Imagine walking into a business meeting and realizing that, because of a time crunch, you know little about the company executives with whom you are about to speak.
Amy Chang, who once led Google’s Advertiser Measurement & Reporting efforts, including Google Analytics, has experienced this challenge over and over. She finally decided to seek her own solution. Recently, she launched Accompany, a startup that seeks to be your “virtual chief of staff.”
Accompany picks up information from the emails, calendars, social media and professional feeds of the people with whom you are meeting in order to give you the most important information about them.
What makes the app unique is that, while it is built on data, it is decidedly human-centric.
Chang may have a background in analytics, but she understands the importance of a company built around human needs.
She shared with me her top five tips on successfully launching a tech startup built on people-centered relationships.
1. Find a way to fix a problem you see firsthand.
Chang first came up with the idea for Accompany when she was charged with trying to sell Google Analytics Premium to high-level company executives. Chang often felt overwhelmed trying to keep up with all the people she encountered.
“I was walking into a room of 20 Intel execs and trying to sell them a $ 150,000 piece of software,” Chang said.
“Here I was madly scrambling to do my homework and research as many of the key people in that meeting as possible, but I had 10 of those meetings a day. I’d sit in the meeting and think: I work at Google, how do I not know this stuff?”
She would have just enough info to know she was painfully uninformed, but didn’t have the time to do the research on each person beforehand.
After being caught flatfooted by major changes within the organizations that she was dealing with, Chang decided to look into creating a service that would help people like her who needed a mobile “chief of staff.”
“I so wished someone had been there to help prep me and tell me these things,” Chang explained. “When I left Google, I decided to build it!”
2. Don’t let fear of failure stop you.
No matter how good their idea is, or how much they believe in what you’re doing, everybody is going to have moments of panic and fear of failure. According to Chang, that’s perfectly normal.
“I definitely have those moments where I wake up in the middle of the night starkly afraid I’m going to fail,” she said. “I think everyone does. It’s totally normal to be afraid, but you cannot let that stop you from trying.”
“Trust your gut instinct,” Chang advised. If there’s an idea you can’t stop thinking about, don’t ignore it, but don’t rush it either. Take your time and do it right. Let your mind work over the idea and figure out what it is that you find so compelling.
“Accompany was founded in 2013 and we’re just now going into beta because we took the time to build the data platform and the intelligence layer,” Chang said.
“We iterated with a vocal set of power users and we have a product that we’re very proud of, which is really important.”
3. Learn from the big guys, then build your dream.
For Chang, working at Google for seven years proved to be a strong opportunity to learn and grow. During her time there, she learned how to scale for a tremendous amount of growth.
“The experience pushed me massively to keep thinking bigger,” Chang said. While at Google, she faced challenges over rapidly changing infrastructure and planning ahead for limitations.
But she learned other lessons as well. “I also learned to trust people and to take risks,” she continued. For Chang, that means trusting the people you hire and giving their ideas room to breathe.
“I left Google because I wanted to build something that was true to my vision from scratch,” Chang said. “And for a product like Accompany, I knew I wanted it to be the sole focus for the team, not one product among many, many others.”
4. Tech should enhance human interaction.
Humans should always be at the center of the equation when developing tech. And helping humans interact more successfully is at the heart of what Chang hopes to achieve.
“Accompany is precisely not about taking the humanity out of the relationship. It’s about putting it back in,” Chang said.
“We’re not in the business of automating relationships. We don’t want to eliminate human interaction. We want to make it more meaningful and help you connect with people by helping you understand the context of your interactions.”
For instance, knowing whether a contact’s company has just undergone a painful reorganization or had a blockbuster quarter will help you understand their state of mind.
According to Chang, “It will help you understand the best way to approach them when you sit down for the meeting.”
5. “You-centric” tech is a major trend.
This need for human-centric tech is a big reason why relationship-management apps are a major trend. Chang predicts that tech that gives you human context is going to be critical for success.
The bottom line is that tech has to be “you-centric” by offering reliable value and time-savings.
“The key is to provide value in every interaction,” Chang said. “If for every minute I put in, I get 10 hours of value out, and the service is always looking out for me, always saving me time, always helping me look my best, that’s the type of service people are going to want to use.”