Lessons from a tech CEO on taking risks with marketing: B-to-B CMO Spotlight

Written by
Drew Neisser

Mar 8, 2019

Mar 8, 2019 • Author: Drew Neisser

Hire the right team and get out of their way

Ask successful chief marketing officers how they were able to take the requisite risks to truly differentiate their marketing activities and 99 percent will credit having the trust of their CEO. This isn't false humility or blatant brownnosing, it's just an obvious reality. If the CEO doesn't cultivate a culture of risk taking, few risks will be taken. One CEO who totally gets this dynamic is Louay Eldada, the founder of four successful tech startups.

Eldada's current company, Quanergy, is a leading provider of lidar, a laser-based sensor that he describes as "the eyes of a machine." Lidar can be used in drones, emergency vehicles, virtual "walls" for border security and even flying cars. In our interview below, learn Eldada's approach to marketing, leadership, risk taking and how lidar will be used to guide a flying car to light the 2020 Olympic flame.

What are your expectations of your marketing team?

They identify market needs, but they also have to prioritize, and they have to manage the funnel. So, I evaluate them on their ability to do all of the above efficiently and effectively. But additionally, I tell my employees: every single one of us is a marketing person. Every employee who represents the company is the marketing of the company. Anything that any of our employees say about the company, represents the company. It should have marketing value and should generate excitement about our products.

Where has your marketing been especially successful?

As Steve Jobs would say, "let me tell you what you need." So, we're doing that in areas like autonomous vehicles, border security, industrial automation, 3D mapping, robots, and drones. We're saying, "Let us tell you and show you what you need." We let them watch it, observe it, see it, experience it and then it sells itself at that point. We absorb the cost of the pilot. We let the customers experience the solution and that's the most effective way to market it and to show the value.

Do you have some advice you could share with other fast-growing companies?

I've learned a lot over the last couple of decades in my four startups. The most important thing is the hiring. Hire the right team. Hire the right team and give them direction but get out of their way. If you hire the right people and you empower them, you have an army of a few hundred people who all can do what you can do and can be just as effective. A simple way to say it: A group of two hundred brains that are all capable is a lot more effective than one brain that controls 200 people as if they were puppets.

What's your attitude toward risk taking?

If you don't run into things that don't work, you're not trying hard enough. It means you're being too conservative and too timid in your efforts. If it doesn't work well, maybe it is one of those things that is not feasible, that no one can do. But it's certainly worth trying if you can. And a very important part of the culture in the company is that failure is OK. Bad news is okay. I mean, when the employees feel like they can take a risk and there are no severe consequences, they get so much more innovative and creative.

I heard there's going to be a flying car at the 2020 Olympics. What tech are you bringing to this big event?

We're bringing an accurate navigation. As you can imagine, a flying car that will actually be carrying the Olympic torch and lighting the Olympic cauldron in the Olympic Stadium at the opening ceremony of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, has to be very precise. You don't want that to not go well.

As a Jetsons fan, I can't wait for a flying car. How quickly do you think they'll be commercialized?

I strongly believe we're going to see flying cars before we see fully autonomous vehicles on the road. Fully autonomous vehicles on the road are a lot more difficult than flying cars. They have to deal with chaos. They have to deal with pedestrians, people on the road that might cross the street where they're not supposed to, cars that might run a red light and so on. Flying cars have no people in their way. And those who follow software-defined virtual lanes in the sky, are much safer, much easier to actually make happen than then fully autonomous vehicles on the road.

I'd imagine that lidar could be also be applied to border security, right?

It is. It's more effective and lower cost as border security [than a wall]. And you don't have a physical barrier that really disturbs the environment. It really solves the problem without creating one. We have had an installation In Del Rio, Texas, which we have shown it to politicians— Republicans and Democrats— everyone likes it. If the goal is to prohibit people who are not allowed to cross the border from crossing it, let us solve that—don't tell us to build a physical wall. We're in the United States of America. We have Silicon Valley. We have the center of innovation on planet Earth. Let's use it.