David Ogilvy defined a brand as “The intangible sum of a product’s attributes: its name, packaging, and price, its history, its reputation, and the way it’s advertised.” This mantra has driven brand building for decades. It’s also incomplete.
Because of the relatively limited number of inputs on the intangible outcome, the craft of brand building was once seen as an exercise in control. Obsessive attention was paid to every detail of how the brand is represented in the customer’s experience of the product or service. Consistency was the mantra, so that the promised expectation aligned with the experience itself.
Then the world went digital. The world’s information is now available in the air around us. A representation of any product or service can be conjured on your phone. Consumers expect to access a brand on demand. There’s an ever expanding way that brands can be accessed — via web, app, voice command, chatbot, augmented reality, connected devices, IoT and more. In his recent piece, “This Company Might Make Apple and Google Irrelevant,” my colleague John Battelle profiled Viv, the startup from the makers of Siri that provides a computational “smart assistant” that sits on top of apps and web services. Imagine accessing a brand via the Scarlett Johansson character in Her!
This past week it was hard to tell if the folks braving the heat in downtown Austin were Pokemon Go players or NewCo Austin attendees. While searching for our next session, I started talking with another NewCo attendee, a young woman who recently moved to Austin. She graduated from an elite university, had gotten her first real job at a start up back East, and was lured to Austin because she heard from a friend there was a really good “scene” in Austin. Not a music scene or social scene, but a start-up scene.
The pumping Sonos system that hits you entering the lobby of the Capital Factory and the frenetic swirl of earnest young people coming and going in Austin’s signature incubator makes it obvious that something cool is going on. But aside from the energy and the talent, NewCo Austin — produced by Capital Factory — showed that there are some true world-changing companies being built.
Flush with a $14M series A, the rock star team at Data.World is building the GitHub for linked, open data sets. Hungry Planet is leveraging innovation in LED lighting to revolutionize indoor farming. The Dell Medical School is the first tier 1 medical school to be launched in 50 years, and they are leveraging that opportunity to link to the innovation ecosystem in ways that will surely inspire the rest of the world.
Large, established companies are trying on various programs to foster new innovations in an attempt to find the best way to change course for their big ships.
These established companies are struggling to keep up with fast-paced, venture-backed startups that are changing customer expectations — and often causing business model disruption for traditional businesses. To combat this ever-growing threat, corporations are stepping up their investments in innovation, and deploying a variety of strategies, outlined below.
Fourth in our Shift Dialogs Series — Full Transcript and Video
I first posted about Rana Foroohar back in May, when her timely and well-received book Makers and Takers: The Rise of Finance and the Fall of American Business came out. That interview was one of our most-read pieces back then, but in the last few months, tens of thousands of new readers have come to NewCo Shift, and Rana was kind enough to come into the Nasdaq studios and shoot a fresh interview with us.
This twenty-minute conversation lays out not only the core argument of Rana’s book, but also ties today’s extraordinary social shifts to a long term trend of financialization in our economy. Along the way she has some choice words for Apple and Uber, and some deep insights on today’s political circus (she notes that Trump voters have not had an increase in real income since the 1970s, for example).
We are inventors, entrepreneurs, engineers, investors, researchers, and business leaders working in the technology sector. We are proud that American innovation is the envy of the world, a source of widely-shared prosperity, and a hallmark of our global leadership.
We believe in an inclusive country that fosters opportunity, creativity and a level playing field. Donald Trump does not. He campaigns on anger, bigotry, fear of new ideas and new people, and a fundamental belief that America is weak and in decline. We have listened to Donald Trump over the past year and we have concluded: Trump would be a disaster for innovation. His vision stands against the open exchange of ideas, free movement of people, and productive engagement with the outside world that is critical to our economy — and that provide the foundation for innovation and growth.
“Failure is punished, and success isn’t rewarded, so it’s not surprising that we don’t have people introducing changes.”
As part of the NewCo Shift Dialogs, I had a chance to interview Max Ventilla, founder and CEO of AltSchool. You can watch the video here, but because we had to cut it down for time, many fascinating portions of the conversation did not make it into the video. Below is the full transcript, with light editing for clarity.
Our Education System Was Built For The Industrial Era. AltSchool’s Platform Rethinks Learning From the Classroom Up.
For the second installment of the Shift Dialogs, I speak with Max Ventilla, founder and CEO of AltSchool. I’ve known Ventilla since his days as a founder of Aardvark, a unique search platform acquired by Google in 2010. Since that acquisition, Ventilla rose to head of personalization for Google, where he learned the power of individual services at scale.
But as a new parent in the hyper-competitive Bay area, Ventilla and his wife found themselves dismayed by the choices society offered their young children. Private schools offered smaller class sizes and lots of privilege, but the model was pretty much the same as public schools, which are increasingly starved of funding and legally obligated to pursue byzantine and outdated approaches to learning.
We’re pleased to bring you the NewCo Shift Dialogs, where we talk to the people on the front lines of the biggest shift in business since the industrial revolution. We’ve just released twelve in-depth interviews that comprise Season 1, with Season 2 well underway. Join us weekly for discussions with guests like Lori Goler, VP of People at Facebook, Seth Sternberg, CEO of Honor and Mayor Libby Schaaf of Oakland. (And, be the first to get the interviews to your in-box with the NewCo Weekly newsletter.)
NewCo Shift Dialogs, Season 2
Episode 2 (21 mon): After leading the team that saved healthcare.gov, Andy Slavitt took the reins of Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare. He’s leaving soon, but his legacy is just getting started. Read the interview.
Altaeros Energies worked on the world’s first airborne wind turbine at Greentown Labs in Somerville, MA, just outside of Boston. Autonomous Marine Systems used the Labs’ shop to work on its sailing drones, fleets of which now collect data on our oceans. Accion Systems set up shop there to ready its smaller, safer, and less expensive ion-based propulsion system for satellites. Between its founding in 2011 and the end of 2015, Greentown Labs has been home to 103 small businesses.
Today, roughly 50 companies pay rent in exchange for access to desks, lab space, equipment, and software. All of those startups are developing hardware-based clean technologies to solve the world’s largest energy and environmental challenges. Greentown Lab provides the resources startups need to help launch their companies quickly — not just tools but also education programs and access to investors.