15 Jun #FCMostInnovative: Three Secrets of the Most Innovative Companies from Our Panel with Fast Company
By Anna Swenson
If you’ve ever wished for insight into the world’s best entrepreneurial minds, you’ve come to the right place. Last week, LaunchSquad partnered with Fast Company to host an event celebrating the magazine’s 2016 Most Innovative Companies list. The annual ranking highlights new and established companies from around the world that best exemplify groundbreaking ideas and revolutionary business practices. Our panel brought together executives from three of the companies on this year’s list:
- Vladimir Tenev: Cofounder of Robinhood, a mobile-first stock brokerage offering commission-free trading in all U.S.-listed stocks and ETFs
- Brad Zeff: Chief content officer at Giphy, the world’s largest GIF search engine
- Leila Janah: Founder and CEO at Sama, a nonprofit connecting workers in developing countries with job opportunities via the Internet
Fast Company deputy editor David Lidsky moderated, kicking off the panel by lighting a campfire-scented candle to welcome our speakers to a metaphorical fireside chat.
So what secrets did our panelists reveal? Here are three takeaways:
1. The best companies view regulation as an opportunity, not as a limitation.
Vladimir Tenev’s company, Robinhood, operates in a highly regulated industry: stock trading. Oftentimes, startups attempt to innovate so quickly that they outpace the speed of government oversight. Tenev urged founders to take a longer-term approach: “We consider understanding regulations a big differentiator in comparison with companies who view it as a roadblock,” Tenev said. Rather than hoping the company grows so fast that laws can’t catch up, Robinhood takes the time to understand governance related to their product. This future-focused time investment sets them apart from companies that attempt to build a business that stays ahead of the law.
2. Innovators aren’t afraid to expect more from people and companies.
Leila Janah founded Sama after reading about a Dutch company that built a computer lab in the middle of a refugee camp. “It wasn’t somewhere you’d expect to find Internet access,” she explained. The revelation inspired Janah to connect refugees to work online. In a project testing her idea, “the refugees surprised everyone by showing they could do this work better than a for-profit company.” Janah’s vision is to use technology to create job opportunities for people who would otherwise not have access to them. She sees a future where companies commit a percentage of their workload to this workforce in the same way companies commit a percentage of proceeds to nonprofit causes. It’s a lofty goal, but Janah sees this as a way to solve two problems at once: Companies need labor, while refugees and other populations with limited access to jobs need work. “Because of the Internet,” she explained, “for the first time, no one is going to be constrained by the accident of birth.”
3. Great products don’t just solve a problem. They change the way we think, interact and communicate.
“People have always wanted to talk and communicate using cultural objects,” Brad Zeff explained when David Lidsky asked how Giphy articulates its mission. “GIFs allow them to do that,” he said. The three-second length of a GIF corresponds to the length of story beats in TV or movies. The result is a short snippet that has become a new currency for communication in every medium from advertising and social media to email and texting. “Our partners want their content in front of the people whose mindshare they want to capture,” Zeff explained. Showrunners and directors are now thinking about GIFs when creating TV and movies, and politicians have traded in ten-second sound bites for the more memorable GIF. This technology hasn’t just changed how we talk, it’s also impacted how artists and innovators create what we talk about.