There was a time when the primary role of leaders at most companies was management. The technology required to do the work of a company could be bought or siloed in an “IT department,” treated more as a cost center than a source of competitive advantage.
But now we’ve entered a period of upheaval, driven by connectivity, artificial intelligence and automation. The changes affect the world of business so profoundly that every company is now a tech company.
To put it another way: When faced with a competitor like Amazon, do you do as Walmart did, and invest heavily in tech firms and technical knowledge? Or do you go the way of Sears… into bankruptcy court?
Walmart is a good case study in how to bring on technical co-founders, even when your company is already worth hundreds of billions of dollars and employs nearly as many people as the People’s Liberation Army.
Mr. Lore is now chief of e-commerce at Walmart. A remarkable number of his lieutenants have also stayed on and been promoted to leadership roles within the company. Walmart’s e-commerce business revenue grew 43% in the last quarter alone. By all appearances, the company that is to this day based in its original hometown of Bentonville, Ark., is successfully pursuing a “second-mover strategy” against its much more highly valued competitor in Seattle.
As the competitive landscape continues to change and technology becomes ever more essential to how business is done, investments that might have seemed too risky a few years ago now may sometimes turn out to be the best path to survival.
“There is an existential threat to Fortune 500 companies before the end of this decade,” says Mr. O’Sullivan, the angel investor. “You can actually see companies that are less than 10 years old knocking off and surpassing companies which have been around for 100 years.”
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