Marketing Darwinism: Steven, it’s been a while since we caught up but I know you are doing something very interesting and relevant now. Can you tell us about your new project?
Steven: Thanks. The last 15 years have been very interesting for me and have culminated in the new stealth startup I’m building. As you know, I cofounded Ascentium and we grew it from zero to 90M in a little less than 7 years. Our entire focus was technology in context and a relentless focus on customer needs. We build the entire company around the customer in our “surround” strategy. When we sold it, I moved into an area that always fascinated me- hospitality, where I partnered with some of the most incredible technical talent to build and nurture systems for hotels, casinos, and other hospitality ventures. My new startup is connected to that space.
Marketing Darwinism: Isn’t the timing for that, well, awkward given the 80% decline in hotel stays and the pandemic situation in general.
Steven: On the surface, yes. But when you dig deeper, you see that when the industry recovers- even if not 100% or even close- it will need flexible systems that can elastically throttle up and down. In addition, as assets get repurposed and value is derived from new modes of business, the currently rigid systems will have to flex. That’s the key to a post- Covid 19 scenario.
Marketing Darwinism: Fascinating. When you talk about repurposing, in some ways that is the key. Transformation, Pivoting, Repurposing….these are buzzwords. Is there something more to them?
Steven: It’s a great point. For many, the “pivots” they’ve announced are hardly interesting. I mean going from serving a sandwich in a closed environment to offering it for pick-up is necessary but not super-innovative. But imagine converting a hotel into a hospital or into temporary work space? Imagine a physical business that transforms itself into a digital, ether-based business. These are the sorts of things that deeply vertical solutions will have to accommodate going forward.
Marketing Darwinism: So, given that, what is your focus now?
Steven: We start with the customer. Customers have been telling me for a long time that they need modular solutions that allow them to scale up and down and don’t require a complex and impacted process or culture curve to adopt. My goal as a technology builder is to start with these needs, to deeply contextualize myself in the culture, and only then to architect the technology. So, as we launch, we will be sure to continue to give you, Paul, the exclusive insight into our plans!
Marketing Darwinism: Steven, how does Marketing fit into your new startup’s plans?
Steven: I’ve always been a big believer in Marketing. All effective companies must communicate clearly and often, and I believe Marketing is the key here. Products are great to build but they can “sit on the shelf” without an effective strategy to win influential people to avail of their benefits. While I am a technologist in the first instance, I am a Marketer in the second; I’ve never built a company without a superb Marketer in the first 3 hires.
Marketing Darwinism: Any thoughts about the future of hospitality and hotels?
Steven: I believe that the industry will find its footing. While we cannot say that this pandemic came out of nowhere, it certainly caught many industries flat-footed. But in the past 2 months I’ve seen story after story of positive transformation – as I alluded to before- and have seen that the entire ecosystem that supports the industry is ready to retool. As such, I think that our job as technologists is to enable and accelerate the processes by which this reinvention takes place. I don’t necessarily believe we’ll be back to the “glory days,” but I’m clear that the new scenario will not be as bleak as was thought in the first waves of this pandemic. Success will be had again!