Anyone who’s worked at a startup can attest to the scrappy mindset and breakneck speed that fuels their big ideas. And for the past year, Target has turned to three entrepreneurs to infuse that startup culture into Target. They’re entrepreneurs-in-residence (EIRs) and their sole focus is to launch new businesses that grow Target.
Led by Target’s chief strategy and innovation officer Casey Carl, Target’s first three EIRs – West Stringfellow, Greg Shewmaker and David Law – have spent the past year working on projects that impact both Target as a retailer and its private brands including the Target + Techstars retail accelerator program and Food + Future coLab, created in partnership with the MIT Media Lab and global design firm IDEO.
“If you look back at the last 100 years, the businesses that succeed are the ones that consistently innovate. They know how to be bold, disciplined and take smart risks,” said Casey. “The entrepreneurs-in-residence play an important role in Target’s overall innovation portfolio. West, Greg and David are building new businesses inside Target in a way that’s never been done before and we think there’s massive potential to grow by working differently.”
This is a great example of a retailer committing to change and meaningful differentiation. Read on to learn more and meet the team:
Greg spends much of his time in Boston, where he is a founding partner of the Food + Future coLAB, the collaboration between Target, MIT Media Lab and design firm IDEO. The coLab’s goals are to explore new technologies and create new ventures to tackle major food-related challenges. Before joining Target, Greg was director of accelerated products and technology at Tesco, the UK-based multinational retailer, and founded The Blue Planet Group and 3c marketlabs.
- The best part of being an EIR at Target? I love knowing that I have the freedom of an entrepreneur and the scale and momentum of a company like Target. I’ve tried to do this work as a startup and it didn’t work. We’ve made more progress in the past 6-8 months than I could have over the course of several years as a startup.
- What excites you most about the Food + Future coLab? There are two equally important things that get me excited every day. First, it’s encouraging to see the incredibly positive reaction we’ve received to being so transparent about the push for transparency. And second, the momentum that we’ve generated in such a short period of time is unbelievable.
- Best advice you’ve ever received? I had a former boss tell me, “Don’t go to work if you’re not prepared to get fired that day for what you believe is right.” I try to live that advice every day – it’s a guiding principle in my mission to bring more transparency to food.
West was Target’s first entrepreneur-in-residence and joined the company last March. He is now vice president of internal innovations and operations for Target, founded the Techstars + Target Retail Accelerator program and is founder of a company (codenamed “Goldfish”) being built at Target. West’s career has focused on driving innovation at scale, with executive-level innovation and product management roles at PayPal, VISA, Rosetta Stone and Bigcommerce.
- The best part of being an EIR at Target? At Target, my team and I have permission to make the right decisions early in the evolution of our company to ensure we are building an enduring business and brand. It also means I can take the time to invest in my team’s development as the business grows, allowing my team members to grow with the business. Best of all, it means that we can maintain some semblance of work/life balance while still enjoying the thrill, pleasure and rewards of building a startup.
- Product you can’t live without? My Macbook Air. I literally cannot live without it and have nine bags (ranging from waterproof and shockproof hard cases to camping backpacks to formal briefcases to casual briefcases, to my everyday backpacks) all specifically chosen because of their ability to make my Macbook a permanent fixture in my life. I’ve taken my Macbook to the deserts of Burning Man, the beaches of Thailand, the glaciers of Iceland, the heart of the Colorado Rockies and work. I don’t leave home without it.
- Personal motto? Don’t stop the rock!
David works in Target’s San Francisco office and is focusing on building new brands. In addition to being a design engineer at IDEO, David founded several companies prior to joining Target, including Speck Products and Speck Design.
- The best part of being an EIR at Target? It’s incredible to see how people respond when I tell them I’m working with Target. First, they tell me how much they love Target and then enjoy that Target has a forward-leaning initiative like entrepreneurs-in-residence. It’s nice to be part of such a beloved brand.
- Favorite thing about living in San Francisco? I love the sense of possibility that permeates conversations.
- Best advice you’ve ever received? Make sure you work on the business, not in the business.