To uncover new opportunities, enhance existing product experiences or ensure a presence on a global stage Valerie Vacante, Director of Strategy at LiveArea and Founder of Collabsco, is here to share perspective on innovation and global experiences. In a connected world of entertainment, play, living, and learning, Valerie has pioneered award-winning digital products and connected experiences across IoT, AR, VR, voice, robotics, and beyond.
Valerie guides by saying, “When designing a new product or experience ensure there is always room for ongoing testing and learning across all aspects of the business to continuously improve focusing on what’s working and swiftly getting rid of what’s not as possible.”
Creating Connected Experiences in the Physical and Digital World
The common thread throughout Valerie Vacante’s career has been creating and connecting consumer experiences to the physical and digital worlds. She started her career in London, England in the early 00’s, working with an outstanding team to create platforms and technologies that did not exist.
After returning to the U.S., she worked with a number of digital marketing and advertising agencies serving as a catalyst for growth, uncovering new technologies, business partnerships, and market opportunities. In 2014, she segued into product innovation, primarily focused on emerging technologies and experiences such as IoT, wearables, connected communities, connected play and gaming. After a short stint in a small design startup, a few colleagues encouraged her to venture out on her own so she did.
In 2016 Valerie launched Collabsco. She did not want a high-end office or loads of overhead, just the flexibility to work with brilliant people on interesting products and experiences serving as an independent collaborator to explore, educate, inspire and ignite product innovations, collaborations, and experiences. Valerie has expanded innovation efforts across the US, Europe and South America helping companies build their portfolios through collaborations with inventors, startups and global brands. She laughs that her house looked like Doc Brown’s house from the film “Back to the Future” with so many connected products, prototypes, and inventions in the works. Collabsco has allowed Valerie to experiment with new technologies, collaborations, and ways of working setting her own boundaries and constraints.
As Director of Strategy at LiveArea, she brings her entrepreneurial instinct and expertise to a creative and collaborative organization where she uncovers cultural trends, next-generation innovations, and designs strategies impacting the way people connect and experience in the physical and digital world.
Some of the biggest challenges with starting Collabsco were learning how to build a business from the ground up. Valerie always served as an entrepreneur; however, starting as an entrepreneur is very different, you have to learn about the business legalities, structure, operations that are often already in place when you are an entrepreneur. It’s a completely different undertaking.
Other challenges in her prior roles coming up in the industry were always not being heard or navigating unnecessary hierarchy and too many rules – she doesn’t like rules. Valerie is best when she works with collaborators where the team brings their superpowers or strengths to create new products, services or solve challenges, like the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Creative, Collaborative and Charismatic
Valerie Vacante’s style of leadership is collaborative. The command-and-control ways do not work in this day and time. They are too constraining, take up too much time and don’t get to the root of real open thinking and problem-solving. Valerie believes that people need a clear vision, to have freedom in a framework, to be empowered, supported, and know that they can get what they need to succeed.
“A successful business must have a clear vision and creativity to thrive; it must support wildly creative people, those who are curious and who not only uncover opportunities but realize how to connect the dots to make it happen – they drive new products, services, marketing, sales, new business models and ways of working,”, explains Valerie.
One of the most influential leaders, Nolan Bushnell, the godfather of video games and founder of Atari, has a shared belief. In his book “Finding the Next Steve Jobs: How to Find, Hire, Keep and Nurture Creative Talents,” he explains the importance of having a “staff of wildly creative people who live as much in the future as the present, who thrive on being different, and whose ideas will guarantee that your company will prosper when other companies fail.”
There is no surprise, after all he hired Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, as well as Valerie Vacante and many other creatives over the course of his five decades in business.
A Relentless Champion
Throughout her career, Valerie has launched award-winning products and experiences that have been featured at CES, SXSW, Wired Live and in such publications as Fast Company, The Wall Street Journal, Wired, VentureBeat, Forbes, The Drum, VRScout, PCR, ToyNews, and more.
Valerie has worked with some of the world’s most innovative brands. Her portfolio includes MercedesBenz, MINI, AT&T, Honeywell, Sleep Number, Dell, Vodafone, Nestlé, Hasbro, Mattel, Disney, Bandai Namco Entertainment, WowWee, Virsix Games, MERGE, Pressure Games and Firebolt Games among others.
In 2018, Valerie launched the first-ever connected play landscape; her latest iteration maps over 260 connected experiences, emerging technologies and business growth opportunities featured in VentureBeat, The Drum, VRScout to name a few.
In collaboration with Peter Jenkinson, she also cofounded TechUp, a curated service that showcases innovative products on a global stage as featured at WIRED Live, WIRED Next Generation, CES and SXSW.
Most recently, in her role at LiveArea, she is one of the co-creators of LiveArea Scan & Go,™ a patent-pending, web-based, app-free contactless payment technology that, seamlessly integrates into a retailer’s existing website, customer profiles, and loyalty programs, providing opportunities to create more meaningful connections with consumers in store or online, from almost anywhere. She has also architected NXT Intelligence™, a collection of 12 solutions focused on technology, innovation, and brand experiences designed to explore, evaluate and evolve business growth opportunities.
She serves on the SXSW Innovation Advisory Board, as a CES KAPi Awards judge, a global expert to MassChallenge, an international speaker and writer. She has recently been named one of the Top 25 Women in Tech 2019 and 2020 by PCR magazine, 40/Forty and Mojo Nation 100 – Design Champion.
You can likely find her where creators are designing the future.
The Importance of Perspective
The biggest change that Valerie Vacante brings to management consultancies include two key concepts: , first, to be more inclusive, broadening recruiting pools, embracing different people and perspectives; , second, to work with real people in ways that is meaningful to their business. “When I was growing up, my parents and grandparents had a bakery and made all sorts of pastries, cakes, and cookies. It doesn’t take a baker or lover of sweets to know that if you only have flour you can’t make a cake, cookie, cannoli or anything. Different people, perspectives, education, and backgrounds are important to drive innovation and growth. With more remote work opportunities companies have a bigger and more diverse pool to choose from,” says Valerie.
Collaborative, Outside-in Perspective and Actionable Insights
Valerie Vacante continuously hears feedback from clients who have worked with large management consultancies. The most significant and consistent feedback is that management consultancies overprocess simple challenges, restate the challenge or already known issues instead of providing actionable recommendations. The real opportunity is understanding a client’s business and rapidly uncovering near-term and longer-term opportunities with actionable solutions.
At LiveArea, the team is directly addressing these challenges through its new collection of solutions, NXT Intelligence™ which allows the company to provide an outside-in perspective to clients in meaningful ways to their business across technology, innovation, and brand experience. These are strategic exercises that provide actionable insights in weeks, not months.
The team keeps a collaborative approach to work with clients. It doesn’t really pitch, it designs opportunities “with” its clients based on their goals. The organization provides an unfiltered, unbiased perspective.