September 30, 2015
DC-based social sharing and analytics company AddThis knows the importance of having a strong Board of Directors–compiled of members who share their values and goals as a company. Their Board of Directors recently grew a bit stronger with the addition of Matt Calkins, CEO of Appian.
Calkins started Appian Corporation in 1999 at the age of 26. For those who aren't familiar, the Arlington-based company provides business process management and case management software (among other tools) to businesses to help them be more effective at making decisions and driving business. Aside from running Appian, Calkins is also an award winning board game inventor (and enthusiast). His game Sekigahara won “Wargame of the Year”finished 3rd overall in the 2012 World Boardgaming Championships. Oh, he's also a huge data nerd.
AddThis recently shared a Q&A with Calkins on their blog where he shared his perspective on the future of the internet, as well as his favorite biography. Here's a snippet from that interview:
Q: Where do you see the internet going now?
A: We are in the midst of the greatest oversupply of information available to mankind, and yet most of us aren’t necessarily making better or more informed decisions. It’s as though a wave of information has splashed all over us, and yet we don’t feel informed.
This issue is multiplied at a corporate or brand level, and I think AddThis can help by leveraging its incredible dataset to help companies be more relevant to their consumers.
Personalization is absolutely where the industry needs to go next, and AddThis is in a position to help all of us feel more informed.
Q: What role do you play on the board?
A: My greatest focus is on helping to define value propositions and around personnel. These are the areas I work on every day at Appian — talking to customers, and making sure we are delivering value to them.
I also interview everyone we bring on board, despite Appian now having more than 500 people, because I so much believe that great companies are made of great people.
I look for people who who have exceptional unusual talent, and who are also naturally harmonious and generous with their peers. People who’d be willing and able to step up to solving problems. I think AddThis has a lot of these types of people!
Q: I know you enjoy biographies — what do you think is the most relevant biography you’ve read that would apply to AddThis?
A: Alfred P Sloan. My Years at General Motors. This book describes the early years at GM, when it wasn’t clear if you should cool your engine with water or with air. Or whether to run a company with a board or a CEO. Or whether or not to have a common parts supplier.
Sloan wrestled with the kind of formative questions that we wrestle with in the software industry today, except our questions are around showing value and monetizing data. When you are creating value in virgin territory, you have to invent unintuitive things — Sloan’s biography is a fascinating read for people in markets that are in need of invention, not just leadership.
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