Highlights From The Fast Company Grill’s Most Innovative Companies Fast Talk

By KC Ifeanyi

Fast Company‘s 8th annual Fast Company Grill kicked off in Austin with a conversation featuring honorees from the Most Innovative Companies of 2018. Here are some highlights from Lisa Pike Sheehy, vice president of environmental activism at Patagonia; Dakota Smith, head of growth and business at Hopper; and Tina Chen, product design manager at Slack explaining how their companies are innovating to keep their customers–and employees–first.

How Giving Back Is Paying Off For Patagonia

“After the [2016] election, like a lot of people, we were very concerned. We knew threats to the environment were at an all-time high. We were asking ourselves as a company, ‘What more can we do to fulfill that mission statement and to be of value to our customers, our own employees, and the environmental grassroots organizations working in the trenches?’ And our owner and founder Yvon Chouinard has a famous saying: Action is the best cure for depression. Out of that, the employees said, ‘What about on Black Friday we give it all away?’ All year long Patagonia gives 1% [of sales] away to grassroots environmental organizations worldwide. In addition to the 1%, let’s take Black Friday sales worldwide and create a war chest and in turn give it all to grassroots organizations. Typically we do about $2 to $3 million on that day–it’s not a big day for us. We are almost an anti-Black Friday brand. We don’t promote it. We don’t have discounts. But we were blown away by the results: We did five times in sales what we normally do. So in one day we raised $10 million and we were able to give that all away.” — Lisa Pike Sheehy

Why Hopper Has Grown From Thinking Small

“Our competitors in that market, Priceline, Expedia, those are huge companies that spend quite a bit of money on marketing. We’re a startup trying to capture market share in that space and that’s difficult. So that’s one of the reasons we decided to be mobile-only. We see today that [our competitors are] very focused on their websites. And that’s caused them to think like a website, which is to try and maximize conversion in a single session to get the users now. So you see them spending their money in places like Google Adwords because they need very high-intent users and they need them to come in and make a booking today. At Hopper every month we spend one-thousandth of what they spend but we actually get more installs than either Priceline or Expedia. And that’s only possible because we’re focused on mobile. And instead of finding users with super high intent ready to book today, we take a longer-term lifetime view of that user by finding users who are just browsing around today–who are months away from making a purchasing decision because we can predict the future price and guide them to what they should buy.” — Dakota Smith

How Slack Is Practicing What They Preach

“You want to feel like you’re doing your very best work and you want your tools to support you. That feeling, which boils down to a lot of different features and a lot of the nuances we do, is the reason why people love using Slack. The culture of the brand and the values go all the way down. A lot of the ways we treat customers are the ways we treat each other. It’s a really open, collaborative place. We really value diversity. I’ve done a lot of hiring over the last two and a half years and so many people come to Slack because they’re like, ‘I heard it’s a place where diversity is really valued. It’s not just something you talk about–it’s something you see.’ I joined Slack because in my first interview I was like, ‘Wow, there are some really awesome powerful women at this company, which I don’t see in a lot of interviews.’ I think that’s a lot of the reasons people want to work at Slack because it really is that feeling of the people who make the product are reflecting the product itself.” — Tina Chen


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