For our latest specialist interview in our series speaking to technology leaders from around the world, we’ve welcomed Venkat MotuPalli to share his insights as the CTO of BlueTape, as well as his advice for would-be CTOs.
Venkat is an innovative entrepreneur with 20+ years of experience in leadership, driving the architecture and delivery of large scale software solutions.
He has previous experience in large technology companies, including Yahoo and Cisco, and has moved into the startup world in recent years with the purpose of generating high impact and contributing to a wider array of communities.
Tell us about the business you represent, how did the idea come about to found your enterprise? What is the vision?
The vision for BlueTape is to enable small businesses in the construction industry to gain access to technology and working capital. These businesses are often overlooked by financial institutions due to their size, which has significant repercussions in terms of business growth and leverage.
With BlueTape, we are crafting a platform that caters to this industry. We incorporate technology that has a small learning curve, making our solution easy and simple to use.
Alongside BlueTape’s two other co-founders, I bring my experience from working on digital platforms, which has allowed me to identify critical issues within this industry and construct solutions.
What notable IT challenges have you overcome?
One of the greatest IT challenges is matching your technology specifically to your target market. As we developed our product, I constantly dedicated myself to gaining a deeper understanding of the customers that interact with BlueTape’s solutions.
I work to ensure all processes required for BlueTape are extremely adaptable to the specific particularities of each business and consumer, making the platform as easy to use as possible. As we continue to learn from the market, we have to reach the right product-market fit fast, so everything we create and deploy must be fast and adaptable.
How has your business adapted during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The COVID-19 pandemic led to a dramatic increase in remote labour which our business had to adapt to, this led us to start using online communication and design platforms, such as Slack, Miro, Jira, and Figma. Not only that, with work being online, we developed a strong international team that brings in a wider range of experience.
We are also leveraging cloud technologies and collaboration tools that allow teams to work remotely and reduce dependency, enabling equal access to everyone.
All of these different facets amid the pandemic have shaped our service into a more cutting edge platform that works to provide consumers with ease of use and greater accessibility.
Being the CTO, what does your day to day responsibilities look like?
My daily responsibilities include important decision making regarding the company, team, and product functionalities. For example, I often deal with build vs buy decisions, as well as security and infrastructure decisions.
I have to decide what options can most significantly aid the company and bring us closer to a finalized product. On the other hand, I am also in charge of recruiting and building a world-class engineering organization and managing our engineering team. While I work with these teams, I oversee cross-functional team management and work closely with other areas of the company.
On a broader scale, my daily tasks include advocating for technology innovations on behalf of BlueTape and creating strategies for stakeholder management.
What advice would you give aspiring CTOs and entrepreneurs?
An important lesson for any CTO is to accept failure rather than be discouraged by it. When we fail, especially when we fail fast, we can achieve greater growth and learn how to create a better product. Test constantly and keep in mind that the more you fail, the more you will be able to learn and fine-tune.
Another important piece of advice is to understand and focus on your customers. As much as companies fixate on creating a product that is perfect for the market and profitability, this can only be achieved if the demands and desires of customers are accounted for.
You can do this by developing strong management skills and maintaining strong leadership. As your company diversifies and grows in size, you gain more opportunities to reach out to your community and market, which allows you to speak with customers and truly connect with your wider community.
When working in leadership roles it’s important to surround yourself with a strong team, and learn from their skills, and stay updated with recent trends and innovations within your industry.
How do you think the role of CTO has evolved in the last five, ten, fifteen years?
In the past 10 years, technology has drastically changed and become a more integral part of both daily life and labour. Technology has shifted from a very operative position to a strategic position.
Companies now leverage technologies as a way to increase ease of use and simplify intricate processes. Before this time, the role of the CTO was much more relegated to product development and minor parts of companies’ development. However, with the increase in the ubiquity and use of technology, the CTO has become a more critical part of decision-making processes.
I think the role and importance of the CTO will only continue to grow. This past trajectory has shown how technological integration within companies has only further promoted greater diversification and expansion of certain facets of companies, especially positions like the CTO.
What new challenges are CTOs facing today?
One of the biggest challenges that CTOs face today is keeping up with the fast pace and constant changes posed by new technology. You have to be able to balance out the different speeds of technology adoption from different stakeholders. This means that the efficiency and utility of technologies have to be taken into account in order to determine whether or not to adopt the technology.
These products may also only have lifetimes of 24 months and we need to provide ways to reduce the technical debt, which requires CTOs to stay up-to-date on all new advancements in the field. Additionally, hiring and maintaining a strong team is another challenge that a CTO faces.
Technological developments and integrations require the backbone of a strong team of engineering talent. Thus, being able to inspire and keep this team motivated is critical to the success of any implementation. Especially when working with an international team, it is hard to be sure that each team member is aligned with the vision and goals of the company, and this is one of my biggest challenges and responsibilities.
Apart from this, CTO’s deal with legal and financial issues, as well. They must understand the regulations and statutes that affect technology being used and what financial benefits or risks are associated with these products. You need to have both technical and holistic business understanding in order to successfully guide your team and wider strategy.
What do you see as the hottest trends within your industry today?
The construction industry has been slow to adopt new technologies, but there have been a plethora of new technologies that have grown in usage and popularity. Mobile and cloud technologies, for example, have enabled expanded communication channels and more cohesive ways of business planning, strategy development, and leveraging.
Another important aspect is AI and machine learning, which plays a critical role in leveraging decision making. These tools allow for the automation of virtually every aspect of a company’s online presence. More specifically for the construction industry, AR-VR augmented and virtual reality technology has given companies the ability to see three-dimensional images of plans and models.
AR-VR is especially important when considering business proposals and construction plans as it constructs a lifelike image of written and sketched material. For the real estate facet of construction, digital twin technologies have become a popular way of taking real-world data about a physical object or system as inputs to produce outputs predictions as a way to demonstrate how that object or system will be affected. As the industry progresses, I believe that these technologies will more rapidly expand and develop, especially as the technological barrier is broken down.
What can we hope to see from your business in the future?
Currently, BlueTape’s main focus is on providing a solution to the payment and financial issues that plague the construction industry.
As we learn from the interactions we have with our customers, we will continue to work to improve the ease of use and automate as much as possible. The goal of this is to make BlueTape as intuitive as possible.
We also want to completely assimilate into the construction supply chain by seamlessly integrating with already existing software and providing a resource for every member of the industry.
This includes tackling the lag in digitalization in the industry in terms of financing and payments, contributing to combating these issues long term. All of this technological development will enable us to ensure transparency in the flow of funds in the construction supply chain lifecycle.