How the right tech talent can help you win the digital war

The war for tech talent is on. Are you prepared?

"If you hire a single one of these people that means war."

wrote Steve Jobs to the Sergey Brin when Google allegedly tried to poach members of Apple's Safari team. The tech talent war has always existed. Now, it has intensified and is about to get worse.

Hey! I am not a tech company. Why should I be worried? If this is what you’re thinking, well, think again.

The world leader in mobile payments is neither Apple nor Samsung. It is Starbucks! Yes, Starbucks, the coffeehouse chain. According to Mckinsey, today's cars have 100 million lines of programming codes. A startup that delivers medical marijuana is a buzzing startup in the Silicon Valley.

What does it take to win the digital war?

If you are a boy scout at heart and want to be prepared, then your first step should be to equip yourself with the right tech team. If the enemy’s army is standing at your gates, shouldn’t you have started building your army a long time ago? Like 6 months ago.

If digital revolution is a war, then your kickass tech team is your anti-aircraft defense.

It does not matter whether you sell coffee, cars, or medical marijuana.  You are either digitally connected to customers or you are losing to someone else. The scary part is that you may not even know who your competitor is!

If you concur with this notion, then this article has served its purpose. If you are still not sure about how hiring a tech team will help your company, you may want to continue reading.

I am still skeptical, how did the world's largest coffeehouse chain become the world leader in mobile payments beating all the tech titans? There are two parts to this story, the well-known story and the one that was orchestrated behind the scenes.

The well-known story

In 2013, Q3 earnings conference, Howard Schultz (Chairman and CEO, Starbucks) said,

No single competency is enabling us to elevate the Starbucks brand more than our global leadership in mobile, digital, and loyalty. Starbucks is a clear leader in mobile payments and we are encouraged by how consumers have embraced mobile apps as  a way to pay.”

In 2009, Starbucks rolled out its first mobile card app in 16 stores in Seattle. This app allowed its customers find the nearest stores, order online, pay via mobile, and collect reward points.  It was an instant hit. Soon Starbucks rolled the app out in other states, nationwide in the US, and now in many countries around the world.

In 2016, 21% of all the Starbucks orders were made via mobile resulting in an increase in the revenue by 12% to roughly $5.4 billion. Starbucks has invested $300 million in digital initiatives in 2016, up from $145 million last year.

There are over 2 million apps available in various app stores and every single one of them is competing to make it among one of the top 50 apps on your mobile. While some like Facebook, Twitter, and Whatsapp have cemented their respective positions, how did MyStarbucks break in especially being a closed loop payment app?

What happens behind the scenes?

Starbucks hired a small Portland-based tech team called the Small Society and they developed an app that was pretty darn great. Small Society just did not replicate the website of Starbucks. They designed an app that had great design, functionality and best of all, they understood the customers of Starbucks. In early 2009, most of the iPhone users were early adopters. Small society provided them a smart and sophisticated app that saved them time and effort. It seamless weaved loyalty programs and incentives. Getting free products for accumulating reward points proved to be very successful. In short, Small Society developed a great app for Starbucks.

Small Society

Small society is not a one-hit wonder and they are a proof that a talented tech team can do wonders for your company. Time and time again they have proved their expertise in the IOS app arena. In 2008, Raven Zachary and his team developed an IOS app for the Democratic Party—’Obama for America’. The app was a first-of-its-kind in the political arena and helped the party at the grass-roots level and eventually Small Society was formed. Since then they have worked with Amazon, Zipcar, Whole Foods, and many other brands. Four years later in 2012, Walmart acquired Small Society and 3 years later Zachary went on to work with Microsoft Hololens.

The number of companies that are seeking Small Society’s developer expertise is a testament to the importance of having that talented tech team, which can change your future!

Attracting and hiring the right tech talent

While we are aware of the latest developments in technology and initiatives by pioneering companies, the tech talent war that happens behind the scenes often goes unnoticed.

We do not realize the importance of attracting tech talent until we struggle to fill a crucial open position or accomplish a challenging task with a mediocre team.

It’s not just Starbucks. You’ve heard about the connected car wave that hit the automobile industry. The world's leading automobile makers are competing with each other. These companies made efforts to equip themselves well before this wave hit. They anticipated the change.

Toyota hired everyone from an MIT-based startup Jaybridge Robotics. The 16-member MIT team that included software engineers, AI, and robotics experts is now a part of the Toyota Research Institute and powers the connected cars revolution.

Similarly, Renault and Nissan are hiring 1000+ developers to compete in the connected car revolution.

Medical marijuana

Eaze, a medical marijuana delivery startup in San Francisco, recently received $13 million in funding. Technically, Eaze is a logistics company that delivers marijuana. However, when you go all digital, even the tiniest digital feature determines the success of the company. A recent review of Eaze by TechCrunch pointed out that not having the online and mobile payment option as the major drawback for the company.

It is not a surprise, the startup is actively looking to hire more developers. Here is a snapshot of their Careers section.


Process innovation

In today’s digital age, a talented tech team is vital for process innovation. When you are in a business where you neither have a proprietary product nor groundbreaking technology,  the only way to stay ahead of your competition is by innovating the process and offering your customers the "wow" experience.

The word coffee entered the English language in the 15th century. Benz patented the first automobile in 1886 and the earliest written record for the use of Marijuana dates back to 2737 B.C in China.

If you notice, neither of these three companies invented the product they sell nor are they the only ones to sell these products. Although Starbucks comes up with new beverage-related products, like their to-die-for Caramel Waffle Cone frappuccino, it is not exactly a leap from the ice factory to the refrigerator in terms of product innovation.

There is nothing preventing from others doing what they do. Their products are still the same. The only difference is in how it is being offered and how the company connects with its customers.

To connect digitally, you need the right tech talent who can enable you to do just that and innovate the processes that you have been following for years.

Key resources and partners

In a business model, the key resources and partners are the enablers. They enable you to offer the value proposition to your customers. In this case, the digital and tech talent are your key resources.

Behind every great technology is an insanely strong technical team—a technical team composed of engineers, programmers, designers. This is the team that is always out of the limelight, anxiously waiting backstage while the product is being launched, hoping that everything goes as planned.

The question is do you have such a team yet?


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Also published on Medium.

About the Author

Vivek Siva
Learned what not to do as an entrepreneur. An optimist with a love for business, the outdoors, and movies. Superpower: Ability to smile even when all hell breaks loose. Affiliation: World of witchcraft & wizardry