Yesterday, at the second annual Chicago Innovation Summit, sponsored by The Executives’ Club of Chicago and the Chicago Public Library, Gogo’s COO John Wade served as a panelist during the “From Start-up to Scale-up” session, which focused on the entrepreneurial spirits of some of Chicago’s fastest-growing and most successful technology companies, and what’s required to get on top – and stay there.
The panelists, as well as John, included: Ross Manire, President & CEO of ExteNet; Eric Lunt, Co-founder & Chief Technology Officer of Signal; Nick Percoco, Chief Information Security Officer of Uptake; and Kristi Ross, Co-CEO & President of tastytrade. The session was moderated by Co-founder and CMO of Codeverse, Katy Lynch.
Throughout the discussion, panelists were asked to share challenges experienced while launching a startup, how to overcome them, and advice for aspiring entrepreneurs who are trying to grow their businesses. All of the panelists, including John, spoke about the importance of culture and talent when building the foundation of a business. John said for Gogo, getting the right people from the start has been instrumental to our success. Nick from Uptake agreed, saying that finding talent should be a priority for any company. Kristi from tastytrade spoke about the importance of getting to market quickly and getting real feedback from customers and the inevitable need to adapt quickly.
John shared three tactics he employs to stay ahead of the game and ahead of our competitors:
- You must have a vision of what you’re trying to do and where you’re trying to go. Without vision, you have no purpose.
- You need to know and recognize what “good” looks like so you can meet and exceed your clients’ needs and expectations.
- You have to create followers and invest in your people. You need to train managers to be good managers and good leaders.
John described two challenges he sees startups experiencing:
- Raising capital. Get as much money as you can while you can.
- The need for process implementation. There’s a fine balance between scaling a company and creating reliable, repeatable processes.
When asked about innovation, John said:
Always question what you’re doing and why. Don’t settle for “this is how we’ve always done it.” Ask, “Is it still valid today?” Innovation is harder when your company is larger, but never stop asking the tough questions. In the beginning, people thought Gogo was just an air-to-ground company – not a global satellite provider, but we showed them the possibilities with our innovative thinking.
Someone John wishes he had on speed dial…
Alan Mulally – a man responsible for turning Ford around and an influential leader at Boeing. John admires his power of optimism, even when faced with challenging circumstances