worlds in ways that begin to feel indistinguishable to the user. Personally, I’m very excited about how NFTs are changing the relationship and ownership model between art, artists and collectors. It really feels to me like 2007 all over again, when a very small number of people changed the world through the technologies they were passionate about building. Any time curiosity is a driving force for innovation, rather than commercial gains, it can only be a good thing for users.

You’re pushing boundaries – be it in mobility, technology or art. What inspires you?

My work has always been at the intersection of humans and software. This has manifested in various forms and explorations, but has remained consistent at the core: can software help us understand ourselves better? Can data help us be more creative? Steve Wozniak once told me that most of the first Apple employees were also artists. I’m not surprised to hear this. The best software developers I know are musicians and painters and interested in the culinary arts. Art and technology scratch the same itch in the brain. It’s about understanding a set of rules and then recombining them in a new way or pushing them to their limit to achieve a breakthrough. This is where the magic is.

What is a digital champion for you?

A “digital champion” needs to be driven by optimism, hope, resilience, endless possibility, always asking "What if this works?"

From my experience, most people in automotive are led by fear. Their motivation is never to make a mistake, and they tend to focus entirely on risk mitigation. As a technologist, this makes me pretty sad. What I’ve learned in the past 15 years of building software is that this type of mentality is the fastest path to mediocrity. In technology, things evolve so rapidly. It's ok to fail. Failure is often the gateway to success. A “digital champion” knows how to use those experiments and failures to motivate, to use the learnings to be able to improve for next time, to push boundaries, to progress – no matter how small the step forward.


All information about the diconium talks, the program and the speakers can be found here. The event will take place remotely.


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