Incognia: A Great Place to Work

How to pivot a company during a global pandemic, and still be a great place to work.

Despite all the chaos in the world during the last twelve months, I'm very pleased to announce that our company, Incognia was recently certified as a great place to work by the company, Great Place to Work (GPTW), a global authority on workplace culture.

Throughout my journey as a founder, and particularly during the past twelve months, I have learned many lessons.

I have always believed that sticking to your vision, mission and values, is of the utmost importance since these are the core of your company. If you have a strong core, it will enable you to navigate anything life throws at you. 

Moving forward in 2020 with an ambitious strategic plan for the company, that included a significant pivot into a new market, and plans for global expansion to the US, wasn’t easy. To emerge twelve months later with a new solution, a market expansion underway, and a motivated team, who feel that Incognia is a great place to work, reinforces my belief that life is too short to build something small!

What have I learned over the last twelve months?

 

The importance of having a long term vision

Having a long term vision is what helps keep you focused, no matter what life throws at you. Surprisingly, despite all the chaos, 2020 was the year we took a huge step towards our long term vision. The original vision for Incognia was set in 2010. It is a vision inspired by Mark Weiser, and it is a vision to build a digital identity for the ubiquitous computing era, that is frictionless, and invisible. In 2010, the market was simply not ready to implement this vision: there was no 5G network and little to no consumer IoT footprint. However, that didn’t mean that we couldn't get started building the company to make this vision reality and developing the location technology that would make this possible. 

 

Market timing is critical

Everyone knows the importance of market timing, but sometimes a crisis makes the decision for you. Before the pandemic hit, we had been waiting for the right time to make an important pivot towards our long-term vision. We had been a pioneer in location technology since 2014, using location to drive in-store traffic, and that solution had enabled the company to grow profitably. However, we always believed there was a bigger, more important use for our location technology, to enable a digital identity for the ubiquitous computing era. We also knew it was only a question of time before Google and Facebook would move aggressively into our market.

At the end of 2019, two big things happened: 

  1. Google and Facebook began offering a similar product and aggressively gaining market share 
  2. Google announced that soon mobile apps would no longer be able to use location data for advertising

And then, when it seemed things couldn’t get more complicated, the COVID-19 pandemic began. So in a matter of weeks, our market became saturated, and the world had been turned upside down by a global pandemic.

Seizing the opportunity, we decided now would be the right time to pivot.

Have a vision but focus on executing your business

The week in March 2020, when we announced internally our decision to downsize, was painful. Our profitable business was no longer profitable and we had to adapt quickly. It was a tough moment that brought down the morale of the whole team. To make matters worse, the first lockdowns were announced the same week. It was a humbling experience for a founder that had experienced so much growth over the past five years. At that point, the only thing left to do was to commit to our vision and execute in order to navigate out of the crisis. 

Build a culture that enables you to pivot. The main elements are agility, collaboration, and transparency.

We had created a strong culture around agility and collaboration, and these proved to be critical elements in managing through a period of uncertainty. As a team we recognize that errors happen and have used that to develop an agile culture, allowing people to experiment fast and fail. We often say, "We'd rather have you apologizing than asking for permission.” To create a collaborative culture, we put the tech and back-office teams in front of customers, including having them in sales and support meetings, eliminating proxies. Operating the company with transparency was vital to navigating a difficult year.

Build a platform to enable your company to pivot quickly

Another key contributor to accomplishing a fast pivot is a flexible technology infrastructure that allows for quick changes in product direction. The technology investments we had made in the prior years, like building a data platform that would enable engineering teams to easily and quickly build applications on top of our platform, has paid off for us this year. 

Commit

An important part of our company pivot was expansion to the US. Once you have committed to a pivot, you need to follow through, even if there is a global pandemic. In 2020, I moved to the US to launch as a global company. We completed our pivot from an advertising technology company to an information security company in just a few months, which included the sale of our ad business. Although the pivot was accomplished quickly, the work to prepare for this pivot had been underway for many years. 

In June 2020, we launched our new products and started the first trials with customers. 

Nine months later, we are now protecting tens of millions of mobile users in the US and globally, with an incredible pipeline, including major payments providers, banks, retailers, and even social networks. We are thrilled to be in this new phase of growth and excited to be so much closer to our vision. As my father used to say, "nothing beats hard work.”

Create a great place to work

And after all that has happened over the past year, this week the company was certified as a great place to work by the company Great Place to Work, scoring 94 out of 100. Amazingly, we scored even higher than we had before the pivot and the pandemic.

Our mission is to build the digital identity platform for ubiquitous computing. Our vision is to make computers disappear, to make them less annoying and invasive.

Join us! Life is too short to build something small!

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