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The 10 most powerful people in tech you haven’t heard of (yet)

Mark Zuckerberg, Susan Wojcicki, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Mary Barra.

Image credit: Studio 100

via GIPHY

They run the world’s biggest tech companies, dominate the digital landscape, and collect headlines like this guy collects fossilised poop.

But we aren’t here to talk about them.

The tech world is filled with amazing leaders and innovators who get almost no press at all (comparatively speaking).

Sure, they may not have launched a sports car into space or held public national contests to decide which city deserved to house their new headquarters, but they’ve definitely done some pretty cool stuff. They’ve innovated and led their way into becoming some of the most powerful people in tech, even if you might not have heard about them…yet.

Here are 10 amazing tech pholks to keep an eye on, in no particular order, of course…

 

 

Sherrell Dorsey

The 10 most powerful people in tech you haven't heard of (yet)

Data journalist, entrepreneur, ecosystem builder

The source of her power:

It’s 2018, and balance matters. As a powerful voice for equality and diversity in the burgeoning tech space, Sherrell has brought a timely and distinctive perspective to the field of tech journalism. Her efforts to highlight the accomplishments of (and inequities faced by) the many awesome people of colour working in tech have been a major driver of both awareness and change throughout the industry.

Founder of daily tech newspaper ThePLUG – the first daily tech newsletter covering black founders and innovators, and BLKTECHCLT  – Charlotte, North Carolina’s first tech hub supporting entrepreneurs and technologists of colour, Sherrell’s progression in tech has been marked by working with many of the tech world’s biggest brands – including Microsoft, Uber, and Google Fiber – and regular appearances as a speaker, moderator, and host at events across the United States.

Why you should care:

Having finished her Master of Science Degree in Data Journalism at New York’s Columbia University in May, and only 9 years into her career in the tech space, Sherrell is really only just getting started. When you couple the rich and varied tech experience Sherrell already brings to the table with an outspoken, fearless approach like hers, the sky really is the limit for what Sherrell could accomplish.

Sherrell’s take:

Why do you think it’s important to reach out to people of colour working in tech specifically?

Companies, brands, organizations, and the teams that build in these spaces would be remiss to not include a diversity of people and a spectrum of thinking and experiences as part of their agenda. So the idea that there has to be intentionality behind reaching out to people of colour within the technology industry is one of grave importance. The individuals building the future, having the best ideas, and coming up with the next best thing aren’t just white or male, they are vast and nuanced and bring that dimensionality to the work and we all benefit from that intellect and ingenuity. 

How do you see your role in the tech world evolving in the years to come?

I am first a journalist and I would like to believe that as I become much more versed in my craft around storytelling and indexing black and brown founder narratives into my portfolio of work, I will find new mediums to build and unique trends to track and bring to light. 

 

Chad Butz

the 10 most powerful people in tech you haven't heard of (yet)

Technology business leader and Managing Director at OnePulse

The source of his power:

Building and marketing a tech brand successfully in today’s marketplace can be tricky. Hence, those who know exactly how to to do so are becoming more valuable by the day. With over a decade of hard-won experience delivering positive change and growth to global technology brands and smaller scale-up tech firms through senior leadership and consultancy roles, Chad Butz offers just such an acumen.

Currently Managing Director at OnePulse – a digital platform which offers brands the opportunity to communicate with a targeted audience of consumers, both quickly and at scale, to gain key business and marketing insights in a matter of hours – Chad’s future looks bright, as OnePulse has managed to parlay a well-conceived concept into one of the most intriguing up and coming brands in the tech world under his leadership.

Why you should care:

The modern consumer is a fickle animal. Brands have been well aware of this for some time. Marketing a platform which breaks down millions of data points generated across a wide demographic, OnePulse holds a rich source of consumer insight that can be used to understand trends, attitudes and opinions at speed and at scale. The potential applications for such insights are many, and in a digital reality where consumer behaviour can change in mere moments, such applications already hold a special place in marketing departments’ hearts, and as well they should. With the treasure troves of consumer data (all paid for and collected with full user consent) at Chad’s disposal, he is well positioned to claim a spot at the bleeding edge of the data revolution currently changing the face of the tech world.

Chad’s take:

What makes consumer data so valuable to today’s brands?

Almost all brands speak of being “customer-centric”, and they seem to understand customer-centricity’s value at a macro level. Yet, the vast majority of fast-paced business decisions are made with little validation, because traditional research models are either too slow or too expensive to bring them in on micro decisions. But these micro decisions are the ones that really matter because they affect how brands think and behave every day – in other words, their culture. Asking a few questions some of the time can certainly help a business be more efficient and make better decisions. However, if businesses can democratize insight by taking it out of the research department and putting it in the hands of the entire organization anytime they need it, they’ll get something much greater – a culture of asking questions.  

What stones have yet to be turned in the race to gain consumer insight through data analysis?

Consumer research remains an uninspiring user experience and most it comes in the format that works best for the time-poor researcher, not the busy human on the end of it. If you want to attract genuine insight from real people while they are going about their daily life (and yes, you do) then the industry needs to make the research process better for consumers by learning to work with them on their terms. Also, most research works in one of two directions – looking backwards or guessing forwards. The most useful insight needs to be gathered in the moment. If a business can understand how consumer opinions are formed – how they are born and how they evolve – while they are forming, then they can learn how to react and shape them in the future. It’s about empathy at scale.

 

Shumel Lais

the 10 most powerful people in tech you haven't heard of (yet)

Founder & CEO at Appsumer

 

The source of his power:

Frustrated with the inefficient processes, lack of transparency and lack of knowledge sharing that plague the mobile advertising industry, Shumel Lais made the decision to move on from a successful 6-year career leading user acquisition for mobile-first brands and strike out on his own in 2015. He’s never looked back since. Now, Shumel is the founder and CEO of Appsumer – a user acquisition intelligence platform that integrates with any mobile ad platform and analytics tool to produce a unified system of intelligence, which enables user acquisition teams to make better investment decisions. With Appsumer, Shumel helps brands leverage their own marketing data to increase marketing effectiveness and measure marketing ROI more efficiently.

Why you should care:

Mobile advertising projects to take on a growing role in digital businesses and the marketing campaigns of the future. With more than 7.22 billion active mobile devices currently in operation globally (more than one device for every man, woman and child on earth!) the impetus for brands to focus more resources on mobile-first products and marketing is clear. Shumel’s in-depth understanding of how consumers interact with such advertising, coupled with Appsumer’s applications to help make mobile user acquisition better, position him and his company firmly at the forefront of what is sure to be an important and influential marketing channel in the years to come.

Shumel’s take:

What advantages does unified intelligence offer when compared to general attribution analytics?

Although there are brilliant marketing attribution tools available what we found was that marketers rarely made the final decision within these tools as they needed to create many bespoke reports including data from different sources such as their internal systems, predictive data and campaign data which exist across the fragmented media landscape. Having an automated and unified view of performance allows marketers to make better decisions that take holistic metrics into consideration as well as make them faster.

Where is paid user acquisition headed in the years to come?

We’re seeing marketers becoming more comfortable using complex data and insights to inform their optimisation decisions. We’re also seeing some of the smartest teams adopt predictive lifetime value as a key metric to optimise against, allowing them to make more confident investments faster. We expect marketers to continue to become more data-driven and consider the impacts of multi-touch attribution and the impact of above the line advertising on digital performance.

We also have good visibility on where people are spending and how the trends are shifting. Although Google & Facebook continue to dominate ad budgets, we also see brands actively trying to diversify their media portfolio and constantly test new channels. However few are able to offer the same level of scale, we predict Amazon to start making more headway here.

 

Chris Walts

The 10 most powerful people in tech you haven't heard of (yet)

Social Strategy Director at Ogilvy UK

The source of his power:

A self-described “acute understanding of the human condition and an innate ability to interoperate and apply insight through the lens of a cultural zeitgeist” has enabled Chris Walts to carve out a comfortable niche for himself as Social Strategy Director at Ogilvy UK – an agency that brings together bespoke teams of specialists to work on every brand to help each market itself more effectively. As Social Strategy Director, Chris keeps his finger on the pulse of new and emerging trends, technologies and behaviours, and translates this knowledge into tangible solutions for Ogilvy’s clients.

Why you should care:

With social media platforms dominating the digital sphere more with every passing day, and with digital channels playing an ever-growing role in the lives of consumers, true social media communication experts are in higher demand than ever before. Anyone specialising in social media marketing who has the expertise to deliver tangible, quantifiable results for brands is worth their weight in gold these days. Just ask any of the myriad brands which have shot themselves in the foot with tone-deaf, ill-advised social posts in the past few years with disastrous results: a quality social media leader who “gets it” has become indispensable. And, as any of the many huge Brands Chris has already worked with will tell you, Chris’s input can mean the difference between social media stasis and social media success.

Chris’s take:

How is the way brands represent themselves on social media evolving right now?

In many ways, social media is the world’s water cooler. It’s where people get their news, discuss the latest cultural phenomena, and vent when something’s gone wrong. The sheer amount of time spent on social networks has led to consumers prioritising where they give their attention, which in turn has led to a scepticism of being sold to. To cut through the tremendous amount of the noise and ‘fake-news’, brands are learning that honesty, transparency and utility are key. Brands that understand how to provide value – through entertainment, utility, or inspiration – are the ones consumers remember and tell their friends about. While most brands now understand that ‘social isn’t free’, the clever ones have realised it doesn’t have to be expensive. Relevance and value are far more important than the execution.

Where is the relationship between brands and social media platforms headed in the years to come?

In an effort to provide greater value to consumers, brands were working hard to create frictionless, personalised experiences. Unfortunately, the correct rules and regulations weren’t put in place, and people’s personal data started getting abused. Rightly, this has led to scrutiny around how brands and platforms could and should use people’s personal data, but it has slowed down the creation of curated experiences. Moving forward, I think additional controls will be added to let individuals decide ‘how’ and ‘when’ they want their data to be shared to create frictionless personalisation. This will be expanded even further through clever Messenger/Chat/Voice interfaces and artificial intelligence as brands seek to seamlessly link specific products and content to individual consumer needs at the exact moment they need it.

 

Paul Roetzer

the 10 most powerful people in tech you havent heard of (yet)

Founder, CEO, Author, and Creator of The Marketing AI Institute

The source of his power:

The marketing world is currently undergoing a seismic shift driven by technological innovation, and Paul Roetzer has made it his mission to stay ahead of the curve. Founder and CEO of inbound marketing agency PR 20/20 and author of The Marketing Performance Blueprint and The Marketing Agency Blueprint, Paul has positioned himself as a marketing industry thought leader/innovator and a highly sought-after speaker at marketing and tech industry events across the globe.

Paul’s innate curiosity for emerging technologies and their potential applications in the marketing field led him to found The Marketing Artificial Intelligence Institute in 2016.

Why you should care:

The potential for artificial intelligence to disrupt the way marketing is done is very real. In fact, it isn’t so much a question of if AI will change the marketing game entirely, but rather of when this change will take place and how it will manifest. As a global thought leader in the AI marketing space, Paul offers a level of insight and technical understanding that every forward-thinking brand should be on the hunt for, sooner rather than later.

Paul’s take:

How is AI disrupting the marketing industry today?

Artificial intelligence gives marketers superpowers by intelligently automating time-intensive, data-driven activities. While AI will eliminate some marketing jobs, its greater impact will be enhancing marketers’ knowledge and capabilities. 

As the number of connected consumers and devices expands, the amount of data produced exponentially increases. Meanwhile, marketers’ ability to filter through the noise and turn data into actionable intelligence remains limited by biases, beliefs, education, experiences, knowledge and brainpower. 

Despite rapid advances in marketing automation—and billions of dollars pouring into marketing technology companies—much of the technology marketers rely on today for planning, production, personalization, promotion and performance is elementary, and, ironically, largely manual.

But, artificial intelligence possesses the power to change everything

What applications of artificial intelligence do you see having the biggest impact in the years to come?

Any use case that requires prediction or personalization based on data will be affected in the months and years ahead.

Humans are unable to conceive of the optimal set of instructions to guide the machine on how to personalize experiences at this scale. This is where artificial intelligence excels. It takes data-driven, complex tasks and makes them look easy.

But, artificial intelligence doesn’t stop at setting up the initial rules to maximize performance, it uses machine learning to constantly evolve its actions. In other words, it learns, it gets smarter, and it creates its own algorithms.

Now, imagine the potential if all the time-intensive tasks you complete and the data-driven decisions you make every day as a marketer was intelligently automated. 

 

Min S. FitzGerald

the 10 most powerful people in tech you haven't heard of (yet)

Behavioural Scientist and Nutrigene Founder/CEO

The source of her power:

At the intersection of human behavioural understanding and technology lies opportunity. As Co-Founder and CEO of Nutrigene – a personalized nutrition platform that sends personalized vitamin kits directly to consumers’ homes, using diagnostics data, genetics data, and proprietary nutrition algorithms to create a bespoke cocktail of vitamins for each of Nutrigene’s customers, Min FitzGerald’s combined experience as a health coach and behavioural scientist drives a completely innovative approach towards consumer-focused and personalized brands.

A Behavioural Scientist at heart, Min has championed the application of behavioural science to enable organizations to better understand their evolving users and customers in a new digitized world to increase engagement and purchases through revealing human irrationalities and developing and implementing strategies to effectively address them.

Why you should care:

Modern brands are well aware that in the digital marketplace, understanding what motivates and incentivises (and what turns off) consumers is more important than ever. With a raft of knowledge and varied experience in SaaS and consultation for several industries, Min’s entrepreneurial bent promises to deliver the creativity and innovation that makes today’s brands thrive.

Min’s take: 

What current trends in consumer behaviour should brands be focusing on at the moment?

Brands should be focusing on the preferences of Millennials, including convenience, brand transparency and personalization. Millennials are getting used to having products that aren’t mass personalized, have a story behind them, and are convenient to purchase and use. They expect us to know their preferences, be able to tailor-make it and have it delivered to them all at the click of a button.

What are marketing departments doing right now that flies in the face of behavioural science, and what is it costing them?

Traditional marketing departments have done a lot to figure out the behaviours of how people buy in-person at brick and mortar locations, but not yet incorporated Behavioural Science well in a digital context where behaviours differ significantly from in-person interactions. For instance, impulse purchasing is different in store vs. online, because attention spans are quite different, as well as the immediacy of a person being able to have their product, then and there. I’m not saying stores will go away for good – but as everything increasingly moves to eCommerce and personalization, depending on the category of product or service, the marketing channels and strategies to find and retain your customers will have to be completely reinvented. This is largely driven by millennial consumers that drive nearly half of GDP spend – who are radically excited by differentiated brands and products they can really engage with, in a more novel way. Brands that can’t engage one-on-one will have difficulty retaining and winning.

 

Victoria Peppiatt

the 10 most powerful people in tech you haven't heard of (yet)

Phrasee Co-Founder and COO

The source of her power:

After running a successful design and branding agency for almost a decade, Victoria Peppiatt set her sights on the world of tech in 2014 and hasn’t looked back since. As Co-Founder and COO of Phrasee – an artificial intelligence (AI) natural language generation (NLG) and deep learning platform that helps brands engage digital audiences more effectively through AI generated and optimised marketing language, Victoria has quickly established herself the steady hand that that keeps one of London’s hottest tech scale-ups firmly on the road to success.

With artificial intelligence wunderkind Dr Neil Yager and marketing economist Parry Malm planted firmly in her corner, Victoria has found an elegant AI solution to the very real marketing problem of engaging digital consumers with Phrasee’s cutting-edge NLG and deep learning platform. The results for Phrasee’s partner brands thus far have been impressive, to say the least.

Why you should care:

With a deep technical understanding of AI and its marketing applications, a shrewd recruiter’s eye for tech talent, and legendary organisational skills, Victoria is widely recognised as one of the AI field’s most innovative leaders. And, in a digital marketing space where AI technology is expected to have a massive impact in the years to come, Victoria is well positioned to make the most of the opportunities the shift toward marketing AI presents.

Vic’s take:

Why should brand’s will skilled marketers and copywriters on their teams look to AI for marketing language?

Phrasee’s not here to replace copywriters, we’re here to help their content get more eye share online. We’re not looking to write the works of Shakespeare, we’re looking to optimise short-form marketing language that engages and resonates with a brand’s audience, and to make that audience take action. A great example of this is an email marketing campaign: an enormous amount of time is invested on writing the email’s content, designing it, coding it, and making it responsive, yet the email subject line (the only thing that can affect how many people actually open and read the email) is often an afterthought.  We’re here to ensure more people see the amazing creative content contained within the email.

Why aren’t more brands making use of AI technology to increase consumer engagement?

Lack of understanding. They don’t understand what AI is and how it can specifically help them. Maybe they’re scared. Everyone thinks AI is coming to take their jobs and replace them. Or, maybe they don’t believe AI can outperform humans, which is unfortunate, because in many cases it can.  Let the data speak for itself – test and see! 

 

Rob McCargow

the 10 most powerful people in tech you havent heard of (yet)

Director of AI at PwC UK | TEDx Speaker

The source of his power:

When it comes to promoting awareness of the growing ethical agenda relating to AI, you won’t find a much bigger voice than that of Rob McCargow. An advisory board member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on AI, an adviser to The IEEE Global Initiative on Ethics of Autonomous and Intelligent Systems, and a TEDx speaker. Rob’s efforts are focused upon the issues and policies relating to the impact of automation on the workforce, the future skills agenda, and ensuring that the benefits to be delivered by AI are equitably spread across society.

As Director of AI at PwC UK  – one of the world’s top business consulting firms, Rob has demonstrated a willingness to take on a leadership role in ensuring that the amazing potential of AI is harnessed for the benefit of humankind, rather than our detriment.

Why you should care:

The implications of the exponential progress are important and far-reaching. The high-level discussions these implications will generate, and the policies/legislation those discussions will produce will have major consequences for the path the progression of AI takes in the years to come. With a seat at the tables these discussions will take place around, a firm grasp of AI’s potential and the ethical issues the AI industry needs to grapple with, and a highly regarded voice across the field, Rob McCargow will be a key player in laying out the path that AI’s innovators walk for quite some time.

Rob’s take:

Should people be excited about the amazing progress AI technology has been making of late, or should they be afraid?

I’d describe myself as a ‘responsible optimist’ with regards to AI. I take issue with the polarised nature of the debate between the techno-hype and the dystopian doom-mongering as neither narrative represents the current reality. AI is certainly at an exciting stage of development but I’m equally focused on bringing attention to the wide range of risk factors already emerging such as algorithmic bias, new ethical considerations, and ensuring that the impact of the technology is positive for people from all parts of society.

What role should government play in the development and implementation of new AI technologies?

Over recent months we have seen the UK, as well as a number of other countries, publish AI strategies of varying degrees of maturity. Governments clearly have a major role to play in nurturing the right environment for start-ups to flourish in while enabling access to AI to businesses in all sectors and locations. The debate around regulation and standards is gaining traction as well as the part that governments can play in providing access to data in a secure and trustworthy manner.

 

Amy Williams

the 10 most powerful people in tech you haven't heard of (yet)

Social Entrepreneur, Good-Loop Founder

The source of her power:

The relationship between internet users, content publishers, and the brands/advertisers that keep publishers’ lights on is an awkward and tenuous one. The rise of ad-blockers, legitimate concerns about user experience, and stale thinking on the part of advertisers have combined to create a digital media/marketing landscape in desperate need of disruption. Enter Amy Williams, Founder of Good-Loop – a programmatic digital advertising platform that “is respectful to users, positive for brands and profitable for publishers”.

On its lofty goal of connecting people, brands and publishers in more meaningful, and consequently more effective ways, and enabling these three players to unite in the shared endeavour of turning advertising money into charitable donations, Good-Loop has made amazing progress since its 2016 inception, and Good-Loop looks to be a key innovator in the rapidly-evolving field of digital marketing moving forward.

Why you should care:

The potential of advertising to / converting consumers through digital channels is absolutely massive. While both brands and agencies have been well aware of this fact for quite some time, they are also aware that the need to upend the current state of the digital advertising industry is very real indeed. Avant-garde innovators like Amy Williams will lead the charge into digital marketing’s next iteration and pave the way for digital marketing’s new paradigm.

Amy’s take:

How does connecting brands’ digital advertising campaigns to charitable donations benefit brands?

There are a couple of ways that brands benefit from connecting their marketing to good causes through Good-Loop – such as delivering a more positive connection with consumers and a much higher rate of engagement with your content. But perhaps most importantly, linking your brand with bigger, more meaningful social causes fundamentally helps you to sell more stuff, Neilson found that 66% of consumers are willing to pay more for socially conscious brands and this number moves to around 90% when you look at only millennials and gen z. So as the younger generations gain spending power, having a purpose within your brand becomes an imperative. 

What do brands and advertisers need to do differently to be more “respectful of users”, as you put it?

Brands need to create a more respectful and more positive advertising experience for their customers. So many ads online pop-up or auto-play and force us to watch them. But if customers can choose when to watch their ads and can get something, in our case a free charity donation, in return – you’re offering a fairer value exchange to people. So those people are going to feel more positive about their online experience and in turn, about your brand. 

 

Elliot Ross

the 10 most powerful people in tech you haven't heard of (yet)

Managing Director/Founder at Action Rocket, CEO/Co-Founder at Taxi For Email

The source of his power:

Email marketing is digital marketing’s neglected stepchild. In spite of the fact that the email channel consistently produces some of the most robust ROI numbers in the digital realm, it just never seems to get its due. It continues to languish in the shadow of newer, shinier digital channels like social media, but those who’ve done their homework know that email is every bit as worthwhile to invest any brand’s marketing dollars as social media is.

As Founder and Managing Director of Action Rocket – a creative agency specialising in mobile email design and coding, and Founder/CEO of Taxi For Email – an email marketing tool that bridges the gaps between designing, editing and sending marketing emails at scale, Elliot has streamlined many aspects of the email marketing workflow and developed some of the best email building platforms in the business.

Why you should care:

As personalisation and targeting continue to dominate the global digital marketing discussion, and as consumer concerns about data privacy reach fever pitch, brands are beginning to wake up to the fact that email’s knack for establishing and maintaining intimate marketing dialogues with engaged, willing consumers makes it one of the most attractive marketing channels currently in existence. Elliot Ross has positioned himself firmly on email marketing’s bleeding edge, and his entrepreneurial spirit will ensure that he remains a key player in the email marketing game for at least the foreseeable future.

Elliot’s take:

What makes email such an attractive channel for modern brands?

I think it’s a simple one – it’s relatively cheap, you own it (without having to pay off Facebook to access your audience) and it delivers great, quick results. It’s the workhorse of modern marketing.

Considering the robust ROI numbers email marketing consistently produces, what stops brands from investing more into it as a marketing channel?

There are a few things going on here. Email is a great channel but it’s often difficult to just get it out the door – the process can be cumbersome and often marketing teams are under-resourced and reactionary – busy spending 8 hours a day on the day-to-day. That means activities like proving the value of email to the rest of the business don’t happen, just because of time. 

Secondly, email is powerful but it’s also often not very sexy. It’s very easy to get seduced by fancy technologies and channels that one day, may well change things, but that shouldn’t be at the cost of the staples of marketing. There’s plenty to do in email before we bet the farm on VR.

Lastly, I think email suffers from a perception problem. There is a lot of work and thought that goes into doing email very well, yet you often see requests to “just send another email out” by stakeholders in the business. We need to do work as an industry to help them understand that email is key to the customer’s brand experience and relationship — and that doing it well requires skill and the necessary budget. The tide is turning here slowly, but there’s more to do.

 

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