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Perspectives: Chris Shipley, Technology Maven

Known as a “Woman of Distinction”, Fortune Small Business Magazine placed Chris Shipley on its “Top 10 Minds in Small Business.” Chris Shipley is a leading technology and product analyst.

As a founding partner, chairman and CEO of  Guidewire Group (Link to guidewire), she analyzes emerging technology companies around the world to identify market opportunities and accelerate products to market.  She takes technology companies to the next level!

What are the trends you are noticing right now in technology?

There are the obvious trends, of course:  services, software and data are moving to the cloud, everything has become social, mobile is quickly becoming the primary modality for interaction with information.

As importantly, I’m seeing key trends in business building: entrepreneurs are, necessarily, becoming more scrappy.  “Capital efficiency” is both the byword for most effective business models and company structure, and the code word for “venture capital is becoming more scarce.”   Investors now expect significant customer traction and demonstrable proof (revenue) that business models are working before considering Series A investments.   I’m fond of saying that “revenue is the new venture capital.”     Providing services to customers and having them pay for it is far more satisfying than raising venture capital.   Revenue-generating customers build true value into a company and ultimately better position young companies for negotiations with potential investors.  Customers are the proof that the business is working.

You have brought over 1,000 new products to market since 1996.  What excites you about the work you do?

I have the privilege of working with intelligent, innovative, and creative entrepreneurs.  Each day is different, but the single consistent joy in my work is the entrepreneur, regardless of the market segment or the stage and state of the company’s challenges.

Success in your field defined in 3 words.

Successful, growing startups.

What tips do you have for people that have products and want to bring them to market?

Regardless of the market, product offering or service, the No 1 piece of advice is to know your customer.  It is far easier (and far more likely) that a company will be successful if it is building products and services that please customers.

What are your challenges?

Just like the young companies I counsel, I am challenged to evaluate opportunities, stay true to my company’s vision, remain focused on activities that generate value, balance resources (time, money, people, relationships), and deliver value to our customers, and provide clear leadership for my company.  In other words, running a smart business every day.

If you could change one thing about the business you are in, what would it be?

The ecosystem of early-stage technology companies is complex and inter-dependent.  If there is anything to change, it would be that we all act with greater transparency and candor and less bravado and cynicism. Company building is hard work.  There is no magic touch or greater genius; only hard work and occasional luck.   Success can sometimes cause us to lose sight of that truth and cause us to mistake our hard work and good luck for outsized talent.   A bit of humility and patience go a long way toward helping new entrepreneurs achieve a greater measure of success.

You’ve been cited as a leading influencer in marketing.  Where/how did you learn your magic?

I’ve been fortunate to have many mentors through my career, beginning with my very first boss, Lois Paul (www.lpp.com), and continuing through to virtually every person I’ve had the good fortune to work with throughout my long career.  Most importantly, perhaps, I learned as a journalist early in my career that one could learn more by listening than by talking.  If you listen carefully to sources, industry leaders, entrepreneurs, partners, colleagues and others, you will hear what you need to do to deliver the best quality products and services.  You’ll hear what you must learn to hone your skills.  You’ll be given most (if not all) of the pieces that lead to insight and “magic.”

Chris is currently working on a book on the social impact of technology-driven change.  You can learn more about Chris @

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