The theme of this year’s Internet and Television Expo (INTX) was “Harnessing disruption: Turning today’s chaos into tomorrow’s growth.” And its bottom-of-badge call-to-action for attendees was eerily aligned with 4C’s tagline – The Future of Media.

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The speaker lineup featured a wide array of thought leaders from advertisers, networks, operators and analysts. Each shared his or her perspective on the challenges facing the industry and how they can be turned into opportunities.

In Imagine Park, various companies ­demonstrated technology solutions that are being built to help capitalize on the disruption.

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4C was among those selected for the showcase and, in the session on “Why Targeted Ads Are (Still!) Such A Moving Target”,  I showed how we’re bringing TV and social media together to deliver on the promise of right person, right place, right message, right time.

One of the sessions that resonated best featured people that have nothing to do with TV, cable, digital or advertising whatsoever. Indeed, a highlight of INTX was the Ted Talks and the common themes among these presentations served as important reminders to those of us in the media world.

For example, David Sengeh shared his story of growing up in Sierra Leone around many people who had limbs amputated during the civil war but refused to wear prostheses. While some thought it was merely a ploy to help them get sympathy as beggars, David realized it was because the current prostheses simply didn’t fit. So he used technology to build 3D printed sockets that are not only comfortable but can be produced easily and without much cost.

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Key takeaways:

  1. Listen to your customers. Only by talking to amputees was David able to learn what they needed and why.
  2. Listen to yourself. Much of David’s success can be attributed to the fact that he found something that gives his life meaning.
  3. Solve problems with technology. Advancements in tech are enabling solutions that could never have been imagined before.

More great lessons came from Jesse Genet who started her first business at age 16 printing t-shirts in her parents basement. By 22, she had raised $13k on Kickstarter to produce a fabric dye that develops in the sun. By 24, she was up to $250k. At 26, she appeared on Shark Tank and was doing more than $1 million in sales revenue. Then at 28 she gave it all up to start a platform for entrepreneurs to order the supplies they need to launch their own products.

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Key takeaways:

  1. Focus on making stuff people want. Similar to David, Jesse gained key feedback by talking to customers and this is how she knew it was time to pivot.
  2. Be patient with ideas. Most businesses don’t take off from day 1 so it’s always best to build long-term (and contingency) plans.
  3. Don’t be afraid to throw it all away and try something else. The only risk bigger than starting a new business is to leave one while it’s still growing to start a different business.

The bottom line is that growth requires disruption. And disruption requires risk. This is especially true as we look to the future of media. Let’s make it happen!