“My job has changed a lot," said Jake Nickell (left), co-founder of the online T-shirt company Threadless, when asked what it's like to be the founder of a company that has matured. "The first three years I was working a full-time job. And really my job the first maybe five to seven years was developing the website and designing. I still actually do a lot of that today. But now...when the company is so big, I’m spending a lot more time thinking about a strategy of where we want to be as a company and also a lot of time really deep in the community. I’m constantly in the blogs browsing, figuring out what our community is up to, and what they want to see from us. It’s nice to be able to spend more time in the community than sitting behind a bunch of code all day…even though that's super fun.”
Jason Fried, co-founder of 37signals, a software firm based in Chicago, and co-author of the book Rework thinks innovation is overrated. People should focus more on producing products that are useful. When asked about how to foster that sense of useful innovation among employees, he said: "It's up to the leaders…to continue to remind people that usefulness, clarity, ease of use...are the things that actually truly matter to your customers over the long term. It’s not about coming up with innovative ideas. I think that’s a great way to lose focus on what’s really important, which is building something that’s useful."
"I kind of think that professional societies are somewhat 20th Century," said Tim O'Reilly, founder of O'Reilly Media. Instead, he advocates networking online with people who share common interests. He explained his own success story in finding a business partner and starting an innovative business as a result of just following his nose. "When a programmer friend of mine got offered a technical writing job…I said, well I'll help you out: I don't know anything about computers, but I know how to write, maybe we can work together." He also talked about knowing the numbers of your business in and out, and the simplicity of starting a business with limited capital. You just need a fire in your belly, O'Reilly said. "There's sort of a magic to being an entrepreneur that I don't think many of us understand."
"What’s fascinating to me is that every time you meet up with [your virtual co-workers], you've been working together for a couple years on the Net but you've never actually seen the person, never met in person, and it's just a big, big hug, because it's a neat thing. And you really do know the person. You’ve never seen them physically, but you know them," said Graham Hill, founder of Treehugger. "We've had incredibly low turnover and that is one illustration of how well [virtual workplaces] can work."
"How do we implement these new business systems in a way that's gonna reduce the risk that’s gonna be most effective?" asked Mark Johnson, co-founder and chairman of Innosight, an innovation and consulting investment firm. "That implementation process starts with a foothold market, a test and learn approach, and an ability to adapt our business model multiple times before we get it right." Johnson’s new book, Seizing the White Space: Business Model Innovation for Growth and Renewal, focuses on how companies can build new businesses in areas that are outside their current business model. "In fact, the research that we've been familiar with and that we have had a part of shows that 90 percent of successful new ventures change their business model in a fundamental way four times before they get it right," Johnson said. The last part of his book serves as a roadmap on how to go about the redesign and implementation of a new business model.