Featured on Jun 01, 2012
Greg Alex Pfeffer
"The illiterate of the 21st century won't be those who can't read & write but those who can't learn unlearn & relearn - Alvin Toffler"
Unlike some in tech, I can't honestly claim a life-long interest. Actually, my fascination with technology has two distinct phases. In my early teens, I religiously watched TechTV (Screen Savors and Call For Help anyone!?) I remember having my father drive me to a mall in the middle of NJ (I'm from Philadelphia) to meet Patrick Norton and Leo Laporte. I played around in VisualBasic and designed in FrontPage...and one of the loudest fights I got it with my parents growing up was when I installed RedHat which, on "accident" had written over our FAT32 formatted drive an thus, no more Windows.
In my highschool and university years, I went into a geekdom blackout. Call it trying to fit in with the cool crowd, but suddenly LAN Parties and overclocking just got in the way of girls and...(what else do you think about at 16?) I studied Political Science in university and planned on eventually getting my JD in international law. I still maintained a faint interest in digital culture, however, I never thought I'd base my professional career around it.
A few months after college, having abandoned all hope of law school and perhaps on the verge of a quarter life crisis, I moved to Bangkok to work at what would become the first social commerce site in Thailand. I feel back in love with technology and realized that the great equalizer, the thing that would ensure the world was flat and the true key to cultural difusion was the proliferation of technology, for the betterment of society. I was hooked, and after moving to several startups around Southeast Asia, I recently moved back to the states and settled into New York's vibrant tech scene.
- Title: Digital Strategist
- Age: 25
- Location: East Village, DUMBO
- Contact: @gpfeff
Can you walk us through a typical day being a Digital Strategist at the JAR Group? What excites you most about working at JAR?
I know this answer must sound so cliché, but I don’t really have a typical day at JAR. I’d say half of my day is devoted to actual execution; be it buying Facebook ads, tweaking WordPress blogs or collecting analytics data.
The other half of my day revolves around brainstorming creative ideas for our client’s use of various platforms and online marketing techniques, and then seeing how the technical implications would work. While we identify ourselves as a digital marketing agency, I think we (along with a lot of other agencies) are moving more into the realm of digital consulting. While a lot of other agencies follow a rinse and repeat formula, I’m glad that we get to experiment and make data-informed decisions about our marketing efforts. Clients are getting more savvy when it comes to social media, and the web in general, so we are really pushed to take our efforts one step further and think outside the box. What’s currently got me very excited is the prospect of developing and managing an API for a client, as well as extensive mobile/local integration for another.
What prompted the move back from Thailand? Is there anything you miss about the tech scene in Thailand?
The tech scene in Thailand is an interesting one, as infrastructure is improving rapidly so we are starting to see 3/4G and Wi-Fi pretty much standard in the larger cities like Bangkok and Chaing Mai. A lot of location independent entrepreneurs call Thailand home due to its low cost of living and amazing culture, so there is no shortage of intellectual capital. There is a real sense of uncharted territory and unlimited possibilities, what I imagine the Bay Area to have been like 30 years ago, which I do miss.
However, One of the must frustrating things about the startup scene in Southeast Asia in general is that, at times, you have this extremely modern, rapidly advancing technology sector, clashing with traditional values. A perfect example is online and mobile banking; the technology is deployed and can be used by Thais, however, a very small percentage takes advantage of it due to uneasiness about commercial banks. The same can be said about e-commerce; Why buy expensive imported goods on the internet when locals have been shopping in neighborhood markets for generations? While the developed world had a more gradual introduction to what we see as the Internet today (Remember 56K dial ups?) many developing countries first introduction to the web was only five or ten years ago. It will take time for them to digest this rapid, sudden advancement in technology, where as in developed countries an entire generation has already grown up being familiar with the web since infancy. In the end, the ultimate reason why I returned home, was that I really, really missed my dog.
You said that, "the great equalizer, the thing that would ensure the world was flat and the true key to cultural diffusion was the proliferation of technology." What new and exciting technology do you think is "equalizing" the world? Are there any cool startups that you think are doing a good job of diffusing culture?
I think the two biggest diffusers of culture are commerce and intellectual exchange. Startup Weekend and Geeks on a Plane have both had a tremendous success in the developing world, bringing investors and entrepreneurs together from across the globe. Kavia and Kickstarter, the idea of crowd source funding, has allowed capital to be raised quickly and from around the world, allowing for entrepreneurs access to funding that they couldn’t receive via traditional lending ( Check out Kinyei in Cambodia on Kickstarter) Even startups like Square and WePay are cutting out traditional hurdles to international finance, which ultimately lends itself stronger cross-cultural bonds.
Education is the other sector in which a lot of cool stuff is happening on a global scale. Students from around the world can learn and collaborate on projects together via P2PU, Udacity and even via traditional university’s online initiatives like Stanford’s Engineering Everywhere program. The rise in non-traditional educational platforms, combined with low-cost Internet access, allows students in developing economies the chance to work with (and sometimes compete for jobs) Western companies and institutions. I think within our generation it won’t be as taboo to forgo the traditional higher education experience and instead learn completely online, hopefully for free