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Pieter de Villiers
Founder and CEO, Clickatell
1. How do you build organizations and cultures that embrace innovation and change?
Building an organization or culture that embraces change is no easy task since both are a reflection of its people and most people do not like change -- we are, after all, ‘creatures of habit’. However, I’ve found if the change or innovation is focused on efforts that improve, enhance, or simplify things you are already doing, it is generally accepted by smart organizations. You can then get those same smart people to innovate in areas outside of what you do today as long as you provide a clear “Vision” and “Why” to your people.
Not having a clear “Why” or “Vision” for the business that translates into relevance is a large impediment to enterprise innovation today. It is important for a company to know who and what it is and what is brings to the industry (example Kodak: Thinking of themselves as a paper or camera company instead of a company people associate with their most precious memories).
Not having the courage to manage stakeholder expectations as you invest for change is another innovation impediment. Executive teams are measured on how well they meet quarterly earnings expectations, so it is understandable that many would prefer to just “deliver the numbers” than take risks. However, this does not produce an environment conducive to change and innovation. It is better to manage expectations and know that as your technology or company changes, the measurement and expectations need to change too.
Organizational agility and management ability to “re-tool” for change is a must have. Managing people is difficult enough, adding in the complexity of “re-tooling” the organization with training and hiring creates an additional burden to an already complex role as a manager. A manager without the skills to handle these issues impedes effective change and innovation.
At Clickatell, we are thinking a lot about our “Why” and our relevance in order to update our thinking and match it with our customer’s perspective. We have also allocated funding to new initiatives and products even though they only contribute to the bottom line in the “out years.” We have embraced new methodologies (agile/scrum) and tools/platforms as we design new solutions and optimize existing offers (Hadoop, Amazon- Cloud, etc.).
Two years is a short time frame, so it will have to be those technologies that have some level of “mainstream” acceptance already. This would include mobile technologies with their super-size reach, Cloud Computing which improves speed to market and reduces start-up costs and lastly Big Data & Analytics which allows us to better understand our customer behavior and monetize in new ways.
People (typically product folks) that are very close to customers, engage them often and understand how they are using the product embody the innovation mindset. These are the same individuals who measure results frequently and are willing and/or able to iterate and invest in expanding/improving the organizations value proposition. I don’t feel there is a specific company to name because for me, there is no singular company that gets this right all the time.
About Pieter de Villiers
Pieter de Villiers is a South African born, Silicon Valley based entrepreneur with a passion for mobile and the empowerment it leads to. Pieter is also one of the youngest mobile industry veterans with over 14 years of experience in global telecoms, mobile messaging and mobile payments backed by the likes of Sequoia Capital. As the CEO and co-founder of Clickatell, Inc., a leading Global Provider of Application-2-Person Mobile Messaging and Mobile Transactional Services, Pieter has successfully lead his team to grow a multi million dollar profitable business operating on multiple continents. Since its launch, Clickatell boasts one of the largest messaging-as-a-service footprints globally and fastest growing mobile pre-paid networks, serving more than 28,000 companies across 960 mobile operators in more than 220 countries and territories.
Pieter has been recognized for his leadership and achievement in the mobile industry by many industry organizations, including Global Technology Business who named Pieter as one of "top 40 under 40" executives who will likely "run the telecoms industry in 2020." De Villiers has also been honored with the Mobile Village Mobile Star Award for Visionary of the Year in Wireless and the Visiongain Research Mobile Content Awards Industry Personality of the year.
Along with his work with Clickatell and the mobile industry, Pieter is also an active participant in socially responsible organizations and programs. Pieter is an advisor for the SABLE Accelerator Network which provides mentoring and consulting services to South African companies, entrepreneurs, and institutions. Pieter is also founder of the SiMODiSA Start-up Summit, a movement focused on exploring ways to accelerate tech startup success in South Africa and Africa as well as GSMA’s Hive Projects that work to power charities and communities through SMS. In 2012, Pieter was awarded with the Social Economic Impact Award from the San Jose Business Journal.
Pieter is a familiar face in the mobile industry and an active participant in many leading mobile organizations. Pieter has and continue to contribute in various forums and interest groups including: the GSM Association, CTIA, Open Mobile Alliance, Wireless Application Service Provider Association and Mobile Data Association. Pieter is an accomplished speaker and has presented his thoughts on mobile at various mobile conferences in the United States, Europe and Africa including: GSM Mobile World Congress - MMU, Mobile Money Africa, International CTIA Wireless Conference and the Rutberg & Co., Wireless Influencers Conference, etc.
Other Expert Views:
Q&A with Piet Barnard and Dr. Andrew Bailey, Piet Barnard, Director, Research Contracts and Intellectual Property Services, UCT and Dr. Andrew Bailey, Intellectual Property Manager, Research Contracts and Intellectual Property Services, UCT