Here are the highlights of our conversation with our guest:
- Mike loves learning and new challenges and one of the things which excite him is complex problems and the end-to-end process of those complex problems. The notion of seeing an opportunity to fix something and improve lives or processes; and putting together a vision, chasing after it and taking it to fruition is something of interest to him. He also loves growth so it is exciting for him to work with bright people and help them in their professional growth. Customer experience and making lives better through the things that they are working on is definitely also among the list of his passions.
- Mike has shown entrepreneurial skills as early as 12 years old when he mowed lawns and discovered the need for marketing. At the age of 16, he started a company pulling out carpets and prepping floors, which led to a slightly more complex process of the business after that. The understanding of the importance of how each facet of the task tie up together and how, if they work together, it will all end right, fascinated him ever since.
- He started out his career in the Athletics Department at Portland State University and moved on to Operations because of his interest in customer experience. From here, he stepped into the Credit Union space and was also talked into joining a start-up called Giftango. This was his entry into the Financial / Technology sector where he learned more about technology. Giftango was acquired by InComm back in 2012 and this is where he is today.
- InComm is the technology and the distribution company behind gift cards. When you walk up and take a gift card off of a rack from a store, it doesn’t have any value on it yet. It will only have one once you pay for it and it gets swiped at the point of sale. InComm is both the distribution marketing and the technology company which makes all these stuff work. They have 500k points of distribution and have tremendous global reach with over 35 countries on the physical side. Now, think of this same concept except that it’s in a digital space – whether it’s an app, a website, or some kind of digital consumer experience such as redeeming your points gained from credit cards. This, now, is InComm Digital.
- InComm Digital’s primary product is their API (application program interface). Their customers build their own tools or user interface and through their API, they can communicate with InComm and ask them to create a specific action.
- They are growing very rapidly and scalability is one of the things that they are focusing on. Because of the different models that they serve, there are always new opportunities on the ways they can help refine the tools to solve business problems. One of the things that they are excited about in line with company growth is the open loop side of the business which means Visa, MasterCard, and American Express-type of gift cards which can be sold digital for a variety of reasons. It’s not a mature process as of yet but they are spending a tremendous time surrounding this project.
Rapid Fire Questions
- What is your definition of innovation?
Innovation is an early-phase idea where you’re solving problems in unique ways.
- Would you put more emphasis on the idea or the execution? How would you weigh each of them and why?
In the early phase, it has to be idea but this only matters if you execute. So in the later phase, execution becomes more important. You only have to have one or two really good ideas and it’ll take a whole lot of work to execute. I’d weight them 50% – 50% as either one without the other would’ve have as much value.
- What is your biggest learning lesson on your journey so far?
That there is a multitude of ways to view an opportunity or a challenge. Don’t limit yourself on based on how much you know about a problem. Look at every angle.
- What is your favorite business book?
Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely
Blue Ocean Strategies by W. Chan Kim
The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
- What is your favorite digital resource?
How I Built This (Podcast)
- What is your favorite app and why?