Zach Ferres is the CEO of Coplex, a Startup Accelerator that works with non-coding, industry experts to start successful tech companies. He is also a Founding Partner at Coplex Ventures, the VC arm of Coplex and a contributor for Entrepreneur Magazine. Zach holds a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Ohio Northern University with a minor in Mathematics and Entrepreneurship.
Why does the world need a work revolution? (In other words: the way we’re working isn’t working. Why not?)
We’re no longer doing the types of jobs that were done during the industrial revolution. We’re doing complex and creative jobs that require much more cognitive ability. Many of the jobs in the 1900s used to be repetitive and thoughtless jobs. All of those jobs are now replaced with robots and computers.
Further, companies are growing faster than ever because of mass global connectivity. 54% of the entire world is now connected to the internet. In this time of exponential innovation, it’s forcing us to build companies at a rate that has never been seen before. Last year, we had a couple of companies go from $0 to $1B valuation in less than a year. It took Walmart 21 years to become a $1b company.
I believe these two factors are driving the wedge between the way we used to work and the way we are going to have to work to succeed today.
How are you or your organization reinventing work in some way (big or small)?
At Coplex, we get to work alongside passionate industry expert founders to help them start high-growth tech companies. Last year, we started 49 new startups around the world. As such, we have to be able to keep pace with exponential innovation and show how our ventures can do the same.
Some of the things that we do that are a little different:
- We are a matrix organizational structure and we have cross-disciplined agile teams that work on multiple simultaneous ventures. However, each team member reports up to their director that oversees the specific discipline but they are not the ones that direct the team. The teams are autonomous and self-directing.
- We have three offices around the country and each operates without the need for office management.
- We are flexible with worktimes (start and finish). We also have remote days on Tues and Thurs each week so the team members can be home with their family or get some quiet/focus time to get work done out of the office.
- We don’t limit PTO days and we have a 2 week MIN PTO per year. So long as our teams are hitting goals, we have no issue with PTO on your own schedule.
- We work on an open floorplan with breakout spaces that are specific to the type of activity that needs to be done. My office is the bar in our kitchen at the Phoenix office.
- We actually tie compensation directly to community involvement as it is important to us to give back to our local tech communities.
What’s one tangible and concrete technique other organizations should use if they want to create a more human and/or meaningful place to work?
Flexibility. Give your team (within reason) some flexibility around vacation, start time, work location, and even where they can work inside your physical space.
Provide a quote (either yours or someone else’s) that you live by and/or that represents why you do what you do.
“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” — Pablo Picasso
What is a digital hack you use for unplugging from your laptop/smartphone/tablet?
I go for a run and take nothing with me. I’ve always been a competitive runner, but now it’s also my therapy session.
What is one discipline/industry totally different from your own that has inspired you, and how does it impact your work?
I’ve always been intrigued by finance. I was formerly a pure technologist (engineer) and I was inspired early by venture investment. Today, I live at the intersection of the two and it’s a blast.
What’s one surprising thing we should know about you?
I have a morbid obsession with gluten free pancakes (and breakfast in general).
Where in the world are you?
I’m on a flight to Belize for a vacation with my girlfriend and my two highschool friends. We do a trip to central America / Caribbean every spring. I typically reside in Phoenix, AZ.