Jack Schulze: Entrepreneurship Is Art
Along with the advancement of technology, the border between design and business has gotten blur. There are so many things for business people to learn from designers. Let's remove the border and go beyond.
Jack Schulze: Entrepreneur, Designer
Jack Schulze is the co-founder of Ottica and BERG, a design consultancy based in UK. His most recent work at Ottica is on Project Soli for Google. He obtained his MA from the Royal College of Art in 2006, where he worked on physical products connected to the web and new behaviours for mobile phones. He is a world-class profound and conceptual thinker.
-----For those who are not familiar with you, let us know more about you. How did you start BERG and what was the moment that you determined to pursue it?
I founded BERG with Matt Webb and Matt Jones. We decided to pursue it as a means of producing culturally relevant work in the technology sector. We also realised that the most significant artefacts of our age were connected products, and amongst them, those that included media the most powerful of all. We became determined that we should make our own piece of connected consumer electronics, manufacture and sell it.
-----You had entrepreneurial experiences before BERG. What has cultivated your entrepreneurship mindset?
Entrepreneurship was a necessity. There are no business models for small companies manufacturing consumer electronics in North London. Mostly business is a flat, dull and uninventive pursuit by people in companies waiting for Californians to eat their breakfast and kill their markets. Experimental business models were all we had.
-----When you founded the company, BERG, what was the most difficult and challenging thing and how did you overcome it?
Because we were unfunded, we had to overcome the costs of a brand new product to manufacture by bootstrapping the development to our consulting business. This creates a duality in motivations for the business which is very difficult to maintain. We managed it through solid internal communications and by billing very well in our consulting. Secondly, we lost quite a few core staff to Apple, which is hard too. Hiring is hard when you are small.
-----How do your entrepreneurship spirit and artistic mind work together?
I’m not sure there is really a separation. I regard most of the artistic or creative pursuit as the core value that the business leverages for income and sales. So there is no entrepreneurship without the art. In some sense, design can be understood as a hybrid between entrepreneurial activity and artistic aims.
-----What would be the skill-set that would help artists to gain more business opportunities?
Understand tax law, runways, P&L and know your worth when engaging business relationships. Especially with large companies. Ironically, traditional artists are under absolutely no illusion that they are part of a very lucrative market. It’s only the technology sector that artists resist commerce.
-----What is the viewpoint or perspective that artists have but business people do not have? How business people can apply that perspective to business?
Business people cannot apply artistic instincts, because they don’t have them. The best thing they can do is put power in the hands of people with a cultural understanding. But they rarely do. Consequently, the best place for artistic or creative endeavour in the technology and media sectors is amongst the many floundering, panicking businesses run by ageing white men with no strategic grasp of their own markets. This panic and flux can create some remarkable opportunities for really inventive and commercially successful work.
-----When you design something, come up with new ideas, experience Eureka, what happens in your mind?
Ha, good question, and one for which I’m afraid I have absolutely no idea. I can’t remember having any of the ideas that have emerged. I will say that lots more successful ideas emerge when I’m involved in the technical and cultural front end of making and prototyping. You have to be building things to understand the potential of the technology and markets you want to occupy.
-----If you can make a call to 20-year-old Jack Schulze, what kind of advices you would give to him?
Learn to write C. Stop talking and start making.
-----If you can leave one message to make the world better, what would be your message?
JS: Big companies are bad at making the world of stuff that we live in. You can make things better, so make them.