Don’t be afraid of change. Not only don’t be afraid of change, but actively seek it out. The reason most disruption happens is because the major players in the industry have become complacent and have stopped innovating. Constantly look to the future and see where trends are going, and try to intersect your business/product with where that next evolution might lie. You’ll always be more successful if you’re the one leading innovation rather than being the person trying to keep the old ways alive.
As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Matthew White, co-founder and CEO of Qebot. Matthew has always been a little different, even as a kid asking for microscopes and chemistry sets as presents instead of the usual kids toys. Matthew’s career has spanned healthcare, marketing, app development, software development, and advertising. He’s always been someone that challenged authority and tried to find better ways to do things. A former employer once said of Matthew, “your ideas always seem to be right, and drive over the top success, but the way you go about it makes my job very difficult.”
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
My path to building Qebot began during my career in the marketing agency world. While working for a predominant SMB focused agency in the US, I was continuously bothered by both the manual labor that went into each service that we offered, and the incredibly high price we would charge small business owners for products and services that were sub-par. Numerous times I suggested that if we built a suite of technologies, we could use it internally to drastically cut costs, as well as offer a host of new products to our customers at reduced prices. Ideas that were consistently shot down. So, after a few diverging paths into app development and advertising, I came back to the idea, and decided to build it myself. This was the genesis of the Qebot platform, where we enable businesses of all sizes and marketing agencies the ability to shop our list of tools, activate only what they need, and drive more value and efficiency through technology.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
We are disrupting the business software market. There are thousands of great online tools to manage really every aspect of your business. But the catch is — buying all of these tools separately leaves your technology and data fragmented. By purchasing all of your software in a single platform, not only is accessing and managing your tools much simpler, but interconnectivity between your software is much more seamless. This allows for much deeper automation and business optimization. Through AI we can use your business data to help model out multiple business scenarios all at once. Since you’re also purchasing your tools through this platform, we can offset the costs of AI and machine learning models, creating democratization of true data-driven business optimization — allowing any size business to compete based on real data.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The mistakes are broad… I certainly have enough material to write an entire book about what not to do when starting a business. If only I could go back in time and hand it to myself saying “read this VERY carefully.”
Although the funniest mistake probably stems from the fact that when you are first starting out, you want the business to seem bigger than it really is. Especially in B2B software, business owners don’t want to be is the first adopter of a completely new system that they are trusting with a lot of their data and day-to-day operations.
So very early on we were pitching our first real franchise prospect. They wanted to talk to a few current franchise customers that were using our system to get their feedback — we didn’t have any to give, so we made up some story about other franchises not really wanting to give up their secret sauce, and that they wouldn’t be open to it. They totally called us out, and we lost the opportunity. What we learned later on when pitching our next franchise was that while we didn’t have exactly what the customer was looking to want to hear from, we did have a great product and happy customers that were willing to give us rave reviews. Trust yourself and your product. Let whatever level of success you might have speak for itself. If your product is good enough, you can break through being an early startup.
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
This is a tough one. I believe that some of us that have seen success are still looking for our mentor. Finding the right mentor can be one of the hardest parts of a person’s career. I’ve had a number of great advisors and people around me to support and help develop different skills, but the mentor role is someone that is and will be there for you through thick and thin. The person that has been through what you’re going through and can be your guide through those waters. It’s a tough role, and why I think there are some, like me, that hasn’t really found that person yet. It’s a time-consuming, and sometimes exhaustive role, especially when the mentoree is really going through a tough time. But, we’re always learning, and growing, and discovering — so maybe that part of my career just hasn’t been connected with the right individual yet.
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
I’d probably find myself in the camp that disruption will almost always bare short term negative impacts, but will deliver a more positive effect in the long term. For example, the invention of ride-sharing completely upended the taxi industry. In the short term, it put a lot of people in very precarious positions — people that lost their jobs, cab drivers that had spent their life savings on taxi medallions losing their earning potential. There were a lot of people that felt pain from the disruption of a large and lucrative industry. But, I’d argue in the long run that from a user perspective, transportation is much nicer and more seamless than before. Vehicles tend to be nicer, drivers have better personalities (most of the time), prices are lower, rides are more reliable, and with tracking, there’s an argument it’s safer.
But again, every major disruption is going to cause pain somewhere. It’s why there is always initial hesitation to progress, especially within large scale industries like energy or shipping. But the more we disrupt, the more efficiencies we build, and the more opportunity we can create.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
Launch what you have. Get your product out there to see what your prospective audience thinks. If you have to give it away for free to start to get people to give it a try, do it. You need feedback. You need to know how or even if people are going to engage with your product. Qebot’s first product, a website builder that was designed to get your up and running online in minutes, was junk when we first launched it. But we needed to get that reaction to know where to go next.
Listen to your users. In the beginning, the customer is always right. Ask them for honest feedback, regularly. Ask what they would like to see next in your product. Ask what they love, and what they dislike — and iterate on those learnings. Let your first users really drive your product development. This will help keep you from making costly mistakes, and building out product updates that may not be well received.
Don’t be afraid of change. Not only don’t be afraid of change but actively seek it out. The reason most disruption happens is that the major players in the industry have become complacent and have stopped innovating. Constantly look to the future and see where trends are going, and try to intersect your business/product with where that next evolution might lie. You’ll always be more successful if you’re the one leading innovation rather than being the person trying to keep the old ways alive.
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
At this point, we have done a great job creating Qebot’s centralized platform of business software and data management. In doing this we have changed the way many business owners are discovering, buying, accessing, and managing software. Our next step comes with data — with our customers buying and managing most of their business technologies through our centralized system, we can start to utilize their data, benchmarked across industry data points, and bolstered with external information to help businesses become as productive and efficient as possible. For example, say you are an ice cream store owner. Hypothetically, what if industry data showed that the average purchase of ice cream cones dropped by 25% when outdoor temperatures sink below 70 degrees. Well, if we can pair that data with weather reporting, we can then help a business model that out in the coming week. So with a dip in temperatures, the owner should purchase 25% less inventory — drastically reducing waste. That’s just a small example of what we can do if businesses are purchasing their tools through a single platform.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
Access and mentorship. Disruption takes resources — for a long time, and even still today, those resources have been much easier to come by being a male, specifically a white male. Historically, college admission has favored males, which is where much of the initial networking is built for many successful people. That inherent networking engine helps you down the road in the recruitment of talent, connecting with mentors to help guide your success, and access to capital to scale your company. It’s great to see so many Venture Capital firms starting to pop up that are women-led and look to invest in women-led organizations, but there is still so much to do.
Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?
The Lean Startup is a reference I’ve leaned on from the very moment we started building Qebot. It was the driving force behind the way I bootstrapped this company into existence. Understanding how to be resourceful wherever possible, and how to use data to make decisions has given us the ability to build into what we are now, and create a vision for where we are going. It also allows you to be flexible and ready for change when it comes along — which it will. A recommendation for any entrepreneur.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
As corny as it sounds, I think “you only live once” has been a true driver for me. My biggest fear in life is regret. I don’t want to be one of those that say “I had that idea once” or “if I would have just had the guts to take the leap.” I can more easily live with the potential realism of failure over the idea that I just never tried. So, “you only live once” has been a way for me to rally myself into taking the risks to potentially do something great.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
This is obviously pie in the sky, but the idea of ending war and international conflict — to see a world where we turn to ideas and debate to solve our differences rather than might. From a waste perspective — the amount of money that could be used to help every human on earth have food, healthcare, and education. The technical minds that are being used to build bombs instead of finding ways to explore the cosmos. The funds that get funneled into warships and ammunition rather than into medical research, and scientific advancement. I believe war and conflict is our lowest form of human behavior, and a huge drain on humanity’s potential.
How can our readers follow you online?
I write a lot of my ideas and musings on my Linkedin page: https://www.linkedin.com/in/matthew-white-4b4bb527/detail/recent-activity/posts/
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!