Think Like a Digital Disruptor: Learn From the Pros

By Joanna Landsvik

HawkPartners recently hosted a Conversation & Cocktails event in Boston with a panel of Digital Disruptors from successful companies that have redefined industries. Panelists included Jason Robins, Founder & CEO of DraftKings, Rochelle Nemrow, Founder & CEO of FamilyID, and Mark Ethier, Founder & CEO of iZotope. Each panelist offered insight into how they recognized a personal challenge in areas of their own lives to be a market opportunity and took the initiative and risk to launch a business to solve those challenges. The panelists described how they grew their businesses and provided advice for becoming disruptive in your own industry.   

Their lessons provided guidance and inspiration for marketers and entrepreneurs alike.  Highlights from the discussion include:

Marketing Must be Data-Driven

“It all boils down to data,” Jason explained. Successful marketing marries the art and science of data. Data drives these businesses and allows them to engage more effectively with consumers. Data not only informs the messaging, promotions, and products for each of these businesses, but also helps to provide the business with instrumental information on what the customer really wants. Mark explained how musicians record songs, launch them on Spotify, and analyze how the audience engages with them, before re-recording and launching the same song, better aligned with consumer preferences.

Experience is King

For DraftKings, separating themselves from the competition meant winning on user experience. For FamilyID, success relied on providing consumers an easy to use platform. For iZotope, it meant developing products and software that provided musicians access to top recording technology.  For all three, curating an experience around the product was what helped them stand out from the crowd – technology was the key enabler of the differentiated experience. It may have been promotions that encouraged customers to try DraftKings, but it was the user experience that made it an industry leader.

You are Nothing if not Differentiated

“To be a true disruptor, you must resist the temptation to do things the way they’ve always been done. You will feel the pressure, but you have to go with your gut and want to be unique,” Rochelle explained. Each of these companies charted their own course because other offerings didn’t meet their personal needs. Each founder created a new and different approach to start the business, but it is the continual search for differentiation that has kept them ahead of competitors.

Diverse Talent Breeds Diverse Thinking

In almost all cities across the country you can find passion for family, sports and music. Thus, finding employees passionate about the subject matter of these three companies is not difficult, but it’s also not the goal. You don’t have to be a sports fanatic to be a strong contributor at DraftKings, or a star musician to find success at iZotope, or have a family to work at FamilyID. In fact, Mark noted “diverse thinking and skill sets are important to being disruptive. It keeps you fresh and helps get you out of the ruts.” Panelists warned that finding only employees who are passionate about your category creates a homogeneous culture. Building a culture around the objectives for the company is far more important and helps to keep employees engaged and motivated.

Success is a Series of Failures

Each disruptor explained the need to be prepared to fail, and fail often, as a way to continue to push boundaries. Rochelle explained, “Success is solving new problems each day. If I am solving new problems I have moved beyond the old challenges.” Mark shared a similar sentiment. He said he hopes to fail a lot in 2019. “If you aren’t failing, you aren’t innovating or pushing the boundaries. Failures allow me to know we are pushing forward. Of course, we want more successes than failures,” he said.

It was an exciting evening and great opportunity to hear tales of success from business leaders of cutting edge companies.  Sign up for our quarterly newsletter to learn about future Conversation & Cocktails events.

Reach out to Joanna Landsvik, to explore how to bring your own industry disruption to life.