Digital Scientists joined Ray Appen for his Boardroom Buddha podcast. Below is the transcript for the episode. Click here or below to listen to the audio.
Welcome to BoardRoom Buddha, the show that shares the lessons and hard earned wisdom of entrepreneurs and tries to find the answers to how, why and what were you thinking? I’m your host Ray Appen. Joining me today is Bob Klein, CEO of Digital Scientists based here in Alpharetta since 2007. The motto of Bob’s company that I’ve pulled from his website is we build products that we’d love to use. And I thought that was a, a great introduction and I’ll let Bob talk to us about what, what products does he build? What, what does Digital Scientists do? What business are you in?
Bob Klein: 00:59
Thank you Ray. I appreciate being on your program today. I think that the business that we’re in is at Digital Scientist is really helping people launch new products. Oftentimes people come in and they want to launch a product. It could be a mobile APP or a website or a ecommerce application and they need some help to get started. So the honestly, the best way to think about us is that we help people launch new products and new digital products primarily. And so from our point of view are, we think that our business is really to help our clients or partners get a measurable return by improving the human experience. So there’s a, there’s a little bit of kind of underpinning there. We think that improving an experience in a digital product, we’ll create a value and that return can be realized by our partners. So that’s kind of a different take on it. And instead of just creating a thing, we’re really trying to improve the users experience and a better user experience will create a better return for our, for our partners, a better result.
Ray Appen: 02:19
Okay. Can you talk to us a little bit about the history of Digital Scientists?
Bob Klein: 02:26
Sure. The company got started in 2007. My brother and I started the company and we were initially located down in Virginia Highlands and the in Atlanta down on Zonolite Road area. We were, this is my identical twin brother Tom. And he actually comes out of a kind of a marketing background and I came out of an IT background, and we wanted to start a digital marketing firm. At the time, this was before the iPhone existed. Feels like ancient history for some of us, and we started the company and we wanted to make something that was very approachable, understandable. Part of our job has always been to help explain some of these kind of complex concepts. So that’s how we got started in very early on we realized that we’d like to build things, you know, we weren’t necessarily that interested in all of the marketing aspects and my brother had always been interested in technology and this is where I’m kind of where, you know, marketing and technology, we’re coming together, but there was a need to be able to create these platforms, these products and such.
Bob Klein: 03:42
So, I would say a year or two into it, we realized we liked creating platforms and things that are a little more complex so we could deliver an experience. That’s how we got started in 2007, we expanded to Alpharetta in 2009 and found this great spot on Main Street. And I’ve been there ever since. We actually closed down the office in town not long afterwards and then have been in downtown Alpharetta this entire time. And I should add that last year I went back, I’ve gone back into Atlanta and opened an office in Atlanta because the city is so darn big and we have clients throughout the whole Metro Atlanta area.
Ray Appen: 04:38
So you have to cover really support clients throughout Metro Atlanta, that I, that I wasn’t aware of. Um, so are you, so you’ve staffed up to man, both man or woman? Both offices.
Bob Klein: 04:41
Yes, we have and, and my point of view is that I really, I don’t want people spending a lot of time on the road, right? The work that we do is difficult and I want people to be home every night and to have a short commute. And you know, it just, we had to grow large enough to where we could create an office down there and staff it. And honestly we have a mix of product managers, product designers and developers and it’s very important to me that they all work together. We’re a very close team. It’s a little growing pains to have those two locations, but we’ve gotten past them last year. So I’ve been very happy with where we’re located. We’re down in the old Biltmore hotel right there on Fifth Street next to Georgia Tech, so it’s very, very different vibe. And they, some people call it “innovation alley” but, it’s a nice change of pace, but it, it does make for sometimes some long drives from Alpharetta. I won’t kid you.
Ray Appen: 05:58
I just interviewed Karen Cashion with a Tech Alpharetta and one of her comments to me was that I assumed that she, she worked with a lot of millennials and she said actually of the 51, um, incubator clients at Tech Alpharetta and not a single one is a millennial. She said most of her clients of our clients have tech Alpharetta are more seasoned, um, corporate types who might have worked in healthcare or tech and wanted to go out on their own. Is that consistent with who your clients are or how do you, are you similar or are you a lot different?
Bob Klein: 06:32
I guess, you know I should explain that we tend to work with three different types of clients, right? One would be a startup CEO that maybe had some seed funding and they are making a decision about how, how to get a product to market quickly or how to, how to create an MVP, a minimum viable product. And really they’re trying to validate their concept. They’re trying to learn is this, you know, do I have the right product idea? They may have $100,000 or $75,000 to $100,000, which I know sounds like a lot, but this would cover really the product design in the development in a constrained period of time, let’s say three months and get something out and launch to a market test, right? So not to the whole world, but maybe to a very defined pilot audience and something that you can do quickly.
Bob Klein: 07:32
So the we find people that generally have had a seed round of funding and or a large friends and family or something like that. So they’ve raised money and they want to get a product to market. That’s one third probably of our business. And no, they tend to be seasoned people that, that have that can get that funding right. Otherwise the millennial startups, I’m going to get in trouble if I generalize here, Ray, with the, oftentimes there’s kind of a wandering in the desert that has to take place. You know, so they, they are forming their team, they’re creating, they’re testing out what the product is going to be. They’re determining what their market is, you know, their competition. There’s, there’s a lot of discovery that’s required. I would say for those that might be more experienced, they are very, it might be clear in terms of what the idea is, but the challenge is the technology.
Bob Klein: 08:29
We’re trying to accelerate them, kind of speed to an actual product cause, so this is why there’s this idea of a minimum viable product is so popular where I don’t want to spend millions of dollars to test this out. I want to spend the bare minimum in a very short period of time. I don’t want to hire a bunch of people, right? And what we do is we’re a group of experts that have done this over and over again and we can get something out right there. There’s also risk of, for others where they might choose the wrong technology or stack or things like that. Am I wrong? Assumptions? They want to validate the idea before they go, go ahead and build their whole team, right.
Bob Klein: 09:23
And define their whole strategy. And there’s a sense of, you know, you might have a market test. We’ve done this locally. There’s another firm that we worked with, I have in mind where they create a ticketing platform and they were in the printed ticket business for high schools and they already had an existing business and their CEO came and said, you know, we want to own the disruption because someone had approached this company and had wanted to buy them because they wanted to create the digital version, right? The, they had an analog business of printed tickets and they wanted a digital version of digital tickets. And so the CEO came and said, can you help us build this platform? We’re not in the software business where, you know, marketing and sports and printing in that business. We know, but we don’t know how to create a digital ticketing platform.
Bob Klein: 10:18
Okay. So, that’s a local company here in Alpharetta called Huddle Tickets and the platform’s called Go Fan. And you might’ve even used that platform to get into your, you know, the Alpharetta High school football go buy a ticket. So that’s one example that’s worked that well, but that’s the kind of startup. Okay. So that area, maybe the millennial types coming to you with a, like I like we have come to you twice with an idea or a dream and you’ve got to sort of ratchet it back in and talk about objectives and who is your target market. And some of it’s, the fundings are, the millennials might have more time than they have money and we’re really a professional services firm, so we don’t take stake in, in the startups. It’s more of, you know, you have to pay for the professionals to, to build something and get it out.
Bob Klein: 11:20
It’s your software. It’s all work for hire. So our clients own everything and were that’s just one part of the business and it is a little it’s difficult because it has to move quickly and there’s an education that’s required for everyone involved, but it’s, it makes us stronger and it lets us look at everything that’s brand new. Sometimes, startups get an advantage just because of timing, just because technology has changed enough where now is the time for this new idea where six months ago, 12 months ago it was a bad time. And see what it means that sometimes things can change, you know, so quickly that the timing really matters, you know, and that’s something you need to know. So the other part of our business is really, I would say digital transformation. The other third, right, was startups.
Bob Klein: 12:17
One third is I would say digital transformation with mid tier companies that may or may not be in the software business. I’m seeing many that have an existing software platform, but it might be 10, 15 years old and they really need it completely reinvented. And he completely rethink how this should work. How does it work on mobile? How does it work on voice there they have an existing business and lots of, you know, plenty of users, but they’re, part of what they start to see is like is they come in and they say we’re losing demos. So that’s not a good sign. Right? And they’re, they might be constrained by the technology, by the stack that they’re built on top of. So they have to really rethink the new stack, right? The, the new technology that they want to use. Sometimes. Also hardware decisions are important.
Bob Klein: 13:14
So maybe they’re on an old piece of hardware and they need to be on a new piece of hardware. And there they see competitors coming up, you know, startups that might, you know, have spent on hardware. So I’ve seen a lot of different interesting things here. It says surprising how many people are there’s sometimes this mindset that I build the software once and it just lasts forever. I can tell you it doesn’t last forever. You know, it really, um, you have to be constantly improving it. And it’s some, for, for many of these platforms, there is a requirement for a complete rearchitecture to take advantage of new tools, new languages, new architecture. How do you know, how do you guys stay current with that stuff? Well, I mean, part of it is to, is, is learning about always being in it, you know, and never being away from it.
Bob Klein: 14:07
And there are certain ways to approach architecture where it’s more open, where it’s, you know, there’s a concept of an API, programming a interface where it’s easier for software to talk to other software. And if you, if you have a platform where that’s not how it was architected, you, you will need to make that change, you know, and, and these can be big expensive things to do. So, I think the other part for that is, you know, for this for the MVPs, we might do everything soup to nuts, right? So cover all the design and cover, you know, build everything for that, that Middle Tier, the digital transformation. We’re often often working with another technical team know. So if you’re already in the software business, I’m not going to come and tell you about the software business. It’s more about how do we, how do we help you kind of run the business that you’re in, but also rethink the product, tomorrow’s version of the product or the 2.0 version, whatever you want to call it. And that’s sometimes a company’s are pushed into that sometimes because of competitive pressure. Sometimes there could be a private equity placement of, “Hey, we’re going to put a bunch of money in this company, but we’re going to expect some real growth and turn around.” Sometimes it’s because of an acquisition, a lot of different things. But it is interesting. It’s more complicated because of when there’s an existing platform because it’s not a greenfield situation, right? So you have to deal with a business that’s there. And, uh, there are a lot of reasons, entrenched reasons why they haven’t been able to transform, so to speak. So it’s a little more political.
Ray Appen: 15:56
You almost have to disrupt the status quo or someone reaches out to you to help facilitate that disruption internally.
Bob Klein: 16:04
Sure. There’s a little bit of change management required or part of that approach is to make things very, very user focused, right?
Bob Klein: 16:50
So one way that we approach things that you know, people can kind of get out of the habit of is think about the user first. Customer experience means everything. Remember how I said that we believe that the best return you know, is from the best user experience, right? So we’re trying to improve the call, actually human experience, you know, all these different touch points have to get better. And we think that investment is worth the return that it can generate. So that’s the middle part of middle third. Okay. The last third is really clients who treat us like an R&D team. You know, a little bit of skunk works. They’re large firms that come and can’t get anything done or need someone to look out on the horizon and think about what’s out there and can we pull something forward and start on it.
Bob Klein: 17:07
Now, you know, might be, you know, like an industrial distributor, I won’t name any names. But they, they’re in one business and they’re looking about how to move into another one sometimes. So maybe they’re trying to move upstream. I’m, you know, I stock parts on a shelf and I sell them for more than I bought them, you know, and they’re thinking I have to solve of my, more of my customers job to be done. Right? So the job to be done approach is thinking about how you can do more of your customers job. What are they hiring you to do? What are they hiring your product to do, right? Or your service or your company. How do I do more of the job that they’re trying to get done? Right. And, it’s been interesting because it typically draws, you know, companies, for example, this industrial distributor I have in mind, it draws them into the service business.
Bob Klein: 18:03
It drives them into the software business. You know, the customer has a problem they’re trying to solve and just by drop shipping something to that customer’s address doesn’t really solve their problem. You don’t know much about their problem because all your knowledge stops at the at the delivery door. You would know almost nothing besides everything you’ve shipped to that customer. But if you solve more of the customer’s problem, then you’re going to have more insight into what they’re trying to do. All right? So this is sometimes feel more concise, consultative, but it’s for the larger companies, they need a lot of prototypes, a lot of concepts, still the MVPs to, to drive some internal alignment first. You know, before they invest in anything. And before they expose anything externally, they want to be aligned internally.
Bob Klein: 19:00
And sometimes for some leadership teams, they need things that are visual, you know, so we talk about things, but no one really understands until they see it. So even if we create something that’s just a clickable prototype, you know, something that acts like it’s, um, an application and you can click and move things around. You can get a sense of it. But without that prototype, if it’s just a paragraph on a page, no one can really sense what it, what it’s about and how does it solve it, their customer’s problem. And, anyway, so those are the three areas we work in, the R&D area, digital transformation and and startups. It’s never boring.
Ray Appen: 19:46
I think it sounds, you know, I, I have very few regrets in my life, but one of them is if I could be born again over, I would be a code cruncher or something. I just, I love what you guys do. And there are some similarities between what you all do and what we do. And one of, one of them is the sense that we get, we get involved in other, in our clients’ businesses because if we can’t understand our client’s business, then we can’t really help them. And, you know, the more the more involved we can get, the more, the more questions we ask, the more, um, utility we can create, I think with our resources for, you know, the client, which, um, it sounds like what you, you know, similar to what you just said.
Bob Klein: 20:40
I mean, I’ve been doing this for quite some time and, honestly I am usually trying to connect what we do to the strategic objectives of the company. You know, and I don’t want, you know, this is might sound bad, but I, I don’t really want to be part of somebody’s hobby, you know, so typically people really need the help and, for our firm it’s, it’s not, it’s, it is an investment to work with us. So the, I want to be sure that we’re, the, the tip of the spear and we’re focused on really achieving the objectives and moving the needle for the client. Because without it, it just starts feeling like this it project that doesn’t end and, and wow, do I not want to be part of that?
Bob Klein: 21:30
Right? So I want to talk to the users. I want to solve that problem. And sometimes it’s a little uncomfortable because we’re dragging people in sometimes into another space or where we might be exposing things that they didn’t know. And, and it’s not always clear what we’re going to run into. So that’s makes things exciting, because it’s not necessarily one person. In some of these projects you can end up with real differences of opinions. And oftentimes I’m trying to quickly get to end users so I can get their feedback so they can be represented. And we have this concept of a product owner or the person who owns the product, who’s responsible for driving the product and that we’re there not just shooting from the hip saying, try this and do that. Or you know, whatever. It’s like, well let’s test this idea, get it out with users and listen and respond to what the users are telling us or showing us in the application. And it’s not just shoot from the hip.
Check out a recent blog about The Vital Role of Research in Product Design discussing how you can be sure the solution is the right one for your users.
Ray Appen: 22:43
Let’s use some real data and, and make some instead of anecdotal assumptions and guesses, you sounds like you guys translate something that, that can be measured, that can be quantified. And um, that’s probably part of the filter process that you guys use when, when people approach you. Cause I’m sure for, you know, maybe 10 businesses that come and reach out to y’all, um, less than 10 are really a good fit for what, you know, what they need and what you all do. And the other ones, just for whatever reason aren’t, aren’t there.
Bob Klein: 23:24
You know, I have to position Digital Scientists every day against, offshore competitors, right? As, as you know, there’s an awful lot of development activity takes place off shore. So if a client comes and says, here’s this product, can you re-platform it from X to Y and how much is it? I would say we’re not a good fit. I’m not interested actually because, that’s kind of, you know, purpose built or for being an offshore project where you’re not looking to improve what you have or reinvent or for something tailored. This is what we call porting, you know, it’s already ported from one technology to another one. We wouldn’t do it. You know, and I’ve also had people come in and say, you know, we’re not really interested in the users but we want you to build X. And I again, no thanks. That’s not us.
Bob Klein: 24:24
I’m not interested. Right. So that’s an IT project. So I would say part of our background is more things that faced real users and clients and customers where we need to improve the experience.
Ray Appen: 24:39
It’s more organic.
Bob Klein: 24:40
In our business there tends to be agencies and Dev shops and you know, for me the Dev shops or the like, they take orders, people come in and say, build me this and make it look like that. We’ve already designed it. That’s not us. You know, I’m glad they’re there. I think they’re important. And they’re a service and the agencies tend to be more marketing oriented, more campaign oriented. They build things that might last for a year. And then, you know, when the campaign’s over it gets thrown away.
Bob Klein: 25:16
So when I say we build products, we wanted to build products that last. Do you know, how do you, do you that implies, and I know to a degree you, you get involved or you get pulled into maintaining these things that you create and that could, I guess, could get out of hand fast? Well, I mean there’s maintenance, I don’t know if that term applies that well anymore for a lot of the products that we’re talking about, there’s really product management. So in product management, you could call it maintenance, but it’s really driving the product. And if the product, and for many of these companies, that product is the business or a line of business, you know, so the product has to be driven. It’s not just manage updates, you know, cause then what that means is it’s static, it’s not changing.
Bob Klein: 26:15
And in a couple of years you might just have to throw it out and start over again. You’ll be so far behind. So I think product management is a discipline that it’s new for some, where it’s not support, it’s not maintenance. It’s, it’s really, you know, the, the driver of the business that is this product or platform and it has in there. like I said, we talk about product ownership and product management and for our clients, you know, oftentimes that’s their title. If not, I give them that title because we’ll go in and ask who is the product owner. And sometimes I get blank stares. That’s okay. You know, but we talk about them. How do they need to think about the product and features? Again, it’s not static. It’s not an it thing. It’s not as transactional system that just has one and done.
Ray Appen: 27:12
It’s, you know, it sounds like sort of the “Steve Jobs approach”. Doing business kind of your, it’s all about the, the user experience and the impression that the hardware in the software creates or makes on the user and the, and the functionality.
Bob Klein: 27:42
I mean, we keep, you just keep at it, right? It doesn’t, it doesn’t stop for the software that you use. Even the platforms that you’re on they’re just tools.
Bob Klein: 27:51
It just, it keeps going. It doesn’t, you know, it’s not like in some corporations, there’s something where it has created this application and we’re hardly going to touch it for the next 10 years. That doesn’t exist anymore. Right. You won’t keep your users, they’ll become disappointed. They’ll find some competitive product, you know, and you’re done. You know, so you’ve lost your opportunity. So, typically you have to manage and improve that experience any way that you can.
Bob Klein: 28:23
It’s nonstop and it’s hard. A lot of times people try and compare, bring up like construction metaphors with software, which is tough, because you build a house and you’re done, you know, in a way maybe this is, it feels like remodeling nonstop. Remodeling, you know, of the living room, you can’t just leave it be, you know, it always, it always has to stay current. And the interesting thing is, when we talk about experience, it’s not just one product, it’s really across multiple touch-points. So if I think the experience drives the return that I need to be worried about every touch point that exists, you know, from when somebody calls in, you know, do they, what’s that experience versus the mobile app versus the desktop versus, you know, the Alexa skill. Am I in Google voice? Is it automated? I mean, it, it starts getting complicated and nevermind. There could be other, other services that are relevant. So, I think that’s just some of the pressure, probably most companies are under where they’re going from this mindset of software that may not change that quickly to one where it really does need to improve, uh, kind of continuously.
Ray Appen: 29:41
Well, you know, one thing I think that might help is, is it realistic? Can we, so for our listeners, can you, could you talk about just maybe some snapshots of some, some projects or some, some, uh, clients and you know, to translate what you’ve, what you just said into, um, sort of dumb it down on how, what, what you did for a particular client. Simplified. Okay, and it could be a range. I’m just, I’m just curious. I get what you’re saying, but it will help me understand it even better if with a couple of examples.
Bob Klein: 30:22
Okay. I’m trying to think what would be a good example. We have a current client called BoxLock and they have a smart padlock. And so this is a internet of things device (IoT). So he actually found us and we are part of a team – there’s a kind of a mobile software developer, not just mobile, but a kind of the backend and front end for software. Plus there’s a team that, really the mechanical engineering, the folks who actually designed the hardware product, the lock itself. And then there’s another team that does the firmware. So the software that lives on the hardware itself and it’s written in a different language than what we would typically use for either mobile APP or a backend system.
Bob Klein: 31:24
So there’s actually three pieces of software in one kind of complicated piece of hardware all with a startup. The CEO came to us and had kind of a light prototype already done but wanted to completely update it and renew it. So we worked with him to create a minimum viable product for both the user experience on the mobile app and for an Admin tool for them in the back end to see what was going on with the users. This product is, like I said, a smart padlock that’s that opens when you scan a barcode and it’s used for people who want to prevent porch pirates. So porch pirates are apparently the folks that come along. Once you’ve had something delivered to your house from the, from UPS, let’s say they, they lifted from your front porch, right.
Bob Klein: 32:26
And, and because you’re not home. So, you would put this, lock the box, lock on it, on a box that you would have to provide. And then the UPS delivery person or Fedex or USPS, would use the lock and they would scan your box and the lock would open. So in the backend we had to go and grab all the details about everything that’s coming to your address. Some of it could be through email, some of it could be through if you sign up for my UPS or my FedEx or you know, all these different shippers also for Amazon, kind of pull all that information together. So, we would know what was out that, what was coming through, which has to do what we have to deal with. So, this one was a little complicated because there are a lot of moving parts.
Bob Klein: 33:19
Our team loved the complexity and working with the firmware folks and the hardware focused at a Tech. This is our second year with him and it comes and stops and starts. So last year he went to CES, the consumer electronic show. And this past October, he was on Shark Tank. Right. So he was on the TV show. Right. And, um, it was very tough for him, the founder, because he hadn’t sold any yet, and so he had kind of a high valuation. The sharks were merciless. Wow. I’ve, you know, it was very tough, but he’s since, you know, he’s been featured on Amazon Prime Day. Uh, and he’s, he’s doing his thing right. He’s, as a CEO of a startup, he’s still selling the product that’s available right now on, on Amazon.
Bob Klein: 34:27
And I think he’s, you know, trying to secure his next round of funding. Right. So we’re kind of along for the ride. It’s been a lot of fun and a lot of learning, but it’s a significant piece of work. It’s a good good size piece of work, certainly not the largest and it, and we have to be ready to stop and start, you know, based on, on his needs. And the interesting thing for these startups is sometimes they go in with one idea and one use case and they might get interest in a whole bunch of other use cases. So through their, through their interaction with it. So, and you’re, you’re just questions that they haven’t thought of before from us and from, from others that use the product or just to kind of getting press. They, you know, so they come to market with a real, a B2C use case and, but there are a lot of B2B applications.
Bob Klein: 35:20
Okay. And so that’s some of the discovery that most of the startups go through is what is, it’s really good for. I think this is a great way to solve problems, this problem. But somebody else might look at this and say, hey, this sounds like my problem too. Let’s go check it out. And so that’s some of the learning that these startups have to go through. And so you, it’s hard to predict where they’re going to go,
Ray Appen: 35:42
But you guys help, I think you guys really do a lot in helping facilitate them.
Bob Klein: 35:49
Yes. And we respond and we respond where, this functionality and test out this use case. Can we solve this problem for this potential user? And how do we do it in an inexpensive way quickly and get it out there. And I don’t have to solve it forever for everyone. It’s more of this very narrow case. Can I make this work? So that’s a little bit of a give and take. You know. So first a startup platform, they come and it sometimes feels like a point solution that solves one problem. Well, but over time it expands and becomes more of a real platform per se. So it covers more of that job to be done, more of what that user’s trying to get done. Back to my example with the ticketing app, you know, yes, I have to buy a ticket. Yes. You know, so they have to be able to take your money. I have to be able to have you present the ticket on your mobile phone. Uh, but let’s say, um, the, the high school doesn’t want to have a scanner, right. So they want to be able to, essentially validate your ticket on your phone.
Bob Klein: 37:01
So if anyone is use Fandango or one of those ticketing apps, you know, to go to the movies here, it works the same way. So why does the movie theater have to have a scanner when everyone has one of these phones in their pockets? You know, and it’s typically a, it’s a fast way to validate, you know, so we can make that happen. But that was not what was in the MVP. So we want to validate the idea and the MVP and then grow the platform, you know, to account for new features that are needed and new use cases that needed to be solved, so to speak, who resolved. So that’s one example. And people can check that out. It’s at getbocklock.com , I think for the BoxLock app.
Bob Klein: 37:45
Okay. And they come, people can go to digitalscientists.com
Bob Klein: 37:48
Go to digital scientists.com and see it. Um, there, uh, it is funny where, um, we’re really heartened and gratified by, by our ability to, to create, help create these products. And, you know, it’s great even when clients move on and, you know, I just want to be a part of their story, you know, and be a good part of their story. And sometimes they come back and say, Hey, can you help us with that short? If not, you know, they’ve already got a team and they’ve gotten larger and they can solve them all their own problems. I’m happy to see it. Right? So there’s this sense of, you know, for some of these smaller, for the startups it’s really build, operate and transfer. So help them build it, help them operate it, and then transfer over to them. Okay. You know, for them to get the funding that they need and the valuation that they need to have to grow their own team. But we kind of shorten the time to get something to market.
Ray Appen: 38:45
I think that’s a great, great analogy in a grade, kind of over broad brush of one of the main things that you do.
Bob Klein: 38:52
So that, I mean, that’s the part that’s never boring. It’s not always easy. And it’s interesting, you know, to be approached by these things. Is there really some great ideas out there?
Ray Appen: 39:04
Are you a good mix between public and private, work? Um, are you or are you mostly, I would think, I guess there’ll be as much demand in the public sector as there would be in the private sector. Is there any?
Bob Klein: 39:22
You mean like publicly traded companies versus…
Ray Appen: 39:25
in other words, a city coming to you and saying, we’ve, we, we need to create this or a county or a state or a versus,
Bob Klein: 39:34
I have tried that. It’s been really hard. I think it’s, it’s difficult to have the necessary funding and at this point, um, a lot of these, there are a lot of really good platforms that need to be tried out. You know, there’s a, sometimes there’s just not the, uh, investment there to support custom software development. It’s, I, you know, I’d be the first one to say it’s expensive or there are other tools that are out there that you can pay as you go. They’re not expensive. And you know, in the public sector, budgets can be very serious constraint in there and they’re not, it’s not just the budget, it’s not the business that they’re in, right? It’s not really differentiating. You know, there aren’t I would say that there aren’t enough good, good tools for them. So there’s, there are things that I’ve thought about for the public sector, but, it felt like it would require this outside investment to make it happen, you know, and it’s a big lift to try and sell, right?
Bob Klein: 40:46
So how to bring it to market. It’s if your marketing plan is build it and they will come, I haven’t seen that work out very well. And in our line of business and the, I think there’s definitely a need there. Um, but the platform approach is, can be difficult. Generally it can be ad supported, uh, which causes problems as well, right? Because, um, in a way that the public sector has access to these, um, I don’t know, I guess to certain assets and others are interested. I’ll give you an example. So the big network providers, you know, the Verizons and AT&Ts, they’re interested in selling data plans and creating probably digital versions of these, let’s say, events outdoors. So we have the great Taste of Alpharetta year and we’re still in kind of the, we have paper tickets and just a little outdated in terms of our approach is a fabulous event.
Bob Klein: 41:52
And I don’t, you know, I don’t want him to get in trouble with folks who put that on because they do a great job and it just feels like we have a hard time extending some of these, this technology and platforms to make it an even better event so that the vendors who come are really there to provide an opportunity for citizens to, to try things. You know, it’s all about trial. If you opened a restaurant, I just need someone to come try it, you know? And that’s kind of what they’re after. But you know, well, how does that event connect that vendor to that user? Because you just bought a paper ticket and stuck it in a bowl and yes, you got to try it, but they don’t get to send you a coupon or a thank you email or anything. “Thanks Ray, for coming and trying this shrimp and grits. Uh, here’s a little coupon to come try it.” Come try us. Right? So there’s their little things. It doesn’t have to be intrusive and also video and all these other kind of richer experiences that are coming, but it’s, it requires the Wifi by the availability of the data and plus a software that could support that. And it’s almost like knitting, you know, so how do I knit these things together and it doesn’t have to be creepy and intrusive. Um, and people could opt in. I know, you know, you might ask me questions about that later,
Ray Appen: 43:15
But that, that sort of brings us to my really, my last, my last question because I could listen for a long time. My last question has to do, just look in your crystal ball and one of the issues, um, broad societal issues is, is the technology and privacy and we’re, where are we? Where are we going to end up and it’s no one knows. What are your, what do you think?
Bob Klein: 43:51
Well, I’m going to have to be pretty measured here. It’s a, uh, a tough question. Just a little bit. It is. And you know, I’ve always thought that users need to have control over their own data. Right? And users need to be able to, to opt in, but know what they’re opting in to. And the part of the, the challenge or what I’ve seen, uh, online is a disconnect between what people think is happening and what’s really happening, where there, how their is being harvested and sold. Uh, and how, you know, most people don’t know that’s going on in the background, you know, so, um, and it’s, it’s all about, you know, driving the, uh, the ads that are being shown. Right. So the ads are paying for the free air quotes Internet that’s out there.
Bob Klein: 44:54
I’ve, I think, the, what was it,GDPR, we’re essentially the European requirements around data, private privacy or really a shot across the bow for the United States. You know, so thinking seriously about privacy and the opportunity that control to some extent, what’s out there about you when it’s incorrect or you know, just, you know, the people need to be able to, to move on right with their lives and not be tormented by what’s out on the Internet about them. But first and foremost is how do I give the user control over, over their own data and put it within their control to share that data with whomever they want. And I’m thinking, what’s the best way? I mean, I’ve had some ideas around like in the medical sphere, right?
Bob Klein: 45:59
So how to, how to connect to a patient and a caregiver and the doctor so they can, they can actually share information and not be worried about where is that going to go. Cause they all are interested in solving a problem and they are solving the same problem, but they’re, you know, there are a lot of booby traps out there. We can’t do anything. So there again, I can’t really extend much of this technology to this, to this sphere that’s so important to everyone, you know. So for parents taking care of children or parents taking care of their parents, you know, this is such an important topic and we can’t even seem to get it right there. So, I dunno, I listened, I watched in terms of what our Congress, the people in Congress say, and I’m just worried about this gap of understanding, you know, and it’s a little scary where, how far the technology is out ahead of their understanding. And that may be why we’ve waited so long with really no, privacy rules per se. I mean, I think California passed something last year, but there’s not a lot out there to protect the consumer.
Ray Appen: 47:20
And you almost, or at least I almost, and the one thing that puzzles me and then I think we’ll let it go is that the, the market hasn’t, hasn’t seen, you know, hasn’t seen this as a, as a, a great need and it’s a great opportunity and run with it. Um, like it does for almost everything else. Um, you know, something that is, that that is private, something that is, I ensure they make encrypted tools and, but I dunno, I just think the market would have done more, um, along these lines.
Thank you for joining us for the show.
Bob Klein: 48:10
It’s my pleasure.
Ray Appen: 48:10
Thanks to Bob Klein, and thank everyone for listening. Don’t forget to subscribe to our youtube channel for Boardroom Buddha and rate the show. We can be followed on twitter @buddhaboardroom and you can also access Appen Podcast Network channels on Northfulton.com/podcasts. Have a great day. And remember in the words of Thomas Edison, and I think he was talking about discovering what to make the filament for the light bulb from, I’ve not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. You have a good day. Thank you for coming by.
Thanks to Ray Appen and the Boardroom Buddha team for an enjoyable podcast!