How do you reinvent a world-renowned automaker for an all-electric future? At Mercedes-Benz, CEO Ola Källenius has set the jaw-dropping goal to put fossil-fuels in the rear-view mirror by 2030 — ahead of other competitors and well ahead of Paris Climate Accords recommendations. Pushing the company’s tech, customers, and workforce to operate in a new gear, Källenius says, is repositioning Mercedes for whatever challenges and opportunities are ahead. From strategizing for the luxury market — balancing volume with desirability — to grappling with the complications of economic disruption, Källenius takes us inside the epic transformation of an iconic brand.
The tech industry and its investors have been captivated by the spell of the Unicorn for too long — and the ambitious goal of a billion-dollar valuation has done more harm than good. Instead, founders should aim to be resilient Dragons. That’s the view of Maëlle Gavet, who as CEO of early-stage investment business Techstars has unmatched insight into the hopes, dreams, and challenges of thousands of founders. Maëlle also shares her experience as a “Fixer and Scaler” and offers important lessons for all entrepreneurs, from pre-seed start-ups to corporate change agents.
Some aspects of your brand will be defined by what customers tell you; others, by what you tell them. In their stories of how they scaled Warby Parker from scrappy e-commerce site to comprehensive eyewear and eye care juggernaut, co-founder and co-CEOs Neil Blumenthal and Dave Gilboa give a master class in how to articulate crystal-clear brand values while also building and iterating based on fast customer feedback. Their lesson? Branding isn’t static. It’s a conversation.
To complete an audacious journey, you need to set short, achievable goals — or waypoints — to avoid getting wildly lost. But waypoints also need to be flexible because when you’re knocked off track, you need to be able to realign your waypoints to get back on course. Aurora’s Chris Urmson shares how he keeps returning to short, flexible waypoints on his daunting journey to make autonomous vehicles part of our everyday lives.
If you want to capitalize on an opportunity that you think could change the world, you need to drive full speed toward it. Back in 1994, when Ajaz Ahmed dropped out of college to start one of the first digital ad agencies, AKQA, he knew he was at the cusp of the next revolution in tech. And if he wanted to be part of it, he’d have to move fast. Ahmed shares stories about how a band of 21-year-old dropouts built the agency from ground up, winning over early clients by building prototypes ahead of the competition. He dives into how his inner voice demanding him to “get big or die trying” led him to transform AKQA into a global agency with thousands of employees and the biggest clients in the world, like Nike, Virgin, and Usher.
When a tech nonprofit competes against a $2 billion incumbent dominating the market, its odds are slim. But Zo Orchingwa took that bet, founding Ameelio, believing that access to communication and education for the incarcerated is needed for their future success. Ameelio is on a quest to partner with every prison district in the country until one day, it scales enough to be redundant.
While gasoline prices soar, solar company Sunrun is poised to usher in a customer-led revolution of distributed energy technologies. Sunrun’s CEO Mary Powell combats a “no and slow” culture to transform more homes into virtual energy plants by preaching optimism and scorning bureaucracy. She’s moving with urgency to create a cleaner and more cost-effective future as fast as possible.
Delivering human dignity to your customers is more than just good practice. It can be a powerful engine of scale. This insight has inspired Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins her whole career, as a labor leader, a music manager, and now as a fin-tech entrepreneur with Promise. Her secret? Take a contrarian lens to existing systems.
With the workplace in historic flux, consulting firm PwC is committing a whopping $2.4 billion to create an employee engagement platform offering a radically new level of choice. PwC’s U.S. chair, Tim Ryan, shares why the bold initiative is necessary in the face of the Great Resignation. It’s just one of several evolving crises, Ryan says, that has made leading a business more complex and demanding than ever.
Massive change isn’t something you can brute-force — you need to ignite buy-in, again and again, up and down your organization. Because even if your changes will make things more fun, more interesting, and more profitable, you’re going to face defiance and inertia until you clue everyone in. That’s what Bill Ford learned while working to remake Ford Motor Company as an environmental powerhouse — against surprising internal and even national-level resistance.
We often hear the story about the great leader who joins a legacy company and guides it through massive transformation. But massive transformation can also start from the inside. Bill Ford, the executive chair of the Ford Motor Company, founded by his great-grandfather, is proof that great change can come from within. He has led not just one but multiple refreshes of Ford’s mission, culture, and, especially, their approach to sustainability. In Part One, you’ll hear about Bill Ford’s unusual entry into the family business.
It may appear off-brand for Betterment, a digital investment adviser, to acquire a cryptocurrency investing platform. But as CEO Sarah Levy says, Betterment approached this volatile space with long-term thinking. Levy, who became CEO in the midst of the pandemic, offers perspective on how new digital finance platforms are shifting the norms of the industry.