scott-caseLast week, ACG members were privileged to host T. Scott Case, CEO of Startup America Partnership and the founding CTO of Priceline, as the featured speaker of the March monthly meeting.

Mr. Case is best known for his work at Priceline, an Internet travel service that has reached one billion dollars in annual sales. As CTO, he was responsible for building the technology required to achieve hyper-growth. Mr. Case was also named CEO of the Startup America Partnership, where he supported a national network of vibrant startup communities that helps maximize their success.

Mr. Case had some valuable advice for ACG audience members, particularly when it comes to achieving hyper-growth.

According to Case, companies that create the most jobs are high growth companies. “All the net job growth is from companies that are less than five years old. That’s it. So it’s companies that have the ambition to grow 20 percent year-over-year that drive job growth. So that’s what we were focused on.”

Based on his extensive experience, Mr. Case believes that there are two things to focus on if you’re looking for growth:

1. You Need Maniacs: Mr. Case is certain that maniacs – dedicated individuals who’ll wake up in the middle of the night to work on their projects – are necessary. “You need those people, and the challenge is that people “with ties” don’t want these maniacs. When you look at the growth curves of companies, when those maniacs leave, the growth starts to slow down. Why? Because maniacs are willing to try new things, blow stuff up, and are willing to fail at a very fast rate, which makes a lot of people really uncomfortable.”

Mr. Case does warn that there are two kinds of maniacs; self-aware maniacs who understand when they’re needed to grow the business, and dangerous maniacs; individuals who simply can’t control themselves.

2. An Underlying Wave: The second main component you would need if you’re looking for hyper-growth is an underlying wave; something you can’t control but that you can identify.

“We rode the underlying wave of the internet. When we were going to launch Priceline at the end of 1997, it was unclear whether the internet was going to be a big enough channel for our ambitions. It may seem strange today but that was our concern at the time.”

According to Mr. Case, identifying an underlying wave that you don’t control is key to fueling fast growth, as long as you take advantage of it. Mobile, for example, is an underlying wave. If you can combine the maniacs with the wave, you can achieve hyper-growth.

Before wrapping up the presentation with questions from the audience, Mr. Case had two key takeaways:

  1. A great way for big companies to tap into maniacs is to start engaging in the startup community. Mr. Case encouraged ACG members to start connecting with startups, which are increasingly being found in the National Capital region.
  2. When a wave generally starts, some people tend to create a catchy name or buzzword that sounds cool but ultimately means nothing. We’re now in the era of “big data”, and according to Case, “It means nothing as of right now because we’re so early in this thing. Yes, we’re generating a massive amount of data. Every card swipe, transaction, and every time you log in to your computer is recorded. The hard part and true opportunity is turning that data into insight that companies can act upon. All the data is here; it’s just figuring out what to do with it.”

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