I have made it to the last day of the Gartner Symposium ITxpo. I have been blogging show highlights and insights throughout the week. To recap, the first post in the series covered the overarching themes of the show. The second post covered the two keynotes from Satya Nadella (CEO of Microsoft) and Steve Wozniak (co-founder of Apple). The third post focused on the Peter Thiel (noted venture capitalist and co-founder of PayPal).
The last keynote of the show was a Q&A with John Zimmer, co-founder of Lyft. He talked about the difficulty of innovating a new idea in a well-established market, and how those lessons can be applied to the Enterprise.
John mentioned that he was not a technologist by trade, and initially wanted to focus on the hospitality industry. While in college he took a course on city planning and was fascinated by the inefficiencies of transportation. His training in hospitality had always focused on the benchmark of occupancy rate. If you applied that to transportation, the occupancy rate is usually only around 20%. Thinking of transportation as a network got him thinking on how you could create a more efficient network. The majority of Americans were going by themselves from home to work, wasting time in traffic, and wasting time looking for parking. If you could solve for those empty seats, you could create a good environmental, economic and social solution.
That is where the idea for Lyft came into being. He started initially with a different idea, he and his co-founder initially focused on helping college students find rides to get home. However, with smartphones coming into play they noticed an interesting trend with today’s youth. He mentioned that the car used to be seen as a tool for freedom, but with young people today the smartphone is now that tool. Young people are less interested in owning a car and are open to the idea of sharing a ride, and their heavy usage of smartphones means that can be the tool to enable ridesharing.
Introducing such an idea proved easier said than done. Different regulatory agencies in different cities offered challenges that had to be surmounted, often they would look at a market only to be faced with a ‘cease and desist’ order from the local regulatory agency. Lyft developed very stringent background checks and protocols for their drivers, often more stringent than what local taxi and limousine companies must face. Yet it still is taking a lot of time and effort to get regulatory approval in different cities. So if it is so hard, why suffer through this? He said it is hard, and many cities often resistant to even having a dialogue with them. But he believes that the net benefit offered by Lyft is very important, to people, to the environment, to the drivers and to the economy. Change is difficult, but you have to believe in what you are doing (sounds similar to what we heard from Peter Thiel yesterday when he talked about having strong convictions in what you are doing).
So how can the Enterprise learn from this as they try to develop new ideas? What happens when you get the corporate equivalent of a ‘cease and desist’ order? John said you just need to keep going, be persistent, keep the same belief. He also said be responsible, think through the problem, anticipate objections and try to get ahead of them. What if you just can’t get it done, should you just give up and leave the organization? He said there may be times where that is necessary, but try not to take that view. If you believe it can’t be done then that is a self-defeating belief, and always keep the belief.
There was one question that probably many of you have wondered, why the pink mustache? John said when starting Lyft, he wanted to create a word of mouth buzz and set the stage for the experience. He also wanted to break the ice for getting in someone’s personal vehicle, and the pink mustache seemed the perfect idea for that.
Just like the show started it ended with a great and informative keynote. I especially liked the ideas and encouragement on how to innovate in a big company. That is something that is part of the charter for the Citrix Labs team that I am part of, so this was a lesson I was particularly interested in. So this brings to an end the 2014 Gartner Symposium ITxpo and this blog series. This week we heard a lot about the Digital Business and what it means for the Enterprise. We heard from industry leaders and innovators about following your conviction and beliefs, and how that extends to the Enterprise. I managed to talk to a few Citrix customers and get their ideas on how new trends like Internet-of-Things will impact their business. All in all I would say this was a good show and I was glad I had the chance to attend. I hope you enjoyed this blog series highlighting some of the insights I gathered throughout the week. And it is not too late to start planning for next year’s show. It will be the 25th anniversary of this event, which means I’m sure Gartner will make it bigger and better than ever.
Chris Witeck is a Principal Technology Strategist with Citrix Labs. Citrix Labs is an applied research organization within Citrix. To get updates on what the Citrix Labs team is following as well as projects the Labs team is working on, you can subscribe to the Citrix Labs LinkedIn group