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The New Era of Tech Leadership

I’ve written a lot recently on the impact AI will have on marketing and how some marketers fear the arrival of these tools.

Marketers think AI tools will, at best, diminish their value and contributions to the team and, at the worst, eliminate their jobs. I disagree. In some ways I think they are ushering in a new era, especially in tech. Though, again, this is nothing new.

The evolution of wealth accumulation reflects the shifting trends of human civilization, from conquest and colonization to trade, industrialization and the digital age. While the methods and skill sets have evolved over time, one constant remains: the resilience and adaptability of the human spirit.

Let’s dive into the history of this evolution. In doing so, I’d like to remind you that as we embark on a new frontier of wealth creation, human ingenuity tends to thrive amidst technological advancements.

The Eras of Wealth Creation Through History

Throughout history, there have been dramatic changes in how people became rich and powerful, and the skill sets needed to master that.

Ancient Conquests

From early days to the 17th century, the path to riches often included conquest and territorial expansion.

Leaders like Alexander the Great, renowned for his military prowess and strategic brilliance, carved out vast empires through hostile takeover. Similarly, figures like Julius Caesar and Mansa Musa leveraged military might, political alliances and taxation to amass wealth and power. The skill sets required in this era were primarily physical strength, battlefield acumen and political maneuvering, often through strategic marriages and alliances.

Transition to Trade and Commerce

Then in 1600, the East India Company was formed, which became, essentially, the first publicly traded company. This ushered in an era of hugely powerful public companies, which is why now, when you think of the wealthiest people in the world, you don’t think of kings and queens but CEOs and founders.

With the dawn of the Renaissance and the Age of Exploration, the economic landscape underwent a transformation. The emergence of trade routes, maritime exploration and the establishment of colonies ushered in a new era of wealth accumulation through commerce.

Merchants and traders like Marco Polo and the Medici family rose to prominence, leveraging their entrepreneurial acumen and trade networks to amass fortunes. This era demanded skills in navigation, negotiation and risk management, marking a shift from conquest to commerce.

Industrial Revolution and Capitalism

The 19th and 20th centuries witnessed the ascent of industrialization and capitalism, reshaping the dynamics of wealth creation. Innovators and industrialists like Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller and Henry Ford revolutionized industries, amassing unprecedented fortunes through innovations in steel, oil and automobiles. The skills prized in this era were entrepreneurship, industrial innovation and financial acumen,

The Digital Revolution

Technology has always played a role within the aforementioned publicly traded companies. But that became even more powerful in the last 50 years with advancements in computing and the Internet. I asked AI to tell me the fastest-growing companies in the last 50 years. Here’s the list:

  • Apple Inc.
  • Amazon
  • Microsoft
  • Google (now Alphabet Inc.)
  • Facebook (now Meta Platforms, Inc.)
  • Netflix
  • Tesla, Inc.
  • Walmart

The path to fame and fortune in this period was through computer science. All of the founders of the above-mentioned tech companies were essentially computer scientists. The engineering mind was needed to succeed here. Some of these characteristics include:

  • Analytical Thinking: Technical founders tend to possess strong analytical skills, allowing them to break down complex problems into manageable components and derive practical solutions. They have a natural inclination towards data-driven decision-making and rely on empirical evidence to guide strategic choices.
  • Curiosity and Learning Agility: These founders are typically curious individuals who have a thirst for knowledge and a passion for continuous learning. They stay abreast of emerging technologies, industry trends and market developments, seeking opportunities to innovate and stay ahead of the curve.
  • Problem-Solving Orientation: Technical founders excel at solving complex problems and thrive in environments characterized by ambiguity and uncertainty.

We have seen this change over the 5 years of York IE.

New Methods for Wealth Creation

Our firm’s history is deeply rooted in a company called Dyn, which was the world leader in the domain name system (DNS).

This is deeply technical Internet infrastructure. Kyle York, our CEO, was Dyn’s CRO, and built a massive go-to-market machine. He was selling to the technical leads at massively popular tech companies like Zappos, Twitter, Amazon, etc. While talking to these technical leads, they would often ask him how he built the GTM machine.

Thus the idea for York IE was born.

We had a vast network of potential technical founders and we would become their GTM extension. This made sense, especially given Dyn’s run from 2012 to 2016.

But like so many other areas, even tech has been impacted by tech. We’re seeing more and more companies founded by non-technical people. The group of people we’re seeing here are different and represent a different model.

The Era of Audience Building (1920s-Present)

We recently, historically speaking, entered into a new phase beyond coding, which is the era of audience building. The influencer, so to speak, has always existed. Their reach, however, has grown exponentially since the 1920s with the invention of television. The rapid expansion of platforms and the elimination of gatekeepers have allowed more and more people to build wealth and fame through building audiences. Think Joe Rogan, Mr. Beast, etc.

The skills needed here include:

  • Authenticity: Authenticity is paramount for online influencers. Audiences are drawn to influencers who are genuine, transparent and true to themselves. Authenticity fosters trust and credibility, which are essential for building a loyal and engaged following.
  • Engaging Content: Successful influencers create content that resonates with their audience. Whether it’s entertaining, educational, inspirational or informative, the right content captures the attention of followers and encourages interaction, such as likes, comments and shares.
  • Consistency: Consistency is key in the world of online influence. Influencers who consistently post high-quality content on a regular basis tend to maintain and grow their audience over time. A consistent rhythm helps keep followers engaged and reinforces the influencer’s brand identity.
  • Strong Personal Brand: Successful influencers cultivate a strong personal brand that sets them apart from others in their niche. This includes elements such as their unique voice, style, values and aesthetic. A strong personal brand helps influencers stand out and attract a dedicated following.

While an influencer’s personality traits can be different from a technical founder’s, there is one major commonality: they are reaching their audience, one to many and digitally.

Like all of those who have come before it, this arena has a shelf life, too. AI will level the playing field and eliminate the competitive advantage good creators and unique POVs have. Is the era of mass production ending?

The Next Chapter of Company Building

All of the above commentary is based on the traditional narrative of wealth, where money reigns supreme. But as we step into a new era, a shift is underway: a redefinition of what it means to be truly wealthy. In this emerging landscape, time emerges as the most valuable currency, reshaping our understanding of prosperity and success.

Here’s how these thoughts can shape the foundation and growth of new businesses:

1. Capital Efficiency

Rather than relying on massive funding rounds and exorbitant valuations, future entrepreneurs will prioritize capital efficiency. They will seek to responsibly fund their ventures, leveraging lean startup methodologies and cost-effective technologies to minimize overhead and maximize returns. By doing so, founders can maintain greater control over their companies and focus on sustainable growth without being beholden to external investors.

2. Utilizing Technology

Technology will play a central role in the growth of new companies, enabling them to reach broader audiences with minimal resources. From digital marketing and social media engagement to e-commerce platforms and remote collaboration tools, technology provides entrepreneurs with the tools they need to expand their reach and scale their businesses efficiently. By harnessing the power of technology, startups can compete on a level playing field with larger competitors while maintaining agility and flexibility.

3. Niche Focus

In the pursuit of credibility and connection, future companies will adopt a more niche-focused approach. Rather than targeting mass markets, entrepreneurs will identify specific niches where they can establish themselves as experts and build meaningful relationships with their audience. By catering to the unique needs and interests of a niche audience, companies can differentiate themselves from larger competitors and foster greater loyalty and engagement among their customers.

4. Building Personal Brand

Founders will prioritize building their personal brand as thought leaders in their respective industries. By sharing their expertise, insights and values through content creation, public speaking and networking, founders can establish themselves as trusted authorities and influencers within their niche. A strong personal brand not only enhances the credibility of the founder but also strengthens the reputation and visibility of the company.

5. Balancing Work and Life

In contrast to the traditional “hustle culture” mentality, future founders will prioritize work-life balance and holistic well-being. Recognizing the importance of mental and emotional health, entrepreneurs will cultivate practices that promote balance, mindfulness and fulfillment in both their professional and personal lives. By prioritizing self-care and fulfillment, founders can sustainably pursue their passions and contribute positively to their companies and communities.

6. Prioritizing Happiness

Ultimately, the goal of building new companies will extend beyond financial success to encompass holistic happiness and fulfillment. Founders will measure their success not only by their bottom line but also by their sense of purpose, fulfillment and impact on the world. By aligning their businesses with their values and passions, entrepreneurs can create companies that bring joy and fulfillment to themselves, their teams and their customers.

In summary, the future of building new companies will be characterized by capital efficiency, technology-driven growth, niche focus, personal branding, work-life balance, and prioritization of happiness. By embracing these principles, entrepreneurs can create businesses that are not only financially successful but also personally fulfilling and positively impactful.

Will this happen or am I just dreaming? Human history tells me I am probably dreaming. But that’s the beautiful part of being a founder. You need to dream!

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