Pivot Factory Podcast - Episode 8 - Jason Yotopoulos

Apr 29, 2019 2:10:16 PM / by Pivot Factory

Silicon Valley has become the Disney World of the tech sector—replete with glitzy innovation tours and awe-inspiring educational sessions ostensibly intended to inspire organizational transformation. These tantalizing trips are like catnip for entrepreneurial jaguars, across industries. 

As synonymous with the San Francisco Bay Area as the region’s technological lions themselves, there’s a reason why some leading innovation thinkers refer to these well-choreographed affairs as “innovation theater.” 

There’s no denying Silicon Valley’s influence, and that’s precisely why startups and global CEOs alike make the pilgrimage. Beyond the spectacle of it all, one of the most important questions an organization should ask before making this oft-celebrated trip is: What can be gained?

For a more nuanced understanding of “The Valley,” and transformational strategies more generally, we enlisted someone who has spent most of his life and professional career in the region.

In the latest episode of Pivot Factory Podcast, Pivot Factory CEO and Founder Michael Leadbetter speaks with Jason Yotopoulos, senior vice president and head of channel partnerships at Mach49, which works directly with clients on disruptive strategies.

While we encourage you to listen to the entire episode to gain a better understanding of how firms can grow exponentially, we break down several of its core topics below:

  • Silicon Valley & Innovation
  • Mach49’s Evolution
  • How Disruption Accelerates the Need for Innovation


Before joining Mach49, Yotopoulos spent a decade with SAP, a multinational software company, managing a large team responsible for innovation across more than two dozen countries. So when it comes to innovation, it’s safe to say Yotopoulos has seen it all.

Yotopoulos says there’s a good deal of “innovation theater” in Silicon Valley—a characterization he shares with others who are in the business of helping organizations change for the better.

As he explains to Leadbetter, the number of high-level executives traveling to Silicon Valley in recent years to learn about and discuss ways to innovate has grown exponentially.

While everyone has different reasons for seeking inspiration from those in Silicon Valley, one common motivation is to learn ways to stave off disruption. But as Yotopoulos stresses, executives need to do more than educate themselves on how to discover an answer to their most pressing concerns. And one of the most common challenges they share centers around how best to transform these big ideas into a major difference-maker for their companies.

Yotopoulos says there’s a good deal of “innovation theater” in Silicon Valley—a characterization he shares with others who are in the business of helping organizations change for the better. 

“Maybe you whip the visitors in a frenzy, maybe teach them design thinking, [and] everybody moves forward with an ideation session,” he says. “But the big pressing challenge when it comes to corporate innovation, and in particular, new business building...In Silicon Valley, ideas are cheap and execution is the hard part.”


Leaders of large multinational companies were expressing similar limitations to others in Silicon Valley. So when Yotopoulos spoke with his colleagues, they thought they could play a role in helping companies realize their full potential. Thus, the birth of Mach49.

Mach49, which started with four founders, works with the world’s largest multinationals, Yotopoulos says. Their main goal is to help these firms design and launch new lines of business in adjacent markets. It’s a two-pronged strategy meant to help companies grow, while aggressively getting ahead of disruptive forces.

“It’s been very gratifying to work with many of the world’s largest multinationals,” he says. “They’re frustrated and they’re looking for answers.”

Interestingly, Yotopoulos notes most large companies are built for “scale, not agility,” which explains why businesses with huge profits still rely on experts for help. He said starting a new business inside an existing organization—one of Mach49’s main objectives—is difficult because you end up fighting a two-sided war. The first is the fight for superiority within the marketplace, and the second, and perhaps most difficult phase, is the one against the company’s corporate antibodies, which are generally averse to significant change.

Yotopoulos is quick to note that these antibodies—much like the kind that protect the human body against invaders—aren’t “malicious.” Their natural instinct is to protect the company’s core model, and anything that challenges this is in danger of being rejected.

Pace of change + our TAKEAWAY

We don’t want to give too much away, but one important piece of information to come out of Yotopoulos’ chat with Leadbetter is how fleeting success can be in the era of technological innovation.

According to Yotopoulos, about a half-century ago it took the average Fortune 500 company 75 years to get delisted or acquired—an impressive run. Now? Today’s average tenure is about 15 years. The turbulence underscores a few things: constant churn inside organizations and volatility more generally, especially with companies now leveraging technologies, to grow at a rapid pace.

That being said, perhaps the biggest takeaway from this episode is just how important it is for any company—large or small—to get out of their own bubble and be amenable to significant internal change. Innovation, as Yotopoulos notes, doesn’t have to be the result of incorporating new technologies, but can manifest in many different ways, including through the creation of new businesses inside an existing company. 


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The Pivot Factory Podcast is a Morey Creative Studios production.

The Pivot Factory Podcast is hosted by Michael Leadbetter, and engineered and produced by Michael Conforti, Rashed Mian and Christopher Twarowski. Jed Morey is the executive producer.