While 2020 wasn’t the year we all hoped for, one can look for silver linings and positive change for a better future. For me, the highlight was meeting CEO Jeff Dance and getting to know a unique digital and hardware product innovation consulting firm called Fresh.
It all started a little over a year ago when Fresh acquired Uncorked, a Portland-based product agency. I first got to know and admire Uncorked’s founder and CEO, Marcelino Alvarez, while working for PDX-based Ziba Design. When the acquisition happened, I discovered Fresh and wondered why I never heard of this 300+ person powerhouse innovation services firm from Seattle.
Just by looking at Fresh’s website, client list, and company profile, I could tell it was a special place, vastly unlike most other services partner firms in the world. I asked Marce for an intro to Jeff because I needed to learn more. After working at iconic product design firms like Frog and Ziba, I imagined Fresh as the ideal modern services partner: one that deftly combines scale, end-to-end integration, and deep expertise delivered by genuinely nice, high-integrity, high-performance people.
Jeff and I started talking in the Spring of 2020. We immediately saw eye-to-eye on many things and agreed to keep talking. Monthly calls turned into bi-weekly calls, which eventually turned into weekly calls. It was apparent to me that Jeff had the right formula. But I knew one ingredient was missing. All of Fresh’s four locations were in the Pacific Northwest and Southeast Asia. I started pitching Jeff on an Austin, Texas location––one that would serve as the launchpad for the next great chapter of growth for the company.
Having lived in Austin for the past 18-years, I experienced firsthand the explosive growth happening in my city and the entire state of Texas. The Lone Star State is the 2nd largest in the USA, with a population of nearly 30 million people. With the 10th largest GDP globally and 4 of the top 11 US cities, Texas is like its own booming country. Progressive, diverse, and business-friendly, I believed Texas—and specifically, the state capitol of Austin—was the perfect location for a fast-growing company like Fresh.
After many long discussions, Jeff and I agreed with the old saying: “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.” Last August, we decided that the timing was right to green-light Fresh Austin. Stars aligned further when I learned that longtime Fresh employee and Director of Innovation, Johnny Rodriguez, was interested in making a move back to Austin where he used to live. This was incredibly fortuitous as I could not imagine a better partner to get the new office up and running.
Johnny is a man of many talents, loved by team members and clients, and knows Fresh inside and out. So that was that. The plan was hatched. I was thrilled to join Fresh as Managing Director to lead the new Austin office and start an exciting new mission. We put a foundational plan in place to officially launch Fresh Austin in January 2021. Now begins the hard work.
Fresh may be new to Austin, but we’ve done a good deal of business in Texas to date and have some amazing relationships to build on. In Dallas, we partner strategically with NEC Corporation of America on various applications of their market-leading biometrics technology in aviation, education, food services, healthcare, and access points. Other clients in Dallas are CBRE (the largest commercial real estate company in the world), TurboChef (the world’s fastest commercial ovens), and Caris Life Sciences (an innovative healthcare company). In Austin, Fresh works with Alamo Drafthouse (maybe the most beloved movie house chain in the country). There are other exciting Austin and San Antonio-based partnerships in the works that we will be announcing shortly. As for Houston—we’ll be seeing you very soon!
The plan is to steadily grow the office to be a full-service team with multidisciplinary talent in strategy, design, and engineering (software and hardware). We will be focusing heavily on helping our clients chart out the future with innovative work in robotics (service and industrial), industrial automation, mobile autonomous systems, AI/ML, and associated technologies. We aim to be the premier product innovation and go-to-market partner for forward-looking enterprises down to hyper-growth midsize companies and promising startups. Whatever the challenge, digital or hardware, we will serve as a truly caring partner, bringing the right team and mindset to add immediate velocity and tight collaboration.
This brings me to my final point. Even after working in the innovation service industry for 15 years at world-class firms and with world-class companies, one thing has become clear: being synchronously humble and bold is the only way to stay relevant and drive positive change within our client companies.
In my opinion, there’s never been a greater opportunity for companies offering services, as well as external thinking & doing, to have an exponential impact on the fortunes of brands, big and small. COVID has proven, among many other things, that distributed workforces can perform just fine, and often even better, when equipped with the right tools, approaches, and partners. Blended workforces (internal and external thinking and executing at velocity) are redefining how organizations innovate and drive optimal products and successful business outcomes.
Fresh was built to be and stay at the forefront of this new age of services partners. We’re able to quickly integrate with internal teams, work at velocity with business leaders, and bring critical external perspectives and timely expertise to help make good internal decisions. All of these interrelated factors lead to great product execution and ecstatic customers.
I can’t wait to share more about Fresh’s approach, experience, and deep expertise around building winning software and hardware products, and introduce you to our amazing practice leaders.
Here’s to a big tomorrow and a fresh future together in Texas, and beyond!