How Innovation And Technology Has Lowered The Barrier To Entry Like Never Before13 November, 2015 / Articles
In honor of Seattle Startup Week, we talked about innovation and entrepreneurialism with our Head of Digital at Chase, Gavin Michael, and Scott Armstrong, who is the CEO of Seattle’s own Brenthaven. As part of our deep commitment to small business and entrepreneurs, Chase sponsors Startup Weeks all over the country.
On technology and today’s entrepreneur
GAVIN MICHAEL: The advances in technology have lowered the barrier to entry for entrepreneurs like never before. I think back to the amount of heavy lifting we had to do in early ’90s in order to establish a company. To get up and running, you had to do everything yourself.
The advent of cloud technologies and mobile computing allows entrepreneurs to spend their time wisely and work anytime, anywhere. This technology allows startups today to stay laser focused on their business goals and spend less time on building the infrastructure and ecosystem around their business.
I would encourage entrepreneurs to stay focused on thin sliced innovation where there’s high friction or perceived “white space” and the ability for particular industries to be completely reinvented. For example, I think the improvement in adjacent spaces is really interesting. We used to rely on traditional transport mechanisms and today we see disruptors like Uber, Postmates and Instacart completely change the way we think about getting to the airport, dinner or having your groceries delivered.
Ultimately, entrepreneurial success comes down to attributes of talent, tenacity and resiliency.
On how to get started
SCOTT ARMSTRONG: If there’s a business problem out there and you think you have a good solution for it, you should just jump in and test it. I think that’s one of the beauties of the web. It gives you this perfect avenue to test things before you quit your job and go try and raise money. Test some ideas out via Google ads and keywords—figure out if there’s truly an appetite for the concept you’re exploring.
On location, location, location
SA: I also really encourage entrepreneurs to think very seriously about your location. If engineering talent is something you really need, make sure you locate near engineering talent, because that’s very hard to create from the bottom up. For a place like the Bay Area, there’s plenty of it. But it’s very, very expensive there. I think that’s one reason that Seattle has become kind of the next hot spot—beyond the Bay Area.
GM: Staying connected to our entrepreneurial communities is crucial to success because there’s so much to learn from what’s happening around us that can inform our ideas—and result in new approaches and technologies.
SA: If you’ve got an idea, bring it to an incubator. If I could do it all over again, I think that would have been a perfect direction—because you get that entrepreneur start-up experience. But you do it with underlying insight and direction from an incubator. I think that model makes a lot of sense.
GM: I think you’ve got it—there are many people out there who have insight and experience and are happy to talk about that. Don’t be afraid to reach out.
On the future
SA: Where there’s a problem, it’s the entrepreneurs who find a way to solve it with technology. We’re using a great new HR tool that I’m really impressed with called Tiny Pulse™. We gauge our employee satisfaction through this tool. With three offices, one in Seattle, one in Manila, and one in Shenzhen, China, direct feedback about our employees’ engagement is a little more challenging. This is a great way for people to share how they’re feeling about their company and work and give direct feedback on a weekly basis to management.
GM: Keep an eye on augmented reality / virtual reality. It’s going to take us to another level of collaboration and open up a whole new world of possibilities for how we work. I’ll also add that there is undoubtedly a genuine societal shift with technology and innovation. And right now, with that context, there really is no better time to try. Be tenacious and don’t be afraid to ask for help and go for it. We’re in such an interesting, exciting age right now.
SA: Couldn’t agree more.
Scott Armstrong is the President and CEO of Brenthaven, a 35-year old company based in Seattle that designs protective mobile tech cases for today’s entrepreneur. Since acquiring the business in 2007, Scott and his team have grown the business to 50 employees and their products can be found in most major markets around the world. Prior to Brenthaven, Scott held leadership positions at Starbucks, Ray-Ban, and Expedia. He is an active investor and entrepreneur in the Seattle community. In 2011, he co-founded Rivet & Sway, an online eyewear company for women and served as advisor until 2014 when the business was sold to Glasses.com. Scott is passionate about entrepreneurship and the many ways mobile technology is making the world a better place.
Gavin Michael is Head of Digital for Consumer & Community Banking, helping Chase to lead the digital transformation of financial services. Knowing that many consumers go to their digital devices first, Michael is driving a digital strategy to offer customers the most personalized and convenient — and safest — digital experience in the industry. Michael earned a Ph. D. in Computer Science from Australian National University and an undergraduate degree from the University of Western Australia.