It’s time for a new interview and today we’d like you to virtually meet Jeanette Okwu. She is the co-founder and CMO of 1nfluencers, a marketing tech platform that connects companies with the right influencers – by using technology, and most importantly, data. We spoke to Jeanette about her journey, the relevance of technology in her life and her super-Shero.
Jeanette, being the co-founder and CMO of a marketing tech platform that connects companies with influencers, what role does technology play in your everyday life
Let’s face it, it’s de rigeur to proclaim it’s healthy to disconnect. But the sobering truth is I’d probably suffer withdrawal symptoms if all my technology were turned off. It’s ingrained in all our lives and it certainly is in mine.
It starts first thing in the morning when I reflectively check the time on my smartphone, my iPad, or the computer. There are no clocks in our house anymore and I’d probably have to root around to find a watch. I haven’t visited an actual brick and mortar building for my banking in well over two years and I’m betting trips to the ATM will also be a thing of the past once Germany has fully embraced cashless payment options. Frankly, I wouldn’t be able to do my job which is technology based. And if I’m successful, in some small measure I’ll personally be responsible for technology continuing to further shape how we live and work.
Tech actually makes my life as a mother much less worrisome. There are a number of platforms through which I can communicate with my daughter as she roams the city to and from school while I am working. On the occasions when there’s a connectivity issue it drives me crazy. So you see how dependent we are on technology, not just physically but also emotionally.
But most of all, technology has also provided me means to develop personal relationships with people — people who I’d otherwise wouldn’t have known existed. A few of those relationships started on Twitter or even on eBay.
For example, a decade ago I met my friend Christel Quek from Singapore, during a very active group discussion on Twitter about the future role of social media. We then connected on various other platforms. Some of those platforms still exist. Others have long died. Through Path (a wonderful platform, that unfortunately didn’t make it) I found out that she was setting up an apartment in London at a time when I was frequently traveling there on business. We finally met in person and actually worked together later on when I led the Global Social Media Team at Spark44, and she held the position of VP in Southeast Asia for Brandwatch doing some great things for Jaguar Land Rover. Now I can follow her online as she evolves into a Force of Nature in the blockchain driven video industry.
What is THE most important tech tool in your business life?
Hands down, it’s my iPhone. Sometimes I’m pretty sure it’s been glued to my hand when I wake up in the morning. Listen, I know that’s not always healthy but what can I do? At least I’ve made some incremental progress: it used to be two phones 😉
Tell us a bit about your journey? Where did you start and how did you get to where you are now?
I studied French and Russian Literature at University. Very un-tech. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, I was set to fulfill my true career dream and became a journalist which led me to New York. Eventually, I realized yet another dream and opened a clothing boutique just on the edge of SoHo showcasing my own designs. It turned out, I was pretty good at getting myself into the press (I’d like to think of course that my clothes were nice, too 🙂 ). I also did some consultancy work for European luxury brands–specifically, marketing them in the US. Two different animals. My boutique went kaputt in the gloomy aftermath of the 911 attacks. Soho became a ghost town back then and eventually my husband and I moved to Los Angeles.
In 2007, I met my former business partner who approached me with the idea of a novel social networking platform. From then on, there was no looking back. Social Media had me at hello. I evolved along with the industry. One idea led to another. I began to think of myself as perpetually in beta and along the way grew and refined my skill set to keep pace with my insatiable hunger.
Please continue this sentence: I have failed….and these were my learnings…
I guess, for me, it’s not really about some major clear cut case where I might have failed. I fail intangible and nuanced ways every day and will likely continue to do so. But I like to think that like everyone else I’m a work in progress and being aware of that allows me to mitigate imperfections. As for a major challenge in my career, it turns out — as trite as it may sound –struggles have been a source of growth. I’ve certainly learned that everybody cooks with water, as we say in Germany. I am less intimidated by poseurs and postering — people who veil their insufficiencies or ignorance with business jargon. It’s actually become entertaining to watch for me.
I find the major challenge in this dynamic ever-evolving space is my own fear that I don’t know it ALL. While I am always consuming the latest information about technology, it’s almost impossible to feel satisfied that I’ve stashed all the nuggets into my tent. The FOMO effect got me. What I decided though in order to stay sane is to commit to a few selective sources and recommendations from friends who know what I am interested in. I also decided to do a Postgraduate Diploma in Digital Business, not because I need the certificate but as personal validation.
What’s the next big thing in tech?
Where to begin? I believe we’ll see some diversity emerge. Businesses will be created that will serve small groups of end consumers as we can target these groups better and better through technology. If we look at how markets have grown lately it’s mind-boggling. They are ten times bigger than ever before. Look at the latest IPOs and the continued growth and scaling of SaaS companies. It reflects the massive growth and scale of the internet itself. Same goes for consumer companies.
Clearly, we can see that our lives become more and more digital as people shop and work online adopting this new lifestyle at scale. It shows that users adopt handling their lives and work online. We will serve people better by knowing how to gather, analyze and apply learnings from data.
The next big thing for me is to get the internet and technology usage regulated to protect our citizens. That is a huge task and also includes the very citizens themselves. They need to make educated decisions about their data and not just blindly follow what they’ve been told. It will be a consolidated effort beyond country borders and oceans.
What has been a moment of fame this week?
How the influencer Danielle Bernstein has mastered the art of converting her Instagram followers into buying customers: she launched her latest collaboration with Onia swimwear and sold nearly $2 million dollars of product in 12 hours. What does this tell us? Influencer Marketing is a serious discipline in modern Marketing, Influencers themselves have to be Marketeers in order to make collaborations with brands successful and it is time to learn how to harness this 10 billion dollar industry.
Who’s your supershero and why?
Monica Lewinsky. Yeah. Here is someone, whose promising career imploded at a tender age of 22 on an international scale almost instantaneously and online. She was shunned, while Bill Clinton continued to progress professionally. She has managed to struggle her way out of it by, among other things, using technology, the very thing that was her downfall, to advocate against bullying and thereby helping a multiplicity of people. I can only recommend watching her TedTalk, and you will hear things that surprise you. You will recognize similarities in yourself. You will be connected to an energy that is fundamentally human. And you might just come to respect an exceptional human being.
If you could go back in time or into the future what advice would you give your 23-year-old self? What advice would you give your 75-year-old self?
My 23-year-old self I would tell to be confident in her capabilities. I would like her to recognize that she can only succeed if she is not afraid of revealing what she knows. That others may have the same fears and anxieties, and that they are just better at covering them up. I would also tell her to focus on the things at which she’s truly gifted–to find her niche and not deviate. That way her growth will be even faster.
My 75-year-old self: I hope I will speak to someone who is content. So I’d have nothing to say. 🙂
Jeanette Okwu is the co-founder and CMO of 1nfluencers, a marketing tech platform that connects companies with the right influencers – by using technology, and most importantly, data. She has 20+ years experience in developing and implementing new technologies and digital marketing strategies for A-List customers from the entertainment, automotive, luxury and consumer goods industries in the USA, including Mercedes Benz and Jaguar Land Rover. She also planned and executed ICO of Simple Token and as CMO at LIQID was responsible for all aspects of marketing and integral part in closing a €33 mio Series C funding round.