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CEO Letter: Riding the Innovation Curve

Our CEO’s three-decade odyssey from Brandeis’s campus and first desktops to the AI innovations reshaping our world today.

Photo via Unsplash

Exactly 30 years ago, I arrived on the Brandeis campus as a freshman with my first desktop computer. It was 1993, I didn’t have a cell phone or a tablet, but my roommate, fresh off a flight from Los Angeles, did have a laptop which was rare at the time. I still remember that feeling of double-clicking the AOL icon on my desktop and hearing the now infamous dial-up handshake. It opened up a new realm of possibilities to the extent that I couldn’t have imagined. Just 3 years later, a classmate and I launched our first internet company to help small businesses get online. We knew that companies would want an online presence but were not yet sophisticated enough to do it on their own. We built a virtual Main Street, scanned Yellow Pages ads, and gave businesses their first presence on the web, it was just slightly too early.

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I’ve spent much of my career on the right and wrong side of technological disruption. From my time in the music industry when Napster gave fans scalable access to free ‘pirated’ music to leading marketing at the Pulitzer Prize-winning Boston Phoenix weekly alternative newspaper, which didn’t expect Craig’s List to decimate our highly profitable classifieds business, I’ve had a front row seat.  

I was determined not to be put in that position again. My subsequent years in digital media and payments showed me the power of leveraging data and mobile connectivity to deliver targeted and personalized messaging that gave brands a new way of engaging with customers in a way that traditional methods would not allow.  I was lucky to be part of ventures that successfully leveraged innovative technology to deliver business value.  

AI would not exist without the evolution of the core building blocks that we started discussing a decade ago.” 

Techonomy allowed me to take my experience and convene leaders to explore how emerging technologies would transform business and society. Ten years ago, most conversations focused on cloud, social, mobile, and big data. Today, the discussions still revolve around many of the same trends but include all of the emerging technologies resulting from ongoing advancements. Blockchain, mixed reality, quantum computing, the internet of things, and of course, artificial intelligence would not exist without the evolution of the core building blocks that we started discussing a decade ago.     

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This issue shows that innovation, both technological and process driven, can accelerate social and economic progress. From solving the climate crisis to its impact on sports, we need to understand and embrace the opportunities and challenges to come. Our ability to be resilient and adapt to change makes us as humans unique. Our willingness to harness the power of innovation and to understand how it can augment and enhance human capabilities.

While ChatGPT did not write any of this letter, I encourage everyone to try it. It can make you more productive, efficient, and creative if used properly. As a techno-optimist, I hope you will read this issue and be hopeful and excited about the future.

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