Last night I had the pleasure to attend the Boston College Tech Council Event at the Liberty Hotel in Boston. These events are always great to network with fellow BC alums, learn about the innovation happening in the Hub and listen to interesting speakers. And last night’s conversation centered around the Boston innovation community with Spark Capital’s Bijan Sabat.
It was an interesting discussion around how we can make Boston a more attractive location to breed innovation and grow companies as well as good stories about some of their investments including Twitter and Tumblr.
There were a lot of great takeaways but the one that stuck with me was on what Bijan looks for in potential investment companies and how he has a preference for companies that have a technical founder(s).
And that’s where I would like to focus for this post.
Choosing the Right Technology to Invest In
Now unlike Bijan, most of us are not looking at companies and technology as investments in terms of a portfolio but investments in terms of helping us do our jobs better and drive our business results. A wrong decision might not drag our net worth down significantly but it represents a huge loss in terms of time, budget and opportunity cost of not using the right technology.
The fact is when you are choosing a technology, you are making a decision to invest in the future of the technology as well. It should be seen as a strategic long-term decision that you are making and if you are not, then you’re missing an opportunity. The right technology won’t just be a widget or cog that eases a single part of your process but should be a strategic foundation for you to build your process and strategy.
So it’s integral that you understand the problem you need to solve, the results you are looking to achieve and trust in the technology to not only meet your needs today but grow with your future needs as well.
Does your Technology Partner have a History of Innovation?
I think this is one of the most important questions you can ask yourself when looking at technologies. In all your conversations and demos you are seeing the technologies you are evaluating at a static place in time. But really what you are seeing is the combined work to get the product to this stage or a company actually executing on their vision. It’s integral to listen to a vendor’s vision while also getting a feel for how, what and when they’ve accomplished innovation in their solutions. Do they have a history of building true innovations or are the results of innovation done through acquisitions or partnerships? And if the solution you are evaluating has recently been acquired, what innovations have happened in the time since the acquisition?
This is where the technical founder question in the blog title comes into play. While this might be an over-generalization, I tend to see companies with a technical leader focus on product innovation as a key business goal of the organization. While product is a focus for every leader, the technical founder has written the code and has a vision of where they want the ultimate solution to be. It’s their baby so to speak and will always be of importance.
If you can marry a solution that has a provable history of innovation with a technical founder, more than likely you’ll find a solution that can help you be truly strategic your strategy and one that will continue to grow as your needs do.
Where are you placing your bets?
As you evaluate the recruitment marketing technology space, it’s important to have an eye toward the future. You have clear needs today whether it’s building your employer brand, ensuring you have an optimized mobile experience, leveraging your social media presence or eliminating inefficiencies in the way you recruit. With each, it’s easy to find a tool to fix a single siloed problem but in many cases it’s just putting a band-aid on a systemic problem with your strategy.
What we need to do in our evaluations is find solutions that enable us to be proactive about new trends and philosophies rather than be reactive with temporary fixes. And it’s in understanding a company’s (and founder’s) history of innovation that we can get closer to knowing if a technology partner is the right fit for our own unique situation.