Interview with Andrew Macadam Technology Evangelist, Microsoft BizSpark Champ for Ireland, and growth hacker.
It’s a great job title you have. Do you have specific goals / targets to hit as a business evangelist?
Thanks! My role is about a couple of key things; the first is to get people excited about the possibilities of technology. We sometimes get so caught up in the mundane that we forget about what it is possible to do. Invariably we end up using the latest tech to do exactly what we have always done…in exactly the same way. I help businesses, partners and consumers understand what it is possible to do when you start using a creative approach to technology adoption.
The other part of my role means I spend time with all types of businesses (from start-ups to multinationals) to understand where they are, what they are doing, and then where they want to get to. By understanding the gaps, I can access an array of resources and tools within Microsoft and through our partners to help them find solutions.
How, in your role, are you helping the Irish startup scene?
The Developer Experience and Evangelism team (DX) is focused on developer community engagement which encompasses most of the incubators and accelerators. I work with the “High Potential” Start-ups in the Microsoft BizSpark Plus programme. This enables start-ups to access $60k of free Azure computing (our cloud platform) free of charge. This is on top of over $100k worth of software and services through our standard BizSpark programme (www.bizspark.com). We currently have over 850 start-ups in Ireland on the BizSpark programme and I am lucky enough to have worked and supported more than 60 of these in the last 2 years.
At the 3XE conference, there seems to be a low adoption rate for new tools and technology to help digital marketers to know about potential customers. Do you think this is a fair observation?
Yes I do. There are a couple of challenges that I have seen; the first one is that people are just unsure about HOW to access the tech. Think about the number of people in the room at the 3XE event that have developed apps and carried out mobile marketing campaigns (virtually all of them). When asked, less than 3% (5 in 200) have taken this information, combined it with internal information they had available (eg CRM, previous campaigns, etc). I think the second challenge is there is a certain amount of fear around adoption; from my perspective I am able to help with this.
How did 2014 go, what were your big wins? Anything you’d do differently?
I am working with so many start-ups at the moment at so many different stages, for me success is watching these start, grow and succeed. My goal this year is to see them be even more successful!
What are you excited about for 2015?
From a Microsoft perspective I am excited about the transformation we are going through as a company, moving to a cloud first, mobile first organisation, and how we are starting to see that manifest. One of the areas I am seeing this more than anywhere else is in our cloud platform, Azure.
Our direction of “cloud first, mobile first” is all about enabling others to be successful; I describe it as us providing a “platform for success”. When I think about the amount of data we are all storing, but doing virtually nothing with it, it feels that Machine Learning (the ability to make sense of this data through pattern recognition) is an area for phenomenal growth.
What trends do you feel are important for business to be aware of in 2015?
I believe the most important thing to recognise in 2015 is understanding the digital strategy of the business. There is a lot of confusion in the market about what companies “should be doing” and the majority of the time there are no hard and fast rules. The opportunity with defining a digital strategy is that this allows you to break down internal and external needs, segment and vertical needs.
A digital strategy should encompass every part of the digital interaction in the business; this means mobile, email systems, CRM, marketing campaigns, financial systems…even down to the presentations that are given. Too many people think the digital strategy is just focused in the marketing team and marketers have the opportunity to lead the way. It is important to note that defining clear digital strategies in the entire business will fundamentally change the way that people work and significantly impact on innovation and collaboration.
Any tips for startups in Ireland?
The first thing is to be clear about the problem you are solving or the need that you are fulfilling. A large number of start-ups go with something that they believe is a great idea, but are not thinking about whether the business is going to be able to grow and thrive.
Don’t get caught up in the funding trap; it is incredibly easy to spend more time on trying to get money, than making money. If you are making money, it is exponentially easier to get money…but if you are not delivering any revenue, it is a challenging and resource draining activity.
The best way to test the first, and generate the second, is to actually get out and meet the customers you are going after. Use the prospective customers to make sure you are solving a problem / helping them and that they are willing to pay for it. If not, then it helps you develop a new plan or a different model.
Anything you’d like to add / that I should have asked?
No but thanks for the questions!