PreCommerce Thought Leader Series

As I mentioned in our set up post for our PreCommerce thought leader series, we will be interviewing several of our speakers in advance of our events the week of March 9. First up is Mike Edelhart, CEO of Pivotcon. If you don’t know Mike, he is the lead partner for the Social Starts moment-of-inception investment fund and CEO of the Tomorrow Project, producers of the Pivot Conference in NY. Mike is an experienced media and Internet start-up executive. Mike was Managing Director and founder of First30 Services, a launch accelerator for early stage companies. Mike has held CEO and executive positions at numerous start-ups including Inman News, Zinio,Third Age Media and Olive Software. Mike was a partner at Redleaf, a VC firm. Earlier in this career, at SoftBank, Mike directed content for the Seybold, Interop and Comdex conferences and launched new businesses.

Now onto the interview:

[Aaron Strout] What is innovation? How do companies adopt and scale within their companies. {Mike Edelhart] We need to think about innovation on two very different scales. One is innovation within the norm: the better mousetrap. This happens all the time and can arise when companies pay attention to the details of what they do, solicit ideas for workers and best customers and operate obsessively at perfecting their internal processes. But there is a second, deeper kind of innovation. This is tech disruption. When fundamental new technologies–such as social and mobile today, and the IoT tomorrow–emerge, they create change slowly, but with inexorable force. Because they often negate long standing fundamentals, company’s can’t respond simply by being better at what they do; they have to learn to do something utterly new. That is the challenge companies face today: How can they strip down the house they live in and completely rebuild it in recognition of fundamental change, while still keeping the current business going? That is very hard and most businesses fail. Which is why tech change often ushers in new market leaders who approach what they do in radically different ways, ala Netflix and Uber. And we’ll see many more of those to come.

[AS] What do you do to keep your company fresh in the business? [ME] We are an unusual business, being a moment-of-inception fund. Our job is to be out front of change. We compel ourselves to recognize that no company, especially a small one like ours, can understand everything going on in a complex, high-velocity world like ours. So we compel ourselves to radically focus and in our focus areas to see literally thousands of new companies, so we always have been context for making our decisions. The enemy is our personally held views of what the future will be. It doesn’t matter what we think; all that matters is what customers are doing and are likely to do. We need to stay single-minded on that.

Read the rest of the post over at WGC.