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You are (probably) not a tech company

In the last 10 years, since the stellar rise of the Big Tech companies, also known as the FANG (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google), more and more companies started to identify themselves as technology or data companies too. It really became “a thing”, remember: business people claiming that “everyone is a data company” or “everyone is a technology company”.

The origins of that view can probably be traced back to Marc Andreessen’s famous 2011 Wall Street Journal op-ed called “Software is eating the world”. Back then, he was predicting that software-based companies like Amazon, Netflix, Airbnb and others would disrupt the business models of traditional industries. And he was right, of course.

But that does not mean that all companies are data or tech companies. In fact, you could even argue if Amazon, Netflix and Airbnb truly are that. It’s not because technology is their main infrastructure and that they offer data services, that their true core is tech.

Let me explain.

Back to the core

A while ago, I was invited to give a keynote for DPG Media in Belgium, which is one of the leading European media companies. They are truly known for their ability to reinvent themselves and their understanding of the possibilities of the digital world. But surprisingly enough, I heard their chairman Christian Van Thillo state the following in one of his talks:

“We are not a technology company. We are a media company. In fact, we are a media company that really understands how to use technology to make media better. And what we are above all is a media company with a consumer centric culture.”

And I absolutely love that statement because, like him, I believe that we need to go back to the core.

The way I see it, companies should go back to their passion and their deepest purpose and only then use technology to improve that. But some (technology) companies are so focused on the tech and on the data that they forget about that. Simon Sinek once put it beautifully: “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it and what you do simply proves what you believe.” Well, if people don’t buy what you do, we can be certain that they will not buy “how” you do it. What I mean by that is that they truly don’t care if you are a platform company or a data services company, right? That’s not why they love your brand. So why would you identity yourself as that?

Making a dent in the universe

Companies need to really consider how they can make a difference, a dent in the universe. “How can we create positive change for customers?” “How can we be compassionate?” These are the strategic questions they need to ask themselves above all. And then they can investigate how they can use technology and data in the smartest possible way to increase the experience for their customers.

So I really would recommend that you never call yourself a tech company again, if you’re not really a tech company. Just go back to the core. Go back to the passion, and the purpose. And that is how you can become a truly customer centric organization.