Starting with the Solution and Working Back

Lessons Learned from Digital Native Businesses: Kite


The fact that many of the top companies in the world today were born in the cloud doesn’t surprise Jason Mota, Co-Founder and CPO of digital native Kite Mobility, an electric rideshare amenity for growing communities.

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“Older, ‘established’ organizations tend to move more slowly, which doesn’t really work in the age of change,” he said. “Companies like ours try to identify possible challenges, come up with possible solutions, and build backwards from there. We move according to our data, and we aren’t tied to any one method over another. We’re agile and flexible, which is kind of a requirement now.”

“Many established organizations are hampered by a need to hark back to what was right — what kinds of things worked months or even years ago,” said Mota. “In contrast, we are focused on technology first, and we’re not bound to take any one path.”

What it Means to Be Untethered

Mota described how an older company often tweaks or makes adaptations to allow them to scale based on past models. Kite’s untethered method — if it can be called a method — involves deciding what will work best going forward, and taking that path.
Being untethered means being free to be creative, to entertain fresh ideas, to not be compelled to think or act according to anything that went before.

Kite’s focus on speed and efficiency shows on its website, which eschews the old corporate web design style. “People today don’t need or particularly want to be hit with all the ins and outs of your business,” said Mota. “That old, plodding approach to presenting yourself is unnecessary, especially with a business like ours, where you can learn all about us simply by downloading our app and getting started.”

To Know Us, Just Use the App

Older, more established organizations have trouble letting go of a perceived need to fully flesh out their offering, so people know everything about who they are, what they do, and what they offer. But to many, this is information overkill, as tedious as it is unnecessary.

“If there is no reason to further educate someone in order to bring value, then why do it?” Mota said his company is doubling down on this philosophy. It is actually in the process of working up an even thinner version of the website. “We’re working to scale things back even further. This is what we do — we simplify. We provide our customers with a specific benefit, and we leave it at that.”

“Crystalize the Roadmap” – Prepare for the Known and the Unknown

Digital native businesses (DNBs) presume success and are focusing on ways to scale for exponential growth, even when the future is unclear. Kite Mobility is no exception.

“One big challenge for us was around preparing an architecture in our code base that was going to allow for scale,” said Mota. “But there are a lot of unknowns about the future. In road-mapping, we have had to make some assumptions and look for validation points along the way. Being a startup, capital is a factor, but for us the main focus has been on crystalizing the roadmap, which means having something to prepare us for both the known and the unknown.”

Ear to the Ground

Kite Founder and CEO Scott Macwilliam said there is no magic formula to the company’s success. “We just paid attention to what was going on, and came up with a smart solution to a challenge many people were facing.”

“When we started this business, we saw how the industry was changing, how people, particularly in urban centers, were accessing vehicles. There was growing frustration around congestion, and rapidly increasing interest in the environment. People looked at carbon contributors, and it was buildings first and transportation second.”

“We thought, ‘Why not offer people access to transportation in a new way? What if we offered people sustainable vehicle choices that were affordable, accessible, and convenient — right from their own building and within a digital experience that was world class?’ We’ve been successful because we had an ear to the ground and were correct in thinking people would use e-bikes, for example, rather than drive. Since day one, sustainability has been everything to us.”

Mota said he sees Kite’s success as emblematic of a larger move in society to not just sustainable things but a sustainable life.

“This goes well beyond us making a product or offering a service – it’s about society becoming future-proof. We begin with sustainable transportation, reducing congestion, and cutting emissions, but from there it might have the legs to evolve into the building of entire ecosystems of sustainable organizations. From there you could incentivize users of these sustainable businesses. At a certain point you could end up with not just a company here and there that is operating responsibly but an entire society — an organized lifestyle — that is fully sustainable.”

Base Culture on Creating Solutions People Actually Use

The cultural piece is a challenge for “established” organizations operating in the digital era.

“It’s often a struggle to convince gatekeepers at legacy businesses to adopt digital tools,” said Macwilliam. “And then, with some of these organizations, which can move at glacial speed, there’s a second layer of challenge as you attempt to get people to use new tools you have spent a lot of money bringing in. For the most part it comes down to people seeing an immediate benefit in using them.”

Mota agreed, and said the solution to this common problem is to not only have the right people in place, but more importantly, to give them a stake and a voice.
Mota said: “There’s a famous saying from Steve Jobs about hiring smart people and then telling them what to do — which Jobs was saying is the wrong approach. We happen to agree. We have always believed in bringing in the best people, and allowing them to build on our evolving narrative. For us it’s not just about hiring an exceptional young person coming out of a Master’s program but, rather, about creating platforms for voice.”

Mota said he saw a parallel between this and the sustainability focus of Kite Mobility. “Our focus on helping raise up sustainable communities didn’t come from us sitting down and saying ‘This is what’s going to happen, and this is how it’s going to happen.’ It came out of an adaptation of past conversations around these trends. That conversation continues to evolve; and as it does, so too will Kite Mobility.”

Macwilliam’s advice for companies looking to make a splash in the age of change: “Have an open mindset. There’s always more to learn. We’re deliberately a flat organization. We want passionate people, but first and foremost we want people to have a voice. This is our idea of a strong culture built for tomorrow.”

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