BY JAKE SHEA, HEAD ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE
Transitioning from one of the world’s largest and most successful technology brands to an early-stage, venture-funded EdTech startup, I knew the culture and day-to-day work would be different. What I did not yet appreciate was how incredibly refreshing it would truly be after being mired in a major bureaucracy for years.
Sure, the startup perks are nice, but what made leaving my last job for Neverware the best decision of my career has nothing to do with beanbag chairs. It has everything to do with working for an agile, mission-driven company focused on not just listening to its customers, but acting on their feedback in order to build and adapt existing products to meet their needs and bring real value.
At my last job, there were countless times our customers would provide meaningful feedback and present ideas on how to improve our products and services, and we had an internal way to pass that feedback along up the foodchain. The problem I had was that never once, not once, in dozens of feedback conversations with managers and submissions, was there ever action out of feedback. That wasn’t just frustrating for me, but especially for our customers, who would ask about their feedback the next time we spoke and I’d have to tell them I have no update. It felt like a feedback blackhole, and what I realize now is that when companies reach a certain stage of success and girth, plenty of great ideas that could lead to even more success and greater customer satisfaction get lost in the bureaucracy of it all.
While there are a number of examples I could lay out at Neverware where feedback leads directly to action, the most relevant one comes in the form of our most recent major product, CloudReady, and its inception. Chromebooks began their incredible rate of K-12 adoption in 2013, and by 2014 were a major part of most schools’ future technology plans. We had heard nothing but positive responses from schools using them, but we were not yet addressing that need.
One evening while attending last year’s ISTE conference in Atlanta, I sat at the lobby bar with a few instructional technologists, who had the challenging job of supporting multiple districts in their technology plans. We were discussing our product, PCReady, which we hoped would be the right fit to make their old PCs run like new through a turnkey virtualization service. They responded by saying, “Well, that sounds great, but we use Chromebooks now. Can you turn our old computers into Chromebooks? That would be amazing!” Of course we couldn’t, yet, though the idea was very intriguing after hearing schools' thirst for Chromebooks and the value to them was absolutely clear: maximize the value of their existing investments in hardware while helping to expedite their Chromebook initiative for far less cost.
So, the very next day, our CEO and I set up a meeting with Google’s Chromebook product manager, who happened to also be in attendance at ISTE, and pitched the concept to him. He loved the idea, and sent us on our way to create a proof of concept, which we presented to him only two months later. Fast forward another five months, and CloudReady launched at Texas’ TCEA conference. Since then, the product has been a tremendous success across the country, helping schools increase access to great computing with limited budgets.
To go from feedback to concept to product in a seven month timeframe is unheard of in most industries. At a major technology company like my previous employer, years of back and forth meetings and red tape led to product release. At Neverware, a laser focus on our mission to help schools and tight collaboration between our sales, product and development teams enables us to minimize the bloat that saddles large corporations, while allowing us to iterate on new ideas and generate efficient results.
There’s nothing more refreshing than knowing that CloudReady was birthed out of listening to the needs of schools, and had I not worked for an unbelievably focused, agile, and mission-driven company like Neverware, the CloudReady concept would likely still be sitting in someone’s inbox (or junk folder), waiting for attention.