Each week in the New Tech Newsletter we feature a Spotlight Q&A with founders, angels, New Tech alumni presenters, and other people or companies in our community we believe you’d like to learn about. Reach out if you’d like to recommend a startup, founder, angel, accelerator, or New Tech alumni presenter for us to spotlight for the PNW tech community!
In this week’s spotlight we caught up with Trent Gillespie, Founder and Chief Innovation Officer of Day One Innovation.
Why do you do what you do for a living?
I help people and organizations improve how they innovate because I enjoy helping others create awesome solutions for difficult problems. Also, I consider sustainability a key part of innovation, so the more I can help people innovate sustainably, the more positive impact I can have in the world!
Why did you start your company?
While managing Amazon’s global expansion, or ensuring Alexa was doing the right things with customer data, I was able to see first-hand the benefits and risks technology and innovation can bring to the world. When Covid happened, I decided it was time to quit Amazon and see how I could use that experience and my technical background to help others.
What I realized is that innovation, although often misunderstood, is actually the primary point of business, and even what most people strive for in their careers. So starting a business that focused on this would provide the largest potential impact, best use my skills and experience, and of course give me the flexibility to control my own schedule and live life the way I want.
What is one of the greatest lessons you’ve learned from being a founder?
Marketing is critical. I use this quote from Peter Drucker in most of my group presentations: “There are only two things in a business that make money: innovation and marketing.”
Although I focus on the innovation side of this, for a founder, the marketing aspect is critical. You can have amazing products but if no one knows about them, you won’t succeed. I think this is a particularly relevant issue for Amazon employees who are accustomed to continual, organic growth, and haven’t had to figure out how to create new demand. It’s critical that founders and anyone in business understand you need both innovation and marketing together to succeed.
What is the one piece of advice you would share today with your younger self before you started your company?
It will take a lot longer to find the right mix of services, what you are good at, and your target customers than you expect! Keep testing everyday to find the right combination.
What is something interesting and unexpected that people would be surprised to learn about you?
I once interviewed to be on Donald Trump’s The Apprentice television show. I didn’t make it, but I think in hindsight that was lucky for me!