How do you develop a great business idea?
The essence of a great business idea is something that solves a problem, answers a need, and stops a pain. It also is an idea of how you are going to deliver it to the market and who exactly is that customer and why do they think that that adds value to their life. Before you ever think about laying out hard capital in regards to inventory or creating something, study what you're trying to do. Network, create a group of focused people, like-minded people around you. Find a mentor. And then take small steps, very small steps. Act, learn, and repeat. Set a goal. Don't quit your day job, and put in five hours a week until six months. If it compounds and you feel you've gotten to a level where you want to be, I'm going to put in 10 hours a week and keep growing from there. I mean there will be setbacks. You're going to find out over a course of time if you're really built for this, if this is something that you want to do or if it's something you can't live without doing. But it's a slow and long process.
What is a big challenge for fashion businesses?
The largest challenges to running business long term, especially for fashion companies, of course, staying on trend and on key. You can be too forward or you could look like, you know, what people were wearing yesterday. So how do you get forecasting and trends? How do you bring in young, smart people who understand the vision of the brand? And also, how do you keep supplying your customers where they're starting to go. It's always really having your finger on
How do you refine your personal brand?
How can they describe themselves? I like to say, can you describe yourself in two to five words, right? What are you passionate about? Whether it's Nike Just Do It or FUBU For Us By Us, what do you… describe yourself. Also, on your social media platform, way before you get to the interview process, people are looking at you through there. And are those two to five words consistent there? Are there negative things there? Then, make sure that you study the target or interviews or people you're going out to, to see if you really fit within their system, and what do they want.
What have you learned while investing in healthcare?
My experience of investing in health care companies for 10 years was that it's this B2B business where very rarely does the consumer ever get to have a choice. But if we want to change health care, the consumers have to have a voice. Like, we all care much more about our health than any one company cares about your health. I had learned when I was investing, you know, research is mostly done by academics and it's done by pharma companies. But you know, you might have specific interests. And I had found that people who have a chronic, unmet need or they have a terminal illness, they really want to participate. They want to do something. And so the idea here was almost like the Facebook of health care, or you know, like, the LinkedIn movement, like let people come together on their own. Don't just let it be the academics and the pharma and the biotech. Like, we want to participate, and we want to do more. And then 23andMe will partner with all those companies to make sure that all that data's being used.
How does 23andMe use big data?
Part of the goal was to see, could we actually dramatically accelerate the pace of research, meaningful research, for consumers? And the idea was, how can we -- does data make a difference? And so today, you know, with the 3 million customers that we have and the data points, we have a huge data set on a number of different diseases. So we're looking at that to see, can we actually develop drugs? And I think it will be really exciting for our customers to know that because of their contribution, they've been able to have an impact on a disease area that either affected them or affects someone that they know.
Why is 23andMe popular on social media?
We encourage our customers, if you want to share your data, we find it's a very social experience. People are very proud of their Neanderthal status. You know, how much Neanderthal they have, they post it on Facebook. They post it on social media. You know, one of the things that's fun is, like, it almost destigmatizes genetics. So we did a study, for instance, on depression. 400,000 people participated in it. And it was widely tweeted by our customers, in part because it was the largest-ever depression study, 400,000 people. And we made really significant findings, and people felt a sense of pride about what they had contributed to. So we find that people are contributing, are sharing with each other in terms of the research side. People are sharing in terms of what their own individual results are. And then people love to connect and say, like, maybe you and I are related. And so we can only find that out, it's like, if you spit and I spit, and then we share.
How do you keep a company agile while it grows?
What we've tried to do is always keep in mind the same practices that we had when we were a small startup. What we bear in mind is that the best innovation, the best execution comes when you have a relatively small team that is incredibly focused on a very specific problem that they have full autonomy and ownership to go and solve and they can rapidly innovate, collaborate, and iterate on their ideas directly with customers. We're aligned to a singular mission, but our execution happens in much smaller working groups across the organization. And this is what we've learned from companies like Amazon, Netflix, and others of how do you scale to tens of thousands or more employees and still remain a very agile, very flexible, very innovative culture.
How will machine learning impact job opportunities?
If you take some of the tasks that we do today that are really inefficient or highly laborious where we're trying to find data or we're trying to connect the dots between different work that's happening, we think a lot of that work goes away and computers are actually going to help augment our work and intelligence in our daily execution so we can make decisions faster, so we can support our customers better, so we know which clients to go after, so we know which markets that we should launch products into and so AI and machine learning isn't going to wholesale replace our jobs. It's going to change the nature of our work so we become more efficient.
How have companies changed in the digital age?
I think if you look at the way that companies operated in what we classically defined as the Industrial Revolution -- so in the 20th century -- very command-and-control organization structures, very hierarchical organizations. None of that works in the digital age. The speed of business, the speed of how markets are evolving and how our customers are demanding new products and services from us requires that companies become much more dynamic and much more flexible and much more innovative. And so both the technologies that we use as an organization and the cultures and how we use those technologies and how we collaborate and how we share, how we innovate are going to be completely different in the future.
What advice do you have for other start-ups?
So we got very lucky when we started Box. We had the confluence of trends like the cost of computing and storage dropping pretty rapidly, internet getting much faster, people working on multiple devices. So we had three mega tailwinds and mega trends that were benefiting our company that we could ride on top of. So get really, really crisp on what are the tailwinds that are going to propel your business? How can you make sure that you are as disruptive as possible to your market to open up the size of the market or go after a new customer base? Make sure that you have a product or service that is 10 times better than the existing incumbents or the legacy players in your space. And all the while make sure you're building a culture with a focus on the team and talent that lets you stay competitive and build an incredibly healthy organization.
Other Featured Videos
Anne Wojcicki, founder of genetic testing firm 23andMe, discusses the use of big data in disease prevention and the investment climate in healthcare.
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