Annual Non-Obvious Dinner Comes to Cincinnati

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

This is a guest blog post from Ben duPont, managing partner, Chartline Capital Partners and founder of the annual Non-Obvious Dinner. 

After more than 10 years of holding the annual Non-Obvious dinner on the East Coast (Wilmington, Delaware) and the West Coast (Silicon Valley), we’re bringing the unique event to the heartland – specifically, Cincinnati.

The genesis of the dinner was to have a non-commercial, non-partisan event where we could get a group of really bright people together to answer the difficult question of how the world is going to change. Now, many years later, we’re still bringing together true thought leaders in government, technology, consumer packaged goods, arts, media and more, to answer the same question. But the dynamics have changed.

Just a handful of years ago, a great new discovery on the other side of the world may not have had an impact on many here in the U.S. Today, the volume, velocity and ferocity of change is, frankly, almost overwhelming. The potential for disruption exists in every industry, keeping many executives up at night. So there’s even more value in bringing together a diverse group of people to think about, talk about, and foresee the change on the horizons – both those close and far.

Just some of the idea that have been generated at previous dinners include:

  • “Desktop manufacturing” – Mass customization (2011)
  • Every person will have an HQ (2011)
  • The New “New Divide” (2011)
  • Privacy will cease to exist (2011)
  • Real time biometric data availability (2012)
  • Improved patient/provider connection via mobile devices will affect health outcomes (2012)
  • The rise of test tube meat (2012)
  • Ubiquitous touch technology (2012)
  • A revolution in wearable technologies (2012)
  • The biggest drive of business will be content (2012)
  • Near field sensors on mobile devices will tell us what we’re doing, where we’re doing it, and how we’re doing while we’re doing it (2013)
  • Peer-to-peer asset leasing (2013)
  • Faith-affiliated consumer brands (2013)


Those of us who live and work on either of the coasts may wonder why we chose Cincinnati. It’s simple: Cincinnati is a hub of consumer products. Today’s innovations – from Uber to Bitcoin – touch consumers in unexpected ways. So we wanted to be sure to include those who are on the front lines of understanding and predicting consumer behaviors.

One of the beautiful things about our Non-Obvious Dinners is that we include people from a range of industries and organizations. As we discuss change, we remove it from the context of a single industry, and, in turn, can collectively examine the second and third-level ramifications.

For example, take the handset, a nearly ubiquitous device. Handset manufacturers are certainly making money, but the giants making serious money are the platform players – Facebook, Google, and the like. Those businesses that leverage the ubiquity of the handset.

What are the forthcoming disruptive technologies? One might be the revolutionary spectrometer from Consumer Physics. The company’s device allows someone to scan an object and instantly get the chemical makeup of that object. Let’s say a restaurant goer brought the device with him or her to a sushi restaurant. A quick scan of the plate of sashimi shows that it is not, in fact, Hamachi (as listed on the menu and ordered), but instead cheaper, white tuna. Is it a simple mistake because it’s hard to differentiate species of fish? Is it fraud on the part of the restaurant? Or is it fraud on the part of the wholesaler? Or the fisherman? What are the potential ripple effects of a diner being able to analyze the food on his or her plate? How could that upend, fix, or right, an entire food distribution system?

Our Non-Obvious Dinners tend to generate just as many questions as they do answers. But that’s part of the fun as well. If you are in Cincinnati and would like to join us on April 10, feel free to request an invitation.