How 4 Colorado tech leaders found success going against the grain

by April Bohnert
March 28, 2018

To make a long-lasting impact in any industry, you have to take risks, and that often means approaching a problem in a way no one else has. As technology advances, we’re seeing more and more opportunities for entrepreneurs to buck the status quo and present truly disruptive ideas.

We asked four Colorado tech leaders why they decided to go against the grain and how those decisions have impacted their companies’ successes.

 

Thad Eby
Chief Executive Officer

Ombud's roots are in business intelligence and information access. Its decision management platform brings these technologies together to cut through the noise and empower proactive decision making. CEO Thad Eby explained how Ombud has evolved as a disruptor in the space.

 

How has Ombud taken a unique approach to a problem that faces your industry?

Ombud's decision management platform provides organizations with a single source of truth. It allows our clients to manage their information, collaborate across key stakeholders and leverage machine learning to streamline and accelerate operational efficiency. Content management platforms and traditional collaboration mediums — including email — are technologies we are focused on disrupting.

We've been able to study the best practices found within traditional technologies and reinvent them. Ombud's platform extends across both information capture and dissemination, allowing our clients to consolidate their technology stack while becoming more efficient and streamlined.

We had experience bringing technology categories to market, but we couldn't simply expect a rinse and repeat to serve as our game plan.”

Why did you decide to take this type of approach?

I wish we could point to a master plan that we dreamed up from years of research and high intellect. In truth, Ombud is the product of trial and error. We had experience bringing technology categories to market, but we couldn't simply expect a rinse and repeat to serve as our game plan. Our team has focused its efforts and energy on understanding our clients' needs while making them successful.

 

What role has technology played in your ability to innovate in this space?

We constantly evaluate new technologies and always litmus test the hype behind a trend. In fact, our development team prides itself on ripping apart our stack and rebuilding it when we find a better solution. To illustrate this, we dropped our entire front-end codebase and rebuilt on React.js four years ago, just as it was first introduced. We're currently innovating on nearly 20 years of rich editing patterns and bringing a completely new experience to market using Slate. We contribute not only to our client's productivity but to the open source community as well.

 

Rachel Carlson
CEO and Co-Founder

Guild Education is on a mission to help businesses help their employees thrive through educational opportunities. Its business model doesn’t just go against the grain of workforce education benefits; it’s creating a whole new standard. CEO and co-founder Rachel Carlson shared how Guild is reshaping the way companies today grow and retain their non-college educated workers.

 

How has your company taken a unique approach to a problem that faces your industry?

Guild offers the nation's leading education platform, specifically focused on helping employers offer education as a benefit to their frontline employees. We uniquely offer technology tools and a network of top universities, paired with an education platform that offers coaching and advising services for employees. These services help them find the right program to advance their education, ranging from high school completion and ESL courses all the way through bachelor's and master's degrees.

Guild has paved an important path to support the 64 million working adults in the U.S. who need to earn a college degree.”


Why did you decide to take this type of approach?

Prior to Guild, most employer-based education programs were specifically focused on white-collar workers — helping folks pay for MBAs, for example. Meanwhile, companies were noting the increasing importance of the college degree and the parallel challenges they were having in recruiting and retaining their non-college educated workforce.

Guild has paved an important path to support the 64 million working adults in the U.S. who need to earn a college degree or credential to survive and thrive in the economy of tomorrow, while helping their companies earn a positive ROI on the investment.


What role has technology played in your ability to innovate in this space?

Without online education, none of what Guild does would be possible. We are focused on establishing a new form of online experience that's specifically designed for working adults with busy schedules and limited financial resources. We’re both building that technology ourselves and partnering with best-in-class companies that offer products that support our students.

 

Shawn Owen
CEO and Co-Founder

Blockchain technology is the ultimate disrupter in today’s fintech ecosystem, and SALT Lending is proof. Through SALT’s platform, cryptocurrency owners can leverage their crypto-assets to secure blockchain-backed loans and obtain greater financial freedom. CEO and co-founder Shawn Owen explained how he and his co-founders are driven to change the world through global financial inclusion.
 

We are paving the way for current and future cryptocurrency holders to demonstrate pragmatic and profitable wealth-building strategies.”


How has your company taken a unique approach to a problem that faces your industry?

The growth of the crypto-ecosystem is inherently unique. Within the industry, volatility is what we are built to address and, frankly, what we thrive on. Fundamentally, companies like ours that are built on innovation are blazing a trail for others to follow. SALT Lending will be a leader in universal acceptance of multi-currency use. We are paving the way for current and future cryptocurrency holders to demonstrate pragmatic and profitable wealth-building strategies.


Why did you decide to go against the grain and take this type of approach?

There is a glaring pain point for holders of crypto-assets, which previously could not be addressed because traditional finance operations have no means to recognize the value of cryptocurrency. This revealed a tremendous opportunity to disrupt the way in which the market could access cash. Using blockchain technology, SALT Lending was established to enable borrowers worldwide to collateralize chosen assets in their crypto-portfolios in exchange for cash loans.


What role has technology played in your ability to innovate in this space?

Execution is 99 percent of success. Ideas don’t sell without market empathy, innovation and dedication to the cause. We have an ardent ambition for blockchain technology. Realizing the scalability for total financial inclusion has worldwide implications for wealth building and independence. Our blockchain-backed loans are an example of how blockchains are a disintermediating technology that supports global connectivity.

 

Jay Shah
Chief Executive Officer

Personal Capital combines technology with a human touch to help people gain control over their finances. Users are able to access all of their financial data from a single dashboard — as well as professional advice and financial planning tools. CEO Jay Shah shed some light on what makes Personal Capital so unique in the fintech space.

 

How has your company taken a unique approach to a problem that faces your industry?

We’re fundamentally changing the way consumers use technology to live their financial lives. Using our tools, they can get a clear understanding of where they stand and where they’re headed. Because our advisors are using the same tools as our clients, we’re able to provide a level of advice and planning that is much more holistic and personalized than what anyone else is doing.

In the end, it’s all about helping the customer. Their success leads to our success. Beyond just business metrics, though, helping those clients achieve their goals is incredibly gratifying work for us and makes Personal Capital a really fun and special place to work.

 

Why did you decide to take this type of approach?

Legacy financial services haven’t adapted to technological change. Many providers also operate on outdated models of commission and other transaction-oriented revenue, which creates incentives that don’t always align with what’s best for the customer.

When we drew up the blueprints for Personal Capital, we set out to correct both of those limitations. The first order of business was to bring together all of the customer’s financial information in one place and bring meaning to it. The second priority was to introduce a wealth management model that is aligned with what’s best for the consumer.

Technology allows us to put the customer at the center of everything we do.”

What role has technology played in your ability to innovate in this space?

Technology allows us to put the customer at the center of everything we do. From our dashboard — which gives users a snapshot of their entire financial lives — to our retirement planner and fee analyzer, we serve customers all their information so they can take full control of their finances. We show them if they’re diversified, what they’re paying in fees and whether they are on track to meet their financial goals. This 360-degree view also enables our advisors to provide financial advice that accounts for all the ever-changing variables in our customers’ lives.

 

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