Lightspeed CEO Dax Dasilva shares 3 strategies for cultivating innovation

Dax Dasilva / October 2019

The way people shop and dine is constantly evolving, and staying competitive requires real innovation. In this installment of Big Thinkers, Dax Dasilva, founder and CEO of Lightspeed and author of Age of Union: Igniting the Changemaker, shares how Lightspeed became the world’s most advanced cloud-based point-of-sale (POS) software solution for independent retailers and restaurateurs. He offers strategies for embracing innovation and new technologies to stay ahead of competitors.

I started Lightspeed in 2005 to give independent retailers and restaurants more control over the technology driving their businesses. Since then, the way people shop and dine has evolved rapidly. Now, we use the internet to search for products and available inventory, or look up store hours and locations when we want to try something on. Consumers are now omnichannel shoppers — digital and physical. It’s a huge trend, and it’s only the beginning.

Online search has changed the way people shop, and Lightspeed helps merchants cater to this shift in consumer behaviour. Traditionally, salespeople would be going up-and-down streets selling products worth thousands of dollars. That business model doesn’t work when you’re selling a $100 a month cloud service. You need to find potential merchants digitally because that’s where they’re searching for products to run their operations, and Google has been able to help Lightspeed find and reach the merchants that are the right fit for us.

Real innovation requires flexibility, new perspectives, and the willingness to reinvent yourself when necessary.

Today, Lightspeed operates in more than 100 countries with 51,000 customer locations on the platform. Earlier this year, the company went public with a $1.4 billion valuation — the biggest Canadian tech IPO in almost nine years. We are where we are today because we followed consumer trends, made the move to the cloud and embraced innovation and diversity. But real innovation requires flexibility, multiple perspectives and the willingness to reinvent yourself when necessary.

Here are three ways you can create a culture of innovation within your company.

How to create a culture of innovation

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Be flexible and move with your customer

Over the years, we’ve had to evolve Lightspeed’s software products to adapt to the constantly-evolving consumer. Lightspeed now helps small businesses stay competitive by bringing them into the cloud. The cloud connects them to a world of web applications and services like accounting systems, loyalty programs, reservations and delivery systems, and analytical toolkits. By having a point-of-sale (POS) system in the cloud, merchants can offer consumers a truly omnichannel experience. The in-store experiences can extend online through delivery and reservations, or online shopping. Through the cloud, brick-and-mortar retailers become fully data-driven, omnichannel businesses and are able to compete at a greater scale.

When you create seats at the table for people with different perspectives, you get innovative solutions.

Bring in a range of new perspectives

Lightspeed was founded on principles of diversity and inclusion. We’re a Canadian company, and no country does diversity better than Canada. When you create seats at the table for people with different perspectives, you get innovative solutions.

We’re a big team with employees all over the world, and we’re in high-growth mode. I spend my days talking to the different people driving the business, from managers to software developers. You need to bring together perspectives from within your company but also from your partners, customers, and even suppliers. All stakeholders can play a part in understanding what the future’s going to look like for your business.

I wrote my book Age of Union because there are so many business books on leadership, but we need books that explore what it means to build businesses in a time when consumers want companies that are meaningful contributors to the future.

Evaluate and reinvent when necessary

Your business model needs to be flexible enough to shift with industry trends, while also having a solid business plan to help measure success. If you’re six months or a year in and find you’re far from your targets, you’ll know it’s time to change the business or pivot the revenue model. You can have the most brilliant startup idea, but a business is a business — it must generate revenue.

Business plans can get lost in the startup world. When we launched Lightspeed, we were forced to write a business plan and clarify our ideas right in a spreadsheet. We broke down what we needed to spend on salespeople, support people and developers, and we tracked so close to it that it shocked us. We’re still serving that same core customer today. It was more than a plan — it blazed our path.

Innovation starts within your company, but your products need to innovate too. Solve a problem that’s so valuable people want to pay for the solution. See beyond what’s needed today and form an understanding of what merchants, businesses, and consumers are going to need in the future. If you can do this, while remaining flexible and open to new perspectives, you can blaze your own path to the future.

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