Guest post by Isabelle Bettez, President and CEO of 8D Technologies, Inc. Bettez was a participant in MIT Sloan's Entrepreneurship Development Program in 2008. Her company, which she co-founded with her brother Jean-Sebastien Bettez, develops hardware and software that has formed the backbone of some of the most popular bike sharing systems worldwide. The Montreal-based company has received numerous awards for its solution; most recently the company was awarded the 2017 Mercuriades award for web and mobile technology development.
As a busy executive of a startup technology company, it's "easy" to say there's simply not enough time to invest in professional development programs that take me out of the office, away from my team, and away from customer engagements. But as an alumna of the renowned Marketing and International Management programs at Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commercials (HEC) in Montreal, I understand the value of continuing to learn about new strategies and techniques that can help grow our company. That's why I decided to continue my learning through MIT Sloan’s Entrepreneurship Development Program (EDP).
I was intrigued by the opportunity to learn from peers, particularly individuals who had achieved the level of success I envisioned for myself and the team at 8D. The week in Boston, which drew entrepreneurs and leaders from around the world, was an unbelievable experience. One aspect of the program was building a project with a very diversified group of people from different cultures; that was both a surprising and enriching experience. Since then, we have deployed 8D's solutions on four continents, and the takeaways from that week were extremely useful in getting to where we are today.
What I learned there many years ago still plays a role in what I do. For example, in one of the EDP workshops, we talked about focus. Prior to that week in Boston, I thought our company was "focused"; EDP showed me that we could do better. That particular workshop was on a Saturday, and on the next Monday our team at 8D started working on "deselecting" some of our clients so that we could really focus on our core business.
What I learned from EDP about focus, and the actions we took as a result of those learnings, put us in a position to take advantage of the bike share opportunity, a market 8D was not addressing at the time. We quickly realized the opportunity was tremendous. In less than one year, we developed a bike share solution based on the same platform we used to develop our solar-based wireless POS payment parking solution. What I learned at EDP about focus enabled us to organize the company, realize the timing was right, and seize the opportunity in the bike share market. Since we entered this market, our technology has resulted in over 10 million+ payment transactions annually, 105 million bike share trips, 4,000+ terminals deployed and 40,000 bikes supported worldwide. This is where we have seen our most important growth as a company.
What turned out to be a small investment--spending a few days on the MIT campus to learn more about entrepreneurship--manifested itself into the opportunity to seize an emerging, and nearly limitless market. In my view, that's a tremendous ROI.