Lab Notes

Where are we going?

My business partner (and GoKart CEO) Don Smithmier recently reminded me of something. He casually said, “This month, GoKart Labs turns nine years old.”

NINE. I couldn’t believe it, and to be quite honest, it feels more like nine minutes to me.

That said, I’m incredibly proud that we’ve reached this milestone (especially since 8 out of 10 new businesses fail), and I’m more excited than ever about what the next nine years might bring.

For those who haven’t met me, a quick introduction: I’m MJ, a partner at GoKart Labs. And I just got a new job within GoKart.

Before I jump to what’s next, a quick recap of my history with this lovely Lab I call home.

I started with GoKart Labs in 2009, when we were little more than a newly renovated warehouse in downtown Minneapolis with a couple of people hoping to build a meaningful business. Rather ill-defined at the start, GoKart was a tiny group of people I admired, filled with optimism about the future and a healthy frustration with how most “digital” companies were operating at the time. I didn’t quite know what we’d become, but I was certain about one thing: This little place called GoKart Labs was about to make a positive dent in the world.

Since those early days, I’ve been lucky enough to sit in nearly every seat at GoKart. I built our first client services team, led our technology group, launched and led both our creative and strategy practices, led product design and strategy for a venture we created (then sold), was humbled by founding a startup that failed, and have sat toe-to-toe with some of the biggest brands in the world, helping them invent and realize their future. It’s been an amazing ride to date, and I’m proud to think I’ve grown as much as this company has over the last nine years. GoKart is now 50 people across two labs and has started 6 standalone business — selling two, so far — and this broad perspective and experience has really helped prepare me for my next challenge.

Back to the beginning — where are we going?

At GoKart, we believe that we’re currently living through the most exciting time in history to be in business. Everything is being challenged — business models, technologies, entire industries. Customer expectations have never been greater — and, while it’s not always easy to create something of real value to the world, the means to do so have never been more accessible.

THE TRUTH IS: THE GAME HAS FUNDAMENTALLY CHANGED FOR EVERYONE, INCLUDING GOKART LABS.

With that said, I’m thrilled to accept a different challenge at GoKart; a new role, a new focus, and an opportunity I’m really excited to take on.

In my new role as VP of Strategy at GoKart, I’m shifting my focus to GoKart itself, helping us answer the same question I’ve helped clients answer for nine years — where are WE going?

To some, this may sound like a defensive move. It could be in reaction to a struggling business, tough times, a hail mary to find the next big thing — not the case with us.

Quite the contrary, GoKart is playing offense. Given a fundamental change in everything (including the world in which we work), we’re doubling down on the future and fearlessly exploring where we want to lead in that future — answering questions like…

  • How do we adapt to radically changing technologies?
  • What new products/services/practices/methods do we need to create to do even better work?
  • What are the next industries we should build categorical expertise in?
  • Who can we partner with to leapfrog our current position?

We’re challenging ourselves to continue to be more relevant, more valuable and more meaningful for the clients we work with and the businesses we create.

Where are we going?

I don’t know yet, but we’re going to figure it out, and I’m thrilled to be leading the charge.

Matthew is a walking dichotomy: a strategic designer, a metric-driven UA guy, a believer in traditional AND emerging media. He’s an economist and a songwriter, a creative soul who loves numbers, a lover of dogs, a fighter for the arts, and a darn fine cook to boot.

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