Archive for the ‘Entrepreneurship’ Category

Janice Le: Product Eats Marketing

January 8, 2021

1.   Tell us about your personal and professional background and about what you do professionally today.

Today, I hold a unique role as both the Chief Product Office and the CMO for Helpshift, a series C startup in the digital customer service space. I am steering the company towards product led growth, driving a product experience that changes the game in B2B SaaS. With product led growth, product will eat traditional marketing and sales.

This is from my LinkedIn profile:

I first came across this quote in one of the first corporate emails I’d received as an intern: “Vision without execution is hallucination.” – Albert Einstein

That was >20 years ago. It resonated with me then and it resonates with me now. Business is my first love, but I’m a closet techie! Throughout my career, I’ve worn many hats (and shoes), from web and app developer, to database designer, to marketer, to product leader, to general manager. While on that journey, I’ve had both successes and valuable failures, but two core values continue to define me—don’t forget where you came from and excuses are for wusses.

Who am I? I am an achiever, a learner, and a fighter. My purpose and mission is to help others reach excellence and to make every day worth winning. For those who are looking to rise above or beat the odds, I am your fighter and trainer who can energize, motivate, and give teams the courage and techniques to win. Words I live by: “Live as if you will die tomorrow. Learn as if you will live forever.”–Mahatma Gandhi

I was born and raised on the banks of the Mekong Delta and escaped Vietnam as a young child after the war. I’ve also beat some medical odds that professionals didn’t think was possible. I’m here today amidst the brightest minds in the world, helping to change lives through technology, with two healthy and thriving daughters who believe they are unstoppable. What’s my take-away? Creating magic and defying the odds only happens when a great vision is equally met with action that gets executed with real heart and soul.

Corporate stuff here: I’m a marketing athlete and product leader with 20+ years of experience in product management, product marketing, and general management in tech domains spanning enterprise networking, cybersecurity, data & analytics, app integration platforms, video, NW infrastructure, and collaboration. I’m a GTM strategist in the Enterprise & Mid-Market, with successes in new/adjacent market entry and global market expansion. I challenge status quo, get the right things done, and can assemble and grow winning teams.

2.   What are your personal and professional goals for sharing your doing-well while doing-right story?

I don’t have professional goals. I consider myself to be a journey person and I don’t get fixated on the destination. My goal is to make each day memorable and worth it and to help others feel the same way. My personal satisfaction comes from “doing the right things well” each day, whether it be in my job or at home, for myself or in service of others.  

3.   How has your personal upbringing helped shape your desire to do well, while doing right?

Because I’ve experienced a number of death-defying moments, I want to make each day meaningful because I don’t know what tomorrow will hold.

I have 5 experiences that I refer to as my 5 G’s: 

  1. Government: escaped Vietnam as a young child when the country fell to the communists. Was a refugee, escaped pirates at sea, survived life-threatening illnesses (malaria, tape worm, etc.)
  2. Gaming: Gaming is how I fell in love with technology. I’m a lifelong gamer who has learned so much from gaming–strategy, knowing your enemy/competition, managing your resources, making allies, thinking 12 moves ahead, knowing the criteria for winning and leveling up, and always achieving your personal best.
  3. Gangs: grew up in east San Jose and learned about the social and political aspects of how gangs operate. Very eye opening and also teaches how to toughen up and not be intimidated by others.
  4. Granulamotosis: rare auto-immune disorder that was treated with 2.5 years of low dose chemotherapy and high dose steroids. Teaches you a lot about being mortal and that you’re not invincible. Being really sick also exposes who your true friends are.
  5. Girls and my guy: having my 2 daughters (despite the odds of relapsing) and my husband. They are my biggest sources of inspiration.

4.   Tell a story about a younger version of yourself and how you were impacted by your early role models.

The younger version of myself was headstrong, believed I was invincible, and had no regard for authority. I was a rebel and a f–k you attitude because I felt I was unstoppable. I still think I’m unstoppable, but I’d rather help people find meaning in their lives. My attitude changed from eff you to help you.

LEARNING HOW TO DO WELL


5. How did your education and professional experience help you to learn business basics around strategy, execution and management?

I have a business undergrad in marketing and a technical graduate degree in telecommunications (security and wireless). I am also a self-taught techie and have worked in IT as a web developer, IT analyst, database admin, and app dev. Because of this, I am adept at working with engg teams, but also have a really strong grasp of marketing, GTM, and running a business. I’ve started a business from ground zero, helping Cisco build a business, taking it from zero to $100M in 4 years. My career is split right down the middle between product and marketing. I am a well balanced product thinker and marketing athlete. 

6.   Who were the star mentors, sponsors and coaches who helped you when things got challenging?

Dan Scheinman

Alan Cohen

Keerti Melkote

Christine Heckart

Thomas Wyatt (my husband)

7.   What did you do to better hone your influencing skills?

As a product leader, empathy is the #1 critical skill that I apply to everything that I do: designing products, interacting with customers, influencing my peers, motivating my team, partnering with our founder, and telling our story.

8.   What are a couple of mistakes you made in your early career which helped you be more successful in your business transactions?

I didn’t take myself seriously enough early in my career. I was the classic hare in the story of the tortoise and the hare. I had to learn how to get my act together and consistently deliver on my commitments. 

LEARNING TO DO RIGHT


9.   How did your early experience and upbringing help you build a desire to do right by others, by the earth, for future generations?

Experiencing mortality in so many different places (escaping Vietnam, surviving a rare disorder, not ending up in jail or dead from guns, etc.)….I feel I owe it to the world to help them make each day amazing. 

10.  What are some examples of what you did as a child to do right by others?

I helped give strength to others who lacked it. I won’t allow anyone to be a victim. I help others build strength from their misfortunes–to experience post-traumatic growth, not post-traumatic stress.

11.  When and why did ‘doing well’ NOT be enough, so that you decided that you must also ‘do right’?

I feel like I’ve been given many opportunities and have beaten the odds–it makes me want to help others find their best fighting chance.

12.  Who has helped you make more impact doing right by others?

I am the president of the board for a non-profit called CALICO. We are a child abuse listening and intervention organization that hepls over 800 kids in Alameda find justice from sex abuse and neglect. Having been a victim of sex abuse myself, I want to help those victims find hope and brightness in their adversity.

Here is my story: https://www.calicocenter.org/single-post/2017/04/24/finding-my-voice

https://www.calicocenter.org/board

OVERCOMING OBSTACLES


13.   What are some of the barriers to making a pronounced impact?

Believe you are unstoppable. 

14.   Who and what could help address these barriers?

 Belief in yourself. A purpose that fuels you. Gratitude for what you have.

AMPLIFYING THE IMPACT


15.   What specific do-right impact would you ideally like to achieve, and why is that the most important objective for you?

I want to help others find their personal strength and purpose in whatever they do. It’s important to me because without purpose and strength, continuation is meaningless.

16.   What is the core message, the core vision of the initiative?

17.   What are you doing today to amplify the impact of doing well while doing right?

 With each person that I interact with and touch, I try to lead by example.

18.   How could we all work together to move the needle forward in specific ways?

 We should each find our value and purpose and lead with that each day.

WHAT DOES SUCCESS LOOK LIKE?


19.     What does success look and feel like?

Success is when you can reflect on each day and say “I have no regrets”

20.    What ONE thing could we each do to make this so? 

Ask the question: What am I proud of doing today?


Doing Well While Doing Right: Linda Holroyd

January 1, 2021

Doing Well While Doing Right

Featured Leader This Week:

Linda Holroyd – Something from Nothing

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Despite all the negatives of 2020, it has also brought so much value to each of us.

  • It helps us see what’s important to us, who’s important to us.
  • It helps us focus on the greater good, the bigger cause.
  • It helps us work on the important things in life.

To take advantage of these up-sides and benefits, FountainBlue is launching an initiative to share weekly ‘Doing Well While Doing Right’ stories from our community members, with the intent of sharing practical and inspirational real-world stories, stimulating creative and proactive thinking and problem-solving, and celebrating the successes of leaders who are making a difference as a business and a community leader. 

The Doing-Well piece is all about the Business Opportunities, the Scalable processes, the Returns on Investments, while also embracing the doing-right piece. The Doing-Right piece is about doing the right thing for other people, for the Earth, for the less fortunate, for the future, while also embracing the doing-well piece. Each story in the series will include a twenty question survey as well as a summary story based on the survey responses.

We will send these stories out weekly over e-mail, over our blog and over our LinkedIn profile and sharing it from our web site as well. It is only fitting that I launch the series with my own answers, my own interview, which will be released at noon on January 1, 2021, as part of our weekly event invitation e-mail.

About ME

1.   Tell your story about your personal and professional background.

I was born in Hong Kong, the second of four children. My mother won a debate, so we stayed together as a family with $20 between us, four children ages 2-7, no job, but a place to stay. Through perseverance and hard work, we managed to buy a house and all the kids graduated from college, got married and raised families. I worked my way through UC Davis as a preschool teacher, an office manager and a notetaker and typist. Armed with a major in psychology and a minor in education, I earned a teaching credential at San Francisco State and taught elementary school for six years.

From there, I worked in sales, marketing and leadership roles in tech start-ups for two years before launching a web consultancy alongside my husband. After growing it to 18 people and $4 million in sales, we sold the company, and I worked in the nonprofit sector before launching FountainBlue in January 2005. As a management consultancy, FountainBlue focused on my two greatest passions – Leadership and Innovation. Known mostly for the programs we’ve run monthly, we also advise start-ups, coach executives, and provide strategic, leadership and management consulting to companies large and small.

2.   What are your personal and professional goals for sharing your doing-well while doing-right story?

I wanted to launch this series in response to all that has happened to us in 2020, to profile success stories of business professionals stepping up and showing up to do well, while doing right by others. While much focus is on the negative,  it’s the positive, feel-good, practical stories that inspire others, and  provide tangible ideas and outlets for others.

3.   How has your personal upbringing helped shape your desire to do well, while doing right?

Raised with very little education and very few resources and support, I learned to be independent and create my own opportunities. Born with a strong moral compass and a sense of justice and a strong desire to do right by others, I’ve always stood more for the greater good than for my own personal well being.

4.   Tell a story about a younger version of yourself and how you were impacted by your early role models.

When I was five, we were assigned four hours of homework a night. I wanted to respectfully protest, make a stand for having less homework for all, so I convinced my uncle to do my homework, which took him 15 minutes and turned in my assignment. When I was asked by my teacher who did my homework, I told the truth and explained that I thought it was more appropriate for five-year-olds to have more play time. I was sent back to my seat without additional comment, but looked upon by the other students like a pariah.

When the teacher told my mother what happened, she just agreed that there was A LOT of homework for children so young. When my mother told my father, he made no comment, but did brag about what I did to our friends who joined us for dinner that night.

My parents taught me to think for myself, act on principle, and work for the greater good. Although they have passed many years ago, they still influence my thoughts, words and actions.

Learning how to do WELL

5. How did your education and professional experience help you to learn business basics around strategy, execution and management?

I learned how to lead and manage while in an elementary school setting as a classroom teacher and adapted my skills to a business setting working with start-ups, corporations and investors. Based on my breadth of experience in a wide range of sectors, I learned how to 1) align strategy, execution and management, 2) work with people who make you want to be better versions of yourself, 3) manage work with people who don’t bring out the best side of yourself, 4) clearly communicate with the intent of building engagement, 5) build ecosystems of partnerships focused on delivering common objectives, 6) leverage technology and science to increase the impact, 7) increase the impact and reach of products and solutions, 8) humbly reach for more, while pridefully celebrating all you are, all you do, 9) continually learn and grow as individuals, teams, and organizations, and 10) see beyond your own assumptions, so that you and those around you can continue to grow and thrive, respond proactively to an ever-changing, more-demanding world.

6.   Who were the star mentors, sponsors and coaches who helped you when things got challenging?

I’m one of those people who learn from many others. I open-mindedly adapt qualities and traits of others I admire, especially if they have skills far different than my own. I remain curious about those who are not-like-me, and truly all those who speak and act on principle, no matter how difficult that proves to be.

In transitioning from teaching to start-up advising and consulting to advising and investing, I learned to many role models how to leverage my strengths and knowledge to more strategically deliver value to a wider set of customers, to build ecosystems of partners in collaboration around common goals, and to work hard and with purpose, to do well for the company, while doing right for the people impacted.

7.   What did you do to better hone your influencing skills?

I failed often, in ways big and small. It was always the grandest failures that made me stronger and better. It was always my perseverance, strength and indomitable will and faith which made my pick myself up, brush myself off, and say ‘what’s next’. Helping others do this for themselves, inspiring others with my example is one of the greatest joys in life.

8.   What are a couple of mistakes you made in your early career which helped you be more successful in your business transactions?

Learning early about my own strengths and weaknesses helped me focus on areas of strength.

My failures teaching a classroom full of under-privileged kids taught me to align my passion (empowering others), my skills (ability to teach and inspire), may not always get me the results I seek, unless the other parties are willing and able.

My failures at small start-ups helped me see the value of principles founders, hardworking technologists, and willing customers and partners.

Learning to do RIGHT

9.   How did your early experience and upbringing help you build a desire to do right by others, by the earth, for future generations?

As a curious onlooker, I saw the short-term and long-term impact of leaders at all levels. No matter the financial and economic outcome, it always felt hollow to witness the success of a product or an organization, unless I felt like the service or product also served the greater good.

Working with entrepreneurs, investors and executives, many feel that same sort of hollowness, and many in mid career purposefully seek creating and building something that makes a difference and serves others.

10.  What are some examples of what you did as a child to do right by others?

It was always more important for me to take a stand on behalf of all of us, rather than on behalf of myself or a few of us. I wouldn’t have minded, for example, doing the assigned homework, and I would have found a way to do it faster and better. But the thought that it couldn’t be good or right for others is what motivated me to take action, even if I had to suffer the consequences.

11.  When and why did ‘doing well’ NOT be enough, so that you decided that you must also ‘do right’?

My first business experiences were around the dot com bomb, where I met and briefly served many entrepreneurs who were blatantly clear that their business model may not be sustainable, but their own possible up-sides were more important. I vowed to disengage with anyone who shares those same principles now, no matter what the financial up-sides are for myself or for their organization.

The doing-right must be part of the equation. But the doing-right isn’t enough, if the company isn’t also doing well.

12.  Who has helped you make more impact doing right by others?

The hundreds of leaders, entrepreneurs, executives, investors we’ve served over the past twenty five years have each helped me reach higher, stand taller, leap farther, and stretch beyond my own view of the world.

Overcoming Obstacles

13.   What are some of the barriers to making pronounced impact?

  • The market must be ripe for the opportunity ahead.
  • The technology must be scalable enough to efficiently bring personalized value.
  • The leaders at all levels must be principled and competent and trustworthy.
  • The ecosystem of partners must be collaborative, integrated, and coordinated.
  • Luck must be on your side.

14.   Who and what could help address these barriers?

All stakeholders have a role in delivering the above, all leaders and managers must continually coordinate a forward movement toward shared goals, building momentum, generating results, communicating and sharing progress.

Amplifying the Impact

15.   What specific do-right impact would you ideally like to achieve, and why is that the most important objective for you?

So many people are doing so much to do right by others while doing well for the business. It’s my goal to highlight the wide range of people and solutions which are Doing Well while Doing Right, so that others can learn from their success, and join in amplifying the impact.

16.   What is the core message, the core vision of the initiative?

  • Together, we are Doing Well, while Doing Right by Others.
  • Sharing our successes, we can inspire and empower others to do the same.

17.   What are you doing today to amplify the impact of doing well while doing right?

We run monthly FountainBlue events online, we curate and share weekly Doing-Well stories, we coach executives and consult to start-ups, helping them do well while doing right. We also volunteer heavily in the community and connect regularly with an ecosystem of partners for the greater good.

18.   How could we all work together to move the needle forward in specific ways?

Share your story, share our events, partner with us to spread the word.

What does success look like?

19.    What does success look and feel like?

The Doing Well While Doing Right stories will be curated and shared so that others can celebrate successes, get stimulated on what’s possible, and contribute with their own strategies and plans for doing well while doing good. The lessons will live on, the community will grow stronger, the energy will grow while we all work and live in a more connected, more purposeful world, driving to a more sustainable, more equitable future.

20.    What one thing could we each do to make this so?

Bring an open mind, an open heart and positive intentions to every interaction with a focus on building connections and generating results.

Create a Friction-less Experience

September 26, 2017

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In this age when we are inundated with so many choices, and the ‘do-nothing’ choice is so attractive to many, it’s important to provide a friction-less experience in order to build mind-share and revenues.

  1. Being friction-less means knowing what you’re providing, and delivering it to those in need in a way that works for them.
  2. Provide a product or service which is both relevant and sustainable, both scalable and versatile, one that is configurable with many standardized elements.
  3. Everything end-to-end – from ordering to integration, from support to billing – should be easy, intuitive, seamless and elegant.
  4. Documentation should be freely and easily available. Support should be patient and understanding. User communities should be welcoming and helpful.
  5. Make the product or service available in modes most convenient to the customer – desktop, mobile, device, etc.
  6. Build a community of users who can connect to each other, and work together to help improve the offering.
  7. Allow this community of users to customize the product or service offering and provide feedback for desired future functionality.
  8. Track the right metrics, and know what the metrics mean about the needs of the customer, so you can deliver the experience they’re seeking.
  9. Be laser focused on the value-add of your product or service. Collaborate with partners for elements which are not part of that core offering, but make sure that your partners are delivering an exceptional frictionless experience.
  10. The bottom line is that the leaders and the product and service offering must provide a stellar service offering, and inspire trust and loyalty by consistently delivering results which customers define as exceptional.

Sounds easy and obvious right? But few are able to execute well on all elements. Maybe your offering will be one of those lucky few.

Better to Delegate

May 29, 2017

Better2Delegate

As a follow-up to last month’s post on being ‘Uniquely Human‘, this month, we will highlight scenarios which are best delegated to robots, tools, applications and devices.

  1. Delegate when it’s all about the facts, and the data is accurate and voluminous. With that said, make sure that humans structure the problem statement, ensure that the data is relevant, timely and accurate, and that the findings are in the right ballpark.
  2. Delegate when it’s more efficient for a system, tool or mechanism to perform a function than having a human perform that function. Even if it means that there are fewer jobs for humans. Train those humans to do jobs on top of or other than these functions.
  3. Automation of processes and production is more efficient than having humans perform redundant tasks. Having humors design and oversee the production to meet ongoing needs makes sense.
  4. Leverage robots, tools and solutions to serve people who can not do things for themselves, to ensure that their basic needs are covered, and they have the support they need 24×7.
  5. Delegate when there is high demand for repetitive processing and the need for accurate results. Humans can oversee and manage the proper functioning of the programs and ensure customer satisfaction.
  6. Delegate when it’s not safe for humans to perform the necessary task. Delegate when repetitive and strenuous tasks may result in injury and wear.
  7. Leverage software and AI and big data to get the real-time information you need to make data-based decisions.
  8. Create programs, tools and reports which help you understand the changes going on in the world, in the industry, in the market so that you can proactively respond to them.
  9. Design and leverage reports that produce data about the performance of your workforce and your products and decisions. Analysis of these reports facilitates proactive real-time, and long-term data-based decision-making.
  10. Delegate as much as possible to machines, processes, systems and tools, and know how experienced and knowledgable humans would integrate solutions as a value-add for the business.

The bottom line is that we should delegate tasks and functions to robots software and tools, and consider it an additive, not a threat to the overall job market.

Seize the Digital Advantage

February 23, 2017

Help join up social business peopleAs a tech professional and leader in the know, your ears perk up when you hear about seizing that digital advantage. And we do nothing, until we again hear talk of how this or that leader or company leveraged that digital advantage. Here are some specific and tangible things you can do every day to realize a digital advantage.
Information Management
1. Being digital means easily uploading, downloading, updating and managing content which is easily sorted, filtered and categorized.
2. Being digital means providing access to the specific, relevant and real-time information of interest to them.
3. When leveraged well, access to volumes of relevant information helps companies be more responsive and better attuned to the current and anticipated needs of the customer.

Connecting and Communicating across people, technologies and platforms.
4. Being digital means providing the technology, networks and infrastructure necessary so that people can better connect to each other.
5. Being digital means ensuring ease of access, ease of use, as well as security and scalability of solution.
6. Being digital means connecting with people on any device from mobile to web to billboards to kiosks to automobile displays.

Engagement and Interaction
7. Being digital means you can better describe and communicate your own needs and better understand the needs of others.
6. Being digital means providing interactive and immersive experiences which are memorable, purposeful and engaging.
9. Being digital, connected and engaged leads to better collaboration between teams, between companies, between partners.

The bottom line is:
10. Being digital separates the haves and the have nots, be they individuals, teams, companies or industries.
Don’t get left behind. Seize the Digital Advantage.

A Convergence of Technologies

February 3, 2017

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FountainBlue’s February 3 VIP roundtable was on the topic of ‘The Convergence of Technologies and Solutions’. Please join me in thanking our gracious hosts at TI and our executives in attendance.

This month’s roundtable executives represented a wide range of industries, roles, functions and company sizes. Below is a compilation of their ideas on the opportunities ahead, as technologies convergence across function and across industry.

Convergence may mean different things for different companies, but at its heart is the idea that we have the infrastructure to support the transference of technologies and solutions across solutions, across industries, across customers. Foundational to the convergence theme is the required infrastructure necessary to support it. This means everything must be in order: from the hardware and software needed to process information and create solutions, to the network needed to connect and communicate, to the policies and processes needed to support commerce, to the systems and solutions to support the delivery of services, and most importantly, the ability of the customer to pay for solutions, and companies to deliver to them what they need.

Each of our represented leaders and companies have solved aspects of these challenges and continue to push the envelope, not just for technology development, but also for the business processes and business model evolutions which would support the growth of the company. (See blog on ‘An Innovation Conversation‘.) There’s general agreement that convergence is happening across industries, across technologies, across companies, so our execs provided the collective advice below.

  • Encourage the transition of technologies across multiple use cases, as driven by the needs of the customer. 
  • Create a collaboration between technologists and sales engineers to partner with customers to design new solutions.
  • Create modules and solutions which make it easy for customers to leverage technologies and knowledge, and an easy way for them to communicate with staff and with each other as they design customized solutions.
  • Not all customers are created equal. Create self-service solutions which make it efficient and easy for most of your customers to help themselves, while providing additional and separate support for larger accounts.
  • Continue to focus on quality as you scale.
  • Invite the use of open source solutions and collaborations with trusted partners, creating an ecosystem that’s mutually beneficial.
  • Don’t let the management tool distract you from what needs to be done to best serve the customer.
  • Leverage modular open source solutions where it is practical. 

Below are some hot areas to watch.

  • Look for ways to bring the digital to the physical, cost-effectively bringing custom-fit solutions to eagerly awaiting customers who are well positioned to pay well for them.
  • Find ways to apply B-to-C businesses models and create B-to-B opportunities.
  • Balancing privacy, security and access will continue to be a challenge, find out how it’s also the opportunity.
  • Imagine how custom molds, CAD design, 3D printers, and small-scale manufacturing could create a growth opportunity.
  • Look at the diagnostic and screening opportunities both for disease management and optimal health. Consider also privacy issues around these solutions.
  • Consider moving from a traditional sales model to a SaaS model for standard businesses, much like what Michelin is doing with tire sales – selling by the mile rather than straight sale.
  • Robotics and drones and voice activation will be hot in most solutions created.
  • IoT will be everywhere. What needs to happen in order to standardize IoT solutions to meet privacy, security and access requirements? Who will lead the charge and what are the business opportunities as this will inevitably happen?
  • Blockchain and its ability to provide that audit trail will provide many business and entrepreneurial opportunities.

The bottom line is that convergence is already happening, and it opens up many opportunities ahead for those willing to embrace them.

Innovation

January 31, 2017

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Everybody wants to be known as the ‘Innovator’. For many, it’s better than being known as the ‘Leader’ – there are generally fewer strings attached and less pressure to perform in all these random areas.

But most people think that innovation is reserved for the geekiest of geeks, the eggheads with the novel, game-changing ideas, the brainiacs who shine brighter than the rest of us. I’m hoping that this post helps more people that they can also be part of the innovation equation.

  1. I created the matrix above to include technology as an element of innovation, but also included business models and process innovations as valid ways to improve the way we work.
  2. Each element is also divided into the status quo – what we’re doing today in each of these areas, the incremental – which makes the business model, processes, and technologies incrementally better, and the novel – a whole new way of thinking about each element.
  3. The status quo for business models, processes and technologies have taken us far, and will likely be valid for weeks/months/years to come, depending on the solution and the industry. But accept that the status quo will be passe at some point, and choose to make incremental improvements or pivot in a novel direction.
  4. I mean no disrespect for incremental changes, which can and has sustain companies and industries for decades. Look for incremental changes not just in technology, but also in business models and process improvement.
  5. If you’re seeking a novel new direction for technology, processes or business models, listen closely to what the customers are saying or not saying so that you can shape the direction based on their needs.
  6. Watch for the cross-overs between business processes, business models and technology innovations. Fixing and improving one may create an incremental or novel change for another.
  7. Be open to innovations of all flavors, coming from all directions. Unless it does not align with your overall objectives, your customer needs, your operational requirements, or your core values.
  8. Purposely push the limits innovating your internal processes and you may find new business models, or the core of an idea for a novel new technology.
  9. It’s always about the people. Find people who are smart, open, flexible and eager to do something new, make something better. Beware of people who stick with the same-old thing, no matter how brilliant and wonderful they otherwise are.
  10. Bringing it all together takes an extraordinary amount of vision, passion, competence, patience and fortitude. This is not the task meant for the ordinary person.

Are YOU extraordinary?

When Digital Meets Physical

December 31, 2016

digitalphysicalDigital will continue to be the buzz – the differentiator which makes it easier to gather, digest and interpret data, easier to send personalized solutions to a wide range of customers. There’s no question that AI, BI and the Internet of Everything will affect the amount of information we receive online through our computers and through our wide range of smart devices. But there will be a physical element to digital solutions and elegantly integrating the two will set products and solutions apart.

  1. Yes, this means that IoT in general will continue to be hot, and affecting all of us in our day to day lives in ways we can barely imagine, and much more pervasively than we expect. Companies who can create a standard for the physical devices and the digital output from these devices will help the entire industry further ride that boom.
  2. IoT in the health and fitness space will continue to produce volumes of data, but also begin exploring the implications of the data and also interpreting volumes of data for patterns, while respecting the privacy of individual users.
  3. IoT in the retail space will help companies do everything from managing inventory to tracking customers, from improving security to anticipating orders.
  4. IoT in the transportation space will go far beyond GPS and emergency services and parking support. It will soon transform everything from car upgrades to changing appearances and going driverless!
  5. IoT in the consumer at home space will be all around automation a la Google and Nest and its temperature settings, and going far beyond that into appliance automation, lawn and garden care, and automated cooking and anticipatory grocery buying.
  6. Digital Out Of the Home (DOOH) solutions provide digital experiences going beyond computers and mobile phones and devices. Think about bus stops, bill boards, airports, train stations, food courts . . . pushing information out where people congregate, without the need for a computer or mobile device.
  7. Digital solutions can extend far beyond the tech world . . . including into agriculture. Imagine if we had tools which could support the full food supply chain – from production to processing to distribution and storage. These innovations will help improve efficiencies and the physical world for millions of people.
  8. Digital solutions enable peer-to-peer platforms which will continue to explode. Whether it’s with transportation services such as UBER and Lyft or vacation rental services such as AirBnB, or funding and loan services such as Indiegogo and Lending Club, people will connect with each other to deliver physical services, leveraging the digital platform to ensure fit, efficiency, security, etc.
  9. The quantity and quality of easily-available streaming digital videos is mind-boggling. We’re rapidly reaching the point where videos are preferred over standard television. And the point where original content, even if produced in non-commercial ways a la YouTube is preferred.
  10. And the point where immersive and interactive components are mandatory requirements for a successful digital experience, leveraging AR, QVC codes, motion sensory or MAC detectors.

The list could go on from here . . . Suffice it to say that the trend is going from Online to Offline (the physical), moving the user Onward – to a richer, more fulfilled, better served future. And if there’s success, there will be a loop back to the Online option, for more information, for more connections, for additional options.

In Search of Unicorns

November 4, 2016

pegasusFountainBlue’s November 11 VIP roundtable was on the topic of ‘In Search of Unicorns’ hosted by Samsung.

The executives in attendance at this month’s roundtable represented a wide range of industries, roles, functions and company sizes. Therefore, their perspectives on what it means to be entrepreneurial, what’s hot and what’s not varied greatly. However, there’s agreement that:

  • The innovation ecosystem will include investors, entrepreneurs, executives and providers. Interactive conversations and collaborations will become increasingly more important.
  • We should all value the openness and creativity of the entrepreneurs, the resources, channels and funding of the corporate partners, as well as the funding and vision of the investors, for each has a piece of the puzzle.
  • Perhaps we should re-think whether we’re looking for ‘unicorns’. So many companies are captivated by the mythical element, or the horn, and miss the importance of the wings – wings which transcend what regular horses can do. So perhaps a winged horse, a ‘Pegasus’, will more likely lead us to that billion dollar company.

The collective advice of our executives is summarized below.

  • What you’ve learned throughout your business journey may feed into your future entrepreneurial efforts. So take the time to learn about what worked and what didn’t work in terms of business models and processes and in terms of technology. The answers will lie in efficiently delivering what customers are looking for.
  • Work within the needs of the customer, the mind-sets of the players in the industry, the processes embraced over decades. But find ways to provide innovation which would fit into all these forces as well.
  • Corporates may value the technology innovation over the current adoption rate of the start-up. A company’s R&D and manufacturing centers, network of partner and channel contacts, access to funding, etc. may help that promising unicorn realize its potential.
  • Whether you’re facilitating innovation conversations between teams within an organization, encouraging customers to adopt of the latest solutions, or fostering the introduction of a new hardware, software or government standard, it’s always about getting influential people to adopt a new way of thinking or speaking or doing something, and encouraging others to do the same.
  • All industries will be transformed by the immersive, social, mobile, analytics, IOT and cloud solutions.

Below are opportunities ripe for innovation.

  • Seek opportunities to transform how we do things now, leveraging IT, big data and automation. 
  • Seek opportunities to provide integrated end-to-end solutions.
  • Voice recognition leveraging Natural Language Processing and Artificial Intelligence will continue to be of foundational importance. 
  • Automate functions which connect vetted providers with those-in-need, UBER style. Whether it’s connecting substitute teachers to classrooms, or connecting companies with excess food to nonprofits who distribute food (like gocopia.com), automating that connection adds value to all.
  • Innovative ways to digitally vet health status of patients with certified health professionals may save people and companies time and money in spades.
  • Look inside out and outside in to find those upside-down ways of addressing existing challenges. Embrace people with diverse perspectives who can help solve problems in new ways, leveraging IT, software, and devices.
  • Look for solutions beyond our world, and into the stratosphere to address a whole new layer of solutions – above the realm of drones, and within the earth’s atmosphere.
  • Connect the digital solution to the physical world. 

We are on the cusp of innovations in all markets at an astronomical scale. The world as we know it will become much bigger than we could ever imagine, and we can all choose to participate and shape that direction, to create a bigger, brighter, more collaborative and more efficient future.

On Being Limitless

October 31, 2016

limitlessWhat if the world were your oyster – if you had all the energy, all the answers, all the resources you need to do whatever you’d like to do, within reason, and address specific problems and challenges? What if you knew, or could easily figure out, the answer to some of the world’s greatest challenges – from the cure to cancer to the challenge of overpopulation, from global warming to the ongoing survival and well-being of mankind, from the origin of the big bang to living outside and beyond our solar system.

In today’s quickly-changing world, powered by ground-breaking technology-based transformations that are dynamic, immersive, relevant and real, it’s hard to imagine what the next chapter will bring, and easy to see that bright minds are focused on addressing remaining challenges one by one.

Assuming that this happens, and we are all so much more powerful – limitless even – what can we do to ensure that we remain compassionate and human, ethical and logical in applying our faculties and resources?

  1. Will we be wise enough to define the right problem to solve?
  2. Will tribal knowledge be collected and also be factored in?
  3. Will we be able to collaborate with the right people to make the right near-term and long term solution?
  4. Will we be patient enough to vet solutions to make sure that they deliver intended results?
  5. Will we be able to prioritize which problems to solve first and how many resources would be allocated to which problems?
  6. Will we be able to get the buy-in from the right people to implement solutions?
  7. Will we be able to test amongst many options?
  8. Will we be able to elegantly rewind a choice already made?
  9. Will we be able to do the ‘right’ thing for all stakeholders involved?
  10. Will we be able to have sufficient oversight to prevent people from unilaterally making decisions that affect others without their permission?

If the answer is no for any of the above, how can we plan-fully prepare for this whole new world?