Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with Gordon Pretorius, the new Chief Technology Officer of Typeform. We covered topics like his recent appointment as CTO, security concerns, and his vision for the company's future amid the wave of AI—to name a few. Read on to hear what the future holds for Typeform and thoughts from a CTO during a dizzying time for tech.
Kevin: Jumping right in. What inspired you to pursue a career in technology, and how has your journey led you to become the CTO of Typeform?
Gordon: My interest in tech began when I got my first computer in school. It resonated with my inner geek and satisfied my passion for problem-solving and optimization. As I continued in my career, I discovered I had a talent for leading teams and enjoyed supporting personal growth, which shaped an important belief of mine: put people first, and the rest will follow. This new role at Typeform gives me a chance to pursue those passions and exercise those skills even more, and I'm excited for the opportunities that lie ahead.
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Kevin: In your opinion, what are the most important qualities of a successful CTO, and how do you plan to embody those qualities in this role?
Gordon: Great question. And while I’m new in this role, I’ve had years working for and observing other CTOs and leaders in this space.
At the end of the day, hiring a great team is critical to the success of any company. It almost feels redundant to say it out loud, but it’s always worth repeating. A company is only as strong as its team, and having talented and motivated individuals is essential for achieving our goals. As a CTO, my goal is to build a team that not only has the necessary technical skills but also shares our company's vision and values.
Communicating that vision is key. Our team needs to have a shared understanding of where we're headed and what we're trying to accomplish. I think people like to know, as much as possible, what’s coming their way. Which is completely understandable, and I tend to feel the same way.
So by setting clear goals and expectations, we can stay focused and motivated. This also helps us to identify potential roadblocks and challenges, and develop plans to overcome them.
Finally, fostering clarity, honesty, and transparency is essential for building trust and creating a positive work environment. As a CTO, I want to create an open and honest culture where everyone feels comfortable sharing their ideas and opinions. By being transparent about our goals, challenges, and progress, we can work together more effectively and collectively achieve more.
The tech landscape: challenges and opportunities
Kevin: Speaking of challenges, and I apologize for the pivot, but what do you believe are the most significant technological challenges and opportunities facing our industry today, and how do you plan to address them?
Gordon: The challenges and opportunities we face in technology today have evolved quite rapidly over the last few years. The real value in technology for product-led growth companies is less in the technical choices you make, but more in the way in which you build products that create value for the customer. High-performing technology has a substantial impact on the success of a business.
Kevin: Can you elaborate?
Gordon: Sure. I feel there are two major contributors here. Firstly, in a world where technology systems are more distributed, integrated, and abstracted, the orchestration of these systems, and indirectly how your teams engage, collaborate and support these systems is critically important. This requires an investment in talent, tooling, ways of working, etc. Secondly, our customers and the environments they operate in are evolving more and more rapidly. Look at how generative AI has disrupted things in such a short period. Now more than ever we need to adapt and iterate quickly. By doing this we learn quickly, therefore better understanding our customers and solving real problems.
And of course, it should go without saying that security is a no-brainer and always top of mind. We’re careful with, and responsible for, customer data, but given the nature of our product, we’re also partially responsible for how our customers handle their customers’ data. It’s this daisy chain of security that we’re constantly having to monitor and evolve.
Kevin: Not to downplay security, but can you elaborate on AI and how it's disrupting things? Do you see it as a challenge or opportunity?
Gordon: Well, competition as a challenge should speak for itself. So I don’t think I need to elaborate there.
As for AI, it is both a challenge and an opportunity. Generative AI and ChatGPT transformed the industry overnight, and companies are desperately trying to figure out how to leverage the opportunity or combat the threat. We are quite fortunate that Typeform has been exploring this space, especially OpenAI, for the past few years, or since ChaptGPT V2. We’ve already integrated it into some of our earlier and experimental products like VideoAsk, Relayed, Holler, and some others coming soon out of Typeform Labs—our R&D division.
Kevin: Now, I've only heard whispers about this. Can you tell me more?
Gordon: Well, we have some things we’re cooking up. AI has the potential to transform Typeform's offerings. When David, the co-founder, created Typeform, it was with the aim of humanizing forms by making the experience more conversational. We now have the technology to make this a reality, but in a true Typeform manner focusing on design and user experience.
Kevin: Is that how you plan to make sure Typeform stays competitive and relevant in the market?
Gordon: Partially, yes. We will continue to invest in AI and related automation tech to enhance our capabilities and deliver more value, faster, to our users. But we also didn’t want to rush, as many others have. Like I said, we’ve been exploring this for a long time and intentionally haven’t gone to market yet. We’re prioritizing value, at the moment. Secondly, we are going to continuously invest in building a high growth culture that is amazing at building and delivering products. As I mentioned earlier, invest in the people and the rest will follow.
What's in store (for Typeform)
Kevin: Last question.How do you envision Typeform's product offerings evolving over the next 5-10 years?
Gordon: Typeform has incredible people, amazing product, and a strong foundation which positions us well in the market. We are always innovating and exploring new ways to humanize how people and businesses interact, and now more than ever, we have the technology to transform this space and realize this ambition. I realize that's not very specific, but I guess watch this space.