VOGSY is fortunate to interact with leaders and influencers involved in a range of professional services organizations (PSOs). The PSO Knowledge Expert Series brings you their thoughts on the topics that matter most.
For this edition, we spoke with Keith Scandone, co-founder and chief executive officer of O3 World. The first agency owner we interviewed for the PSO Knowledge Expert Series, Keith has a passion for finding unique ways to differentiate the company and bring the industry and community together. He has spearheaded multiple industry conferences and is working with the leadership team on O3 World’s Ventures program, which is a separate entity that takes an equity stake in digital product ideas.
MVL: Tell us about O3 World.
KS: O3 World is a digital product agency that specializes in digital ecosystem consulting, experience design, and development. We work with companies on their innovation programs to help them navigate the process of bringing new products to market. In addition to our usual services, O3 also runs a ventures program that acts as an accelerator for digital product companies where we can act as strategic advisors.
MVL: Describe O3 World’s team.
KS: We’re a group of 50 that thrives on teamwork and curiosity. We are entirely in-house, as we believe in the importance of collaboration to produce the best quality results for projects and to also build a strong company culture.
MVL: What kind of services do you offer?
KS: At O3 World we provide strategy, experience design, and development services. More specifically, we offer services ranging from user research, landscape and market analysis, UX and UI design, voice and conversation design, and content strategy.
Our technology-agnostic approach takes a comprehensive view of our client’s entire digital ecosystem. Through our collaborative, agile development process we ensure rapid deployment, testing, and iteration for our clients.
MVL: Innovation is such a big part of what O3 World does as an organization. How do you encourage innovative thinking at your agency?
KS: Innovation is our agency’s lifeblood, so it’s our default approach to everything we do. We want to encourage everyone at O3 World to be fluent in innovative thinking, so we have diverse perspectives to draw from in our day-to-day work.
We encourage our employees through daily client work, our labs and ventures program, and our commitment to influencing change in the community through hosting and planning events. We ran Forge Conference for three years, which was a 300-person event centered around UX and product design. We have also run Innovation Day for three years during Philly Tech Week. Recently, we created and ran 1682, a conference dedicated to the business of innovation, which showcased the successes, setbacks, and realities associated with innovation development.
MVL: O3 World also has a Labs program. Can you tell us about that?
KS: Our Labs program is an opportunity for anyone at the company to participate in leveraging new technologies. We establish a framework that sets a budget of time and determines the types of technologies we want to experiment with.
The ultimate goal is to create something that we can eventually pitch to clients or use internally.
Right now the program only allows us to experiment and test different technologies, but it also lets us think in a more nimble way to produce a solution that is viable, even if imperfect.
MVL: You recently launched a venture group, Ozone Ventures. Can you tell us more?
KS: O3’s Co-Founder Mike Gadsby and I have met so many brilliant companies and people in the 15 years we’ve been running O3. One of our founding principles at O3 is relational–we create exceptionally strong and long-lasting relationships with our clients on purpose. So with our new investment arm Ozone Ventures, Mike and I wanted to extend this principle to work more closely with companies who share our values and passion for innovative thinking.
Ozone Ventures lets us diversify our portfolio and experience new opportunities. The two main ways we’ll engage with companies include product creation and design.
The first way is for emerging or new solutions that may want early development and design support. This lets our Venture companies work with the O3 team on market and landscape analysis, customer research, technology assessments, prototyping, testing, and roadmap development. The second approach we take is for companies looking to expand or overhaul an existing product. We’ll work with them on all UX and product development and management.
MVL: What companies are Ozone Ventures working with?
KS: We’re partnered with Urvin, an artificial intelligence (AI) agency that helps companies understand and implement AI, and REC Philly, a creative incubator, community, and workspace for artists. We share our digital strategy, customer experience (CX), and advanced technology expertise with these companies to bring fresh, exciting approaches that really set them apart from the rest.
MVL: What kind of opportunities does your new investment arm offer your team?
KS: It gives them the opportunity to work on the products themselves, but beyond that, it gives them a behind-the-scenes look at how a company grows. Whether through investment or a bootstrap scenario, it gives them perspective on the financial and operational side of a business.
MVL: How does Ozone Ventures differ from a typical equity for hire scenario?
KS: I’d say we’re more of an accelerator. We’re looking for ideas that already have a product and market fit and provide additional strategy, services, money, and support to help fuel their growth.
We are truly partners with them and want to have as much influence and impact on their growth as possible.
MVL: What advice would you give other digital agency owners who might want to consider an investment strategy like O3?
KS: I would say it’s important to be very measured about it. Have a clear idea of how much time or money you’re willing to dedicate toward the investment and be sure to treat it as you would a client. Just like any business idea, you have to be very regimented in the “how” and “why.”