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Culture is how employees act and behave — not what the CEO and executive teams say it is
Today's entrepreneur is Keith Kitani, co-founder and CEO of GuideSpark. GuideSpark enables employee communication experiences that drive change and deliver positive business outcomes for key programs and initiatives. GuideSpark Communicate Cloud is the only solution that combines campaigns, consumer content experiences, and analytics, enabling targeted, personalized communication journeys. Over 1,000 organizations and 22 million users have achieved their business outcomes with GuideSpark.
Keith has been running SaaS businesses focused on eLearning and communication since 1999 when he co-founded Presedia (a rapid eLearning company) which was subsequently sold to Macromedia. At Macromedia he was responsible for the Breeze (now Adobe Connect) and Flash Media Server product lines, growing the businesses to over $50 million annually. When Macromedia was acquired by Adobe, he was responsible for starting, building and managing the majority of Adobe’s initial SaaS businesses.
Keith gained his MBA from Stanford University and holds a BSEE degree from the same college in Electrical Engineering.
Why did you choose to be an entrepreneur?
It’s interesting…. When I was a kid, my father owned his own furniture store and I used to think, “It’s cool to be the boss." As I grew up, I enjoyed finding new problems and building products to solve those problems. Combine that with being surrounded by entrepreneurs — from friends and colleagues in Silicon Valley to my wife — and my path became clear.
My favorite startups:
My favorite startups are those that fundamentally change the way we do things. Think of Amazon, changing the way we shop, Netflix, changing the movie industry, Uber, changing the taxi industry, Airbnb, changing the hotel industry, etc. I think that’s the power of startups, the ability and perseverance to completely change the way things currently work, usually in the face of tremendous adversity.
Why did you start your current company?
This is my second company. I first started Presedia, which we sold to Adobe/Macromedia and it then became Adobe Connect. After a great experience building that business, I decided I wanted to do it again. Although I built software products in conferencing, collaboration and learning, I still felt that the way employers communicate with employees was broken. And yet, employee communication was critical to connecting companies and their employees across almost every program from culture and strategy to benefits and compensation. I felt there was a huge opportunity to create an employee communications platform that would serve today's diverse, dispersed and digitally connected workforce.
What's most frustrating and rewarding about entrepreneurship/innovation?
I’m a product person, so the most rewarding part of entrepreneurship is taking an idea from a whiteboard and having it launch in the market (and work!). And the journey to get there with your team, that team success, it doesn’t get better than that. There are many frustrations along the way, though. I would say the number one thing is it always takes longer and costs more than what you had planned. You always have problems as you build a company, they just change and evolve as you grow.
What's the No. 1 mistake entrepreneurs make?
From my experience, the No. 1 mistake is not adapting quickly as markets evolve. Startups need to evolve since it’s impossible to predict everything, including customers, competitors, and technologies. The pace of change is accelerating, so entrepreneurs need to continue to adapt and evolve.
What are the top three lessons you've learned as an entrepreneur?
- Building the right team for the business you’re in is critical to success.
- Culture is how employees act and behave — not what the CEO and executive teams say it is.
- Change is the only constant.
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GuideSpark enables employee communication experiences that drive change and deliver positive business outcomes for key programs and initiatives. GuideSpark Communicate Cloud is the only solution that combines campaigns, consumer content experiences, and analytics, enabling targeted, personalized communication journeys. Over 1,000 organizations and 22 million users have achieved their business outcomes with GuideSpark.