Hightail’s premier prosumer proponent talks about politics vs. tech, disruption and avoiding water-borne bacteria.
How did you get started working in tech?
My original career aspiration was to be in politics, so I moved to Washington DC after college. Prior to landing my first job on Capitol Hill, I worked at a PR agency whose main client was the “Baby Bells”—the regional phone companies that resulted from the break-up of AT&T. After a few years on the Hill, I realized the private sector was much more my style. So I returned to tech with a marketing job at MCI, a multi-billion dollar telco that later failed ignominiously after dot-com bubble poster child, WorldCom, acquired it and subsequently imploded in a massive accounting scandal.
In its prime MCI was a great place to work and I had the chance to rub shoulders with people like Vint Cerf (one of the fathers of the internet) and launch products that were way ahead of their time, like the e-commerce music service, 1-800-MUSIC-NOW. Around that time, Netscape went public, the internet 1.0 bubble was inflating and, hooked on tech, I moved to Silicon Valley.
What do you enjoy most about working at Hightail?
The file sharing space is at the forefront of a major change in how we manage our digital lives. Data that used to be locked in a specific hardware device is now accessible anywhere. With such a huge shift, the market is constantly changing. It’s super competitive and customer needs are continuously evolving, all of which makes my job as GM of our prosumer business really interesting.
I get to work with every organization across the company, from marketing and business development to engineering and customer support. One of Hightail’s core values is “be bold” so we are all constantly experimenting with new ideas, which I really enjoy.
Who or what inspires you?
I’m inspired by disruption. Living in Silicon Valley, we have a front-row seat for how technology is completely reinventing every category of the US economy. As Marc Andreesen describes it, “software is eating the world.” In the tech industry, we’re completely acclimated to this pace of change. We expect entire segments of the tech sector to be periodically and repeatedly overturned by new startups. But it’s fascinating when you see that disruption occur in industries that are unaccustomed to having their cookies stolen.
The response in the transportation industry to services like Uber and Lyft is a classic example. Rather than innovate, the entrenched powers-that-be file lawsuits, organize gridlock protests and line up their political cronies to try to preserve an inefficient system that benefits them, not the consumer. Ultimately, none of these measures will stop the disruption. The ubiquity of information and commensurate power that customers now wield is just too strong. And that same disruption is happening across other stodgy sectors, like health care, travel, government, energy, manufacturing, etc. I love it.
What’s your favorite piece of technology (besides Hightail)?
I have a love/hate relationship with Sonos. The core value proposition of being able to get any music (via their various partners, like Pandora and Spotify), any time, in any room managed on your phone or tablet is unbeatable. It’s a music lover’s dream.
When you think back to how we used to discover, purchase and consume music, it seems unbelievably archaic (mix tapes anyone!?!). But I also, on occasion, curse Sonos, which seems to have an uncanny ability to go offline five minutes before we have guests arriving. Still, nothing else is even close and I love that it’s disrupting the consumer electronics space, so I’m a loyal, if sometimes frustrated, customer.
What’s your usual coffee order? (Or tea, other beverage)
Small, non-fat, double cappuccino. Strong preference for Peet’s, although I’m not militant about it. I make my own at home most mornings. I haven’t really gotten into the drip craze of folks like Philz and Stumptown, but I heard about a Bay Area start-up called Perfect Coffee that has applied technology to package and distribute pre-ground coffee from those types of artisan roasters. Back to my earlier point about technology re-inventing something most of us consume every day.
Describe your ideal vacation
I like doing adventurous vacations in new places. I get bored just going to a nice resort and laying by the pool. Those vacations are relaxing, but they tend to just blur together. We did a trip to Costa Rica with our kids last year that was fantastic: local culture, adventurous activities, gorgeous nature and delicious food. It’s exotic but not so much that you get cholera.