Innovation Awards

Meet the Finalists: Tech Execs From Match Group, Solaris Technologies, K2View, and CrateBind

Contenders in the Innovation in Technology category share their thoughts on taking risks, grit, and "finding a better way."

Leading up to our second annual Innovation Awards event on Jan. 21, we’re sharing excerpts from interview Q&As with the 51 finalists, one category at a time. Today, we feature our four Innovation in Technology honorees.

For information on the virtual awards event, presented in partnership by D CEO and Dallas Innovates, click here. Tickets are just $20.

Andy Chen

Andy Chen

SVP of Innovation, Match Group 

ON INNOVATION: “Innovation stems from a culture of taking risks in a thoughtful and intentional way. It means making sure you have the best processes to focus on the right ideas, move quickly, iterate, and learn along the way. 

2020 HIGHLIGHTS:The global pandemic and social challenges shifted behaviors among singles, and as a company, we became laser-focused on helping people meaningfully connect through our products...In response [to singles quarantining at home], we immediately adjusted our product roadmaps to focus on using video technologies to create intimate live experiences for users to connect. We quickly rolled out these video experiences across many of our apps, including Ship, a new app we recently launched out of our internal accelerator that allows friends to be part of the dating journey. 

LESSON LEARNED: “[I have learned to] never stop learning. It is the single greatest advantage one can have for personal growth and career development. Pick up something new every day to stay competitive and to keep your edge in business.  

RATING DFW:North Texas is a world-class hub for innovation and entrepreneurship, and Match is proud to be part of a tech ecosystem that fosters incredible talent. Our region’s growth has been unmatched, from the number of corporate companies choosing to move their offices here to the number of tech startups launching and scaling their business. The student talent coming out of the programs at UTD, UNT, and SMU are staying in North Texas because of the high tech and startup opportunities that are being offered here like never before. We have the recipe for success and people across the country are beginning to take note. 

LOOKING AHEAD:Since I started working at Match Group more than a decade ago, online dating has moved from taboo to widely adopted in the US...As we look into the future, we are exploring how dating cultures around the world are beginning to understand the power of online dating to help people find love and meaningful connections. Every culture is different, and building innovative products to meet those needs excites our entire team. 

Aaron Fullen

Aaron Fullen

EVP of global sales, K2View 

ON INNOVATION: “Innovation is just a shiny euphemism for ‘finding a better way and finding a better way is the central narrative thread driving the plot line of human progress. Innovation isn’t a new concept. It’s something our species has been doing since we emerged, and it’s something we’ll continue to do as we face tomorrow’s challenges and opportunities. 

2020 HIGHLIGHTS: We’ve become such an integral part of our customers’ businesses that if we were to disappear overnight, they couldn’t operate stores, build or sell products, service customers or run a digital presence, but the innovation I think I’m proudest of this year is the way we’ve transformed our company culture. Even as we’ve grown our numbers substantially, we’ve made some intentional moves to make the company feel more like a family and give people a greater sense of belonging and mission...The fact that we found a better way against the backdrop of a global pandemic and a newly-remote global workforce makes it that much more special. 

LESSON LEARNED: The lesson it’s taken me longest to learn is to spend more time buttressing my strengths than remedying my weaknesses. I spent way too much time early in my career struggling to turn ineptitude into mediocrity. You’ll get a far better return on your investments of time and energy intentionally improving at something at which you’re already pretty good. It’s a big world. There are lots of people who are great at the things you’re bad at. Don’t try to become them; just hire them. 

RATING DFW: North Texas is and always has been a place where people continue to conjure up big, fevered dreams about what the future can be. As an area with world-class infrastructure, a highly educated workforce, and a political culture that understands that business and growth is at least part of the answer to most of the difficult problems facing us, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a better place to build your vision of the future than North Texas. 

LOOKING AHEAD:I’d have to say [I’m excited about] the coming revolution in genetic therapeutics. It’s possible that in my children’s lifetimes, we’ll see most cancers eliminated, heart disease and diabetes minimized as public health threats, and most gene-driven heritable diseases eradicated. Also, in their lifetimes, the word lifetime as a commonly understood colloquialism for roughly seventy-five years could have its definition lengthened significantly, maybe even doubled. 

There’s a passage in The Great Gatsby that’s always stuck with me. To paraphrase, there’s no difference among people as profound as that between the sick and the well. It excites me that in the future, we have a real chance to bring so many more of our fellow humans into the latter category. 

John Harlan

John Harlan 

CEO and co-founder, CrateBind 

ON INNOVATION: “Innovation is essentially taking something that currently exists and making it better and doing that over and over. Better can mean different things—more efficient, easier to use, more profitable, etc.” 

2020 HIGHLIGHTS: “I would consider our greatest recent innovation achievement to be our work with Roche Diagnostics... With Roche, we were given the opportunity to develop a gamifiede-learning platform that aims to educate pathologists around the world on the latest and greatest tools and technology to study diseases. I consider this our most innovative project of late because in today’s climate, being a part of furthering advancements in pathology, especially as it relates to Covid-19, feels incredibly rewarding and impactful. We are also collaborating with Roche to innovate surrounding its customer education and the education of the scientific community. Historically, Roche was traveling around the world doing live events and conferences, and COVID-19 has forced us to rethink how they can continue to provide medical education and promote scientific exchanges. This led us to build this platform that will bring those things into a single online tool. 

LESSON LEARNED: There is a great saying that reads: If you don’t have time to do it right, how are you going to have time to do it twice? It is easy as an entrepreneur or startup to feel like you need to be in a rush and that you are constantly behind. There is an urgency that is good, but it can be destructive. It is important to slow down just enough to do things the right way the first time. 

RATING DFW: “Although I do believe there are some good organizations in North Texas that promote innovation and growth, I believe there is a lot of room for improvement. If you compare the Dallas area to other cities such as Austin, Boulder, or San Francisco, Dallas falls short in several areas. First and foremost, the early-stage investment environment in Dallas is still very underdeveloped. We have walked hand-in-hand with dozens of startups as they have struggled to raise early-stage funding for their businesses, which has clearly stunted their potential for growth and innovation. Additionally, there are a few startup incubators in Dallas, but I believe additional investment and resources are needed to create truly effective programs. Right now, Dallas is a hard place for tech-based startups to gain traction and find the resources they need to survive and thrive, but I’m hopeful that can change in the near future. Amidst COVID-19 and its impact on our country, we’re seeing more tech and investment companies coming to Texas, and even Dallas; This could be the right spark to help North Texas grow in innovation and technology. 

LOOKING AHEAD: I am excited to see what our team accomplishes in the future... We have worked hard to build an excellent team, and I look forward to seeing how they raise the bar with the way we serve and innovate with our clients. 

Evelyn Torres-Gomez

Evelyn Torres-Gomez 

CEO, Solaris Technologies 

ON INNOVATION:Innovation means not doing the same thing as the pack. I like to think of innovation as a new way of thinking and doing. As we develop new products, our engineers and designers are consistently being pushed to think out of the norm. We want to create and look at things in a new light that may be controversial, never done before, or be nontraditional. 

2020 HIGHLIGHTS:When we patented our cabling design on our high-capacity mobile towers, it had not been done before.  One of the main reasons we believe [it hadn’t been done before] is that it is more expensive to manufacture however it is much safer for the installer. [Promoting safety] was reason enough for me to invest in new technology. This solved a major problem we had seen in the tower business for many years: towers collapsing due to cabling issues that caused death and destruction. I wanted to be part of the solution. 

LESSON LEARNED: “[I learned] it was going to be hardreal hard! Grit is something you must have in this business, not only because youre one of the firstwomen, Latinxs, single mothersbut because it is difficult to navigate growth, the pressure of success, and the grind to keep your company on the leading edge. Many people depend on you to be the person to lead and to lead well. 

RATING DFW:North Texas is a very large metroplex with so many large companies’ headquarters that small business is sometimes lost. There are few mentors, and if you want to succeed, you had better put on your bigboy pants and be ready to play hard. 

LOOKING AHEAD:I’m still as passionate as I was ten years ago about the mobile tower business. I see many opportunities, and my hope is to create a legacy for my family to be proud of and that other young girls can look to. There is room for us all to make a difference. We just need to put in the work. 

Click here for more information on The Innovation Awards.

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