I knew going into this year's City Gala event, put on by Ryan Long, CEO and Founder of City Summit & City Gala, and Dale Godboldo, Actor/ Fiscal Sponsor of City Gala/ Founder of Project NOW, one of the beneficiaries, that I would be inspired. I also knew, because Ashton Kutcher headlined, that there would be plenty of wonderfully insightful tidbits to share with you.
For those of you who aren't aware, City Summit is a socially conscious business acceleration experience to educate, network, and inspire entrepreneurs and they roll out the red carpet to make this happen. This year was no different, so with that, let's talk Ashton Kutcher and his view on competition, investment, skipping garbage and Artificial Intelligence.
Competing With Giants
"It's really hard to compete because the giants are good. They're fast. They're not afraid to break what they've built and build something better." The competitive landscape can be terrifying for a startup. If you go social, at some point you will be up against Facebook. If you are thinking about search, Google will eventually meet you head on. E-commerce pits you against Amazon. And these giants launch verticals nonstop, so the web is tall and wide. However, Kutcher points out something bigger than that fear and competition: opportunity. Yes, the competition is stiff, but the markets ripe for disruption, innovation, and growth make up a seemingly endless landscape of opportunity.
What Causes Ashton Kutcher to Invest?
Ashton Kutcher gets bombarded with potential investments every single day, and how he picks which ideas and startups to invest his time and money into is invaluable information. Directly from the source, what's necessary to catch the eye of this potential investor:
- Growth Potential. Is there a potential for exponential growth and results? "A year ago, I was in DC and Thorn started out finding about 6,000 victims of sexual trafficking and exploitation, and this past year, we found about 18,000 victims. We are proving out that this tool is delivering exponential results and that is one of the things at the core of a good technology company."
- Passion + Knowledge + Ability. "Do I believe that this founder has an original idea? Do I believe they have an assumption about the marketplace that others don't have, for clean entry and fast traction? Do I believe that they can sell their product effectively?"
- Grit. "Is this a purpose driven mission for them? Do I believe that they have grit, so that when they get smacked in the face again and again and beat up by their competitors, they're gonna stand back up and keep driving and building and keep innovating? Those are the guts that built America Those are the guts that build extraordinary companies. It's a long haul and I want to work with someone who I want to work for because we are talking 7, 8, 9 years to public market."
Set Your Priorities Early
Family is at the center of everything my husband, and business partner, Tom and I do. So to hear Ashton Kutcher talk about his family was both refreshing and inspiring. He requested his speaking time for this event to take place during his children's nap time, and shared that he "schedules" time in his calendar first for his family, and he is unwilling to move or compromise that time.
Get Off the Garbage Train
One of the things I loved that Kutcher said had to do with Twitter and not reading garbage. "I curated a one hundred most influential people in technology list and then I avoid garbage. It's so easy to get sucked into the garbage train and it's really hard to shut it off. So I make a concerted effort to mute that stuff." I could not agree more. Don't waste your days filling up on garbage.
AI Is Scary and Amazing
As Kutcher points out, depending on the direction AI goes, or the hands it ends up in, the potential is either absolutely terrifying or absolutely incredible. We could see class warfare or we could see AI as a technology that actually helps humans become more effective. The key to implementation, is balance and developing an understanding of the capacity and who would do what with that capacity.
The opportunity to hear innovators like Kutcher be real about what it takes in business, is one of the best parts about what I do. I will leave you with one more thing he said, "If you have a definition of what your purpose is, the yeses and nos become much more clear."