To kick off the new year, Battery and its partner Silicon Valley Bank hosted roughly 25 top technology executives at a two-day Innovation Summit in Napa Valley. The summit was a forum for CIOs, CTOs, and other corporate executives to discuss the digital transformation of their respective industries—and mull specific strategies for staying ahead of upstart competitors.
The executives, all buyers of technology, represented companies with an aggregate market cap in excess of $1.35 trillion and sectors including retail, banking, transportation and several others. Several CEOs and founders of Battery Ventures portfolio companies also attended. Battery convened the summit, which takes place every 18 months, to better understand the technology needs of large corporates and to invest in solutions to help them compete in the marketplace.
While the corporate attendees came from all over the U.S. and led widely varying businesses, they found they shared one common challenge: responding to digitally native competitors, or newer companies that have grown up online. That commonality provided a jumping-off point for many insightful conversations. While the summit’s discussions were technically off-the-record, there were some high-level takeaways—all with implications for today’s startups seeking to sell to Fortune 1000 companies—that we can report:
What’s in: Consumer experience over brand experience. All brands, whether they’re delivering packages to your door or providing your morning coffee, are rethinking the way customers are engaged both in-store and online. They realize that brands like Amazon and Facebook have made daily online life extremely intuitive and frictionless, and they have to do the same, even if they’re serving enterprise customers. As one executive noted, “We want to change the way people interact with their money.” Many of the brands represented are retooling to do just this, opening up opportunities for startups providing certain technologies.
What’s out: Optimization. The past decade has brought many technology advances that allowed corporate-IT departments to drive costs out of delivering service to the business. Though these cost savings are still key to competing with digitally native companies, senior leadership at companies should be focused on applying their technical capabilities to the business. The cloud is yesterday’s story. To that point, when surveying the group about companies/technologies of interest, the large cloud-service providers drew tepid interest from the group and not a single person cared about the traditional OEM/ISV vendors.
What’s back: Data. OK, data didn’t actually go anywhere—it’s just still really important. For several years, we heard a lot from corporate-IT executives about “data lakes” and breaking down “data silos.” Now that many organizations have really focused on combing through and easily accessing all their data, however, they’ve found some of the data is just rubbish. There was a shift this year across many industries, with corporations realizing they lack clean data – that is, data which is accurate, complete, current and even relevant to their business. In a world of artificial intelligence and machines making decisions autonomously, garbage-in/garbage-out is a growing problem to grapple with.
These were just some of the topics discussed at the summit, whose attendees also concurred that by focusing on top-line growth, executives and innovation teams ultimately will be rewarded.
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