CIO Exchange Podcast

Investing One Step Ahead - Guest: Cindy Padnos, Founder & Managing Partner at Illuminate Ventures

Episode Summary

Illuminate Ventures focuses on finding, funding, and accelerating great founders in the B2B, Enterprise cloud, and mobile computing spaces - BUT, without a crystal ball into the future, how do they determine what are the right trends and technologies to back? In this episode, I speak with Cindy Padnos, Founder and Managing partner at Illuminate Ventures, to find out how they’re leveraging data to make the best investing decisions. From artificial intelligence and machine learning to hybrid cloud and human capital, we go over all the tools that go into building a platform that excels at serving customers and setting companies up for success. Cindy delves into how these can help siphon through the overlays of technologies and tailwinds to determine what is really needed in the market, what are the next best great ideas, and help identify which companies are most likely to prosper.

Episode Notes

Illuminate Ventures focuses on finding, funding, and accelerating great founders in the B2B, Enterprise cloud, and mobile computing spaces - BUT, without a crystal ball into the future, how do they determine what are the right trends and technologies to back? In this episode, I speak with Cindy Padnos, Founder and Managing partner at Illuminate Ventures, to find out how they’re leveraging data to make the best investing decisions.

From artificial intelligence and machine learning to hybrid cloud and human capital, we go over all the tools that go into building a platform that excels at serving customers and setting companies up for success. Cindy delves into how these can help siphon through the overlays of technologies and tailwinds to determine what is really needed in the market, what are the next best great ideas, and help identify which companies are most likely to prosper.  


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Episode Transcription

Cindy Padnos (00:00):

My own belief is that over time AI is your new database effectively. It becomes ubiquitous. It's embedded within every environment....Fundamentally today's world is about agility and responsiveness. And to address those types of needs, a business has to be looking at the various ways that they can support their infrastructure. And that absolutely means having a hybrid cloud environment. There's no question about it.

Yadin Porter de Leon (00:33):

Welcome to the CIO Exchange podcast, where we talk about what's working, what's not and what's next. I'm Yadin Porter de Leon.

Yadin Porter de Leon (00:39):

Illuminate Ventures focuses on finding, funding and accelerating great entrepreneurs in the B2B enterprise cloud and mobile computing space but without a crystal ball into the future, how do they determine what are the right trends and technologies to invest in? In this episode, I speak with Cindy Padnos, founder and managing partner at Illuminate Ventures, to find out how they're leveraging their vast network of executive and board member relationships, along with multiple curated and analyzed data inputs, in order to make the best investing decisions. From artificial intelligence and machine learning, to hybrid cloud and human capital, we go over all the tools that are leveraged to build a platform that excels at servicing customers and setting companies up for success. Cindy delves into how these can help siphon through the overlays of technologies and tailwinds to determine what is really needed in the market. What's the signal? What's the noise? What are the next best great ideas? And help identify which companies are most likely to prosper.

Yadin Porter de Leon (01:34):

Cindy, you sit in an interesting place talking to a lot of companies from a VC perspective and I want to get just straight out the bat, how do you focus on investing in technology so that you are one step ahead of what's next?

Cindy Padnos (01:48):

That's a great question and I'm not sure. I'd love to say that we have a crystal ball but I don't think anyone really does.

Yadin Porter de Leon (01:56):

You're going to tell us what technology is going to win in the next 10 years so we can all make sure that we're putting all of our money in the right place. This is what this show's going to be about.

Cindy Padnos (02:03):

Okay. That's perfect. Without a crystal ball, we all have to do a little bit of work. And for us, that work comes in terms of gathering data from a variety of different sources. And we do some of that formally and some of that informally. The formal part of it is that we literally actually do an annual search across technology sectors that are growing. And so we look at all of the different analyst data that might be out there, Gartner, Dataquest, et cetera, and we leverage a set of interns that we have, our student interns, to help us to gather that data and sift through it. But the more important element of this is that we take that sort of precursor information and we bring it together with what we call our business advisory council. That's a group of about 50 people that across that group, they sit on over a 100 public company boards. They've sat on more than 250 private company boards. And on average, they have 20 years of experience or more.

Yadin Porter de Leon (03:02):


Cindy Padnos (03:03):

In the enterprise tech world.

Yadin Porter de Leon (03:06):

That's a huge pool of resources that most people don't have access to. I would call that Cindy, I would call that an unfair advantage that you have from an information perspective.

Cindy Padnos (03:14):

I would too. And so, but we love it. We call them actually our secret weapon, advisory council members. They don't just help us with this. This is one element of the many things that they're a resource to us and to our portfolio companies for. But if you can imagine sitting in a room where you have the head of corporate strategy of IBM and the head of the Windows division of Microsoft, talking about what's missing in their own technology stacks, that's the kind of resource that we're able to tap into to help us help stimulate thinking. And the other side of it for us is about the really fortunate position we sit in, as the recipient of all of these inbound presentations and requests to be funded by the most talented entrepreneurs in the world, they have the creative ideas. That's not us. And so we have all of that information and all of that knowledge set to look at as well.

Yadin Porter de Leon (04:10):

Cindy, not only do you have all this great information coming in, in data sources coming in from analysts, coming in from the heads of some of the leading technology companies, you also have some of the brightest new minds basically telling you what they think the future is. And since the listeners to this show really are the technology leaders in businesses, this is a resource that they could only dream of. And so I think today, really what we're going to try to do is unpack a lot of vision that you have that's based on this just profound treasure trove of data of, what technology is coming next? What are enterprise technology leaders going to benefit from having sort of that understanding of sort of what that next thing is and where that next planning should go. And then sort of wrapping that into a way of, okay, well, how do you turn that into real action with people who have real budgets and things like that. Have we covered everything from your unfair advantage umbrella, Cindy, of all the information sources that you get coming at you?

Cindy Padnos (05:01):

Well, you just hit on something. You may not have realized that this perhaps trumps everything else on that list. And that is that all of this has to be customer needs driven. It's can't just be technology in a blue sky. It can't just be what's the sexiest new widget that's out there.

Yadin Porter de Leon (05:19):

A technology piece looking for a problem to be a solution for.

Cindy Padnos (05:22):

That's right. That's exactly right. And so for us, what that translates into is what are some of the macro trends that are going to influence the use of these technologies and the use of these great ideas? The most obvious one right now is work from home. That is not something that's going away. It is a macro trend. It is influencing every aspect how a company operates, whether they're selling something or supporting their employees, from internal to external infrastructure. And that customer need, if you will, drives and great deal. We overlay all of these great ideas about technologies with the tailwinds, if you will, of what's really needed in the market today.

Yadin Porter de Leon (06:04):

Nice. And so how would you then, looking at that, so now that we've collected sort of the way in which you sit. Sort of this, I'm imagining you in this big room with lots of screens and all data's going all over, feeding into this wonderful, fantastic engine that you have that you use to make decisions. Like you said, you don't have a crystal ball but you have a lot of really great inputs. And so those great inputs I think, are really good at harnessing sort of what those decisions need to be and how you would expect, let's say leading companies or those who want to be leading companies to approach that customer need, the customer experience, while doing things like in inserting empathy, not just technology.

Yadin Porter de Leon (06:41):

How do you sort of put those together? How do you expect, if you are talking to a CIO, a VP of infrastructure, other people who maybe in the technology industry and you want to give them perspective or you're having conversations and they're part of your inputs, how are you expecting them to react to those trends, to react to those tailwinds or those headwinds or the changing landscape of customer behavior to create great experiences and then make technology decisions?

Cindy Padnos (07:06):

It's very interesting how working from home, out of the office, has really helped employees in large corporations understand the importance of empathy because today, unlike in the past where perhaps they were being coached on how to be more empathetic with their customers as a customer experience person or a customer success person, today it's about having that kind of communication that's more empathetic with all of the people that surround you. Whether that be your business partners, your customers or your peers inside of an organization. And so we've seen some really interesting new technology solutions that are coming into play, where they are helping people better understand how their communication impacts others and how they can actually improve upon that in a variety of different ways. In fact, in real time, not just for humans by the way, but even with bot technology that's being used by every large financial service and many others.

Yadin Porter de Leon (08:13):

You're talking about AI empathy, empathy in artificial intelligence.

Cindy Padnos (08:16):

I am talking about think of it as Grammarly for empathy, think of it as AI, as empathy as a service.

Yadin Porter de Leon (08:25):

Yes. When The chat's responding to, it's like, "Hello," insert, empathetic statement. And then it goes to the Grammarly thing, grabs the empathetic statement and then floats it in there.

Cindy Padnos (08:37):

Well, as you're typing a response to your peer or your customer, you're going to get recommendations about how to improve that communication, how to be better heard, how to just improve your likelihood of success, frankly, whether it be with your boss, where you're asking for the raise or your customer, where you have to explain something really difficult to them that they may not want to hear.

Yadin Porter de Leon (08:59):

No, I think what fascinates me about this Cindy, is that it connects to ideas. Because on one hand it seems like, well, you're talking about empathy or empathy for AI Grammarly but it seems to drift but it really, what it does is it connects two things. Connects, what is that technology piece? That's we're talking about how is that going to be determining what's next? What's that human need that is going to drive that technology growth? And so that idea of what the human element is, that connection like empathy is a key thing.

Yadin Porter de Leon (09:33):

And so how you create this roadmap, I think the difficult part is how do you create that roadmap from a technology perspective to be able to insert empathy in something like a customer experience or a customer interaction when it's a technology component that's interacting? And that's really powerful because that's not just like, here's what new switch or router I need to buy next quarter. This is how I need to rethink the way that I approach the vision that I have for the technology journey of a company. How do leaders wrap their head around that to sort of start thinking that way?

Cindy Padnos (10:03):

Well, I think you have to step back and understand that customer experience is a journey, it is not the single interaction with your customer success manager or the bot or the AR/VR technology that you might be using another place or the kiosk that someone sees in the hotel lobby or the airport. It's all of those combined that are part of a customer journey. And so if you decide you're going to train people to be more empathetic, for example, you've missed the other three quarters of that journey. And so you have to, I think, step back first of all, and think about it that way. Communication is omnichannel. Customer experience is a journey. And when you're thinking about how you want to have your company viewed by your customer, you have to be thinking about it being consistent across every step of that journey. And that's where you can't think only about people or only about technology, you have to think about how do you bring those two things together in a way that makes sense and that creates this very consistent message that you're sending to your customers, as an example.

Yadin Porter de Leon (11:10):

And I like that we're looking at it through your lens. Every time you're saying something, I'm thinking about all the different inputs that you're having, the analysts, the technology leaders and you're looking at it through that lens because a lot of the times when you have a conversation around technology leaders, you say, "Well, they need to be able to speak the language of the business and they need to be able to speak the language of technology." And there's a piece of that description that's missing and that's being able to bring in another element that you're just talking, you're uncovering, which is the customer. And of course people talk about it all the time. It's like, okay, well, yes, we're customer obsessed. We focus on the customer. Yes, but there's nuance.

Yadin Porter de Leon (11:45):

But also it's almost a really big shift, what you're talking about is don't just think about the kiosks. Don't just think about the bot that's now leveraging AI. Really take a human perspective and start to say, "How is our brand, how is our technology engaging with humans? And what's that customer experience like?" And not just put yourself in their shoes but really let's now reimagine what that could look like. Let's see what is possible. It's not just trying to make this interaction faster or make that smoother or make that more empathetic. What are you seeing what's the next evolution that that technology leader needs to grow into that mindset? That's not just customer focus, not just business focus, not just technology, it's almost like there's another piece there that's hard to kind of describe.

Cindy Padnos (12:27):

I think you're right. And I think we have a long history of building and delivering really great point solutions. Whether it be the call center platform or the bot that's being used for the inbound callers, et cetera. What we don't have a great history of, is building a consistent, I don't know, I would call it platform view of the customer experience journey, of looking at it end to end. And part of why that's true, I think, is that it requires you to bring people together inside your organization that normally don't even work together, that normally don't discuss it. You've got perhaps your tech support and your salesperson and your marketing organization and I could keep adding onto that list. Each of them has a point of view of the communication with a customer but where's the unified view? Where's the consistency? And I think that's where the world is headed today, to improve upon that unified view versus the point solutions.

Yadin Porter de Leon (13:26):

Yeah. And you think technology leaders are the ones who play that unique role? Or do you think there's a lot of the people in the organization are on the hook for that?

Cindy Padnos (13:33):

I think it actually goes even beyond that. I think it's at a CEO level, kind of a requirement to communicate the need for that kind of collaboration and the value of that collaboration. I think it's at least C-level kind of collaboration and cooperation to bring all of these resources together to do it well.

Yadin Porter de Leon (13:55):

Yeah. And what do you think the role of let's say the CIO or the technology leader at a company? Do you think theirs is unique or you think it's, like you said, the CEO really is directing this course? Or is the CIO really positioned now? It's just that the shift is now more than ever that CIO is more strategic than they were before.

Cindy Padnos (14:14):

I think the CIO has a unique opportunity here. And what I mean by that is I'm not sure other people even understand or believe that what I'm talking about is possible and the CIO knows that it is and the CIO can be the champion of this kind of a concept because they can talk about how it can be done. It's not esoteric anymore. It's real. And they can actually not just talk about it but they can provide the tools that enable it, the process that helps to create it. I think they play a very important role in that process.

Yadin Porter de Leon (14:49):

Nice. Because I think what you were talking about, that customer platform or the customer experience platform, that platforming that and having it be consistent, some people out there would think that that's not possible because we're so siloed, because teams are so disjointed that it's just, that's the way people have gotten used to this experience, especially as the physical world meets the digital world is that, you just you have a nice experience up to a certain point and then you hit a brick wall and no one thinks that. Are companies investing in things like AI to better sort of to help solve that, like you were talking about, with bots and with other experiences, do you feel like AI is one of the key elements that might help with that experience, that platform experience?

Cindy Padnos (15:29):

Oh, there's no question. I think that fundamentally doing this in a consistent way is hard. I don't want to pretend like it's not. There's no panacea, there isn't a single platform to do it. You have to bring that data together and bring the strategy together. And then still today, deploy it in more than one place. But AI can help. AI can bring the data from those different sources together.

Cindy Padnos (15:54):

Now, I'll give you one example. There's a company called Birdie in our portfolio that brings together the insights that are available to product managers, but are very hard for them to find and that are very hard for them to actually analyze. And so what do they do? They go out and they gather the data from every source you can imagine. Meaning if it's a consumer product, from Reddit, from the company's own blog, from the company's own surveys, from their competitors' sites where there are people are responding to understanding and talking about their product, public information that might be out there on product reviews and all of that sort of thing. And they bring that all together and apply AI against it, in order to really define and identify what those insights are that can make a difference in improving the customer experience. And that is virtually impossible to do without AI. There's too much unstructured data out there. Think about how you're collecting all this information today. And fundamentally a product manager today might be relying on customer surveys that are frankly out of date the day that you complete them.

Yadin Porter de Leon (17:06):

Yeah. It's a clunky, it's an old tool and like you said, there's so many inputs, because there is a deluge of data and it's great that there's data but also the problem is there's so much of it. And how do you make sense of it? And how do you make it actionable? And then, so there's been so many talk tracks of, well, here's the panacea, here's the great solution for the deluge of data and making sense of it, making actionable and making business value out of it. What has shifted in order to actually to really start to solve that? Because it does feel like it's been an intractable problem.

Cindy Padnos (17:37):

I think that AI becomes the database of the future. I've been in this industry long enough to recall when it was a novel idea to have a database underlying your business application and your DBA, your database analyst, was the guy that was paid the most of anyone in the organization. They were hard to find. Well, think about it. We're in that same world today with our data analysts and with the people who are key and core to implementing AI inside of an organization. My own belief is that over time, AI is your new database effectively. It becomes ubiquitous. It's embedded within every environment, you are working in these low code, no code kind of environments that don't require the same skillsets but that's going to take time to be implemented across the entire stack. But it's already starting today. I see it happening already today.

Yadin Porter de Leon (18:06):

That shift really is that you starting to think about artificial intelligence embedded as a component of every technology piece that you're implementing, because that's just needs to be, like you said, it's a database, it's one of those things that's just going to be standard. Right now it's difficult. There's also sort of, people think of AI as something maybe that's a siloed stack, that's something separate, when in fact it's become and maybe you can talk about this in some of the companies you invest in, how it's becoming more consumable, how technology leaders shouldn't think of it as this thing, this stack and I've got to have all these scientists. Where is the ways in which you can and consume that? And maybe how is the cloud and maybe sort of a SaaS model for that AI as a database shifting that?

Cindy Padnos (19:09):

You said a lot, Yadin. It's everything you said, I'm a just big believer in, so I don't know quite where to begin. But let me tell you maybe a couple of things. One, we firmly believe that there is a major role still for humans in the loop, in using AI. What I was just describing, even with Birdie, that's providing a data set and insights to product managers who can then use their knowledge and their backgrounds and their deep awareness of product limitations and customer requirements and all the rest, to bring it to together and make decisions. Tazi is another company in our portfolio that uses a continuous ML approach, a machine learning approach, in a no code platform to help financial services companies better understand things like customer churn and fraud detection and other things but they do don't do it in a vacuum. They do it in a way that the actual specialists in those areas are enabled to make the kinds of decisions that in the end are really going to change the way that customers do business with a company.

Yadin Porter de Leon (20:20):

Yeah, I like framing it that way, that making decisions and having be able to leverage AI to help make decisions so that humans can get involved, not at the minutia layer where there's tons of data to sift through, but they can get involved at that higher decision making layer so that you're not replacing individuals with AI, what you're doing as you're enhancing their ability to make better decisions and act on them.

Cindy Padnos (20:41):

Well, you have a problem with AI, a potential problem where it's data for data's sake, which is not necessarily always the right answer. Meaning you can get vast volumes but you could also then corrupt what your answers are. You can end up with biased data, you can end up with information that is not actually delivering a true set of attributes that you're looking for. And so without the human in the loop, who knows how to detect that and understand when that bias is being introduced, you can end up with a very corrupt AI solution. And so I do think it's critical that the humans continue to be a part of that process.

Yadin Porter de Leon (21:22):

I think the database example was really, really telling and really appropriate because as we all know, that databases can basically turn into a total mess if once humans are involved. And I feel like in some sense that once the humans start to sort of tinker around these AI pieces, you might get sort of the same result with artificial intelligence that you get with the databases that are just like, you'll get a few years down the road and you look at your AI models and you look at the inferences and you look at the way that it's trained and you'll see, wow, this looks a lot like the first iterations of databases when we first had humans inputting information to them. And maybe what is one of the ways, and I know we're going deep in the AI piece but I think it's fascinating because it informs a lot. Where do you think that humans can maybe not make that same mistake that they did with databases going forward with the AI stack or the AI components of their stack?

Cindy Padnos (22:12):

Well, humans are humans, so we all make mistakes. I don't want to pretend, imagine we could. Imagine a better future.

Yadin Porter de Leon (22:18):

Some risks are unavoidable.

Cindy Padnos (22:19):

It's all magically addressed, I think.

Yadin Porter de Leon (22:23):

Well, it's all with AI. There's no humans there. It's just AI just being perfect.

Cindy Padnos (22:27):

There are a variety of different ways that it can be done but it depends on the use case and depends on the business purpose that's being addressed. Another of our portfolio companies, ArchestrA is simulating procurement processes ahead of time. They're able to then inform a procurement officer what kind of cost savings they might actually be able to anticipate but it also highlights for them and helps them to spot anomalies and exceptions. But it does still take that human interaction to say, "No, no, that's really not an anomaly. That's the way we buy this product all the time or that delivery timeframe might not seem normal but it is for this unique component that we're searching for." There really has to be that trained mind of a human that's also taking advantage then of data that's being served up to them that they've just never had access to before.

Yadin Porter de Leon (23:25):

No, that makes sense. And let me pivot just for a little bit, because I think we touched on it a little bit earlier but one of those pieces is that cloud component, because that cloud component can not only sort of create sort of a more distributed, more easily consumable, potential consumable sort of AI or other product as people move to SaaS for several things. Do you feel like that cloud is going to serve a key piece of the technology leader's stack? And do you feel like it's going to make sense from an AI perspective, from a customer experience perspective for companies to be in sort of multiple clouds consuming multiple different components of AI or other services? And you think is that just going to be a part of the normal landscape that they're going to have different pieces in multiple clouds, whether that's their applications or their other people's applications?

Cindy Padnos (24:10):

Fundamentally, today's world is about agility and responsiveness. And to address those types of needs, a business has to be looking at the various ways that they can support their infrastructure. And that absolutely means having a hybrid cloud environment. There's no question about it. And why do I say that's true? Because it's about finding the right mix for a combination of different needs. It can be compliance, it can be resiliency, it can be cost, it can be manageability. And depending on which of those attributes might be most important for which business application, you will choose a different solution. You can't afford to have all your eggs in one basket anymore today. That's pretty simple but I think adjacency of a location might be absolutely critical for a very high compute application and irrelevant for many other applications.

Cindy Padnos (25:13):

And so you might be willing to bear the cost of having certain type of cloud infrastructure for one and you might have to have your private cloud for another, for compliance reasons, but that cost infrastructure might not be appropriate for other business applications. I think the complexity of the business needs that we have today is actually what drives maybe the demand for hybrid cloud but also the opportunity for hybrid cloud and what it can deliver to a business in terms of both agility and capital efficiency.

Yadin Porter de Leon (25:47):

Nice. And when you say hybrid cloud, you're saying there's something, of course, on premises, there's something in their data centers, there's also something up in a public cloud at one of the hyperscalers and is that more than one public cloud then from a hyperscaler perspective? Because you said not more than one, don't all want all your eggs in one's baskets. You'd see, maybe it's you're consuming multiple hyperscalers and you're also having stuff in your own data center.

Cindy Padnos (26:10):

We absolutely see that happening today, without a question and for a variety of different reasons that I was mentioning. Sometimes it's about resiliency. We have a company in our portfolio that's doing some very interesting things, in fact with the Microsoft Azure AVS environment, where they're able to offer the capability for a company to have continuous data protection in the cloud without replicating all of the hardware and other infrastructure that they would've required if they were trying to do the same thing in for example, two different private cloud environments, where they would actually then have to replicate all of that same infrastructure in both of those environments. There can be a variety of different reasons why you might choose more than one hyperscaler in addition having a private cloud environment and other capabilities.

Yadin Porter de Leon (27:05):

No, that makes sense. And sort of to put this all together, like I said, sort of do a segment that kind of brings a lot of the ideas together and call that, take it to the board.

Speaker 3 (27:13):

In short ladies and gentlemen of the board, costs are down, revenues are up and our stock has never been higher.

Yadin Porter de Leon (27:22):

Ultimately like you said earlier, you have to be able to convince others to take action, convince others that technology change needs to happen and you need to tell a story and you need empathy and you need to be able to be a good communicator. This part of that sort of speaks that. Sort of the idea is that technology leaders are certainly the forefront of creating this movement of technology driven growth. They're leading this technology driven growth movement, shift, revolution, whatever you want to call that but it's a lot of the growth that's been created now is very much technology driven. And it has historically, everything from the railroad, to the light bulb, to electricity. Now, it's almost it's creating this hypergrowth that technology is leading across so many different places.

Yadin Porter de Leon (28:03):

When a technology leader then needs to talk to the executive staff or the board, how do you feel like they should be articulating this future state of needing to be AI, needing to be in a hybrid cloud clouds, looking to invest in what's next and sort of selling the value of what is needed to be invested so that that business is getting new ideas to market faster than competitors, so they're being relevant, so they're staying ahead of the curve. And that's everyone's idea but doing it is a lot harder and then convincing people that needs to be done can sometimes be even harder still.

Yadin Porter de Leon (28:40):

Your advice to maybe someone who is in front of a board and trying to make this case and you've talked to many, many, many board members in your experience, you have their ear and you have them in your mind and in the lens, what's the best way to communicate those ideas, when you're looking at say, "This infrastructure we have right now, we can't innovate on top of it. How do we create an infrastructure where we can create a customer experience platform, where we can innovate on top of?" How do technology leaders today need to communicate that?

Cindy Padnos (29:08):

Well, I think it has to be a combination of carrot and stick to be honest with you.

Yadin Porter de Leon (29:13):

Lots of stick. Let's hear about the stick.

Cindy Padnos (29:16):

It's a little bit of each. Well, let call it instead of stick, fear factor.

Yadin Porter de Leon (29:20):

There you go.

Cindy Padnos (29:21):

If you look at the Fortune 500 and you looked at that same group just 10 years ago, more than half of the companies have fallen off the list. Now, if you ask McKinsey or lots of other.

Yadin Porter de Leon (29:35):

That's what keeps CIOs up at night and CEOs up at night, they wake up in a call old sweat.

Cindy Padnos (29:41):

That's exactly, it should keep them up at night because if you look at what happened to those who came off the list, they were the digital transformation laggards. They were the ones who kept trying to do things the same old way, like a Sears as an example. It's a very long list of companies that have fallen off that list. And so that's the fear factor. It's just the simple awareness that to be strong and to survive and to thrive, you have to always be moving forward, not standing still. And enabling that forward motion today means having a resilient and flexible infrastructure that enables you to change very, very rapidly. And whether that's responding to competitors or to customer demand or to new opportunities you never even conceived of that open up to you or the most recent acquisition that you did that you have to integrate, all of those things are about agility and flexibility that the CIO above everyone else, frankly, in the organization has an opportunity to impact and improve.

Cindy Padnos (30:50):

And so how do you convey that? I think it's by looking at the fundamental business goals of the business and talking about the things that you're able to bring to bear from a point of view of how you are enabling the very things that are in the CEO's annual report, the very things that are in the statements that the company is making publicly and saying that they're going to stand by as the hallmarks of that business. I think the CIO can demonstrate how the things that they are building, how she or he have built the infrastructure or can build the infrastructure to enable that.

Yadin Porter de Leon (31:30):

Nice. And I know there's a couple different ways. One's through what, I think I was just talking to Rob Carter, CIO of FedEx, talking about how he communicates it to the board, which is through scary pictures. And he puts up a picture of the infrastructure and says, "We can't innovate on top of that." I think stories is another really important way to communicate that. And is there something either that some of the board members that you've spoken to or some of the companies that you've funded, one story example that they use to demonstrate the efficacy of their vision and the urgency with which action needs to be taken?

Cindy Padnos (32:05):

I'm not sure there is one idea that I can think of because it really depends on the circumstances of the company but everyone knows about some of the data of privacy issues and what the cost of those violations are. And so putting up some of the organizations who've been penalized by that and showing the huge, huge penalties that they've paid, that's an example of how you might be able to urge people to be thinking more seriously about customer data privacy.

Yadin Porter de Leon (32:36):

That's stick right there.

Cindy Padnos (32:38):

That's the stick. That's the scary fun factor, bad pictures, et cetera. And sometimes, especially when you're dealing with a board where at the board level, where it's not just company internal, where they really do understand some of these things but you've got outside board members that are maybe brilliant in their fields but not as aware of some of these issues, that's another place where those kinds of issues are frequently brought up.

Yadin Porter de Leon (33:02):

No, I think it's great. Well, Cindy, this has been a fabulous conversation. I could have talked about 20,000 other things, especially with the depth and breadth of information that comes across your desk. But I think we'll have to pause it right there and just thank you for coming on the CIO Exchange podcast.

Cindy Padnos (33:16):

Thank you for the opportunity.

Yadin Porter de Leon (33:18):

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