Technology used to be applied as a tool to aid business. But today, tech drives business.
That ever-evolving paradigm shift was the central theme of Samsung’s Do More Series panel at the company’s 837 building in New York City’s Meatpacking District. The 837 space has made waves this summer by offering a wide range of events, from a post-Governor’s Ball party deejayed by Jamie xx to weekly "mini-internships" hosted by various industry leaders. With a virtual reality tunnel and a café—but no products available for purchase on-site—837 is changing the way that brands interact with consumers.
The Do More Series panel featured a high-powered group of influencers and startup founders reflecting on the "do more" mentality that embodies 21st-century life. The participants included WeWork chief development officer David Fano; Neil Parikh, the co-founder of mattress industry disruptor Casper; social entrepreneur Lauren Bush Lauren of FEED; Jake Rosenberg of lifestyle brand The Coveteur; and Top Chef host and cookbook author Padma Lakshmi.
"The people here reflect how fast and how radically our world—and our business world—is changing," said Fast Company editor Robert Safian, the panel’s moderator, in his opening remarks. "Technology infuses their businesses and allows this stuff to happen."
Parikh’s story at Casper shows how quickly a $100 million company can be created when technology disrupts people’s purchasing habits. By marrying mobile-purchasing tech with savvy marketing and a policy of ease and transparency, Casper, which launched in 2014, has created an entirely new retail experience.
"People are buying mattresses on their phones," said Parikh. "How crazy is that?"
For Lauren, tech helped rapidly launch and maintain a foundation that raises funds to reduce world hunger through the purchases of bags, accessories and clothing. She pointed to September’s FEED Supper, a grassroots initiative that helped hosts facilitate dinner parties to raise money for meals for those in need. "It’s our digital platform that enables hosts to sign up and raise money, and print the digital toolkits," said Lauren. "Without that technology, we wouldn't be able to do the suppers."
Rosenberg and Lakshmi use technology in a different way: as a direct and constant tether to the loyal fans who support their brands.
"Technology has connected me instantly to the people who are interested in the things that I'm interested in," said Lakshmi. "Your tentacles become much longer much quicker, and that's been the most useful thing."
Rosenberg, a fashion photographer, has more than 63,000 followers on his personal Instagram account, and his lifestyle brand, The Coveteur, has 933,000. "For us, technology has really given us a chance to innovate," he said. "We can offer a new experience and provide fresh content that you’re not going to get anywhere else."
WeWork brings people together by providing a physical space to work and live. Tech, in the form of complex data analytics, is what enables the company to match customers with spaces that best meet their particular needs.
But, as Fano pointed out, technology has also fundamentally changed our expectations as consumers—a fact that continues to influence all businesses and, ultimately, the way we make decisions. "It’s interesting to see people shed some of their loyalty to platforms in pursuit of value for themselves," Fano said. "This keeps us honest as businesspeople. That’s a good thing."