Harper Reed, the former CTO of Obama for America and Threadless, was the speaker at this month’s Technori Pitch. Harper’s speech focused on Obama campaign and the 120-person team of tech superstars that he led for 18 months. During his keynote presentation, Harper shared some vital takeaways from his time spent working to the successfully re-elected President Obama.
Here are a few of Harper’s tips and takeaways from his time working for the president:
1. Innovation comes from the team
Harper understands that because tech doesn’t last the most important part of any project is the team. With the Obama for America campaign Harper says he had the perfect team.
“Technology is not your friend. You can’t trust it: the users are hard to interact with, it’s hard to find out what they really want and to make sure they are getting the right experience,” he said. To overcome this his team focused heavily on user experience and A/B testing.
Those curious about the A/B testing used by the Obama for America team can read more about it in this blog post by Kyle Rush. They also followed one very important rule: avoid silos.
2. Go above and beyond
With only 18 months to re-elect the president (how many people can say that?), Harper knew that his team had to go above and beyond. Although the 2008 re-election team had started to use tech, his team utilized it even more. They focused on used tech from the startup world (like GitHub) to create a larger enterprise solution that eventually worked on thousands of servers.
During this time, which he describes as “a singularity of working forever,” Harper learned that you can always work harder. “You can always push yourself, you can always get over that hump. Don’t give up,” he said.
3. Manage through your outbox
“Make sure that you are reaching out to people. If you are expecting them to email you it’s not going to happen,” he said. Harper recommends this method when you are dealing with leads, salespeople or organizations. He found that simple emails to people he was working with would often result in very good conversations that helped them got over any of the tension or bullshit that was getting in the way of what they needed to do. He found these emails also improved workflow.
4. Chicago is a great place for execution
Having a Chicago-based team allowed Harper to focus on innovation and execution. Execution was very important because the team only had 18 months to complete their task. To promote execution Harper and his team relied heavily on API’s. To Harper, just like many other developers, API’s equal freedom. “A lot of times you see these great organizations that build these products but they are limited and quickly hit a wall,” he said. It was really important for his team to build their platform as an API to avoid hitting a wall.
Now on to the 5 pitching startups:
Better Weekdays matches top-tier jobseekers with the perfect company. Keeping the focus on cultural fit, Better Weekdays vets each side of the market. This vetting process focuses on personality, interest, motivations and skills to find the perfect fit. In addition to taking the search out of job searching they are also helping middle market companies have a recruiting presence on college campuses by partnering with the top 50 universities.
Online reviews are becoming increasingly influential. According to Review Trackers, 8 out of 10 people change their decision after reading a negative review. Review Trackers is focused on helping hotels, restaurants, car dealerships, etc. track reviews and improve their reputation. They currently track reviews from over 40 sites, giving companies timely notifications, analysis and analytics data.
GoldenReviews wishes to bring transparency and accountability to the senior care industry by increasing the number of reviews accessible online. They believe that increasing awareness and giving caretakers an inside look will improve senior care. In addition to user reviews, the site will also offer tools for senior care providers to improve their services.
Strategy Cloud Solutions:
Every business has a strategic plan for improvement. Even with a plan, 90 percent of businesses still fail. Strategy Cloud Solutions provides a snapshot that shows business managers where they are at in the strategic plan. Similar to a GPS, Strategy Cloud Solutions is able to course correct in real time. This flexible tool works on a SAS model and is not industry specific.
SeatSync is a ticket marketplace that hopes to change the way you exchange tickets in the mobile space. They have created a free location-based mobile app that has chat functionality and places a high value on user ratings and convenience. SeatSync believes mobile brings an added layer of convenience to the $15 billion dollar ticket industry.