Are you prepared?
Well you should be. After seeing 22 companies in three days, I am more certain than ever before that anything can be achieved as long as you can walk 15 MPH down NYC streets. Tech is changing, we saw it in so many ways through so many different lenses at each company. Marketplaces are getting more competitive, standing out is more difficult, and creating an enduring business becomes a matter of your principles more than the usability of a product. As the Tech Trek East trail blazers (guinea pigs?) we were taking the lead in an entirely new area of the country. We had to learn to be adaptable, and that more than anything else should be the lesson we take away. The tech world is changing so quickly we can never hope to learn everything about it, but we do now have the skill set to learn and change quickly.
On a smaller scale, I learned countless things though our visits, the ones that stuck with me the most boil down to three categories; how to get a company off to a successful start, how to keep an established company thriving in changing times and how to be a better and more driven person.
For the Startup
Focus and articulation were two major points brought up at Freshly and Dropbox, respectively. Startups need focus due to their lack of time and resources and a founder needs the ability to change their mind to be able to pivot focuses quickly. The ability to articulate where you need to go as a business in a crisp and concise way is the only way to communicate a vision to the support team needed.
For the mindset of a founder, Professor Doyle shared one opinion in class, although business should be something you are invested in, your primary relationship should be with the business. Founders who are married, dating, siblings, etc. will often have a non-business relationship that interferes with the startup. Two Sigma listed what they look for in founders as attitude, aptitude and whether or not people want to work for that founder. You can’t inspire people if you can’t get anyone on board with a concept.
For the Company
A focus on consumers was a consistent theme through all companies we visited. Carlos Dominguez at Sprinklr spoke to the value of understanding what value your product brings to consumers both generally and specific to a particular industry to better serve customers. He said that “businesses must adapt as much as consumers already have.”
MetLife CMO Hugh Dineen agreed, saying more and more lately the power is in the hands of the consumer.
Whether this consumer power is used to support a business’ product or its mission seemed up for debate. Simon Berg from Ceros believes that people buy why you do things, not what you do. At JW Player, however, they spoke to the fact that a product without need won’t sell and any noble pursuits of a company mission have no effect on if customers will buy what is brought to market.
On the marketing front, very similar lessons were presented from many of the companies. Harry’s is focusing on making different experiences effective to get people involved with the brand through the channel that they value the most. They use these “designed retail moments” to have a more powerful impact on consumers. Handy agreed, saying that location of marketing will affect sales as much as having a good product. Their marketing for cleaning is extremely successful as a subtle reminder in the subway, but other services are only bought in tandem with third party products that relate to that particular service. Companies should target the users where and when they need it – make it more convenient.
For the Person
“Many people get stuck on the task and forget the true goal.” -Simon Berg Ceros
“Your reaction to events you run into in life determines if those experiences teach you something valuable or not.” -Carlos Dominguez Sprinklr
“If everything is under control you aren’t going fast enough” -Mario Andretti via Hugh Dineen MetLife
“Do things better and do better things” -Greg Baxter MetLife
“Four out of five people choose life over death when asked to change their habits.” -Carlos Dominguez Sprinklr
“Be aware of what you don’t know” -Jason Gross Petal
“Get more chaos in your life” -Captain Kirk Goldman Sachs
There are many overlaps in the underlying characteristics that make a successful person, startup and established company. The lessons above are valuable for tech specific pursuits and as ways to make life the best it can be in many more ways than just business.
Not only did the huge variety of companies we visited give invaluable insight into every phase and layout of a company, but they proved that tech is seeping into every industry. Being tech savvy will never hurt. This class and trip gave me the tools to finally achieve what The Age of Context, my summer reading book, promised was necessary in the looming age of technology. We should all be prepared to survive the technology storm, and I can safely say our whole Tech Trek class is ready.