How is change accomplished? Do we need a Silicon Valley? And how do we find digital thought leaders? The DUB Roundtable with DocuSign Chairman and Silicon Valley entrepreneur legend Keith Krach provides answers.
It does not take long. Keith Krach quickly enthralls the participants of the DUB roundtables. His sound is typically American. His style: professional, charismatic, jovial. His answers to the questions of DUB editor Jens de Buhr, chief editor Thomas Eilrich, and a dozen invited CEOs and managers: enriching.
DUB UNTERNEHMER-Magazin: What does one need in order to achieve successful economic, political, and social transformation?
Keith Krach: Governments need a Chief Digital Officer – a CDO – to support the digital transformation process. In the big companies, digital transformation is often the strategic initiatives number one and two. A government CDO would narrow the gap between politics and the economy, which is absolutely necessary. The digital world is a world that works according to other principles, and it is of particular importance to us in the USA. Digital change has no political boundaries. It offers great opportunities for us and the entire global economy.
What are the key challenges in digital transformation?
Krach: The digital transformation is currently taking place across all industries at a steadily increasing pace. And not only that, we are seeing change in general everywhere – prompted by the digital transformation. What we do at DocuSign is the logical first step, digital transformation of an obsolete process. In order for digital transformation to work, however, it must begin at the top of the organization. The real challenge is the cultural aspect of change. The strongest word in any language is “change” because without change, we can not grow and develop. But people are afraid of change.
Does Germany need a centralized digital tech center like Silicon Valley?
Krach: Germany has always had great technologies on the market. And in terms of work ethic, I would say the Germans are right in front. Does Germany therefore need a central location for tech companies? I do not believe so. It is enough to look at the strength of individual locations like Munich, Stuttgart, Hamburg or Berlin. It will be interesting to see, in Berlin for example, how the tech industry continues to grow. Young people want to go there, so these are certainly the cities of the future. It is crucial to create opportunities and places for young entrepreneurs to absorb knowledge from experienced company executives. The most important advice on building new companies can not be found in books. Another great characteristic of a central location like Silicon Valley is that it has become the norm to take risks. In Silicon Valley, you haven’t made it if you haven’t founded a company that’s failed. A failed company is like an honorary medal. You have to take risks, change, or you do not survive.
How would you characterize Silicon Valley and its spirit?
Krach: Silicon Valley is a place of unrivaled capitalism. It’s a place that attracts some of the best talent from all over the world; A place where dreams can become reality. It also has cultivated a pay-it-forward mentality. One of the keys in the Valley is that companies based there, such as HP, Fairchild, or Intel, and their executives, pass on lessons to the next generation and support young entrepreneurs and their ideas. This is a central component of the co-existence there, more than anything else. Let’s call it the self-sustaining concept of Silicon Valley.
How do companies in the “war for digital talents” win the right employees for themselves?
Krach: The “war for talents” is a big challenge for all companies. We always say that the company with the best employees wins. To find the best talents, DocuSign positions itself as contributing to a good cause. This goes beyond the financial aspect, people work with us to make good things. DocuSign influences how people live, how businesses are handled, and how we help the environment by saving paper. Another way to attract digital talent is to create a safe environment that promotes innovation. We have five team principles, the first is direct and honest communication. It is extremely important to always present the truth. I am not bothered by errors as long as someone immediately and directly says there is an issue. Another principle is that no idea is a bad idea. Even the craziest idea can inspire a new idea. Therefore, it is important to create a secure environment where employees feel comfortable communicating ideas. A third principle is to always create your own standards. For your products, your employees, and your predictions. The fourth point is simply fun. Employees like to work with a company when it’s fun. We create a challenging environment and take risks, but we can still laugh at ourselves. The common goal is always customer success. Transparency and visibility is the fifth and final key to win young talents.