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Leader Insights

Centercode’s CEO on 20 Years of Technology and User Testing

May 18, 2021

Centercode was founded in 2001 as a way to connect technology innovators with their real customers through user testing. In 20 years, technology has changed significantly. But our mission — to remove friction in today's technology by helping companies perfect their products — has stayed the same.

We couldn't be more proud of what we've accomplished over these two decades or more grateful to the customers and testers who have helped us achieve it. In celebration of 20 years of Centercode, we asked CEO and Co-founder Luke Freiler to reflect on the company, how far it's come, and where it's headed.

What's the most significant lesson you've learned from founding and managing Centercode over the years?

Luke: Contextual wisdom beats conventional wisdom. Don't get me wrong — reading a great book or hearing how someone else got to where they are is a valid starting point, but you can't take that advice and run blind. You have to look at how your product, your market, your customer base, your whatever could influence both the results you're trying to get and how quickly you'll get there.

Technology has evolved tremendously since you first founded Centercode back in 2001. How has this tech evolution impacted Centercode's trajectory? Did any of it surprise you?

Luke: I think about technology as having evolved in four significant ways. The first and most obvious is that it's gotten much more complex. The second is that it's highly connected, with almost every product talking to every other product. Third, the market for these sophisticated technologies is becoming more mainstream. Today's customers expect more for their time and money, and they're less patient about having to troubleshoot. Finally, products are no longer static. Their features, interfaces, and overall functionality are constantly evolving.

These four factors together mean that tech makers can't just "fire and forget" in product development — there's a demand for rapid, continuous iteration that just wasn't there 20, even ten years ago.

These challenges mean there's a lot of friction that comes with developing technology, but I'd be lying if I said this isn't our bread and butter. Helping companies work through the complexities of ensuring their products work in the real world by tapping their customers is what we've always done.

If I had to name something that surprised me, I don't know if I saw the mainstream delivery of technology coming back then. Specifically, the smartphone. It's like having the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in your pocket. It changed everything almost overnight.

Today's technology helps us achieve things that would've seemed impossible even 15 years ago, but it's brought a new set of problems with it. What steps can we take to ensure technology’s benefits outweigh its drawbacks?

Luke: My thermostat is Spotify-enabled, and so far, the only purpose I've found for its very small, tinny speaker is to annoy my wife when she sits at her desk underneath it.

It really makes me think about "technology solutionism" and how easy it is to fall into the trap of creating features that exist for the sake of themselves, and not to solve an actual problem.

"Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should." — Ian Malcolm, Jurassic Park

There's no shortage of problems in the world, and at the end of the day, companies need to make money — and preferably, they want to make as much money as they can. A solutionist mindset wastes money developing features or creating entire products for problems that may or may not exist. It's a lose-lose. Companies waste time and money; customer needs go unmet.

At a high level, Centercode is antithetical to tech solutionism, and it's a reflection of our dream for the world. We're looking to a world where companies and customers communicate, collaborate, and problem-solve to create technology that solves real problems. In that world, everyone wins. As long as there's a symbiotic relationship between companies and their customers, technology will continue to be a tool that serves the common good, despite its shortcomings.

How do you see technology (and Centercode) evolving in the next 20 years?

Luke: We know that things will evolve faster since technology builds on itself to create more and better technologies. What I really hope to see are advancements that also increase access to information and continue to help close the global digital divide.

When you have the internet, you have an infinite world of information. Yet in many places, even certain parts of this country, limited internet access means limited access to opportunities that everyone deserves.

Centercode exists to make technology more useful in our everyday lives, and technology exists to extend our reach and get us as far as our imaginations can take us. While we'll continue our mission of making tech products and software more usable with the help of customers, I'm most looking forward to saying we helped build technology that equalized access to information and opportunities all over the world.

Thanks for 20 Years!

Whether you're new to Centercode or you've been following us for a while, we're so happy to have you along for the ride. See how we've helped some of the most iconic companies and the most influential tech products evolve in the industry use cases of the Making Good Technology Great ebook.

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