PreCommerce Panel on Innovation – Josh Kampel, Mike Fay, Michele Skelding, Jessica Williams
Joining us for a panel this afternoon are Michael Fay, VP of Global Communications at IBM, Michele Skelding, SVP of Global Technology and Innovation for Austin Chamber of Commerce, and Jessica Williams, Global Innovations Marketing at Visa (bios below), to explore how companies adopt and scale innovation. The panel was moderated by Josh Kampel, President of Techonomy. I’ve tried to paraphrase the questions and answers in the panel below.
Q: What is Austin doing to foster innovation? What are some of the characteristics you are seeing?
Skelding: There are 4800 high tech companies in greater Austin. We look at net new jobs, organic formation of companies with big growth trajectories. In 2014, 69 companies relocated to Austin, 17 came in 2008. You can tell by the noise, cranes, hotel room space and traffic. This is creating a divide between entrepreneurial companies wanting to be downtown and big companies like IBM. Startups, incubators and innovation centers are all in the area, we have to figure out how to support them all.
Fay: This is a bridge to how we think about innovation – IBM is investing a lot in the transformation of IBM Interactive. We also have an internal agency called IBM Design, headquartered in Austin. We hired 300 designers last year in Austin alone, with centers also in Japan, London, and Shanghai. We are investing in Austin because of the talent. Every decade IBM needs to have a new version of itself.
Q: IBM has acquired over 125 companies in the last 15 years. How are you bringing innovation into the company?
Fay: Scale – we really legitimately have a presence in over 170 countries. Watson has been an organic process that led to a series of product lines, with the same team working on the platform for several years together. Most of the acquisitions have been small but are a fit culturally. Sometimes partnerships are better for both companies to co-invest. We also need to reinvent our talent at a big scale as we grow.
Q: Last week at Mobile World Congress (MWC), lots of partnerships were discussed. Visa made a big splash about ApplePay. Visa has invested 700 dedicated developers to work on ApplePay. Why the investment and what is the long term goal?
Williams: It’s clearly a huge win for Visa to partner our brand with Apple. We believe it will be a cardless world in the future. ApplePay was the biggest investment aside from Visa Checkout last year. Sooner or later everyone will be using phones to make payments, we have to stay ahead of that. Visa is trying to rebuild relationships with merchants. One challenge is that low conversion rates exist on mobile for purchasing, while there is still heavy useage for shopping. Visa Checkout is a one-click checkout solution targeting addressing that gap. ComScore shows conversions on mobile with VisaCheckout are at 69% – much higher than traditional methods.
Q: What industries are ripe for disruption?
Fay: A lot of disruption has already occurred. For example, a couple years ago we were focused on big box retailers being disrupted with ecommerce. People love experiences, so retailers need to adapt and innovate to create that experience still leveraging the big box stores. Everything is now a technology business.
Q: In financial services, how are you looking at these technologies?
Williams: We believe payments is the next big industry to be disrupted. The way people pay, get paid and get loans will change tremendously. Visa just launched the connected car with Ford at MWC.
Q: You’re looking at early stage companies like Square as well?
Williams: We have a growing team of folks looking at companies that are early stage, figuring out how to work together, share ideas and explore investment opportunities.
Q: What industries do you see startups congregating on in Austin?
Skelding: We need innovation in transportation. 150 people move to the region daily. We don’t have a mass transport system. We also have a new medical school. We look at modeling Cambridge, MA, building teaching hospitals and take the biggest ideas to help support knowledge capital and delivery in the region. We want to grow beyond being known as the Music Capital and being weird – transitioning into the conversion of tech and life sciences.
Q: Kodak and Polaroid didn’t innovate fast enough. What companies are doing it right?
Williams: I think GoPro has done a good job at staying close to what is going on in the world. Paypal has (unfortunately) done a great job, we look to them all the time as a model of an aggressive technology company.
Fay: We’ve spend time with AT&T creating the largest MOOC, instrumental in bringing broadband to Austin. If you are in the expertise business, have to project boldly and aggressively.
Big thanks to the panelists for participating today.
Bio: Josh joined Techonomy in the Spring of 2012 to oversee Techonomy’s business operations, planning and strategic partnerships. He has held senior positions in marketing, strategy and product development in both the digital media and financial technology industries. Most recently, Josh helped lauch OfferIQ, which was acquired in 2010 by Transactis, where he stayed on as Chief Marketing Officer.
Bio: Mike leads IBM’s global communications function. He previously led marketing and communications for IBM Research and IP and has held a variety of positions in IBM corporate communications. He joined the company through its acquisition of Sequent Computer Systems and previously worked in many capacities in tech communications.
Bio: Michelle is the Senior Vice President of Global Technology and Innovation for the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce where she leads the development and execution of the organization’s vision for Central Texas as a top global region for technology innovation, company formation and expansion, in addition to increasing top access to private equity and venture capital. Prior to the Austin Chamber, Michele served as Senior Director of Global Business Development, for Appconomy. Michele has also held senior positions with Lifeproof Cases, First Mobile Technologies, G-51 Capital, Augmentix Corporation, Dell and with AT&T’s executive leadership development program. Michele is an integral member of Austin’s entrepreneurial community, serving in leadership positions with the Central Texas Angel Network and as a mentor at Incubation Station.
Bio: Former Senior Analytics Manager at WCG. Experienced Leader with a strong background in social and digital media and analytical research who can translate data into strategic insights and actionable recommendations in order to enhance brand equity and drive effective social and digital marketing strategy.
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