Canadian Small Business Videos
Trendy Tips: Sparking Innovation In Your Business
TrendHunter.com's founder Jeremy Gutshce talks starting-up, keeping up with trends, and innovating in this CanadaOne interview. Be sure to watch this if you are starting or growing a small business in Canada!
Trendy Tips: Sparking Innovation In Your Business Transcript
Hi I am Jeremy Gutsche and I am the chief hunter at trendhunter.com, the world’s largest collection of cutting edge ideas. What I wanted to tell you at CanadaOne, is that long ago I was an entrepreneur at heart and like so many entrepreneurs, I couldn’t figure out what my business idea was going to be. So the reason I actually founded TrendHunter, is that I wanted to create a place where people around the world could come and share their business ideas. As a kind of group, I didn’t really need to pick, which was nice but my passion remains trying to help entrepreneurs find inspiration or find ways to keep their success stories rolling along.
When I first decided to found TrendHunter, I was actually working as Capital One’s head of innovation. What I would do is in the wee hours of the morning, I would come home, teach myself how to code and graphic design, start creating the daily issues. As it started growing and it became a little more obvious that I could eventually retire from the “corporate world”, I started cut my hours down and went to four days a week and just started putting even more horsepower into TrendHunter. I think it was an interesting way to start the business because it meant that I didn’t rely on venture capital financing and I was able to do tests that were a little bit more aggressive. If they didn’t work, if I spent $10,000 on a marketing test, well then I could just keep on working a little bit longer. This made my bridge into being an entrepreneur a little bit easier and I think that one can look back and say I could have been a lot further ahead had I just gotten some financing and started earlier, but I don’t like to live a life of regrets. So I am pretty happy with how that went.
As TrendHunter started to motor along and I was able to really jump into the business fulltime, I started thinking of inexpensive ways to grow the business. For example, instead of hiring a dozen journalist, I created a curriculum and an academy and getting interns into the “TrendHunter Academy” and would spend four months time really learning our business and learning the cutting edge of social media and helping us get a bigger issue. Along the way, they were also getting a huge amount of exposure – getting millions of views just to their articles. I think an interesting thing about TrendHunter is that we have always tried to approach our problems in that same sort of way. How can we do this in a profitable way, in a creative way that others really haven’t in order to succeed at a lower cost?
TrendHunter.com is the world’s largest collection of cutting edge ideas. What that means is that we crowd source innovations and trends from all around the world. We have about 50,000 contributors and when they find something in pop culture, design, fashion, technology, they submit those ideas to their TrendHunter portfolios as articles. Our editors then edit then, make sure the English grammar is up to caliber and then publish them on our front page. We get about 40 million views a month and that is really cool because it makes the business model work on its own but it also gives us a lot of data. So we look at the pattern of what sort of innovations people are interested in, and we package those clusters up in our trend reports which we sell to companies like Google, Microsoft, Ebay and they rely on those trend reports when they want to kick start innovations on their teams.
Something that has been a source of pride for us has been putting Canada on the map in the world of trends and innovation. We are the largest trend spotting website by far. As a real Canadian, that is an exciting thing but it is also kind of challenging because a lot of the other dot com successes come from Silicon Valley or New York and the networks they make there can be a lot different then what we can make here just because there aren’t as many very large websites that are operating in the same way. Having said that, it is interesting to be in Canada because we end up having a really talented labor pool that you can get for a little less money then what you would have to pay in the United States. At the same time, there is Ontario digital media tax credits and a lot of different opportunities of Canadian entrepreneurial companies that want fellow entrepreneurs to succeed. So although we don’t always get the full benefit of the same dot com community, we still find wants to pair up with other companies. So if you can think of ways to work with TrendHunter, then definitely let us know.
A big thing that I got bought into large corporations to talk about is how to kick start innovation in their teams. But a lot of these ideas work really well when it comes to small business. A big thing that separates a Fortune 500 company from an entrepreneur is that with unlimited resources, they can do all sorts of research and studies. But here is an interesting thing – even in a Fortune 500 company it is easy to get lost in the data of your surveys and your results. Why entrepreneurs succeed is that you’re able to deeply understand what your customers are about. But the challenge is that often when we talk to our customers, we do it in a way that we are selling them. They are in our stores and we are pitching them, and that stops us from being able to understand how they make the decision to choose us. So companies that thrive when it comes to innovation forces themselves to meet their customers in the zone and learn what it’s like when they choose. And as an example, editors of Fast Company magazine call the people that cancel their subscriptions. They CEO of Continental flies in economy to talk to people and to understand their experiences and he doesn’t announce his role. When I was working at Capital One heading their innovation, we set up booths all across Canada where the people worked in those booths were me, the head of marketing and the head of finance and we were trying to understand what customers were interested in.
The last example I will give you is from Cadillac and the Escalade. I was interviewing the head of design for General Motors and I was most interested in the Escalade. It became the greatest selling SUV by dollar value and I wanted to know how did they do it? Is it product placement – did they take these videos and put it in rap videos? But actually when I asked him he said “No, we simply designed aluxury sport utility vehicle for affluent males aged 45-60”. And then that happened. He needed to find out who is customer was. He could have used market research, he could have gotten someone on his team to make videos. But despite that, despite being a successful person, he decided he would do the difficult task of going to the most dangerous neighborhood in Detroit and waiting until he could see who was driving the Escalade. Think about who is driving an Escalade in the most dangerous neighborhood in Detroit. When he saw that person, he walked up to him and the window rolled down, presumably to “take an order” and he said “excuse me young man but I designed this vehicle and I was wondering if I could accompany you a ride alongside your business for the day.” It seems like a really difficult thing to do and you could imagine how tough it is to put yourself in that position but for that young man, this vehicle is a part of his culture, it is an icon, it matters to him. For that designer it allows him to more deeply understand what makes his product successful in a way that just doesn’t leap out of the numbers. And the great thing of all of those examples it that an entrepreneur like you is equally able to do that sum of research that this head of General Motors is doing. So find ways to deeply understand what makes your customers choose you.
If you are looking for more ways in order to find out how to spark innovation you can pick up my book “Exploiting Chaos: 150 ways to spark innovation during times of change” and on TrendHunter you can either click the book link or go to exploitingchaos.com for free downloadable samples. As I like to put it, it is an award winning book but it’s half pictures so you know it’s good!