CTO Sessions: Jonas Blanck, GetAccept

What type of CTO are you? "The visionary type with a strong business acumen who thinks that good salesmanship is an art form, while programming is not."

Name: Jonas Blanck

Company: GetAccept

Job title: CTO & Co-founder

Date started current role: 2016

Location: San Francisco, California

Jonas Blanck is CTO and Co-founder of GetAccept where he is responsible for the company's technology vision and execution. Prior to founding GetAccept in 2016, Blanck experienced two exits in the tech and media landscape and spent several years in digital marketing. In his spare time, he builds autonomous robots and runs a makerspace to introduce new technology to kids.

What was your first job? My first job was as a software engineer at a big technology company in Sweden. I received a summer internship with a three-month project plan to develop a new module in the software. I finished the job in 3 weeks and relaxed and enjoyed the rest of the summer. Working in a dev department with over 80 people and very little output made me realise that software development is not a numbers game.

Did you always want to work in IT? I've always wanted to work with product and user experiences and help people become more efficient in what they do. IT just became a choice because it was easy to scale fast and at a low cost. I found it very easy to learn new things quickly.

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? I started out studying software engineering but early on I felt that it required too much focus on structure and writing good code rather than focusing on actually making good products. After a few months, I switched to industrial design and product development. I studied that for about two years and quit after reading that entrepreneurs are big risk takers. Working was a risk I was willing to take.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. I started my career as a support technician at a marketing company and became CTO after about a year. I realised that I had visionary qualities as an engineer and could inspire teams, but had — and still have — a hard time managing teams and people.

What type of CTO are you? The visionary type with a strong business acumen who thinks that good salesmanship is an art form, while programming is not.

Which emerging technology are you most excited about the prospect of? When I got my first neural network to work successfully, it really got my jaw dropping. I'm very excited to inspire others in technology — it's amazing how fast this technology is becoming available to the masses.

Are there any technologies which you think are overhyped? Why? Too much tech today is overhyped and I'm surprised that people are so easily taken by buzzwords. VR is a good example, where we are sold the vision that we'll one day walk around with bulky headsets with no real purpose.

Blockchain gets a lot of hype because of its security proposition but people tend to forget that the biggest modern-day money heist was related to Bitcoin. People forget that hackers can also — and will — find holes in Blockchain.

What is one unique initiative that you've employed over the last 12 months that you're really proud of? I try to involve all departments at the company in "innovation weeks" where we try to think outside the box (and outside the roadmap) to come up with crazy and creative ways to make our product better. I'm very inspired by a Chinese tech company called Xiaomi and their continuous innovation — and would be proud to see us follow that direction.

Are you leading a digital transformation? If so, does it emphasise customer experience and revenue growth or operational efficiency? If both, how do you balance the two? We focus a lot of our resources on customer experience since we are strong believers that will drive revenue and growth in the end. Internal efficiency is also something that we are currently looking into as we've grown the organisation from 20 to 80 people in just a year.

What is the biggest issue that you're helping customers with at the moment? I try to help our customers become more efficient and work faster by using our software. Contrary to many investors' point of view, less time spent using software means the software is efficient.

How do you align your technology use to meet business goals? I like to incorporate automation where it makes sense and strongly advocate for short, concise internal communication over long emails. Most of the productivity tools today actually make us less productive at work, adding unnecessary workflows and involving too many people working on simple tasks.

Do you have any trouble matching product/service strategy with tech strategy? No, we work very close together between product and tech teams and prioritise resources based on current market trends and individual needs for each region. In my role, it's important to take a step back and find a good balance.

What makes an effective tech strategy? An effective tech strategy is probably one where you keep things simple and don't overthink — and document the simplest things.

What predictions do you have for the role of the CTO in the future? As more companies become tech companies, the CTO will take on the role of CEO. A strong technical understanding and background will be key to both startups and established companies.

What has been your greatest career achievement? Helping and inspiring my team to build their careers.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? I should have sold equity in one of my early startups when I had a chance. I shouldn't have trusted and worked so hard for leaders who in the end wouldn't stand up for me.

What are you reading now? I don't read and have mild dyslexia. Colleagues make fun of me for not reading long emails but I actually find it very difficult and have worked hard to learn speed-reading code instead of books.

Most people don't know that I… I have lived in four continents in four years and slept an average of four hours every night since university.

In my spare time, I like to…Build robots and autonomous vehicles. I'm currently working on a solar-powered autonomous catamaran using electric motors and navigating with computer vision.

Ask me to do anything but… Sleep. I have found a way to stay sharp and active with less than 4 hours of sleep every day. The only time I get sleepy and yawn is when I sleep more than this.