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SXSW Interactive 2013

API or Die: Why Digital-First Companies Thrive

Our organizations are structured like industrial-era factories, designed for mass production, efficiency, and easily replaceable labor. We treat digital capabilities (websites, apps, social media) as bolt-ons to the “real” business—they operate in silos, we manage them using meaningless metrics, and we often outsource the skilled labor to vendors. The organization is saying, “We don’t do digital—we have people to do that for us.” Here’s the problem: our organizations won’t survive the internet revolution unless we stop treating digital as somebody else’s problem and start to transform ourselves into digital-first companies like Amazon, Zappos, or Zipcar. We need to rebuild our companies around our customers, and that means taking a digital-first approach, from following lean startup principles to building flexible APIs to using agile development processes. Our organizations need our help: they’ll either transform into digital-first companies or they’ll die.

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  1. What are digital-first companies, and why do they thrive in today’s business environment?
  2. Why does the way established companies are structured make it impossible for them to deliver sustainable and profitable products and services in today’s business environment?
  3. Which practices and techniques used by digital-first companies like Amazon, Zappos, and Zipcar can traditional organizations benefit from?
  4. How can existing organizations transform themselves into digital-first companies, and what benefits will they see?
  5. What practical techniques can we use to become agents of change within our organizations so that we can help them to make this transformation?



Jonathan Kahn, Principal, Together London

Meta Information:

  • Event: Interactive
  • Format: Solo
  • Track: Entrepreneurialism and Business
  • Level: Advanced
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