Recently the buzz around blockchain and NFTs has been revived – and many are touting innovations in the crypto space as enabling the creator economy. And yet, on the enterprise side, it continues to flounder. So one of the big topics we’ll focus on for this podcast is: How can this technology better solve business problems for other industries? And how can CIOs get educated on the opportunities that blockchain provides?
On today’s episode of Mayfield’s CXO of the Future podcast, Richard Entrup shares his leadership philosophy, provides advice for early-stage companies, and helps demystify the blockchain.
Listen to the podcast here:
Richard has one of the most amazing CIO backgrounds – he has led technology, innovation, and digital transformation programs at many prominent global brands including Verizon, Christie’s, Disney/ABC, Time Warner, The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Viacom, and Tiffany & Company. He has also served as CTO at several healthcare companies and a major international law firm, with documented success aligning technology investments to strategic initiatives. Richard was most recently Managing Director, 5G & Edge Innovation at Verizon Business Group, where he was focused on helping enterprise clients explore the art of the possible to fully leverage 5G, edge computing, and emerging technology in support of digital transformation and innovation.
Prior to Verizon, Richard was the Global CIO/CDO at Christie’s, where he envisioned and executed a major digital transformation program which included many firsts in the art tech space such as the first blockchain-based auction, a virtual AR hangout app, predictive analytics and computer vision apps using AI/ML, online mobile bidding during a live auction, and in 2018, helped launched the inaugural Christie’s Art & Tech Conference, which was focused on Blockchain (and where NFTs were first announced to the traditional art world). Richard also serves as a CIO Mentor to students in the Executive M.S. in Technology Management Program at Columbia University, a Startup Mentor for leAD, the Sports Startup Accelerator, and is a trusted advisor to the venture capital community as a CIO Advisory Board member for Mayfield, and a variety of other firms.
Richard started his career working at a systems integrator. It was a rich training ground and provided him with a great purview of all things technology.
“I’ve had the opportunity to work for some amazing brands, and I’ve been able to join new industries without having prior experience in those domains. I think it’s 80/20. I think 80 percent of it is that technology is applicable to any industry or vertical. That 20 percent is the nuance. I guess my superpower might be my ability to learn the industry, the domain, the jargon and apply technology to it. I’ve navigated various types of industries and companies, from non-profits to startups all the way up to, most recently, Verizon. And, as I said, 80 percent of the dynamics and the opportunity for a technologist to be effective and successful are the same as it relates to operations and end development and all the traditional IT disciplines. 20 percent is where the senior IT leader needs to focus and get up to speed quickly and network within that industry and really tune yourself to be effective.”
Building Credibility: Advice for CIOs
Richard became practiced in building credibility as he took on CIO roles in new organizations across a variety of industries.
“I believe networking externally is probably a lot easier than networking internally. You’re dealing with going into a new organization, with people that may have wanted the role you just took.”
The same tenets apply for networking: building trust, being accountable, saying what you’re going to do and doing it. Building relationships with peers, or with the senior leadership team and even your board can help get some quick wins early on to demonstrate your capability and demonstrate you can get in there quickly. A certain level of high EQ is required for this, but you also need credibility and trust.
Richard believes you need to be aware of your own quirks and perks – what you know and what motivates you – before you can effectively lead teams towards common objectives. But leadership is more challenging now than ever before. The pandemic has humanized the dynamic. People are less interested or impressed by titles and levels and are working much more closely together. They are looking into each other’s homes every day with kids and dogs in the background. It has forced leaders to be more compassionate, and empathetic, and take the time to really connect with everyone at all levels (when perhaps they didn’t before), even though in prior times everyone was physically present with each other.
Other Tenants of Success
When you are going into an organization fresh, you’ve got to identify the developmental opportunities for your existing direct report leadership team.
Give folks the opportunity to step up to your expectations for how you envision the organization moving forward and give them a real opportunity to step up to those roles.
A good hybrid mix of existing staff plus new leaders is most effective. You can’t go in and quickly replace everyone, but you need some fresh mindsets and perspectives.
Lead from the front — demonstrate the actions and behavior expected by showing it. Leading by example is critical for success so people can see what’s expected of them. I think the legacy, top-down management style is long gone.
Let people fly, let them fail. Give them direction, the objective and the strategy, but don’t tell them how to do it. Let them navigate it and coach along the way. I believe the old adage: ‘Don’t hire smart people and tell them what to do. Hire them and let them tell you what to do or how to do it.’ You want the people below you to be stronger than you. You want them backfilling and augmenting your shortcomings so that it’s a well-balanced organization.
Driving Innovation Effectively
Richard believes that driving innovation needs to be about solving business problems and not about trying to fit in a technology for whatever reason.
“When I was at Christie’s in 2018, we did blockchain when it was an emerging technology. Our goal was to attract new audiences to the art world. We had an art and tech conference in London, and the focus was blockchain and AI art. There were people in the audience that would never step foot in Christie’s because the physical art world is not very approachable to outsiders. West Coast technology folks who liked tech and were just entering the art world. We were also trying to better validate the provenance of the art. At the same time, the digital art movement was growing.”
The term NFT was first announced at that tech conference. NFTs are the use case for blockchain as it relates to digital art and the ability to create it and then sell it. And then after it’s sold, the first time the artist can get multiple sales on the secondary market.
On Blockchain Getting the Attention it Deserves
Richard thinks that in the next 5-10 years every digital asset, be it insurance contracts, real estate deeds, anything where there’s a contract required between parties, there will be an opportunity for blockchain’s distributed ledger to store it.
“Every brand should be looking at this to either digitize their content, their product, their films, their music, their talent. Anything can be tokenized and it’s a new revenue opportunity. It’s a new engagement opportunity and new conversion to physical commerce – so you need to figure it out as a CIO. If you don’t have the digital hat, then someone else needs to. Or, if you’ve traditionally been the ops guy keeping the data center running, maybe this is the opportunity to dive in and bring some nontraditional IT operational value to your organization by partnering with the CMO, your brand people, your product people. This is a business opportunity, not a technology one.”
Working with Startups
Richard quotes his dear friend Clayton Christensen:
“You’ve got to be solving something for somebody. Startups need to identify those companies and the executives within the organization that they want to partner with, and really have a great business case, have a great pitch deck, and try to identify how that company potentially could leverage their technology or product to support what they’re trying to accomplish. Most large companies have accelerators and incubators. I encourage them to leave start-ups alone. They want to have that autonomy and freedom to develop their product. So, I think it’s a little bit of coaching and advising, and a little less trying to control and assimilate them.”
It’s more important to fail at something that matters than to succeed at something that doesn’t.
The bigger the goal you set, the more likely you will succeed. I’ve witnessed that with the 5G expansion at Verizon. Hans Vestberg, the CEO, really pushed the envelope on 5G. When you have that personal passion as a leader, the troops will follow.
What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. This is the title of Marshall Goldsmith’s book that I’ve recommended to everyone I coach and everyone I’ve managed–executive developer up to CEO and CIO. You can’t rest on your laurels because all your success in the past does not necessarily mean you’ll be successful moving forward. You need to constantly reinvent yourself, stay in touch with the zeitgeist, and always explore how you can challenge yourself to provide value to your organization.
Richard Entrup has led technology, innovation, and digital transformation programs at many prominent global brands including Verizon, Christie’s, Disney/ABC, Time Warner, The Museum of Modern Art, Viacom, and Tiffany & Company. He has also served as CIO at several healthcare companies and a major international law firm, with documented success aligning technology investments to strategic initiatives.
Richard was most recently Managing Director, 5G & Edge Innovation at Verizon Business Group, where he was focused on helping enterprise clients explore the art of the possible to fully leverage 5G, edge computing, and emerging technology in support of digital transformation and innovation. Prior to Verizon, Richard was the Global CIO/CDO at Christie’s, where he visioned and executed a major digital transformation program which included many art tech firsts such as the first blockchain-based auction, an augmented reality virtual hang app, predictive analytics and computer vision apps using AI/ML, online mobile bidding during a live auction, and in 2018, helped launched the inaugural Christie’s Art & Tech Conference, which was focused on Blockchain and AI and where NFTs were first introduced to the traditional art world.
Richard also serves as a CIO Mentor to students in the Executive Masters in Technology Management Program at Columbia University, a Startup Mentor for leAD Sports Startup Accelerator, and is a trusted advisor to the venture capital community as a CIO Advisory Board member for Greylock Partners, Lightspeed Venture Partners, the Mayfield Fund, and HMG Strategy. Richard is also a Strategic Advisor at House of First, an NFT platform for artists, Advisor and Investor at ClubNFT, a backup and search tool for NFT collectors, Advisor at Edge Video, an AI/Computer Vision/Edge video player, and Advisor at InfoSec Global, a leader and pioneer in cryptographic agility management solutions.