Just think: Uber never would have come out of a taxi or transportation company; Airbnb would never have come out of Hilton or Marriott. Leading corporations are starting to recognize that disruptive innovation rarely starts (or flourishes) within, so they are looking to startups for growth, competitive advantage and to strengthen all aspects of their business, from the most intractable problems to existing initiatives.
FRESH: What did you learn from your big brand experience (HBO, NBC, iCrossing)
TF: I believe that a lot of success comes down to timing and the willingness to do things that have never been done before. I feel incredibly fortunate that my career has afforded me the opportunity to work at a range of progressive companies within which I was able to launch new divisions and capabilities. This gave me a lot of insight into the nature of entrepreneurialism within enterprises, which has led me to where I am today.
At HBO, I learned storytelling from the masters and worked with a marketing team that rarely used the same playbook twice. At NBC Universal, I helped to launch the Digital Studio, exploring and defining how to tell stories and create interactive entertainment experiences across the many screens and devices that were just starting to emerge. Then, I saw a huge opportunity to help brands connect to more fragmented audiences through content and social, so I dove into the world of digital marketing, producing competition reality shows for Neutrogena, documentaries for pharmaceutical companies, casual games for CPG brands, launched many brands' social media channels, and more.
Over time, my big brand clients began to express increasing demand for "innovation", which usually meant that they knew they needed something new, but weren't quite sure what that was. This required us to approach marketing with approaches that don't necessarily fit into traditional media or creative briefs -- an area where startups were becoming increasingly important. I found myself often playing the role of "innovation strategic planner" or creative technologist, an emerging tech ambassador tasked with seeking novel solutions to marketing challenges. This led to some really interesting campaigns and partnerships, but there were tons of silos within our organizations, it was really tough to stay on top of trends and constant developments in this dynamic ecosystem alongside the other 10 day jobs we had, and it was taking too long to get partnerships done. That was the impetus for building KITE -- if we were recruiters, we'd be using LinkedIn. If we were realtors, we'd be using Zillow. We needed software to make innovation partnerships scalable.
FRESH: Tell us a little about what you're working on these days.
TF: I'm helping marketers and corporations to solve their business problems with emerging technology partnerships. At KITE, we're building a software platform that makes it much easier for big companies to discover, evaluate, socialize and partner with tech companies with a lot more speed, precision and scale. It's not easy to change existing business processes and incumbent models. Our software is engineered to accelerate enterprise innovation efforts, from discovery and evaluation to selection and management, implementing concrete partnerships that solve an organization's most important business challenges.
FRESH: What's your proudest accomplishment at KITE?
TF: It has been amazing to facilitate some of the most brilliant alliances between enterprises and startups through our platform over the last few years. Companies that probably would have never found each other, or would not have considered working together in that context, have secured partnerships because KITE removes adverse selection and helps drive the decision-making process. Large corporations that were somewhat paralyzed by a lack of process and unified internal communication around emerging tech are now addressing business priorities all across their businesses. Startups that were having trouble finding the right decision-maker layers deep within a potential customer are now locking in deals that give them the market fit validation, case studies and revenue they need to grow and succeed. It has also been extremely fulfilling to see our solution apply across a range of industries and verticals, including our first non-profit/NGO, as we just helped USA for UNHCR to secure a startup partner for its efforts to address the refugee issue in this country.
FRESH: Where do you think Marketing is headed?
TF: Innovation is at the top of the CMO agenda. Because the CMO is responsible for growth, digital business models for marketing and business transformation have entered the enterprise through marketing. The marketing function has developed some of the most sophisticated models and processes for testing, learning and evolving investment in emerging media, platforms and technologies. Leading marketers in Auto, CPG, Finance, Health and Telecommunications are adopting a “golden ratio” for embracing, investing, resourcing, measuring and committing to innovative models and platforms:
- 70%: traditional & existing
- 20%: digital and mobile
- 10%: new and experimental
The "new" is the opportunity for true differentiation. A lot of these efforts begin in the incremental space, solving immediate business problems; more and more, though, enterprises are beginning to explore more transformative and disruptive innovation, which is where much larger growth potential lies. The explosive growth and diversity of startups solving immediate business problems and disrupting incumbent models—backed by over $50B/year in venture funding— challenges every business to lean into this ecosystem with their most trusted partners.
FRESH: How has Minty Fresh played a role?
TF: Desmond has been one of my most trusted colleagues and partners since the beginning of our careers, producing a wide range of content together over the years. In Minty Fresh, he has created a highly valuable marketing company that has helped KITE to capture, promote and communicate our clients' and our own accomplishments. I have seen Minty Fresh develop unique, winning marketing strategies for a range of brands and see them as an essential extension of KITE's marketing department as we grow, bringing core expertise, a flexible model and unwavering creativity to our business. In short, they make us look really, really good.
FRESH: What's next on your agenda?
TF: In a study KITE conducted at the beginning of the year, we found that about 77% of Fortune 100 companies already work with startups in some capacity. We've learned a ton from our early customers, which has helped us to continuously improve our software. Now it's time for me to step up our marketing and business development efforts to capture more of that 77%, not to mention the many more companies beyond the top 100 that are hungry for tech partnerships. There's a huge addressable market out there for us, so it's time for me to make sure that everyone knows that any serious marketer should be using KITE to power his/her innovation efforts.
To connect with Tarah or KITE, please him find him here on LinkedIn.