David Chouinard is an evangelist for human connection. With technology enabling billions of people to connect to one another, David is interested in how we can empower people to build mutually beneficial human networks, to share ideas, skills and opportunities.
He has been in the trenches on both sides, engineering products at startups and gargantuan media companies alike. In his current role at Facebook’s Connectivity Lab, David is driven by the question “What does it mean to be connected to the world?”. His mandate is to go beyond the technology itself, to ignite the inherent human potential in connected networks.
In his upcoming ResolveTO talk, David will explore what it takes to build internal teams with the momentum, urgency and caliber of the world’s best startups.
David answers our five questions:
What are you working on right now that you are really excited about?
In my work on connectivity, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to empower underconnected people who aren’t integrated in a strong network, like the one here in Silicon Valley.
I’m working on a side project called Design Review, which is a first pass at this. It gives access to the top product designers for a one-hour design review session. Starting with that one vertical, I don’t know where this is going to go. But I think we really underestimate how many people don’t have access to that kind of network.
What was the pivotal moment or decision that set you on the path to your current career?
Early in my life, I was always the person carrying business cards. I was always this person who knew I wanted to make something significant. I learned software engineering because I knew it was skill with unprecedented leverage on the world. And seeing the impact I could have with building software set me on the path of working on connectivity — wanting to bring this power to more people.
If you could give one piece of advice to a tiny, freshly-minted startup, what would it be?
This is advice I know is well understood, but I constantly need to remind myself of it: focus everything you have on the next existential problem for your company… Focus, I think is the biggest asset for a startup and it’s just pervasively tempting to dilute it.
It’s overwhelming how many things there are to be busy on at an early phase company… There are so many things that need to get done and it’s just really easy to lose track of the big thing.
What can legacy organizations learn from startups to keep up with the fast pace of innovation required in today’s economy?
It’s amazing that startups ever work. Above anything else I think what startups have is urgency.
When designing teams in large organizations, we rob a lot of really high potential teams from the sense of urgency. That’s the biggest mistake we make. We take these people who are super qualified, add just the right environment and everything is perfect, and then we slide out the urgency part… There might be some diffused sense of urgency, but it’s important that it be be this personal sense of urgency.
What do you foresee as the biggest tech innovation to impact business in 2017?
We overestimate the impact of technology in the short run and underestimate it in the long run. It’s easy to tell you that 2017 is the year of VR or AI or some other exciting technology. But the answer is that it’s not.
I think the thing that will be really significant is e-commerce. Amazon is now finally bigger than all major retailers combined. It took a long time, but we’ve finally hit this inflection point. We’re going to see an explosion of direct-to-consumer models, big changes in physical retail and lots of interesting companies. We’ve predicted this for a long time, but when people stop paying attention is when the real action happens.
See David Chouinard’s ResolveTO talk Building world-class R&D teams on January 27 at 11:40 a.m. on the Keynote Stage.